Jim: Ding ding. (LAUGHTER) Round one – here we go – D.A. and Elicia, welcome to Focus.
D.A. Horton: Thank you.
Elicia: Thank you, guys.
D.A.: Thank you for letting us be here.
Jim: So good to have you – I – we were talking before, uh, the program about our mutual fund in Long Beach. That’s…
Jim: …Where part of my elementary school education was from.
John: That was real fun, I’m sure.
Jim: Yeah. (LAUGHTER) Yeah. There’s some bad memories. But yeah. In fact, I was at Bixby Elementary in Long Beach when my mom died in the fourth grade. So there are heavy memories. But it is also some wonderful times, as well. So Long Beach has a close place in my heart. So welcome all the way to Colorado here.
D.A.: Thank you. Thank you. We appreciate it.
Elicia: Thank you.
Jim: Hey, uh, let’s get with it. I mentioned, uh, that you’ve experienced some significant gaps in your relationship. I’m sure some of your friends and family members wondered if you were ready to get married. That would be the normal red flag. “Can you believe it, honey? I don’t think those two could do this?” (Laughter) Describe the huge fight that you had two months before your wedding, which may have been a signal to most people like, “Uh-oh. Maybe we’re in trouble.” What happened?
D.A.: Yeah. Well, you know, we had got into probably the millionth argument, uh, one evening. (Laughter) Um, and at that time, um, I was serving as a youth pastor in midtown Kansas City. And I had an event where I used to do gospel rap. And Elicia came to the event that evening. And as soon as I got down off the stage – just went up to her, walked up to her, tried to give her a hug – and she just kind of played me off and then (Laughter) ended up giving me the engagement ring back. And, uh, it just got – it just kind of escalated from there. And she walked away from me. She didn’t want to talk to me. And…
I knew there was one phrase I could say that would automatically make her turn around. And I just yelled out, “I rebuke you.” And when I yelled that out in the parking lot on 36th Street, she turned around furious. And then that led to a six-hour ordeal where we were calling each other everything but the names our parents or God gave us. And we were arguing so much, the dope dealers had to ask their clients to move away from the corner while we were arguing. (Laughter)
Jim: I mean, think of that. People are going, “What? What’d you just say?”
D.A.: Yeah. They were.
Jim: So you’re out in the street…
Jim: …Out in front of this church. And not far away, there’s drug deals going on.
D.A.: Oh, yeah. It’s just part of the community we grew up in.
Jim: And even neighbors, who were – had a party going, they kind of started that to watch…
Elicia: Yeah. They were watching us.
Jim: …This argument.
Elicia: We were their entertainment for the night. Yeah.
John: You were the entertainment?
D.A.: We were the entertainment industry. Yeah.
John: And this – wow.
D.A.: Yeah. And this was two months before we got married. And I was a youth pastor.
Jim: And you’re a youth pastor.
D.A.: I was a youth pastor at that time.
Jim: And you’re going at it – bam.
D.A.: We were going at it.
John: This is too months before you got married or before you were supposed to get married?
D.A.: No. Two months before we got married.
D.A.: We still walked through. And we sought serious intervention through marital counseling. And we, you know, had those original confessions of just our selfishness that we had to lay as the foundation for our relationship.
Jim: How do you – right – so I’m thinking on behalf of the listener, um, maybe some of them have argued, maybe some of them are about to get married. They were arguing, but they’re going, “Wow – not like that.”
Jim: What do you do at the end of the six hours? What did that look like? H Who gave in?
Elicia: I was – well, I don’t think that…
D.A.: It was mutual.
Elicia: …We – one of us gave in it was mutual. I feel that we both realized that, at the end of it all, we still had a deep love for one another and realized that these are issues we are going to have to work through. But they’re not going to be worked out right now in this time. And so what we did discover after getting married is that we realized that there were a lot of layers, a lot of layers to our past, our brokenness, a lot of things that we brought into our marriage. And I feel like God was just showing us a preview of how we were going to start unpacking those things with each other.
Jim: So it didn’t put a caution or a stop sign in your process?
D.A.: It did because – see. And here’s the thing that we tell people. This was not an abnormal fight.
