Getting to the Other Side
Pastor LeRoy Wagner and his wife, Kimberly, talk about the valley that threatened to undo their marriage. With their marriage problems seemingly irreparable, LeRoy decided to step down from his pastorate, causing Kimberly to disrespect him even more. Knowing they couldn't go on like this, Kim retreated to a cabin, where God dealt with her attitude by leading her to Titus 2.
About the Guest
www.kimberlywagner.org where she encourages women to be students of the Word. Kim is...more
With their marriage problems seemingly irreparable, LeRoy Wagner decided to step down from his pastorate. Kim Wagner retreated to a cabin, where God dealt with her attitude.
Bob: For a decade, Kim and LeRoy Wagner lived in isolation in their marriage. LeRoy was a pastor; Kim was a pastor’s wife. No one knew that, behind closed doors, the two were roommates, not a married couple. That began to change when Kim had a personal retreat and spent time alone with God.
Kim: God so broke me. I wrote out on a legal pad, for days, specific ways that God showed me that I had sinned against my husband—that I had been that ugly, fierce woman—that I had demeaned him / emasculated him. I called LeRoy. He came out to the cabin, and I let him read through all of that. There was no emotion.
LeRoy: I was done. I didn’t want to get hope and have it be dashed again. I didn’t want to put any investment of emotions or myself into it. I was glad that the Lord was speaking to her—and I still had a respect for that and a sympathy for that—but as far as becoming emotionally reinvested, I had absolutely no desire, at that point, to do it.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Thursday, January 19th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey. I'm Bob Lepine. What do you do in a marriage when one spouse wants to reconcile and try to put together the broken pieces of a marriage and the other spouse simply says, “No thanks”? We’ll hear from Kim and LeRoy Wagner today—hear their story. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. You’ve heard me talk about what I think was really the darkest season in our marriage—when we had moved to Phoenix and Mary Ann wasn’t happy. It was a pretty sober time when I was not sure how to get out of the ditch that we were in.
I’m just trying to think of what I know about you and Barbara. I’m just wondering about your darkest time—where would you say it was?
Dennis: I would say it would have been at the halfway mark, somewhere around year 20. I don’t remember all the details of everything we went through, but it was a recalibration point. I never really thought of it being so dark that we ever considered anything other than a commitment to one another; but nonetheless, it was a time where we had to take a step back and do some serious investing in our marriage and in how we were relating to each other.
So here you are—you’ve got somebody, who’s leading in a marriage and family ministry, and this would have been right around the time before we started FamilyLife Today.
Dennis: She went through a dark time / I went through a dark time. But we went through it together; and, fortunately, God led us through to the other side.
I’m thinking about the couples we meet regularly at our Weekend to Remember® marriage getaways. Most of them tell us that their marriage is in a good place, and they’ve come to the weekend because they want to make sure their marriage continues to be in a good place—they’re doing preventive maintenance on their marriage. But we do meet couples at every getaway who are there because they’ve lost hope. They’re like the couple we’re going to talk to today.
I just quickly want to remind our FamilyLife Today listeners that—if you’d like to attend an upcoming Weekend to Remember marriage getaway this spring, and you’d like to take advantage of a special offer we’re making, where you pay the regular rate for yourself and your spouse comes free—that offer is good through this weekend. If you want to take advantage of it, you need to get in touch with us right now, either online at FamilyLifeToday.com or call 1-800-FL-TODAY. If you’ve got any questions, we can answer those for you.
We can sign you up on the phone, or you can sign up online.
Again, the website is FamilyLifeToday.com; or call 1-800-FL-TODAY. No matter what shape your marriage is in, getting away together and spending a weekend focusing on your marriage will be good for you. If you’ve lost hope, trust me—I’ve talked to too many
couples, who come away from the Weekend to Remember, not just with a fresh sense of hope, but with some practical tools they can use to help their marriage get better. So, again, if you have questions or if you’d like to register, call 1-800-FL-TODAY or go, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com.
