FamilyLife Today® Podcast

The Bridge That Love Built

with Dennis and Barbara Rainey | December 5, 2018
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Family experts Dennis and Barbara Rainey encourage moms and dads to be intentional in their parenting, being especially careful to demonstrate unconditional love and grace as they pursue their children's hearts. Parents also need to make forgiveness part of their family's DNA, modeling godly sorrow and repentance.

  • Show Notes

  • About the Host

  • About the Guest

  • Family experts Dennis and Barbara Rainey encourage moms and dads to be intentional in their parenting, being especially careful to demonstrate unconditional love and grace as they pursue their children's hearts. Parents also need to make forgiveness part of their family's DNA, modeling godly sorrow and repentance.

  • 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.

Dennis and Barbara Rainey encourage moms and dads to be intentional in their parenting, being especially careful to demonstrate unconditional love and grace as they pursue their children’s hearts.

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The Bridge That Love Built

With Dennis and Barbara Rainey
December 05, 2018
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Bob: All of us, as parents, want our children to be able to form healthy relationships as they grow up. Dennis Rainey says, for that to happen, moms and dads need to know how to skillfully pursue a strong relationship with each of their children.

Dennis: First Corinthians 13 says, if you’ve missed love, you’ve missed life; so these little children that you’re raising, who will become big people, have to be trained in the basics of love. That begins with us as parents. You and I, as parents, are God’s physical arms of love to these little people to tutor them in what love truly means.

Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Wednesday, December 5th. Our host is Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. Don’t assume that your children are going to be naturally good at forming strong, healthy relationships; that’s a bad assumption. They need your help to know how to develop those kinds of skills.


We’ll talk more about that today. Stay with us.

And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. You know, when I think back on all of the things that Mary Ann and I thought about—in terms of “These are things we need to make sure we teach our children,”—I don’t know that it ever dawned on us that one of the things we needed to teach our children was how to be good at relationships. I don’t know that that was ever a conscious thought—that teaching them how to be good at relationships was something we would need to do. I guess we just thought: “Well, that just happens,”—right?—“You grow up, and you’re good at relationships.”

Dennis: Right. And you’re supposed to know how to do it naturally; right? I want to ask my bride, Barbara—we just celebrated our 46 years of marriage,—


Bob: Congratulations, by the way.

Barbara: Thank you, sir.

Dennis: —and we had six kids that are all married now: “Go back to the beginning. Did you and I ever have a conscious—we probably had some, when we were unconscious, raising kids—[Laughter]—Did we ever have a conscious thought about training our kids to love others?”

Barbara: Not early on, but I remember having conscious thoughts about it when sibling rivalry was at its peak; because then I’m thinking, “Oh my; I have to teach these kids how to relate to each other.”

Bob: —“how not to kill each other.”

Barbara: Yes; so it was defensive.

Bob: I do remember that—that you have to teach them how to get along with one another and, maybe, how to get along with kids on the playground. But again, the whole idea that relationship training is a part of a parent’s responsibility—I think that’s one of the big ideas I think you guys have captured in your book, The Art of Parenting. It’s what we’re going to spend time talking about on today’s program.

Dennis: You know, you never know, Bob, who’s listening to the broadcast. I had a young lady come up to me in Boulder, Colorado, this past summer—


she said: “I grew up in Southern California. In the backseat of our car, as my mom would be driving me to school, I’d be listening to FamilyLife Today.” [Laughter] She said, “I listened to it for years—all the way through elementary school, junior high, high school. Then I kind of left the faith.”

She said: “I went to Stanford, and I kind of lost my way; but graduated—came out the other side—and was listening to FamilyLife Today again when it got my attention. It was like, ‘I need to come back to what I had heard.’” She said: “I’m not married. I have a couple of kids. All that training—all that training I heard—as a little girl, growing up—is now paying off for me, as a mom. I just want to say, ‘Thank you to FamilyLife Today for doing what you do.’”

