Focus on the Family

Focus on the Family with Jim Daly

Loving and Leading Your Strong Woman (Part 2 of 2)

Loving and Leading Your Strong Woman (Part 2 of 2)

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)
Original Air Date: March 17, 2017


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.

End of Preview

John Fuller: That’s Kimberly Wagner and she and her husband LeRoy returned to Focus on the Family today. Your host is Focus president and author Jim Daly, and I’m John Fuller.

Jim Daly: John, Kim and LeRoy have such a powerful message for all married couples. They went through some very difficult times that nearly destroyed their marriage. Kim is a self-proclaimed fierce woman, another description of that might be strong-willed and that quality can really tear down a husband, or like she said, build him up depending on how it’s used. In this case, uh, LeRoy felt emasculated and trapped, but they hung in there and God was able to get a hold of them. They shared their story with us to offer encouragement to the men who love these fierce women. I do want to give a little update. LeRoy and Kim had been walking through a difficult faith journey since this program originally aired. Leroy was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease that attacked his spinal cord. I hope you’ll join me in praying for them.

John: Well, they both are really such wonderful people and have a positive outlook. We’re really, uh, trusting God with them through this difficult time and wish them the best. Here now is the conversation with Kim and LeRoy Wagner on today’s Focus on the Family.

Jim: Um, we left it very awkward moment, uh, 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. Uh, 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 Wagner: 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 created a, um, a such a problem, uh, in, uh, being able to genuinely, uh, 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, uh, 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 of my life. How can I, how can I do anything? How can I be a, uh, 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, a good follower of Christ. And really that was a pride issue, which if you’d have 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 going to 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, uh, 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 that’s a beautiful thing, but what are you feeling? What are you sensing?

Kimberly: Sorry. So sorry guys.

Jim: Uh, this isn’t, no, this is good. I mean, this, you’re feeling something. I want to understand it.

Kimberly: Jim, when I 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, but no answers were coming.

Jim: That had to be a lonely place for you too… I mean, trying to find an answer, a fierce woman, trying to save it.

Kimberly: Right. And I wouldn’t talk to anyone about it because he’s my pastor. I’m not going to speak against my pastor even after he stepped down from pastoring. Uh, I just, I didn’t want others to think negatively of my husband, even though I, at times, he was repulsing me. He was, 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 inside and they 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.

Jim: Mm-hmm.

Kimberly: 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 if 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 that that was going through LeRoy’s heart and mind, that he was contemplating suicide.

Jim: Mm-hmm.

Kimberly: 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 commitment 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 a 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 a, at a point where we need you to leave your name and number, do that and we will call you back quickly. Uh, 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. Um, to better define this, you talked in the book, uh, 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.

Jim: Wow.

LeRoy: I thought I was going to be a great husband and I thought I was a great guy and, you know lover of Jesus. And so that was part of, of what was so hard for me to understand why wouldn’t she love me? Why couldn’t I be a good husband? And, uh, uh, really, uh, there are three things that God dealt with me that was at the heart of my, uh, problems. And that was first of all, fear. God dealt with me that, uh, that 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, uh, that, uh, I was, uh, fearful of letting others down. I was fearful of not, uh, living up to the expectations and standards of, of what I believe was expected of me. And I had a fearful heart.

Jim: Mm-hmm.

LeRoy: Uh, I’m by nature, kind of a timid person, and I’m an introvert and a, but I also had the responsibility of pastoring, shepherding, leading other people. And I didn’t want to let them down, I didn’t want to let God down. And, uh, but instead of, uh, operating on a basis, uh, of love, uh, my Christian experience was, and I think a lot of people, uh, 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, that, uh, uh, 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.

Jim: Yes.

LeRoy: And God spoke to me very, very clearly through his words, “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 it was there.” It is so connected to how I relate to God. And my relationship with my wife that was at such a horrible point was really a reflection of my relationship with God that I had thought was good. But in reality, God wanted to deal with the areas in my heart that was not pleasing to him. It’s so gracious of God to do that, even though it was so painful and, and life rending and we thought it was going to be the end, God is always doing a good and gracious work.