Elicia: No. This is…
D.A.: Like, we would argue 2 to 3, 4 o’clock. This was, like, 4:30 in the morning. My mom’s waking up to get ready to pray to go to church. It’s Sunday morning by this time. And she’s like, “Mijo, you’re not home. It’s 4:30 in the morning. There is nothing God-glorifying you could be doing anywhere right now. You need to come home.” And – and we recognized that.
And the thing that we began to recognize is we were just tired. We were tired of fighting. We were tired of fussing. It was the small, little landmines. It was things that we didn’t deal with. We never sought resolution to our conflicts. We would sweep things under the rug. We were peace-faking, as Ken Sande would say. We were doing all those things…
D.A.: …That we thought that, you know, it’s – “Let’s just put a – put a – put a Band-Aid on it.” But it’s a gaping wound that goes back to our childhood, that goes back to past relationships. And we just began to realize, there is a lot of depth to the baggage. And we really had to answer the question. When we say “I do,” we’re saying “I do” for life. We’re saying “I do” in front of God and witnesses. And we’re saying “I do” to each other’s baggage.
Elicia: Baggage, right.
D.A.: That means that we’re going to be committed to seeing us – see our – our laundry washed and cleansed through the blood of Jesus Christ. And that’s what we committed to a few days shortly after that.
Jim: So let’s pull back a little bit because you both knew each other in grade school, I think – right? – elementary school…
Jim: …I mean, which is amazing in and of itself because most couples today, you know, that’s not their story. The way – the transient nature of our culture – people moving in and out of towns, and you meet in college or something like that. But you – you two knew each other in grade school.
Jim: And you kind of – uh, I think, Elicia, you had a little bit of an eye on D.A. (Laughter), if I remember correctly.
Elicia: Um, well, I think we could both say that we had an eye on each other.
D.A.: Yeah, we did.
Elicia: So we…
Jim: What grade? Give us a…
Elicia: Well, we actually grew up in church together.
Elicia: That’s where we met at.
Elicia: And so…
Jim: And what – what grade are you in at that time?
Elicia: I know – we…
D.A.: I was – I was about to go into fifth grade.
Elicia: Fifth grade.
Jim: OK (laughter).
Elicia: So fourth and…
D.A.: Fourth and fifth grade.
Elicia: Third, fourth, fifth grade, yeah.
Jim: I just think that’s funny. (Laughter)
D.A.: Yeah, it – there’s pros and cons to it, so, I mean…
D.A.: Everyone’s like, “Aw, that’s romantic.” Uh, not always…
D.A.: …’Cause the baggage starts in our childhood.
Jim: But there was a specific incident that you had about that time…
Elicia: Oh, gosh. Yes.
Jim: …That crushed you…
Elicia: It did.
Jim: What happened?
Elicia: Well, how I recall it… (LAUGHTER) Um, my perspective…
Jim: Here we go. Ding, ding!
Elicia: He may have blacked out during that time, but, um, I do remember it just being a Sunday and – was it a Sunday night service?
D.A.: Uh-hm, yeah.
Elicia: And our parents brought us back to have service. And by that time, you know, all the children – everybody’s together in a family service. And – so I remember wanting to sit by him. We had mutual friends that hung out together. And I’m like, “Hey, I – you know, I want to sit by him,” but by the time I got there, he was already at the end of the row. So I’m like, OK, I’ll just sit – this side of the row. As I remember saying, well, I had thought about this friendship ring that I wanted to give him.
Jim: You were serious.
Elicia: I was serious. (Laughter) It was a friendship ring – right? – those neon ones that…
Elicia: Yeah – you get from an old vending machine.
Jim: This is elementary school-age. (Laughter)
Elicia: Exactly, nothing serious. And I was like, “Oh, wow, I really like him.” I think prior to that, we did say we wanted to go together, right?
D.A.: We did, the night before.
Elicia: Yeah. (LAUGHTER) The night before.
D.A.: We did.
Elicia: On a…
John: Love is so fickle (laughter).
Elicia: …On a three-way phone call with our friends. They – they set it up, and we were like, “OK, yes, we’ll go together,” OK? (Laughter) So I was excited at the time, ready to give him this ring. I get to the church, and I was like, “Hey, pass this down, and I’ll let him pick it up from there.” (Laughter)
D.A.: So basically…
Jim: You’re very kind.
