Authors Ryan and Selena Frederick talk about the importance of leaving margin in your marriage. The Fredericks share how a European backpacking trip made them realize they were spread too thin, leaving little time for each other. Their schedules were full with church involvement, demanding jobs, and hobbies, but their relationship lacked depth and purpose. Hear about the radical changes they made once they agreed that "life is short," and God needs to come first.
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FierceMarriage.com in 2013 when they felt God calling them to share, with brutal transparency, the struggles God had helped them overcome. Since then, Fierce Marriage has grown into a thriving online community with hundreds of thousands of readers each month. Ryan and Selena have two daughters and live in Tacoma, Washington.
Authors Ryan and Selena Frederick talk about the importance of leaving margin in your marriage. Hear about the radical changes they made once they agreed that “life is short,” and God needs to come first.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Wednesday, September 18th. Our hosts are Dave and Ann Wilson; I’m Bob Lepine. Do your priorities need to be reviewed?—maybe, adjusted?—and where does your commitment to one another in marriage fit into that priority structure? We’re going to spend time talking about that today. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. So, have you guys spent a lot of time in other countries abroad? Have you travelled worldwide?
Dave: You know, Bob, that’s a point of contention in our marriage.
Bob: Oh, is it?
Ann: I didn’t know that. [Laughter] I’m finding it out right now.
Dave: My wife—
Ann: We have actually—oh, I know—yes.
Dave: —Ann loves to travel, and we’ve done a little but not anything like she would like.
Ann: We’ve travelled around the world a lot in doing mission trips.
Dave: Do you know what that means? Here’s what she is saying: “We’ve travelled when somebody else pays for it.” [Laughter]
Dave: Our church does—
Ann: Or we raise it.
Dave: —a summer mission;—
Dave: —but if we’re going to go somewhere, I’m Mr. Tightwad. She can’t get me to open the Jaws of Life/my wallet to go anywhere. [Laughter] That’s the problem; right?
Ann: Why were you asking?!
Bob: Well, have you lived abroad?
Bob: You’ve never lived abroad. See—
Ann: What about you and Mary Ann?
Bob: No; we’ve never lived abroad, and we’ve done some travel. We’ve been able to do some. I like doing it more than Mary Ann likes doing it because she—
Ann: And you open the Jaws of Life? [Laughter]
Bob: You know, on those times when we’re going to travel, we’re just going to make it a special occasion—
Bob: —and cough up some coin; right?
Ann: Hint; hint!
Bob: Dave, are you getting this?
Dave: Hey, you know what? Our 40th—
Dave: —is next year.
Dave: I’m coughing up some coin.
Bob: Are you?
Dave: Well, I’m hoping somebody will help; but anyway—[Laughter]—actually, we’re going to do something special. We just don’t know where yet.
Bob: I know one of the things you guys do invest in—an area where you do spend money—is in strengthening your marriage and taking time away to do that. It may not involve exotic travel or some big production; but you take time away, as a couple, to focus on your marriage and invest in your marriage. It’s one of the things we recommend to couples.
I’m mentioning this, of course, because this week we are offering to FamilyLife Today listeners an opportunity to join us for one of our Weekend to Remember® marriage getaways this fall. We’re going to be in 30-plus locations across the country with Weekend to Remember getaways. If you register this week, you save 50 percent off the regular registration fee; so it’s a bargain; good time to sign up.
Go to FamilyLifeToday.com for more information about the getaway or to get registered online. Again, to take advantage of the special offer, you need to get in touch with us this week. The website is FamilyLifeToday.com. You can call if you have questions or if you’d like to register by phone: 1-800-358-6329—1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”
We’ve got a couple joining us this week who have—they’ve lived in—
Dave: I mean, they were in Switzerland their first year.
Bob: —Switzerland—lived in Switzerland in the first couple of years of their marriage; right?
Ryan: We moved there in the second year of our marriage.
Bob: —in the second year of their marriage.
Bob: Ryan and Selena Frederick joining us again; welcome back, guys.
Ryan: Thank you.
Selena: Thank you.
Bob: They are the authors of the book, Fierce Marriage. They’ve got a blog; the blog is called Fierce Marriage too; right?
Ryan: Yes; FierceMarriage.com.
Bob: And we’ve been talking about this book and about principles they’ve learned in marriage. You also had a—was this a big backpack trip you did in Munich at some point?
Ryan: Yes; so, we went back about three years later.
Ryan: We went back.
Selena: We did.
Ann: Were you totally healed at this point from your heart surgery?
