Signing Over Your Life
About the Guest
We'll do anything." That's the prayer that Jennie Allen and her husband, Zac, told God as they sought His will for their lives. Even though it felt like death, Jennie explains, she was at a point where she didn't want to be normal but wanted to surrender to Christ completely. What was the result? Peace, and a life and a message that is simpler and clearer than ever before.
We’ll do anything. That’s the prayer that Jennie Allen and her husband, Zac, told God.
Signing Over Your Life
Bob: Have you ever avoided praying the prayer, “Lord, I’ll do anything You ask,” because things might get out of control if you do? Jennie Allen can relate.
Jennie: Let me just give a few disclaimers because I am a woman who has fought this battle. I have been down this road. One, control is a complete illusion. It is not real. We do not have control. Even if we think we do, we do not. I think that has been the humor of God in my life as I prayed this prayer. I think He keeps going, to me, as I hand Him all these things that were His anyway—and I hand them up—He’s saying, “Yes, you really can’t control if I take your husband from you tomorrow.”
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Tuesday, October 2nd. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. Jennie Allen joins us today to talk about what it looks like to really give up control and to trust God. We’re going to talk about that today. Stay tuned.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. The subject we’re talking about this week takes me back to the stories I’ve heard you tell over and over again about your first Christmas with your wife, Barbara—
Bob: —and what you guys did that Christmas.
Dennis: Yes. Let me introduce our guest so our listeners know that she’s with us. Jennie Allen joins us again on FamilyLife Today. Jennie, welcome back.
Jennie: Thank you. It’s great to be here.
Dennis: She’s an alumnus of my sixth-grade Sunday school class from about 180 years ago, back before the earth’s crust hardened. Jennie, today, has four children of her own and about to have a seventh grader.
Jennie: I am.
Dennis: She has authored a number of Bible studies and books. The book we are talking about today is Anything. It’s called The Prayer That Unlocked My God and My Soul.
Back to Bob’s question that he asked—back in 1972, when we started out our marriage, we were married on the second day of September. That means we’re now into our 40th year.
Dennis: That sounds ancient; doesn’t it? That’s fossilized. Anyway, we started our marriage. We decided we would do something that my mentor, Bill Bright—also, my employer at the time—that he did with his wife Vonette. He spoke of signing a title deed—a title deed to their lives—that they formalized and signed, as a couple, when they started out their marriage. Barbara and I, there in Boulder, Colorado, with that little, tiny three-bedroom home that is way over-priced today—
Bob: Do you wish you still owned that house?
Dennis: I do! I’d be a wealthy man if I had that little place now. We didn’t have any furniture. I think we were eating off of boxes at the time. We just didn’t have hardly anything; but Barbara got alone in the living room in one of the chairs we did own, and I got alone in another part of the house. We signed over, on two sheets of paper, everything we had and everything we ever hoped to have. We listed it, Jennie. We listed all of those things down. Then, we folded those sheets of paper, and put them in an envelope, and sealed it, and didn’t open it until 1990.
Dennis: In 1990, after God had given us six children, a growing ministry—far more than we ever dreamed of—we took a knife and slit open that envelope. We read what we gave God, and we laughed! It looked like Tinker® toys—some of the things we thought were so important, and what we gave Him, and surrendered to Him—but that envelope, even though it’s been opened—those two sheets of paper still remain as two of the most prized possessions of anything we have because it’s more than symbolic. It was a legal contract to say to God, “We’re Yours.”
Bob: Jennie, you didn’t formalize in a legal contract; but you and your husband Zac essentially did the same thing as you guys—you were praying this every night?
Jennie: We were.
Bob: What were you praying?
Jennie: Well, we were praying, “God, we will do anything.” We were surrendering everything, like Dennis and Barbara. Ironically, I had seen the Bill Bright interview after we prayed this. I so resonated with it. Actually, parts of it are in the book because it is what we are talking about. We actually did the same thing. We started handing up the little things that we had come to attach ourselves to in this life. Already, they feel like Tinker toys; but man, at the time, it feels like death!