Bob: Well, you know who we need to say, “Thank you,” to—

Dennis: I do!

Bob: —the people, who have made this program possible over the years.

Dennis: That’s what I want to say to our listeners right now: “Would you make this broadcast possible to another little girl like that?”—


—“maybe to their mom and dad,—maybe to a couple, who are engaged, who need to go to a Weekend to Remember®,” You’ve heard about it here, so you know how to get them there; but to do that, we need folks, like you, standing with us, financially, with generous gifts, here at yearend. Over 40 percent of our donations come in in the next 30 days, and those 30 days make the other 11 months possible.

Bob: Yes; that’s right.

Dennis: Would you stand with us? I’m serious. I’ve been doing this now for 27 years, and none of your money is sticking to my fingers—trust me. It’s all going in to provide help and hope—biblical help and hope—for marriages and families, all across the country, and around the world.

Bob: Well, and here’s why right now is a really good time for you to make a yearend donation. We have some friends of the ministry, who have come along, and offered to match every donation that we receive, as a ministry, between now and the end of the year, dollar for dollar, up to a total of $2.5 million. You make a $50 donation; we get $50 from the matching fund.


You make a $100 donation; we get $100. We’re hoping to take full advantage of this matching-gift opportunity. That’s why we’re asking you, as a listener, to be as generous as you can possibly be, here at yearend, and help us head into 2019 fully ready to take on the challenges that are in front of us, as a ministry.

If you can help with a donation right now, we’d like to say, “Thank you,” by sending you a gift. Several months ago, FamilyLife® had our first feature film—a movie called Like Arrows in movie theaters. That movie is not yet available for purchase on DVD, but we have a limited supply of the DVDs that we’re making available to those of you who make a yearend donation. Again, it’s our thank-you gift when you go to and make an online donation or when you call 1-800-FL-TODAY to donate. Again, we appreciate your support of this ministry and your partnership with us, here, on FamilyLife Today.


Now, we’re talking about big ideas in parenting. This idea of helping your child know how to do relationships—this is key for parents to get their heads around.

Dennis: It’s one of four big ideas that we want to challenge parents with. What I compare these four with is reading, writing, and arithmetic to education. Those are the basics; those are the fundamentals. If you know how to do reading, writing, arithmetic, you can be fairly well-educated. Well, in raising kids, there are four biblical issues/big biblical issues. What I want to encourage—what Barbara and I want to challenge parents to do is establish the target. Know what you’re aiming for; you might just hit it. So the reading, writing, and arithmetic of parenting are these four.

Where we’re going to start today—relationships—Bob has already talked about that.


Second one—character—this is helping your kid be wise and not a fool: choosing right and not wrong, not destroying his or her life.

Third area is identity—spiritual identity: we’re made in God’s image; sexual identity: “Male and female created He them.” You’re helping your kids determine: “What does it mean to be a boy?” “What does it mean to be a girl?” and “What are the distinctives there?”

Number four—mission—teach your child he was made for a mission. Psalm 127, verses 3 through 5, says children are a blessing—they’re a reward; they’re a heritage—but they are also “Like arrows in the hand of a warrior…” You, as a parent—and we’ll talk more about this when we talk about mission later—you, as a parent, are compared to a warrior.


And if you’ve never felt that in this culture, you’ve had your head in the sand; because you are battling for the next generation. Your children/your arrows are in your hand. How are you going to help them head to the right goal in the midst of so many confusing targets that are being thrown at them?

Bob: I preached a sermon at our church recently. I said, “We tend to think of the big story of the Bible around the four themes of creation, and fall, and redemption, and then consummation.” People have heard those categories before; but I said: “What’s common in all four of those periods—creation, fall, redemption, and consummation—what’s common is the big idea of relationship.

“In creation, we were related in perfect harmony with God and with each other. In the fall, our relationship with God was broken; and our relationship with each other was messed up. In redemption, what was broken is put back together and repaired; and so we begin to re-cultivate a relationship with God and with one another.


