Making the Decision: Moving From “Do I?” to “I Do”
About the Guest
How do you know when to marry? Dennis Rainey talks about the reasons couples fear commitment and shares five questions couples can ask themselves to help them discover if they've truly met Mr. or Mrs. Right.
Dennis RaineyDennis Rainey cofounded FamilyLife®, a ministry of Cru®. Since the organization began in 1976 through 2017, Dennis’ leadership enabled FamilyLife to grow into a dynamic and vital ministry in more than 109 countries around the world helping families discover the joy God intended for their relationships with God, spouse, and kids. Dennis has authored or co-authored more than 35 books, including best-selling Moments Together for Couples and Staying Close and has received two Golden Medallion...more
VariousFamilyLife Today features marriage and family experts who have devoted their lives bringing biblical principles to people in ways that positively change their lives. With each program, we are continually reminded that people throughout the world are receptive to the messages of love and hope offered by our radio guests.
How do you know when to marry?
Making the Decision: Moving From “Do I?” to “I Do”
Dennis: And so he asked that the relationship be off again. It was on and off, hot and cold and she was really fearful and upset and wasn’t quite sure about the relationship. She didn’t know what was going on. So she came to me for counsel and I told her two things that she said meant a great deal to her.
The first thing I told her was that could you believe God could give you someone else that you could love more than Randy? She paused and thought about that and realized that maybe perhaps God could give her someone else in the future.
The second thing I told her I told her in the form of a parable about a little boy by the name of Johnny. Johnny was about 4 and a half or 5 years old and he was playing out in the front lawn of his house one day when his uncle drove up. His uncle kind of bent down on one knee and said, “Johnny boy, I will give you a dollar next week or a dime today, which would you rather have?”
He held up the dime and he said, “I will give you this today” and he held up the crisp greenback and said, “I will give you this next week. Which would you rather have?”
Well, little Johnny he thought let’s see that would be a package of a potato chips today or a rubber ball next week. Now this was back when a dime would buy a package of potato chips. And he was struck with that hunger pain so he reached up with his grubby dirty hands and took the dime and went out and bought the package of potato chips and wolfed it down. They were delicious.
The next week rolled around and guess what? Everybody on Johnny’s block had a rubber ball and they were bouncing their rubber balls. And of course the moral of the story is as I told this young lady that I was counseling her, can you believe that my best buddy may be a dime and that God has got a dollar for you later on if you’ll but wait on him.
That made a lot of sense to the young lady and she decided that that young man was not a dollar but was indeed a dime and she went her own way and began the healing process of getting over that relationship. Well I didn’t realize that at that time and it’s a true story. But one year and approximately two months later that woman would become my wife.
(laughter) That’s right you are looking at her dollar right here.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Tuesday, May 11th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife Today Dennis Rainey and I’m Bob Lepine. We are going to hear some of Dennis’s counsel on how we moved from “do I?” to “I do” during the engagement period that’s coming up next.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today thanks for joining us. You didn’t even know those cassettes were still around anymore, did you?
Dennis: I didn’t, kind of fun to listen to that youthful voice back then.
Bob: Well as a matter of fact, folks are going to hear a little more youthful voice today because what we are featuring this week is some classic material on the engagement period. You know this is an issue that actually when you go back to the beginning of FamilyLife this was your focus back at the beginning.
Dennis: Yes, the reason we started FamilyLife back in 1976 was all about engaged people or those who were contemplating getting engaged. And frankly I still think it’s one of the best things we do Bob is to take and equip them for what I believe is the second most important commitment in life. Who you select as a marriage partner and how you are going to build your marriage and family in the future.
Bob: You just want to sober them up a little bit, get the stars out of their eyes, and help them to see reality a little better.
Dennis: Well think about for a moment. We spend so little in terms of money, time, energy really getting prepared to live a lifetime with another imperfect person. I mean it’s a setup for the divorce rate today. And it’s why we do what we do here on FamilyLife Today. We are all about equipping listeners and their marriages, their families with the biblical blueprints.
Bob: Well and you mentioned things got started back in 1976 almost 35 years now and the only way that’s been possible is because there have been friends of the ministry who have helped support it and make it possible.
Dennis: Well in 1992 we hired you and you helped start FamilyLife Today and it was all about broadening our coverage, equipping more people with the biblical blueprints for building a godly marriage and family. I have to say that over the years, God has supplied and he supplied through legacy partners those who give monthly and he has also supplied with people who make a donation to FamilyLife.