D.A.: Yeah. So basically, there’s 10 people in between Elicia and I – her brother, cousins, my cousins, friends. And she passes the ring down, and when it gets to me – uh, my mom had always told me, “A ring to a girl means marriage.” And here I am, 9, 10 years old, thinking, “There’s no way I can support a wife.” (Laughter) “I can’t even have a girlfriend. I’m sneaking behind, literally, my mom’s back to have Elicia as my girlfriend. I got to go to fifth grade. How am I gonna pay bills?” (LAUGHTER) That’s what – that’s…
John: That’s a lot to go through your mind.
D.A.: That’s what’s going through my mind.
D.A.: So I just – I jump up in the middle the service. And it’s a large sanctuary, seats about 1,250. And this is back in the – in the ’80s, man. And so… (Laughter) I jump up and say, “I can’t do this no mo’.” And I throw the ring down, and I run out. (LAUGHTER) And I was just like, “It’s too much pressure,” and I ran. And that…
D.A.: …Actually, really deeply hurt Elicia.
Elicia: Yeah, so it was…
Jim: That was the beginning of your conflict.
Elicia: That was the beginning. There was no explanation, no, “Hey, Elic, this is too fast” – nothing. I mean, he literally just got up and walked out of the church.
D.A.: I – and we never addressed that…
D.A.: …Until we were in our 20s.
Jim: I mean, that…
Jim: …In the book, is that – everybody kind of laughed about it…
Jim: But it really did hurt…
Elicia: Oh, yeah.
Jim: …Your feelings.
And so your 20s come along. How did you pull the scab off of this feeling and say, “Hey, D.A., remember that day 10 years ago when we were in fifth grade?”
Elicia: Yeah. Well, I mean, I’d have to take it back just a little bit before that because even as teenagers, we grew up in youth group, and we had mutual friends. We had a great friendship.
But there was always this thing that he kept doing that I just did not catch on to. And he would, you know, have some of his friends come around and say, “Hey, do you think he’s cute, or you like him?” And I’m always like, “No, I don’t. I don’t even know this person. Why would you ask me that?” The whole time, he finally confessed that he wanted me to say, “Hey, I don’t like them; I actually like you.” And I’m like, “What kind of twisted, like, games were you playing with me?” And it was manipulation. He just wanted me to really say that I liked him and profess my love to him.
But this whole time, I kept thinking he felt that I was promiscuous or I was that type of girl who liked all these different guys, so I just really built up a lot of, like, anger and hurt on top of what I experienced when I was little. So yeah. Pull that scab off in the 20s, I mean, we were just – I’m telling him – I’m like, “I don’t – do you really fully want to commit to me? Do you really want to just deal with all the emotional baggage that you contributed to? Like, can we talk about this?” And he was a passive – a passive person…
Elicia: …And was just like, “No. You know, I’m sorry.” But then we would trip on it, you know, later down the road.
Elicia: …Through conversation because I would bring it back up again ’cause we never addressed it.
Jim: No, that’s good. Uh, Elicia, you had, um, other complications as a child…
Jim: …I mean, as you come into this relationship – sexual abuse. Um, how were you trying to manage that, emotionally and spiritually, with your relationship with D.A.?
Elicia: Um, I didn’t, really, to be honest. Um, I felt that I should have just suppressed it because I didn’t feel like I had a safe outlet to speak about it.
It was really hard for me for quite some time because I felt that if I talked to anybody about it, then I would be the accused, not the one that was the victim.
Elicia: And so – and because time had elapsed between when it happened and until we got together, I just thought that, hey, this is part of who I am, but I don’t really know anybody or any resources that are going to help me talk through this. And it wasn’t until our fifth year of marriage when I finally came out and just opened up about that.
Jim: So really, nobody knew.
D.A.: Nobody knew.
Jim: Wow. Yeah.
Elicia: No, they didn’t. They didn’t.
Jim: That must’ve been a very difficult process. There’s so many, um, women who go through something like that, and they don’t talk to anybody about it, and then they get into marriage and these things explode.
Elicia: Hm. Absolutely.
Jim: How did you manage that, if I can…
Jim: …You know, ask you. It’s very personal, I understand.
Elicia: Sure. No, I feel that once we had that conversation, um – it was a real, open, candid conversation just about where we feel like the Lord was leading us. And I just had been, like, really impressed to say, “OK, I need to talk to him about this,” you know.
