FamilyLife Today® Podcast

Playing With a Goal in Mind

with Brian Goins | September 22, 2011
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Real men play through the pain. Married to Jen for 15 years, Brian Goins asks men to recall their courtship days and the way they "went out on a limb" for the women they loved. But once they've conquered, Brian states, the little courtesies and sacrifices often fall by the wayside, and marriage often starts to feel more dutiful than pleasurable. Hear how you can jolt yourself out of complacency to where you ought to be for the sake of your marriage.

  • Show Notes

  • About the Host

  • About the Guest

  • Real men play through the pain. Married to Jen for 15 years, Brian Goins asks men to recall their courtship days and the way they "went out on a limb" for the women they loved. But once they've conquered, Brian states, the little courtesies and sacrifices often fall by the wayside, and marriage often starts to feel more dutiful than pleasurable. Hear how you can jolt yourself out of complacency to where you ought to be for the sake of your marriage.

  • 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.

Real men play through the pain. Married to Jen for 15 years, Brian Goins asks men to recall their courtship days and the way they “went out on a limb” for the women they loved.

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Playing With a Goal in Mind

With Brian Goins
September 22, 2011
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Bob:  Do you find that loving your wife as a husband is something that’s easy to do or hard to do?  Here’s Brian Goins.

Brian:  What tends to happen early in a marriage is that our motivation for love is about performance, because generally we’re at our best early on.  We look our best, we act our best, we still have that honeymoon phase. 

But then something shifts to “Okay, now I’m going to love out of obligation.  I know I’m supposed to.”  I think when we get to the duty stage as men we just die.  And when things get hard, when Jen gets mad, that’s when I either will retaliate or I’ll just retreat.

Bob:  This is FamilyLife Today® for Thursday, September 22nd.  Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I’m Bob Lepine.  What does a husband do when loving your wife isn’t as easy as it used to be?  Well, Brian Goins is going to tell us on today’s program.

And welcome to FamilyLife Today.  Thanks for joining us on the Thursday edition.  You know in nearly 19 years of doing FamilyLife Today, there have been a handful of times when you have done the program and I haven’t been here.  Can you remember?

Dennis:  Actually, a thimble.  A thimble.

Bob:  You interviewed Dr. Henry Blackaby and I wasn’t here that day.

Dennis:  And you’ve been bitter ever since.

Bob:  I have been bitter.

Dennis:  I also interviewed Matt Jensen, who teaches at Biola.

Bob:  Yes, there were just a handful of times where either my schedule or something came up, and there have been a couple of times when I’ve done the program and you weren’t here.  Did you remember that, or did I clue you in on that?

Dennis:  No, no, I knew you did it.  Yes, you – it was a hostile takeover but I knew about it.

Bob:  Your schedule didn’t allow it, and in fact, what we’re going to hear today is one of those times when you weren’t here and we had a special guest drop by.

Dennis:  We did, and we thought, “You know what?  Our audience is so important,” and I mean this,  we really wanted you to hear Brian Goins, who is a pastor in North Carolina.  He and his wife, Jen, speak at our Weekend to Remember ® marriage getaways, and he had written a book called Playing Hurt, and we just felt like we wanted to make sure you heard these interviews.

So we said, “You know what?  I can’t be there but Bob can.  Take it Bob.”  And as you’ll find in this broadcast, Bob is a trained professional.

Bob:  (laughing) All I did was –

Dennis:  A trained radio professional.

Bob:  All I did was stop and think “What questions would Dennis ask if he was here?”

Dennis:  Oh, yeah.  Oh, sure.

Bob:  And then I asked them.  That’s what I did.


Dennis:  Oh – Where’s the confession rail, here?

Bob:  Here is part one of the conversation that I had with Brian Goins the day he stopped by.

I have to be honest.  When I picked up the copy of your book and saw the title, it didn’t instantly click in my mind that this is a book for husbands about marriage.  I mean, Playing Hurt, but you wrote this with that as a metaphor for what it means to be a husband?

Brian:  Yes, I think all of us have some story that we remember of an athlete that played through pain.  Maybe it was like Kirk Gibson when he was in the Dodger’s playing the Athletics, down three to two, bottom of the ninth, and Lasorda is looking down the bench and he’s got a pitcher, I think, that’s going to come up. 

