Teen Years-Finding Your Purpose
About the Guest
Like a book, each life is made up of chapters. All this week Barbara Rainey allows us a peek into chapters of her life and tells us how she adjusted and kept her priorities in place in each season. Beginning with her early years, Barbara recalls her first steps of faith, and then walks us through her teen years when she began to feel the first inkling that God had a bigger purpose for her life.
Barbara RaineyAfter graduating from the University of Arkansas with a Bachelor of Arts degree in history, Barbara joined the staff of Cru® in 1971. With her husband Dennis, whom she married in 1972, the Rainey’s cofounded FamilyLife®, a ministry committed to helping marriages and families survive and thrive in our generation. Barbara is a frequent speaker and guest on FamilyLife Today®, FamilyLife’s award-winning nationally-syndicated daily radio broadcast. She is the author or coauthor of...more
Barbara Rainey allows us a peek into the early years of her life . Barbara recalls first steps of faith and when she began to feel the first inkling that God had a bigger purpose for her life.
Teen Years-Finding Your Purpose
Bob: For each one of us, life happens in seasons. For Barbara Rainey, one of the defining seasons of her life was when she was a young college student.
Barbara: I met a girl my freshman year. I ended up walking to class with her across this open space on campus. There was something about her that just was different. I did not know what it was, but I really liked her a lot. Then, at the beginning of our sophomore year, she invited me to go to a Bible study; and I was very intrigued. I thought: “That’s kind of cool. I’ve never been to a Bible study—I’d like to go to a Bible study. I don’t know what it’s about; but sure, I’ll go.”
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Monday, January 26th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. We’ll learn today about the transformation that occurred while Barbara Rainey was in college—a transformation that would mark all the subsequent seasons of her life. Stay tuned.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. There has been a lot of conversation in recent years as women are looking at opportunities that are available to them—and trying to think, “How can I experience all that life has for me?”—and in the process, finding that will sink you pretty quickly.
Dennis: Well, a lot of men have leaned their ladders against the wall of a career. It took them a few decades to figure out they’d put their ladder against the wrong wall. Unfortunately, a lot of women have followed suit. In the process—have really rejected God’s design—and frankly, need to realize that: “Without calibrating your life around God and a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, how can you be successful?” You’re not going to be successful without God—that’s all there is to it.
Bob: Are you saying that a guy shouldn’t have a career? Is that—
Dennis: No, I wouldn’t say that at all.
I’m just saying—if you leave God out and you pursue a career—whether male or female—and you seek fulfillment through the drumbeat of the culture and the world—which they’ll tell you, “Sacrifice your marriage, your family, your faith—all that—to achieve stardom in your work and to get the reward / the cash benefits of the reward, which are real and substantial.” Then, if you’re not careful, you’re going to avoid the main issue of your soul—we are made in the image of God, and we have a soul.
Bob: You’re going to gain the whole world and lose your soul, which is what Jesus talked about. You and I were having this conversation, and we were talking about how your wife adjusted her priorities in the different seasons of her life. We said, “Why don’t we bring her in and just track that with her?” because I think that would be helpful for young women today.
Dennis: I think young women today need to hear from women who are a couple of laps ahead of them in the seasons of life.
I am pleased to introduce you to one—my wife of more than 42 years, Barbara—the mom of our six children and grandmother of now twenty—
Dennis: —twenty grandchildren—
Barbara: Hard to believe.
Dennis: —which is a herd.
Bob: You didn’t even hiccup when you said that.
Barbara: It is hard to believe, though. I still shake my head and think, “How did we get here?”
Bob: What I want to know is—how do you keep all of those birthdays?
Barbara: I don’t do a real good job. I do have a list—it’s taped on my refrigerator. At the beginning of the month, I look and see how many are in that month. Some months have five, and it’s a challenge—it’s a real challenge.
Dennis: Bob, last night, I was interviewing a young lady who is going to work for Barbara. I told her, as one of the benefits of her job, I said: “I just want to tell you something. You get a chance to work with and for a truly quality woman.” I didn’t intend to get emotional about it; but I looked at her—and just for a second—
—we kind of reflected on it, later on—last night at home.
Barbara: I heard it—I heard it.
