Overcoming Scars From the Past
Dave and Ann Wilson loved each other, and they loved Jesus. Then why did their marriage start off so rocky? The Wilsons, now married 37 years, recall their earliest years of marriage and the problems they found difficult to resolve, especially as it related to their sexual past. Hear how God gave their hearts a makeover and transformed their shaky marriage.
About the Guest
Dave and Ann Wilson recall their earliest years of marriage and the problems they couldn’t resolve. Hear how God gave their hearts a makeover and transformed their shaky marriage.
Overcoming Scars From the Past
Bob: It wasn’t until after Dave and Ann Wilson had said, “I do,” to one another that they both began to realize there were issues they were going to have to figure out how to deal with in their new marriage.
Ann: Some of our baggage, to be truthful, was things that we had done, sexually, with other people. I felt like: “Am I good enough? Do I compare?” I didn’t trust him—not because he had done anything in our marriage that was untrustworthy—but I wondered if his past would catch up with who he was now. I was incredibly insecure.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Monday, September 11th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey; and I'm Bob Lepine. When you bring baggage into a marriage relationship and its affecting you marriage today, what do you do about that? We’ll hear from Dave and Ann Wilson today. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us on the Monday edition. Our regular listeners are going to recognize our guests today. In fact, folks who have been through The Art of Marriage® video series will recognize our guests. If you’ve been on any of the last two or three Love Like You Mean It Marriage®cruises, you’ll recognize our guests today. If you’ve been to one of our Weekend to Remember® getaways, you’re going to know our guests; because this couple has been a part of all that we’re doing, here, at FamilyLife for a couple of decades now.
Dennis: Dave and Ann Wilson join us on FamilyLife Today. Dave/Ann—welcome back to the broadcast.
Dave: We are excited to be here.
Ann: So excited to be here.
Bob: I’ll just mention, for those who don’t know Dave and Ann, Dave is one of the pastors at Kensington Community Church in the Detroit area / chaplain for the Detroit Lions. You’ve been in Kensington for a couple of decades now.
They are parents to three sons and grandparents to two grandchildren as well.
Any of our listeners, who have gone through The Art of Marriage video series, have seen you guys—in Session Two—share the story of your tenth wedding anniversary. We’ve got the clips of that story if our listeners would like to see it, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com.
I also want to mention—and just give me a minute here—this is the last week for FamilyLifeToday visitors who may want to attend an upcoming Weekend to Remember marriage getaway to register for the event and save 50 percent off the regular registration fee. This week, we’re extending that offer to our listeners. You can go online to find out dates and locations for upcoming events; or you can call if you have any questions at 1-800-FL-TODAY.
When you register this week, and you use the code: “SAVE50”—that’s SAVE 5-0—you will automatically qualify for a 50 percent reduction in the regular registration amount and you’ll be signed up for a great weekend getaway this fall.
We’re going to be in dozens of cities. I’m going to be speaking in Parsippany; but again, we’ll be in locations all across the country. We’d love to have you join us for a getaway. Sign up this week to save 50 percent off the regular registration fee. Whether you’ve been married for two month or for four decades, this is a great getaway for husbands and wives to refocus on your marriage.
I was thinking about couples, who are in the early years of their marriage—you guys, I’ve heard you share before. You struggled in those early months of your marriage; didn’t you?
Ann: Within six months, I did not even like Dave. I really, honestly—I thought, “I’ve made the worst decision of my life by marrying him.”
Dave: Now wait. You’ve never said it that blatant before—seriously! [Laughter] “…the worst…”
Bob: You say in The Art of Marriage that before you married Dave, this was kind of the dream of your life to marry Dave Wilson.
Ann: He was my dream / he was the dream.
Dave: I don’t like this “was” word. [Laughter]
Ann: Oh, I should—and he still is. But honestly, we were believers; we loved Jesus. I knew that Dave loved Jesus. We loved each other. We thought: “How hard can it be to be married? We loved each other / we loved Jesus. It’s going to all happen, and it will be great.”
Bob: So, six months from the pinnacle day of your life—marrying the man of your dreams—to going, “I made a huge mistake,”—what happened?