Kirk Gibson’s hurt; both of his legs I think were pretty much worthless, and he tells Lasorda “I can hit.”  He goes down zero two to Eckersley, who was a Hall of Fame closer.  Eventually he works it back to three two, bottom of the ninth, down three two, one winning run on base, and all upper body strength he nails it across the field.

Bob:  Now, are you a Dodgers fan? Did you grow up –?

Brian:  No.  No, I’m not a Dodgers fan at all, but my dad was, and so I’m watching it.  I mean, we’re just cheering up and down, jumping up and down, and I knew even at age 16, I thought, “That’s a man.”

Bob:  I’m not a Red Sox fan either, but who can forget Curt Schilling –

Brian:  Right.  Exactly.

Bob:  -- with blood coming through the sock and he’s out there pitching his heart out in the World Series.  That’s an indelible image.

Brian:  Right.

Bob:  And so when you see that, you think, “This is what it means to be a husband.  You just suffer through it.”

Brian:  You just suffer through it.  You just suffer through it.  And that’s the thing.  Wives will probably look at this book going, “What, do I make you play through pain?  What’s the big deal?”  No, and I’m not meaning to put down wives at all, but more than anything just call husbands up, because I think as men we want the chance.  I knew at 16, “Man if I could have that opportunity to, when I’m in excruciating pain and my body is saying ‘no,’ but I fight through it for the glory of the game.” 

So I think men are willing to fight when glory is on the line, and unfortunately in marriage, what happens is – I’ve discovered that men are willing to play through pain in athletics, in the corporate room, but they’re not willing to play through pain when it comes to marriage, that when their ego is bruised, when their libido is starved, when they feel like they’ve been unjustly hurt, rather than look at the coach and say, “Put me in the game, coach,” they just sit on the bench.  I mean I do. 

Bob:  Just kind of pout their way over?

Brian:  Yes. I’ll wait until she comes back to me.

Bob:  I want to read you a quote that-- Actually my son sent me this text message this morning, and I read it and I thought first of all, “Way to go, son, for picking out a great quote to send me.”  This is from Dan Haseltine from Jars of Clay. 

He said, “When I spoke the words ‘in sickness and in health, for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer,’ I wasn’t thinking of the very worst version of the human soul and heart.  I was thinking of bringing soup and extra blankets.  I was thinking that we would argue over which movie we were going to watch.  I wasn’t thinking that it would mean that I would ultimately have to die to myself, and that marriage was a means by which God can take the worst of who we are and bring it out into the light so that I’d have to deal with it.”

Brian:  Right.

Bob:  I think he’s right.  I think when we get married nobody imagines that there are going to be days when it’s going to be hard –

Brian:  Right.

Bob:  -- and that men play when it gets hard.

Brian:  Right.  The only way to love like Christ is to love when we’re hurt.  That’s how He loved.  I mean, He loved when -- the ultimate example of love, the quintessential example is the cross, and that’s what Paul uses in Ephesians 5, but that’s when I want to sit on the bench.

Bob:  Let me take you back to when you were pursuing the woman who is today your wife.  And you guys have been married how many years?

Brian:  I hope I get this right.  It’s 15 this year.

Bob:  If you don’t get it right, you’ll just be playing with pain tonight.


Brian:  That’s right, exactly.  She and I went out on one date before our college experience drew to a close, and she thought nothing of it.  I thought everything of it.  She was going to Thailand to serve as a teacher overseas for two years.  I was going to get my masters degree in Dallas, Texas, and so she thought, “Hey, I got a free meal out of the deal but that’s it.”  I thought, “I’m going to go after this girl.”

So I started writing and went over there to track her down, and I remember when she saw me for the first time after not seeing me since college she realized “This might not have been a good idea.”  She was not excited about it.

Bob:  Really.

Brian:  Oh yeah.  In fact she said to me, she said before I ever came, “Brian, I want you to know that if you come to Thailand, nothing will come of this relationship.”  Exact words.

Bob:  And you, like the stubborn hormone-driven boyfriend wannabe --

Brian:  Right.

Bob:  -- you went.

Brian:  Right.  And somebody said to me, “Well, Brian, she didn’t say ‘don’t come.’”  It’s amazing how thick-headed we tend to be when our hormones are raging.

Bob:  Okay, so why do guys, do you think, have that impulse in pursuit, and once “I do” is done it starts to fade?  What’s going on?

