John Fuller: Early in their marriage, Pastor Craig Groeschel remembers feeling that his wife, Amy, wasn’t making pancakes just the right way.
Craig Groeschel: I tried to tell her, “That’s not the way you make them.” And she didn’t like my advice. And so, it – I’m not gonna say it got violent in the kitchen, but she did pull the spatula back and put a shoulder into it to move me out of the way.
And here’s this pastor and his wife in the kitchen, about to throw down over pancakes. And so, it’s uh, you know, it – literally to this day, she makes her pancakes and I make mine and – and that’s how we decided to get along.
End of Excerpt
John: So kind of a detente about pancakes there? Well, perhaps you can relate to that kind of scenario – realizing your spouse doesn’t do things just the way you want them to. They might have a few flaws. This is Focus on the Family. Your host is Focus president and author Jim Daly, and I’m John Fuller.
Jim Daly: It’s so true, John. We get married with stars in our eyes that can quickly turn into daggers if we don’t take the time to communicate with our spouse. And that’s what’s so good about the content here. Last time, Craig shared with us the importance of placing God at the center of your life and your marriage, the importance of fighting fair and also having fun along the way. Those are all good things. He left off sharing with us why he and his wife, Amy, have two date nights a week, not just one. And if you missed his reasoning, you’re gonna wanna get a copy of the CD or the download.
You know, Focus on the Family is here to come alongside you and give you hope for your marriage. Whether you’re newly married and fighting over the proper way to make a pancake or if you’ve been married for decades and your marriage is on, maybe, the brink of divorce, we want you to know that God has a plan and a purpose for your marriage, and you can make it through. And I know you’re gonna be encouraged by what Craig has to share today, especially with it being Valentine’s Day.
John: Yeah, and Craig and his wife, Amy, have 6 kids. They live in Edmond, Oklahoma. And he’s the founding and senior pastor for LifeChurch.tv. He’s written a number of books, including the one we’ll talk about today. It’s called, From This Day Forward: Five Commitments to Fail-Proof Your Marriage. And let’s go ahead and hear now, the second part of that conversation recorded in Denver, Colorado.
Jim: Craig, it’s great to have you back at Focus on the Family.
Craig: Thanks, Jim, always love being with you.
Jim: Um, you know, I just love the – the way you think about things and what God has taken you through. These are things that you’ve learned. You’re not talking just simply as an expert who has many, many people in his church that you counsel and hear their stories, but you also apply it in your own life.
Let’s go right to it, because in your book, there was a funny thing about flossing that really caught my attention. What – how did flossing teach you to be a better husband?
Craig: Well, I read a book that was really helpful to me called, The Power of Habit, and it talks about keystone habits, certain habits that roll positive momentum into other positive habits. And for me, I always hated to floss. In fact, that was the first habit that I would stop doing. And I found that whenever I would floss, I’d thinking to myself, “Okay, I’m really disciplined, so I’m flossing, so I’ll do my Bible plan and I’ll eat right and I’ll exercise. I’ll sleep good. I’ll wake up early.” And that one discipline actually created other positive disciplines.
When I wouldn’t floss, I’d feel like, “Okay, well, I’m not a very disciplined person, so I’m gonna skip my Bible reading today. And oh, well, I might as well skip my workout today. I’m not gonna eat good,” and so, wouldn’t sleep good. I’d wake up late. I’d go to the office. Someone would be rude and I’d yell at ‘em. I’d come home and – and so, it’s kind of a joke. But the reality is that was a very positive discipline that created other positive disciplines.
What I wanted to do is ask in marriage, if there was one keystone habit, what would that one thing be that I believe across the board, could impact marriages positively? And for me – and we taught this to our church and saw massively positive response – is if there’s one thing I believe that could create great forward momentum in marriage is – is the keystone habit of praying together.
Craig: Simply agreeing to pray every single day together. And one reason this is really big is because Amy and I didn’t pray every day together for a long time. I just kind of assumed I’m a pastor and she’s a pastor’s wife and we love Jesus. And so, we didn’t need that.
Jim: Kinda been there, done that?