And this month frankly we are coming to our listeners saying we need your help. As you know we have been in a recession for some time and non-profits have been hit really hard. We run a lean ship here at FamilyLife, but right now we are running behind. And in this month, the month of May, your gift is going to be matched dollar for dollar all the way up to more than $300,000 and that’s really why I am coming to you today to say if you can give right now would be a very good time to write out a check or call and make a pledge to give to FamilyLife Today.
Bob: 1-800-FL-TODAY is the number to call or you can make a donation online at FamilyLifeToday.com and as Dennis said your donation is going to be matched dollar for dollar thanks to some friends who have made pledges to match those funds as long as we hear from FamilyLife Today listeners they will take care of the matching part. So we hope to hear from you. Again if you can go online at FamilyLifeToday.com or call 1-800-FL-TODAY to make a donation it would be timely and we just want to say thanks in advance for whatever you are able to do.
Dennis: Yes and I just want to say thanks to the listeners for listening. You and I run into listeners all over the country and it’s an honor to meet you and it’s an honor to do this broadcast to help you, your marriage, your family and your legacy.
Bob: Well and speaking of legacies there are a lot of new legacies going to get started here I guess during the month of May and June, those are the big wedding months so we thought it would be timely to make our focus this week on the premarital preparation period and what couples ought to be focusing on.
We are featuring some classic material from FamilyLife Today this week and actually what listeners are going to hear is we got started today is you dragging out an old newspaper clipping.
Bob: What is that the Arkansas Gazette from what date?
Dennis: Look at the date on it, Bob.
Bob: Sunday, January 9th, 1977, that’s the bridal section.
Dennis: It is the People & Events section and on this page there are close to 15 brides. This was the first year of FamilyLife was in existence and I kept this as an illustration because of those 15 brides how many of them do you think are still married?
Bob: That would be interesting to find out.
Dennis: It would be interesting to know. This page is now broken in half statistically most likely half of those marriages are no longer in place. What’s interesting is in that same paper Bob you can turn back over to the divorce section and you will find a long list of names. They don’t take pictures when you get a divorce.
Marriage was intended to be for keeps. It was meant to be two people committed to God and to one another to make this relationship called marriage last a lifetime. And yet we are not doing a very good job even within the Christian community of making our marriages work.
Think about it. We spent 16 years in formal education, a lot of people who are your college graduates before we take a job. We spend months sometimes reading Consumer Reports about the dishwasher we are going to buy, the automobile, and the stereo system.
Bob: The toaster you know.
Dennis: Yes and we are wondering which one is the best and yet you go back to marriage and all of a sudden you get two people who are romantically enthralled with one another and we think hey, it will always be like this. And yet it’s not always like this. That newspaper I just held up with the long list of people getting a divorce points out that people are not being successful today when it comes to making their covenant a lifetime commitment.
Bob: But you know there are folks who go through the workbook and still walk away and go I am just not sure. I am having a hard time making up my mind on this, it is a lifetime decision. I mean I don’t want to make the wrong decision. How can I know?
Dennis: I have probably counseled 500 pre-marriages who have been fence-sitters who have been afraid of making the commitment. These fears begin to take over. Maybe it’s the fear of saying you are going to spend the rest of your life with just one person. The fear of being known, taking the risk of allowing another person to know you and maybe it’s the fear of being hurt. Maybe it’s the fear that you are not going to be able to fulfill your assignment in the marriage relationship. All of these fears begin to take their toll and that’s why you need to get godly counsel.
The passage that I take an individual to who is dealing with fear is 1John 4 verse 18, “there is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.” In other words when two people love each other with the love of Christ that love ought to begin to assassinate fear. It ought to cast it out of the other person.
I remember when Barbara and I were dating we had tons of fears that all of a sudden began to surface in the relationship, but Bob none of the fears were fears that should have caused us to terminate the relationship or keep us from getting married.
Bob: So if I am experiencing fear in trying to make a decision if I can’t move ahead you are saying I should seek some godly counsel. Ask some other people to give me some advice in this and then I should ask the question are my fears intensifying or are they abating and if they are moving being assassinated like you mentioned then is that an indication that it’s okay to move ahead.
Dennis: Well not necessarily because it depends upon what the fears are. If you are afraid of whether that other person is going to be a spiritual leader. A spiritual person in that marriage relationship and whether or not they are going to remain committed to you for a lifetime then that fear is worth, well that’s worthy of throwing an anchor overboard and slowing this ship down a bit and saying hold on I think we need to address something here with a third party.
