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Planting Hedges to Grow Security & Love

with Jerry Jenkins | September 29, 2008

Today on the broadcast, Jerry Jenkins, novelist of the Left Behind series and author of the book, Hedges: Loving Your Marriage Enough to Protect It, talks with Dennis Rainey about the importance of husbands and wives planting hedges around their marriages in order to grow security and love.

Today on the broadcast, Jerry Jenkins, novelist of the Left Behind series and author of the book, Hedges: Loving Your Marriage Enough to Protect It, talks with Dennis Rainey about the importance of husbands and wives planting hedges around their marriages in order to grow security and love.

Planting Hedges to Grow Security & Love

With Jerry Jenkins
|
September 29, 2008
| Download Transcript PDF

Jerry: They're inconvenient, and they can be embarrassing.  I'll get called once in a while when I'm going to go speak somewhere, and they'll say, "Miss So-and-So will pick you up at the airport," and I say "Well, I have a policy where if a woman comes to pick me up, have somebody else there, too, or send a guy," and there's this long silence on the phone, and sort of, what's your problem here, you know?  But I'll tell you, I will trade that embarrassment for 34-and-a-half years of marriage any day.

Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Monday, September 29th.  Our host is the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine.  No matter how embarrassing or inconvenient they might be, do you love your marriage enough to put some hedges up around it?

And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us.  You know, there are some books that you'll refer to as timeless books because the theme of the book is – well, it's timeless.  It transcends any cultural patterns.  And usually when you refer to a book as a timeless book, it's meant to be a compliment.  In the case of this book, while it is a compliment for how the issue is addressed, the fact that this issue is timeless is really tragic.

Dennis: It really is.  It is an evergreen book.  It's about hedges, and unfortunately …

Bob: Did you catch that?  That was kind of a little evergreen – hedges …

Dennis: Yeah, there you go, but the reality is, it's talking about protecting marriages and families, and Jerry Jenkins is the author of that book.  Jerry, welcome to FamilyLife Today.

Jerry: Thank you, good to be with you.

Dennis: I think Jerry's name is of no surprise, given the number of books he's written.  And I didn't know this, honestly, before he shared it with me – 155 – count 'em, along with 17 – am I correct – 17 New York bestsellers?

Jerry: Something like that.  I know I've written more books than I've read by now.

[laughter]

Dennis: I wish this was a bestseller, because emotional adultery as well as adultery are unfortunately invading the Christian community, and we need help in terms of protecting our marriages today.  Is that why you brought this book back with a refurbished, re-edited, re-release?

Jerry: Yes, it's sad but true.  The book is more relevant now than it ever has been, and every time somebody calls me to tell me about it, they say, "Did you hear about so-and-so?"  They could be telling me they won the Nobel Prize, but my first thought is "Oh, no, don't tell me about another broken marriage," and just yesterday I heard about another one – just sad, sad stories.

Dennis: You begin the book with a story of a mythical couple, but it's been replicated in situation after situation around the country.  They went on a business trip together, sparked up a relationship …

Jerry: Yeah, and it started long before that, I mean, because neither of them had hedges that I recommend, they liked each other, they liked each other's smile and presence, even though they were both married to other people.  They became a little emotionally dependent on each other with hardly realizing it.  Nobody sets out to commit adultery or to break up a marriage or to have an affair, but they started missing each other, started counting on each other, and then when they're on this trip together, the puppy love thing happens, they think they're in love, and they don't control themselves.  And it breaks up both marriages and, of course, the new marriage that comes out of it rarely lasts, either, so now you've go three broken marriages.  It causes chaos.

Bob: Most people don't recognize the danger of that kind of friendship until it has become toxic.  What was it for you that caused you to pull back and go, "Oh, there is danger there?"

Jerry: Well, it's sort of like – I was raised with a father who was very devoted to my mother, and he was a man's man.  He was an ex-Marine and a police chief, but he was also a romantic, and wrote love poetry to my mother and always treated her like a queen.  And he was never too much of a man to scrub a floor, wash a dish, change a diaper.  I resent that example to this day.  But he if you don't fuel that with alone time, it will past just like high school crushes pass, and you don't have to confess to your wife that you were attracted to somebody else or tell that person – that's the worst thing, you know, "I'm actually attracted to you."  I think it's important that we realize that big doors turn on small hinges, and sometimes it's just these little friendships that develop.