Ryan: Pretty much. I had—at that point, I had to do checkups every six months or so. They were just making sure that I wasn’t having backflow issues, in terms of my valve. I do have a hole in my valve still—and there is backflow and stuff—but yes; pretty much healthy.
Bob: This 18-day adventure in Europe—what did that bring to light for you guys in terms of marriage?
Selena: Yes; we hadn’t spent a lot of time together, I think, before that. We had been working. We’d been heavily involved in church—too much—so we hadn’t seen each other. We hadn’t spent a whole lot of time together, and we—I don’t know—there was just kind of this underlying frustration, I think, and disconnect.
Ryan: Yes; that’s totally accurate; yes.
Ryan: We had thought that we were doing things right—right?—because we were working full time. We had these careers, that were kind of on an upward trajectory, that we were proud of; but then we got to Europe, and we had all this time together. We’re just adventuring together, and our friendship is kind of re-blossoming in new ways. I think we realized that we—our priorities were out of whack.
That created some kind of checkpoints in my own heart. I think God was gracious in that He kind of alerted me to some things. Throughout those 18 days, I started really praying and mulling over things; and going home, I had a few different metrics that I wanted to look at in terms of how I was spending my time. Also—I mean, this to be really clear—I think I was doing 40 to 50 hours a week at work and, then, volunteering 30 to 40 hours a week at church.
Bob: Wow; wow.
Selena: —because you’re a worship leader. Yes; they were all good things. I think that’s the problem—
Selena: —is that they were all good—felt like godly, biblical things that we should be doing at this time in our lives.
Ann: I think you’re hitting on something that all couples deal with. We’re so busy—we have kids; we have jobs; we have the demands of church; we’re volunteering somewhere—and that all takes time and energy. Then I think, sometimes, we can look at each other [spouse] and we can say: “Wait, who are you again?” and “How did we drift so far apart?”
How would you encourage couples to not go there and how to keep that tight rein on your time, and your schedule, and your relationship?
Ryan: Well, the first thing is margin. You have to have margin in your life for what matters; right? Dates are obviously a really important thing, but what’s the point of a date night other than to just get at each other and your friendship?—to give your friendship a unique experience/a unique shared experience so that you can actually understand, once again, this person that you’ve married, even in a new light.
A lot of times, we are so busy and we’re so distracted. Every little moment in our lives is sucked up by social media, Instagram®, droning along on the internet, working late hours because you’re trying to meet some standard—God knows where it came from; right?—it’s just you’re comparing to whoever else/their best moments in life; right?—trying to match those all the time.
Selena: Right. I think, too, the battle that we face with all these good things is that we kind of order them on a list; right? We have the: God, first; my spouse, second; my kids, third; and church/whatever after that. I don’t think there’s anything necessarily wrong with the list, looking at it initially; but when we start allowing it to kind of grow in our life and start to take roots, I think the fruit isn’t always what we expected.
Ryan: We tend to put God in the silos; right?
Ryan: That’s what causes priority mishaps.
Selena: We get busy; yes.
Ryan: These silos in our lives: we have my God life, my married life, and so on; but God should be everything/Jesus should be in everything.
Bob: I was sitting down at lunch with a guy the week before last, and I was saying: “Here’s the way we need to be thinking about life: ‘What is in the center, and what’s orbiting around what’s in the center?’” I said to him, “For you, what’s in the center of the circle is me,”—he’s in the center of his own circle. He’s trying to order job, marriage, activities—all of this—and it’s all orbiting around: “What makes me happy?”
Bob: I said, “The challenge for you is that you’ve got the wrong center of gravity with all these planets focusing around it. When God’s in the center; and then you’re looking at: “How do these things orbit?”—the gravitational pull is not “What pleases me?”—but “What pleases God?” When you’re thinking, “What pleases God?” that throws things into a different orbit than if you’re thinking, “What pleases me?”; right?
Ryan: Yes; the idea of stewardship, I think, is the most clear way that I could describe what you’ve just said. If Christ is at the center, truly, then I am called, as a steward, to care for everything for His glory—right?—for my good and to His glory. Marriage, as an example: “How can I love my wife, not just so that I’m happy or so that she’s happy, but so that Christ is glorified?”
Ryan: “How can I steward my finances—not so I’m happy/so I have what I think I need, or my wife has what she thinks she needs, or I think she needs—but how can I steward my finances in a way that glorifies Christ?”
If we go with the list—or the me-centered model—it’s too hard to manage; but if I just think about Jesus and stewarding things to His glory—man, everything just becomes so clear.
Bob: When you’re on this backpacking trip through Europe, and you’re starting to recognize that, maybe, some of your priorities have not been in alignment, were you having conversations about this at cafes across—is he bringing it up and saying, “You know, I’ve started to realize that stuffs not in order”?
