LeRoy and Kimberly Wagner describe how their marriage was once headed for ruin because of his passivity and her strong-willed nature, and how God transformed their relationship through His healing power. The Wagners offer hope and encouragement to struggling couples in a discussion based on their book, Men Who Love Fierce Women. (Part 2 of 2)
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Kimberly Wagner: "But a fierce woman can be one of two things. She can be beautiful and encouraging and inspiring to a man to be all that he can be, all that God created Him to be or she can be destructive. She can emasculate him. And that's what I was doing to LeRoy for so many years and I didn't even realize it."
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John Fuller: Well, that's Kimberly Wagner and she and her husband, LeRoy returned to "Focus on the Family" today and your host is Focus president and author, Jim Daly. I'm John Fuller.
Jim Daly: John, I so loved Kimberly and LeRoy's story last time and of course, they were here on the broadcast a couple years back and it ended up being the No. 1 program of the year. So many of you, our listeners, connected with what they were saying. And they were very honest. If you heard the program yesterday, you heard that honesty. In fact, we left off where LeRoy was describing that darkness and the fact that he was contemplating suicide because he had lost hope and the despair that he had. We're gonna pick up the discussion there and I am grateful for them being back.
John: And that 2015 appearance here on "Focus on the Family," we're offering it as a free download at the website, so stop by www.focusonthefamily.com/radio to hear that and to find other resources, including the book by the Wagners, Men Who Love Fierce Women.
Jim: Welcome back to "Focus on the Family."
Mrs. Kimberly Wagner: Thank you.
Mr. LeRoy Wagner: Thank you Jim.
Jim: Uh … we left at a very awkward moment last time where you were describing that feeling of despair and even contemplating suicide. Your response was, "I'm ashamed to even say that I was in that spot." As a pastor, which you were, why the shame? I mean, it's real. It's what you were feeling. Why would you feel shame?
LeRoy: Well, I'd been called even before our marriage to preach. And I began pastoring even before I met Kim. And so, that was a calling of God upon my life and now realizing that our marriage with such problems and being able to genuinely express the gospel, express the claims of Christ and then we're not living them out in our marriage, that I no longer felt that I could continue to pastor. And so, I resigned.
And so, it was at that state where I thought, I've lost my calling, my ministry, what God created me for. I don't have a handle on marriage, which is the most important relationship in my life. How can I do anything? How can I be a father to my children? I'm no good for anything at this point, because at the most basic point of who I am as a person, my calling to preach and to pastor and being a husband to the one woman that God has placed me with, if I have failed in those respects, then I am a complete failure and there is no hope.
And what I didn't know, Jim, is that God wanted me not to be in that place of pain. God loves us and cares for us, but that pain was so necessary that even contemplating and thinking about it would be better if I were not even alive, I can't live anymore like this, was actually a work of grace. And I didn't realize it at that moment, but God was bringing me to the end of myself, the death of self.
LeRoy Wagner needed to die. I thought I was a great guy and I thought I'd be a great husband. I thought I was a good follower of Christ and really, that was a pride issue, which if you would've known me, you wouldn't have thought that pride was involved. But pride is involved in all of our lives and God had to bring me to that painful place.
And what I thought was gonna be the death of me, our miserable marriage, was the death of me, but it was the proper death, the biblical death, that we need to die in Christ in order that He might resurrect us and bring us the life that He desires for us to have, not what we think we can work out on our own.
Jim: Wow. Kimberly, I mean, your eyes are full of tears right now and it's a beautiful thing, but what are you feeling? What are you sensing?
Kimberly: (Sound of Sniff) Sorry. Sorry guys.
Jim: This is good. I mean, you're feeling something. I want to understand it.
Kimberly: Jim, when I've looked back at that time, it was such a dark time and I knew he was in a bad place. We were in a bad place. And I kept thinking there's got to be an answer. There's got to be a way out. I would cry out to God (Emotional), but no answers were coming.
Jim: That had to be a lonely place for you, too, I mean, tryin' to find an answer, a fierce woman trying--
Kimberly: And I wouldn't—
Jim: --to save it.
Kimberly: --right and I wouldn't talk to anyone about it, because he's my pastor. I'm not gonna speak against my pastor, even after he stepped down from pastoring, I didn't want others to think negatively of my husband, even though I at times, he was repulsing me. We were living almost like enemies, but I didn't want others to think badly of him. So, I didn't reach out for help. I didn't turn to others at first.
