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Staying Committed Through the Rough Seasons of Marriage (Part 2 of 3)

Staying Committed Through the Rough Seasons of Marriage (Part 2 of 3)

Al and Lisa Robertson, of Duck Dynasty fame, describe how their tumultuous marriage has been redeemed by God, offering hope and wisdom for couples facing difficult challenges in their marriage. (Part 2 of 3)


Listen to Part 1
Listen to Part 3
Original Air Date: January 14, 2016

Opening:

Recap:

Al Robertson: So, when the crime scene photographer, he asked me, he was like, “What’s goin’ on right now back home?” And I said, “What day is it? And he said, “It’s Sunday.” I didn’t even know. And I thought, I said, “What time is it?” And he says, “Twelve thirty.” I said, “Well, they’re sitting around the dinner table. They just got home from church and they’re probably talkin’ about the sermon and what they heard and what they learned” and it just brought me to tears, ’cause I thought, that’s where I need to be.

Jim Daly: That was a crack in your heart—

Al: That’s exactly right.

Jim: –that started it and it shows you the power of family.

Al: That’s right.

Jim: That’s what we’re about here at Focus on the Family.

Al: And it was the same scene that you see on “Duck Dynasty.” I mean, it’s that closing scene around the table and it’s the one that drew me back home.

End of Recap

John Fuller: That’s Al Robertson and he’s a self-described prodigal returning at that point in the story, to his home where his family was waiting. And we’re gonna hear from Al and his wife, Lisa on today’s “Focus on the Family” with Jim Daly. I’m John Fuller and last time, we started the conversation that you really want to hear on CD or download or through the mobile app, so go to www.focusonthefamily.com/radio to do that.

Body:

Jim: John, yeah, what a story. I mean, I can’t wait to dig into more of the content. What I loved about it was the description both Al and Lisa had about being raised in an environment that wasn’t healthy. I could so relate to that. I know what it means to walk with a limp in that way, when your dad is out of control and raging and you don’t know what to do. You’re a 7-, 8-year-old boy or girl. You know, for Lisa, experiencing that abuse as a little girl and then coming together. You gotta hear it. That’s the bottom line is, just get it and that will give you good background for moving forward today, as we talk about the redemption of Jesus Christ and how He reached into both of their lives through a lot more gritty stuff over the next few years and we’re gonna talk about that today. So, welcome back, both of you.

Al: Good to be back.

Lisa Robertson: Thank you.

Jim: Man, we left off kinda covering your teenage years and Al, in that clip, you ran off to New Orleans. Your dad basically ran you off, sounds like. And your relationship broke down as teenage sweethearts. And you get back together. Let’s pick the story up there. Al, you start renewing your life, thinking differently after coming back from New Orleans. You reconnect with Lisa. Talk about that period of time and what your relationship was like.

Al: Well, you know, I got home from New Orleans and I called. You know, it was a little period of time where I was just, you know, I didn’t want to do anything till get stronger in Christ. And so, I decided I wasn’t even gonna try to date anybody or even have a girlfriend, because that had been bad every relationship and it was me, not them, but so, for a while I was just kinda walkin’ with Christ.

But you know, if that’s not your gift, you can’t stay that way long. And so, I thought, you know, I really need to have a relationship, but have a good relationship. And so, during that process though, I am getting stronger, you know, spiritually and I’m with the right people now. Now I’m truly engaged with the Christian community and church and my parents even. We’re havin’ very open conversations about life and I’m seein’ a lot of people, you know, comin’ to Christ in that process. I’m getting’ excited about bein’ a Christian, you know, for the first time.

But I knew about Lisa and so, I was like, I need to, you know, I just have always felt drawn, because I knew how much she cared about me. And so, I was always curious about where her life was and so, I started doin’ a little checkin’ around town and finding out about her.

