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Making Your Marriage a High Priority

Original Air Date 10/07/2010

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Actor Kirk Cameron and his wife, Chelsea, candidly describe how God saved their marriage from their temptation to make their work, ministry and children a higher priority than their relationship.

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Episode Transcript

Opening:

John Fuller: Today on "Focus on the Family," you'll hear a message about a marriage that almost fell apart.

Teaser:

Chelsea Cameron: You know, we grew up in very different worlds. I'm from upstate New York. He's from L.A. So, that's like meeting of the planets right there, okay?

Audience: (Laughter)

Kirk Cameron: Yeah, I was … I was a … I was a pampered L.A. actor.

Audience: (Laughter)

End of Teaser

John: Kirk and Chelsea Cameron overcame a host of challenges and you'll hear about some of those on today's "Focus on the Family" with your host, Focus president, Jim Daly. Thanks for listening. I'm John Fuller.

Jim Daly: Many of you will be familiar with Kirk and Chelsea Cameron from their acting careers. In fact, they met on the set of the TV show, "Growing Pains." I caught that a couple of times.

John: It was very popular.

Jim: It was and that's where Kirk played Mike Seaver and Chelsea played his girlfriend, Kate. But it's their roles as husband and wife and parents of six kids that will really be of interest to all of us. And as you'll hear in just a moment, as Kirk traveled and developed a very successful speaking ministry, Chelsea stayed at home to focus on their six children, which she admits, put Kirk at the bottom of her priority list and that's a recipe for disaster. So, let me just add, as you're listening, if this show touches a raw nerve for you because you're living in that place, call us. We have counselors that can help you along with resources and tools that we can put into your hands to begin a new direction and I hope you'll take advantage of that.

John: And our number is 800-A-FAMILY and ask about a consultation with one of our counselors or our Hope Restored marriage intensives. Again, that number is 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY or online, www.focusonthefamily.com/radio.

And let me give a little more detail about the Camerons. After his TV career, Kirk went on to several movie roles including playing Captain Caleb Holt in the movie Fireproof, which of course, was a big, big hit and his marriage conference is called Love Worth Fighting For. That's been hosted in over 175 churches across the U.S. And together, Kirk and Chelsea have founded Camp Firefly, which is a fun getaway for seriously ill children and their families. And then one other note, Chelsea currently leads a Bible study. It's called 24/7 Family. That's been extremely popular in Southern California.

Here now are Kirk and Chelsea Cameron. They spoke at a Focus on the Family marriage conference back in 2010.

Body:

Kirk: Before we share some thoughts with you, let me just say that I realize some of you may be feeling that we're very under-qualified to be standing on this stage. After all, we've only been married once. (Laughter) You know and it was 19 years ago. It's been to each other the whole time. We're just kind of a regular couple. But there's some things that we've learned and here's the main thing: We know that the same God that designed the universe also designed marriage. And marriage is wonderful. And God speaks with authority on the subject of marriage. And He speaks on the subject through His Word. And we've gotten to know God and His manual and found that His advice trumps Oprah's every time. Amen?

Audience: (Cheers/Applause)

Kirk: And He's kind enough to make His Word understandable for regular couples like us. And He's got a lot to say on the subject of how to keep it together in a difficult environment.

Chelsea: Amen. You know, we … we grew up in very … very different worlds. Okay, I'm from upstate New York. He's from L.A. Okay, that's like meeting of the planets right there, okay? (Laughter) Anyone from the East Coast knows what I'm talking about. (Laughter) I had a very normal upbringing. I come from a hard-working middle class family. I went through elementary school and high school and college, just down-to-earth family. And Kirk's family's wonderful., but Kirk's journey was a little different.

Kirk: Yeah, I was a pampered L.A. actor. (Laughter) I'll admit it.

Chelsea: Okay, he said it. He said it. I didn't say it. Alright. So, you know, we just have these differences about, sort of perspective on life and things. And I think that those differences became very apparent.

Kirk: Oh yeah.

Audience and Chelsea: (Laughter)

Kirk: I remember one time--let me just jump in here, sweetie, (Laughter) I remember one time, we had a very clear illustration of how different we could see the same situation. Have you ever had that happen? You're both witnessing the same thing and you see it totally differently? Now, let me tell the story, Sweetie, because I have a memory like a steel trap.