We’re going to talk to a couple today who experienced a dark season in their marriage. They’ve actually written about it in a book they’ve written together called Men Who Love Fierce Women.
Dennis: LeRoy and Kim Wagner join us again on FamilyLife Today. LeRoy/Kim, welcome back.
Kim: Thank you.
LeRoy: Good to be back.
Dennis: LeRoy had been a pastor until their marriage hit a wall. Finally, we heard earlier, how you hit such a wall—and there was so much hopelessness in your marriage between you two—you stepped out of what you’d trained your life to become—a pastor. You began driving a truck. That had to create bitterness in you.
LeRoy: It was a pretty low time, looking back at it. I had surrendered to preach, as a young man—13 years of age. I had started pastoring when I was 18. I knew nothing but serving the Lord; and yet, we’d come to this point where our marriage seemed like it was irreparable. On our own, it certainly was.
It seemed like God was not answering. I could not continue, with a good conscience and with sincerity, to do that which I knew God had called me to do and I had surrendered my life to do. It was a point of crisis of faith for me and a pretty low time.
Dennis: Kim, how were you feeling about this? I mean—
Kim: Oh, I hated it!
Dennis: You know your man, and it’s the conflict between you two that’s causing him to step out of something that you knew—
Kim: Now, he didn’t voice that—he didn’t say it was because of the marriage.
Dennis: Oh, he didn’t?
Kim: But I had watched him be this on-fire, passionate, happy man—a great preacher/communicator of the Word—and I watched him just go further, and further, and deeper into this cave. Now, he did not communicate it was because of the marriage—it was just that he was so depressed, which was part of what was happening because of the marriage. He just reached a point that he said, “I can no longer pastor with integrity.”
Bob: You thought he was stepping out of the pastorate because he was depressed.
Bob: But you didn’t connect: “He’s depressed because our marriage is in the condition it’s in,”—
Kim: No; not at that time at all.
Bob: —or “He’s depressed because I’m a fierce woman, and I’ve chased him back into the cave.”
Kim: Not at all. I said: “He’s the problem. He needs to be a man.”
Bob: LeRoy, did anybody around you know what was going on in your soul?
LeRoy: No; I don’t think so. I mean, I think that’s one of the problems with people who are trapped in marriages like this—and the fearful man/fierce woman syndrome that we try to identify—a lot of times it happens in Christian marriages, even in ministry.
LeRoy: It’s surprisingly common. You feel ashamed and embarrassed. I didn’t have a close friendship with anyone, at that time—that I felt comfortable to be able to—I was extremely embarrassed by it also.
Bob: Here’s my other question: “If I had come to you, at that point, and said, ‘What’s the problem in you or in your marriage?’ what would you have told me?”
LeRoy: I’d have said: “I have absolutely no idea. I love the Lord, I believe His Word, and I’m trying to do what’s right. I cannot be what I need to be for the woman that God has given me. He has put us together. I’m at a complete loss as to what to do,”—
—so much so, I’m ashamed to say, I despaired for my life at points.
Dennis: What was it about Kim that made you fearful of her? Was it that she just kept coming / she kept coming? I mean, what was it?
LeRoy: Well, relentless, as you were saying there. She had intensity and a ferocity that I could not match. At my best moment, there was no way that I could match that. Of course, the deeper that I would sink into my own selfish self-pity and victimization mentality, the harder she would try to drag me out of it. I could not come to the place where I could see that I was the problem. I thought that she was the problem; and, of course, she was thinking the same thing. I think there are a lot of listeners out there who are in that same ditch.
Dennis: So, Kim, as you watched him retreat to his cave—as you pursued him into the cave over, and over, and over again—did you lose your respect for him,—
Kim: Oh, yes!
Dennis: —as your husband?
Kim: Oh, absolutely!
Dennis: How did that show up?—how was that demonstrated, practically-speaking?