Brian:  I think there’s something in guys that we feel like we’ve conquered Everest on the wedding day and we think we crossed the tape.  And that’s the way our culture presents it.  I mean, they epitomize; in fact all of the glory it seems like is about the wedding.  Look at the royal wedding.  We can’t get enough of the royal wedding, and they’re talking about this being the perfect wedding, but what about the marriage?  We put so much preparation into the wedding day that it becomes the culmination rather than the initiation of the love that God calls us to.

Bob:  And you talk early in the book about what you call the Freon Zone.

Brian:  Yes.

Bob:  What’s the Freon Zone?

Brian:  I remember I was watching this couple as I was writing this book and I noticed this girl.  She was just shivering in the coffee shop.  I could tell they were dating because they were sitting way too close to each other, and she turned and she said, “Could we switch seats, because I’m right underneath the air conditioner?”  And so the guy of course said, “Oh, absolutely,” and jumped up and switched, and was willing to do that. 

I think in dating that comes naturally for us to sacrifice, to be willing to hold open the door, to go back for the umbrella, to do whatever we need to do in order to win the girl.  But that switch gets switched off when we say “I do.”

Bob:  Okay, so what does a guy have to do to recognize it’s not a good thing for that switch to be switched off, that a part of what I’ve signed on for is to make the switch – to hold the door, to go back for the umbrella, to do what Dan Haseltine says, and that is die to self, not in just the small things like umbrellas and air-conditioning, but in the big stuff where our flesh is saying, “No. I’m tired.  I don’t want to do this.” 

Paint the picture of why for a husband who is saying, “Marriage is harder than I thought it was going to me, and my wife is less attractive to me today that she was when I was pursuing her, and in fact in a lot of ways she’s repelling as opposed to being attractive.  There are things about her that I don’t like being around.  I’d rather go to the man cave and get the remote and be done with this.”

Brian:  I think what tends to happen early in a marriage is that our motivation for love is about performance, because generally we’re at our best early on.  We look our best, we act our best, we still have that honeymoon phase.  But then something shifts, whether it’s kids, or whether it’s --- You know, you get to know somebody and you get to see the darker sides.

 And then it shifts to “Okay, well now I’m going to love out of obligation.  I know I’m supposed to.”  I think when we get to the duty stage as men, we just die.  When things get hard, when Jen gets mad, that’s when I either will retaliate or I’ll just retreat. 

What I’ve found in Ephesians 5 is that the most important verb in that passage wasn’t “Husbands, love your wives.”  That was the activity that we need to do, but the most important verb was a couple of verses later where he gives the reason.  Why? 

Well, because at some point in time Jesus is going to present the bride back to God, and the glory in marriage isn’t the wedding day.  The glory in marriage that I’m living for is that one day God’s going to call me to return the bride back to Him, and the question is, will I return her more beautiful than when He gave her to me? 

I don’t know if you’ve heard that Rodney Atkins country song,

* (Chorus)
Come on in boy sit on down
And tell me about yourself
So you like my daughter do you now?
Yeah we think she's something else
She's her daddy's girl
Her momma's world
She deserves respect
That’s what she'll get
Ain’t it son?
Hey y'all run along and have some fun
I'll see you when you get back
Bet I’ll be up all night
Still cleanin' this gun

where the man is talking to the hormonally charged boy that is coming to take his daughter out, and they sit down on the porch and he talks about how, “Hey, you like my daughter, do you now?  She’s her mother’s world, and I love her and you’re going to respect her, son.  That’s what she’ll get, ain’t it son?”  And of course the boy’s nodding.

Bob:  Yes, sir.  Yes, sir.

Brian:  Yeah, yes sir. Yes sir.  And he says, “Okay, well go.  You guys have some fun.  I bet I’ll be up here on this porch all night still cleanin’ this gun.”  Because the daughter’s his treasure.

Bob:  Right.

Brian:  When you think about your bride – God knew what Jen would be like far before I ever met her, far before eternity He drew her up.  He knew how many hairs and what color it would be, and when it would start falling out, and what color her eyes would be and what her personality would be like, and He shaped her.  The feelings that I have for my daughter don’t even come close to the feelings that God has for His daughter.  So He’s giving her to me and saying, “What will you do with my daughter?”

So if we can’t get the glory of marriage back, I don’t think men are willing to die for duty.  I mean Michael Jordan didn’t play through pain because he thought, “Aw, it’s what I should do.”  It was because he was devoted to the game.  He was devoted to his team.

Bob:  And because he saw championships on the horizon and there was a reward and he was playing with the goal in mind.