Chelsea: Oh.

Kirk: And I can explain this with absolute clarity, all right? This is how it went: We were sitting in our kitchen—you remember this? We were in our kitchen and I was sitting at the kitchen table and you were at the sink unloading some dishes from the dishwasher. And I was talking to a friend. And we're talking away and talking away and all of a sudden, I hear something just crash, shatter in the sink. And it startles me and I jump up out of my seat, I'm like, "What happened?" And I go over and Chelsea was unloading the dishwasher and she was putting away our very expensive wedding crystal. And she I guess had turned and putting it away, she hit it against the side of the cast iron sink.

And I'm looking at this shattered, you know, crystal and and I say, "Honey. Honey. Oh, you've gotta be more careful." (Laughter) And she gave me a look. (Laughter) And it was a look that only an Italian New Yorker can give, you know. (Laughter) Kirk: It was that just (Gasp) (Laughter) right, one of those. And then it got worse. She's looking at me right in the face and she reaches into the dishwasher; she pulls out another one. (Laughter) She holds it over the cast iron sink and drops it (Laughter) Shatters another one. And I'm thinking, "Oh my gosh, what have I married?" (Laughter)

Chelsea: Alright, okay. You know there [are] two sides of every story, right? (Laughter) We've learned that. I don't remember that tone. I remember a different tone. It was a lot more scolding, scolding for a mistake, just a little innocent mistake. And I stood there thinking, "Are you gonna scold me for a mistake?" I had never been scolded in my life for a mistake and I stood there thinking, "Oh, my gosh; what have I married?" (Laughter)

Chelsea: And then something just took over my body and I grabbed the other one. I have no [idea]; I don't know what happened there, (Laughter) one of those moments. But you know, he came up in a home that handled those things differently than I did, than the home I came from. And that was just probably the beginning of seeing some major differences. We both had different views on marriage—different examples of marriage. And you could spend your whole life trying to change another person; just trying to control and change your spouse. And I think that most people do spend their whole life doing that. How's it workin' for you, girls? (Laughter) Does it work for you? No, it doesn't work, because we can't control anyone else.

My husband is out of the reach of my control and when I learned that there was really only one person that I could control, with the help of the Holy Spirit and that was me, I started realizing that there were some problems in my own heart. Had nothing to do with Hollywood. Had nothing to do with location. It had to do with the fact that we both really didn't know how to do this and we were coming with so much pride and so much opinion. And it wasn't that we needed to move further away from Hollywood. It was that we needed to move closer and dig deeper into the Word of God--

Kirk: That's right.

Chelsea: --and figure out what marriage was meant to be and how I was gonna glorify God in this marriage. And how I was gonna get my part right.

Kirk: (Cough) One of the lessons that Chelsea and I learned, well, all right, I learned it was an essential message that I didn't think I really needed to learn and I didn't realize that until after that some damage had been done and I realized this is a huge lesson that I need to learn. I remember when Chelsea and I first met, right, the world just didn't exist. Right? She was my universe, right? Nothing else would get me down. I had the force field of love around me and my attention was just totally on her. She was all I thought about 24 hours a day. I remember Valentine's Day celebrations with the candles going up the stairs over here and a romantic dinner and my mom was catering it and set it all up. (Laughter)

Kirk: And so (Laughing)--

Chelsea: Oh, I love those memories. (Laughter)

Kirk: --and you know, you just kind of have blinders on. And I remember standing at the altar, thinking to myself, "Lord if you let this marriage go through and she says yes and she commits to me, I just wanna serve her for the rest of my life. And I am not gonna break her heart, not for a second." I had committed I would not even kiss another actress for my work, let alone have an affair. And then, 15 years later, six children later, I found myself attracted to another woman.

And I always felt that no matter what I said or how I said it, I felt so appreciated and respected. And I mean, she laughed at almost everything that I said. I didn't realize that what I was doing was I was neglecting my wife and my children and doing some damage here. And I didn't see it. And she had a name. You know what her name was? The church, ministry.

