Jesus over Everything: Lisa Whittle
Could actually putting Jesus over everything flip your relationships on their heads? Author Lisa Whittle discusses the difference of one critical choice.
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Could actually putting Jesus over everything flip your relationships on their heads? Author Lisa Whittle discusses the difference of one critical choice.
Jesus over Everything: Lisa Whittle
Lisa: I think what is most attractive to us is when someone is real, and when someone shares their real struggles and their real life. My firstborn in particular was a really tough baby. He had acid reflux, he didn’t sleep during the night, and I just remember looking around the room at the moms that had the perfect babies, or they seemed like the perfect babies. I thought, “Well, I’m clearly a terrible mother. Obviously, my husband and I should not have procreated. Clearly, I don’t know what I doing.”
It was all of those things, and in those moments you feel so lonely. You feel so inept. I just remember there was this one mom who was just very honest about—I don’t even remember what it was. It was like she was going through something in her marriage, or whatever, her house was never very clean, and that was the woman I wanted to be around.
Ann: Welcome to FamilyLife Today, where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I’m Ann Wilson.
Dave: And I’m Dave Wilson, and you can find us at FamilyLifeToday.com or on the FamilyLife® app.
Ann: This is FamilyLife Today!
Dave: So how important do you think a manifesto is, a declaration of what I’m about and what I’m going to live for?
Ann: I like those.
Dave: Yes, you do. You’ve written a bunch.
Ann: Have I? I have actually a few.
Dave: I remember when we did our first Vertical Marriage marriage retreat. We ended with a Vertical Marriage Manifesto and asked the couples to stand up and say out loud, “This is what I’m going to live for.”
Ann: Well, that’s what I was thinking of, because there’s something powerful. It’s kind of like a liturgy that you all speak aloud together, and there’s something about a manifesto that has this power and strength to it.
Dave: So why are we talking about that?
Ann: Why are we talking about that?
Dave: We have Lisa Whittle in the studio, back with us, who wrote a book called Jesus Over Everything. You have a manifesto, a Jesus Over Everything manifesto. So Lisa, welcome back.
Lisa: Thank you. Good to be here.
Dave: When you were writing this book and you thought, “Okay, I have to write a manifesto,” what was in your mind?
Lisa: Well, you can’t write a book called Jesus Over Everything without some type of manifesto, can you?
Lisa: It’s a stake in the ground.
Dave: Does this hang in your house?
Ann: That’s a good way to put it. It’s a stake in the ground.
Dave: It is a stake in the ground, right?
Lisa: Yes, it does. And yes, it does hang in my house.
Dave: It does?
Dave: It really does.
Lisa: Mm hmm.
Dave: I was just guessing.
Lisa: No, it does.
Dave: Is it something you look at it?
Lisa: Yes, all the—
Dave: Do you make your husband say it before he comes to bed every night?
Lisa: We’re not that weird.
Ann: Their kids say it at the dinner table.
Lisa: It’s hanging in our barn right now, and actually a lot of people have said, “Oh, where can I buy that?” I had a friend that made it for us.
Dave: Oh really?
Lisa: Yes. Actually, I’m going to tell you the truth. That manifesto was made before this book was ever written.
Lisa: Yes, to the point where a few things on there are different than what ended up in this book, because as you know as an author, sometimes chapters evolve.
Dave: Yes, right.
Lisa: So, there’s a few that are a little bit different, but that was made first. This manifesto, these chapters in this book, were things that the Lord gave me in about, I would say, 60 to 90 seconds.
Dave: Oh, really.
Lisa: He spoke to my heart, and He told me, “These are the things that you need in your life.”
Ann: So this just happened even before you wrote the book—
Lisa: Oh, yes.
Ann: --you started writing these out.
Ann: So, they’re meaningful to you.
Lisa: Oh, yes. I can’t speak for other authors, but for me, books that I write are things that the Lord speaks to me, for me, about me, before I write the books. They aren’t for the masses, so they then become a message that I believe that He wants me to share with other people. But every book that I write is for me first, from the Lord. It’s not one of those things that we’re passing around the dinner table.