What I'm concerned about are women who are in the same place I was, women in the church, pastors' wives who are dying in side and have no one to talk to. And they're crying out to God, but they're not seeing their prayers answered. I am so thankful though, that God did eventually answer those prayers.
Jim: Why do you think it took longer than what you were hoping for?
Kimberly: I think that was needed for one thing. It was needed to bring us both to such a place of brokenness. We were both operating in pride for so long. We were pointing the finger at the other person, saying it's all their fault. If he would just change. If LeRoy would just do this or he would just be this way or if he would meet me here at this point of need.
So, I was completely pointing my finger at him and it took God bringing me to a place of brokenness and humility. Now I am concerned, too for wives who may not even realize that their husbands are at a point of suicide. I didn't realize this that was going through LeRoy's heart and mind, that he was contemplating suicide.
And since the book has come out, we've had husbands contact us that that's where they are. They want to commit suicide. They have such a high level of commit to Christ, so to say, and His Word, that they don't want to divorce their wives and leave them that way, but yet, they've lost so much hope, they think, "I can just check out and the world will be better off without me."
Jim: Well, and I think it's the perfect place for us to say, if you are hurting and you need help, call us here at Focus on the Family. We have caring Christian counselors that will help you and if the phone volume is at a point where we need you to leave your name and number, do that and we will call you back quickly. But that is one of the reasons Focus is here. That's why supporters support this ministry to provide that kind of help for you.
Jim: To better define this, you talked in the book, Men Who Love Fierce Women about three destructive heart issues. I'd like to unpack that. What were the three destructive heart issues that you were encountering, so that those that are listening can say, "Yeah, I've got two of those working in my heart right now." And then the antidote for that, what God was speaking to you.
LeRoy: Never underestimate, as I did, the power of your own self-deception.
LeRoy: I thought I was gonna be a great husband and I thought I was a great guy and you know, lover of Jesus and so, that was part of what was so hard for me to understand. Why wouldn't she love me? Why couldn't I be a good husband?
And there were three things that God dealt with me that was at the heart of my problems and that was first of all, fear. God dealt with me that I had operated long before I met Kim, really on a basis of fear that, that was a lot of what motivated me in my Christian experience, that I was fearful of letting others down. I was fearful of not living up to the expectations and standards of what I believe was expected of me. And I had a fearful heart. I'm by nature kind of a timid person and I'm an introvert. But instead of operating on a basis uh…of love, my Christian experiences was, and I think a lot of people, they operate on a basis of fear and that entered in, carried over into our marriage that, that was the reason why that every time Kim addressed something or made a comment, it struck to the heart. Well, I'm never good enough. I knew that, that was right. I was afraid that that's what she would think of me.
And she didn't know that, that own inner struggle was going on in my heart, but the enemy kept attacking at that weak point, at that weak point. And perfect love casts out fear.
LeRoy: And God spoke to me very, very clearly through His Word, "Son, this is an issue that I had to bring you to this very painful point to show you what was deep within your heart that you didn't even know was there.
Jim: But it takes a willingness to fight through this darkness and to say, okay, I want to do it better. And I hope that's what we're accomplishing for you today. We're talking with LeRoy and Kimberly Wagner. They've written a wonderful resource, Men Who Love Fierce Women and we would encourage you to get a copy of this today. If you're living in that spot where your marriage is under a cloud, maybe nobody else knows it, not your pastor, not your friends, maybe not even your family, this is a resource that you can use to strengthen your marriage in the name of Christ.
And you know what we'll do is, for a gift of any amount, we'll send that along to you. If you can't afford it, call us and we'll get this to you. So, that's critical. Kimberly, I want to swing back to you, because one of the things you mention in the book that you were so desperate to get from LeRoy in your relationship with LeRoy was leadership.
Jim: Now, I mean saying that, I (Jim makes the sound of a car screeching) there goes the car (Laughter) right off the road. Some woman is saying, "Leadership, I don't need leadership from my husband. We're equal. And you know, in this modern day, I'm not gonna be led by him."
Jim: "I want to be a partner of his, but to be led by him? Come on, Kimberly. That's so ancient."
Kimberly: And we are created equal. God values the man and the woman equally.
Kimberly: He created us with the same worth and value, but different functions. And it works best God's way and He did create the man to be the leader.