Selena: He was. Yes; he very much did bring it up. He—I remember you saying, Ryan, that you knew that one day you were going to stand before God and have to give an account for your family, and this was not what you were envisioning—
Selena: —and this was not where you wanted to go. There are some things that we need to reexamine—and some directions and some decisions that we need to make—in order to kind of feel like we’re back in that alignment with what God has asked of us.
Bob: So, what were the areas, where you said, “We’ve got to recalibrate/we’ve got to reprioritize?” How did your life start to be intentionally different as a result of your 18-day adventure in Europe?
Selena: I think the church involvement was one because it was coming from a place of: “We’re seeking our identity from the roles that we’re fulfilling,”—rather than—“This is who we are, and we want to give to the church,” and “This is what God is doing in our hearts.” It was a backwards relationship.
I had horses at the time. Since he was volunteering, I would just go spend my money—“my money”—[Laughter]—and ride my horses and spend all the time at the barn, doing whatever I wanted to do. There was a lot of division of our time and our relationship and just emotional capacity.
Ryan: So, yes, I think time was—like you said, “Time was a huge one.”
Ryan: Our finances—we weren’t stewarding in the best way. That was not a big one for us, but—
Bob: What does that mean? What weren’t you doing that you are doing today?
Ryan: Well, the horse thing was way out of balance.
Ann: Did you confront Selena; or Selena, did you already know?
Selena: I think it was a little of both.
Selena: I knew that it was heavily out of balance; but I was like, “We’re making the money, so why does it matter?” He’s like, “Well, we probably should be saving money, too.” We’ve always wanted to give; and “How can we give if there is no reserves?—or we’re not planning for this or being intentional about it?”
Ryan: Yes; the lack of margin was convicting there, I think.
Selena: Yes; yes.
Ryan: Then, being in Europe, I think, also, reawakened that sense of urgency in me, having—we went actually back to the hospital. We got to see my surgeon; we sat down for dinner with my surgeon.
Dave: Oh, really?!
Ryan: Yes; it kind of reawakened that sense of “Man, life is short.” Getting back, I think we also took a hard look at our careers and “Where are we on a trajectory that we felt that was living by faith, according to the convictions that God has given us?” That was actually the, kind of, precursor to us choosing to quit our cushy jobs and move to California, where we lived for five years. God did a lot of stuff through that as well; but yes.
Bob: Was that a frightening step to take?
Ryan: I think—you know, God gives us wisdom. He gives us the ability to think through and plan. It wasn’t this sense of: “I’m just going to quit, and cut bait, and leave.” No; we planned it. God was faithful in helping those plans to work the way we thought they would work. We were able to find part-time jobs.
I started a business in California, but I tried to start a solo—this is a long story, so I don’t know if I should get into it. I’m—energy engineering is in my background. I was doing a solar design installations company down in California. It was going to be an entrepreneurial thing. I’m raising money and all this stuff, and I never sold a single thing. [Laughter]
Ryan: But here we are in California! The economy tanked; this was in 2009. We were in Palm Desert. It was like a snowbird area, so nobody cared about their vacation homes; let alone—they were just trying to keep their normal houses—and they didn’t care about putting a $50,000 Solar-Ray on their house; so yes; and God was faithful through that.
There were so many evenings I sat down on our deck in our little apartment in Southern California, just angry; because it’s like: “God, I’m working my tail off. Where is the provision?” He just looked at me and said: “You are not your provider; I am. It’s not your mind; it’s not your diligence—none of that is your provider. I’m your provider; deal with it!”
He—I felt Him just drop this bomb of peace, really, in my heart; and I finally just let go. At that point, I feel like our priorities started to—finances started to finally fall into place to where Jesus could be the real focus and not so much our own—you know, what we wanted to get out of life.
Ann: I love hearing that because I think that’s what we all long for—is to put Jesus as the main point and the main priority. You guys did that. What does that look like on a daily basis in your walk with God, individually, but also as a couple?
Ryan: Honestly, I think the way that we have a fierce marriage is by saying, “No,” to good things in the name of keeping our marriage at its proper place in terms of its health and the health of our children.
Selena: I think one thing that we—is kind of a cord of the whole Fierce Marriage ministry—is having this family vision of knowing where/knowing where God’s kind of leading us. We all have these talents, these spiritual gifts, these abilities: “How can we steward them well? How can we use them to His glory, especially in parenting? What do we value as a family? What do we hold dear? What is—what is our mission as a family?”—and getting specific about it.
