FamilyLife Today® Podcast

Loving Fiercely

with Kimberly Wagner, LeRoy Wagner | January 18, 2017
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LeRoy was immediately charmed by the beautiful brunette. In time, Kimberly developed feelings for him. Thirteen months after their first date, they wed. LeRoy and Kimberly Wagner take us back to their honeymoon, where poor communication skills, combined with hurt feelings, set a pattern that would lead them to bitterness and isolation.

  • Show Notes

  • About the Host

  • About the Guest

  • VIDEO: LeRoy and Kimberly Wagner talk about their 'come to Jesus' moment

  • Dave and Ann Wilson

    Dave and Ann Wilson are hosts of FamilyLife Today®, FamilyLife’s nationally-syndicated radio program. Dave and Ann have been married for more than 38 years and have spent the last 33 teaching and mentoring couples and parents across the country. They have been featured speakers at FamilyLife’s Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway since 1993 and have also hosted their own marriage conferences across the country. Cofounders of Kensington Church—a national, multicampus church that hosts more than 14,000 visitors every weekend—the Wilsons are the creative force behind DVD teaching series Rock Your Marriage and The Survival Guide To Parenting, as well as authors of the recently released book Vertical Marriage (Zondervan, 2019). Dave is a graduate of the International School of Theology, where he received a Master of Divinity degree. A Ball State University Hall of Fame quarterback, Dave served the Detroit Lions as chaplain for 33 years. Ann attended the University of Kentucky. She has been active alongside Dave in ministry as a speaker, writer, small-group leader, and mentor to countless wives of professional athletes. The Wilsons live in the Detroit area. They have three grown sons, CJ, Austin, and Cody, three daughters-in-law, and a growing number of grandchildren.

LeRoy and Kimberly Wagner take us back to their honeymoon, where poor communication skills, combined with hurt feelings, set a pattern that would lead them to bitterness and isolation.

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Loving Fiercely

With Kimberly Wagner, LeRoy Wagne...more
January 18, 2017
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Bob: Kim and LeRoy Wagner remember being surprised when conflict was a part of the early years of their marriage. They were even more surprised when they realized that conflict had built a wall between the two of them.

Kim: It was conflict that was not a lot verbal conflict; but because he would retreat, he eventually, five years into the marriage—he let me know he no longer loved me.

LeRoy: In the moment when I said that “I don’t think that I love you anymore,” it was because we didn’t really realize, at that point, what love was all about. If all that I ever felt like was—I couldn’t do anything right, I couldn’t be the husband to her that she obviously needed, and I was failing at every point—“Well, I guess that I don’t love her, or I would be everything that she needed me to be”; but I didn’t know how to do that. I think, sometimes, we succumb to that; and I retreated.


We lived in that marital misery for about another ten years until the Lord began to do His work of grace in our lives.

Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Wednesday, January 18th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. How does a couple, where both husband and wife love Christ and committed their lives and their marriage to Him, how do they wind up living as roommates for a decade? We’ll hear from Kim and LeRoy Wagner today. Stay with us.

And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us on the Wednesday edition. I have a question for you about your wife, Barbara.

But before I ask the question, a quick reminder to our FamilyLife Today listeners—this week is the last week that you can get in touch with us if you’d like to attend one of our upcoming Weekend to Remember marriage getaways and you want to take advantage of a special offer we’re making this week. We need to hear from you before the weekend is over.


The special offer is this—if you’d like to attend a getaway, as a couple, you pay the regular rate for yourself and your spouse comes free. It’s an opportunity to save some money and attend what we believe is a great getaway for any couple—whether your marriage is good and you just want to continue to pour a solid foundation under your relationship—or maybe there’s some conflict in your marriage that has never been resolved, and you could use some help. Come to a Weekend to Remember marriage getaway.

Our spring season kicks off in early February and continues through June. Again, if you register this week, you pay the regular rate for yourself and your spouse comes free. Take advantage of that offer. Get in touch with us if you have any questions—our toll-free number is 1-800-FL-TODAY / you can look, online, at—either register online for the upcoming event or call us to register, and plan to join us this spring for a Weekend to Remember marriage getaway.


Again, get in touch with us now to save 50 percent on your registration cost.

Now, the question I had for you about Barbara: “If you had to pick a single adjective / a modifier—one word to describe Barbara—

Dennis: Consistent.

Bob: You have often said, “I’m married to a strong woman,”—you’ve said that many times.

Dennis: I have said that on a number of occasions.

