FamilyLife Today® Podcast

Marriage Is a Grace Factory

with Kimberly Wagner, LeRoy Wagner | January 20, 2017
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When Kimberly realized that disrespecting her husband dishonored the Lord, she knew she had to seek his forgiveness. LeRoy and Kimberly Wagner share how her apology proved to be the turning point that led to reconciliation. In seeking God, LeRoy began to realize that he, too, had a confession to make: he was guilty of fear, ingratitude and pride. Over time, the Wagners learned to appreciate their differences and to put love first.

  • 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 share how her apology proved to be the turning point that led to reconciliation. Over time, the Wagners learned to appreciate their differences and to put love first.

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Marriage Is a Grace Factory

With Kimberly Wagner, LeRoy Wagne...more
January 20, 2017
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Bob: When you are a husband, married to a wife who makes you feel like nothing you do is good enough, you wind up doing what LeRoy Wagner did. You retreat—you move into isolation / you just check out. LeRoy says, “When you do that, you have to recognize you are part of the problem.”

LeRoy: Pride is the issue. Even though I thought I was the victim—I was the one that was being beat down; I was the one that could not do anything right; I was the one that was noble in not fighting back and noble in staying married—as ridiculous as all that seems now, really it was an issue of pride.

Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Friday, January 20. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey. I am Bob Lepine. We have some counsel today for husbands who may be fearful and may be married to fierce women. LeRoy and Kim Wagner join us today. Stay tuned.


And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. It is a difficult place for a couple to be in a marriage—when one person’s heart is beginning to turn / beginning to thaw. A couple that has been isolated for a period of time—all of a sudden, one of them is beginning to—God’s doing a work in their heart.


Dennis: As you said, “thaw”; but they are bumping into an iceberg.

Bob: Well, that is right! When something is happening with you—but your spouse is just not moving—that can feel pretty hopeless.

Dennis: And if you are looking for hope and help, you are listening to the right broadcast today. Maybe it is not for you—maybe it is for a friend / a family member. I know, earlier this week, I got an email from my son about a friend of his whose marriage is struggling. I asked if we could pray for him and we have. Here is the thing—marriages get dissolved way too easily today.




They need people who are fighting on behalf of other peoples’ marriages—not just their own.

Bob: They need help. They need people who can intersect with their lives, and give them biblical counsel, and point them in the direction of what the Scriptures teach related to marriage and family—teach them how to rely on God’s grace and how to extend God’s grace to one another in a marriage relationship.

Before you introduce our guests today, let me just remind our listeners—this is the last chance I have to let you know about the special offer we are making to FamilyLife Today listeners this week—where, if you register to attend one of our upcoming Weekend to Remember getaways, you pay the regular price for yourself and your spouse comes free. That offer is good through this weekend. To take advantage of it, here is what you need to do—go online at Get the information about where and when a getaway is coming to a city—you would either like to visit or a city near where you live—register, online, for the getaway. When you register, you will qualify for the special rate.


Again, you pay the regular rate for yourself and your spouse comes free. It is the best offer we make all year long, and it is good through this weekend.

If you have any questions, call 1-800-FL-TODAY; or look online at and then join us at a Weekend to Remember marriage getaway. The first getaway comes up the weekend of February 10 and will continue throughout the spring into June. We would love to have you be a part of an upcoming Weekend to Remember marriage getaway.

Now, we are talking to a couple this week who thought their marriage was irreparable. They thought they had done so much damage that there was no way to fix what had happened. It looked like that for a while, but God had a different plan for them.

Dennis: We have with us LeRoy and Kim Wagner, again, on FamilyLife Today. LeRoy/Kim, welcome back.

LeRoy: Thank you for having us.

Kim: Thank you.


Dennis: LeRoy is a pastor and co-author of this book with Kimberly—the name of the book, Men Who Love Fierce Women. Kim wrote a similar book about being a fierce woman. The lines have all converged and the story has now been written of how your fierceness, which had been used to virtually destroy your marriage, ends up being used, by God, to restore that marriage.


Bob: In fact, the seeds of isolation for your marriage, as you have shared with us already, happened on your honeymoon, basically. That is where you began to establish patterns in your marriage that—ultimately, five years in—led you to a point where LeRoy, you said to your wife, “I just don’t love you anymore.”

LeRoy: Correct

Bob: You guys persevered. You knew what you were supposed to do; but you were in isolation for years until, as you described for us Kim, you had a week away in a cabin where you met with God.


God did a work in your heart—began to thaw the ice that was there. You came home—you repented to your husband—you called the kids together / you confessed and asked for forgiveness from them. I am sure you were thinking, in the midst of that: “Now the turnaround can happen, because I’ve met with the Lord. Now we can get on with having the marriage we’ve always wanted to have.”

Kim: I was hopeful. I was actually afraid of what LeRoy might become once I made that confession, but it really—

Bob: What do you mean?—afraid of what?