“And in consummation, it’s a perfectly-restored relationship that lasts for eternity.”

The idea of healthy, relational functioning—the idea of the fact that we have good relationships is central to God’s design for humanity.

Barbara: Yes.

Dennis: I want to talk about relationships, and I want to use an illustration to do it. A Christian leader, that will remain unnamed, had just completed a 14-city book tour. He was on his way back home when he found a note that he was to have lunch with a person, who had won the bidding contest for having lunch with him after the tour was over. But he wasn’t surprised at all that somebody had spend $500 in the bidding contest for lunch with him.


What surprised him most was that the person, who won the bidding, was his daughter. She wanted to have lunch with Daddy—she wanted a relationship with him. I think we forget our children were made for relationship. As Bob said earlier, they were made to be trained how to do this right.

If you think about the great commandment—when Jesus was asked, “What’s the greatest of all the commandments?” what did He say? “Love God; love others,”—it’s all about love. You go over to the Book of 1 Corinthians, Chapter 13 and what did Paul say?—he said: “If I speak with the tongues of men and angels but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have prophetic powers and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have faith so as to remove mountains but have not love”—listen to these words/three words—“I am nothing.”


First Corinthians 13 says, if you’ve missed love, you’ve missed life; so these little children that you’re raising, who will become big people, have to be trained in the basics of love. That begins with us, as parents. You and I, as parents, are God’s physical arms of love to these little people to tutor them in what love truly means.

Bob: And Barbara, our kids are not naturally good at relationships any more than we are naturally good at relationships; because when we rebel against God—when we reject Him and say, “I’ll be my own authority,”—that puts all of our relationships out of whack. Ultimately, for us to have healthy relationships, we have to have our relationship with God realigned. But as we raise the next generation, we just need to recognize our kids are not going to naturally and instinctively be good at loving one another; right?


Barbara: Yes; and I think that’s one of the things that was so hard for me, as a mom, is that I expected more of my children than they were capable of giving. I think that’s true, universally, because it would be so much easier for me, as a mom, if they would get it sooner and become mature quicker. But children are children, and it takes time for them to learn these lessons over and over again; because they’re born selfish, just like we are. That training and teaching them: how to have a good relationship, how to ask for forgiveness, how to apologize when they’ve made mistakes, how to restore the relationship—that is the kind of teaching that has to be repeated over, and over, and over, and over, and over again.

It wears us out, as parents; but it is the goal—is teaching them how to have good relationships and realizing that it takes the entire 18 years that they’re in your home for them to develop the kind of competence in relationships that will serve them well as they become adults.


Bob: The starting place for all of this with your kids—and this is one of the things you say in the book I think is so helpful—our kids need a healthy, loving, strong, connected relationship with us.

Dennis: Yes; yes.

Barbara: Right.

Bob: That creates in them an awareness of what strong relationships are all about—a thirst for those kinds of relationships to be a part of their life. This is where, in the early years, moms and dads need to be focusing on building the kind of relationship with their kids that their kids—well, they want to spend $500 to have lunch with Daddy; because they crave that relationship.

Dennis: And in the book, we compare loving your child to building a bridge. Now, think about a bridge for a moment. A bridge is something that is built across obstacles—it may be a river, it may be a canyon, could be a forest—


—but a bridge connects two different sections of land to each other so that traffic can go back and forth.

With parents, you are given the assignment by God to, first of all, build the lanes across the bridge to your child’s heart; okay? The way you do that—we have three ways/three lanes that you build. Number one: You love your child unconditionally. Number two: You pursue your child. Number three: You make forgiveness a part of your family’s DNA.

Let me tell you something—if this bridge goes up, and it doesn’t have the third lane, the first and second are going to be crossed out by people disappointing each other. What you’re doing, as a parent, is—you’re training your kids to know how to love an imperfect person.