I was being asked by so many within the church to go and speak as this Christian who lives in Hollywood—the guy from "Growing Pains." And it was like I could go everywhere and people would just say, "Wonderful, wonderful job." You know, you just get respect coming at you in a flood, laughing at your jokes, applauding at profound things that you could say. (Laughter)

And it wasn't always that way at home, guys, you know, you feel me? You know? And so, I began pouring more of my time and my focus and my attention where it was workin', where I really felt like I'm the man. And my priorities got mixed up and upside down. And I was neglecting my wife and my children. The mistress wears many faces. And just as a woman's heart can be stolen away by a man who pays attention to her and so a man's heart can be wooed by work and ministry and accomplishment and sports, friends.

And not that those things are innately wrong in and of themselves, but when we get our priorities upside down and we lose perspective and we get away from God's program for marriage and family and anything comes before this relationship, it's wrong and it's sinful and it needs to be cut out and gotten rid of. Proverbs 5 says the adulterous woman, whoever she is, whatever face she wears, her voice is sweet; her lips drip with honey. But run from her; turn from her, because her paths lead to death and destruction.

And so, I wanna ask you as you're listening to this today, Sir, ma'am, who is wooing you? Who has got your heart and your attention? Is it work? Is it golf? Is it ministry? Who would your spouse say it is? Is there another woman in your life or another man?

Program Note:

John: Well, those are some tough questions from actor and evangelist, Kirk Cameron on today's "Focus on the Family." And in a few moments, you'll hear how he and his wife, Chelsea, were able to stop the downward spiral they were experiencing in their marriage. Get a CD of this program to share with a friend when you call 800-A-FAMILY; 800-232-6459 or get the audio download and additional resources at www.focusonthefamily.com/radio. Let's return now, as Chelsea shares her perspective on their relationship on today's "Focus on the Family."

End of Program Note

Chelsea: You know, I have to say that at the same time that his focus was there, there was a whole 'nother love affair going on inside of our home. And that was my focus on the six kids and how they needed me and it was everything. And Kirk would come home and he'd walk in the door and we'd be doing the wave or lighting our lighters, you know. (Laughter) He was dad and he was home.

Kirk: Take out the trash. Here's another diaper. (Laughter)

Chelsea: But the truth is, if I had to prioritize where he was, he'd be No. 7. And I knew that that's not the way God designed the family. I know and I've heard that you can't be a better mother than you are a wife, but I wasn't really seeing that at the time. I was more focused on keeping record of his wrongs. And I'm a very independent girl, so I was just doing my thing with the kids. Whether you're here or you're not here, I can do this. And I kept those little hurts and disappointments right in my back pocket. And you know what? There's a lot of resentment that starts to build up. And I remember I'm sure there [are] so many people sitting right here who've said the words, "You know what? I'm done; I'm done." Can anyone relate to that? How about the words, "I am so done?" (Laughter)

I know that, that was probably where I was just beginning, when I realized that I really couldn't make this work on my own. And I didn't know how to get out of some of the bitter or resentful feelings I was feeling. And then I heard a message from Dr. James MacDonald. And he was talking about the most important ingredient for any lasting relationship—especially a marriage and that word was "forgiveness." And he was teaching from Ephesians 4, verse 32: "And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ has forgiven you" and you know, your mind just thinks, "Well, he doesn't deserve it."

And then I started thinking. if I got what I deserve, what I deserve is hell and everything else is a blessing. And God says to forgive the way He forgives? I didn't know how to do that. And he started talking about how forgiveness has two parts. It's one between you and God, where you say, "Lord, You're forgiving me of so much every day of my life. James described forgiveness as releasing a person from the obligation that occurred when they injured you. And I just said, "I'm laying all of this down. Help me to be like You, Lord. Help me to forgive. Help me not to keep record of wrongs."

And then he talked about how one part was between me and God and then one part was between Kirk and me. It was a process. So there's this decision in the process. And the process is showing forth love and giving him my best and being what I need to be for Jesus, even in the moment if you don't feel it. God says don't act on your feelings; act on your obedience and I'll produce the feeling in you.

And when you fail at the process and you're playing those tapes again in your head or he disappoints you, you don't go back to unforgiveness. You go back to the Cross. "Lord, now I've failed You. Help me to be like You. Help me to forgive like You." And the more you do that and you work that, you don't go back to unforgiveness, it's like the chain is broken in your life and you get free.