Brian:  Right.

Bob:  You know, we’ve been having these conversations long enough that I know that when we start talking to men about you need to die to self and you need to sacrifice and you need to do this, even if your wife’s this or that or non-responsive, we get the letters, the emails from guys going, a.“Why are you guys always beating up on men?”  and b. “You don’t know my circumstances.”  It raises the hackles on the back of the necks of guys when you say to a guy, “Look.  This is what you signed up for.  You need to play hurt.”   There are a lot of guys who are going, “You’re just beating up on men.”

Brian:  Right.

Bob:  So is that what you’re doing?

Brian:  I hope not.  I think in our gut we as men want to be called up.  As a man I’m not supposed to cry at women’s gymnastics, but I’ll never forget the ’96 deal where Kerri Strug misses the vault, breaks her ankle.

Bob:  Right.

Brian:  She has to get a 9.6, I think it was, for the Americans to win gold, and she gets up there, hobbles up, runs down, hits the vault, does her triple whatever and then lands it.  I’m pretty sure that you need both your feet to land on one of those deals, but she lands on one foot.  I’m bawling.  I’m like “I’m not supposed to be crying.”  But why?  Because there’s something in me that goes, “Gosh, there’s a glory there.”  And to fight through when we see the picture.  I think that the problem is that we come to our wedding day thinking, “Well, this is how Jen will always be.”

Bob:  Right.

Brian:  And Jesus, and God himself with the Children of Israel, when He entered into a covenant relationship with them, it wasn’t because of their performance.  I mean, I chased Jen.  Let’s be honest.  She was good-looking to me, I loved the way she talked to me, she couldn’t find any fault with me before we got married.  Who doesn’t want to be with that person?  After we got married she found faults I didn’t even know I have. 

And so God says to His children, “Over time I have made you beautiful.”  And when you look at the passage in Ephesians, Jesus says that He is going to beautify the bride.  And men love beautiful women.  Godly men are willing to do whatever it takes to beautify their bride.

Bob:  Okay, so the guy today who’s been listening to the conversation and goes, “Okay.  I hear you.  I just need to suck it up.  I need to play hurt.  I need to just grit my teeth and get through this and do my duty, because that’s what you’re telling me.”  Is that what you’re telling him?

Brian:  Man, No, I hope not.  I hope I’m painting a new picture or the idea that there’s glory on the line, that really if we would step back and see what’s being crafted – I was thinking about this today.  I was thinking about how nobody would want to make bricks.  I mean that’s pretty ordinary, mundane, painful work at times.  And when you think about marriage, it really moves quickly from the extraordinary wedding to kind of an ordinary feel – taking out the trash, paying the bills, dealing with arguments, dealing with kids.  It’s like “Why do I do all this stuff?” 

But when I look at the great structures in history, architecture, that are made from bricks – The guys that are making them the whole time, I’m sure at times they feel like it’s drudgery, but when they step back to see the pyramid or to see the National Cathedral or to see Westminster Abbey, or whatever it might be, that they’re creating a structure that’s far bigger than themselves that will impact generations forever. 

And if as men, I think what the Bible does is it calls us to step back and say, “Don’t look at the mundane that you might -- or the ordinary feelings that you might have, or the ordinary activities that you are doing.  Step back and see the structure that’s being created; that you get to help create a picture of what it looks like to love an imperfect person unconditionally for a lifetime.  You get to help create a picture of glory on earth. 

Marriage is the only place you can do that.  God set it up as a covenant relationship between two people that it mirrors and pictures His love.  And it serves as a beacon for not just your kids, but generations to come that that’s a masterpiece.  I think as men we just forget that.  I forget it.

Bob:  You cite Hebrews 12 in the first part of your book as a reminder to all of us that Jesus was on mission even in the face of the obstacle, the cross.

Brian:  Yes.

Bob:  I think it’s a great verse for us as men to remember the mission.  Part of the mission God has given us is to love our wives, to present the daughters, as you have said, back to the Father as spotless and blameless.  And so Jesus, for the goal that was set before Him, endured the cross, despising the shame.  He played hurt because the goal was what He was here for.

Brian:  Right.

Bob:  I think you’re right.  If we’re looking and saying “I guess I’m stuck with this duty” and don’t see the goal, don’t see that being husbands for the glory of God, caring for God’s daughters well, that that’s an assignment God’s given us, that it’s a noble and high calling.  When we see that and say, “Okay, ultimately what I’m doing this for is because it delights, it brings joy, it honors the Father to do it.”