Dennis: But truthfully, these are days when—if you’re a young lady, you need to be relating to a woman who has her priorities right—who has figured it out—not perfectly—but who is hammering out life according to God’s design. If you’re a parent, you want these kinds of experiences for your daughters as they grow up as well.
Bob: We’re going to walk through the chapters of your life, Barbara; but before we do that, this current chapter—you’ve been engaged in creating resources for moms and dads to use in the home as discipleship tools—a lot of them are tied to different seasons of the year.
Bob: There are a couple of seasons coming up and some resources you’ve developed for these seasons that we ought to let folks know about.
Barbara: Yes. We’ve just finished Christmas. All the stuff is taken down / all the boxes are put away.
A lot of us women—I have felt this for years—we kind of walk around the house and it feels slightly naked because we put up so much at Christmas. We get used to the lights and things everywhere, and then we take it all down and put it all away. There is some sense of relief with the simplicity and, yet, there is a sense that “I need a little something alive in here somehow.”
One of the things that I’m excited about, that we have created, is a plaque in the shape of a shield. On the plaque are written the words: “The Lord is my strength and my shield.” It makes a great front door decoration or piece. I tied a burlap ribbon on mine and hung it on our front door, and it looks great.
So, when you take the Christmas wreath off the door and you think, “What could I put on my front door that would be welcoming, and friendly, and warm?” you can put this shield on your door. It sends a message to those who might come to visit; and it reminds you, every time you come and go, that the Lord is your strength and shield.
Bob: It can hang in the house as well.
Barbara: Oh, yes—on a wall or wherever.
Bob: The best way for people to see what we’re talking about is they need to go to FamilyLifeToday.com. Click the link that says “GO DEEPER.” There is a link there to Ever Thine Home®. They can see what the shield looks like—see some of the other things you’ve been working on as we get ready for Easter—because you have some Easter decorations as well / discipleship tools.
Again, go to FamilyLifeToday.com. Click the link that says “GO DEEPER,” and then the link for Ever Thine Home. All of the resources are available there. There is a catalog as well. If you’d like to order the catalog and review these items—again, do that at FamilyLifeToday.com.
We want to get into examining the seasons of your life. I was thinking about this, Barbara—I thought: “When do you remember starting to think about life in mission terms?When did you start to have a vision for your life that went outside of yourself to something bigger than yourself? Was that while you were still at home in high school or after that?”
Barbara: Well, interestingly, it was probably around my 11th or 12th birthday. The church that we belonged to / that I grew up in had a confirmation class for kids when they were about 12 / seventh grade—somewhere in there. I went through the confirmation class, and most of it just went right over my head.
But interestingly, there is something about the Spirit of God—when He has a call on your life—and I just sensed through that class that God had something for me in my life. I didn’t know what that meant. I could have never expressed it in words, at the time; but I just sensed that there was something really deep and meaningful about this God I was learning about in the confirmation class.
I remember—after that—not all the time but, occasionally, through the next few years that followed—I remember praying that God would lead me to the right person to marry / the right thing to do with my life.
At the time, I don’t think I really knew God; but I was aware of Him. I believed that He existed, and I knew that He was real. I wanted what He had.
Bob: The reason I started there is because I think, whatever season you’re in—in a woman’s life—if there is an absence of an awareness of God / an absence of mission, then you’re going to build your life around whatever you hope is going to bring you joy, satisfaction, peace, life, happiness.
When there is an awareness of the presence of God and a sense of mission, all of a sudden, you start to shift from a self-focused life to a life that has a little different focus. Did you feel that in your high school years? Were you starting to think more outward and more Godward during those years?
Barbara: I wasn’t thinking missionally—in that sense of the term—because I didn’t know what it meant. I couldn’t have told you what any of this was about because I really didn’t know God. I didn’t know the Bible—we didn’t read the Bible in my home, growing up. We didn’t even pray before meals, but everyone believed in God.
Of course, I came to find out, later on, that there was a lot more to it than just believing He existed. But nonetheless, I do believe that—because I had this sense of God / the reality of God, and I had this sense of Who He was—I look back on it now, and I’m confident that God was orchestrating my life. He was leading me in certain ways.
