FamilyLife Today® Podcast


with Ann Wilson, Dave Wilson | February 26, 2019
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There's great value in remembering where you've come from. Dave and Ann share what the Raineys have taught them about marriage through their example, as well as their teaching. Ann's biggest takeaway from the Rainey's life is a great marriage is one that puts the marriage before the children. She shares how they've tried to put that principle into practice. Dave tells what he's learned about making your spouse your main disciple.

  • Show Notes

  • About the Host

  • About the Guest

  • 40 Years of Faithfulness 2 CD set

  • 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.

There’s great value in remembering where you’ve come from. Dave and Ann share what the Raineys have taught them about marriage through their example, as well as their teaching.

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With Ann Wilson, Dave Wilson
February 26, 2019
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Bob: Dave Wilson has had an experience that maybe you’ve had. He has imagined, in his own mind, that Dennis and Barbara Rainey’s marriage and family had to be a whole lot more perfect than his own.

Dave: When we would be with you—even like at a conference or with the speaker team—we would fly home or get in a car; and we get in an argument; right?

Ann: Every time.

Barbara: Every time?

Dave: Every time.

Ann: Every time, we got in a fight.

Dave: And the argument went like this: “Why can’t you be more like Dennis?” “Why can’t we be more like the Raineys?”—thinking you had a family altar; you did this special thing. That’s—you didn’t say that, we just picked that up, like, “Oh, we are so less than that.”

Ann: I think I said things like, “I bet the Raineys just have this Bible study together with their family in a circle.” You know, our kids are throwing things—

Barbara: Oh, gosh.

Ann: —and hitting each other, but it’s what I thought

Barbara: It’s what you imagined.

Ann: —imagined and expected, then, of Dave.

Dave: And then, she laid that on me; so I didn’t even like you Dennis Rainey—like, “I’m not that guy!” [Laughter]

Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Tuesday, February 26th. Our host is Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. Dennis and Barbara Rainey would be the first to tell you their marriage and their family is far from perfect. But we’ve all sure benefited from the wisdom that they’ve shared, over the years, about marriage and family. We’ll hear more about that today. Stay with us.

And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us on the Tuesday edition. I don’t know who to turn to—to start today’s program. Do I turn to you, or do I turn to Dave and Ann?


Dennis: Has he fully taken over yet?

Bob: No; he’s not taken over, so I’ll turn to you.

Dennis: Turn to me then. [Laughter]

Bob: Alright. [Laughter]

Dennis: I’m still the host of FamilyLife Today, at least, for two or three more days—

Dave: Yes; you are.

Dennis: —last time I checked—but the clock is ticking.

Bob: This is a transition week. Some of our listeners may just now be hearing about this, and some of them may be gasping at the fact that a transition is about to occur. But this is something you’ve been laying the groundwork for—for many months/many years, actually.

Dennis: About 15 months ago, Barbara and I stepped out of leadership of FamilyLife®—passed the baton to David and Meg Robbins, who’ve done a great job with FamilyLife and leading it. We’re now passing the baton to Dave and Ann Wilson, who are going to host FamilyLife Today, moving forward. Barbara, you and I are excited about this; aren’t we?

Barbara: Well, we really are. It’s been fun to sort of do these in tandem—to hand off to David and Meg—and to keep our hands and our feet in radio a little bit, because Dennis and I both have loved doing radio. We’ve loved interacting with guests; we’ve loved interacting over all kinds of topics and having a relationship with our audience. That’s really, really been fun.

I love that God orchestrated this so that we didn’t transition everything all at once and that we were able to keep our involvement in radio for a bit longer, but the time has come. We know it’s right—it feels right; it is right. We love Dave and Ann—we’ve been fans of theirs for years—and we’re so excited that they’re going to be taking the reins.

Dennis: And so, I’m out of here! [Laughter]

Dave: You’re out of here?

Bob: Not yet; not yet! [Laughter]

Dave: I don’t think so.

