FamilyLife Today® Podcast

Parenting as a Calling

with Dennis Rainey | January 21, 2015
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God has a divine purpose in mind when He calls us to be parents. Dennis Rainey says when he and his wife, Barbara, were first planning their family, he wrongly assumed God was giving them children to raise. But after years of parenting, he realized that the children were to help him finish growing up. Dennis Rainey shares the final installment of lessons learned in 40 years of marriage from a talk he gave to students at Southern Seminary.

  • Show Notes

  • About the Host

  • About the Guest

  • God has a divine purpose in mind when He calls us to be parents. Dennis Rainey says when he and his wife, Barbara, were first planning their family, he wrongly assumed God was giving them children to raise. But after years of parenting, he realized that the children were to help him finish growing up. Dennis Rainey shares the final installment of lessons learned in 40 years of marriage from a talk he gave to students at Southern Seminary.

  • 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.

God has a divine purpose in mind when He calls us to be parents. After years of parenting, Dennis Rainey realized that the children helped him finish growing up.

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Parenting as a Calling

With Dennis Rainey
January 21, 2015
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Bob: God has a divine purpose when He calls us to be parents. Here’s Dennis Rainey.

Dennis: I have a confession to make. I mistakenly thought that God gave Barbara and me six children so that we could raise them. I think He gave six children, at least to me, so He could finish the process of helping me grow up. Nothing has taught me more about self-sacrifice than loving and leading my children.

Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Wednesday, January 21st. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I’m Bob Lepine. Today, we’ll hear some of the most important lessons Dennis Rainey has learned after 40 years of being a husband and a father. Stay with us.


And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us on the Wednesday edition. So, being a dad taught you a few things? 

Dennis: Oh, yes. [Laughter] Yes; absolutely. I mean, you’re not going to be the father God designed you to be if you’re not learning more than your kids are—I’m convinced. It is, as that famous theologian, Erma Bombeck, once said, “Children are God’s last chance He gives us to grow up.” 

Bob: Yes. Well, we’ve been listening this week to a message you gave to students at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. This was right at the point that you and Barbara were about to celebrate 40 years of marriage together, which gave you an opportunity to reflect back on some of the lessons you’d learned over 40 years. You came up with a lesson a year—although they did not happen chronologically like that.

Dennis: They did not.

Bob: It was not one lesson each year. You—

Dennis: You know, if life was like that, wouldn’t it be a lot easier?—



—just kind of go, “Okay, we’ve got that one for this year.” 

Bob: “This year’s lesson is locked in,”— but this was “40 lessons on marriage, and on parenting, and on life, and on God’s purposes for us.”  So, we’ve been sharing that with listeners this week. We’ve already heard about two dozen of these lessons; and we’re going to zip through the rest of the list, at this point. So, let’s dive in. Here is Dennis Rainey with some of the lessons he’s learned in 40 years of marriage. 

[Recorded Message] 

Dennis: Twenty-four: “Communication is to marriage what blood is to the body.”  It’s the life-giver of a relationship. Simply put—find a way to get five, ten, fifteen minutes together to talk, every day. Turn the TV off, set the computer aside, take a walk, and just talk with each other. We used to do this and walk in our garden. The kids thought we were just going out there to see the flowers bloom. We were going out there to get away from them [Laughter] so we could have a complete sentence between each other.



Number 25: Husbands—dads—this is for you. “No shepherd can lead any faster than the sheep can follow.”  You are the guardian of your marriage and family’s direction and vision. C. H. Spurgeon put it well. He had to be speaking to men, who were attempting to shepherd their families. He said this, “It was by perseverance the snail reached the Ark.”  [Laughter] 

That is the great hope for me, as the spiritual leader of my family, sliming my way to the finish line—just not quitting!  After you fail, you get back up!  Our family devos were chaos!—flipping peas, spilling milk, crawling under the table.



Who knows what they heard?  No shepherd can lead any faster than the sheep can follow.

Number 26: “Maximize your wife’s talents, gifts, experience, and passion as you would an Olympic athlete.”  We need to tie that to Ephesians 5, men, which talks about loving our wives as we love our own bodies so that we are helping our wives get to the finish line—accomplishing everything that God has in mind for her.