Kim: It could be demonstrated as simply as a look—a raised eyebrow / a sneer—the tone of my voice. I’m very ashamed to look back and think of how I was then, but he literally repulsed me. I did not care to be in the same room with him.
When we went to visit with the pastor, who was kind of counseling us, he looked at me and he said, “If there was one thing—just one thing—you would want your husband to do for you—you would want LeRoy to do—what would that one thing be?” I looked at him and I said: “I just want him to pray with me.” When he was pastoring, I had seen him pray with people at church. “I know that he is a man of God; and yet, he won’t pray with me.” The counselor was shocked! He said: “Are you serious? That’s all you would ask for?” And I said, “Yes.”
That is something that, now, we encourage husbands and couples all the time. There is a spiritual dynamic that goes on there that is unexplainable. At this point, where we’ve been the last 20 years, there is not a day that goes by that he doesn’t pray over me and with me specifically. It is such a powerful dynamic in our lives now.
Dennis: What caused you to give up on praying with your wife?
LeRoy: Well, I’d never really established a pattern of prayer as far as our personal time together. That is where I got off on the wrong foot.
Dennis: It wasn’t a habit.
LeRoy: It wasn’t a habit. You know, I did pray with others; and I did think it was very important / I prayed on my own. One of the dynamics that was going on, Dennis, was she was always in the Bible and in Scripture, teaching: “She’s way more spiritual than me,”—that was my perception—“I mean, what would I have to give as far as anything spiritually?
“I can’t be the spiritual leader.”
Now, I could go and I could make the decision as far as the church; but even, you know, at times, she would question those. I felt like I couldn’t even do that right—privately. So how could I pray with her if I couldn’t even do the other spiritual…
Dennis: You were afraid you’d fail?
Kim: Just in case women are listening and say: “I don’t ever do that! I don’t tell my husband he’s doing anything wrong!” I didn’t either; but the way I conveyed my thoughts or questioning him on things communicated to him, “I can do nothing right.”
Kim: You know, the way I challenged him: “Well, why did you do it that way?” or “Why did you make this decision?” or whatever it may be. It wasn’t, “Well, you can’t do anything right!” I don’t want wives, listening, thinking: “That’s not applying to me. I never do that to my husband.”
Let me just read a verse here.
I’m sorry; this is sounding chauvinistic, as a husband, to read a verse to the wives—but I’ve got the first part of the passage for the husbands—“However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.” The husband is commanded to love. That means he’s to nourish, and cherish, and find out what would communicate to her that she was being cultivated to grow spiritually.
Bob: Nourished and cherished; yes.
Dennis: That’s what the word, “nourish,” means.
Bob: Yes; right.
Dennis: And cherish means value.
Dennis: So, Kim, what would cause you to feel nourished—to grow spiritually—and cherished? And you’ve already answered the question—“For my husband to pray with me.”
For the wives, and for you, Kim, the second half of the passage says, “And let the wife see that she respects her husband.” Here’s the assignment for every wife listening: “If a man’s assignment is to find out what would nourish and cherish his wife’s soul,” the wife’s assignment is to find out:
“What communicates respect to you, as my husband? What can I do; what can I say; what attitude can I express that builds you up rather than tears you down?” You’re exactly right; you don’t have to use words to tear down your man.
Dennis: Looks can be as much as 90 percent of all communication.
Bob: So I want to know: “What was the turning point?” and “Did you initiate the turn? Did your wife initiate the turn? Where did your marriage start to find its way out of the cave that you were in?”
LeRoy: Well, God is always the initiator. Even though we were crying out—both of us, individually—God also is sovereign and His timing is perfect. I just want to say to anyone, who is listening: “You may be in the darkest, most miserable moments of your life; but God is at work even in your misery.”
We didn’t know that!—had no way of knowing that! Couldn’t have believed it if someone had told us, but God had to do His perfect work of allowing us to get to the bottom.