Bob: For listeners, who don’t know you guys—

Dennis: Barbara and I are going to go on a date; you guys can work. [Laughter]

Dave: They need a date—go; go!

Barbara: Yes.

Bob: If listeners have seen The Art of Marriage®, you guys have been a part of The Art of Marriage video series.

Dave: Yes; the best moment in our marriage is on The Art of Marriage—thank you very much. [Laughter]

Bob: You talk about kind of a transition point in your marriage, when things were not going well, and God got your attention. Art of Parenting™—you’re contributors to the Art of Parenting. You’ve just written a book called Vertical Marriage. Together, you’ve helped plant a church in suburban Detroit called Kensington Church. You’ve spoken at Weekend to Remember® getaways, and on the Love Like You Mean It® marriage cruise, and other events that we have done for, now, 30 years; so it’s not like strangers are coming into the studio. It’s like old friends are going to be sitting in here and warming the seats.

Dennis: It is, and I’ve been thinking about these broadcasts. I know you’re reflecting on some of the lessons that you’ve learned from us, but I’ve got a question—

Dave and Ann: Uh oh. [Laughter]

Dave: Here we go.

Dennis: —that I want to ask both of you to answer before we’re done today.

Dave: Alright.

Dennis: Okay; what’s the most courageous thing you’ve ever done in all your life?

Ann: Oh, that’s a little light question to ask. [Laughter]

Dennis: Courage is not the absence of fear. It’s doing your duty in the face of fear. So when did you most fear?—that demanded you had to dig down deep to do something really, really courageous. Hold your answers. We’ll get to that before we’re done here today.

Bob: Well, we’ll save it; but we’re going to turn the tables and let you guys talk about some of the things you’ve learned from Dennis and Barbara over the years. Ann, you made the long list.

Ann: I did make a long—there’s a long list of many things I’ve learned.

Bob: Just give us one of them. What’s on your list?

Ann: I’m going to say—I’m going to tell you what number one was, because it was very impactful for me. Some people will be very surprised; because most people would say, if they’ve grown up in the church, “Of course, you should know this.” But I didn’t grow in the church, so I didn’t know that a great marriage is when you put your marriage before your children; your spouse is more important than your kids.

I think, growing up, I saw more people pour into their kids, and develop their kids, and put time and energy into their kids—and the marriage relationship—they didn’t really think a whole lot about. So that was very new for me; and at times, hard to do because our kids are demanding—they take our energy; they take our time. And sometimes, it is easier to love them than our spouse.

Tell us about that: “How did you learn that? Why did that become important to you?”

Dennis: Well, someone has said that a child is a mother’s heart walking around outside her body.

Ann: So true.

Dennis: I think this is more difficult for moms to do—to not have the family solar system revolve around the kids—but instead, of revolving, first of all, around Jesus Christ; but then around your husband and making sure that stays intact. That’s something that Barbara has done a remarkable job of over the years. You might just share how you came to that conclusion and how you did that practically.

Barbara: Well, I’ll tell you how I came to that conclusion—it was because of the Weekend to Remember, to be honest.

Ann: Really?

Barbara: Yes, because we taught that. And for years—I remember all those years we were raising kids, and I would go to the Weekend to Remember and speak. It was hard work; it was hard leaving the kids—but when I got there, and I went through that material, and I sat and listened to Dennis—and whoever the other speaker couples were—and I listened to that and I went: “Oh, that’s right. We need to work on that.” I mean, it was always a realignment for me. And because that was a part of what we taught at the Weekend to Remember—that your marriage must be built to outlast your children—that was said over and over again at all the Weekends to Remember—at least, the ones I went to; because he [Dennis] always made sure that was communicated from the front.

