Pastor Ted Cunningham: Enjoying life and marriage, according to Ecclesiastes 9:9 is a decision, it’s not an outcome. It’s something you choose, not something you wait for, not waiting for a certain season in life. You make the decision – let’s enjoy life together.
End of Teaser
John Fuller: That’s Ted Cunningham and he joins us today on Focus on the Family with some encouragement for every marriage at every stage. I’m John Fuller and your host is Focus president Jim Daly.
Jim Daly: Pastor Ted has a very positive view of marriage. And he offers a lot of encouragement for couples using biblical principles and some comedy as well. He is fun to listen to. And apparently you agree, because this is one of our most popular programs from the past year.
Ted is the founding pastor of Woodland Hills Family Church in Branson, Missouri and the author of several books on marriage and family relationships.
John: And speaking at Liberty University, here now is Ted Cunningham on today’s Focus on the Family.
Ted: So, hey, you never know. I – I met my wife on a blind date at Liberty University in 1995. The night I met her, I said to my buddy Austin DeLoatch, “I’m gonna marry this woman.” And he looked at me, said, “You can’t decide that.” I go, “I just did.”
And I’ll never forget walkin’ into the kitchen of her six-foot-two, full-blooded Norwegian father. He’s pretty much a Viking. You gotta see this guy – very intimidating. I said, “I’d like permission to marry your daughter,” to which he responded in his thick Norwegian accent, “You betcha.”
I said, “But only under one condition.” I had just graduated. Amy had one year left. I wanted to break all the rules. I wanted to get married between her junior and senior year. So, I said, “May I have permission to marry her now? And if you let me marry now, uh, I will pay for her senior year of college.” To which he said…
Audience: You betcha.
Ted: …”You betcha.” And young guys will always ask me at events and at churches, “Bro, how did you get married at 22 and 21 and afford to pay for a senior year of college?” I said, “It was this thing called a job. I had more than one.” And I love it when they say, “I can’t afford to get married young.” I’m like, “Bro, I would believe that if you weren’t holding a venti caramel macchiato in your right hand and an iPhone 7 Plus in your left.”
“You need to start thinking Folgers and flip phones, bro.” You cannot start marriage with a wife and unlimited data. You really gotta think this through.
But you can afford to get married young. I’m convinced of it. And you haven’t started marriage right until you get your parents’ hand-me-down mattress. I’m just saying. The dip already built in, you get – that’s a good way to start marriage.
Don’t go to Ethan Allen. Don’t go to Ethan Allen. Go to Home Depot. Buy 1x12s and cinder blocks, and that’s how you have shelving. There’s a lot of ways to get marriage started right.
And I’m encouraging young people to get married. My son and I, we love watching YouTube clips together. His favorite YouTube clip is the German coast guard. If you get time, check that out sometime today. Guy’s being trained, day one on the German coast guard. And a mayday comes in. Mayday, mayday. We are sinking. We are sinking. Uh, hello. This is the German coast guard. Mayday, mayday. We are sinking. We are sinking. Uh, what are you sinking about?
Ted: My son thinks that’s the funniest clip he’s ever seen, falls over in laughter. A few weeks later, we’re driving down the road. And I start singing a hymn from my childhood that goes like this – (singing) “I was sinking deep in sin, far from the peaceful shore.” And from the back seat, I heard, “And what were you sinking about?”
And I looked at my wife, and I said, “They see everything we do. They hear everything we say. They forget nothing, and then they repeat.” And so, I want – my desire 22 years into marriage – is to have a marriage worth repeating.
In the Song of Solomon, you see the daughters of Jerusalem. And they say this about the young, budding love of Solomon and the Shulamite woman – “We rejoice and delight in you. We will praise your love more than wine.” My desire is to praise the love of young people, to rejoice and delight in what God is doing in young, budding love. I have that passion. And I have it for my children. I don’t want them to be afraid of marriage. I wanna model it well for them.
And – and so I tell Amy all the time, “We – we are our children’s backup singers.” We say this in our country music little town called Branson, Mo., all the time. (CHEERING)
Every marriage is a duet in need of great backup singers. And we desire to start by being great backup singers to our children. I want them to get married one day. I want them to get married early. I – I tell him all the time, “You don’t have to wait to get married. You – you can get married and grow up together.” I used to sit where you’re sitting. Every Wednesday, Dr. Falwell would speak at convocation. And he constantly told us, “Don’t leave this campus without a wife.” He was always being a great backup singer.