Ann: I think what happened is we weren’t prepared, even though we went to a Weekend to Remember marriage conference. We really thought, “Oh, this is such good material for these other needy people.” [Laughter]
Dave: We actually sat at that conference, two weeks before our wedding, and snickered throughout the conference, like,” How in the world do these people need to write all these notes down?” I mean, it was great conference / great content.
Bob: —but: “How do they not know?”
Dave: We just thought, “It will not apply to us.” In an arrogant sort of way, we thought: “We are better than all these people.
“It will be easy.” I’m not kidding—we’re in full time ministry as well / we go into full time ministry. We’re ministering to athletes at the University of Nebraska—first year of marriage. I bet we fought every night—almost every night.
Dennis: Over what? What’d you fight about?
Ann: You know—
Dave: We didn’t like each other. That was a big part of it.
Ann: —to be honest / to be truly honest, we both had baggage that we brought into the marriage that we weren’t aware of. Some of our baggage, to be truthful, was things we had done, sexually, with other people. I felt this incredible insecurity—I felt like: “Am I good enough? Do I compare?” I worried about him / I didn’t trust him—not because he had done anything in our marriage that was untrustworthy—but because of his past, I wondered if his past would catch up with who he was now; and I was incredibly insecure.
Dennis: You know, I look at this culture today—the hook-up culture—
—I hear the lies that they are being fed by the culture. You know there’s going to be a pay day / you know there’s going to be consequences in these lives, because of the choices people make.
Yet, there’s some baggage, Dave—that you bring into a marriage that has nothing to do with wrong choices / it’s just what life brings you every day. When you were six-years-old, you had a couple of tragedies in your life that dramatically impacted you as well.
Dave: Yes; I should have known better that this is going to impact my marriage. I never even thought—how naïve can you be?—to think my dad walks out when I’m seven years old / six-and-a-half years old—so I grow up in a single-parent home, which was awesome. I mean, my mom was a saint / she was unbelievable—but I didn’t know my dad—never knew what, really, a husband or a dad look like / had no model for that. My little brother dies six months after the divorce—so it’s just my mom and [me] my whole life.
You know, you think: “You start dating and fall in love, and you’re going to get married.”
You know, that’s sort of going to come into your marriage—never even had the thought—how naïve could we be?
Ann: And the other thing that happened—we were very different in our styles of conflict. Dave hated conflict. So when we would get in a fight, and I would be voicing some of my insecurities or lack of trust, I would voice it and he would walk out of the room. Well, that would just get me hot. This one time, he walked out of the room and he said, “I don’t need this!” I yelled back at him, “You come back here and fight like a man, you chicken!”
Bob: And you walked back in and did what?
Ann: No; he didn’t walk back in!
Dave: No; I stepped back in, and I cursed at her and walked out again.
Ann: That’s right.
Dave: And in a sense, I never connected these dots until years later. I did exactly what I thought a man does, and I had seen my dad do. Obviously, I was a withdrawer. When I saw conflict, it was bad—it ended in divorce—so you run from it. So, I married a woman, who is like, “Let’s talk.” I’m like, “No!”
Dennis: So, Ann, here’s his background. What kind of a home had you grown up in?
Ann: I had a home where we talked about everything. Sometimes, it would get loud; but there was also an understanding that whatever you say matters and: “Let’s talk this out until we resolve it.”
When Dave left the room, I couldn’t even imagine what was going on—like: “I don’t understand this. Why would you leave?” It felt like: “You don’t love me. You don’t care about me,” and “You don’t care about our relationship.”
Bob: You knew about each other’s family backgrounds before you got married—maybe not at a level of depth that you came to understand—but you knew he was raised by a single mom. There were issues, you said, about your sexual past that you didn’t share with one another, prior to marriage.
Ann: We did share.
Bob: You shared and thought: “Okay; but that was no big deal”?
Ann: We thought—I said, “I forgive you,” and he forgave me; but we had no idea that that doesn’t get rid of the baggage, necessarily.
Dave: Yes; we thought what so many couples think: “It’s in the past.
“It doesn’t have consequences that live on.” The lie that so many believe is: “Choices don’t have consequences, even after a year or five years ago.” They all have consequences. “What you sow you will, therefore, reap.” And so, yes; I mean, you know, what we tell couples now is: “Every choice you make is going to come into your marriage. So, you better be vigilant about what you are doing,” since we experienced it.