Jim: But it's hard to do as a woman, isn't it? In this—
Kimberly: It is.
Jim: --modern world, to bend, what does that look like where it's healthy?
Jim: And what does it look like when it's unhealthy?
Kimberly: Yeah and let me just say, unhealthy first, that a woman who, if you're right now going through an abusive situation, that is not biblical submission. That is not God-honoring and please reach out to your church leadership or to civil authorities, because you do not need to be in a place where you're under physical oppression or in a dangerous place at all.
Um … but that wasn't the case with us or with a lot of marriages. A lot of women, we don't want to follow our husband's leadership unless he's leading the way we want to go.
Jim: So, how do you define what I would suggest is a lack of respect perhaps?
Jim: That you don't respect your husband—
Kimberly: A lack of respect.
Jim: --because he's not doing the things the way you would do them.
Kimberly: And the way you feel like is best.
Jim: How did you grapple with that? How did you come to the Lord and say, "Okay, maybe I've got a problem here, Lord. Help me see it." How did that work through your life? We've heard LeRoy's gripping tale.
Jim: Where were you in this moment?
Kimberly: You know, I went away to a cabin, because I just was done. Nobody knew that's why I was going to the cabin, but I was just like, I am not gonna stay in this marriage any longer this way. "God, if You are able to change us, I've got to have You step in and move and work."
And in that cabin, God was so gracious. He took me through Scripture. I wasn't there looking for an answer for me to change. (Laughing) I just wanted God to do something. And when He brought me to that Titus chapter 2 passage, a lot of times we talk about the biblical womanhood passage, you know. It says that these are all of the things that older women are to teach younger women—to love their husbands, to love their children, to be pure. And there's a long list there.
But it starts out with "Love your husband," that older women are to train younger women to love their husbands. That was a light-bulb moment. Oh, that doesn't come naturally. I need to be trained in that. But at the end of it was really where God pricked my heart. We're to be loving our husbands so that, verse 5 says, "The Word of God will not be blasphemed." Blasphemed!
And it suddenly, God graciously opened my eyes to the fact that by me resisting LeRoy, disrespecting LeRoy, demeaning him, emasculating him, I was not bringing glory to God. I was, in fact, claiming to be a believer, claiming that the power of the gospel had transformed me and yet, I was blaspheming God's Word. I was not loving my husband. I was not honoring him.
And God was so gracious to bring me to a place of brokenness and humility, where I began writing out everything not that LeRoy was doing wrong, but that God was showing me how I had been disrespectful. No wonder he didn't want to lead me. I wasn't "leadable."
I wrote all of that out and I asked to meet with him and I asked his forgiveness for that. I asked him to read through all of that first and then we met with our children, as well and I asked their forgiveness, because I had so disrespected their father in front of them, my husband.
Jim: And Kimberly, what's good about this, you talked a moment ago, LeRoy about fear and ingratitude. Really the third destructive heart issue is pride.
Jim: And I'm hearing that in what you're saying, Kimberly.
Kimberly: Oh, yes.
Jim: This is the pride aspect of it.
Kimberly: I was operating in such pride.
Kimberly: And God was gracious to bring that humility, to open my eyes to all of the ways that I had harmed him. And I believe that was answer to prayer. You know, we talked about LeRoy and I were crying out to God and we weren't seeing Him move and work. But He did and His timing—
LeRoy: He was moving.
Kimberly: --He stepped in. He was. He stepped in. He spoke to LeRoy. He spoke to me and I really took to heart what was necessary - humility and the willing[ness] to stop blaming the other person and say, "I need to ask you to forgive me."
Jim: Kimberly, the difficulty in that and I want to speak to that wife who is struggling; she's still on this wall. And I paint this picture to help all of us see it better. When you're on the prideful side of the wall and you are pointing the finger, saying, "If he would do this, if he would do that." But that wall's 20-foot high. You can't get over it. And I'm sure some women right now are saying, "How do I get to that better place on the other side of that prideful wall, that humility side, when I'm not feeling it, Kimberly? Come on." He was disappointing you. Let's be honest. There were things he was not doing—
Jim: --that really frustrated you. And for that woman who's stuck in that place, how does she get to the other side?
Kimberly: Yeah, ask God to give you compassion and kindness and care for that husband that you are so mad at right now. Ask God to change your heart. Colossians chapter 3, start with verse 12. Walk through to about verse 18 or 19 and ask God to do those works in your heart. Ask yourself, has God forgiven you? Have you lived perfectly? Christ—
Jim: So, it starts in your own—
Kimberly: --forgave you.