And I’m grateful he did because I – I – I met Amy on this campus, and now we’re raising two children that we desire to model marriage well for.
But some of you have maybe not had the great models. For Amy and I, uh, we – we decided years ago we want a marriage that’s gonna to be fun. ‘Cause some of – some of you maybe have heard this message in church growing up, and it goes something like this – “God gives you a spouse to beat you down and to suck the life out of you so you can be more like Jesus.”
And I want to take you to Ecclesiastes this morning briefly. I love the book of Ecclesiastes. It’s dark. It’s pessimistic, very much fits my personality.
If you need a good winter read, go to Ecclesiastes. Chapter one, life is hard. Chapter 12, then you die. These are the bookends of Ecclesiastes.
And in the middle of this book, you get Ecclesiastes chapter nine, verses seven through nine. And it says this – “Go, eat your food with gladness and drink your sparkling cider with a joyful heart” – I cleaned that up for the Liberty way, let’s stay focused this morning.
“Drink your wine with a joyful heart, for now God favors what you do. Always be clothed in white, and always anoint your head with oil.” It’s speaking there of joy and festivity. And then in verse nine of chapter nine it says, “Endure life with your wife all your miserable days.” It doesn’t say that. I just misquoted.
Here’s what it says – “Enjoy life with your wife, whom you love, all your meaningless days, for this is your lot in life and in your toilsome labor under the sun,” meaning you don’t have to choose between life and a wife. You can have both at the same time.
I meet young guys all the time that tell me, “I can’t – I can’t get married. I don’t want to get married.” Or I meet guys that have gotten married, and they say, “You know, I got married young, but I had big dreams and plans and goals for the future. But when I got married, that all changed.”
God doesn’t give you a spouse to beat you down and suck the life out of you. He doesn’t give you a spouse to be the grind of life, He gives you a spouse to go through the grind of life with.
And for some of you, marriage is not on your radar right now. But according to research, you’ve got about a 90 percent shot of walking down the aisle one day. And I just want to encourage you. I just want to encourage you this morning. When it comes to love, it doesn’t matter how you meet. When it comes to enjoying life and marriage, according to Ecclesiastes, it doesn’t matter how you meet. It’s what you do after you meet. I tell people all the time I don’t care how you meet – eharmony.com, match.com, farmersonly.com…
Ted: … ancestry.com. I don’t care how you meet. (LAUGHTER) “The Bachelor” – how you meet doesn’t matter. It’s what you do after you meet. And here’s the bottom line – enjoying life and marriage, according to Ecclesiastes 9:9 is a decision, it’s not an outcome. It’s something you decide. It’s something you choose, not something you wait for, not waiting for a certain season in life. You make the decision – “let’s enjoy life together.”
And to be honest with you, the first seven years of marriage, Amy and I, we did not enjoy it. We got to the point – I mean, we – we – we were in love, and we were committed, and we removed the ‘D’ word, the divorce word from our marriage. But, man, we had the struggles early in marriage, as many young couples do.
Until about seven years in, we made the decision that we were going to enjoy life together. And my wife, Amy, is way better at this than I am. She said, “you know what? We’re going to have fun with everything. Anything irritating, frustrating, annoying, pet peeves, we’re just going to choose to find a way to enjoy life together.” And she said, “I’m gonna let you pick the first topic – the issue that we may have – and I’m going to show you how we can have fun with everything.” So, this is what I told her, this is where I started – it’s where I was at the time – I said, “Babe, there’s not a lot of adventure for men in the world anymore. So, would you please let me find my own parking space?”
“I want to do it all by myself. I want to provide this for my family.”
Ted: And she – she said, “All right, game on.” And I pull past her third space from the door spot she picks out. I drive 20 spaces down. And the first few years of marriage, she just looked at me with those eyes that said, “You stubborn, stubborn man. Just take the help. Receive the help.” And I – nope, I gotta it. We are going to walk, right? I was passionate about this. Now, all these years later, every time we pull into a parking lot, I find the spot still. And my wife does this – and I love it – she leans over, and she starts massaging my bicep. And she’ll say, “You did this all by yourself.” (LAUGHTER)
“I’m so proud of you.”
Having fun. I just started studying comedy about the last year and a half. And comedy is very simple. It’s premise, punchline, premise, punchline, premise, punchline. My favorite thing is the callback. The callback is where you bring a punchline from earlier in the set, and you bring it off of a different premise 10, 15, 20 minutes later.