And so, I called her up, just kinda out of the blue. I knew she was in a relationship. She was still a senior in high school though, so I mean, she’s, you know, very young. And I’m in college now and so, I call her up and I said, “You know, I’m back in town.” And of course, she said, “Well, I know you’re back in town. I heard.” I said, “Well, I heard you’re in like a serious relationship.” And she said, “Well, I am, you know. We’re talkin’ about getting’ married after high school.” And I said, “Well, do you want to go out this Friday?” And she said, “Sure.”

Jim: That was a bold statement. (Laughing) It’s funny.

Al: That was the bravado, wasn’t it? And then she just comes right in with a yes and that was our second first date, you know, at that time.

Jim: So, your heart was there, huh, Lisa?

Lisa: It was.

Jim: I mean, really, when I hear that, your heart was with Al.

Lisa: Absolutely and you know, for two years that he was gone, my life took a downward spiral and I slept around with many guys. I did drugs, alcohol and at one point I found myself pregnant and I was 16-years-old and did not know what to do. Didn’t have anyone to talk to, because I had alienated my friends, but also my church, you know, mentors, my youth leaders. I knew they didn’t want to see me or that’s so I thought, you know.

Jim: So, you were kinda livin’ that double life that Al talked about last time, that you know, on Sunday it was church, but the rest of the time it was pretty much do what I want to do.

Lisa: That’s exactly right. And so, really the only people that I had to talk to were my parents.

Jim: Yeah.

Lisa: And so, I went in and talked with my parents and told them, you know, what had happened. And of course, my boyfriend at that time wanted to get married and have the baby, but you know, I said, “You’re not my prince. You’re not who I’ve been waiting for. I’m not gonna marry you.” And so, we thought and you know, at 16-years-old, lots of things goes through your mind and most of it is not mature thinking and hardly any of it is wisdom.

So, I thought that the only thing that I should do was to have an abortion. And my parents thought the same, but again, I am so convinced that they did not think of what was growing inside of me as a child. They thought like, you know, Satan leads us to believe and also, you know, the evil that’s in the world leads us to believe that this is just tissue.

Jim: Right.

Lisa: This is just a blob of tissue and there’s nothing to it. You do this and tomorrow you go on about your business. And so, that’s what I did, was I went into this environment where it was very cold. It was very dark, very sterile. No one was happy. No one talked and I allowed them to take my baby. And that was probably the second worst day of my life. I’m almost 50, so for 33-plus years I’ve thought about that. The thing that I can say that I can encourage people in this is, I think about it. The regret is still there, but the guilt and the shame Jesus has taken away.

Jim: Boy, that’s wonderfully said and that’s the truth.

Lisa: It is.

Jim: And that’s what, again, it’s so awesome about that vulnerability that you bring to it. You continued to spiral down though. You did get married. How old were you both when you got married?

Al: I was 19, Lisa was 18 and I had asked her to marry me and the next week, you know, we had been together about nine months now and I was like, you know, I knew we were ready. And we had made a decision to stay pure through our dating process this time, this–

Jim: Kind of a recommitment.

Al: –go round, a recommitment and we did. But that was getting more difficult every day and so, said, “Let’s get married next Friday. I don’t like long engagements.” And Lisa said yes and so, we did. Our parents weren’t too crazy about that, of course, but we did. And so, we entered in this, now this new walk as a married couple.

Jim: And that’s where we gotta go with the story, because the pain doesn’t end. It’s not that Cinderella part yet. You get married. All the brokenness is coming in–your needs, Lisa, lookin’ to Al to meet those. I mean, we’re all identifying with different aspects of your story. I really appreciate what you’re doin’ here by being again, so vulnerable in such a public way, because it helps us better understand our own brokenness and our own hope in Christ, that He can patch those holes up. Talk about getting married and then what happens? Does it all go well or does it begin to fall apart?