I think we may have a woman and her husband with us here on FamilyLife Today—well, let’s just find out / let’s find out how LeRoy Wagner would describe his wife, Kimberly. By the way, LeRoy, Kimberly, welcome back to FamilyLife Today.

Kim: Thank you. Good to be here.

LeRoy: Thank you very much, Dennis.

Dennis: So how would you describe Kimberly?

LeRoy: Fierce with a capital “F.” [Laughter] [Strong voice] She’s a fierce woman. [Laughter]

Bob: That’s what you would go with?

LeRoy: Yes.

Dennis: Would you really?


LeRoy: Well, I think it would have to be defined in the work of God—that He’s done in our lives, and in our marriage, and in her life. I think she’s still a very, very strong, fierce woman; but the one word—when you were asking, Dennis—that came to my mind is “godly.”

Dennis: Well, there you go. They’ve been married since 1981. They have several adult children and grandchildren and live in Hot Springs, Arkansas. LeRoy’s a pastor / a speaker—has been for over three decades. Kimberly has written a book—interestingly, Bob—it’s called Fierce Women: The Power of a Soft Warrior. Oh, that’s an inviting title. LeRoy has written a book called Men Who Love Fierce Women—actually—you’ve co-authored that book together.

I just want to know how you guys met. I mean, how does a fierce woman meet a man, who probably didn’t have any idea he was marrying—

Bob: Oh, I’ve heard this story. This happened in college; right?


LeRoy: I would tell it, but I never get it right. I’m going to defer. [Laughter]

Kim: You don’t want to at least start it, and I’ll jump in?

LeRoy: Well, we were in Greek class. As you might expect, being a Greek student, you didn’t expect to see beautiful young women there. It was just preacher boys—

Bob: This was a Bible college.

LeRoy: This was a Bible college. I remember there were a couple of young ladies in our class; but on one of the first days of class—I never will forget it—the bell was ringing. It was almost to the last bell, and she came sweeping through the doorway, auburn hair flowing beautifully—

Dennis: This sounds like Gone with the Wind.

LeRoy: Oh, I’m telling you—she was just a force of nature, a force of life, a force to be reckoned with.

Dennis: So how long before you asked her out?

LeRoy: I think it was probably a week/two weeks from that point.

Bob: Okay; so how long from the first date to the wedding?


Kim: About 13 months.

LeRoy: Yes; 13 months.

Dennis: That’s pretty quick.

Bob: Pretty quick.

Kim: Yes!

Bob: You were both still students.

LeRoy: Right.

Bob: Both still young—

Kim: Kids!

Bob: —and really didn’t have a full biblical sense of what marriage was supposed to look like or what your roles in marriage were supposed to be.

Kim: Not at all.

LeRoy: Thought we did—

Bob: Yes.

LeRoy: —but we didn’t. I didn’t think about cultural differences or the differences in the way that we were raised. I thought: “Here is a woman that loves the Lord / here’s a woman that loves me. We love to be together. We’re both called to ministry. I mean, what can go wrong?”

I actually—I wouldn’t have verbalized this—but I kind of thought to myself: “What woman wouldn’t be just absolutely blessed to have me? I’m just a great guy! [Laughter] I love the Lord. I go by the biblical code/the Christian code: I don’t do all of these things, and I do all these right things.” I kind of entered into marriage with that kind of foolish—

Bob: So, how did he propose, Kimberly?


Kim: Well, the first time—

Bob: Oh? Okay.

Kim: See, that’s an important point. He took me for a picnic at Lake DeGray, close to where we were in college. He laid out that question. I was blown away, and shocked, and not ready for that; because we hadn’t known each other that long. So I had to have some serious discussion with him and tell him that I had a commitment that I would never go into marriage until God confirmed that I would be able to bring greater glory to Him married than single.

Bob: Had you really thought about the fact that you might be a single woman and do ministry, and that was okay with you?

Kim: Sure! When I was nine years old, I surrendered to ministry—I didn’t even know what that was called at that time—but I went to school telling all of my friends, telling my parents, and everyone, “I will be a missionary”—I thought—“in Africa.”


It was a calling of God to ministry that I never doubted. I was just preparing for that. I wasn’t looking for a man / I wasn’t looking for a husband, early on.

Bob: But you’d been going out with him for a year, Kimberly.

Kim: Not when he asked me to marry.

Bob: How long had you been out at that point?