I’m sure at some point I shared it with my husband, though. These were things that were on my heart. And then he sees it hanging in the barn all the time, so he can read that.
Dave: I don’t know if we’ll get through all of them, but let’s walk through some of these, because the first one that I read, I’d love to hear your thoughts. It’s “When we want to look perfect, we fight to be ourselves.”
Lisa: Yes. Real over pretty. That especially resonates with women because we live in this culture of selfies and filters and a constant pull to stay looking young and thin and all of the standards of culture. I think what is most attractive to us is when someone is real, and when someone shares their real struggles and their real life.
Ann: I think that message is huge today. As I look at people my age, women my age, women that are young, there is that fight of comparison and wanting to be like someone else. I was just talking to my little granddaughter who is seven.
I just said, “Olive, can you imagine that God never has created another being like you, in the past, today or in the future? No one will ever be exactly like you in your cells, your DNA, the way you think, the way you look. So it’s so cool that He has something so specific for you in the way you live your life. You will be a gift.” So, for us to copy or mimic another person, we’re losing the beauty that God created in us.
Dave: Yes, and as a church with a community of real—
Lisa: Yes. Can you imagine?
Dave: Over pretty?
Ann: It would be so attractive.
Lisa: And we should be.
Dave: You wouldn’t have enough seats.
Lisa: We should be.
Dave: Yes. And if you want to impact your neighborhood, I’m just telling you. This is what came to me. Start a married Bible study or start a married study. If you invite your neighbors to your home and say, “Let’s talk about marriage and let’s be real,” you’re going to have an impact.
Ann: It’s so attractive.
Lisa: Yes. It’s freeing for people.
Lisa: And I’m attracted to people who are very honest. I always have been. But I just remember when my kids were babies, my firstborn in particular was a really tough baby. He had acid reflux, he didn’t sleep during the night, and I just remember looking around the room at the moms that had the perfect babies, or they seemed like the perfect babies. I thought, “Well, I’m clearly a terrible mother. Obviously, my husband and I should not have procreated. Clearly, I don’t know what I’m doing.”
Lisa: It was all those things, and in those moments you feel so lonely. You feel so inept, and I just remember there was this one mom who was just very honest about—I don’t even remember what it was. It was like she was going through something in her marriage, whatever. Her house was never very clean. And that was the woman I wanted to be around.
So it’s just really important that we’re those kinds of people as believers, as the kind that people are drawn to us.
Dave: Yes. I’ve told this story, and I won’t give the details, but a guy came up to me at a marriage conference on Sunday. He wanted me to rip up his divorce papers. I hadn’t met him all weekend; this was a thousand people marriage conference. So long story short, when somebody says that, and I had two minutes before I had to speak, so I said, “Tell me your story real quick,” and here’s his story.
“I didn’t want to come to a stupid marriage conference. I told my wife, ‘I’ll come Friday. That’s it. I’m not going back Saturday.’” It was a FamilyLife Weekend to Remember®. I said, “Why didn’t you want to come?” He said, “I literally said to her, ‘I don’t want to go to some perfect marriage conference with perfect marriages, and I guarantee a perfect married couple who’s going to be up there presenting their perfect marriage.’ So I told her, ‘I’ll go Friday. I’m out.’”
He goes, “We sat in the very back. You and Ann got up to speak, and halfway through your first talk I turned to my wife, and I said, ‘Wow. Our marriage is better than theirs!’”
Dave: “And so we stayed.” He came to Christ in the weekend. They were going to get divorced. It was just one of those beautiful stories, but it’s what you’re saying.
Ann: Well, let’s talk about this next manifesto, because it’s a good one too. When we feel judgmental, we choose love.
Lisa: Yes, love over judgment. It just dawned on me that the people that come back to Christ or that are drawn to Christ, it’s never because of judgment. Never.
Lisa: It’s always because of love. What’s always interesting to me is that love does not take sides. It really doesn’t. Love is not one of those things that is biased or takes sides as far as godly love. It doesn’t. It is God’s idea. It is the great hope of the world, and we know that it is the greatest. So it’s just interesting, because if we are going to influence and affect and all of those things, it’s never going to be through judgment. It is always going to be through love.