Just some quick tips, here, guys: Do an inventory of her gifts, her talents, her passions. What motivates her?  What demotivates her?  Pray for her and her vision. What are her core competencies?  Dream some dreams together, and don’t wait until you’re in the empty nest to dream the dreams. Start dreaming now, even when you’re building your family—  



—there will be a time.

Number 27: “Wives, your respect will fuel your husband, and your contempt will empty his tank.”  Ephesians 5:33 commands wives to respect their husbands. Ladies, keep in mind that 93 percent of all communication is non-verbal. How are you expressing belief in your man, non-verbally?  I’m going to tell you something—Barbara’s belief in me, as a man, has done more to help me excel than any other human being on the planet. It’s not a blind belief, but it’s a belief that speaks the truth in love.

Number 28: “Women spell romance differently than men.”  Women spell it, “Relationship”.



How do men spell romance?—“Sex.”  Here’s the thing—God, in His cosmic genius, has brought these two people together, who spell it differently; and we’re to dance together.

What an interesting dance because I get it—I bring her roses, and I write her a note, and I fix dinner and put the kids to bed, and that equals sex. [Laughter]  So, as a man, I begin to think, “A+B+C=D. It did last night!”  So, I try it again the next night or perhaps a few nights later. Roses, a nice meal, put the kids to bed—



—“Huh?”  “Nada!” [Laughter] “Huh?”  So, I go to Barbara and I go: “What’s the deal?  You changed the equation, for goodness’ sakes!”  You know what her statement is?  This is really good: “As a woman, I don’t want to be reduced to an equation. I want to be pursued, as a person, relationally.”  Some of you may need to circle that one.

Number 29: “Our romance gave us children, and our children tried to steal our romance.”  Your marriage must be built to outlast the kids. We did this in a number of ways. We had special dinners. We had getaways—three nights away from the children—two or three times a year. It takes a day/day-and-a-half just to decompress—



—to get out of the pressure of the whole thing. We fought to keep these times on the schedule. We battled to do that. It was a hassle, finding a babysitter. It was wonderful—delightful times. Your marriage must be built to outlast your kids.

Number 30: “Build too many guard rails rather than too few.”  Men, don’t trust yourself, alone, with the opposite sex. I have asked people to go out of their way to take me to speaking engagements instead of a woman taking me. I’ve got a friend who won’t get in an elevator alone with a woman. You may say that’s a little extreme. Let me tell you something. Given the fallout today in ministry, I’m not sure it’s extreme.

Thirty-one: “Wives generously use your sexual power in your husband’s life.”  One of the mistakes, I think, we make when we read Proverbs, Chapter 5-7—



—which is a father’s advice to a son about the harlot—is that we think that the only person who should use that kind of sexual power over a man is a woman of the streets. I think Proverbs 5-7 gives women an interesting glimpse into how to encourage and bless your man by encouraging him and speaking love to him in the language that would encourage him. Ladies, use your sexual power liberally with your husbands.

These next four are going to be quick because they represent four key elements that comprise the essence of rearing children / raising children.



I spent the better part of a year—interviewing theologians, pastors, and leaders, all over the country—trying to find the essence of what the Bible teaches in raising our children to grow up spiritually and to all that God designed. I reduced it down to four—these are the four that I came up with.

Thirty-two is: “Identity.”  This has to do with discipling your child to know his or her spiritual destiny and spiritual address. It also has to do with his or her sexual identity as well—make a note of that. This culture is seeking to distort the image of God, imbedded in boys and girls. We have to help our children know how to navigate those waters.

Number 33—and the second component—“Relationship.”  Disciple your child to know what real love is—



—how to love another imperfect person and how to experience love, as a human. The Great Commandment makes it clear—Matthew 22:34-40. Life is about relationships. It’s about a relationship with God—loving Him—and it’s about loving others on the horizontal.

One little side caveat here to daddies, who’ve got little girls: “Daddies, date your daughters.”  Some of my most favorite memories of our children growing up was when I would take our daughters out on dates. It doesn’t get any better than that—than to have a little girl, with pigtails/ribbons—walking her out to the car, going out to a smorgasbord, eating chocolate pudding, chocolate pie, and chocolate cake—laughing about what Mom would say. [Laughter] Date your daughters.