LeRoy: And marriage is a grace factory, because what God desires for us to be as husbands and wives, we cannot do it on our own. Even in our best efforts, our best intentions, our Christianized formulas that we have, we cannot do what God has called us to do on our own strength, on our own wisdom, in our own righteousness.
And that's really what was going on - we thought that we could, because we knew all the biblical answers. We taught the Bible and all of this. But she could not be submissive in a biblical way that honored God on her own until God broke her to the place where the Spirit just began to do a transforming work.
I could not be the leader of this fierce woman that God intended for me to be until God did a breaking, crushing work in my own heart to show me that really I was prideful at the heart.
John: And as you described the brokenness that you both encountered, what were the next steps like for you? I mean, did you have to let go? How did you start asserting your leadership and how did you start following that leadership in a way? I'm sure it was messy as you began.
LeRoy: Well, when she first laid out to me all that God had revealed to her, what was going on in her own heart, I was so emotionally spent and did not want to enter into something that might look hopeful and promising only to be dashed again.
And so, my response was basically just stone cold. So, I would say to couples who begin this process, again cry out to God. Trust God. Trust in God's goodness and His good intentions for your marriage, but don't put expectations on your spouse or a timetable where they must respond and react in a certain way. Let God do His work in His perfect timing and way.
Kimberly: Because John, God hadn't yet dealt with LeRoy's heart. It took first me coming to him and asking forgiveness. And then it was about two years of him watching me--
John: Oh, wow.
Kimberly: --to see if God really had done that work of transformation. And that's why I'm encouraging women to dig into Colossians 3, because I started asking God to do those works in my heart of humility of forgiveness, of kindness that needed to be done. And as he watched that and he went away, too, to a cabin and that's where God opened his eyes about the issue of fear. And it really …
LeRoy: I was afraid to come out of my cave.
Kimberly: You were.
LeRoy: But you—
Kimberly: And I don't blame you.
LeRoy: --had presented a safe place in those two years by your response to the work of grace in your heart, I began to sense that it was a … it was safe to come out now.
LeRoy: Safe to expose—
LeRoy: --to you what I didn't even know myself and now God was revealing to me. And it's only when you get at that very core of brokenness and self-exposure, when you can really begin to build a unity and a oneness that God desires.
Kimberly: And the first real step of leadership that he took that made the most significant change in our relationship was, he responded to a request I'd asked years before, if he would pray with me daily. Here he had been a pastor, would pray with other people, would lead in prayer publicly, but he would not pray with me.
John: So, it wasn't a big, big deal. But it was.
Kimberly: It was. It made such a—
LeRoy: It's a small—
Kimberly: --significant change. And he still prays with me daily. Never lets a day go by, but many times throughout the day often.
LeRoy: I'm amazed at how hard it is for men to do that. It's seeming so insignificant and small, but it is really a huge step. There's a spiritual—
Jim: Especially consistently.
LeRoy: --especially consistently. There's a spiritual covering. You take that mantel of leadership and it seems like such a humble way, but the woman feels secure that her man is lifting her up to God, that there is a spiritual protection and covering. There's something that happens in the heavenlies. It's almost mystical. I'm not a mystic, but there's something powerful when a man begins to pray for his treasure, his wife.
Jim: Yeah, that's beautiful said and unfortunately, we have to end, but what a great place to end. Pray together. That's one of core things you can do.
I can feel the Lord using our conversation to touch people's hearts right now and hopefully, to provide them a different way of approaching their marriage and in a way going back to your point, Kimberly, how it honors God when we live it well and hopefully, not bringing dishonor to Him.
John: And we have a variety of resources to help you in your relationship, certainly the book by LeRoy and Kimberly Wagner, Men Who Love Fierce Women. The subtitle is, The Power of Servant Leadership in Your Marriage.
You've heard some passion from LeRoy about this resource. Get a copy of this. Get the CD or download of today's broadcast. We've mentioned it before, but we are offering a free download of the previous conversation we had with LeRoy and Kimberly a couple of years ago, which was our most-responded-to broadcast for the year. These and other helps at www.focusonthefamily.com/radio or call us, 1-800, the letter A and the word FAMILY: 800-232-6459.