Jim: Describe before and after. Because you’ve gone through this valley, what did God look like before you realized in a deeper way who God is? And then describe what you learned through the valley and who he truly is?

LeRoy: Well, God looked like to me, a sovereign ruler and king that I should be honored and was honored to serve him and to be his servant and dutifully went about serving him in all the ways that I thought that he would have me to. And sometimes of course, since, uh, my, uh, inadequacies keenly and his displeasure, I would project from feeling my own inadequacies. And so, even though I- I worshiped God and I had a, a good understanding of God in many ways, it was a faulty understanding of God and God wanted me, to bring me to a place of appreciating him, of being in awe of him, of loving him. Not for what he’s done in the past as recorded in scripture, not for what he may have done in my life that’s good, but for who he is even when everything is broken all around me, he is God, and he’s good. And I did not think that God was good at the point where we were experiencing what we were. I thought, “God, you’ve put us into this. You knew this was going to happen. I’ve tried to follow you. I’ve tried to do everything that, that I thought you wanted me to do, and here I am God.”

Jim: Back to the performance.

LeRoy: Yeah.

Jim: You know what… And LeRoy, so that’s where the in gratitude [crosstalk]. And I’m sorry to pressure on that we all live there. That’s the reality. That’s the point I’m trying to make is every one of us, every one of us at this table, everyone listening to us through podcast or radio right now, you can hook into this. You can relate to this because we’re all human and we’re, we’re all fallen creatures. And this is the area where that fallenness gets a hold of our hearts and just twists us, doesn’t it?

LeRoy: It does. And now I’m just permeated Jim by a thankfulness for who God is, as he is displayed not only in his word, which is perfect and powerful, but in pouring out his grace in our lives. And I’m so ashamed that I didn’t respond in the way that I should have that initially led to this. But I’m so grateful for God taking w- what is the worst, and only he can do this and leading us out of the grave of our marital misery and having, uh, allowing us to know, uh, what we’re experiencing now as a married couple.

Jim: But it takes a willingness to fight through this darkness and to say, “Okay, I’m going to, 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 cloud, maybe nobody else knows it. Not your pastor, not your friends, maybe not even your family. Um, this is a resource that you can use to strengthen your marriage in the name of Christ. And, uh, 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. Um, because one of the things you mentioned in the book that you were so desperate to get from LeRoy and your relationship with LeRoy was leadership.

Kimberly: Mm-hmm.

Jim: Now, I mean, saying that I, there goes the car right off the road-

Kimberly: (laughs).

Jim: Some woman is saying, “Leadership. I don’t need leadership from my husband. We’re equal in the, you know, in this modern day. I’m not going to be led by him-”

Kimberly: Yeah.

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.

Jim: Amen.

Kimberly: He created us, uh, with the same worth and value, but different functions. And, 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 modern world-

Kimberly: It is.

Jim: To bend. What does that look like where it’s healthy 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, how do you define what I would suggest as a lack of respect, perhaps that you don’t respect your husband-

Kimberly: Yes. 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, uh, work through your life? We’ve heard LeRoy’s gripping tale.

Kimberly: Mm-hmm.

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 going to 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 (laughs). I just wanted God to do something. And when he brought me to that Titus chapter two passage, it’s… 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. There’s a long list there, but it starts out with love their husbands. That older women are to train younger women to love their husbands. That was a light bulb moment.

Jim: Mm-hmm.

Kimberly: 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 five says, the word of God will not be blasphemed.

Jim: Mm-hmm.

Kimberly: 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 begin writing out everything, not that LeRoy was doing wrong, but that God was showing me how I had been disrespectful. How I… No wonder he didn’t want to lead me. I wasn’t leadable. Um, 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: Mm-hmm. And Kimberly, what’s good about this, you talked a moment ago LeRoy, about fear and gratitude. Really the third destructive heart issue is pride.

Kimberly: Yes.

Jim: And I’m hearing that in what you’re saying, Kimberly.

Kimberly: Oh yes.

Jim: This is the, the pride aspect of it.

Kimberly: I was operating in such pride.