Dennis: Oh, yes.
Jennie: I mean, you are handing up parts of your life that you have built into and held onto most of your life. I mean, for me, it was people’s approval. It was my gifts and how that may cost me people’s approval. It was an empty bed in our house. It was our house that we had built and finally—we rented, and rented, and rented—and finally, we owned a home. We said, “God, this is our most valuable possession. Do you want us to sell this? Do you want us to go overseas?”
We were just handing Him everything on earth that we maybe had said prior—now, we may not have articulated it, but in our hearts, we had said, “I will serve you! I will give you everything God but….” I would have said that part really quietly to Him. I might not have even been brave enough to say it, but we had a lot of those. We had a lot of places where we didn’t want Him to mess with our comfort, you know?
Dennis: I would say, some 40 years after signing that document, it’s been one long process of the onion getting peeled and showing me thing, after thing, after thing that I continue to give up. It’s not like it gets done at one point—
Dennis: —and the decision is over. In this materialistic culture, there are plenty of things that can take up the position of idolatry in our lives.
Bob: We’ve all got stuff in our lives that we hope isn’t going to change. I mean—
Bob: —giving up the house, you’re not saying, “Okay, I would really love it if I have to move.” It’d still be hard if God were to say, “This is where I want you to go.” I’m just curious what made you start praying this prayer every night for a week in the first place?
Jennie: Well, I think I just finally came to terms. It was one night, on our bathroom floor, where I read a girl’s blog; and she was living this way. She was living completely, radically sold-out. It just exposed to me the places that I had let become more important to me than God. It broke me.
That night, I remember so clearly—and I will never forget this—picturing God the day we’re going to meet. I wanted, more than anything, for our eyes to meet and it to be like we’d already been on mission for a few decades—we had been doing life together for a long time. I think I had done religion for a long time. I’m not saying I wasn’t saved. I believe I was saved, but I do believe that I was not experiencing the life and the story that God had for me because I was trying to control it so much. There was a lot that I was holding onto.
You’re right, Dennis. There is still a lot that I fight to lay down. I think that’s the fight of our lives. Every day, we wake up and our feet hit the ground—in different places all over the world—and this is a common struggle—and we hit the ground, and it’s, “Who are we going to run after? Who are we going to chase? What are we going to love? What are we going to spend our lives doing?”
It’s not that we do all of these spiritual things, necessarily. I think—Jesus was a carpenter. He made, probably, chairs and all kinds of things that were very practical. It’s not that we all move to Africa. It’s that we put our feet on the ground, in the world, in the life, in the story that He has said to live. We somehow try to figure out how to love God most in it.
Bob: How did you tell Zac about what was happening with this in your soul and the blog you’d read? How did you have that conversation?
Jennie: Yes, I was scared. I was scared of “kill joy”. I think a lot of us feel that way sometimes with our spouses—we’ll have a moment with God, and we don’t know if they’re in the same place. I’ve heard that, actually, a lot since the book has come out—is, “I want to pray this, but my husband doesn’t. He’s not there.” What do we do in those situations?
We have been there. This moment was not one of those for us. He was ready, too. So, we did—I shared it with him, and I sent him to the blog. It just wrecked him as much as it had wrecked me. We were on our knees a few weeks later, but we had been in the opposite—sometimes, he’s in the more spiritual place, and I’m not ready. Sometimes, it’s the opposite.
I think what this book and the message of this book—it really is obedience. It’s not reckless, crazy, showy acts of martyrdom; you know?
Dennis: Right; right.
Jennie: This is obedience. Part of obedience, for me, many, many times was waiting on the Lord to move in my husband. Sometimes, that was a lot of conversations between us. Sometimes, that was me, backing off and praying. I wish there was a formula for that. You probably have one, Dennis, actually. [Laughter]
Jennie: You have a lot of books. You are much more qualified in that area than me.