Dennis: Have there ever been one of those friendships that has kind of sparked for you mentally and emotionally?  And I'm not saying you've ever taken any next steps, but has that happened for you?

Jerry: Well, I think the potential was there, and when you put your hedges down on paper, you reveal your own weaknesses.  For instance, there are hedges I don't have.  I don't have a hedge against engaging in prostitution, because there's nothing that's more repulsive to me.  But I know Christian men who are tempted that way, and they have to plant a hedge.

For me it would be more, you know, the scenario I just described where I might admire and respect somebody and like how they think and talk and smile and start looking forward to seeing them, and you realize this would be a good person not to spend alone time with; not to travel with, and then they can remain a friend, and this little bubbly feeling passes, and you realized, you know, you've made sacred vow, and all those things – the eye contact, the humor, your best stories – they belong to your wife.  That's her right.

Dennis: I'll never forget a conversation I had with Dr. Bill Bright.  He admitted to having one of these sparks – not a real relationship, it never went anywhere because he repented, he talked about with his wife, Vonette, but it was years later, 30 years after that relationship had occurred, and he talked about his devotion to his wife then of 50 years.  He had tears welling up in his eyes – what could have been.  And it's those choices, those choices, Jerry, that you said "big doors turn on small hinges," and it's our choices that do determine the outcome.

Jerry: That's right, and it can be a scary thing when, you know, and you talk to people, and they'll be hanging – you can see them hanging around somebody of the opposite sex and becoming friendly and chummy, and you say, "Hey, you're not worried about this?"  And they go, "Oh, it's nothing, we're just friends.  My wife knows her, they're best friends," and then within a few months you hear stories.  Now we've got trouble.

Of course, there's all the self-deception of telling yourself, "I married the wrong person in the first place, I was disobedient then, now God has brought this person into my life" – that's my favorite self-deception.  I always move out of somebody's way, and I say, "You know, I don't like lightning.  Don't be blaming this on God.  I was there at your wedding when you said you would not bring anybody else unto you for as long as you both shall live, and now here it is."

Bob: And there doesn't have to be marital dissatisfaction for a spark to occur with somebody else, does there?

Jerry: There doesn't, except that when we were talking about people who were raised in the church, Christians most of their lives, they invent it later.  We know of couples who seem to be doing very well, and you talk to the wife, who eventually is the offended party, and she says things were fine.  But if the spark occurs, then they have to justify it.  So they say, you know – then they take the worst aspects of their spouse's personality, things we don't tell about each other because we protect each other, and you say, "Well, she's always been a shrew," or "She's always been a nag," or she's plain, or she's nice to everybody else but not to me, and you go "Now, wait a minute.  These aren't grounds for divorce, these aren't grounds for adultery," but they decide – they take their whole system of values and say, "Now this new relationship is so wonderful, God has to be in it."

Dennis: Jerry, God marked your life, even as a young lad at home as a 12-year-old, in a conversation with your mother as you watched something tragic happen in your home church.  It was this message being fermented in your heart at an early age.

Jerry: Yes, that's the sort of the bad news and the good news.  It was a tough thing that happened, but it really did set the stage for my life and my married life.  We had the perfect church, you know, I mean, we had this great young pastor, and he had a big family, and I had grown up in the church so I never knew any other pastor.

Dennis: What city was it?

Jerry: We were in Kalamazoo, Michigan, a little community church, and they called it "The Little Lighthouse," informally, and everybody – we'd even refer to it as the best church in the world, because everybody knew each other, everybody cared about each other and then, all of a sudden, lots of meetings and lots of stern faces and lots of tears, and so I started bugging my mother, "What's going on?  What are they talking about?"  She said, "You don't want to know," and you tell that to a 12-year-old, of course, I want to know, and I'm bugging her and bugging her, and she said, "You wouldn't believe it, anyway."