Bob: If you were sitting down with a couple today—Dave and Ann Wilson about to get married—and in the premarital counseling they share with one another: “Here’s our past,” and they forgive each other and go, “You know, we understand and we’re sad; but we forgive each other.” They are naively thinking, “We don’t have any issues.” What would you say to them before they get married to help prepare them for what’s coming?
Dave: Well, I would first say this: “You know, one of the amazing things that happened for us, when we did go to the FamilyLife Weekend to Remember, as an engaged couple, we heard God’s blueprint for marriage,”—
—we really did. We really didn’t understand the depth of how that would end up applying to our marriage; but we heard it, and we had the manual. One of the things that changed our life, because we had this baggage—again, we didn’t understand the depth of that and what it would mean. Now, we’re in the middle of it, sort of opening those bags and going: “Oh my gosh! You got to be kidding me. That’s what you brought in?” and “That’s what you brought in? How do you deal with this?”
One of the pillars of that weekend is forgiveness. It really became an issue for us—I mean, obviously, 36 years later, we’re looking back on it—we took that baggage together—talked about it / sort of pulled out each piece and said, “This is what I’ve done, and this is who I am.” We laid it at the foot of the cross and Jesus—and took our marriage as well. In a lot of ways, the greatest thing that ever happened to us—like we realized: “We will never make it in this marriage as two humans trying to do this on our own.”
We had to take it to the cross and say, “Jesus,”—we knew now—“we need You desperately.” And then, with Christ, now, at the center, Christ can do a miracle. Part of it was forgiving one another and taking even our sexual past to the cross, together, and asking His forgiveness—which we are forgiven for and then applying that to one another. That wasn’t easy, but that’s what we did over time. God really has used it to do a miracle in us and, now, through us to others who make the same mistakes.
Ann: It’s interesting—even though that time was super hard, it was also a time that made us go to the cross and get on our knees; because I really feel like—in my marriage, on and off, I’ve tried to find my fulfillment and joy through Dave at times, where he had become my idol. I see that in a lot of women and young women, especially, who try to find their identity from a man or from a husband. Jesus is saying: “I’ve made you, and you can find your identity through Me. You’ll find your life purpose through Me.”
Going to the cross, I had to say: “God, You loved me. You brought us together in covenant; so You have a plan for us. Help me to see Dave as You see him.”
Dennis: What you’re saying reminds me of Proverbs, Chapter 24, verses 3 and 4—it says, “By wisdom a house is built.” Wisdom is skill / godly skill in everyday living. How do you get that? You don’t get it from the world. You get it from the book that contains God’s wisdom—that’s the Bible.
You keep talking about going to the cross. You mentioned some key words I want to make sure our listeners hear. One was surrender /one was a prayer that cries out: “God, would You meet us in our brokenness and help us bring healing to our lives, and our marriage, and one another?” As you do that over a lifetime, it doesn’t mean that you end up with a perfect marriage; but it does mean that the rest of this passage in Proverbs 24 is fulfilled—
—it says: “By wisdom a house is built and by understanding it is established. By knowledge the rooms are filled with all precious and pleasant riches.” Those pleasant riches are peace; I mean, there really can be peace that occurs after you’ve had conflict.
Dennis: Conflict is normal—you’re not abnormal if you fight.
Dennis: You’re being abnormal if you don’t resolve it, because God calls us to forgive.
Bob: In the observation I’m making, as I hear you tell your story, is—you pray a prayer: “Lord, we want a marriage that will point others to You. We want it not to be just good but great.” And God says, “This will involve a furnace.
Ann: Oh, that’s good, Bob.
Bob: “This will involve heating things up and skimming the impurity off the top of it.”
Bob: Now, He didn’t tell you that when you prayed that prayer; but six months later, you’re in the furnace.
Bob: How many couples, in the furnace, go, “This is not what I signed up for”?
Ann: Well, here’s what I thought: “I married the wrong person; because if he was the right person, I wouldn’t be in the furnace.”
Bob: Right; right.
Dave: She thought it—I knew it: [Laughter] “I married—
Bob: —that she married—oh, you knew that you had married the wrong—
Dave: “I married the wrong person.” I mean, not kidding—we didn’t share this part of the story—but this is the furnace, and it got so hot I wanted out—not just the marriage / out of life. I literally—at three in the morning, six months in—I find myself in
Philippians 1, where Paul says: “To live is Christ, to die is gain.” For some weird reason, those words jump off the page and I’m like: “I agree with him—I’d rather die.”