And the blessings started to flow back in our life and the joy in our home. There is no meaningful relationship, there is no lasting marriage, without forgiveness. And it's the most Christ-like thing you can do and it made such a profound change in our life—in my life, in our marriage.

Kirk: I love you so much for forgiving me so much. (Laughter)

Chelsea: Well, it's a two-way street, believe me. (Laughing) He's a very forgiving person.

Kirk: I'm not as good at forgiveness, because I haven't had as much practice as she has.

Chelsea: No, it's not true. That's not true.

Kirk: The one word that I think would summarize what it is that keeps us strong and healthy in Hollywood and gives us the power to do the things we just talked about is the Cross. It's the first thing that attracted me to Chelsea and it's the thing today that keeps me in love with her. If your marriage is just based on appearances or on certain activities, what happens when those appearances begin to change and the activities are no longer possible.

Chelsea: Yeah.

Kirk: It's gotta be a whole lot deeper than that. I remember when I first met Chelsea, she was sitting off on the side of the set and she was just kind of sitting down with her cowboy boots and jeans, looking really cute.

Chelsea: (Laughing)

Kirk: And she had a head set on and she had this necklace with a little cross that was made of sapphires. Now this is a Hollywood set of "Growing Pains."

Chelsea: (Clearing throat)

Kirk: And I saw her there and I thought to myself, "I'd like to go over and talk with her." (Laughter) And I'm getting' all nervous now; she's out of my league. What am I thinking? You know? And then I went over and thought, she's got a cross on. Could she be a Christian? And then I thought to myself, "No, she's beautiful." And I figured (Laughter) that girls were either beautiful or Christians. (Laughter) I figured that they would never be both. (Laughter) and so, I said, "Hey, what are you listening to?" And she says, "Oh, it's a band; you've never heard of it. I'm sure you've never heard of it." I said, "Really? Give me a shot. Who is it?" She said, "Petra."

Audience: (Laughter, Cheers)

Kirk: I said, "Petra." I said, "I know Pet[ra]; I love Petra." (Singing) "More power to ya, when you're standing on His Word." Remember that song?

Audience: Yeah.

Kirk: Yeah. And I thought, "I love Petra." And she says, "Really?" I said, "Yeah, are you a Christian?" She says, "Yeah, are you?" I said, "Yeah. No way." (Laughter) This is great, you know? And that's what first attracted me to her was that cross. And today, I've learned that as feelings come and go and as things change and the emotional barometer or thermometer, whichever it is, goes up and down--

Chelsea: (Chuckling)

Kirk: --have this motto always in the front of your mind: Never look down on your spouse. Instead, keep looking up to the Cross. The Cross, the Cross, that's what will save you, not only from hell, but it will save you from a failed marriage. Because when you look at the Cross, you look and you say, "I'm not deserving of that." What my spouse has done to me and the coldness or the bitterness or the fact that she or he ignores me and treats me the way that I don't think I deserve, I look to the Cross and go, what I've done to the Lord is far worse than that--a million times worse. And He didn't reject me; He loved me and died for me and gave me a gift I could never earn or make up for. And that's fuel in your tank. That's the picture of love. And then we take that with a full tank and turn to our spouse and give love, whether we feel like it or not. And as we do, that transformation happens. Remember we love Him because He first loved us.

Chelsea: You know, it's interesting, because we were just talking about this. And I remember standing at the altar with Kirk and looking at him and thinking we have got an amazing thing. And I realized that love not tested is really not love at all. And it's when you go through the valley and you have to be humbled and you have to be refined and you have to be broken and you have to go to God's Word and you have to keep trusting and you have to keep persevering and you come out the other end together, now you have a thing. We have much more of a thing 20 years later than we did at the altar. Not getting a new husband, but I can give him a new me.

Kirk: That's right, you're not getting a new husband.

Chelsea: You can still (Laughter) pray for us out there in Hollywood, but God is an amazing God. He is the glue. It's the Cross that holds us together.

Kirk: God bless you.

Chelsea: Thank you.

