FamilyLife Today® Podcast

The Power of Feeling Seen: David & Meg Robbins

with Amberly Neese, Dane Ortlund, David and Meg Robbins, Don Everts, Shelby Abbott | December 29, 2023
Play Pause

Explore the power of "I see you" in relationships, with FamilyLife President David Robbins and his wife Meg, along with Real Life Loading... host Shelby Abbott. They explore groundbreaking insights from top 2023 guests like Ted Lowe, Dane Ortlund, Don Everts and Amberly Neese.

  • Show Notes

  • About the Host

  • About the Guest

  • 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.

Explore the power of “I see you” in relationships, with FamilyLife President David Robbins and his wife Meg, along with Real Life Loading… host Shelby Abbott. They explore groundbreaking insights from top 2023 guests like Ted Lowe, Dane Ortlund, Don Eve

MP3 Download Transcript

The Power of Feeling Seen: David & Meg Robbins

With Amberly Neese, Dane Ortlund,...more
December 29, 2023
| Download Transcript PDF

Amberly: “Hi, you don’t know me, but I’ve just about run myself out of gas, and I’m embarrassed that I’ve let the car go this long without gas. Is there any way--?” I said, “I have $25. Is there any way that you could go to the gas station a mile away and get a gas can and come back?” The first thing she said, which was so glorious is, “Oh, girl! We’ve all been there before!”


Shelby: Welcome to FamilyLife Today, where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I’m Shelby Abbott, and your hosts are Dave and Ann Wilson. You can find us at

Ann: This is FamilyLife Today!

Shelby: We are here in the studio with four very special people, starting with Ann Wilson and Meg Robbins. [Laughter]

David: Let’s start it out right!

Dave: Ann and Meg Robbins!

Shelby: The most important!

Dave: I love it! [Laughter]

Shelby: And then—

Ann: —oh, wait!

Meg: Yes, ladies first!

Shelby: Equally most important—

Dave: —we’re done!

Shelby: —and then, those other guys: Dave Wilson and David Robbins.

David: We’re here.

Ann: They’re pretty great, too.

Shelby: President of FamilyLife.

David: We would totally agree with that introduction. Well done!

Dave: No question!

Shelby: Well, this is special, because it’s our final episode of 2023.

Dave: Wow!

Shelby: Can you believe it?

David: Here it is!

Ann and Meg: Wow!

David: What a year!

Shelby: We all just need to do a collective [exhale]. We’ve been, over the last few weeks, having some “best of” shows. Today is going to be some of our “best of” from the past year, in 2023, under the banner of “I see you.” So, in this final episode—

Ann: —oh, this is going to be fun!

Shelby: Yes, it’s going to be good. We’re going to highlight some of our best moments that, basically, communicate God says to you: “I see you,” and you can say it to those around you as well.

I want to kick it off with some fascinating research from Ted Lowe, showing the importance of this “I see you” concept for a healthy marriage. Let’s listen:

[Recorded message]

Ted: The research is so clear about this, and this study is actually 10-12 years old. There was a group of psychologists that said, “Hey, it feels like we do a lot of research on couples that are struggling, and then we basically say, “Don’t do that,” or “Do the opposite of that.”

Dave: Yes, yes.

Ted: They said, “Well, wait a minute! What if a great marriage is not the opposite of one that’s struggling? What if it’s different, like everything else?” You know, a great church is not the opposite of one that’s struggling; it’s different. A great football coach is not the opposite of one that’s struggling; they’re different!

So, they did an enormous study in the United States and the United Kingdom, and they came back, and they said, “It turns out, our hunch was correct.” Because [for] the ones that were struggling, the commonality was, “I don’t feel understood.” So, everybody went, “Oh! Well, communication, communication, communication! You’ve got to have a firm grasp of reality in strengths and weaknesses!” Which would make sense. They said, “That’s logical, but that’s wrong!”

The only common denominator in couples that reported the highest level of marital satisfaction—they were basically given a spousal report card and told, “Rank your spouse,” in categories like generosity, kindness, and loyalty. And the ones that were happiest were the ones who ranked their spouse highest in every category than their spouse had ranked themselves. So, I think it’s made up of, you know, “If you could only see you like I see you!”


Shelby: So, Ann, you do this, I think, really well—

Dave: —she is the greatest!

Shelby: —encouraging your husband. I want you to talk a little bit about how you view Dave with this.