Ann: So, I come down at three in the morning. I can’t find Dave—he’s not in bed—and I find him on the couch, with the Bible on his lap. I think: “Oh, that’s good! He needs that.” [Chuckle] I said, “What are you doing?”
He said, “I’m reading the Word, and this is—what I’m reading is exactly what I’m feeling.” I’m like, “Oh, what is it?” He said: “I’m reading what Paul said; and he said: “’To live is Christ, to die is gain,’” and “I would rather be dead than to be married to you right now.” He said it out loud!
Dave: Yes; I probably shouldn’t have said it exactly like that. I said exactly what I was feeling. We now know—but in that moment we didn’t—but we were trying to find life from one another. We said we were going to find it from Christ, but we really weren’t finding it from Christ. We had to re-surrender our marriage / our lives. I didn’t want to die. I wanted to be married for a long time and have a legacy—that was my dream—to change the legacy of what I was handed; and yet, I’m at this moment, where I’m giving up hope. God brought hope back.
Bob: I have to wonder how many marriages get to exactly where you are, and what’s on the other side is a great marriage that will impact others.
Dave: Right; they give up.
Bob: But they give up at the moment that God is working to create a masterpiece.
Bob: If you could meet with those couples and say: “If you only knew what a year from now is going to look like,” “…what five years from now is going to look like,” “…what this hard spot—what these ashes that you’re living in—the beauty that’s going to come from that…”
Ann:: Well, it’s crazy, too; because right after that point is when we—this sounds like such a blatant plug for FamilyLife Weekend to Remember—but we pulled out our manual and said, “We need to look at what was said at the FamilyLife Weekend to Remember conference.”
Bob: “That stuff we were sneering at, six months ago—we need to look at that.”
Ann: We pulled it out, and we started leading a Bible study—
Dave: —with it—with that manual
Ann: As poor as we’re doing, we’re like, “We need this so desperately.” There were a lot of college students that were married at that time. So, we started teaching the material—that helped, with Jesus, to transform our marriage and to give us tools on how to even resolve conflict.
Dennis: There are a ton of couples who come to the Weekend to Remember—and we see then out there / their arms are folded at the beginning of the conference—they meet Jesus Christ / they are transformed. He gives them hope and life. Many of them leave the conference exactly like you did—they want to make an impact on somebody else. Instead of wallowing in their hurt, in the ditch, they get out of the ditch together and decide to impact other people, who are struggling in their own marriages; because nobody does this thing perfectly.
But you invited other people into your home and started teaching it. In the process, what happened?
Dave: God transformed us. I don’t even know what happened with the other couples. [Laughter] I mean, actually, I do. It’s really interesting—there’s a couple in our church in Detroit that was in that Bible study / our small group with marriage material, 26 years ago.
Dennis: Did you tell them, as you started the Bible study, the ditch that you were in?
Dave: Yes; you know us. We can’t hide anything—we’re pretty raw.
So, we’re like: “We’re struggling / we don’t know how to get out. We just know one thing—Jesus is the answer. This material is God’s game plan for marriage. We went through it, and we’re going to teach it to you. We’re going to learn it with you as we teach it.”
So, yes; these were all college athletes in their first year of marriage—we’re in our first year of marriage. We all grew together. God used His Word and His furnace to purify us—to literally change us. The prayer we prayed on our honeymoon night / on our wedding night: “God give us a great marriage that can bless the world,”—God started doing that.
Bob: And we already know, because we’ve shared there have been other points—like other re-surrender points—you talk about one in The Art of Marriage that happened, ten years in. I want to make sure listeners understand that time in God’s Word re-centered and redirected you. Year two was better than year one?
Ann: It was awesome.
Bob: There were still valleys / still some furnace ahead.
Bob: But there was a turnaround that made a difference—
—so when you hit the next valley or the next furnace, it’s not like: “We’ve never been here before.” You’re like:”Oh, we’re back here. We know where we are, and we know how to get out of here”; right?
Ann: Well, I think that’s true. It’s interesting how we’re continually transitioning in our marriages.