Kim: I think like two weeks! [Laughter]

LeRoy: When you know, you know, Bob. I mean, I knew. [Laughter]

Dennis: So, hold on! [Laughter] Both Bob and I are looking at each other—we just went from—from the line—you’re going through the food line—

Bob: We got Greek class—you got the proposal—

Dennis: —two weeks after that? [Laughter]

Kim: Right; right. That’s about right.

LeRoy: Pretty close to that; and then 13 months later—

Dennis: No wonder you kind of wondered what was up.

Kim: Yes! And so I was shocked. You know, I didn’t give him an answer at all. We dated for—and I can’t say the exact period of time right now / maybe a couple more months—it wasn’t a lot longer than that that we dated. We were actually coming back from—he preached a lot of what they would call revivals—you know—a series of meetings when we were in college.


We were driving back from one. Do you want to pick up now?

LeRoy: No; I remember. [Laughter] I’m just shaking my head because, “Oh, yes; that’s right!”

Kim: “Oh, yes; that was a great time!” [Laughter] There was a cemetery outside of Arkadelphia. There was this tall—it would remind you of the—

LeRoy: —the Corcovado.

Kim: —the Corcovado statue of Jesus all lit up, you know, at night. We pulled off and went up there / walked up there to look at it. It was really cool. I just turned to him, because God had so clearly confirmed to me that this was the man I was to marry. I turned to him and I just—we hadn’t been talking about it / anything—I just turned to him and said, “Ask me again.”

Bob: Wow.

Kim: And he knew what I meant by that.

LeRoy: There you go.

Bob: So, you were ready, anytime.

LeRoy: Absolutely.


Bob: LeRoy, let me ask you this: “How long into your marriage before you diagnosed that you had married a fierce woman?”

LeRoy: Well, even before our marriage, actually, Bob, there were a couple of points where her intensity / her emotional capacity to respond was beyond what I could deal with. Her fierceness, as a woman—I thought, “This is going to be problematic.”

Bob: You’re a pretty easygoing guy.

LeRoy: Very easygoing/laid-back—I come from a family where there wasn’t any discussion at all. I didn’t really know how to deal with conflict / wasn’t really good at communication. Her family debated everything intensely/passionately. I was freaked out the first time I was a part of their family discussion—I thought, “This is crazy!” That’s just how they handled their—

Dennis: So, you write in your book that on your honeymoon—I want to know whose line this was in the book—that you said, on the honeymoon, you knew you were in trouble.


LeRoy: In our honeymoon, there were seeds that were sown that produced a bitter harvest throughout the course of our marriage. We found that to be true with a lot of couples.

Dennis: What do you mean?

LeRoy: You really find your clashes of personality of the way you’re viewing life. You think that everything’s going to be perfect; and something happens, on the honeymoon usually, and you realize that it’s not going to be what you expected it to be, what you desired it to be, what you naively thought it was going to be.

Bob: We know what you mean, in general. We want to know what you mean, specifically. What seeds got sown on the honeymoon that caused you to say, “I’m in trouble here”?

LeRoy: I guess, about our third night, I’d driven several hundred miles. Kim had kind of napped, you know, while I was driving. When we got to our place where we were going to spend the night, she felt pretty rested; and I felt pretty tired.


I fell asleep on her, and—

Bob: That third night of the honeymoon.

LeRoy: The third night of the honeymoon; yes—not good.

Bob: I’m getting the picture.

LeRoy: She woke me up, crying.

Kim: I was not happy. [Laughter]

LeRoy: I didn’t handle it very well.

Dennis: Meaning what?

LeRoy: Meaning I tried to listen to her, but thought that she was not being very loving or considerate of me. I didn’t respond in a way to want to get to the bottom of why she was emotional / why she was crying. Because I didn’t do that, she got even got more emotional and more intense, which caused me to kind of back away and just kind of want to not deal with it at all, which set a pattern for our relationship.

Bob: And that pattern is a pattern of—she wants to deal with things, and you retreat from that.

LeRoy: Absolutely.

Bob: One of the things we talk about, at the Weekend to Remember marriage getaway when we’re talking with couples, is about how, in conflict, there is typically one of two responses to conflict.


One is engagement, and the other is retreat. When you have couples who are in different situations like that, it can lead to real isolation in a marriage. Of course, if you’re both just shouting at each other, that can lead to isolation as well; and if you both retreat. It helps to figure out one another’s patterns to know what’s going on; because when you can spot those patterns, then you can begin to correct it.

But this was early on in your marriage. Rather than spotting patterns and saying, “We need to figure out how to fix this,” this just set a course that went on for a decade or more?