We want to glorify God. We want to make disciples; and that means, you know, discipling our children—that’s where it starts. Having a fierce marriage is understanding the things of God—and acting that out and doing that—when it’s hard, when you don’t feel like it, and when you don’t want to. [Laughter]
Ryan: That—what you’ve just described—when I mentioned, in terms of saying, “No,” to good things, it gives us the bandwidth—
Ryan: —and the margin to actually live that stuff out; because it’s the—busy-ness is by far the biggest, I think, struggle for marriages these days and keeping priorities in place. My dad, who is a psychologist—well, was for 30 years—said: “It’s not anything related to sex or money; it’s busy-ness.” Priorities—that’s the biggest problem that he sees—patients coming through his practice.
“Tangibly, how we live that out?” is, again, saying, “No,” in light of those of our vision. We have an envision statements. With our kids, we envision children who understand the world is a big place in need of a big God. We’re trying to figure out ways to get them exposed to other cultures/other people that don’t look like them, act like them, talk like them—doing—
Selena: —have different needs than—
Ryan: Yes; and have different needs than they have, so that they know that we have a big God.
Our decisions today should, ideally, be driven by those envision statements that we have. I think it starts at this age, where they are so little—just making time around the breakfast table to sing Jesus Loves Me with the ukulele; right?
Ann: That’s sweet.
Ryan: And they sing that with us.
Bob: How many of these envision statements do you have?
Selena: Oh, not very many.
Ryan: Like six—I think there are like six.
Selena: Yes; we try to keep it simple.
Ryan: One of them is, I think: “We envision a family that welcomes others into our home, and they feel loved and they feel like—
Ryan: —“we’re being kind to them”; right?
Ryan: “We envision a family that laughs together,”—that’s one of them. It’s super simple, but laughter is important for building bonds and friendships.
Selena: Just to speak back to what you are saying about margin and being able to have people over—you can’t do that if you’re constantly busy.
Selena: —and if you’re constantly, potentially/maybe, buying into a lie that: “If I am busy, and doing all of these things, and am a part of all of these things, then people will see me,” and “They will recognize that we are trying and that we’re a part of this big, old thing”; you know?
Ryan: You’ll just feel that way yourself.
Selena: You’ll feel that way; when really, when our—again, when our priorities are mixed up, we have no margin to actually deal with problems, to communicate through them, to have people in our world, and to love on them genuinely without pretense and without any posturing.
Ryan: So, we’ve definitely chosen to live more slowly. For instance, this is just a really practical way—is that every week: Friday nights are off limits, and Sunday nights are off limits. Friday nights are our time to have fun together—
Selena: —as a family.
Ryan: —and really just rest as a family—as a family.
Ryan: Usually for us, to make sure it’s not over spiritualized, we just—we have family show nights. We order pizza, and we watch some sort of cartoon the girls are excited about. We laugh, and we just spend time together; in a very rare case would that be interrupted.
Sunday nights are the nights that we pull out all the stops for dinner. I’ll usually buy like a really nice cut of meat. I’ll cook it all day long—this process that I have. Then we’ll just enjoy it together, as a family. I’ll pray over the girls, and we’ll talk about Jesus. It’ll be our time to sit around and have meaningful conversation.
Selena: —just engaging in the Sabbath.
Ryan: Yes; yes. Then, you know, meals are sacred. Breakfast—gathering around the table is a really important; but then Tuesdays and Thursdays are set aside for, specifically, to bring people into our home—
Ryan: —or to go to other people’s homes.
Selena: —and we know that. Establishing weekly rhythms, I think, has been a huge factor for us—knowing that we have those days to just invite a baseball player over, if you want; or a friend that I met at the gym, or the Y, or whatever—it’s just saying: “Hey, we have this time and space. Come; come to our table.”
Bob: So, two questions: One is for the person, who is listening to this and going, “I would love margin, but like to survive—
Bob: —“I’ve got to be going all the time to pay the bills.” What’s your answer to them?
Then I’ve got another one for you. [Laughter]
Ryan: Yes; that’s hard. I’m not going—I don’t want to over-simplify it. I can’t just say, “Do this or that, and it’ll fix it.” I will say that it’s a long process, living out this vision; right?
Ryan: You have to pray over it. It took us months to write a family vision statement, and it took us years to finally get to a place where, “Okay, now, we can start to see how these things are actually going to work themselves out.”
For a couple like that—if I’m talking to somebody, who they are really kind of—they feel like they’ve painted themselves into a corner: maybe, with their debt; they have a house; they have a certain standard of living they are used to holding—I would just question that, say: “Why?—why do you have that standard of living?
Selena: —or “Why do you feel like you need to have that standard of living?”