It was always a realignment for me, and it helped me; because I don’t think I knew that either, coming into marriage. I don’t know that my parents built their marriage to be first over the kids. Now, their marriage lasted—my parents were married sixty-some odd years, like yours Ann—but I don’t know that they had that priority either. I don’t know that I saw that modeled. It was a bit of a shift, mentally, for me to realize that the marriage relationship is more important than the kids.

I agree with what Dennis said about children are a mom’s heart walking around outside her body. For moms, it really is a constant realignment/a constant mid-course correction: “Oh yeah, I need to be keeping my relationship with my husband more important than the kids.”

Dennis: It’s almost counter intuitive, I think.

Barbara: Yes; I think it is.

Dennis: I think, when you have children, they’re so needy; they demand so much. In fact, they have to have you to stay alive. It’s easy to re-center around them.

And yet, somewhere in the process of having six kids in ten years, I came to this conclusion: “You either invest in your marriage, or its not going to outlast your kids,” because a lot of marriages don’t outlast the kids. They leave each other before the kids are grown. That’s a travesty for the kids—not only for the marriage—but the kids are then missing—Dave, what you talked about; which is you’re missing seeing a man and woman relate to one another in their selfishness/in their brokenness. In their sacrifices for one another, they get a chance to see real love in the midst of all that takes place.

Dave: You know, it’s amazing—Barbara, you’re talking about it sort of re-centered you when you taught it. I was sitting here thinking, “Of all the couples out here, listening, who want a better marriage/want a better family, what’s one of the best things they can do?”

Dennis: Lead a Bible study.

Dave: Yes; what you did—is they do. What do they think?—“Oh, somebody’s got to pour into me. Somebody’s got to help me,”—which is good and you need that. But man, when you take good content and you teach it—

Barbara: —to somebody else.

Dave: —we grow more than anybody that we’re teaching.

Barbara: That’s right.

Dave: And yet, that literally changed your life. I thought: “All those couples listening right now—just go lead something. We have all these tools for you. Grab one; go lead—watch what God does in your own marriage.”

Bob: I was thinking about the fact that Ann—you needed the recalibration of: “My marriage is more important than my children. Marriage needs to be central.”

I think, Dave, for guys, family needs to be more important than work—may be the tension that we fall into. And then, marriage needs to be the priority in the family is kind of secondary to that. But a lot of guys—if mom’s heart’s gone with the kids—guys are finding meaning, and fulfillment, and excitement, and purpose in a career. It’s draining energy away from marriage and family; don’t you think?

Dave: I would love to say that was other guys; but yes, I was and I still struggle. You know, it isn’t like “I got it.” I struggle—so many men do—giving my heart/my passion to a mission outside my home. Even though I teach it—and I know my mission is my home, and my kids are my number-one disciples—they’re all grown, now, with grandkids—but man, I’m driving out there, and it’s so easy to lose myself in my job. I mean, it almost destroyed our marriage—

Ann: Yes.

Dave: —that very thing.

Dennis: Dave, could I just say one thing?

Dave: Uh oh. [Laughter]

Dennis: Your wife is your number-one disciple.

Dave: There you go!

Ann: Yes! [Laughter]

Dave: There you go.

Dennis: You with me? I’m not doing that—

Dave: He’s right.

Ann: I know you’re not.

Dennis: —I’m not doing that to correct Dave. I’m just saying, “That’s the temptation—to make your kids—

Dave: Right.

Ann: I know.

Dennis: —“the focal point of ministry.”

In fact, I’ve gotten letters, here, when I’ve said this in the past. And by the way, that quote does not come from me, originally. It came from the Founder of what was then Campus Crusade for Christ®, Dr. Bill Bright. He said to us, as a group of men, “Your wife is your number-one disciple, men.” When I’ve said that in the past, I’ve gotten letters and emails from women, who are absolutely livid with anger; because they feel like we are diminishing a woman’s value and dignity that a man would disciple her.