Jim: And there's so much more material in LeRoy and Kim's book, Men Who Love Fierce Women. We want to get this resource into your hands. It will help strengthen your marriage whether you're in a good spot or facing a crisis situation like Kim and LeRoy were. So when you donate to the ministry of Focus on the Family today, a gift of any amount, I want to send you this as our way of saying thank you for supporting our efforts to restore hope to marriage.
As we close out, LeRoy, I want to quickly cover an acronym you used, PROTECTION and how each letter of that word gives a couple the ability to think differently about their relationship. In fact, let's post that on the website too.
For example, the P in PROTECTION is "pray," what do "R" and the other letters stand for?
LeRoy: Well, run to the cross and that's what I had to do and that's where the Lord wanted to bring me to a death of self in order that I might find that resurrection, not only that I need it in my own heart, putting to death self, but also a resurrection of our marriage.
And then open your mouth, O, open your mouth. Talk to her, even though it may be very, very difficult, because she is so strong and difficult to talk to and it's not gone well previously, you have got to begin the process of you opening your mouth and talking to her and so, there will need to be much prayer and … and intentionality and forethought going into that of how you will speak to her in humility, but in strength and have a biblical background to your thoughts already formulated.
Jim: So, pray, run to the cross, open your mouth to her.
LeRoy: And then that leads to tenderly lead, that we are called to lead, not in a dictatorial authoritarian way, but in a humble Christ-like way. We're called to shepherd. That's what a husband is called to do in the way that Christ has and we're to model. Read the gospels and see how Christ dealt with the disciples, which then became the leaders of the church—the bride—and find in there the model of how to tenderly lead.
And then, Jim, you need to enter her world. You need to understand as a husband although no one can understand a woman as far as (Laughter) you know, there are only three ways to understand a woman. Nobody knows any of 'em. But the Lord understands. He made this woman that He gave you and so pray and ask the Lord to help you to understand what she's feeling. So many times the Spirit has just nudged me and says, "She needs a hug."
Jim: Well, and I think He created that mystery for a purpose.
LeRoy: Absolutely and that we must rely on Him and not be self-reliant, which leads to pride and self-righteousness, which God hates.
Jim: What are the others quickly.
LeRoy: All right, tenderly lead, enter her world, cherish her. She is a treasure. You value what you love and you love what you hold as the highest value. Cherish your woman and then take responsibility. You are the man. Don't leave it to someone else or don't just put it off on her. You need to take responsibility for your actions as a husband.
And then intimate connections, find ways to connect with her soul, to draw her in to oneness and intimacy and unity. You are called to lead in that area of intimate connections. Open your heart. That's gonna be hard for a lot of men, Jim, to be transparent, but I think that that's important.
And then I want to stress this, never, never, never give up. If you're out there and you're thinking, "Well, I'm just not gonna be able to do this. This is not gonna work," we would've missed out on so much. God has future grace that you cannot imagine. No matter how difficult it is, don't give up.
Jim: LeRoy and Kimberly, powerful two days, many people are gonna respond. Many people will be helped. Thank you for bein' with us.
LeRoy: Thank you so much.
Kimberly: Thank you.
LeRoy: Appreciate Focus on the Family and the—
LeRoy: --ministry to many, many. We love you guys.
Jim: Well, thank you.
John: And again, you can learn more about the book by LeRoy and Kim called, Men Who Love Fierce Women, and you can donate generously as well when you call (800) 232-6459 or on line at www.Focusonthefamily.com/radio.
On behalf of Jim Daly and the entire Focus on the Family team, thanks for listening. I'm John Fuller, hoping you have a great weekend, inviting you back on Monday. You'll hear from Paul Batura about the amazing contributions that adopted men and women have had on the world.
Paul Batura: I wanted to try and impress upon them the fact that being adopted does not put you at a deficit, in fact, it could actually be a great advantage for a lot of different reasons.
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John: Have a wonderful weekend and join us next time as we once again help you and your family thrive.
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LeRoy and Kimberly WagnerView Bio
LeRoy and Kimberly Wagner are committed to helping Christians connect Scripture to their daily lives. LeRoy has served as a pastor and speaker for more than 30 years. Kim is the author of Fierce Women: The Power of a Soft Warrior. The Wagners co-authored the companion volume for husbands, Men Who Love Fierce Women. Kim loves connecting with women through her blog, kimberlywagner.org, and you can follow her on Twitter and Instagram @kimberlywagner7.