For instance, one of the things that was most painful to me, in my junior high and high school years, was that I was not in the popular crowd. I desperately wanted to be in the popular crowd—I wanted to be liked / I wanted to be appreciated. I wanted people to want to be with me, and I always was on the outside. I never could crack that group.
It was so fascinating—about 20 years later—I remember thinking about that one day and just kind of wondering about it. All of a sudden, I thought: “I think God kept me out of that group. Had I been in that group, who knows what I would have gotten into? Who knows what I would have been tempted to do?”
Just looking back on it, I was so grateful to God that He kept me from what I wanted. What I wanted probably would have led me down a lot of bad paths because it was the late 60s. Some of those kids that I admired could have been doing drugs. I have no idea what they were doing but, because I wasn’t a part of that crowd, I was spared from some of that. I’m grateful that God gave me the hardship of being lonely, and feeling rejected, and feeling isolated and unwanted because it was a gift for me.
Bob: If I had been sitting with you at the lunch table your senior year in high school and you had an awareness that there is a God / a sense that there is a God—but that’s not really what’s at the center of your life—
Barbara: Yes, that’s right.
Bob: —so, if I had said to you: “What are your dreams? What do you hope life is going to be all about? What do you want your life to be about?” Do you have a sense of what you were aspiring to at the time?
Barbara: I didn’t really. I thought about getting married someday and having a family because that was sort of the default mode for all women in that generation. I wanted to do that, and that was fine; but I didn’t really dream of much. Now, I did hope to go to interior design school. I tried that road, and that door got slammed in my face—which, again, was another—in hindsight, it was another protection from God.
Barbara: Yes, it really was. But if you had sat down at the table and talked to me about God, I would have listened. I was one of those kids who would have responded if someone had explained to me what this was all about. I just didn’t know how to find it.
Bob: Dennis, I think this first chapter in a woman’s life—when she is emerging / she is starting to think about the future, and life, and what’s it all about, and meaning and purpose—this is an important chapter for people to help guide her—point her in the right direction and start to give her a vision for what life ought to be beyond herself.
Dennis: I think what Barbara is pointing out is that there is more going on in our children’s lives and in young people that they relate to than we realize. Sometimes, I think we’re a little bashful / reticent, as parents, to engage in these discussions. The point is—just make sure they’re getting their marching orders from God.
Bob: It would also be good to have the conversation, “Have you thought about marriage and family and what you’d like a family to be?”
Dennis: Oh, yes.
Bob: “Do you want to have kids, and how many kids?”
Dennis: A lot of our youth groups are not going to ask those questions. They’re going to fall on the pattern of, unfortunately, what the world does—which is talk about careers.
Bob: And as you said, Barbara, back in our day, that was just a default. You didn’t need to talk about it because folks were headed that direction. Now, we need to be a little more intentional because folks are going all different directions.
Barbara: That’s right; yes.
Bob: Let me move to the second chapter of your life. This is when you found your way to the Harvard of the Ozarks, as Dennis likes to call it. [Laughter]
Barbara: That’s right.
Bob: The University of Arkansas. How did you get from Indiana to Arkansas?
Barbara: Well, my mother was born and raised in the state of Arkansas, and my grandparents lived here. I had this sense, when I was a senior in high school, that I needed to go somewhere that none of my friends were going. Most of my friends were going to IU, and Purdue, and Butler, and all of these in-state Indiana schools. I applied and I was accepted to those schools; but I just had this sense that I needed to go somewhere else and kind of start all over because, if I roomed with those same girls that I had gone to school with, they would see me—
Bob: You’d be the same person.
Barbara: I’d be the same person. They would see me the same way / they would expect the same things of me. I knew, in my heart, that I couldn’t break out of my shell. It wasn’t that I had this terrible past I was running away from—I’ve made mistakes and I did stupid things—but I had this sense that there was more to who I was than what I had experienced previously. I wanted to figure out who I was, and I wanted a chance to start over—is the best way to put it.
I thought, “If I went to the University of Arkansas,”—even though it was a really long way from home—“I was only a couple of hours away from my grandparents.” If I wanted some home cooking and some family, I could go to Little Rock for the weekend.