Bob: And these three lanes—unconditional love, pursuit, and then forgiveness—these are lanes that you may establish early, but there are roadblocks that go up all during adolescence/pre-adolescence.


We have to keep those lanes clear, because they can get clogged over time; can’t they?

Barbara: Yes. And this is where parents have to be parents—they have to be mature; they have to be the wiser one and not drop down to your child’s level. Really, what we’re doing, as moms and dads, is—we’re modeling God’s love. We’re showing our kids what God’s love looks like.

Dennis: And I’ll tell you—here’s the surprise in all of this. This is very simple. I thought, at the beginning, God gave us six kids to raise them. He, in essence, gave us six kids to help us grow up and learn how to love truly—a truly Agape love that loves another person, despite their attitude/their behavior.

I want to tell you—when they were teenagers, they would mud-wrestle. They’d try to get you in the mud-hole with them and mud-wrestle with emotions. What you have to do is love them enough not to get in the mud-hole.


Bob: Yes; and here’s the key takeaway, I think, here in the area of unconditional love: When your children experience consequences/when they experience discipline for bad decisions—and they’re going to; they’re going to have to be disciplined; they’re going to have to get some time-outs or some privileges taken away—but what they should never experience in that is any sense that their relationship with you—

Dennis: Yes; the bridge can’t go down.

Bob: —has been threatened at all.

Barbara: Yes; yes.

Bob: They have to be able to go to bed at night, going, “Okay; I got what I deserved, but Mom and Dad still love me.”

Barbara: Yes; that’s exactly right.

Bob: Yes.

Dennis: And that’s where the pursuit of the child comes in. Pursuing them when they want to talk is not always going to be convenient, but you go to their room. If you have one of those moments, you pursue them and you just build that bridge. You just pursue them and let them know—and then you praise them, believe in them, especially if they’re filled with self-doubt.


And by the way, most teenage boys and girls are filled with all kinds of self-doubt. They need Mom and Dad to fiercely, fiercely believe in them—

Barbara: Agreed.

Dennis: —and to keep expressing those words.

Bob: You guys were hugely busy with what was going on in the ministry as you were raising your kids. You had six kids. I’m thinking: “One-on-one interaction with each of the six kids”—you know—“did that happen like once a quarter?” [Laughter]

Dennis: How do you spell “Loser”? I felt like a loser most of the time as we were raising our kids.

Bob: But you tried to be purposeful there, to say: “Okay; I need time—I haven’t had time with this child for awhile. I have to get some time away,”—whether it’s go to the hardware store together, or we go out for ice cream together, or we—you just tried to make sure that you were getting some one-on-one time with each of your kids all the way through the process; right?

Barbara: Well, and sometimes it’s just going into their room at night and getting next to that child’s bed and talking to that child.


I think another thing that’s really important, too, in pursuing is praying specifically for that child, by name, with him or her; because there’s something about being prayed for that makes you feel loved and cared for. All the way through their years, we would go into their rooms at night—and all of them always shared a room, so they weren’t really ever alone in their room when we did this—but we go to their bed and we would talk to that one child, eye to eye; and we would pray for that one child, eye to eye. We didn’t do it every single night, but we did it a lot. Even those two or three minutes of one-on-one time at night in their bedroom before they turned off their light I think is also an investment that’s important.

Dennis: We have to get to the third lane.

Bob: Forgiveness?

Dennis: Forgiveness. We have to get there, because it’s the core of how God relates to us: “…forgiving one another just as God in Christ forgave you.” Listen to me, parents—


—your assignment is to communicate the forgiveness of God, practically, in all the different ways they disappoint you. In the many foul-ups and the many failures, you are modeling something that is supernatural.

I have to share this quote by an unlikely source: Anne Lamont. Listen to this statement she makes about forgiveness: “Earth is forgiveness school. You might as well start at the dinner table; that way, you can do this work in comfortable pants.” [Laughter] Isn’t that a great quote?!

Bob: It is.