It was during a time where we were trying – we were at a boot camp, I think…
D.A.: For church planting.
Elicia: …For church planting. And the whole purpose was to go back to the hotel and just have good quality time talking through some of the things that the materials – and I just really felt that this was a right moment…
Elicia: …For me to share that. And so when I did, it led to so much. Um, it was, like, an eye-opener for me, but it really – I felt, like, a sense of relief now…
Elicia: …That I can finally just say, “OK, this is a part of my story, but this is not who I am.” And I’m thankful that I can share this with somebody who is not gonna leave me, who’s not gonna treat me different, but is going to walk me through…
Elicia: …This healing process. And I’m thankful for my husband, at that time, still being a pastor. And he really shepherded in my heart during that process.
Jim: That’s amazing ’cause you could – I could only imagine the fear.
Elicia: Oh, absolutely.
Jim: And then you think, what may come after that…
Elicia: Oh, absolutely.
Jim: …That combination.
Elicia: Absolutely, yeah.
Jim: But instead, it was encouragement.
Elicia: It was so much encouragement.
Jim: And that’s a blessing.
Elicia: Yeah, it was.
Jim: The – so often in marriage counseling, we talk about this idea of being known – being fully known and fully accepted. That’s got to be what you experienced in that moment.
Elicia: Oh, absolutely.
Jim: …That, “Now I’m fully known – my secret – and my husband still loves me.”
Jim: It’s a beautiful part of the story.
Let me open this up, D.A., for you, as well. Family of origin plays such a role. We’ve had the Yerkovichs on here, “Focus on the Family.” And they’re very big in terms of the family of origin environment shaping your future marital conflict.
John: Yeah, attachment patterns.
Jim: …The way you respond to your spouse when something happens. It’s powerful stuff. And I know many people have been blessed by the Yerkovichs when they’ve been on. But what was your family of origin story? D.A., let’s start with you. What was going on? What were you learning?
D.A.: Yeah. You know, um, so being Mexican American, uh, from my mom’s side – uh, she was born Roman Catholic, and there was no separation of the two. And Billy Graham came to Kansas City in ’78. My mom heard the Gospel, and she made a profession of faith. And that moment in her life altered, uh, because she was, you know, spiritually born again. And…
Jim: A relationship with Christ.
Jim: That’s the distinction.
D.A.: And it was completely different from what she was raised in, so that – that just had a ripple effect in our entire family. And, uh – in some positive, some negative ways.
But she had us going to an Assembly of God church at a young age. So I would hear the Gospel proclaimed regularly, um, and I would see that my mom would be the one taking us to church. My dad felt that his role was more provider, uh, protector, uh, not necessarily priest. And we didn’t even hear that language, you know, until we got into Bible college. So I didn’t even have a category for what it looked like to be, uh, leading a family in that – in that way because my dad was taught that it was the mother’s role. So he was just – you know, with his family of origin, this is how things are done. You go to work; you pay the bills; you, uh, supply for the family, and the mother is the one that rears the children with behavior, emotions, religion and things of that nature.
And so, um, you know, growing up in – in – in that sense, I had a real closeness with my mom. My relationship with my dad was really more defined in sports. But he worked third shift, overnight.
D.A.: And my mom worked the early shift, so I was a latchkey kid. And there was space between my brother and I – 7 years old. And my oldest brother, he passed away when I was 10, um, but he was 13 years older than me. So I was – in some ways, my coming-of-year age was very – almost like an only child growing up in the middle of the inner city. And so I began to recognize that I functioned very independently. I – I didn’t have to consider my mom and dad. We would be at home – if we ate dinner together, uh, it would be in three different rooms, each of us watching three different TV programs.
D.A.: …And completely content, you know? And then we would engage with each other every now and then, but I would go to the movies with my mom. I would go to the mall with my mom, so I had a very close relationship. So she helped me understand, um, a woman’s perspective, especially from a godly perspective and scriptural. So I was very more in tune to things emotionally, uh, when it would come to Elicia. And when she would say things, I’m like, “Oh, she really means this.” This is – OK. My mom would help me understand these things.