Kim: I think I was afraid that, suddenly, this nice guy—that I’ve demeaned and emasculated—now, if I start actually living out what I should live, would he become like this dictatorial, oppressive husband?—that I have never seen signs of that—but I did not know what was going to happen.

Bob: If you relax, he might take the upper hand; and who knows where that will take you.



Kim: Exactly.

Bob: Right.

Dennis: For two years—LeRoy, you said, if you had an EKG hooked up to your heart, it would have been a flat line.

LeRoy: Pretty much.

Dennis: When was the first time you sensed a heartbeat back for this relationship?

LeRoy: As in any relationship, Dennis, it is not just one person that is at fault and needs to get right. God dealt with me.

Dennis: Right.


LeRoy: In a similar way, I was out, away by myself—just me and the Lord. I was thinking, all of the time: “Well, the Lord has done a work in Kim. I can see that.” God began to deal with me. God began to show me that I was a fearful person from long before I met Kim. This was not Kim bringing havoc into our marriage, and destroying me and demeaning me / this was an issue that had been in my heart long before I met Kim.


But the Lord was gracious in allowing / in calling us together. He placed us together to bring us each to the point where we had to die to the self that we did not even know was a part of us but keeping us from being all that God desired for us to be.

I began to walk through every Scripture that dealt with fear. A man cannot be the man that God desires for him to be and be a fearful man. God just worked my heart over, graciously, with His Word and said: “Here is how you need to step up to the plate. You‘ve been afraid / you have had these excuses. You have —you have coddled your fear—your fear of failure, your fear of never getting it right, your fear of trying because you just knew you would fail.


“You’re going to need to die to self and die to that person that you feel like you are—a fearful person—before you can be the person that I’ve saved you to be and that I desire for you to be, as a man and as a husband.”

Dennis: In your book, Men Who Love Fierce Women, you wrote that there were actually three things. Fear was one—it may have been the dominant force in your life—but there were two other things too—ingratitude and pride.

LeRoy: Yes; Kim and I both believe that those were at the heart, probably, of all of our sinful tendencies. Regardless of whether you have this fearful man/fierce woman syndrome in your marriage, of course, pride is the issue. Even though I thought I was the victim—I was the one that was being beat down / I was the one that could not do anything right—I poured out before her that I had been afraid to lead her. I had been afraid of her—literally, intimidated by her. That was not her fault, even though she did not respond correctly. That was my sinfulness, my selfishness, my pride, and my ingratitude for whom God had given me, as this gracious gift of this woman.


Kim: Dennis, let me just say, “I think we have found that this is very common among couples, even when they don’t realize it.” If you would have told me that I intimidated LeRoy—in fact, I had a friend that did tell me that. She thought I was intimidating him, and I just laughed at that. I could not tell that what was going on.

Couple after couple has told us, “You are telling our story.” The man, if he would admit it—he is intimidated by his wife / he feels demeaned. The wife does not realize she is doing that—she just wants the man to lead, and he is afraid to lead! So she has stepped into that role of leader, and taken over, and is really incensed by the fact that her husband is not doing it. So, no; she is not respecting him, and she is putting him down all along the way.

Bob: We often talk about guys being passive. I do not know that I have ever stopped to think about that passivity being born out of fear, but that is what you are saying:


“If a guy is not in the game—

Kim: Yes.

Bob: —“he has to stop and ask, ‘Am I just lazy, or am I afraid of what might happen if I do get in the game?’”

Dennis: I had a businessman that I ended up introducing to Jesus Christ. I will never forget—two or three years in the process of building into his life a little bit. He looked at me and said: “Dennis, I know how to lead several hundred people toward profits and return on investment and how to lead strategic planning for a corporation; but seat me at the dinner table with those four pairs of little beady eyes—my kids looking at me and my wife—I don’t know what to do! Where do I start? How do I do it?”

The very thing you are talking about—I think most men do not know how. As a result, they are afraid. If the wife does not understand that, she can force him into the cave as, you mentioned earlier, you did.


Bob: Yes; she can become critical instead of becoming—what you could have done is said, “You could have done this.” You could have believed in him, you could have called it out of him, you could have helped him, and encouraged him and respected him. Again, you both have said: “You are not exclusively to blame,” “You are not exclusively to blame,”—this was a two-way street. But there are things a wife can do to help a fearful husband gain courage.

Kim: Right; for sure. That is how we are created—that is Genesis 2:18—we are created to help him become what God created him to be—to be iron sharpening iron in his life—to be an encourager / a true encourager. It was the flipside of what I was doing before.

Dennis: Kim, when the iceberg comes rolling into your life, two years after you have confessed, how did that hit you, literally?



Kim: Oh—I again, it really took me to my face.

Bob: Tears are okay, Kim.