Ann: I think Dave is incredible! He could do anything! I think he’s one of the most gifted people on the entire planet. He’s athletic; he’s a skilled communicator—

Dave: —keep going! I like this. This is good! [Laughter]

Ann: —he’s passionate; he’s a great leader; but here’s one of the things I love about you, too: you see me [as] way better than I am! You’ll say things to me like, “Oh, you’re so good at this!” I’m like, “No, I’m not.” [Dave]: “You look like this.” [Ann] “No, I don’t.” [Dave] “You can do this.” [Ann] “No, I can’t.”

Dave: This is every day. [Laughter]

David: Check that out.

Dave: Every day at our house!

Ann: You have given me so much more confidence because I’d probably be under the table most days, because I don’t think I can do things; but you’ve instilled in me this confidence that, with Jesus, I can do all things. And I think that’s biblical, too.

You are gifted at that, and I don’t think anybody believes in me or cheers for me more than you do.

Dave: Well, it’s honest. I mean, I’m sitting in this seat right here because of you. I know that! You’re an amazing, amazing woman.

I mean, we could do this all day. Do you want us to keep going? [Laughter]

Shelby: Yes! I just love how real you guys are with one another, and you take the time, on the air, to encourage one another. There are so many moments where, I’m sure, guests just stop talking and get captivated by your playful conversation with one another, your honest conversation.

Anyone listening could see how you guys treat one another as spouses and see the example of “I see you.” You do a great job, and I love that about you two.

Dave: And I would just add this thought for our listeners: that’s a choice that you have to make as a married husband or wife.

Meg: Yes.

Dave: Make that choice today. Okay, I’m done.

Shelby: So, obviously, this “I see you” theme doesn’t just apply in marriage. It works for parents, too. We wanted to listen to this clip from Dane Ortlund, showing us the power of “I see you” to our children, even though [they’re] so young, they’re still looking up at us from the crib.

[Recorded message]

Dane: I guess one other thought that comes to mind is—and here I’m really thinking of the really young ones. You know, the ones that are looking back at you out of their crib, or you’re feeding them, and they’re flinging the mac ‘n cheese onto the floor. [Laughter] Understand that you as a mom, as a dad, are actually telling them what God is like. You are creating pathways in their mind and heart to be able to receive what God is like. So that, as you rejoice in them and enjoy them—my dad puts it this way: “Our kids receive enjoyment as love”—if you enjoy them, they receive that as love. If you just say, “I love you,” but then you enjoy other things or other people, they don’t actually believe that you love them.

If you enjoy them, if you smile at them, if you rejoice over them, they will grow up to believe that the love and grace of God is a believable reality, because they got it in microcosm from an actual flesh and blood individual. It must be very hard for orphans or others who grow up, anyone who grows up in a cold home to really believe that “there is a God, a Heavenly Father, who’s not like my father.” So, let’s be dads and moms who make the real God believable [Laughter] by the way we love them and the tone and culture we set in the home. 

Dave: Yes. Dane, when you said that, all I could see was a smile.

Dane: Yes.

Ann: Yes.

Dave: And I thought, “Grace is a smile.”

Dane: Bingo! I love that.

Dave: You know, if they’re walking in made and they’re frustrated, if you can just muster up a smile—

Dane: —yes.

Dave: —that’s what He’s doing when He sees us.

Ann: Yes.

Dave: I know we don’t believe that!

Dane: No.

Ann: Every time!

Dave: In the middle of our sin, He’s like, “I’m still smiling. I still love you.”

Dane: Yes.

Dave: “I still praise you. I know what you’ve done, and it doesn’t change anything!” It’s like, “How is that possible?” If we could communicate that!

Ann: That’s the beauty of the gospel.

Dave: I’ll tell you what [Ann], you do that!

Ann: You do that.

Dave: No, you do that!

Dane: You both do that. [Laughter]

Shelby: You know, even as that clip was going, Ann, you leaned over to Dave and patted him on the hand like, “Aw, you do that.” He was like, “You do that.” You were like double-time in doing that! [Laughter] That was amazing!

Dave: That’s a little embarrassing.

Shelby: You do that inception. It was happening. [Laughter]

Ann: But isn’t that a great thought? That we are telling our kids—or a scary thought? We’re telling our kids what God is like by the way we treat them and look at them.

Meg: Whew! That’s a big responsibility.

Ann: Right?

Meg: Yes, and I think in some ways, it’s kind of freeing, too, because we know that we don’t do that perfectly.

Ann: Right.

Meg: And God is bigger than the times we don’t smile at our kids when they need us to smile at them. When we remember that God is smiling at us—Dave, you said that, and I thought it was so on point: “Grace is a smile.”

Ann: Me, too.

Meg: When we are messing up, my tendency is to think that God is so disappointed with me.