Dennis: Start at the dinner table; because you can do the work of forgiveness and feel comfortable, in a family, doing it.

Bob: And as you said, over and over again, part of the whole forgiveness equation is modeling for our children what it looks like to seek forgiveness when we’ve done wrong so that they can then know how to seek forgiveness when they’ve done wrong.


This whole idea of, not just granting forgiveness to our kids when they’ve disobeyed, but showing them, when we mess up, we need forgiveness as well—and I know that’s a part of the dynamic.

I’m thinking about what you shared in the Art of Parenting video series, where one Thanksgiving you sat down with your kids and you had to ask for their forgiveness for how you had been harsh and critical with them.

Barbara: Yes, yes; that was a real milestone, I think, in our family. Dennis and I made it a practice, all the years we were raising our kids, to apologize when we made mistakes. I apologized every day, multiple times, for all kinds of things, to our kids.

But I went through a season of really understanding—God was working in my life, and I was really coming to an understanding that I was really broken and wicked at the core. I wanted my children to understand that it was more than just I made occasional mistakes, here and there; but I wanted them to know that I was a sinner and that I was not—


—I was not infallible. I wanted them to hear me say: “I am really sorry that you have had to experience my sin nature/my old sin nature. I wish that I could have bottled it up, and hidden it more or protected you from it more, but there it is.” I just wanted them to know that I recognized that I was a sinful person, and that living with sinful people is harmful, and I wished I could have done it differently.

Dennis: And at that point, you wept.

Barbara: Oh, yes; yes, I was heartbroken; because I didn’t want to do that to my kids. I didn’t want to harm my children.

Dennis: I don’t think the kids had ever seen you weep.

Barbara: Well, not like that; no—no.

Dennis: But she had a godly sorrow about her sin; and then she asked them, “Will you forgive me?”—

Barbara: Yes.

Dennis: —and went around, person by person.

Barbara: And the great thing about kids is that they are always eager to forgive; because they love Mommy and Daddy, and they want a relationship.

Bob: Yes.


The significance of these three lanes on this bridge can’t be overestimated.

Barbara: Yes; yes.

Bob: While you’re building them, it doesn’t feel as significant; but when the tension comes up/when there’s conflict later on, having these lanes working—unconditional love, and pursuit, and forgiveness—keeps the relationship alive and thriving.

I would hope our listeners would get a copy of your book, The Art of Parenting. It is now available, and you can go online to order at; or call 1-800-FL-TODAY. This is a great book for moms and dads to read together. Again, the title is The Art of Parenting. There’s a DVD series that goes with it that you can use with a small group. The information about the DVD series and the book are available, online, at You can order from us, online; or you can call 1-800-FL-TODAY to order: 1-800-358-6329—that’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”


Now, speaking of The Art of Parenting—this year, we produced a feature film that was a part of the Art of Parenting project. In fact, many of you saw it in theaters, back in May. It’s a movie called Like Arrows. That movie is not yet available for purchase on DVD; it will be available in early spring of 2019.

We do have a limited number of DVDs we’re making available this month to those of you who can help with a yearend donation to support the ministry of FamilyLife Today. As you heard Dennis mention earlier, the need is significant; but so is the opportunity. We have a matching-gift fund of $2.5 million that we’re trying to take full advantage of. Every donation you make, here at yearend, is going to be matched, dollar for dollar, up to that two-and-a-half million dollar total.

If you’re able, go online and donate at or call 1-800-FL-TODAY to donate.


Again, we’ll say, “Thank you,” by sending you a special pre-release DVD of FamilyLife’s movie, Like Arrows. It’s our way of saying, “Thank you for your partnership with us in this ministry.”

And we hope you can be back with us, again, tomorrow when we’re going to talk about one of the very important skills our kids need to learn as they form healthy relationships—and that’s how to seek forgiveness, how to grant forgiveness, how to resolve conflict effectively. We’ll talk about that tomorrow. I hope you can be with us.

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 next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.

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