So I badgered her for days and, finally, she said "Okay, what would you say if I told you that our pastor doesn't love his wife anymore; that he's in love with somebody else?"  And I said, "I don't believe it."  She said, "That's exactly what I predicted – you don't believe it, so you don't want to know."  Well, obviously, it was true – split the marriage, split the church, I mean, sides were taken, but what a shattering experience.  I mean, for a kid, you look at your pastor almost like God.  He is the emissary of God.  And you probably know better in your heart that he could do no wrong but not something like this.  And it has marked my life.

Bob: I was, not long ago, in Sydney, and I was doing some radio recording in Sydney because FamilyLife Today is on the air in Australia, and we were talking with couples from Australia, and we had been working all morning.  I was in the studio, and the recording engineer for that session was a female.  And we worked throughout the morning and, in fact, we were at a conference center, and we worked right through lunch.  Lunch was served, and it was done.

We got all done recording, and I said, "We'll just walk down the hill and grab something to eat."  Well, we walked down the hill, and there was a restaurant there, and so we went in to grab something to eat and got seated at the table, and, actually, it was out on a patio looking out over the Pacific, and it was a nice, warm afternoon, and I'm looking out at the Pacific, and I had just ordered lunch, and I looked up across the table at this recording engineer, and I thought, "How did I get here?  I shouldn't be– we shouldn't be here." 

And, all of a sudden, it kind of hit me and, in fact, I think, in the middle of the meal, I said to her, "We shouldn't have done this."  Again, there was nothing romantic going on, but it's just that hedge.  I went right back to the conference center, sent an e-mail to my wife saying, "Let me tell you what just happened.  It happened innocently.  I'll tell you, I'll tell Dennis and make sure he's aware."  We've got to have that accountability because we – our own hearts are wicked, aren't they?

Jerry: Yeah, and when you talk about the inconvenience of that hedge – I remember one time I was going to go to a different state, fly to a different state with our retail manager at Moody, a woman, and I told her to bring an assistant, and we get to the airport, and the assistant is sick and can't go.  So we've got our tickets, we've got to go, we've got these meetings, and so I called Diana, and I said, "Here is the situation."  And she doesn't need me to check in.  These hedges aren't because she demands them – she appreciates them.

And it was, like, sure, she was fine with it, and she trusted me and trusted the woman.  And so we went and did that, and the important thing there is if somebody would call my wife and say, "I saw your husband with so-and-so," Diana would say "either I knew about it or it didn't happen," because she knows everything, you know?  And that's another hedge.  If you have to violate a hedge, and it's going to look a little strange, your wife should know about it so she's not going, "Hm, what's happening here?"

Dennis: You keep speaking of hedges.  That was a gift you gave your wife of 34 years about, what, 15, 16 years ago?

Jerry: Right, right.

Dennis: What were the circumstances that brought about this gift of planting these hedges around your marriage?

Jerry: Well, it actually started with a conversation with my younger brother who – he's 10 years younger, and he was getting married about that time, and he asked me – he said, "When I get married will I stop looking at other women?"  And I said, "Oh, may it ever be so.  You won't go blind, and you won't wear blinders," but – and I said, "No, you won't, and yet you're going to make this sacred vow before God and to your wife, and you're going to want to plant protection, hedges, around your hands and your eyes and your heart and your mind."  And I told him the things that I do, and I hadn't formalized them until that time.  Just – you know, they were automatic things that I decided on.  And then I wrote a column about that in "Moody Magazine," and I got more response to that than anything I had ever written, and I realized then that it needed to be a book.

But I remember talking to Diana about it and saying, "You know, these are things that I've done for a few years, and I formalized them," and you could just feel the security that she felt.  And she started thinking about her own hedges and, you know, occasionally, because she was raising the kids and I was off at work, you'd have suppliers come to the house, or you'd have somebody come to talk about something or give a bid, and she would tell me the boundaries she had – you know, wouldn't let them in the house, and if she talked outside, how brief it was, and the whole bit, and to let me know – so hedges for women, too.