Bob: —that she needs to be discipled/that she needs—

Ann: That makes us feel less then. Dennis, what does that look like? I think, when women hear that, we’re like, “Oh, is it because I don’t know anything, and he’s supposed to give me all of his wisdom?” And then, there’s another group of women that are thinking, “Well, I would love my husband to do that; but I’m in the Word more than he is, and he doesn’t seem to have any interest.” How does that play out practically?

Dennis: Well, early in our marriage, Barbara was in the Word more than I was. She was looking down on me, going, “You can’t disciple me, because you don’t have a quiet time like I have.” It wasn’t a visible situation, where she could look and say, “Oh, there he is, over there in a corner, in his chair, reading the Bible.” Why don’t you comment on it, sweetheart? How would you say men should disciple their wives?

Barbara: That’s a loaded question. [Laughter] I think partly because—the reason that was my response is because I think all men are different. That was the lesson for me, as a young wife, because I was looking, critically, at my husband because he wasn’t doing it the way I thought he should. I had read enough books and heard enough people, who sat around with their kids or with their—and they did Bible study together. He led the family in devotions. I had this idealistic picture, in my head, of what it was supposed to look like.

Ann: Oh, me, too, Barbara—I had that.

Barbara: That isn’t what it looked like in our home. He was growing with Christ; he was reading his Bible—I just didn’t see it, so what I saw didn’t match what I imagined. I think that happens a lot for women as we have this imagination/this image of what it should be like.

What I had to do is—I had to learn to say: “Lord, You made him the way he is. It’s his responsibility to follow You; and it’s Your responsibility, as God, to lead him. I just have to trust You with the way You made him—that it’s not like me and it’s a good thing it’s not like me.”

Ann: And so what did it look like for him to lead you? What’s that mean?—what’s that look like?

Barbara: Well, for us, it was just very different than what I expected. The way Dennis led me and our family wasn’t in a formal sense. It wasn’t: “Sit down; let’s read the Bible. Okay; check that off the list,” and we move on. Dennis led me and led our family as a lifestyle. He led—day by day/moment by moment—in the ins and outs of family. I know that sounds really vague, but it’s not. Leading your family isn’t just a one-hour or a ten-minute devotion you do, and you can move on to the next thing.

Bob: It’s Deuteronomy 6.

Barbara: Yes; yes, that’s the verse.

Bob: It’s walk by the way while you rise. It’s so much a part of your life that it’s just woven into the fabric of what you’re doing.

Dennis: And I would say one of the ways that I did it was to pray with my wife—key preposition—with—as a co-heir of the grace of life. Pray together with her. Secondly, pray for her: “What are your needs, sweetheart? Where are you struggling?”

Dave: It is interesting—listening to you talk about it now. I don’t know what you’re thinking, but here’s what I remember—when we would be with you, even like at a conference or with the speaker team—we would fly home or get in a car, and we get in an argument; right?

Ann: —every time

Barbara: Every time?

Dave: Every time.

Ann: Every time, we got in a fight.

Dave: And the argument went like this: “Why can’t you be more like Dennis? Why can’t we be more like the Raineys?”—thinking—am I right?—you had a family altar; you did this special thing. That’s—you didn’t say that; we just picked that up,  like, “Oh, we are so less than that.”

Ann: I think I said things like “I bet the Raineys just have this Bible study together with their family in a circle.” You know, our kids are throwing things—

Barbara: Oh, gosh.

Ann: —and hitting each other, but it’s what I thought

Barbara: It’s what you imagined.

Ann: —imagined; and expected, then, of Dave.

Dave: And then, she laid that on me; so I didn’t even like you, Dennis Rainey—I’m like: “I’m not that guy. [Laughter] I don’t even think he’s that good,” you know? But that’s what she laid on me—she really did. There would be arguments about this. I’m like: “I’m different. I do it a different way.” What you just said is sort of how we did it. Now, we look back over decades and go, “Wow; God led us in a similar way that He led you to do it,”—I call it the Hebrew model. You know, the Greek model is your dump truck: “Here it is. You’re going to have to remember all of this on the final next week.”