I thought it was: “This marriage is killing me. It’s the end of me. It is just horrible!” Well, that’s what God wanted—He wanted the “end of me,” / He wanted the dying to self.
Actually, God started His initial work of rescue with Kim.
Kim: I went away to a cabin. I was done, in some sense—not that I was going to divorce—but it was like: “God, we cannot go on like this anymore! We just cannot go on like this!” I had my Bible there. I pulled out of my Bible—didn’t even know it was in the Bible cover—this little booklet that had just been put out by Nancy Leigh DeMoss [Wolgemuth]—
Kim: — called Biblical Portrait of Womanhood. It’s a little bitty booklet that has diagnostic questions and Scriptures.
I started working my way through that and going through the Scriptures. When I got to the Titus 2 passage, which is, you know, the biblical womanhood passage—that “The older women are to train the younger women to love their husbands,”—they have to be trained to love their husbands—“to love their children, to be pure, to be workers at home…”—all of this list that’s there in verses 3-5.
When I got to the end of that—the last phrase said, “…so that the Word of God will not be blasphemed.” The Holy Spirit graciously connected all of the dots to me suddenly. I knew I loved God / I loved His Word! I was not displaying the power of the gospel / the power of that Word to others in how I was treating my husband! I was placing all the blame on him.
I was grabbing at him to try to get love, and acceptance, and validation rather than just loving him and laying it down there. Instead of looking to him to fulfill me, I was to be laying down my life to love him “so that the word of God” would be glorified.
I went to my face! God so broke me. I cried; and I wrote out on a legal pad, for days, specific ways that God showed me that I had sinned against my husband—that I had been that ugly, fierce woman—that I had demeaned him / emasculated him. I wrote it all out on this legal pad, [emotion in voice] and then I knew I had to confess that to my husband and ask his forgiveness. I was fearful to do that! I thought, “Okay; now I’m going to let him know that all of these years of misery are my fault.” I struggled through a night with the Lord.
God let me know that I had to obey Him in this. I called LeRoy. He came out to the cabin; and I let him read through all of that, and there was no emotion. It’s like he was so far gone, Bob—that I couldn’t reach him.
Dennis: When you read that, was your heart—from a standpoint of being hooked up to a cardiac machine?—was there no heartbeat?
LeRoy: No beat at all. I’d been anticipating, at different points, and thinking, you know, that things would change. It had gone so long.
Dennis: How long is “so long”?
LeRoy: Well, this was 12 years into our marriage. I was done. I didn’t want to get hope and have it be dashed again. I didn’t have a high emotional capacity to begin with. I was just done—I didn’t want to put any investment of emotions or myself into it.
I was glad that the Lord was speaking to her—and I still had a respect for that and a sympathy for that—but as far as becoming emotionally reinvested, I had absolutely no desire, at that point, to do it.
Bob: Because you knew where that would lead.
Bob: In your own mind—
LeRoy: Yes; “They would just be dashed again.” Absolutely! “I do not want to go down that road again!”
Dennis: So, Kim, what did you do?
Kim: I knew I had to confess to our children, as well; because I had not respected their dad, as a man, and demonstrated that in front of them. I gathered them—and LeRoy—in the living room. I confessed all of that and asked their forgiveness. God did a true, life-changing work in my heart that day to give me a greater understanding of what submission really means—the surrender of the will to Christ—that sense of “However I relate to my husband is connected to glorifying God.”
Dennis: What would you say to the woman, who has heard you share all of this—and they’ve heard you speak tenderly about being convicted that you, somehow, are being a reproach against the name of Christ—the woman’s listening and going, “I don’t get that.”
Kim: I would say: “If you’ve ever gone to the cross to watch what Christ has done for you—how He has poured out His lifeblood for you to rescue you—how can you do anything but live for Him? Living for Him is connected to how you demonstrate love to others—primarily, and first of all—to your husband, to your children, and to your family members. That’s where it starts.