I don't claim to be able to think for women.  I know they think differently about sexuality and that type of thing, but they still need hedges as well.

Dennis: Jerry, you mentioned one benefit of hedges being security – that's not the only benefit of having these hedges around your marriage relationship.  It also allows other things to occur like romance, I mean, it creates commitment and trust and respect and allows other things to grow inside the fence.

Jerry: Yeah, I've always said that I think the responsibility for your spouse's well being is your own.  You know, you really have to take responsibility for that, and ever since writing a book on marriage, and I'm sure you have this happen all the time – I hear from couples.  You know, they want counsel, or they want to tell their story.  And so often they say things like, you know, "My spouse has shut down," and that's a very dangerous spot to be in.  Once when I shut down you can tell the other you do everything not for the gain of it, not for the payback, but because it's the right thing to do.  You serve them, and you take the Scripture personally and take it home, this idea of preferring others over yourself starts in your own home with your own spouse, and sometimes it's too late.

But when you plant hedges, and you say "This is my gift."  Because who else benefits?  You benefit because you're not falling into adultery and falling into sin and ruining your marriage, but you're doing this in honor of your spouse, and when I talk to kids about hedges before they get married – and my own sons – I have three sons who are in their 20s and two are married, and I say, "The gift you want to give your spouse on your wedding day is that she marry a virgin.  And when you're dating, you don't know if you're going to marry that person.  You still want her to be able to give her spouse that gift on their wedding day even if that – and especially if that spouse is you.  And so, yeah, there are all kinds of benefits to applying hedges.

Bob: You know, it's interesting that that issue of security in the heart of a woman, particularly, there is a strong need for that security, and the ability to be transparent and real; to be, in biblical terms, "naked and unashamed," all comes out of "Do I feel safe in this relationship?"  And I think for a lot of women there's almost an instinctive lack of security so that something like these hedges are a way to build a foundation that's lacking in the heart of many women, don't you think?

Jerry: Yes, and it's a very healthy sense that they get, and one of the things that I often counsel guys is that you'll find that your spouse – and I don't know why this is common, but they tease about it.  They'll say, "Oh, you've probably got somebody on the side," or "When you go on a trip you probably see somebody," and they're kidding, and you want to laugh, and the tendency for a guy, especially if you like to be funny, is to run with that.  "Oh, yeah, I beat them off with a stick," you know.  I don't do that.  When my wife teases about, you know, "You could have anybody you want," or "If I died you could be married tomorrow," my response is always serious.  I say, "I can't even imagine that.  I can't imagine ever being married to anybody else but you, even if you died today, and when I go on a trip, there's nobody I want to see more than you and get back to you.

And I'm not scolding her, I'm not saying don't tease about that, but I think that's just a little funny way for her to throw out a little test.  And I always advise guys, you know, just answer that seriously and say, you know, you know what they want to hear.

Bob: Yeah, and it's a way of reaffirming your covenant, it's a way of restating it and saying, "Look, we're not going to tease there.  We're not going to let that kind of a thought find it's way into our marriage."

I think that's wise counsel, in fact, I think what you've outlined in the book "Hedges," which we have in our FamilyLife Resource Center, is great counsel.  This would be a great book for guys to read through together with other guys and say, "How are we doing at keeping our covenant strong?"  And I appreciate the fact that there is now a DVD in the back of the book so that guys who do want to go through this with other guys, or who want to watch the DVD, it's right there, and it's available.

We've got the book, "Hedges," in our FamilyLife Resource Center.  You can go to our website, which is FamilyLife.com, and on the right side of the home page, you'll see a box that says "Today's Broadcast."  If you click where it says "Learn More," that will take you to the area of the site where you can order a copy of Jerry's book, "Hedges."  There are other resources we have available there designed to help strengthen the commitment in your marriage. 