Audience: (Applause)

Closing:

John: And we've been listening to Kirk and Chelsea Cameron on today's "Focus on the Family" and they've shared very openly and honestly about their marriage and some of the struggles that they went through. And this message was recorded at a Focus on Marriage event held here on our Colorado Springs campus.

Jim: John, I really appreciate what Kirk said a few minutes ago. Never look down on your spouse. Boy, that is one rule that if you can live by, will really strengthen your marriage. And what he said there instead is to keep looking up to the cross. I love that. It's powerful and let me give you one more tip that I got from a friend. If you're ever in an argument with your spouse, imagine Jesus standing behind him or her. That makes you pull up short and think twice about treating your spouse poorly. You gotta take a second to step back and remember that Christ died for your spouse and sometimes in the heat of battle, that's hard to remember. You need to treat that person with respect and I'd say, great respect and that's a good principle to remember when we're having one of those days with our husband or our wife and nothin' seems to be understood.

And you know what? I firmly believe that sooner or later, everyone needs help with their marriage, even tune-ups. And that's one of the reasons that Focus on the Family is here, to help your marriage not just survive, but to thrive. And here's a recent note we received from a listener. "The first year of marriage was extremely difficult. One day I heard your broadcast about showing your spouse God's love regardless of your own feelings. There are not enough words to describe the impact that one idea had on our relationship. My husband and I have been practicing it ever since. Thank you for saving our marriage."

John: Wow, that's quite a testimony and I--

Jim: That's a big one.

John: --love how God uses these radio programs, one thing that stuck and made a difference and um ... that's the same thing that happens when we cover parenting topics and matters of faith. It's really exciting to see how God uses what we do here.

Jim: It is, John and one of my favorite statistics is the fact that last year about 130,000 families said Focus helped save their marriage during a crisis--130,000! I mean, that could've been 130,000 divorces, but they were averted and that's because of the work that we are doing together--you and Focus right here, being there at that point of need.

One of the things we do is something called Hope Restore and that's where couples who are really struggling, this is where they're on the road to divorce, they go and they receive in-depth help in a relaxed atmosphere over a four-day period. And that program has an 85 percent success rate when they check on those couples two years later! So, let me ask you, could you be a part of our effort to save marriages? I mean, it's that simple. I think it is the thing that we need to be doing in our culture today. Would you join our team as a financial supporter? Get in touch with us today.

John: Well, we'd love to hear from you. It just takes a quick phone call at 1-800-A-FAMILY; 800-232-6459 or donate and find more information about our counseling services and those Hope Restored marriage intensives at www.focusonthefamily.com/radio.

And when you get in touch, ask about a free audio download of this program to share with a friend which could make a big difference to a hurting marriage.

Our program was provided by Focus on the Family and on behalf of Jim Daly, I'm John Fuller, thanking you for listening, hoping you have a great weekend and inviting you back on Monday when you'll learn how your children's interests can become a springboard for helping others.

Excerpt:

Mrs. Sami Cone: You know, let's organize a pick-up game in the community and just say, "We're gonna be here at this time" and let's offer to go pick up the kids from the YMCA or whatever it is. Be present to understand what it is that moves your children and then equip them so they can help others in need.

End of Excerpt

John: Some ideas to raise selfless kids from popular blogger, Sami Cone on the next "Focus on the Family" with Jim Daly, as we offer encouragement to help your family thrive.

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More Episode Resources

Guest

Kirk Cameron

View Bio

Actor Kirk Cameron is best known as “Mike Seaver,” from the 1980's hit TV sitcom Growing Pains, and played Captain Caleb Holt in the hugely successful film Fireproof.  His speaking tour, "Love Worth Fighting For," is a faith-based marriage event held in churches across the country and has been hosted in more than 175 cities. Kirk's production company, CAMFAM Studios, has partnered with SONY/Provident Films to release three projects: Unstoppable, Mercy Rule and Saving Christmas.

Guest

Chelsea Cameron

View Bio

Actress Chelsea Cameron played "Kate" in the hit TV sitcom Growing Pains, and "Hattie Durham" in three Left Behind films. She’s currently involved with her husband, Kirk, in producing inspirational entertainment for the entire family. Chelsea's unique faith-based marriage and family class, "24/7 Family," teaches, inspires and encourages women from different backgrounds to discover the secret of a healthy, happy and fruitful home.