Ann: Yes.

Meg: He’s probably frowning and has His arms crossed; but He doesn’t. He still has arms wide open, and He’s still smiling and embracing me. Can I turn around and reflect that to my kids, even when they’re choosing the disappointing thing or whatever it may be?

Ann: And even if we have failed in the way we’ve responded to their mess up, we can still go back and apologize. And that’s God smiling again by offering grace.

Meg: Right! It’s never too late to go back with that smile—

Ann: —exactly!

Meg: —and open arms.

David: The way you guys just talked about that helps me think [about] how I’m relating to my own shame I feel with the Lord—

Ann: —oh, yes.

David: —and running to Him; He’s smiling on me! His grace is limitless as I run to Him in repentance. Do I process that enough, where I’m able to pass that down in such free-flowing form, because I’m able to look at my child and say, “Oh, buddy! I know that I’m disciplining you right now, but you need to know my grace is unlimited, because I have a God! Man, I disobey too often—”

Shelby: —yes.

David: —“and I have a God who gives so much grace to me. Let me tell you how He gave me grace this week.” We’re able to pass that on so powerfully if we’re processing our own shame, of our own sin, well with the Lord.

Ann: We don’t need to keep punishing ourselves.

David: Yes.

Ann: He’s already been punished for us.

David: Yes.

Shelby: That’s really beautifully said. It’s the gospel!

Ann: It is the gospel!

Shelby: And, Dave, you know that we care about those relationships with one another—in marriages, with kids, with our friends—and we want to invite people to be part of that.

Dave: I’m honestly hoping that a listener is seeing the smile of God right now. Here’s often what we think—that God thinks this: “I’m disappointed in you. I’m going to get you for that.” Dane reminded us that grace is God’s smile, and I think that’s basically what we do at FamilyLife Today every day. We sort of want to bring the smile of God to warm up your soul and to warm up your home.

If you’re grateful for that, you can donate to FamilyLife online. And I don’t know if you understand this or not, but we can’t do what we do unless you jump in and become our partners. It brings a smile back to us to say, “I want to be part of the team at FamilyLife that makes this possible.” You can become a financial partner, and this month, your donation is doubled. So, why not smile about that and say, “I’m in! I want to be a part of this.” Give today. Shelby will tell you how, but let me tell you: you’re going to change not only your life, but somebody else’s life as well.

Shelby: Yes, and the beautiful part is, every dollar you give will be matched dollar-for-dollar. So, if you give $25, it turns into 50; if you give $250, it turns into 500. It’s just an incredible blessing from Jesus. You can go online to with your donation, or give us a call at 800-358-6329; again, that’s 800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”

Well, today’s theme is “I see you,” and we’ve been talking about the power of this within our homes. It’s important with our spouse, as we’ve been talking about; it’s important with our kids; but the reality is, it’s also important outside our four walls with our friends and our neighbors. You know, I think we’re all aware there’s anxiety, isolation, and discouragement all around us. You’ve no doubt witnessed that.

When someone in your corner of the world feels discouraged, or a little worthless, they may just need a kind voice like yours to say, “Hey, I see you and I get you.” Here’s an example of that with Don Everts:

[Recorded message]


Don: We need other people to help us see gifts that we have. There’s something about relationship. Giftedness thrives in relationship and in community.

I think of my mom. Anywhere I go with my mom—a waiter, a waitress; it doesn’t matter where we are—she stops, and she says, “You’re really good at what you do. Thank you for doing it.”

Dave: That’s my wife!

Don: Yes, Ann’s like that, too, right?

Dave: Yes!

Don: When I was a kid, that embarrassed me. [Laughter]

Dave: Right.

Don: I was like, “Mom! We’re at the store. Don’t get into those conversations!”

Dave: Yes.

Don: And I look at it differently now. You know what? I’m trying to do it more myself.

Dave: Yes.

Don: I’m having my mom rub off on me, and I’m saying to people, “You’re really good at what you do. Thank you for doing that.” A lot of people don’t understand their gifts, because the things they’re gifted at come easily to them.

Ann: Oh, that’s a good point.

Don: And in the same way that we all assume everyone thinks the way we do (which leads to a lot of communication problems), we all assume people feel like we do. So, “It must be easy for everyone to do this. That’s not a gift. That’s easy!”

It’s when we interact with other people, and they say, “Man, the way you encourage people!” You know, you hear that enough times, and you’re thinking, “Maybe not everyone has it come that easily to be encouraging. Maybe that’s a gift of mine. Maybe I need to take that more seriously. Am I being a full steward of that?” But that comes from having people point things out.