I wanted to pull that apart a little bit. Love is hard to write about, because everybody in the world has written about love, right? So it has to be in the terms of what does “Jesus Over Everything” love look like? That’s what I wanted to talk about in that chapter.
Ann: You share a story about your mom, where you were judgmental of your mom.
Lisa: Yes. Yes, that’s definitely true.
Dave: Not Lisa being judgmental. Must have been somebody else.
Lisa: You know, my mom and I were always--we’re very different personality-wise, so I’d never really understood my mom, growing up. I always felt like it was weakness in her that was her personality. I realized at a certain point as my mom and I talked through this through the years, that my mom made a choice to love my father through a lot of hard things.
It wasn’t that she was blind or oblivious, but it was a choice - and that comes into play in a big way when I talk in the chapter about service over spotlight, which is just super compelling to so many folks that have read this, but also I tell this story in the Bible study. And it’s so compelling. It was when my father died, my mother and I were there when he took his last breath.
He was lying there, and he had just passed, and she said—they came into—the hospice was there, and they wanted to change his socks. And my mother said, “I would like to change his socks if I could. I have been changing his socks for the last year” --or six months, whatever, because she had been his nurse in the last years of his life. She said, “I would like to change his socks.” So I watched my mother change my father’s socks for the very last time. He was already gone.
It was the most compelling thing I think I’ve ever seen in my entire life, because I watched my mother, who stood by my father through a lot of things faithfully through the years - and where I had judged her through her life for being foolish or being soft or being weak. I saw so much strength, which is what really it was. It was a choice to love, and it changed my perspective on her. I had changed my perspective on her through the years, but it crystallized in that moment, and I thought, “This has always been a choice to love. It was never about weakness; it was about a choice.”
Ann: That’s so similar to my mom. My parents were married 70 years, and I would have said the same thing, Lisa, totally judging her, like “Mom! You’re a doormat. He’s walking all over you. All you do is serve him. You’re so nice to him.” I’m different. I want to protect my mom, and I’m mad at my dad, but I’m totally judging her as being weak. Exactly the same. And she would do it. She would serve with total joy, like it was her privilege and honor to not only serve my dad, but she served all of us.
I’m sitting there thinking, “Mom, you need to protect yourself. You need to stand up for yourself.” And I went through the same thing. The longer it went, I watched her and I thought, “Oh, that is strength.” And when she passed before my dad, just a year before him, one of the things my dad shared that I never knew was he said, “Once in a great while my (Ann’s) mom, would write him a letter and say, “Hon, I feel like you’re being too hard on the kids,” or “You’ve been too hard on me,” and she would do it in this gentle, kind way.
He said, “That helped shape the direction my life took, of just her gentle words that she wrote down.” I’m sitting there thinking, “Man, I need to glean some of that instead of judging her.” She was strong, and she just did it in a different way. She had a different personality. But it was convicting to me, like “Oh, no. Her strength was in Jesus. Her joy was to serve. Who else was that? Jesus.”
Ann: The greatest among us will be the servant to others. So that love over judgment, that’s a big one, because I think we can all fall into that.
Dave: Yes, and even thinking of your mom. Obviously, I wasn’t there, but the image I saw was Jesus on His knees washing the disciples’ feet.
Dave: It’s service over spotlight, and He could have judged them, we know, and He loved them. Served them.
Ann: What a great visual, Lisa, of watching your mom, and how emotional that must have been.
Lisa: It was. It was. But it was important for my life. It was important in my life because service is not my natural gift, and I think that’s something really important to talk about too, because sometimes I think we feel like, “Well, I can’t do things that I’m not naturally inclined to do,” and I do truly believe that if Jesus is in His rightful spot, He compels us to do things that we’re not naturally gifted to do.
I’ve watched the Holy Spirit change my own life in so many ways through the years, of things that I should not be doing, but through Him. In fact, I was thinking about this the other night. Nearly everything I’m doing right now goes against my natural personality. I don’t like to travel; I am a homebody. I actually don’t like crowds. I am very shy and naturally I’m an introvert. Almost everything that I’m doing right now is not natural for me.