So there’s positives and negatives in that. But I think one of the greatest detriments that I brought into our marriage is – that I’m constantly trying to unlearn is that machismo independence. “It’s my way. I can do this. I don’t need any help. I don’t need to ask for help. I don’t need to come to the rescue. Just – you got to figure it out for yourself. I’ve got to figure it out for myself” – which – that is a massive barrier to oneness (laughter) in a relationship.
Jim: No, I appreciate that vulnerability.
Jim: I think you’re speaking – you know, we have cultural overlays, but that’s a male thing.
Jim: …No matter what your culture of origin is. I mean, I think a lot of us suffer from that. We’re compartmentalized. We’re isolated.
Jim: Uh, we just want to turn from our problem. I’m guilty of that.
Jim: I do that, too. It’s a lot easier to deal with those things when you don’t have to deal with them.
D.A.: Yeah. (Laughter) Yeah, so true.
Jim: Isn’t that true?
Jim: And then, Elicia, what was your family of origin?
Elicia: So I would definitely say that we were polar opposites when it came to our origins. Um, his family was very independent, but my family was very codependent. Um, we did a lot together. Um, we celebrated birthdays together, I mean…
Jim: So you were all in.
Elicia: We were all in, you know?
Jim: Sounds like Big Fat Greek Wedding (laughter) is what it sounds like.
D.A.: But – but – but…
Jim: Very active, very – yeah.
D.A.: But for every – every birthday, every holiday.
Elicia: Yeah, every…
D.A.: Every…and the in-laws.
Jim: And you’re the independent kid…
Jim: …Watching TV by yourself…
John: Give you space (ph), yeah.
Jim: …Eating dinner.
Elicia: So when I invited him in to that, it was kind of not a clash of titans yet, but it was just kind of like, “Wait. What – why are we celebrating this, again?” He would ask those questions, and I’m like, (gasp) You don’t want to come?” You know, I would just automatically take it the wrong way, not thinking he wanted to be a part of this because he had questions. And so …
Yeah. So we did a lot together. And we – you mix those two in a pot, and it’s like, you know, water and oil; we didn’t mix well. And we had to really form our own sense of interdependence, which was this oneness that we’re talking about.
Let me – let me get to a key point in your book – which is great – and that is the subtitle, Fighting Together For A Gospel-Saturated Marriage. Uh, some of us may not understand what that even means. Uh, describe what a Gospel-saturated marriage is.
D.A.: Basically, you know, I use the analogy of, one time I was traveling, and I’d like to iron my clothes, and I’d like them to be crisp, so I travel with my own spray starch.
Jim: OK (laughter).
D.A.: It’s a brand – a brand that I’ve been using since I was a kid. And, um, it leaked out of the container that I had, and it literally got on everything. It literally saturated, got into the fabric of all of my clothes when I opened up that suitcase.
D.A.: And that’s the idea that we think about, Gospel-saturation. The Gospel is the beautiful message that connects our story to God’s story because the bridge is Jesus Christ. And the reality is – is that the Gospel is not just something for my soul; it’s for the whole of my being. Jesus’ restorative work is for my mind, my behavior patterns, and my thought life, my emotions, the brokenness in my physical body, like, all of these components. Then when we begin to think through the saturation of the Gospel, we want it to basically invade and begin to transform, through the Holy Spirit’s power, every fabric of who we are.
Jim: D.A., let me ask you this. Uh, and I don’t think it’s just a male question. I think females struggle with this, as well. How do you do that? I mean, you talked about before your – your, uh, marriage, two months out, you have this, you know, verbal attack going on between each other out middle of street for six hours – which, by the way, that’s a marathon. (LAUGHTER)
Jim: And even drug dealers were moving away.
Jim: …For those that may have joined us a little late.
Jim: You know, it’s quite profound. how do you bring yourself back to this discipline of, “OK, that was not right; Lord, forgive me; I’ve got to do that better”? I mean, after you do that three, four, five, 20 times in a day, it could be fatiguing to where you then stop fighting.
Jim: You don’t look for saturation.
Jim: You’re looking for just getting dry.
D.A.: Yeah. No, and that’s true. And that’s true every day. The – the – the Christian faith and following Christ is not something that’s just filled with the romantic only. It’s real. I mean, Jesus incarnated into reality. He added to his full deity, full humanity. And so when Jesus embraced humanity and he incarnated, the reality of that says that, man, Jesus literally has the right to speak to every nuance of my life as a human being.