Shelby: Yes, I love this! We need to be in community. Isolation is our enemy, and Don went on to say, later on in that clip, that three percent of the entire population feel they have zero gifts, and the only common thread among those people who thought that was being isolated from others. So, if you’re isolated, you’ll start to believe that you don’t have anything to contribute to the world.

David, how do you respond to that?

David: When I heard that statistic, I started thinking about all the statistics now, that most of us are pretty familiar with, around the loneliness epidemic we’re in, and the Surgeon General’s warning. There’s a reality that, “Okay, we are wired to give and take; to interact together; and to bring out the best of each other.” We need one another, especially in the body of Christ!

It is declared in 1 Corinthians that we are part of a body. The foot needs the hand needs the arm. We all are meant to work together. If we are buying into the lie that we can live this on our own; if we are tempted to believe, “Well, I’ll get reconnected to community down the line.” If we are drawn to just put our head down and crank it out, and not pause and be willing to engage with other people, even though the “to do” list might not get done for now, we’re really setting ourselves up, not only for loneliness and isolation, but then, that double whammy of our gifts not being called out and affirmed and seen.

We will not see ourselves perfectly. We need other people to be able to call out the gifts God has given us in one another. That combo can get really lethal, especially in this season right now, where loneliness is spiraling out of control.

Shelby: Yes. Meg, how have you seen that play out in your life?

Meg: Well, I think even just the reality of social media and how you can forget truths about yourself. I loved when he said the things that you’re gifted at are so natural to you, that you think they’re easy, and they’re probably easy for everyone; so, you don’t see that as a gift. I think things like social media can draw our attention toward other people, and we can become jealous of what they’re doing, or see, really, a non-realistic picture of what we think their life is like.

You can start to look at yourself and think, “I don’t have that. I wish I could do that,” or whatever it may be. It’s just a good reminder that we need to call out in others the gifts that we see in them, because we need to be reminded of that. I mean, it’s unfortunate that we don’t see ourselves the way that God sees us most of the time. I mean, it’s a choice that we can choose to believe who He says that we are and walk in that. But I think sometimes we do need people to come alongside us and say, “Hey, I see this in you, and this is something to celebrate,” to be reminded and centered on the sweet gift of who God is and that He gives us gifts that reflect Him to others.

Shelby: Now, before our final clip, let me just say, on behalf of our listeners, to Dave and Ann: I want to thank you guys so much for this past year. What an amazing 2023 it’s been here on FamilyLife Today. You guys crush it on every single episode, and it’s a privilege to get to do this, isn’t it? Isn’t this just a fun job for you guys?

Ann: Yes, it’s so fun; and for you, too, Shelby. We love and appreciate you and all you do.

Shelby: Thank you.

We’re going to stick the landing here with, maybe, the funniest person on our program this entire year—

Ann: —yes!

Shelby: —Amberly Neese, who described a time when she was feeling unseen, and the kindness of a total stranger made all the difference in the world. Listen to this:

[Recorded message]

Amberly: I just took a cross-country tour to visit my daughter, and it was fantastic! But on the way back, I was on I-40. It was beautiful! And I’m in a car that I have not owned a whole year, and I’ve never gone below 50 miles to empty. I am looking at the map, and it says that I’m 15 miles away from a gas station, and I have 20 miles left. It’s the dog and me, and we’re going, we’re going; it goes 19 miles to empty, 18 miles to empty, four miles to empty!

Ann: Whoa.

Amberly: And the gas station is five miles away. So, I pulled over before the car actually ran out of gas, because I thought, “I’d rather be at a place that’s safe.” There was a little gift shop in the middle of nowhere. Tumbleweeds; the whole nine yards! It was literally like this was a CSI episode waiting to happen. Here I am, and I pull over; but we’re going to be fine. The lady says, “I can’t help you. I’m here by myself.”

So, I walk outside, and there are some patrons who had just gotten soda pop, or whatever they got at the store, and I said, “Hi, you don’t know me, but I’ve just about run myself out of gas, and I’m embarrassed that I’ve let the car go this long without gas. Is there any way--?” I said, “I have $25. Is there any way that you could go to the gas station a mile away and get a gas can and come back?” The first thing she said, which was so glorious is, “Oh, girl! We’ve all been there before!” [Laughter]

I’ve never wanted to hug a stranger so much in my whole life. And twelve minutes later—I have a new gas can if you need one. I’ve got you! [Laughter] But what I told my husband was (once I got over the initial shock that she was so glorious): that’s my job as a believer; to say to more people, “I see you stranded. I see your struggle.” And let’s be honest! It took her 12 minutes out of her busy day. She probably was busy, but she was willing to take the time.