But it’s the Holy Spirit that compels me, and through the years, even, the draw towards serving people that I am not naturally gifted—I’m not even good at it. It’s not even that I don’t want to; I’m just not good at it. I have twelve thumbs, you know. But God can compel us in that way, and it is truly His way works, and when we do put Him over everything, He changes things about us. He truly does.
Dave: I want to ask you about another one on there that I find very interesting in your manifesto. When we want to lie, we out the secret to take away its power.
Lisa: I just got a full-body shiver with that, because I think that is such an important thing to talk about, because darkness and light and Satan wants to keep things in the dark. Jesus is light, and He wants things to be brought to the light. There are a lot of people that live in that secrecy place, and I think it is an epidemic among Christians.
I just want to say right here that this might be one of the most important things we talk about, because the power that is in that secrecy life that we live can be broken by our honest living. It’s the thing that has taken down ministries. It’s the thing that has taken down and broken apart families, is that scramble to keep living in a place that is untrue, a lie.
Ann: Have you ever had that, had a secret?
Lisa: Yes, absolutely. I talk about that. I open this chapter talking about how I was sort of living a double life in college. I was this good Christian girl on one hand for my parents, because that’s what PKs do, right? Pastor’s kids—we want to be a good girl. But I was also in college, sort of living it up and partying and doing that kind of scene, and it had caught up with me in a big way.
So there were some things that I was dealing with that I was going to have to come clean to my parents about, because it was going to involve things that they needed to know about. So one night I remember it had been snowing. I had come home for the weekend. I lived close enough to college to drive home. I had come home for the weekend, and I had gone back. It was snowing there, and I remember it was about—I don’t know—it was early in the morning.
The Lord spoke to me that I needed to come clean to my mom about things that were going on in my life. I drove all the way back in the snow in the middle of the night to confess to her, woke her up in the middle of the night, and told her things that had been going on in my life. It was so, so hard for me to do, but I knew it was the only way that I was going to be free from the taunting of Satan that there was a secret that my parents didn’t know about; that there were things in my life that they didn’t know about.
I was so sick of being taunted by that, that I was willing to do that. When I did, that sort of chokehold that was over me broke. And it wasn’t that my life didn’t still have some problems, because you have to live with the consequences of your sin, but it was that no longer could Satan keep that and hold that over my head any longer.
So that’s the encouragement that I have for someone listening. If there is something in your life that you are afraid for it to come out - and I think sometimes the way we know that is if we are in a scramble to keep it quiet, if we are afraid of the exposure of what it might do or what it might mean, then we might know that hey, there’s some honesty that needs to come out here.
I just want to encourage you that on the other side of that is the life that you want. The life of honesty is the only life to live, and it is the Jesus Over Everything lifestyle. I talk about sort of what’s on the other side of that in the book, and I also talk about some things to expect in that. Expect that you’re going to feel exposed, and that’s going to feel hard at first. Also expect to want to hide again. That’s very normal, especially if you’ve been in hiding with your secret for a long time. Those are some things that are really important as I talk about it in that chapter.
Dave: I think there’s a secret a lot of Christian men hide. What do you think Christian women hide? For men, I think a lot of men struggle with porn in the church.
Dave: It’s dominant. Many men I talk to, that’s their secret, and you’re right. As long as they keep that in the dark, they keep losing. The second they admit it out loud to a brother, it loses its power. Again, like you said, it doesn’t mean it goes away. It doesn’t mean they don’t struggle. But I don’t know about—do women have something that you find common among a lot of Christian women?
Ann: Well, I just had this happen last week. I had a young woman worship leader call me. She said, “I just need to confess this, and say this out loud, and tell you what’s going on in my heart.” I’m like, “Okay.” She said, “I’m leading worship tonight, and this reoccurring thought keeps coming back, and I cannot get rid of it. I haven’t told anybody. I’m embarrassed, because I know Jesus, but I have this fear of a shooter coming into the worship, into the sanctuary and shooting.”