Bob: Well you talk about a fear, the fear of breaking an engagement is a huge fear especially if the invitations are out, that gifts are coming in and you think you don’t know what this will do to my mom if I cancel the engagement.
Dennis: Tremendous embarrassment, I will never forget a young man who came to me for advice who was thinking about breaking off this engagement with a young lady. And unfortunately, I wasn’t mature enough or strong enough in my own Christian walk to give him the advice he needed to hear. The issues he was raising were substantial. In other words they should not have gotten married, but I wasn’t a mature Christian. I was just a fellow struggler at that point, I wasn’t even married myself.
Well, less than 10 years later that marriage ended in a divorce and it involved a couple of kids. If he had gone to an older person who would have heard him express his doubts at that point that older person would have been able to have clearly heard what it was at stake here and said you know what? Let’s slow this thing down a bit. Let’s put off this marriage for a while and maybe even send out some notes to people saying this engagement has been put on hold.
Bob: Ultimately though to break off an engagement whatever embarrassment or shame there is there does not compare to the hurt that man experienced 10 years down the road when his marriage dissolved.
Dennis: No but when you are about to make a commitment to another person that clearly goes against scripture. You are headed for heartache. You are headed for trouble and it’s just a matter of time before that decision that is made outside the will of God because the scripture is the revealed will of God to us. It tells us we should not marry a person who is not a Christian. We should not be unequally yoked with unbelievers.
Bob: Alright let me tell me about a friend of mine whose name was Lisa and after years of not receiving a whole lot of male attention she started to get some male attention from a young man who she fell for who was not a believer. I had the opportunity to caution her, to warn her, to let her know that she shouldn’t pursue a relationship here, but she kind of pressed ahead.
She came to work one morning, we worked together and she walked in and said well it happened last night. We were up until about 2 in the morning talking about spiritual issues and he finally prayed the prayer. And in her mind all the lights that had been yellow or even red had now just flashed green. Should she have felt comfortable pressing ahead with this young man at that point?
Dennis: Well, not until that young man had show even of a track record spiritually speaking to give her confidence that he could be the spiritual leader of that relationship especially if she was the one who lead him to Christ. I think there have been a lot of young men make church commitments in the midst of dating an attractive young lady.
In other words, there are young men who would stoop so low as to fake a spiritual commitment to be able to get the person they love the most into a permanent relationship called marriage. And that may sound cruel, that may sound like it’s manipulative and it is but it happens.
Dennis: If marriage is a spiritual relationship and if it is dependent upon two people who are independently being obedient to Jesus Christ and submitting to his authority and to the authority of God’s word, then what is the hope of achieving a great marriage if you don’t have two people who are pressing on towards spiritual maturity individually. The hope of any marriage to be all that God intended must find him at the center and that does not happen overnight. That is a trained, learned, developed discipline that should be evident in a person’s life before they walk down the wedding aisle.
Bob: So if you have been acquainted with somebody, but not dating them and they make a spiritual commitment and now you think okay maybe the water is safe to go in how long do you watch? What do you look for to know that you can in fact move toward marriage with somebody?
Dennis: I would say a couple of years. Now that may sound cruel but frankly what’s the rest of your life worth? Over in Galatians 5 it says “but the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self control.”
Now the key word there is fruit. The fruit of the Spirit takes time to mature and to develop. And I say to the young lady or the young man who is in a relationship with a new believer give them time to mature. You stand to gain far more than you stand to lose. If you rush ahead though you stand to lose a great deal.
(Creative piece from “A Catered Affair” a Broadway musical)
Speaker: You’re sure that’s what you want, get married at City Hall? I am sure, because getting a good start, that’s the trick of it to make a good start. Jane.
Jane: Yes, mom.
Speaker: It’s a big thing, getting married. You got to look before you leap. You got to pick somebody to keep so that when his hair is mostly gone and your waist is not so slim, you will still be with him.
Jane: Ma, I have known Ralph over 2 years now.
Speaker: I am not saying you don’t know him. And I am not saying he don’t care, but still you got to prepare.”
Bob: Do you remember when you and Barbara were dating and you had a short dating period and short engagement didn’t you?
Dennis: We did.
Bob: Do you remember asking the Lord is it okay for me to pursue this woman and to marry her? How did you hear the voice of God clearly? It wasn’t audible, was it?