Craig: Yeah, I mean…
Jim: “We’re covered.”
Craig: …we – we’re – I’m praying. She’s praying, but we weren’t praying together.
Craig: And one of the reasons, honestly, was she likes to pray for a long time and I’m kinda like a pray and get it done type of person. And so selfishly, we just didn’t do it. I didn’t do it. Didn’t really want to. And what I found was that this one thing is a game changer all the time, because it – we connect daily with God together. We’re praying. We know what we’re praying for together and so, we’re on the same page spiritually.
We can’t fight when we’re gonna pray, because you gotta work through things if you’re gonna pray together. I’m not as vulnerable to some temptations I would be, because I’m – you know, I’ve got spiritual intimacy, not just between me and God, but between my wife and me and God.
And so, we started this with our staff, because I talked to – earlier to you about how we had marriages struggling in our staff. And we saw great results and so, we just really rolled out a – a challenge to the church, would you commit to pray daily together if you’re married?
And let me tell you right now, that one keystone discipline has revolutionized so many marriages. Um, it’s a really, really big deal and it’s something that can be done in two minutes.
Jim: Well, and you know, we talk a lot about research and I know when you preach, I’m sure you’re pulling on research and social science to make the point. I know Brad Wilcox does great work out of the University of Virginia. It’s interesting when those researchers are trying to describe the people who claim to be Christian. So, what are the behavior patterns? And they usually break down to going to church once every four Sundays or twice a month or something like that.
But it – to me, it’s interesting, the one thing that you’re saying in praying together and in reading Scripture together, which you mentioned last time, those two activities, if a couple does that, the divorce rate in that group is less than one percent. Isn’t that fascinating?
Craig: Well, and think about that. I mean, if you could do anything that would make the divorce rate 1 percent…
Jim: Silver bullet.
Craig: …wouldn’t we do that?
Jim: Yeah. Let me ask you this though. If I were to give you a multiple choice question and I said, “What defines the deepest human connection, the deepest human intimacy?” And I said, A, sexuality, B, emotions and I think I just covered men and women and C, spiritual connection, what do you think it is?
Craig: Hands down, C. Hands down, C.
Jim: It’s spiritual connection.
Jim: Tell me why, ‘cause I think the culture today, we think and particularly men, if we can get satisfied in a physical context, that’s our deepest intimate need.
Jim: Women, emotional.
Craig: Yes and here’s the thing. When – when it starts with spiritual, then it naturally overflows to emotional and physical. It just – it’s natural. And that’s one reason, as crazy as it sounds, but I tell all married couples to pray together. I tell people when they’re dating, be careful not to pray together too much, because it creates a longing for the other – for the physical expression and so, I mean, it’s – you know…
Jim: You’re becoming one.
Craig: You’re becoming one. And I mean, it goes all the way back to the beginning that, you know, we were created male and female in the image of God. And you know, we were there to commune with God. We weren’t created for our own pleasure; we were created for God, to know Him, to serve Him. I tell a guy, “You want to improve your love life with your wife? Man, improve your spiritual life.” And I tell – I tell anyone, “Do you want to improve your emotional intimacy? Improve your spiritual intimacy and there’s natural overflow into these areas.”
Jim: But what’s so sad, Craig, is that we’ve got it backwards. We think it’s A and B, the first two, physical or emotional.
Jim: And we so often even in the church, skip that spiritual and that’s what you’re saying.
Jim: Praying together, reading together, you do those things, A and B comes along…
Jim: …for both women and men.
Jim: Um, let me ask you about this. There’s stages or phases in marriage. And we all, especially those of us that have been married longer and our kids are getting along in age, um, talk about that young couple with young kids. Maybe they have two or three children. They’re 33, and they’re losin’ it, because the kids are pullin’ on mom. It’s all about the kids and the demands of bein’ mom. Dad’s comin’ home. Maybe they’re both working in this culture today.
Jim: And it just seems overwhelming…
Craig: It does.
Jim: …to both of them.