She said, “I’m getting paralyzed by this fear. So I’m realizing if I tell somebody, I need to get this into the light so it doesn’t grip me as much.”
Dave: That’s probably not a common one.
Dave: But that’s hers.
Ann: But anxiety.
Dave: Yes. Anxiety, fear.
Lisa: I would say anxiety and fear. And I will also say women also struggle with porn. There’s a lot of new research on this that--I can’t remember it—I wish I could quote it, but I will tell you that there’s also women that struggle a lot with porn.
I will say shopping is a bigger one than you might think. What was interesting was since this book released, I have had an enormous amount of women who have sent me messages, who’ve said, “I struggle with the same thing.” In fact, I had a woman who wrote me—it’s been recent, and this book came out in 2020. She said, “When you wrote this book, when I read your story about your shopping fast,” she said, “I went home and confessed to my husband I’ve had a secret credit card for over a year, and it has over $25,000 accrued upon it.”
She said, “And the Lord convicted me that I needed to confess. I’ve been terrified, but every time I drive by our bank,” she said, “I’m sick to my stomach.” She said, “I went home and I confessed, and my husband and I are working towards a plan to pay it off.” But there was freedom in that. Now they’re going to get free from this credit card, and they’re going to walk forward in their marriage. Can you imagine if she’d continued, how much more into debt they would have gone?
Ann: Talk about bondage.
Lisa: Right. But this is the point. Women tell--we have these jokes that we say—"Oh, you know, ha, ha, ha, let me hide my bags from my husband so he doesn’t see them.” These are jokes. There are memes about it. I think shopping is actually a very big one for women. I think food is also a struggle that women don’t want to get honest about sometimes. So I would say probably those are some of the biggest ones.
Shelby: You’re listening to Dave and Ann Wilson with Lisa Whittle on FamilyLife Today. Dave has a great way to apply what we’ve been hearing, something you could do tonight with your family. That’s in just a minute, but first, Lisa’s written a book called Jesus Over Everything: Uncomplicating the Daily Struggle to Put Jesus First. You can get your copy at FamilyLifeToday.com. Just click on “Today’s Resources.” Or you can call 800-358-6329. That’s 800- “F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word “TODAY.”
A couple of guests we had on earlier this week on FamilyLife Today were Shaunti Feldhahn and Dr. Michael Sytsma. They’ve written a book called Secrets of Sex and Marriage: Eight Surprises that Make All the Difference. We’d love to send you a copy of that book along with FamilyLife’s online course called Nearly Complete Guide to Better Married Sex. You’ll get both as our thanks when you partner financially with FamilyLife.
You’ll help more families hear conversations just like today’s, conversations that point to the hope found in Christ. Again, you can give at FamilyLifeToday.com.
Okay, here’s Dave with an idea that might just be the thing your family needs.
Dave: I would just say, if you’ve never done this, here’s a great exercise. Write your own manifesto or write a family manifesto. Write a marriage manifesto. It may be very similar to Lisa’s; it may be totally different, but what matters? If Jesus is over everything, what’s it look like for you? That’d be a great thing.
Lisa: I love that idea.
Ann: Me too.
Lisa: I love that idea. I always talk about having a personal mission statement. I think the manifesto takes it to a two-point O. I love that. I also want to say to encourage you, I have a section in this chapter that says that’s not really who you are. One of the things that compelled me a lot when I was writing this was some of us don’t even really know who we are because we have been so masked by this addiction or this habit or whatever for so many years. That’s not really who we are.
We don’t really even know who we are, because this thing, this habit has been in our life for so long. What if you had a life that didn’t have that complication in it anymore? Can you imagine? Can you imagine how great your relationship might be? Can you imagine how good your life might be? Can you imagine how much freedom you might have? So I hope that compels somebody.
Shelby: Are we sincerely caring for those around us? Well next week Dave and Ann Wilson are joined by Paul Miller, who talks through forgetting the expectations we have of love and discovering the power to live a genuinely loving life. That’s next week. We hope you’ll join us.
On behalf of Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Shelby Abbott. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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