Bob: And there was no fleece on the backyard that was dry the next morning when everything else was wet.
Dennis: No, none of that.
Bob: So how did you wake up one morning and know it’s okay?
Dennis: Well first of all biblically we weren’t betraying any scriptural mandate. We weren’t going against any biblical advise, biblical commands or biblical imperatives.
Bob: And that’s where couples who are involved sexually with one another they have kind of taken themselves out of the loop for knowing God’s will.
Dennis: Well it says, in the psalms if I regard iniquity in my heart the Lord will not hear me. To me that’s a frightening promise of scripture as well as a warning.
The second thing it was true was our relationship was built around a shared spiritual mission. We had spiritual experiences that we were involved with as a couple and in our particular case it was around Explo ‘72 which was a rally in the Cotton Bowl in 1972 where nearly a 100,000 high school, college students and adults came together to be trained and how they could share their faith.
A third thing that I think was true is we had a growing friendship. We liked each other. We connected with each other. There was a kindred spirit. There was an enjoyment in being together. And some of our listeners may say, “Gosh, now aren’t you getting a little basic at that point.” Well you know I have counseled couples who are so desperate to be married, they are about to marry somebody they don’t like. That’s not the direction to head.
Fourth, there were several mature Christians who encouraged us in our relationship. There were no red lights, lot of green lights from godly counselors.
And then finally fifth, as I prayed about it and as Barbara prayed about it and as we thought about it and as we talked about it with one another and continued to pray about it before God, we felt like God was leading us in that direction. So we made a decision not on the basis of sight but on a basis of faith. In other words we believed God was leading us together as a couple. We made that decision and as a result of the decision God’s peace came.
Bob, I think this is so important because some couples when they make this decision there is no peace. There is doubt. There is increased fear. There is a troubled heart. I am saying if those are increasing in your life after you have made the decision by faith in the trustworthiness of God and his word to move towards marriage. If those things fear, doubt, turmoil are true of your life then you need to slow down or you need to break off the relationship.
Bob: Well it certainly would seem that going through a process together like walking through the Preparing for Marriage workbook that should help couples clarify issues and gain a sense of peace about their decision. And if they are able to do it with a mentor couple, that is all the better because they will have godly advice steering them in the right direction.
Dennis: This workbook was designed to aid a couple in not only securing that decision but of beginning their marriage on the very best foundation possible.
Bob: Yes, and I think the enhancements that have been made, the revisions and the updating that is been done recently by our team makes something that has always been good even better and even easier for a mentor couple to use as they engage with a younger couple.
Let me encourage listeners go to our website FamilyLifeToday.com and there is information available there on how you can get a copy of the Preparing for Marriage workbook or how you an get multiple copies so there is one for you, one for your fiancé, maybe a copy or two for the mentor couple that’s going to take you through the material.
Again, go to FamilyLifeToday.com for more information on how you can order copies of this workbook or call toll free 1-800-358-6329 that’s 1-800-FL-TODAY.
I need to say a quick word of thanks to the listeners that we have heard from already this month who have been responding to the matching gift challenge that we have talked about here on FamilyLife Today. We had some friends of the ministry who came along and offered to match every donation that we receive during the month of May on a dollar for dollar basis and the matching gift fund that they have established has now more than $300,000 worth of pledges in the fund.
If we are going to take advantage of those pledges and cash it on them we need as many of our listeners as possible to go online or to call 1-800-FL-TODAY, make a donation to help support the ministry of FamilyLife Today and again when you do your donation is doubled. So if you say well I can’t do much, we could maybe give $10 that is going to be a $20 by the time it’s done. So if you say we can give $50 or $100 whatever you can do, that donation will be doubled as long as there are still funds in the matching gift fund and as I said it is up over $300,000 at this point.
So can we encourage you to go online at FamilyLifeToday.com or call 1-800-FL-TODAY and help support this ministry, help keep us on the air on this station and on our entire network of stations all across the country by making a donation during the month of May. Again you can donate online at FamilyLifeToday.com or call 1-800-FL-TODAY to help support the ministry of FamilyLife Today and we do appreciate your financial partnership with us.
We want to invite you back tomorrow. We are going to talk about what couples can do during the engagement period. What kinds of things they can be focused on to help them get better prepared for what comes after you say “I do.” We will talk about that tomorrow. Hope you can be with us.
I want to thank our engineer today Keith Lynch and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host Dennis Rainey and I am 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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