Bob: It was at the University of Arkansas that the spiritual lights came on in your life, and you started to get a mission. Tell us how that happened.
Barbara: Yes. Well, I met a girl my freshman year. I ended up walking to class with her, across this open space on campus. There was something about her that just was different. I did not know what it was, but I really liked her a lot. Then, at the beginning of our sophomore year, she invited me to go to a Bible study; and I was very intrigued. I thought: “That’s kind of cool. I’ve never been to a Bible study—I’d like to go to a Bible study. I don’t know what it’s about; but sure, I’ll go.
She took me—we went the next night and showed up. The Bible study was a pretty small group—maybe a dozen people—guys and girls.
We sat in a circle. The leader of the study put a tape in a tape player—that’s really dating us—but he put a tape in a tape player, punched the button, and played this message on a tape. It was about prayer. I was totally engaged with that and never heard any kind of teaching like that.
At the end of the tape, he turned it off, of course. Then he asked—because it was the kick-off meeting for the year; and there were other students there who were new, besides me—and so he asked everyone in the room to go around and tell, just very briefly, their testimony. He started with Pam, who was sitting next to me. He went away from me, around the circle, so that I was last. Well, I started listening to these kids talking about knowing Christ. I started getting so nervous, because I had no idea what—.
First of all, he said “testimony.” I’m going, “What’s that mean?” Then I started listening to them; and I’m going: “What am I going to say? I have no idea what to say.” I just got more and more panicked and more and more anxious.
When it got to me, I said, “Well,”—something to the effect of—“I have always been a Christian. I have always gone to church, and I have always believed in God,” or something very shallow. Of course, immediately, those who knew Christ knew that I didn’t know Christ. [Laughter] They closed in prayer and did whatever.
As we got up and had refreshments, this man’s wife came over to me and said, “Could I talk to you for a minute?” I said “Sure.” She shared with me how I could know Christ personally. I mean, it was exactly what I had been looking for all my life. I said, “I would absolutely love to do that.” She said, “Well, would you like to pray right now?”
I said, “No.” [Laughter] I was not going to pray in a room full of people because I had never heard people pray out loud except the pastor from the pulpit. The idea of me praying in front of a bunch of people just unnerved me—so, I said, “Can I just take the little book home and do it on my own?” She said, “Yes”; so I did. [Laughter]
Bob: So you went back to the dorm—
Barbara: I did.
Bob: —and took the little book—was it “The Four Spiritual Laws”—
Barbara: It was “The Four Spiritual Laws”; yes.
Bob: —from Campus Crusade for Christ?
Barbara: Yes, absolutely.
Bob: And you read through it, and you prayed right there in your room.
Barbara: I did—I sure did. I got home and read through the whole thing again because I wanted to make sure I was doing this right—I wanted to do it right—read it through and prayed it, word for word.
Bob: Did you have a sense, immediately, that something was different?
Barbara: No, I didn’t. I was kind of disappointed because I thought, “Oh, I thought something was supposed to happen”; but I knew I had done it. Within days, I started sensing things that were different / seeing things that were different. I remember Dennis talking about—when he was a student—how he would walk across campus; and he’d notice the leaves falling from the tree and say, “Wow, God did that!” It was that kind of a thing—where, all of a sudden, I was aware of God at work. I was seeing things from a spiritual perspective, and I hadn’t before.
Bob: When you start to see the world through a spiritual lens, Dennis, it does reorient everything about your life.
Dennis: It’s more than going from black and white to Technicolor®. It’s like you move to a whole new level of seeing—where you identify with the blind man who met Jesus—“Once I was blind, but now I see.” All of a sudden, your eyes can see life as God designed it—both for you to live life and have your life honor Him but also, ultimately, how the God of the universe can take you, as a woman or as a man, and begin to use you in other people’s lives.
Bob: The reality is, no matter where you are on your journey—whether you’re in high school, trying to figure out where you’re headed; whether you’re a mom with four kids at home; whether you’re staring down the empty nest years or already there—this spiritual component of life—this is something that can happen, at any point, in a person’s journey.
When it happens, it starts to refocus you on things that matter more than anything has ever mattered before.