Kim: [Emotion in voice] To think that this man of God—that I had respected so much when we married, and saw God using him, and God’s hand on him—that he had been intimidated and afraid of me for years—that was very hard for me to deal with. We began a process of learning how to relate to one another that was very different than what it had been before. New communication techniques had to be built into our relationship.

Bob: Did you figure these things out on your own? Did you get a counselor to help you? Were there books? How did you get from “Okay; we are at a new place / we want to chart a new course.” [Laughter] This is not something where you just kind of realize it and, all of a sudden, everything is perfect now; right?


Kim: Not at all. I am so thankful that you have the Weekend to Remember marriage conferences. I wish we could have gone to one of those at that time. [Laughter] I am thankful you have that tool in place for people, and they need to take advantage of that. I think God was merciful to us in that because we knew so much Scripture. I took Colossians, Chapter 3, personally as a template. We started adopting that as: “This is how we are going to function with one another—in humility / in compassion—having honest conversations but with humility,”—just applying the Scripture we already knew—but not doing that as just a work of the will, but asking the Holy Spirit. The real dynamic that changed everything—I feel like—between us, was that process of him starting to initiate prayer daily.



Bob: Let me just read—because you mentioned Colossians 3—four verses here.

Kim: Yes!

Bob: If these four verses—

Dennis: —or five.

Bob: —could be applied in every marriage—

Kim: Yes!

Dennis: Absolutely!

LeRoy: —You all would be out of business. [Laughter]

Bob: And we would be okay with that; you know? [Laughter]

Dennis: Yes; we would.

Bob: Because our mission is: “Every home a godly home.” If we can get there, we are happy to shut down; right?

Kim: Right; right.

LeRoy: Amen

Bob: [Colossians 3:12-15] “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience; bearing with one another, if one has a complaint against the other, forgiving each other, as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these things, put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful.”

Kim: Now, it is really interesting, Bob—if you kept on reading a couple of verses down, you would see that, after all of that, it addresses—


Bob: —husbands and wives.

Kim: Yes! I mean, it is like that is the template for the home, right there.

Bob: Yes.

Kim: Now, there might a wife, listening right now, who is saying, “I want that come-to-Jesus moment. I want my husband to have that come-to-Jesus moment, but he is not there.” I want to encourage them to pull up our YouTube video and consider watching that together. We encourage husbands and wives to do that, because LeRoy and I are talking together in that about what God did. Let it open up a conversation between you and your husband; and say, “Babe, do you see me treating you in this way?—what Kim is describing she did to her husband? I do not want to do that to you. Have I done that to you?”

Bob: We have a link, by the way, to your video on our website at Listeners can go there and watch the two of you talk through the process you went through here.

Kim: Yes.

Bob: Yes.


Dennis: I want to encourage husbands—I just want to say a word to a husband, who is identifying with you, LeRoy, and they say, “I can’t do it.” Here is what I want you to know—the reason prayer is so important is because two imperfect people bow their necks. The neck is spoken of, in Scripture, as a sign of humility or pride. Being stiff-necked is being filled with pride against God, saying, “I know better than you, God.” On the other hand, when the head is bowed, the head is pliable—the head is bowing before an authority that is far greater than him.

What I would say to the guy, who says: “I don’t know how to pray. I am not like LeRoy—I haven’t been trained to be able to teach the Bible.”

Bob: “I did not meet my wife in Greek class.”

Dennis: Exactly; exactly! Here is what I want to say: “You don’t have to be! You can begin by telling God your address: ‘This is Dennis. I live on Spillway Road. God, would You come and meet us at this point of pain? We don’t know what to do.’”


I have said many times on this broadcast, “God loves the prayer of a helpless parent.”

Kim: Yes.

Dennis: He has to love the prayer of a helpless husband, wife, couple, who bow their wills before Almighty God, who take the Scriptures at their promise. Hebrews 11:6—it says that faith believes that God is—that He exists—and He is the rewarder to those who seek Him. So, you bow your head. I think prayer, in its most simplistic form, is admitting there is a God who is hearing this. Otherwise, you are just babbling, talking to the wall.

The reality is—there is a God; and since He exists, He does hear your prayer. He will take you where you are. He is not asking you to become the Pope. He is asking you to be who you are today. Yield your heart /your life— in your marriage, for your marriage, for your family—and take a step of faith today.


Will you do that? I mean, can you do that? The answer is: “You can!”

And to the wives, I would say—and when your husband takes what you might consider to be a baby step—cheer him on.

LeRoy: Absolutely.

Kim: Yes.

Dennis: Pat him on the hand, pat him on the back, hug his neck—tell him how proud you are of him. Do not make too big a deal about it; but on the other hand, let him know: “That was great! Keep going. Keep going!”