Date your daughters because someday you’re going to take their hands in yours and you’re going to place their hands in another man’s hands. Give that man a piece of your heart. 

Thirty-four—the third essence of rearing children is: “Character.”  The book of Proverbs talks about this, obviously. It is discipling your child to be wise and not be a fool.

Thirty-five—and the fourth—is “Mission.”  Disciple your child to be about the Savior’s mission—the Great Commission. It is no mistake that the Scriptures speak of children like arrows in the hands of a warrior. They were meant to be pulled back by an archer, aimed at a target, and let go. What are you aiming them toward?  What are you challenging them to give their lives to?  The Kingdom’s work is paramount. We’re going to need another generation to carry on, should Christ tarry.



When I took our first daughter to college and let the arrow go—some of you, who are archers, know what I’m talking about. There is a thing that occurs when the archer lets go of the arrow. It’s called string slap. It hits the forearm of the arm as the arrow was let go. Except, when you let a child go, the string slap doesn’t hit the forearm—it hits the heart.

We were in a parking lot, outside a dorm at Ole Miss, about to launch our first daughter, Ashley. I was sobbing so hard. I couldn’t even pray for my own daughter. She had to pray for herself. It was pitiful!  [Laughter]  It was absolutely pitiful!  We’re driving away in the pick-up because it took a pick-up to take all the stuff there that she had.


Philippians, Chapter 2, is a great reminder: “As you have obeyed, not only in my presence, now much more in my absence, work out your salvation in fear and trembling.”  Be on a mission. Be lights in the world. That’s what a family is all about. It’s a generational relay race.

Thirty-six: “Determining your core values, as a couple, will enable you to sing off the same song sheet as you raise your children.”  One of the most important projects Barbara and I completed, as a couple, early in our marriage—after we’d had, I think, four children—we got away to a little retreat. She got alone, and she wrote down her top ten core values she wanted to produce in our children. I got alone, separate from her, and wrote out my top ten core values.

We, then, prioritized them, and we came together.



I can’t tell you how much this saved us, as a couple. We came up with our top five. We didn’t have 20 things we were shooting for. We just had some very simple ones that were anchored in Scripture—and you know what most of them are.

Those five helped us, not compare our family with the Jones’s or with the other folks, but just do what God has called us to do. It helped us be one, as a couple—one of the most important things we did in raising six children to adulthood.

Thirty-seven: “Interview your daughter’s date, and train your sons not to be clueless.”  I’m going to show you two resources that we’ve produced for dads and moms—Interviewing Your Daughter’s Date. Now, just so you wonder why I’m hawking a book up here—I don’t take a penny from any of my books.



I donate 100 percent of my royalties to the ministry. So, it’s not about me. It’s about helping you help your kids get through some very challenging years—Interviewing Your Daughter’s Date and a book I just finished, from Proverbs 5-7, called Aggressive Girls, Clueless Boys. Let me tell you something, folks—our boys—our little eight-year-old/nine-year-old boys—are being preyed upon by older girls. It is bizarre!

We had a young man, who just went away for a Passport2Purity® weekend—which is a weekend getaway—with his father. He was 11 years old. He arrived back home, and two eighth-grade girls came over—two days after the weekend where he found out about the birds and the bees for the first time in his life. These eighth-grade girls came over in his yard, after school, and asked him to have sex with them.



He said, “No,”—told them to leave. They came back, five minutes later. One girl got behind him, and the other girl got in front of him and started grinding on him.

Let me tell you folks—we can’t have the kind of sewage that is being pumped out over the airways and on the internet, infiltrating our country, without little eyes and little radar units catching onto it. It’s destroying a generation. That’s why we, as men, can’t dabble in anything that goes anywhere near pornography. Your life / my life can be the doorway through which sin gains entrance to our family.

Thirty-eight: “Your adult children need you to become smaller, not bigger, in their lives.”  They need us to become smaller, not bigger.



Thirty-nine: “As I get older, I want to laugh more with my wife, gripe less, and be found guilty of giving her too much love, grace, and mercy rather than too little.” 