Al: Well, you know, early on it was, I think, a typical teenage marriage, for sure or you know, young people getting married, having typical problems that you would have. You know, our kids are born in this early process. We had both our daughters in that first five years. Our oldest daughter was a premature baby. She was only one pound, 15 ounces and came in at 29 weeks. And so, that was a huge faith builder for us, I think during that process of trusting God, that she would survive all that.

Jim: And in fact, Lisa, you felt that medical condition, that in some ways, maybe the Lord was holding you accountable for your previous abortion.

Lisa: Right. She was born at 29 weeks, but then her younger sister two years later nearly came at 26 weeks, but they were able to, you know, do a surgical procedure and I kept her full term. And then, two years after that I had a miscarriage. And the whole time I’m thinkin’, I can’t continue this, because I mean, I am hurting my babies because of decisions that I made at 16-years-old. God is punishing me for taking the life of that baby at 16.

And I really did, I felt that for many, many years and I felt the guilt of that. I felt the shame of that and I just felt responsible and you know, at every turn. Our daughter had heart surgery whenever she was a month old. I never felt as though I was still worthy of what God was giving to me.

Jim: Lisa, I need to emphasize this, because many women listening are where you were. They’re feeling that. They’re feeling like the accidents, the mistakes that have happened, the trauma either in, you know, childbearing or some incident that has occurred is the result of their disobedience to the Lord. Go a little deeper and how did you reconcile that? How did you come to realize that God is a God of love and forgiveness and care? We may carry the burden of those decisions, the circumstances will still be there, but it’s not God’s heart to punish us, is it?

Lisa: No, it’s not. We serve a God who loves us and who cares for us and all He wants to do is to bless us. And I did not learn that until I was about 35-years-old. So, I suffered with that for a long time.

Jim: What got you through? What happened at 35 that you went, okay, now I can accept God’s grace?

Lisa: At 35 is when I ultimately gave my life to Christ. That’s whenever Jesus Christ became the Lord of my life and Alan was taken from that pedestal.

Jim: Was that a moment in time? Do you remember when that happened?

Lisa: Oh, absolutely.

Al: Yeah, that’s like she said, you know, that abortion was the worst, second worst day of her life. The worst day was when she realized just how much in despair she was, layin’ in the backyard of our house. You know, that was the moment.

Jim: So, you’re married for 14 years.

Al: Fifteen years.

Jim: Fifteen years–

Al andLisa: Yeah.

Jim: –at this point.

Al: And Lisa had at this point in our marriage had, had an affair that lasted 14 months. And I’m associate pastor at, you know, our church. So, and our family obviously, was a family, evangelistic family that everybody knows. And so, you know, this was a very public and a very, you know, traumatic difficult thing that happened when it all came out.

But that’s what it took, Jim, for her to get to the point of realization of just, that it was a cascade of everything from being a child and bein’ molested, to having that abortion, to things we had done, to all the guilt. Everything piled up in that moment and that’s when she broke, layin’ in the backyard of our house the night after she confessed to me about the affair.

Jim: There is so much there. I mean, how did you process that, Al? That you know, your wife had been living this dual situation. You didn’t know for 14 months. Lisa, let’s start with you. How did you fall into that again? What trapped you into a new relationship, seeking affection and affirmation, even though you had your prince? Why did you fall into a relationship with someone else?

Lisa: Well, I still don’t think that I ever considered myself worthy of having the prince. You know, I think that my mind was still a little dark from the things that had happened to me, things that I had experienced and that darkness just began to overtake me.

And I was goin’ to church. I was the preacher’s wife. I went to every class. I went to every women’s class. I heard every sermon. I helped him with his sermons, you know. He went through preachin’ school. I helped him with all of that. And so, it wasn’t a matter of knowing what was right; it was a matter of knowing what you needed and I did not know at the time that I needed Jesus Christ. I was never honest and that dishonesty started whenever I was 7-years-old, because I could never tell anybody what was goin’ on in my life. I could never tell ’em who was doin’ what. So, I was never honest for my whole entire life until I was 35-years-old.