Dennis: I don’t think you can ever reduce your relationship to God—
Jennie: —to a formula!
Dennis: —to a formula.
Jennie: I think it was this dance for us—for years—of God just maturing us and growing us—but waiting on Him and not running ahead of my husband in this and not saying, “We’ve got to adopt because God cares about the orphan.” It was saying, “Zac, this is what God’s showing me; and this is where I am. Where are you in this?”—and showing him respect and not needing him to be in some magically, spiritual place; you know?
Dennis: By this point, Zac should have known what to expect from you. I mean, you guys went out on your first date; and he asked you kind of what you wanted out of life. Your answer was? You want me to tell you what it was?
Jennie: I wish I could take it back. Yes.
Dennis: What was it?
Jennie: “I don’t want to be normal.” [Laughter] Yes. We’re not.
Dennis: “I don’t want to be normal.” What did you mean by that?
Jennie: I think I just didn’t—you know, even back then, I didn’t—college is a time that we all taste that passion. I think it’s when you don’t have a mortgage, and you don’t have three kids, and a job from eight to seven every day. Your passion for Jesus seems—the potential for that seems to be greater. All of these college kids are just, “Let’s change the world! We love Jesus!”
That was me—yes, when I met my husband—so, we’re sitting across from each other. I just didn’t want to be safe. I didn’t want to be comfortable. Something about that changed with kids and a mortgage. It got more attractive to be comfortable. It still is, honestly. There are still a lot of days that I wish I didn’t have, in black-and-white print—for $9.99—my soul that said —my contract, per se—that I will do anything because that surrender is costly to my comfort a lot of days.
Now, to my soul, it is freeing. To my soul, it is the best thing that’s ever happened to it because it was all in knots—not that it still doesn’t find plenty of things to stress about—but my life got simpler. My mission got clearer. When I put my feet on the ground, I knew who I was going to serve that day. So, it does help to have it in writing I think.
Dennis: Oh, no doubt about it.
Jennie: Yes, but we’re not normal. I mean, he keeps joking and saying, “Don’t you want some normal?” I say, “Yes, I want normal very much!” [Laughter]
Dennis: Looking back now on that statement, “I don’t want normal,” you’re not really saying, “I want to be abnormal.” You want to be able to live life as God designed it, and experience Him to the utmost, and be about what He’s about, and be on mission—
Dennis: —sun up to sun down.
Jennie: —which, sometimes, doesn’t totally look normal to the world. I mean, I have a lot of things about my life that is very normal—a lot of peanut butter, and floors I have to clean up, and there’s not spectacular fireworks with God going off in my life every day; but there is a central theme and message, now to my life, that, “This is who I am here to please. This is who I want to be about.” Yes, some days, that isn’t normal.
Dennis: Let me just say a word here about how powerful a wife can be in a man’s life—who makes this decision, whether he’s singing off that song sheet or not. I am grateful that God gave me a wife who didn’t want to be normal, either, and who passionately pursues Christ and God, and has so many different ways that I could tell you that she exhorts me to be a better Christ-follower and to keep on stripping away everything that wants to attach itself to my heart.
A wife, to a husband who is double-minded, lukewarm—however you want to say it—can be really powerful in her husband’s life. Have you seen this happen with your husband, even though he’s in the ministry? It can happen to those who are pastoring a church.
Jennie: You know, we’ve tasted—we’ve been in ministry for 15 years. We’ve tasted all different seasons. There have been seasons where he needed me to be his biggest fan, and he needed me to not tear him down, and he needed me to build into him and not notice the things that he was doing wrong because nobody’s ever doing everything right; but then, there are times where my husband needs me to speak truth to him, and to call him back to God, and to be bold.