And as I studied that, I go, why – why don’t we do that as couples? Why don’t we turn every conflict, like a parking lot situation, into a callback and have fun with it, instead of always being irritated with each other, instead of always eh, eh, eh, eh eh, eh, eh? Choose to have fun. Because enjoying life and marriage is about having fun. It’s about choosing to have fun. It flows from the same place – your character – that commitment flows from.
So, here’s how I do it now. Now, some of you are going to find this early in marriage or in your dating right now. My wife would ask me questions when we were first married, thinking I had the answers to everything she asked me. And I’d be like, “Why do you think I know that?” We’d drive through a construction zone, and she’d be like, “Hey, Babe?” “Yeah.” “What are they doing right here?” “Uh….Let’s see. I – I wasn’t involved in any of the meetings…
…On this project. I have absolutely no idea what’s going on here.” And I used to drive down the road going, “Why does she think I know these?” And you know why? She’s wanting to connect with me. She’s not looking for information. Guys, we make this mistake a lot. We think when she’s asking questions that she needs answers. No, she needs connection.
She needs us just to listen and to talk. So, watch. Now, here’s how I’ve turned that into a callback. When we drive a construction zone, to have fun, she’ll say, “Hey, Babe, what are they doing right here?” I turn into the construction foreman. I told them, “Rip it up, boys!”
…”We’re going 12 lanes, not six. You got to have fun with it. Roll down the window, talk to the construction workers as you go by, like you’re the foreman.
John: Well I love listening to Pastor Ted Cunningham. And it’s our privilege to present this great message to you on today’s episode of Focus on the Family.
Go ahead and get the entire presentation and 13 other outstanding broadcasts on 12 CDs as our Best of 2019 CD collection. Just make a donation, we’ll send that to you. Our number is 800, the letter A, and the word FAMILY. 800-232-6459, or you can donate and request that Best of CD set at focusonthefamily.com/broadcast.
Let’s go ahead and hear more about marriage from Ted Cunningham.
Ted: You don’t have to look for greener grass. I want you to think about, for just a second, the guy who’s – who’s at home, and he turns on an eHarmony, match.com or ourtime.com commercial. And he sees a couple twirling around on the screen. And he thinks to himself, “boy, I’d like to have that right now. But I can never have that because we never took a test. We – we’ll never have that.” And I always tell the guys in our church, “stop looking for greener grass. Where there’s greener grass, there is a septic leak. Stay home and water your own lawn. For a good time, call home.” But he sees – you know, “if I want to have fun again in life, if I want to enjoy life again, I need to find someone new.” No.
Here’s the bottom line. You will never find compatibility. You’ll never discover it. There’s not an algorithm in the world that can put you with someone compatible. Compatibility is something you choose. It’s something you create. It’s a decision that you make.
Now, my wife and I, we come from two very different backgrounds. I grew up independent, fundamental, premillennial, King-James-version-only Baptist.
Audience: Whoo! Yeah! (CHEERING)
Ted: I have what’s known as a guilt-prone nature. She grew up Assembly of God – set free…
…In Jesus, right? So, she – I see all signs on the road as laws to be followed. You, you break one, you go to jail, God stops loving you. That’s how I view signs. She sees all signs on the road as suggestions for other people – very different.
I grew up in a home that taught savings was money you put away for a rainy day. She grew up seeing savings as the difference between the actual price and the sale price.
She has two love languages. If you know what a love language is – it’s the way we give and receive love her. Her – she has two love languages – acts of service and quality time, which means I serve her for long periods of time. That’s how I show Amy Cunningham love.
We make the choice to enjoy life together. We’re watching movies. We love watching movies. For Amy, watching a movie means surfing Pinterest and reading a magazine, which puts all of the burden of watching the movie on me. Something’ll happen, and she’ll be like, “Oh, what just happened?”
Oh, this wears me out. I have to pause the movie and say, “Hey, there was an explosion on the space station. Big piece of metal broke off and hit the space shuttle. Now they’re stuck in outer space.” She goes, “Oh, what are they going to do?” Again, this is that question needing information. I’m not an astronaut. I have absolutely no idea. But I bet, if we watch the rest of the movie together, we’ll know how to fix a space shuttle the next time we need that information.
Choosing to have fun together. There’s another great passage – Genesis 2:24 says, “For this reason, a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife.
And the two become one flesh.” The first half of that versus is a parenting verse that you should leave home. And you’re already starting on that journey. But you should leave home. It’s not God’s plan for your life to be in your parent’s basement at 35 with Star Wars bed sheets on your bed. That’s not His plan.