And whenever I spoke those words to Alan that night, to tell him everything that had been goin’ on, it was a relief, because I could finally say who I was. But I’m tellin’ you, whenever I heard the words of all the things that I had been doing and the person that I was, I began to cry, because I said, “That is not who I want to be, but that is who I am.”

And how do I get away from this? What do I do? And you know, I believed in God, but I never acted on that belief. And so, whenever I went out into the backyard, you know, I wanted to be as low as I could be, because there was nowhere to go. I had lost everything. I’d lost my family. I’d lost my husband. My friends were my church friends and I was losin’ it all. I had nowhere to turn.

And so, whenever I laid my head in that grass in the backyard, I said, “God, I believe in You. I know that You’re there. I really do.” And different times in our lives I could see where God had worked in our lives, but I still had no relationship with Him.

Jim: Well, and that’s, Al, I’ve gotta turn the story to you so she and you have this discussion. You discover that she is having an affair, Lisa’s having an affair. How did you approach it? How did you have the forgiveness? I mean, many guys are sayin’, I would’ve left her.

Al: Right and a lot of people were tellin’ me that at the time. It was interesting. You put it so nicely, Jim, you know, the discussion we had. I was like a CIA interrogator to get to truth, because it was just layers and layers of dishonesty. So, I mean, we were hours that night to get at that truth. And when she finally broke and was finally totally honest, I felt relief first and then just numbness after. And that’s what I was; I was just completely numb.

And I told her we were going to divorce, that I wasn’t gonna stay married to her and at that moment, that’s exactly what I felt, you know, that I was gonna do. But it was interesting. Over the course of the next few days, weeks and ultimately a couple of months, a lot of people advised me just that. There were other people that were saying, you know, just take some time. Don’t make any hard decision now. Just wait. Just wait and let God, you know, work on you and that was great advice, which I’ve used to a lot of other people.

Jim: How do you do that in that moment though? I’m just, you know, thinking through if I were in your shoes and some listening have been in your shoes, to bridle that desire to strike back, to bridle the flesh and the response that we would want to have and put it at the foot of the cross; that is big.

Al: It’s huge and look, a lot of people can’t or don’t do it and feel like they can’t do it.

Jim: And feel justified.

Al: And feel justified, absolutely and say, you know, “Well, even Christ said, you know, except for marital unfaithfulness,” so it’s almost like there’s a clause there. But what I always tell people is, look, you have been forgiven by God and as a Christian, if you’ve embraced that forgiveness, then you have the capacity to forgive in a way you don’t know that you have yet.

Because a lot of people say, “If that ever happened to me, I know what I would do.” No you don’t. No one knows until you live through every situation you live through, but there is a capacity. If God is big enough to forgive my sin, then He gives me a capacity to forgive someone else’s sin.

And so, I always just say, “Just give it some time to wait.” Look, if you can’t get past this and you’re gonna divorce, you’ll do that in three months as much as you will now. But the emotions that you mentioned a moment ago will not be as raw and guiding your decisions.

The same thing if a person loses a spouse. The emotions of that are so difficult, you know, the death of a spouse, but don’t run and sell your home and do all these decisions. You’re still so emotionally wounded. Give it some time.

Jim: How did you bridle your tongue though to not say something harsh? Or maybe you did. I mean, that ability to fight back the “I told you so’s” or “How could you’s?”

Al: Right.

Jim: Did you have a trigger that you would say, “Okay, don’t say that; it’ll be destructive.” How did you withhold that raw emotion of striking back?

Al: You know, I had done some of that through the 14 months, you know, when there were times when I suspected somethin’ was goin’ on, but I had been down that road, Jim and it didn’t get us anywhere. So, when she finally did tell the truth, it was interesting, because I believe God gave me the strength to not go down that road, because for the first time she was being honest. And it was almost like part of me wanted to reward her for that by not beating her up more, because how could she get any lower?