Craig: It does. That was the toughest time in our marriage quite honestly. We had, you know, six kids 10 and under and you know, they’re – we were in diapers for so long, I never wanted to see a diaper again as…
Jim: You or the kids?
Craig: …long as I live, you know.
Craig: Yeah. Good point and it felt like that sometimes. And – and so, you know, that’s a really, really tough season and can be difficult. And here’s the challenge, is we’re sucked into, you know, kind of child-centered parenting, where everything is about the children. And that’s the time when we have to probably work the hardest to really guard the priority of the marriage relationship.
And we think that we’re doing the right thing by revolving our whole world around the kids, but the reality is when we don’t guard the priorities in marriage relationship, then we’re actually hurting the kids in the long-term. And so, you know, I really try to work with people then and say, “Let’s do whatever it takes to, you know, have a night alone.” And a lot of times you don’t have any money when you’re that age. You know, you’ve got – and so, you know, trade out babysitters. Or literally, you know, go hire a, you know, a 14-year-old kid down the street to watch your kids and go in the other room by yourself and have two hours literally in the other room if you can’t afford to go out. And just – yeah, you have to make the – work hard to make the marriage a priority or the kids will absorb everything and then you weaken the – the fabric of the marriage, that – that is the strength that you need to keep everything goin’.
Jim: You talk about different aspects of intimacy, uh, that face-to-face fun, the side-by-side fun, and belly-to-belly fun.
Jim: Which if you have small children in the room right now, move them. But – but that’s what you’re talking about. It’s a different way of couching intimacy…
Jim: …emotional, physical.
Jim: Tell me more about what you mean…
Jim: …by that.
Craig: …this – this is an easy way for people to remember. It’s kinda fun. You know, we’re gonna have fun together as a married couple and we – we want to have face-to-face, side-to-side and belly button-to belly button. And all the men said, “Amen,” right?
So, uh, but face-to-face is so important. Generally more so for the women, but I find a man in my 40s, like it matters a lot to me. I want face-to-face. I want to know what’s goin’ on and Amy needs to know the details. And if we don’t connect, we’re talking with no interruptions, where we’re actually talking, hearing what’s going on in each other’s lives, that’s – we’re missing out on one of the most intimate things we can do as a couple.
Then what a lot of people don’t understand is how important side-to-side fun is. Generally speaking, face-to-face means more to the woman. Generally speaking and not always…
Craig: …side-to – talking. But side-to-side fun means a lot to a man. We want to be doing activities together and so, Amy always tells um, other women, she’ll say, “Man, if your husband wants to go golfing and you hate golfing, do it every now and then, because it means so much to him. If he likes goin’ to a game, one of the great things you can do is go sit by his side and he feels like the king of the world.”
And men often talk better when someone’s at their side than they do face-to-face. We’re a little nervous or whatever. But when we’re having fun together, then we talk and – at a level that – that often means more to our wives.
And then the third type is just belly button-to-belly button. And that’s, you know, physical intimacy. And I don’t want to speak as the authority here, but I will say, my wife, Amy, loves to tell women that this is an important ministry of, you know, giving yourself oftentimes, maybe when you don’t feel like it, is one of the greatest ways to show love and it creates a snowball effect of emotion. If – if we give emotional affection, then there’s often a physical response. If there’s a physical affection, there’s often an emotional response. And whenever spiritual is leading all of it, then man, it can be beautiful what you can have in a marriage. And that’s – above anything else, that’s really what I hope people hear is, you may be in a place right now where you feel like you’ve got no hope, that, you know, this sounds like a fairytale. And the reality is, with the presence of God in your marriage, there is hope. There’s always hope. You can have something very special when both of you are seeking Jesus together.
John: That’s Craig Groeschel on today’s Focus on the Family with Jim Daly. I’m John Fuller, and let me invite you to get in touch with us. We’ve got copies of the book that Craig has written. It really addresses these principles. It’s called, From This Day Forward. And you can get that and a CD or download of this program at focusonthefamily.com/broadcast.
And let me also ask you to consider a donation of any amount today to support the work of Focus as we strengthen marriages across the world. Donate and we’ll send a copy of Craig’s book, too. That’s focusonthefamily.com/broadcast.