Jim: Yeah.

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 answered a prayer. You know, we talked about, LeRoy and I were crying out to God and we weren’t seeing him even work. But he did and his timing, he stepped in-

Jim: He was moving.

Kimberly: He was. He stepped in. He spoke to LeRoy, he spoke to me and it really took, it- what was necessary was humility and the willingness 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’d 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,” it’s just… but that wall is 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-

Kimberly: Yeah.

Jim: That really frustrated you.

Kimberly: Yeah.

Jim: And for that woman who stuck in that place, how does she get to the other side?

Kimberly: Yeah. Ask God, ask God to give you compassion and kindness and care for that husband that you’re so mad at right now. Ask God to change your heart. Colossians chapter three, 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?

Jim: So it’s Christ in your own heart.

Kimberly: Christ forgave you. Yes.

Jim: Mm-hmm.

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 in our… 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 braking, crushing work in my own heart to show me that really I was prideful at the heart.

Jim: I, I want to repeat that because it is such a powerful statement that marriage is God’s grace factory. I’m going to steal that. Can I?

LeRoy: Yes, you-

Jim: I love that.

John: And as you describe the, um, the brokenness that you both encountered, what were the next steps like for you? I mean, did you have to let go, how did, how did you start asserting your leadership and how did you start following that leadership in a way… I- 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, uh, emotionally, uh, 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-

LeRoy: 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 three, 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 to, to a cabin and that’s where God opened his eyes about the issue of fear. And there’s really-

LeRoy: I was afraid to come out of my cave.

Kimberly: You were. And I don’t blame you (laughs).

LeRoy: And you had presented a safe place in those two years by your response to the work of grace in your heart, I begin to sense that it was safe to come out now.

Kimberly: Yeah.

LeRoy: Safe to expose to you what I didn’t even know myself and now God was revealing to me. And it’s only when you get it, that very core of brokenness in self exposure, where 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’d 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 significant change and he still, he 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 with their… seeming so insignificant and small, but it is really a huge step. There’s a spiritual-

John: Especially consistently.

LeRoy: Especially consistently. There’s a spiritual covering. You take that mantle of leadership and such, it seems like a such a humble way, but the woman feels secure that her man is lifting her up to God. That there’s a spiritual protection and cover. And 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.

John: And with that, we come to the close of this Focus on the Family conversation with LeRoy and Kim Wagner.

Jim: Uh, John, Kim and LeRoy’s story is so moving and hits home with many of us. Uh, it reminds me of the stories we hear from our Hope Restored marriage intensives, a marriage in crisis redeemed by God, himself. Uh, you know, here at Focus on the Family, we want to help every marriage thrive, but sometimes husbands and wives likely LeRoy and Kim, and maybe like you, find their relationship is in serious trouble. Our Hope Restored, a marriage intensive experience for couples who are facing terrible difficulties in their marriage is made for that moment. If you’re in that spot, feeling like your marriage is at its end or near its end, give us a call. Let us help you find that hope in your marriage and in each other again. And maybe you’ve been through a crisis in your marriage and you’ve come out on top. You know what it’s like to walk through the mud of despair and brokenness, but God brought you through it. Consider partnering with Focus on the Family so that we together can help couples rebuild and strengthen their marriages. When you make a monthly pledge today, we’ll send you a copy of LeRoy and Kim’s wonderful book, Men Who Love Fierce Women, as our way of saying thank you for being a partner. And if you can’t commit to a monthly gift, we get that. We’ll send you a copy for a one-time gift of any amount.

John: Learn more about our Hope Restored program, or donate and get your copy of Men Who Love Fierce Women. All the details are at or call 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY. 800-232-6459. Well, next time we’ll hear from Kevin Thompson, who will encourage you and your family to live in love not fear.


Kevin Thompson: I can’t help, but think that God has created us with such strength and powers. He has placed his spirit within us to live in this dark world. And the church is walking around terrified of cats when Jesus is saying there is a lion within you, that is the power of the Holy Spirit. Now live in love and stop being driven by fear.

Today's Guests

Men Who Love Fierce Women

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