Dennis: Whether male or female—if you miss Christ, you’ve missed life—it’s that simple. You’re never going to find life as God designed it if you don’t make a personal commitment to Jesus Christ as your Lord, your Master, and your Savior—as one who died on the cross for your sins to make you right before God, and to be your mediator to God, and to bring you into a right relationship with Him.
That’s what happened to Barbara. She made a commitment to Christ. She didn’t even really understand all that much of what she was doing, but God takes us where we are—in our primitive steps of faith / and our lack of knowing the right words to pray and how to pray it—and He meets with us. He’s right here today with this listener, who is listening right now / who is identifying with what Barbara is saying, going: “You know, I think I went to church.
“I’m not sure I know God either, and I’d like to have a relationship like that too.”
Well, you know what? You don’t need “The Four Spiritual Laws” to come into a right relationship with God. You can bow in prayer, right now—just say to God: “I’m a sinner. I’ve broken Your laws. I’m in need of a Savior.” That’s what Easter is all about. Jesus stepped out of eternity—lived a perfect life, was a perfect sacrifice, died for your sins, defeated death, and is alive today. Because He’s alive, He can invade your life and bring forgiveness to all the shame. He can give you—back to what we talked about earlier—He can give you purpose and begin to give you a direction for your life.
I think the question is: “Where do you stand with Christ right now? Male or female / religious or not religious, do you know Him?” If you don’t, don’t let your head hit the pillow tonight without settling up with the Lord God of the universe.
It is the greatest decision you’ll ever make for the rest of your life.
Bob: We have, on our website at FamilyLifeToday.com, a link that says “TWO WAYS TO LIVE.” In fact, if you go to the website, FamilyLifeToday.com—you click in the upper left-hand corner, where it says “GO DEEPER,”—the first thing you’ll see is a box that says, “TWO WAYS TO LIVE.” You click on that link, and that will explain to you the option that is before every person about how you’re going to live your life: “What’s going to be the priority of your life? Who’s in charge of your life?—you or the God who made you?”
Again, go to FamilyLifeToday.com. Click the link that says, “GO DEEPER,” at the top of the page. Then click the link that says “TWO WAYS TO LIVE” to explore what it means to have a relationship with God through Jesus Christ.
You will also find on our website a link to Barbara Rainey’s resources—the Ever Thine Home series of resources that she has created.
Go to FamilyLifeToday.com. Click the link that says, “GO DEEPER,” and then click on the link for Ever Thine Home to find out what Barbara has been working on. You may want to get some of these resources in your home this spring and use them to help disciple your children and to have a spiritual focus in your home over the next couple of months.
If you have any questions about what Barbara has been working on, you can also call us, toll-free, at 1-800-FL-TODAY. We can answer any questions you have over the phone, or you can order resources from us by phone. Again, the toll-free number: 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then, the word, “TODAY.”
Now, I think about our objective, here at FamilyLife. Our goal is to provide practical biblical help for marriages and families. We want to thank those of you who share that goal with us—those of you who make these daily radio programs possible—that is those of you who support this ministry, financially.
We are listener-supported. It’s your contributions that keep FamilyLife Today on this station and on our network of stations all across the country.
If you can help with a donation right now, we’d like to say, “Thank you,” by sending you a copy of Dennis and Barbara Rainey’s devotional guide for couples. It’s called Moments with You. It gives you a daily devotional that you can read through together, as husband and wife, some suggestions of how you can pray together, a Scripture you can consider each day. It’s our gift to you, in the new year, as you help support this ministry.
Go to FamilyLifeToday.com to make a donation online. Click the box in the upper right- hand corner that says, “I CARE,” to make an online donation. Or call 1-800-FL-TODAY. You can make your donation over the phone—just mention that you’d like the Moments with You devotional when you call to make a donation. Or you can mail a donation to FamilyLife Today at PO Box 7111, Little Rock, AR; and our zip code is 72223.
Again, request the Moments with You devotional when you get in touch with us; and we’ll be happy to send a copy to you.
And I hope you can join us back again tomorrow when we’re going to hear about the season in Barbara Rainey’s life when she had to ask herself the question, “Could it be that God has gifted me with singleness?—that I might be single for the rest of my life?” We’ll hear how she dealt with that issue tomorrow. Hope you can tune in for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.
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