Ryan: “What’s driving that?”—not in an accusatory way but in a sense like—“If that’s what’s causing you to be trapped, then that’s probably worth questioning. I would question job—for a lot of husbands, they commute in our area. Commutes are horrible—one to two hours one way for some people.
Asking those hard questions, and then painting the picture, and just trusting that it’s worth it, and walking in faith for months and years until you reach that place; because it’s not going to happen overnight. You’re not just going to flip a switch and, all of a sudden, you have margin.
Ann: But I also love that you brought God into those decisions for you guys—like in terms of changing your lifestyle, you were depending on Him to meet your needs. I think sometimes to bring God into that picture is a really important step—like, “God, we want to make these decisions because this is important for our family; but we need You to come in and provide,” or “…provide a different job.” You know God wants to come in and answer those prayers—maybe, not in our timing—but He still wants to be a part of that. I think that’s important.
What was your second question, Bob?
Bob: So, my second question is: “If you had never found cheap airfare to Munich, and you hadn’t gone for those 18 days, and you hadn’t started to reconnect, and you had just stayed in the cushy jobs you were in; and today, you had just followed that trajectory—where do you think things would be? How would things be different for you than they are today?”
Selena: I think they’d be very different; but I also think God would have used another situation to get a hold of our hearts and say, “Remember that time that you had—
Bob: He’ll find a way; won’t He?—yes.
Selena: Yes; “Remember that time you had heart surgery?—that was not in vain. There is something that I need to use that has happened to you that has hurt you. I need to use it for My glory; and I want you to remember this, and not forget it, and not be ashamed of it.”
Ryan: I think it’s worth saying—the thing that drove that decision/that I thought was driving that decision to quit our jobs and do all that was not the thing that got us to here and now. I think desperation for God and desperation for His purposes; right? We have a need to feel meaningful, and we won’t feel meaningful unless we’re walking alongside, in faith, with the Holy Spirit. We’re not going to feel that sense.
Actually, starting Fierce Marriage started from a place of desperation of me—existential-like/call it a quarter-life crisis—whatever you want to call it—but basically saying: “What am I doing this for? I’m just working. It’s meaningless”; and finally, God just said, “Hey, use your relationship. Glorify Me,”—there you go.
Bob: Thank you, guys. Thanks for spending time. Thanks for defining what a fierce marriage looks like and for being intentional about how you’re living and your purposes. It’s been great to have you here.
Selena: Thanks for having us.
Ryan: Thank you so much.
Selena: It’s been a privilege to be here.
Bob: If our listeners are interested—and I hope they are—in getting a copy of your book, Fierce Marriage, we’ve got copies in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. You can order the book from us, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com; or you can call 1-800-FL-TODAY to get a copy of Ryan and Selena Frederick’s book, Fierce Marriage: Radically Pursuing Each Other in Light of Christ’s Relentless Love. Again, order online at FamilyLifeToday.com, or call to order: 1-800-FL-TODAY is our number—that’s 1-800-358-6329—1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”
A quick reminder—this week, we’re urging you to sign up for an upcoming Weekend to Remember marriage getaway. You can get all the information you need about locations for the getaway when you go to our website at FamilyLifeToday.com or you call 1-800-FL-TODAY.
We’ve got the president of FamilyLife®, David Robbins, here with us today. This is the kind of event that a couple needs to build into their schedule pretty regularly; don’t you think?
David: Absolutely; I think the rhythms of getting away for an intentional weekend—it’s just proven how much that affects your marriage and being on the same page. The whole conversation—the series with the Fredericks—around the idea of fierce love seems to boil down to the issue of making intentional choices.
If we’re going to love well—the gift of the covenant relationship God has given us—we have to make, sometimes, the difficult choices to orchestrate everything in order to prioritize the people we love.
David: Getting away for a Weekend to Remember is one of those unique opportunities. Meg and I love doing it. We’ve been before. Each time, we take away something new. I just want to urge you to go.
Bob: And I know you’ve got kids—it’s hard to get babysitting; but by the end of the weekend, you go, “We’re so glad we did this.”
David: Never have I regretted it—
David: —every time.
Bob: Well, again, go to FamilyLifeToday.com to register or to find out more; or call 1-800-FL-TODAY. We can answer any questions you have about the getaway, and we can get you registered over the phone. Again, the number is 1-800-358-6329—that’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as life, and then the word, “TODAY.”
Now, tomorrow, we’re going to hear Ann Wilson talking to a group of brides-to-be and giving them her best advice on how to get ready for what marriage is going to be like. I hope you can tune to hear her counsel for these young soon-to-be brides.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our hosts, Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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