LeRoy: The display of the gospel is, first and foremost, through marriage. It’s all about marriage. God used that symbolism from the very beginning to show us what His rescue looks like—what His redemption / what His relationship with us looks like.
Dennis: So, when did the first blip of a heartbeat show up in your heart?
LeRoy: Well, it was about two years of watching an obvious change. It was evident that God had done a work in her heart.
Dennis: So it was not within days?
LeRoy: No; it was not. So I want to give encouragement to anyone who might be going through this process—that if you have any kind of expectation of God working on your mate in any timetable, or you expect because you’ve done something—let that go. Let God have His ability to work.
Bob: It may be months / it may be years before a breakthrough happens—if it’s going to happen at all.
LeRoy: But you need to be responsible to be obedient to God and be obedient to Scripture; and then, let God do the work in your mate.
Dennis: Putting it another way: “If the ditch you’re in is one you’ve been digging for 12 years, you can’t expect to flip a switch and hop out of the ditch in 24 hours, or a week, or a month.”
LeRoy: That’s right; absolutely.
Dennis: It takes a while to rebuild trust and to build the relationship.
Bob: There are two words—help and hope—that we talk about often. When couples come to a Weekend to Remember marriage getaway, often, they come in that state where they’re hopeless—
Bob: —and they say, “We’ve done everything we know how to do.” What they’ve said to us, most often at the end of the weekend, is: “We’re leaving here with hope. The hope comes because we have some fresh things that we now know how to do that we didn’t know how to do before.
Dennis: That’s right.
Bob: “We’ve gotten help we need / we’ve got the tools we need. This can be a turning point for our relationship.”
Dennis: There are three different groups of couples who come to the Weekend to Remember. There are those who we’ve been talking about here—who are in a deep ditch—but then, there is the vast majority, who come to the Weekend to Remember marriage getaway, who have a good marriage—
Dennis: —and they just need a tune-up. They just need to invest in their marriage to avoid getting into a situation like we’re talking about here. If you think you’re beyond that, you’re mistaken; because you you’re just a step or two away from beginning to slide into isolation—
—away from God / away from each other. Your marriage could be in trouble.
Then the third group is engaged couples, or those contemplating engagement, to establish the right habits and patterns, spiritually, in your marriage—like you just mentioned—praying together, as a couple.
Bob: We talked earlier about the fact that this weekend is the wrap-up for a special offer we’ve been making to FamilyLife Today listeners. If you’d like to attend one of these upcoming getaways, we start the spring season here in a few weeks. It goes through the middle of June. You can go, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com or you can call 1-800-FL-TODAY to register. If you pay the regular rate for yourself, your spouse comes free.
We’re hoping FamilyLife Today listeners will take advantage of this special offer—it’s the best offer we make all year long. It’s your opportunity to attend an upcoming Weekend to Remember marriage getaway and save 50 percent off the regular registration fee.
Register, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com; or call 1-800-FL-TODAY to register. Then join us at a Weekend to Remember marriage getaway. I’m going to be speaking in Branson in the first part of April. I hope some of our FamilyLife Today listeners will come join me in the Ozarks for a great weekend getaway.
Let me also mention the book we’ve been talking about today—that LeRoy and Kim Wagner have written—called Men Who Love Fierce Women. It’s a follow-up to Kim’s book, Fierce Women, where she talked about her own journey. This is LeRoy stepping in to talk about what it’s like to be married to a woman who is a fierce woman, and how a man can resist passivity and engage with his wife and be the spiritual leader in his home, even when he’s married to a strong, fierce woman. You can get copies of either book in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. Shop, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com; or call to order at 1-800-FL-TODAY—
—1-800-358-6329—that’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”
Now, tomorrow, Kim and LeRoy Wagner are going to be back with us. We’re going to hear their advice to husbands and wives—wives who are fierce women and husbands who are married to them—what counsel do they have? We’ll hear from them tomorrow. I hope you can be with us for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We’ll see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.
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