Ann: Dave and I—we were married six years before we had kids. So, then, we have kids—and oh, gosh—this is another transition, because it puts weight on the marriage relationship itself. So we hit another one of those bumps at year ten. It was a big bump—it might have been a mountain—for us to get over.
Bob: I’ll just share with our listeners—if you have not seen the year-ten story, as Dave and Ann share it, it’s on our website at FamilyLifeToday.com. You can watch the video of them getting to the point where Ann looks Dave in the eye, on their anniversary night—such a master of timing, Ann—
Ann: I’m not really very nice; am I? [Laughter]
Bob: —on their tenth anniversary night, after Dave had planned an elaborate date—she says, “I’ve lost my feelings for you,” and how God met them in that moment and brought them to where they are today.
So, go to our website at FamilyLifeToday.com and you can watch the story.
Dennis: You know what I think people are? I think they are really—not only fascinated by—but they yearn to hear someone who is real and authentic. I think that’s a mark of your lives and your ministry.
You’ve mentioned it several times as we’ve chatted here—you don’t mind telling people you’re still in process. We all are. That’s what a listener needs to understand. It doesn’t matter how deep the ditch is. You need to know that the same God, who raised Jesus Christ from the dead—I mean, that’s pretty hopeless / death—He raises human beings and marriages out of the ditch. He will meet you; He is alive; He has defeated death. Because he has defeated death, He can meet you at your point of despair and give you hope, give you peace, [and] give you even a great marriage.
Would you guys say today that you have a great marriage?
Ann: We have a great marriage.
Dave: I—I am, absolutely—36 years in—blown away by our marriage. I’m more in love / we’re more in love, year 36, than year 1. If you had told me that on our wedding day, “You’ll be more in love,” I would have said, “I could never love her more than I do this day. This is the epitome of…” And here we are—it’s a richer/deeper—obviously, more mature love.
I would also say—as I say I’m more in love and happier than I ever thought I’d be—it’s all because of Jesus. It really is because of Him being the foundation. Part of that, for us, is:
“If you don’t reveal your weakness and your brokenness, you’ll never be able to tell the story or experience the strength, like Paul said, ‘When I’m weak, then I’m strong.’ He meets you in that brokenness to point to the victory that you just talked about— the miraculous resurrection power of God is not real until you’re able to honestly admit, ‘I’m empty and broken.’”
Dennis: If you follow Christ, you’re going to have wounds / you’re going to have scars, which is the result of healing from a wound.
Dave: Right; right.
Dennis: Marriage, I think, is a place where there are a lot of wounds; and yes, there are a lot of scars, but there is hope at the end.
Bob: That’s the thing folks say to us when they attend a Weekend to Remember marriage getaway. More often than not, as they walk away from the getaway, they say, “We’re leaving here today with a fresh sense of hope about our marriage.”
Bob: That fresh sense of hope is the fuel that can get them through the furnace, and get them on the other side of the furnace, and get them to the place that they wanted to be on their wedding day. That is actually possible, as you guys have said—it’s achievable.
I just want to, again, remind our listeners—if you have never been to a Weekend to Remember marriage getaway—this fall, you ought to go. We’re going to be in dozens of cities all across the country this fall. It’s a great two-and-a-half getaway for couples, where you can focus on one another—you’ll laugh; you’ll learn; you’ll spend some time, just the two of you, enjoying the weekend together.
If you register this week, you can save 50 percent off the regular registration fee. Take advantage of the special offer we’re making this week. Use the code: “SAVE50”—SAVE5-0—when you register, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com; or call 1-800-FL-TODAY and just mention the code when you call. If you have any questions about the getaway, again, go to FamilyLifeToday.com or call us at 1-800-FL-TODAY. Make sure you get in touch with us before the end of the week so you can take advantage of this special offer we’re making and save 50 percent of the regular registration. Marriage takes
100 percent, but the getaway only takes 50 percent right now.
So, get in touch with us and plan to join us at a Weekend to Remember getaway.
Tomorrow, we’re going to hear more of the details of your tenth wedding anniversary, which did not go as Dave—as you were hoping or as you had planned. But God showed up in the middle of it and something pretty profound happened. We’ll hear the story tomorrow. I Hope our listeners 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'm Bob Lepine. We will see you back tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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