Jim: Craig, in your book, From This Day Forward, I think you included a story in there about flippin’ through stations, what a lot of guys do.
Jim: It’s the “no-nothing space.”
Jim: I mean, we’re just recharging: news, weather and sports, news, weather and sports.
Jim: Watching five things at one time.
Jim: But uh, if I remember that story right, you’re clickin’ through and you lingered on a commercial. Amy was gettin’ ready and she kinda heard that you were listening to something.
Jim: Tell us what that was and what that meant to you.
Craig: Well, I was doin’ what guys do. It’s not about what’s on television; it’s all about what else might be on television.
Craig: So, I was all into, you know, and I was on my bed and she was in the bathroom. And I clicked like Golf Channel. Went through a cooking channel, you know, a preaching channel, whatever. And I came across something that had girls in bikinis that were…
Jim: Like a workout channel or something?
Craig: Yeah, something like that. But maybe even, the girls on a beach in bikinis. And I hesitated longer than I should. My rhythm was broken. You know, I was click, click, click, bikinis, pause. And you know, I might have been there for I don’t how – you know, just a few seconds and then you know, I realized I needed to turn the channel and I did. And I kept watching and Amy came back in a few minutes later and she got in bed next to me. It was the end of the day. And um, real soberly and not with any anger in her – her heart, she just said, “Was it worth it?” And I mean, I was – I started sweating and I was like…
Jim: You knew exactly…
Craig: …did she have to…
Jim: …what she meant?
Craig: I was hoping there might be some chance it wasn’t what it was, but it was what it was. And so, she said, “Was it worth it?” You know, pausing on that channel. And I just, you know, was embarrassed, broken, humiliated. And you know, told her, “Of course, it wasn’t worth it.” And apologized and – and it was a really big moment for me, because it wasn’t just “I was caught” moment, but it was – the way she phrased the question really grabbed me, which is, “Was it worth it?”
And that wasn’t the only time that I, you know, looked in a place I shouldn’t have looked before and it just kinda came into real focus for me, that it – no, it’s not ever, ever, ever, ever worth it. And so, I made a commitment to her and to God and that’s why I talked earlier about putting safeguards in place, that you know, I am going to eliminate every possible temptation that could grab my attention in a sinful way, because it’s not worth it. I – I want to honor her and I want to honor God and I want to be a great example to my sons and my daughters and to my church.
And by the grace of God, He’s actually given me the ability to – to grow through some of those weaker tendencies that I have. And um, you know, that’s one reason I’m not afraid to talk about it, because it – because I found healing there.
Jim: Well, and talking about it brings it into the light.
Craig: It does.
Jim: Which I think is great.
Craig: Sin – sin grows best in the dark and – and um…
Jim: It’s like mushrooms.
Craig: Yeah, absolutely and if we – if we won’t talk about it, we won’t find victory over it. And so, I really encourage people to talk about these issues openly and – and um, realize you can find freedom. God wants you to find freedom, that we’re not – we shouldn’t even have a hint of sexual immorality in our lives, the Scripture says. And so, that’s His standard and that’s what we’re gonna shoot for by His power.
Jim: Craig, one of the common things people will write to us or e-mail us or ask us when we’re traveling, you know, “My husband, he just doesn’t seem to take the lead. He’s not the spiritual leader.”
Jim: “And I so desperately, as his wife and with my kids, I mean, the kids aren’t getting really that kind of leadership from him at all. It seems like I’m the one always havin’ to step into the gap.”
Jim: What do you say to a – a woman particularly, who comes to you in that regard and says, “I need help. What can I do to motivate him to do a better job?”
Craig: You know, that’s such a common issue and you know, it happens all the time, all the time. And one of the things is, you know, anytime that he does anything that’s remotely spiritual, really reward him, because guys, we’re stupid. Like if we do somethin’, you go, “Great job.” Like oh, we want to do it again. And so, if it’s something as – if he prays over a Thanksgiving meal and he’s never prayed before and it’s really not even a great prayer, don’t ever criticize the prayer. Don’t…
Jim: ‘Cause he won’t do it again.