He wants you to leave and to separate. And it’s a good thing. I – I – my – my kids, 12 and 14, soon to be 13 and 15, I share this verse with them all the time. And you can ask my son at 12, “what’s your dad’s definition of maturity according to Genesis 2:24?” And Carson’ll go, “Ahh, I will not be with mom and dad forever, so plan accordingly.” That’s right. You’re eventually going to go – and I tell my kids all the time, we love you. You’re a welcome addition to this home. But I want you to know we got big plans, your mom and I, after you leave. And he’ll say, “Well, what are you going to do?” “Well, first of all, we’re going to Disney World. That’s where we’re going to kick this whole thing off.”
“But your mom and I, we’re preparing you. We want you to leave.” And when my daughter was 5 years old, she was kind of taking over the house. And I sat her down. And I said, “Corynn May, there’s only one queen in this house, and you ain’t her.” She looked at me with those eyes that said, “we’ll see.”
Big-Talker. The next day, she tells my wife, “There’s room enough in this house for two queens. “I said, “Corynn May Cunningham, one day, I’m gonna stand at the back of a church with you, looking down the aisle at some pervert.”
No, I didn’t say that. I didn’t say that to my daughter. I would never say that to my daughter. I didn’t want that going deep into her heart.
I said, “I’m gonna stand at the back of a church with you. I’m not walking you down the aisle until I know he loves you as much as me.” Because here’s the thing – you are not my queen, but you’re my princess. And one day, I’m gonna – I’m gonna walk you down the aisle to give you away to become another man’s queen.”
I said, “And that’s Genesis 2:24. For this reason, a man leaves his father and mother’s, united to his wife. And the two become one flesh.” The bond – according to that passage, the bond between a husband and a wife is to be stronger than the bond between a parent and a child.
And I said, “Corynn, I want to show you, to the best of my ability every day how a queen should be treated. That’s my goal. So, you know what to look for.” Because I love it when a mom comes up to me at a wedding and says, “I don’t feel like I’m losing a son today. I feel like I’m gaining a daughter.” I say the same thing every time. “Nope. You’re losing a son. And it’s time for you to back away so these two can become one.” Because we’re watching Genesis 2:24 take place. A husband and wife – two becoming one.
I want to rejoice and delight and praise your young love today. I want to tell you, you got this. You can do this. And the culture’s telling you no, you can’t. You’re too young. And I challenge the unnecessary delay of marriage, but that doesn’t mean that I encourage the rushing of marriage. But I’m just saying you can get married and grow up together.
You can pursue marriage, and you can enjoy life together if you make that decision. Include it in your vows. Include it in your vows. Because I meet couples all the time that are walking away.
I’ll never forget on the East Coast years ago, a lady came up to me after a session I did called ‘From Anger to Intimacy.’ She was shaking she was so mad. She walked right up to me, and she said, “Pastor.” I was like, “Whoa, all right, yeah.” She said, “I need to say something to you.” I was like, wow. I said, “What’s that?” She said, “My husband left me. Do you know why he left me?”
Audience: “Why?” (LAUGHTER)
Ted: I said – I said, “I’m getting a little picture of it, but it’s just a real small little picture of it.”
She said, “He left me because he couldn’t handle being married to a successful wife.” I went, “oh, boy, here’s – here’s a key relationship truth. The issue is rarely ever the issue. Don’t sabotage your relationship over issues. Get below the surface of the issue.” And I am here – I can say with confidence, not even knowing this woman, her success did not cause her divorce. There was something else going on. I said, “Ma’am, can I pastor you for five minutes?” I took her silence as consent. (LAUGHTER)
“I noticed it from across the room.” She said, “What’s that?” I said, ”The ginormous chip on your shoulder. I don’t know who said what. I don’t know how long it’s been there. But I got great news for you today.” She goes, “What’s that?” I said, “You’re 100 percent responsible for it. You can choose, today, what you’re gonna do with it. You can stay angry and sabotage your next relationship, or you can choose to resolve it. You can do something with it.”
I taught her two things that day about anger that a mentor shared with me 17, 18 years ago. And it’s simply this – unresolved anger is like drinking poison, expecting the other person to get sick.
I said, ”Ma’am – and I say this – this comes from the heart of a pastor who loves you – you’re drinking this poison by the gallons a day.” I said, “And the second thing about anger that I’ve learned is you never bury anger dead, you always bury it alive, and it will resurface in another relationship if you don’t deal with it, if you don’t do something with it.”