It is only—only by the grace and the Spirit of God—that I could know the difference. I think, as wives, that is our role—is to walk so closely to Jesus that He would lead us as to how to love these men well because we can be such a thorn in their side when we get really critical. What we can do, even more, is we can get spiritually-superior and think that we’re in a better place with God because they’re giving their lives to take care of us or to pay the bills. I think that humility to say, “I respect you”—
Bob: Jennie, I’m just curious if you got home tonight and Zac said, “You know, Sweetheart, I’m just starting to feel restless. I don’t know what that means, but there is a restlessness. I think God may be stirring here in my soul.” What would that do? How would you respond to just that ambiguous restlessness on the part—now, you’re the author of the book, Anything—
Dennis: That’s right. You said, “You’ll do anything.”
Dennis: You’ve put it in black and white.
Bob: So, he comes home and says, “I don’t know what it means, but I’m feeling restless.” What do you do?
Jennie: Well, I keep having to refresh—push the refresh button on this prayer—because, of course, life goes on. I mean, this was three years ago that we prayed this prayer. Not long ago, he came to me and said, “Jennie, the elders are talking about our church”—that we had planted and poured into for years, and years, and years—“merging with a church in town—a likeminded church in town—and no longer will I be the senior pastor.”
If you know anything about being a pastor’s wife or a senior pastor, there is a lot of identity that can get wrapped up in that role. There was a lot of fear for me of, “What would that do to our relationships? What would that do to our kids? What would that do to our place in the community?” There was a moment of, “Take back! Let’s not change anything! This is good! The church is getting to a point where it’s prospering and growing. Let’s not walk away from this.”
It was beautiful, though, because when we say to God, “You have me,” and you draw some line in the sand—you can kind of keep going back to that point—just like you all did with that contract. Other things would try to attach themselves to your heart; but you would always point back to the time when you said, “No. God, You have us.” So, I won’t be surprised if my husband comes home and says, “Jennie, maybe we need to go live in Rwanda for a little while.” That’s where our son is from. It won’t completely shock me. Will it be hard? Heck, yes! It will be so hard! We’ll spare everyone cussing on this show; [Laughter] but I can say, “Heck”. “Heck! Yes! It will be so hard.”
Bob: Here’s the thing—I’ve talked to a lot of wives, moms. The observation I’ve made is that if men are prone to passivity—and I think we are—women, I think, are prone to control.
Jennie: Amen. We are. Sorry, women. Yes. [Laughter]
Bob: They want safety—
Dennis: Thank you—
Dennis: Thank you for saying, “Amen,” to what Bob said.
Bob: They think that the way to safety and security in life is to be in control of their environment.
Jennie: Let me just give a few disclaimers because I am a woman who has fought this battle. I have been down this road. One, control is a complete illusion. It is not real. We do not have control. So, even if we think we do, we do not. I think that has been the humor of God, in my life, as I prayed this prayer. I think He keeps going, to me, as I hand Him all these things that were His anyway—and I hand them up. He’s saying, “Yes, you really can’t control if I take your husband from you tomorrow. That is not in your control, Jennie.”
I would watch that happen around me, and I think we all see that. We see people that the worst happens to, and we all question God. “God, how could You do that?” Rightfully so—it’s suffering in front of us, and it’s suffering in us. Yet, I believe—you know, just like in Job, when God says, “Who are you? The sand—I stop the water. I stop the ocean. I decide that the line is going to be here. It’s not going to go any further.” So, who are you to say, “God, do this. Don’t do this,” because we don’t see the whole picture. I think that’s where I’m growing lately. So, number one, control is an illusion.
But number two, control does not bring happiness. If we do get control—which would be impossible because God, I believe, is sovereign over all. But if we do take—I’m about to say, “Take the wheel,” —which is hysterical. Okay, if we do take the wheel—country song, cue music in the background. [Laughter] If we take that control and try to maneuver our life, I can promise you it will not be close, even remotely close, to the glory of following, and chasing God, and living the lives and the stories He has written.