Craig: He won’t do it again. Tell him, “I was so proud of you when you prayed. It made me feel so close to you.” And – and so, reward him when he does anything remotely spiritual. And that gives him confidence. Because the reality is, a lot of times we as men, feel like our wives are more spiritual. We’re sometimes intimidated by them. And so, we don’t feel like we’re good enough and capable of doing it. And then at the same time, pray for him. Just pray. Pray and ask God to do a work. And watch. There are times when a man will do things that you don’t see as spiritual, but he actually sees it as deeply spiritual.
He might not let your kids go out with certain friends and you’re like, “That’s just practical.” No, actually, that may be spiritual, because he’s protecting your family. And so, look for ways that, like for Amy, she didn’t recognize there was like bein’ out of debt. For me, that’s spiritual. That’s a spiritual thing. It’s being a good steward. And when she recognized that, suddenly she said, “Oh, he is being spiritual in the way that,” you know, we’re not doin’ a Beth Moore Bible study, which she would love, “but he is being spiritual in a way that I can learn to respect and honor.”
And so, watch for those ways. Celebrate those ways. And the more he feels like he’s winning and doing well, the more he’s gonna want to bring spiritual momentum. And if, you know, if you’re married to somebody that’s not spiritual at all, at all and is – isn’t even interested, then prayer is your best bet.
Jim: Talk to me about that couple, becau – that’s really been at each other for maybe years now and what’s happened is, their hearts have grown cold toward each other…
Jim: …because that wife or maybe it’s the – the shoe on the other foot. I don’t want to, you know, just look at it from the one perspective. But let’s just say that wife has been frustrated for five, six, seven years.
Jim: He’s never stepped up to meet her expectations in that regard. And she had done some things or said some things that have caused him to withdraw even more so emotionally from the relationship. What could she do tonight to start over, to say, “Honey,” grab him by the cheeks. What does she say?
Craig: You know, I think any – if she recognizes she’s maybe driven him away, to acknowledge it and to apologize is a really, really big deal. And then if she can also in any way, recognize that he’s done something good. It may be non-spiritual, but maybe he’s a good provider. Maybe he’s a hard worker. Maybe he’s a good dad. Find anything else to – to celebrate. That’s a great thing, because we as men, need to feel like we’re winning and we have momentum. If our wives believe in us, we can do anything.
Jim: Well, and to be fair, let me put the shoe on the other foot. Let’s say the wife has given up. What can the man go home tonight, he hears this, feels a conviction about it, I haven’t been there, what can he say to her…
Craig: I – absolutely.
Jim: …to kind of rekindle that?
Craig: And I would say to every guy like this, say you know, “I – I’m sorry that I haven’t been the spiritual leader. I’ve let you down.” And you know, I don’t know a Christian woman out there who won’t give that guy a second chance, who – who acknowledges that. And then, you know, he might even say – he could explain why he’s insecure, what he’s not. And you know, the spiritual leader doesn’t have to teach a seven-point Bible study. It doesn’t have to be that. It can be just having spiritual conversations. And for me, like I would say things to Amy like, “I’ve decided to do this.” And she’s like, “Well, didn’t you pray about it?” And I’m like, “Well, of course, I’ve prayed about it,” but I didn’t say it. And so, learning just to even put things in a spiritual language occasionally to her, helps her and just say, “I’ve been praying about this and this is what I feel like God wants us to do.” That even creates spiritual intimacy, because I’m not gonna assume that she knows what I’ve been doing. I’m gonna help her to see what I’ve been doing.
And so anyway, if that guy, you know, apologizes, takes ownership and said, “I want to do better. Help me to do better.” And even the simplest thing, if you do nothing else, say, “We’re going to church every week.” Start there. We’re a church-going family, that you know, we go to church together. And if you just start there, then we’re all gonna be getting spiritual input. We’re all gonna be using our gifts in church. And that’s a great place to start as a man. “We go to church as a family.”