And she was standing there next to her son. And I said, “If you’re not careful, it’ll come out on him. I want to encourage you to resolve this anger. What do you need to resolve – I view anger like a pet. We just carry it around with us everywhere we go.
Some of you can handle anger like a carnival goldfish. You got it for a couple of days, and then it’s gone, right? You don’t have it after that. Others carry it around like a guinea pig. I remember when my daughter wanted a guinea pig, we went into the pet store. And my daughter’s looking in the cage excited to get the guinea pig. I called the sales associate to the side. I said, “Yeah, ma’am, can you tell me – how long is this thing gonna live?” And with enthusiasm, she said, “Five to seven years.” I was like, “Uh, I was thinking something more, like, in the two to three-year range. What do you got in the two to three-year range?” This smug sales associate looks at me. And she says, “Uh, Sir, maybe you’re not ready for the responsibility of a pet.” I said, “I’m trying to teach my daughter without so much commitment.”
But that, to me, is always a picture when I see someone carrying around unresolved anger. She’s holding this thing, carrying it around. And every day, with their thoughts toward that other person, in her case her ex-husband, who think – she thinks left him because of her success. She’s just feeding this guinea pig.
But, you know, I meet a lot of folks in church ministry that they don’t even have a guinea pig. They got a parrot. I don’t know if you know this about parrots, but they outlive their owners. They – can you imagine, I mean, going to the lawyer’s office after someone dies? And, yeah, you get the house. You know, you get the accounts. And (laughter) you get the bird.
But I – I – that was this lady. And I told her, “you know what needs to happen to the bird? You need to take the bird down off your shoulder. Get rid of it. Get rid of it. Resolve your anger.” Choosing to enjoy life and marriage. It’s a decision that you need to make early. It’s a decision that you need to work through.
I want to encourage you – don’t be afraid of marriage. Hebrews 13:4 says, “Marriage should be honored by all and the marriage bed kept pure.” It simply is saying whether you’re young or old, married or single, we’re all called to esteem marriage as highly valuable. And that is my prayer for you. Thank you, Liberty University, for having me today.
John: What a great message from Pastor Ted Cunningham today on Focus on the Family. And it was one of our top broadcasts from this past year.
Jim: Ted always hits a home run and I so enjoy his messages. And if you appreciated today’s content, I think you’ll really enjoy Ted’s excellent book, called Fun Loving You. It contains a lot of practical advice, like how to laugh together again, how to fight as teammates and not opponents, and how to appreciate your mate’s better qualities.
We’d be happy to send you a copy of Fun Loving You for a donation of any amount today.
And remember, your gift to Focus on the Family helps us provide Ted’s book to everyone who asks for it. Even those who can’t afford it.
And you know the holidays can be a difficult time for couples who are struggling in their marriage, so please give generously and help us help others.
When you give to Focus on the Family, you’re giving the gift of family to husbands and wives that need encouragement for their marriage. One man wrote to us from Indiana, saying this: We went through some hard times in our marriage, and got the counseling we needed. But we also wanted daily encouragement to keep our relationship strong. A friend recommended Focus on the Family, and since we started listening, our skirmishes have become opportunities for positive change. (Jim: I love that.) We laugh, we cry, and learn together with the daily broadcast. Thanks, Focus!!
John: I do enjoy it when we hear from couples who listen together. It’s a great way to really keep the marriage strong.
Jim: So true, John. I know I’ve learned a lot over the years! Jean and I talk about it when I get home. We’ll talk about the broadcast today.
Jim: So, if you want to support marriages, please donate. Be a part of the team today.
And right now, generous friends of this ministry are offering to double your donation, dollar for dollar, so that your gift will have twice the impact!! I hope you’ll call or visit our website today.
John: And you can donate and request Fun Loving You at the website, focusonthefamily.com/broadcast. Or call, as Jim said, 800, the letter A, and the word FAMILY. 800-232-6459.
And I hope you’ve been enjoying this “Best of” programming all month long. It’s a tradition for us to present these great programs to you in December. And then to offer them to you in a collection. So, the Best of 2019 CD Collection has 14 of the top programs of this past year on 12 CDs and it really is a terrific family strengthening resource. So, donate and get your copy of that today.
Next time, how to really step up and share the gift of hospitality.
Mrs. Rosaria Champagne Butterfield: And we’ve neglected people. You know, we – we say family of God, but then our Christmas dinner looks like everybody whose last name is… (Jim: The same) the same. (Jim: Yeah.) And that’s not family of God.