Number 40—perhaps, the most important of all: “The most important thing about you, as an individual and as a couple, is what you think about God.”  Our view of God and who He is and the blueprints of His Word are going to guide you all your days through many valleys and mountaintops in ministry.

One such event occurred in our family when our daughter, Rebecca, gave birth to a little girl—her firstborn. Her name was Molly. Everything had been normal in the pregnancy until we got the phone call that said she’s got something wrong with her heart.



So, we flew to Denver. Then, we found out there was something wrong with her brain. Then, we found out that she didn’t really have a brain and that she was going to die.

Let me tell you something—as a parent, if I could have taken that little girl’s place and died for her so my daughter could’ve had a little girl, I would’ve done it. But it was not my privilege. I suffered for my daughter as she lost her firstborn, and I suffered in the loss of my granddaughter.

I don’t have a lot of valuable things; but this Bible, someday, will become my daughter’s Bible because on my life verse, Psalm 112:1-2, is her handprint. We called her Mighty Molly. Let me read you the verse. “Praise the Lord.



“Blessed is the man who fears the Lord, who greatly delights in His commandments. His offspring will be mighty in the land. The generation of the upright will be blessed.” 

Your family is a generational connector of the gospel and the glory of God to the next generation. Don’t quit! 


Bob: Well, again, today, we have been listening to the conclusion of a message from Dennis Rainey, “Forty Lessons Learned in Forty Years of Marriage.” Forty years of anything is going to take you through some valleys.

Dennis: It has; and you know, it’s the valleys that give definition to the mountains. I mean, if it was all one flat plain, life would be easily forgotten—



—but the valleys, the mountaintops, and everything in between provide a lot of definition.

Bob: We learn more about the character and nature of God as we travel up and down than we ever would if it just stayed flat; right? 

Dennis: That’s true, Bob. And I think one of the big ideas we miss about marriage is—it is a great opportunity to get to know God / His love for us and how we can show that for another imperfect person. And I just have to say—it’s been a great privilege to be married to Barbara, now for more than 42 years. It’s been the journey of a lifetime. And I can’t imagine making it if I didn’t know my Savior and Lord and Master, Jesus Christ.

And what I’d just challenge you, as a listener, to do—if you know Him, then, you need to pass Him onto others. You need to pass on the reality of God’s forgiveness through Christ to others. And one of the great ways you can do that is through a little tool we created called The Art of Marriage®.



You can do it in an event—Friday night/Saturday event—with couples; or you can do it in a small group, taking place over six weeks or twelve weeks, if you want to stretch it out. It’s a great way, I think, to bring the reality of the gospel of Jesus Christ to marriages and families today who desperately need this. I mean, this is not optional—this has to be in a marriage if it’s going to be anywhere near what God intended for a man and a woman / a husband and a wife to experience over a lifetime.

Bob: We have started seeing more and more couples, who are taking The Art of Marriage small group material—getting together with four or five other couples and having dinner or having dessert and just saying, “Let’s go through this material together.” 

And I want to encourage our listeners—find out more about this resource and consider doing this with some of your friends this spring.



Just pick some dates when you can get together for dinner or dessert and go through this material together—you’ll build stronger relationships with other couples. You’ll build stronger relationships with one another; and you’ll have a more substantial anchor on what the Bible says about marriage, having gone through The Art of Marriage material.

Go to Click the link the upper left-hand corner that says, “GO DEEPER”; and then, you’ll see the button for The Art of Marriage. Just click on that, and the information you need about this resource is available there; or call 1-800- “F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then, the word, “TODAY.”  Find out more about The Art of Marriage small group material / The Art of Marriage event kit. Plan to do something that will strengthen your marriage and strengthen the marriage of other folks this spring; alright?  Go to; or call us at 1-800- “F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then, the word, “TODAY.” Ask about The Art of Marriage when you get in touch with us. 


Now, tomorrow, we’re going to hear a message from our friend, Dr. Al Mohler, who is a part of The Art of Marriage. He is one of the people we speak to in that series. We’re going to hear some thoughts from him about God’s design for marriage. What did God have in mind when he brought the man and woman together for the very first marriage?  We’ll hear that tomorrow. Hope you can be here for that.


I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.

FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.

Help for today. Hope for tomorrow.


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