The Hebrew model is a way of life/apprentice, and that’s what you are doing. I remember, one time, sitting with them—and I think you modeled this—I was sitting with my youngest son, watching a TV show. There was something on the show that insinuated this couple was living together, having sex. I hit the pause button; and again, I’m like, “Here is a teachable moment.” I said, “Hey Cody, so what do you think about them having sex before marriage?” He goes, “It’s wrong,”—he was 16. I go, “Yes; why is it wrong?” “Bible says so.” I go, “Where does it say that in the Bible?” “I have no idea.” [Laughter] I remember running into my office, grabbing a Bible and teaching him how to use a concordance, and say, “Okay; let’s walk this through.” It was like one of those teachable moments. That wasn’t what she [Ann] wanted.

Ann: Well, I don’t think I knew what I wanted.

Barbara: See; I didn’t know what I wanted either. I had this imagination too—this idea of what it should like. I was just as critical of Dennis. That’s the problem in marriages—is that we are looking to other people instead of looking to Christ, because He deals with us so individually. I love that about God—is that He made us unique individuals. He’s going to lead us, as a couple, differently than He leads you. There are a lot of principles that are the same that He wants to apply in both of our lives, but we need to be looking to Him and not to other people. That’s where we make our big mistake—we look at others.

Dennis: In John, Chapter 15, Jesus summarized the Christian life—He says: “Abide in Me,” and also “My words shall abide in you.” If you do that—if you abide in Him and His words abide in you, there’s fruit. What is life?—but deciding what you’re going to draw your source of life from. You going to draw it from Jesus and from the Bible?—or are you going to draw your source of life from your bank account?—from how much you accumulate?—for how popular you are?—for your status in the community?

I think the way to lead your wife, guys, is to be a man who draws his life/his decisions—you’re making decisions, asking God: “Give me wisdom. Show me how to lead this family. I don’t know what I’m doing, God,” because I didn’t. I promise you—many times, I didn’t. And by the way, it doesn’t change as you get older—new seasons/new challenges—“What exactly are you going to do after this transition is over, Dennis?”—“I don’t know! I’m depending upon God; I’m walking by faith. I don’t know any other way of doing it that has a chance of producing fruit.”

So, if a guy wants to know how to lead his wife, first of all, ask her, “What does that mean, sweetheart?” Don’t be defensive or critical. Her expectations may be like Ann’s and Barbara’s—all wrong. [Laughter] They just had high expectations. And that’s part of why we married them, because they called us to step up—they called us to be better men; right?

Dave: Yes; yes.

Dennis: So ask your wife, “What does it mean for me to lead you spiritually?” And the reality is now, after being married for 46 years, we do have a quiet time together—not every morning but it’s pretty close—and there’s a lot of discussion, back and forth.

Barbara: —because there are no little people in the room. [Laughter]

Dennis: That’s exactly right, and we finally can talk and have those conversations.

Bob: I’ve got to chime in here for just a second; because in late July of 1992, Mary Ann and I went to dinner at the Rainey’s house for the first time. The only picture I have in my mind of where we’re headed is the picture on the back of their book, where Barbara is seated in a chair with a lovely dress and her hair is made perfectly. Dennis is wearing a suit; and he’s standing there, smiling with his hand on her shoulder—that’s what I think I’m going to.

We get there, and it’s a mess! I think we looked at each other [Bob and Mary Ann] and said: “Okay; alright. We can maybe fit in here somewhere, because it’s as messy as our lives are.” That’s where we have to recognize: “We’re living real lives as real people, with real messes and real mistakes; and we’ve got to give each other a lot of grace.” I tell guys, all the time—and women too—“Here’s the job—drink in and then pour out—drink in; pour out.” A lot of guys short-circuit, because they’re not drinking in in the first place.

Dennis: Right; you’re speaking of the Bible, at this point.