LeRoy: Let me add to that—and it was so well said, Dennis—that, also, God, not only desires for you to come to Him and He hears every cry of the broken heart—you may be saying: “You don’t know our marriage. You do not know how far we are gone. You had this going for you, we don’t have that,”—whatever you say.


I want to tell you—God is also no respecter of persons—the same Holy Spirit that lived within us lives within you, if you are a true believer. The same Word that we had—to basically go back to and convict us—you have that, as a believer. It does not matter whether I was a pastor / where you are—God is the same God. What He did in our lives—that we had no way of even believing at points that He could do it—He did it! He desires to do a work in your life. I am confident of that.

Dennis: I have said, for many years, God’s power works best in a graveyard, where people are dead.

LeRoy: Amen!

Dennis: He is going to raise them from the dead just as He raised Jesus Christ. The same Holy Spirit that raised Christ from the dead—

LeRoy: Amen.

Dennis: —lives in you!


LeRoy: Lives in you!—right.


Dennis: He can resurrect a dead, lifeless marriage.

Kim: He can. We are a living testimony of that power; because, if you were able to spend time with us, at home now—we love to hang out together / to laugh together. There is such unity, love, and completeness.


LeRoy: We would not have had any idea if we would have quit—

Kim: Yes!

 LeRoy: —before God did His work—the future grace—

Kim: Yes!

LeRoy: —that God had / the blessings that God had in store—if we would have given up.

Kim: I cannot even convey adequately how good it is / how good our marriage is now. For the wife or the husband that is just in that black hole of misery, where we once were—I want you to know God is able, and we are a living testimony to His power.

Bob: There is a wife out there, right now—and I am saying this with a smile—who says, “I’ve got one question for you, Kimberly, ‘Will LeRoy really argue with you now?’”

Kim: [Laughter] We discuss—he does not—he never gets angry or mad; no.

Dennis: I did not say that—

Kim: But, yes—

Dennis: —but willhe really engage—

Kim: —yes; he really does engage.

Dennis: —with a fierce wife?

Kim: He does, and I am not that same fierce wife, though, too; but he does—he does engage.


Bob: I think it is important to say—your personalities are still the same.

LeRoy: Yes.

Bob: There has been a sanctifying work run in both of your lives; but you are still a gentle, kind person; you are still a strong woman—

LeRoy: Intense.

Kim: Opinionated. [Laughter]

Bob: —right? So all of that’s still in place.

LeRoy: Absolutely.

Bob: It is not that God took a fierce woman and made her passive and took a fearful man and made him into—

Kim: —Rambo!

Bob: Right! You are still who you are, but the sanctifying work of the Spirit in our personalities can lead to harmony—

LeRoy: Absolutely.

Bob: —and can lead to grace.

LeRoy: Marriage is a grace factory, where God does the work that He chooses to do in our lives. There is no other way that He can perform that same operation of grace than through the difficulty of marriage and the difficulty of two selfish sinners coming together.



What you might think is the end of your marriage—and what I thought, at one time, was the end of my marriage / the end of my life—it is the work that God desires to do—to rescue, to redeem, to show how great and how glorious He is.

Dennis: I want to thank you both for bending your necks and for submitting to Jesus Christ. I will close with this—this quote that I have given probably, in 24 years of broadcast, I have probably given at least a hundred times— it is by C.H. Spurgeon: “It was by perseverance the snail reached the Ark.” [Laughter] Keep sliming your way to the finish line.

Bob: And I am going—I am going to go ahead and tweet right now: “Marriage is a grace factory,”—that is a good one, right there.

Dennis: That is a good one too—I will agree.

Bob: And I will include a link for your book, which is called Men Who Love Fierce Women. It is a book that we have in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. You can go, online, to to order—either the book, Fierce Women, written by Kimberly Wagner, or Men Who Love Fierce Women, written by LeRoy and Kimberly together.


We have both books in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. So again, go online to; or call 1-800-FL-TODAY to order over the phone. 1-800-358-6329—that is 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”

And do not forget —this is the last opportunity you will have to register for an upcoming Weekend to Remember marriage getaway—pay the regular rate for yourself and your spouse comes free / the offer expires this weekend. Call us or go online—website is—or call 1-800-FL-TODAY. If you have any questions, you can probably get answers online or call 1-800-FL-TODAY. We will try to answer any questions you have. If you register this weekend—you pay for yourself / your spouse goes free—and the two of you can enjoy a fun, romantic getaway weekend—



—the Weekend to Remember marriage getaway for couples. We hope to see you at one of our upcoming getaways this spring.

And we hope you have a great weekend. Hope you and your family are able to worship together in your local church this weekend. And then join us back on Monday. Paul David Tripp is going to be with us. We are going to talk to him about his new book on parenting: “What does it mean to be gospel-centered when it comes to raising the next generation?” We will talk about that next week. I hope you can tune in 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 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.

Help for today. Hope for tomorrow.


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