That’s where our trust and our faith grows—is when we start to say, “I want Your story, even if it has suffering in it.” That’s what this prayer is. It’s saying, “God, I don’t care what You bring. Dish it if it brings You more glory. Bring it.” It is a scary prayer.
I keep getting emails from people that are saying, “I want to pray this prayer, but I’m too scared. I don’t know how to say, ‘God do whatever You want with my life.’” But the shorter our life get to us and the bigger God gets, the easier it is to say, “These days that I am here, God, do what You want with them because I want to live forever with that peace and knowledge that while I was here, and You were invisible, You had me.” That’s fun. That’s fun to live that way.
Dennis: Yes, it really is. What you’re saying is, “It’s better to suffer in the will of God than to be happy out of it.”
Bob: His story is a better story for you, even if it doesn’t feel like it at the time; right?
Dennis: Exactly; exactly. I have to read my sixth-grade Sunday school class verse here. I read it earlier, but I’m going to read the context for it—Colossians, Chapter 1. I’m going to start in verse 15. Speaking of Jesus, the Scriptures remind us, “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by Him,”—Jesus—“all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all were created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.”
Verse 18—this is my sixth-grade Sunday school class verse, “He is the head of the body, the church; He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything He might be preeminent.” He came to have first place, not second place, not second, third and fourth place. He came to have first place in how many things? —everything. I think it begins with a simple prayer like Jennie prayed, “Lord, I’ll do anything. Speak. Your servant hears.”
Bob: Yes, I’m tempted to play the song, Preeminent, again, that we played earlier—the song that’s featured in the Passport2Purity® weekend because that is the theme verse, as you said, from that Passport2Purity weekend—Colossians 1:18. I guess, if our listeners would like to hear the song, they can go to our website, FamilyLifeToday.com. We’ve got the song posted there. You can listen to it, online, if you’d like.
You can also request a copy of Jennie Allen’s book, Anything: The Prayer That Unlocked My God and My Soul. We’ve got it in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. Go to FamilyLifeToday.com to request a copy of the book; or call us, toll-free, at 1-800-FL-TODAY, 1-800-358-6329. That’s 1-800- “F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then, the word, “TODAY”. Ask about the book, Anything, when you get in touch with us. We’ll get a copy sent to you.
We also want to say a word of thanks to those of you who help support the ministry of FamilyLife Today. You help keep us on the air by making donations from time to time to help defray the costs of producing and syndicating this program; and you help us with initiatives like the new initiative we’re working to develop right now—resources and tools to equip step-families, blended families. Ron Deal has joined our team, here, at FamilyLife. Ron is probably the leading expert in America on this subject of step- and blended families. He’s worked with thousands of couples and helped them understand how to make a remarriage work and how to blend a family.
This week, for those of you who help support the ministry of FamilyLife Today, we’d like to say, “Thank you,” by sending you your choice of resources. We can send you Ron’s book called The Remarriage Checkup. It’s a book that’ll help you get a good idea of strengths and weaknesses in your remarriage and how you can get things headed in the right direction.
Or we have a couple of CD’s, where we had conversations with Ron about being a smart stepdad and a smart stepmom. If being a stepdad or stepmom is more the issue that you’d need some help with or you know somebody who could use the help, ask for those CD’s when you make a donation this week, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com. Click the button that says, “I CARE”. Then, you can select the resources you’d like as your thank-you gift; or call 1-800-FL-TODAY. Make a donation over the phone, and just mention that you’d like to receive one of the resources for step- or blended families. We’ll figure out which one is the right one for you and get them sent out to you. We want to say, “Thanks,” in advance, for your support of the ministry. We really do appreciate your being a part of what God is doing here through FamilyLife Today.
We want to encourage you to be back with us tomorrow when Jennie Allen is going to be here again. We’re going to hear about one of the ways that God answered her prayer when she and her husband Zac said, “We’ll do anything.” We’ll find out about that tomorrow. Hope you can be here.
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.
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