Brian:  Right.

Bob:  “And it’s hard, but I’m going to press through and get it done.”

Brian:  And it shows my affection, not just for my bride, but really more importantly for my God.  And to say that I do this because I’ve got a love for what God has done for me and it’s a picture of the love that God has shown for me.  And think about this – think about the alternative.  I mean, is the alternative better?  That I live a mundane, antagonistic marriage?  Is that better? 

I remember when Jen and I were coming back from a road from Atlanta, and we were going down there to look at a job.  I was far more excited about it than Jen was.  I at least wanted to look at it and see the opportunity.  She was not happy about it, not happy about uprooting our family and all that kind of jazz.  Our kids were with us.  The only words I said to Jen in that three-and-a-half hours was, “Honey, what do you want your kids to eat for dinner tonight?” and silence the rest of the trip.  After that three-and-a-half hours I didn’t feel better about myself.

Bob:  No.

Brian:  The whole time I’m hearing in the back of my head, “Hey, Goins.  Get in the game.  That’s my daughter that you’re hurting.”  And so I hear the call of God, and if I look at it as duty like I did that day, of course I’m not going to do that, I’m not going to get in the game.  But if I look at it and realize what it’s doing to me and doing to our relationship and doing to our kids, is that really the step I want to take?  Is that the card that I want to play, the silent treatment?  I never feel good after I play that card. 

So God gives me an opportunity to actually go for the glory by going against my self and getting in the game and saying, “Okay. This doesn’t feel right.  I don’t even know what I’m going to say here.  I’m not excited about getting in this conversation.  I’d rather build my deposition about why I’m right and you’re wrong, and I’d rather get into an argument, but I never feel good after those moments.”

Bob:  And some guys it may be hard every day.

Brian:  Right.

Bob:  For most of us, there are more days when the sun’s shining and the game’s fun than when it’s painful, but the thing that makes the sun shine better is when we play through the pain on the hard days and get to the other side and go, “This was worth it.  It was worth it to get to where we are here today.”

Brian:  Right.  And those are the ones that you look back as the great victories.

Bob:  And you’re not saying it’s easy, but you’re saying it’s what God calls us to do as men, and that’s really the thesis of the book that you’ve written called Playing Hurt.  I know some people read that title and they think you mean “pretending you are hurt.”  No, it means playing even when you are hurt.  It means getting in the game even when you are limping, and at some level all of us as husbands are limping.

It’s a great book for men, and we’ve got it in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center.  If you’d like a copy of Brian Goins’ book Playing Hurt, go to our website, to request a copy of the book.  You can order online at, or you can call 1-800-FLTODAY and order by phone. 

And don’t forget Dennis Rainey’s new book, Stepping Up: A Call to Courageous Manhood, which would be a great book to read alongside of Brian’s book.  That book is available in the eBook format this month for $1.99, and you can find out more about how to download a copy of the eBook for your Kindle, or for your Nook, or for your iBook again, when you go to  There’s more information online about how to download a copy of the book Stepping Up from Dennis Rainey.

Of course, if you’d like to receive a hardback copy of Dennis’ book, that’s available as well, and this week we’re making the book available to those of you who make a donation to help support FamilyLife Today.  Because we’re listener-supported, your donations are what help underwrite the cost of producing and syndicating the program. 

This week, when you make a donation, we want you to request a copy of Dennis’ hardback book, Stepping Up: A Call to Courageous Manhood.  We’ll get it sent out to you; in fact, you may have it before the movie Courageous comes to theaters next week.  So you’ll have the book in hand and give you something to read either before or after you go see the movie next weekend.

To make a donation to FamilyLife Today, go online at and click where it says “donate,” and be sure to type the word STEP in the key code box that you find on the online donation form.  Or call 1-800-FLTODAY, make a donation over the phone, and just ask for a copy of Dennis’ book, Stepping Up, and again we’ll get it sent out to you.  And we do appreciate your support of the ministry of FamilyLife Today.

And we want to invite you back tomorrow.  Brian Goins is going to be here again, and we’re going to talk about how a husband can lead well and love well, even in the midst of marital conflict, so I hope you can join us for that.

I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and 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

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

Help for today.  Hope for tomorrow.

**Song: Cleaning this Gun 

Artist: Rodney Atkins

Album: If You're Going Through Hell (p)  2006 Curb Records

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