The question for you and me, as believers, is: are we willing to leave the comfort of our schedules and our agendas long enough to see people who are on the roadside asking for help? She could have said, “You’re an idiot!” and I would have deserved it. She didn’t. She started with, “Oh, girl!”

Ann: “Oh, girl!”

Amberly: “We’ve all been there.” Just practicing more of that, I feel like New Testament churches—we wouldn’t have enough pews if more of us were willing to say, “Oh, girl! I see you.”

Ann: Yes.

Amberly: “We’ve all done it. We’ve all been there.” And then lead them to hope.


Shelby: Ann, how much does your heart leap when you hear Amberly say that phrase: “Oh, girl! We’ve all been there?”

Ann: I mean, every single woman resonates with that. [Laughter] If another woman says, “Oh, girl. I’ve been there. Oh, girl! I’ve done that. Oh, girl! I get where you are,” yes! I’ve talked to so many women, of all ages, who will come up to me and say, “Oh, girl! I’ve been right where you are. I’ve been right where you’ve been.”

That is like, “Thank you that you’re hearing us!” A lot of them will say, “I work out with you, Dave, and Shelby every single day.” I’m like, “What? Oh!”

Dave: Yes, it sounds weird.

Ann: But that resonates with me because I want people around me who aren’t perfect; but man, we’re pursuing Jesus. We’re not doing it in a way that’s really glorious, because we’re falling along the way, and skipping, and falling again, and getting up. But we help each other up and that is glorious!

Dave: We ran into a girl not too long ago, and she said—

Ann: —yes.

Dave: —to Ann, she said: “I listened to this one program you did”—it was a program Ann did about speaking life to your husband; she said—“I listened to it once a week for the entire year.”

Shelby: Oh, wow.

Ann: I said, “Are you kidding?!”

Dave: Yes.

Ann: She said, “No. Every Friday, I’d put it in and listen, like, ‘I’m going to need it for the weekend.’” Every week!

Dave: Yes; she said, “Oh, girl! I’ve been where you’ve been, and I needed to be reminded every week for 52 weeks.” That’s how crucial some of the things we talk about are. This thing that we just talked about today with Amberly—that is so us! That’s all of us.

Shelby: “I see you.”

Ann: Meg, it’s so fun! The guys have been talking about giving. Let’s you and I talk to the ladies in the house.

Meg: Let’s do it!

Ann: Because I feel like, so often, there are women, wives, and moms that are listening, and you’re resonating with what we’re saying: “Jesus loves you.” And I’m just going to appeal to your hearts. We need you. We need you to partner with us, and I really hope you’ll consider giving this year. Be a partner with us!

Meg: Yes; I’m actually one of those people that, when I work out, I listen to y’all. [Laughter] I really do! It’s like you’re working out with me. But honestly, I think we can both sit here and say we’ve been deeply impacted by guests who’ve been on here today.

Ann: Yes!

Meg: And [by] things that we’ve heard and processed. We just want to remind you that FamilyLife Today is a listener-supported ministry. Everything that happens—everything that you hear—is brought to you by people who say, “I want to be part of this! I want to be part of bringing the hope of Jesus to others.”

As December closes out, this will be the last opportunity to give and have your gift doubled. We have had very generous donors who have offered to give a matching gift, which means if you give $50 today, that turns into 100. Or if you give $300 today, it turns into 600 right away. So, we just want to invite you to be a part of this with us by joining us financially.

Ann: And we love you! We thank you for listening. It’s an honor that you’re partnering with us; you’re listening; and Jesus is transforming all of us.

Shelby: If you have already given—if you’ve donated, we want to say “thank you” so much for making FamilyLife Today possible. You’re bringing real help to hurting families, and we want to ask you to please continue to bring programming like this to so many families around the world. Now is not the time to give up! Families need the hope of Jesus, and God wants to use this program to make that happen.

You can go online to with your donation. Make a donation there, or you can give us a call at 800-258-6329; again, that’s 800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”  Or feel free to drop us something in the mail if you’d like. Our address is FamilyLife, 100 Lake Hart Drive, Orlando, FL 32832.

On behalf of Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Shelby Abbott. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.

FamilyLife Today is a donor-supported production of FamilyLife®, a Cru® Ministry.

Helping you pursue the relationships that matter most.


We are so happy to provide these transcripts to you. However, there is a cost to produce them for our website. If you’ve benefited from the broadcast transcripts, would you consider donating today to help defray the costs? 

Copyright © 2023 FamilyLife. All rights reserved.