Jim: Yeah. And Craig, I – you know, I’ve used this analogy before and I don’t know where I’ve picked it up, somewhere. But um, somebody once said that a wife’s heart is like that rose bud. And when you, the husband, dry it up, when you’re jabbing the way we just talked about, you’re not playful, it’s a verbal attack. It’s a jab, it’s emotional and men can be pretty good at verbal attack. And that little rose dries up, dries up. And it could be years and it becomes brittle. Uh, I feel like so many marriages, whether it’s been two years or 20 years or 50 years can be in that place. How do they – how do they begin to water each other’s roses in their hearts once again?
Craig: Yeah, that’s a great question. You know, that – the title of the book is From This Day Forward and that’s really the – the point that I hope brings hope, that no matter what’s happened in the past, because you know, we could’ve been jerks to each other, inappropriate, harsh, um, and abusive emotionally or otherwise. And so, we have to really draw a line in the sand and say, “From this day forward.” It might be that couple probably needs help from the outside, if they’ve been, you know, two years or 20 years on their own, tryin’ to work through it. They probably don’t have the tools to get through it.
In fact, that’s why I love Focus on the Family offers so many incredible resources. And um, the institute you talked about with the great success rate, I mean, my gosh, to have those kind of tools available and not to utilize them is pure foolishness. And so, if you find yourself in a long-term relationship that’s not going where you have to recognize, “What we’re doing is not working, we might need outside help to give us some tools to help us to learn to um, from this day forward, just begin healing and developing intimacy.”
Jim: Hm. Craig Groeschel, author of the book with his wife, Amy, From This Day Forward, um, these have been tremendous insights and I can see that you’ve gone through these things. You’re not just preaching principles, but these are things that you’ve learned in the school of hard knocks. And I so appreciate you being with us. Thank you.
Craig: Thank you. I’m honored to be with you. And I appreciate your investment in my family over the years with ways that I’ve benefited so much from your work and ministry.
Jim: Well, that’s good to hear. Thank you.
John: There is hope for your marriage and Craig Groeschel has certainly shared a lot of that with us today on Focus on the Family. Uh, he’s given us quite a bit to think about these past couple of days regarding priorities in our marriage relationship, and some practical ways to keep the marriage alive.
Jim: I love what Craig had to say about placing God at the center of your life and your marriage. And that praying together with your spouse is the most important thing that any of us can do. And you know what? Sometimes it’s hard. But we’ve got to concentrate on doing that because when we do pray together, the Lord enters into that and strengthens your relationship. Those bumpy places aren’t as bumpy when you’re praying together.
Here at Focus on the Family, we want to help you thrive in your marriage, and that’s one reason we started Hope Restored. It’s a marriage intensive program to help couples that are literally on the brink of divorce. If you need that kind of help, call us. It’s that simple. Um, according to recent research, in the last 12 months, Focus on the Family has helped over 132,000 marriages resolving major marital crisis. I wanna make sure you caught that. 132,000 marriages. And to put a name to that number, let me share Sarah’s story with you.
Sarah: My sister heard part of your program yesterday and emailed me. So as soon as I got home from work, I went to the website and I listened online. And wow. I feel like a lightbulb went on. Um, when my husband got home from work, we sat down together and we listened to it again. And then afterwards, we had a really great talk. We ordered the resources that you offered, and we can’t wait to see what they’re gonna do for our relationship. Saying thank you just doesn’t cover it. We really feel like you’ve renewed our hope.
Jim: Man, I love that. Uh, it’s a homerun, and I’m smiling from ear to ear because Sarah captured so perfectly, uh, what we are trying to accomplish in her comments there. We love hearing stories like that one.
When you partner with us through your prayers and monthly financial support, you’re allowing us to come alongside couples like Sarah and her husband each and every day through the broadcast and the other tools here at Focus on the Family that help strengthen marriages. When you pledge a monthly gift of any amount to Focus today, I want to send you a copy of Craig Groeschel’s book, From This Day Forward, as our way of saying thank you. And we know that, uh, a monthly commitment can be tough. If we could ask you to consider a one-time gift of any amount, we will also send you the book as our way of saying thank you.