LeRoy: We became entrenched.

Kim: Yes. It was conflict that was not a lot of verbal conflict; but because he would retreat, he eventually, five years into the marriage, he let me know he no longer loved me. From that point, really, we settled into life of just maintaining our relationship and living more like roommates than friends or husband and wife.


LeRoy: And I thought I was doing the noble thing by not sparring with her / by not coming back—

Dennis: Oh, you really thought it was the right thing to do?

LeRoy: Yes; at that time—absolutely; it was not—but I thought: “Well, I’m not fighting with her. I’m not the one continuing this emotional conflict. I’m really the victim, because I’m not engaging in this way.”

Dennis: Yes. So, here’s the question: “Five years into your marriage—you’d been to the Greek class together—and yet you were done.”

LeRoy: Yes.

Dennis: Your pledge to form your marriage / your covenant of marriage was more than just going to stay married for the rest of your life and be miserable—your pledge was to love, honor, and cherish.

LeRoy: We thought we were trapped, literally, by that commitment to one another and our covenant before our God. We both believed that divorce was not an option. So, in a way, again, we thought: “Well, this is the noble thing to do.


“We have to stay with one another, no matter how miserable our marriage is; and we can’t seem to work it out.” Again, we believed a lie that, “This is the way it is, I guess, going to continue and going to be.”

Bob: We had a listener to FamilyLife Today who wrote us one time—she said: “Here’s what I observed about my parents—they were committed. They were going to stay together and die bitter.” That’s how she described her parents’ relationship.

Kim: And yet, individually, we kept crying out to God. We kept asking God—I kept saying: “There has to be an answer. I love God / I love His Word. He knows the Word / he loves God—he’s committed to ministry. We’re committed to Christ, but we’re not meeting one another. There has to be an answer.”

Bob: In the midst of this isolation between the two of you, were there moments when you looked at each other and thought, “Okay; maybe we can make…”—moments of hope, where you thought—“We’ll find our way out of here”?


LeRoy: At some points there were, Bob. I mean, we would have times where it seemed like, “Okay, this is getting better,” or “We can make a go of this”; but it would always be just dashed against the rocks. It would even end up becoming more hopeless until I lost all hope and despaired.

Dennis: And vocationally, you were doing what?

LeRoy: Well, I was pastoring for most of that time until I got to a point, where I said: “I can’t do this. I mean, I cannot continue to pastor, knowing that our marriage is this way.”

Dennis: Kimberly, when you get in a situation where it’s fight or flight, it’s one thing for him to experience flight. Usually, the person who’s fighting ratchets up the fighting to get the attention of the other, thinking that the volume and the pain expressed will somehow get the attention of the other.

Kim: Oh, right; definitely. I did that—a lot of women do that.


A lot of the male listeners, right now—I hope they hear this—that the woman is probably not intentionally trying to hurt you, to harm you, to demean you, or emasculate you. She’s trying to get your attention. She wants you to step up and be that godly spiritual leader for her, but she doesn’t know how to motivate you to do that. She’s crying out for attention.

I was crying out: “LeRoy, please talk to me. Please communicate with me. Please help me.” And yet, that’s not what I said.

LeRoy: All I heard was, “You cannot do anything right.”

Kim: Yes.

LeRoy: We each hear what we kind of condition our souls to hear with that inner ear. Even though we might know the truth, we dismiss the truth; because what’s happening in front of us is so real, and so raw, and so painful.

Dennis: And there are a lot of people listening to this broadcast, right now, nodding their heads, going: “That’s us. We’re living that now.”

Kim: Yes.

Dennis: A lot of these folks finally decide to come to the Weekend to Remember marriage getaway.


At the getaway, what you hear us say in this message on conflict resolution—that when one person is crying out—like you were, Kimberly—view it as the red light on the dashboard. It’s telling you something is wrong, internally; and you need to pull off the side of the road and address it. You don’t pull out a ball bat and smash the red light.

Bob: —or put a piece of tape over the red light so you just don’t see it.

Dennis: Yes; and pretend it’s not there.

Kim: Right.

Dennis: You have to take the red light on the dashboard and go: “Maybe there’s something that needs to be addressed here. Maybe some of it’s my problem, and maybe some of it’s my spouse’s problem.” The point is—the Weekend to Remember provides the blueprints and the hope to help people get out of a ditch like we’re talking about here.