D.A.: And so with that, there is a discipline that is necessary. We have to – Romans, chapter 12 – we have to begin to think through, how do we renew our minds? How do I stop my flesh from going into the behavior patterns that the world, and my flesh and the evil one desires? How do I fight that? Well, it’s through the Word of God. It’s through prayer. It’s through confessing, uh, of our brokenness, the confession of our sins, but even the confession of our shortcomings and taking ownership of that and making our Christian walk with Jesus one that is authentic, that is real, that speaks to the fact that we’re not superhuman, we’re not perfect, we’re broken, but we’re all in a process together.
Jim: And in that case, I don’t want to go by the praying together.
Elicia: I was just about to add that.
Elicia: So thank you.
Jim: You emphasized that in the book, and it’s so critical. But why?
Elicia: Um, I mean, that is – obviously, prayer is such a great way to gather our hearts together in that moment in time, especially when we are in the midst of our flesh. I mean, we’re doing opposite of what our flesh wants to do. Our flesh doesn’t want to pray. Our flesh doesn’t want to stop and ask for forgiveness or stop and confess our sins.
And so I’m thankful that we both have disciplined our hearts enough to know that when those moments come, I can say, “Hey, I need prayer right now.”
Elicia: You know, I need us to really stop and ask the Lord to intervene in this moment before we say stuff that we’re gonna regret. We’re gonna move past, um, hurts that we are not acknowledging, or we’re gonna just keep repeating the same patterns that we’re trying to overcome.
Elicia: And so for my husband and I, that’s something that I’m thankful that we both do consistently, especially when we know we’ve had those rough days. I can go to him and say, “I just need prayer right now.” Or he can you go to me. And sometimes – and – and I love it. And I don’t think it’s that machismo that stops him from asking for prayer. I just feel like sometimes – like, we’re talking about – he gets so beat down by the world.
Elicia: …And just everything going on that, in that moment, I’ll just go grab him and say, “I’m gonna pray for you. Is that OK?”
Jim: Well, I would imagine…
Jim: …A big byproduct of that, then, is this great emotional intimacy…
Elicia: Oh, absolutely.
Jim: …For the two of you, which, you know, is kind of the core thing for all other intimacy…
Jim: …But that you feel connected that way.
But you came from that place – again, for those who may not have caught it at the top – you guys were fighting a lot.
Elicia: Oh, absolutely.
Jim: As we end today, I’m thinking of that couple – they know the Lord, but they’re not fighting well, if I could say it that way.
Jim: They – they aren’t stopping and saying, “Hey, can we just pray together?” What tripwire can they use to remind themselves to stop the negative engagement, kind of the flesh engagement, the enemy’s engagement, with each other, stop fighting with each other and say, “OK, let’s pray”? How do you develop, uh, discipline to do that? Because it doesn’t come naturally.
Jim: That’s only by God you can do that.
D.A.: Absolutely, yeah. Well, the first, obviously, is, surrender the whole of who you are to Jesus because fighting in our flesh, it – that’s the natural response. But the supernatural response comes by embracing Christ and being indwelled by the Holy Spirit. And I think the practical application for that is to recognize that you’re two broken human beings that are trying to fight with each other. Stop fighting each other, and fight for each other. And that is best . . .
Jim: That’s big.
D.A.: …Done when you are saying, “Let’s humble our hearts. Prayer is a sacred time where we’re communicating to the God of the universe. And we are – he allows us into his holy of holies” because Jesus has given us access. So let’s go into the holy of holies in our time of need. That’s what the author of Hebrews says. So let’s go there, full-bore in our flesh. We don’t like each other right now. There’s baggage. There’s issues. There’s brokenness. There’s tension. And guess what? God has an open-door policy, so run to God…
D.A.: …Together, and let him shape your togetherness in his presence.
Jim: I really like that, D.A., to fight for the couple…
Jim: …To fight for yourselves, not against yourselves.
Jim: That is so good. Um, and this has been great! Um, thank you, first and foremost, for being so honest – uh, Elicia, for your vulnerability on your past. I mean, you were a little girl, and I trust the Lord has mended those wounds and healed you…
Elicia: He has, indeed.
Jim: …Even though, you know, the memory is there.