Bob: And you can’t pour out if you’re not drinking in; right? Yes; if you’re not receiving grace from God through the study of His Word and fellowship with other believers—if that’s not happening to you—you’ve got nothing to pour out. But if that is happening to you—and if it’s happening in abundance—it will spill out of you. It almost—you can’t help it, because it’s poured in; now, it’s overflowing in what you’re doing.

So step one: “If a guy’s thinking, ‘Yes; I should lead my family,’ well, you’ve got to drink in before you can lead/before you can pour anything out. You’ve got to be drinking in.

Dennis: And you shouldn’t wait until you feel like you’re full—

Bob: Right!

Ann: Good point.

Dennis: —before you lead.

Bob: That’s right.

Dennis: Step out and attempt to lead your wife/your family by faith. By the way, wives, when he does something right, and you catch him—[Laughter]

Ann: —cheer!

Barbara: —cheer; right.

Dennis: —cheer him on. I mean, give him an “Atta boy!” Put a big ole smooch on his lips and say, “I am so proud of you!” Really! I just want to say—

Dave: Did you say smooch on his lips?

Dennis: I said smooch.

Barbara: He did. [Laughter]

Dave: That’s what he said; okay!

Bob: What would you have called it?

Dave: I’d just say—

Dennis: “Kiss him!”

Dave: —“Give [him] a lot—a lot of lips.”

Ann: He’d say, “Make out with him.” [Laughter]

Bob: If our listeners are interested in knowing more about you guys [Dave and Ann],  and about your marriage, and about the lessons you’ve learned from the mistakes you’ve made in marriage, they can get a copy of your book, Vertical Marriage, which has just been released. We’ve got copies of it in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. You can go, online, to order your copy; or call us at 1-800-FL-TODAY. The website: Again, the number is 1-800-358-6329—that’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.” Ask for your copy of the book, Vertical Marriage.

We’ve also got a gift we’d love to send to you. Dennis and Barbara and I sat down—this was not that long ago—and we just talked about all God has done during the first four decades of the ministry of FamilyLife. This ministry began back in 1976. Nobody imagined that God would use it the way that He has chosen to use it and bless it the way that God has chosen to bless it, but it’s been pretty remarkable—and to have the opportunity to share that with those of you who may not be familiar with the history of this ministry and with Dennis and Barbara’s legacy.

We’d love to send you two CDs, where we talk about those first 40 years and bring you up to date with how God’s been at work through this ministry over that period of time. The CDs are our gift to you—just call and request them—or go online—give us your name and address, and we’ll mail them out to you—no cost. Again, the website is; or you can call 1-800-FL-TODAY to get your copy of these CDs.

Now, we’re not done. We’ve got the new President of FamilyLife, David Robbins, who has stopped in with some final thoughts about today’s program. Hey, David.

David: Hey Bob. You know, one of the things that I heard Barbara say really struck a cord with my ministry experience of being in ministry for two decades. When she said, “You want to know how to have a better marriage? Well, lead a Bible study.” I know some of you may be thinking, “How does that work?”

It’s simply the principle that, when you act on truth, it moves deeper into your souls. When couples, together, seek to have an impact in other people’s lives—when they express out—it means it’s coming from a place where it’s real themselves, and they’re having to experience it themselves. We often find ourselves growing, because we’re having to process and communicate and act on the very things that we’re trying to pass on to someone else. I think one of the things to realize is that you don’t need to have it all figured out. As they said today: “Drink it in; pour it out. Abide, and the fruit will come.”

Bob: Yes; that’s good. Well, let me encourage listeners to join us again tomorrow. Dave and Ann Wilson will be back. We’re going to continue to talk about how we have all been impacted by the authenticity/the transparency—the lives of Dennis and Barbara Rainey. I hope you can tune in to be a part of that tomorrow.

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; a Cru® Ministry. Help for today. Hope for tomorrow.


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