Bob: LeRoy, I can understand perfectly your withdrawal; because, as you said, if what a guy is hearing is, “I can’t do anything right,”—well, I’ve used this illustration—if you go out and play golf two or three times and you go, “I’m no good at this game,” most guys don’t go: “I want to do that again next Saturday. I want to go play another round of a game I’m no good at.” You try it a few times; when you learn, “I’m obviously no good at this game,” you go on to something else.

You were withdrawing because anytime you and Kimberly got together to talk about marriage, that message that, “You’re no good at this,” was what you were hearing. How long did this season of isolation last? You said it was about five years in when you said, “I am not in love with my wife anymore.” You continued to pastor for a period of time—how long were you in this kind of living-together-but-living-bitter arrangement?

LeRoy: Far too long. In the moment when I said, Bob, that, “I don’t think that I love you anymore,” it was because—I think that’s a good thing, in a way, to come to; because we didn’t really realize, at that point, what love was all about.


If all that I ever felt like was—I couldn’t do anything right, I couldn’t be the husband to her that she obviously needed, and I was failing at every point—“Well, I guess that I don’t love her, or I would be everything that she needed me to be”; but I didn’t know how to do that. I think, sometimes, we succumb to that; and I just retreated. We lived in that marital misery for about another ten years until the Lord began to do His work of grace in our lives.

Dennis: Like a tennis match, batting the ball back and forth.

LeRoy: Absolutely.

Bob: At this point, you had a couple kids? Is that right?

LeRoy: Yes.

Kim: We had a couple small children; yes.

Bob: So, here you are—raising a couple of children in a household where husband and wife are isolated from one another, hopeless and stuck.

LeRoy: That’s a good way to put it.

Dennis: I just say—if you find yourself there today, you just need to know the rest of this story. You need to hang with us as we tell the rest of this story.


But you need to find some wise counselors who are going to bring the wisdom of the Scriptures to bear against the ditch that you’re in. One of the ways you can do that is through picking up the book called Men Who Love Fierce Women that they’ve written, because you’re going to identify with a good bit of what they’ve been through.

The other way you can deal with this is sign up to go to a Weekend to Remember marriage getaway. Or a third way is go to church and find a godly couple there. Ask around, but pray first. Then find a couple that you can start meeting with; and ask them a simple word: “Help. Would you help us?”

Bob: I am trying to imagine a husband, who’s listening, who says: “I should probably get that book, Men Who Love Fierce Women. I’ll just have it sent to the house.” Then his wife’s going to open it up—right?—they go, “What are you trying to say here, honey?” [Laughter] But honestly, some of this needs to be a catalyst for having conversation about what’s really going on in your relationship. I think that’s what the two of you are providing.


Dennis: Well, there may be some women, Bob, who recognize they are indeed fierce; and their fierceness is driving their husband away.

Bob: And they can get a copy of Kimberly’s book, which is called Fierce Women.

Dennis: Well, or they can get a copy of this—start reading it / start underlining it—because, undoubtedly, at some point, God’s going to work in a woman’s life in such a way that He/God will get her husband’s attention.

Bob: Yes; of course, we have both books in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. A listener can go to to order Fierce Women or Men Who Love Fierce Women. Again, our website is Call to order either or both of the books written by Kimberly Wagner and her husband LeRoy. Again, the website is; and you can call at 1-800-FL-TODAY to get your copy of these books.

And then don’t forget the special offer we’re making this week for FamilyLife Today listeners.


If you’d like to attend an upcoming Weekend to Remember marriage getaway, you pay the regular rate this week for yourself, and your spouse comes free. It’s the best offer we make all year long on the cost of the getaway. And by the way, I should mention—if you come to the getaway, and you don’t think it’s worth what you paid, we’ll refund your registration rate with no questions asked. You really can’t lose by coming to a Weekend to Remember marriage getaway this spring.

We’re going to be hosting these events in dozens of cities all across the country, starting here in a couple of weeks. Go to the website,, to find out when a getaway is coming to a city near where you live, or call if you have any questions at 1-800-FL-TODAY. We can either get you registered over the phone, or you can register online. And again, when you register before the weekend is over, you will save 50 percent on you registration fee—you pay the regular rate for yourself and your spouse comes free.


We hope to see you at an upcoming event. If you have any questions, get in touch with us at 1-800-FL-TODAY.

Now, tomorrow, we’re going to hear about the road back from isolation. What was it that eventually brought Kim and LeRoy Wagner back together, as husband and wife, and what did God teach them in the process? That comes up 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 will 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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