Gary and Bob Rossberg's book, "Six Secrets to a Lasting Love" is one of the books we have featured on our website right now, so, again, go to FamilyLife.com, click on the right side of the home page where it says "Today's Broadcast," and request a copy of Jerry Jenkins' book, "Hedges," or call 1-800-FLTODAY, 1-800-358-6329, 1-800-F-as-in-family, L-as-in-life, and then the word TODAY, and someone on our team will make arrangements to send whatever resource you need to you or to answer any questions that you might have.

You know, one of the things we're talking about here is making sure we have good, effective, open communication in our marriage.  Communicating wisely and rightly and doing a better job of expressing ourselves and doing a better job of listening when our spouse is speaking to us.

Not long ago, Dennis, you and I sat down and talked with Dr. Emerson Eggerichs who wrote the book, "Love and Respect" and we talked about communication and how it breaks down and why it breaks down in a marriage relationship, and we captured that conversation on two CDs. 

This month we want to send those CDs out to anyone who would help support the ministry of FamilyLife Today with a donation of any amount.  Those donations are what keep this program on the air on this station and on other stations, and so it's always important that we hear from you, and our way of saying thank you this month is by making these CDs available.

You can request the CDs on communication when you make a donation of any amount online at FamilyLife.com, and if you're doing it online, when you come to the keycode box on your donation form, if you'd like the CDs just type in the word "code," c-o-d-e.  Or call 1-800-FLTODAY.  You can make your donation over the phone and just request the CDs on communication.  Again, we're happy to send them out to you, and let me just say thanks so much for your support of this ministry.  It really means a lot to us, and we appreciate your partnership with us.

Before we are done here today, Jerry, there may be someone who is listening to today's program who is on the edge of an emotional affair; somebody who has sensed that their heart is being drawn toward someone of the opposite sex; someone they are not married to.  What would your counsel to that person be?

Jerry: Well, they really must stop, and it's never to late to plant a hedge, and it's the hardest thing to do.  You talk to somebody who is involved with somebody else, and talking to somebody who is in love or thinks they're in love is almost impossible.  But if you are committed to your marriage, and if you're afraid of the temptation, you get to flee.  And there is no shortcut to it.  People say, "Well, okay, what I'll do is, I'll meet with this person, and we'll chat it through.  We'll talk about all the dangers and why we can't do this."  And that's usually a very intimate conversation that winds up in bad news.

So probably what it takes is another party send to the other person to say, "He wanted me to tell you he can't do this, it's over."  Or a note, e-mail, whatever, but phone calls or meetings and trying to say, "Okay, we've got this obvious attraction and yet we can't to this," it leads to danger.  It's probably the most dangerous time in that relationship. 

So if you're really serious about stopping, you stop, you let the other person know it's over, you're committed to your marriage, and that's the way it's going to be.  And then the decision comes – is this something I tell my spouse?  And you have to know your spouse.  There may be some who can't take that.  They would be so shattered and so suspicious then and so worried, that you'd be better off to say, "I'm dealing with this," and it would only hurt them to know about it.

To some people, they say, "Well, that's a relief.  I feel like I need to confess it, and yet you're telling me not to tell my spouse."  If they can take it, and they're going to be your ally in this, then I say tell them.  At least tell your pastor or your counselor or your accountability person.  People need to know.

Bob: And probably the majority of those situations, the default position ought to be the honesty, shouldn't it?

Jerry: Oh, I think so, and you really have to know your spouse.  You know, you hear some guys who will say, they come home and tell their wife every day, "Oh, there was somebody I was really attracted to, and I felt guilty about it."  Well, you know, she already knew she was married to a pervert and why are you looking at everybody, and, you know, so then she's right every day.  Somebody is going to finally be so attracted that he can't control himself.

So I say choose your spouse, and if you're in an emotional relationship, it probably would – in the long run, it may hurt her at first but, in the long run, you may have more strength when you both realize, you know, we're working together and fighting this temptation and staying together.

Dennis: I think that's the default position people ought to move towards, because when you reveal the light, and you shine your light on a circumstance, all of a sudden, you see it for what it is.

Bob: It drains a lot of the power out of it.

Dennis: It does.

Jerry:  You never regret the truth.

Dennis: No.  Do what's right.

Bob: FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas – help for today; hope for tomorrow. 

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