And so, even though she had violated that deep trust with me and I didn’t trust her at all, I still at the same time knew she was finally honest. And so, that was a good thing and I think that was a seed that was planted in me and that seed began to grow, that you know what? She’s finally tellin’ the truth and a month later, I actually realized that I still cared about her, because I was worried about what she was goin’ through and was she bein’ taken care of and what was her future gonna look like? ‘Cause I was still thinkin’ we wouldn’t be together, but I was already worryin’ about her future.

Jim: So, you’re separated.

Al: We’re separated and she was very, Lisa did everything the right way. She didn’t try to overdo. Every boundary I set, she did and she followed. You know, I didn’t want her in the house. I didn’t want to talk to her. I didn’t want her touchin’ me. You know, I didn’t want her tryin’ to, you know, I’m so sorry. I didn’t want to hear any of that stuff. I wasn’t ready for it then and she did just the right thing. She didn’t cross any of those boundaries.

She was goin’ through her own process now as now a new Christian. ‘Cause during this process, she had embraced Christ. She had a group of ladies around her that were showing her now strength and love and here’s where you can go. And so now this broken woman is being built into the image of Christ. And I noticed. You know, I noticed. I noticed from afar. I wouldn’t like to ask her anything directly, but her friends were my friends. And so, they would tell me about some of the things that she was doing. She was immersed in Proverbs and Psalms and they were speakin’ to her. You know, and [those were] really her words of encouragement.

And to this day, one of our favorite passages in Proverbs, it says, “An honest answer is like a kiss on the lips.” And it really related honesty to relationship and that was the key for us. And so, after two months, you know, I realized that, you know what? I still love her and I knew I had a capacity to forgive her.

And so, one night I called her up and she was scared to death, ’cause she thought I was serving her with divorce papers, ’cause I told her I wanted to meet. But instead, it was just the opposite. We had a real conversation about what a life would like together. And that began the process of our renewed life.

Jim: And I see that emotion in your eyes.

Al: Yeah.

Jim: It is a beautiful story of redemption and when you look at your life together and what you came out of as children, what you experienced as teenagers, your struggles in your marriage, the rawness of all that, the trauma of all that, but still God somehow was able to redeem you. That’s the beautiful story here. It’s not so much the tabloid stuff of what occurred. I mean, it does sound a bit like Judge Judy. I mean, all the stuff goin’ on and it’s just chaos. But God stuck with you, because you stuck with Him. You didn’t abandon Him at the moment that you could have. Talk about that. Since that night on your back lawn and the separation and comin’ together and your points of honesty, what is your relationship like today?

Al: Well, you know, we renewed our vows, totally private, just the two of us. We wrote out the life we wanted to have in the future and from that point to today, is it’s 16 years later, we made a decision that we were going to live honestly and we were gonna life forgiveness. And I realized somethin’, Jim, that you know, you can say I forgive a person, but if you only use what’s happened to then lead into the next argument, in other words, if a year later I say, “Oh, is this what happened? Is this what lead to you cheatin’ on me?” If I use our past hurts and sins as a way to damage our present or our future, that’s not what living forgiveness is. That’s not what God does for us.

Jim: Right.

Al: So, when He says, “I will forgive you and remember your sins no more,” it doesn’t mean God is a, you know, can’t remember. It’s He chooses not to. He chooses to not let our past damage our future and that’s what we decided to do from that point forward. And as we live today this redeemed life as a couple, that’s why we can talk about it. That’s why we can write a book about it. That’s why we can stand in front of audiences and share our pain, because God has healed us. God has healed us completely, because we finally totally now together, we’re two Christians with Him being our Lord, we’re livin’ a married life. And it’s a totally different life. We’re living Philippians 2, where Lisa’s interests are above my interests and mine are above hers.

Closing:

John: That’s Al Robertson and he and his wife, Lisa have been our guests on this Best of 2016 “Focus on the Family” with your host, Jim Daly.

Jim: John, there is still more to come. This is one of those unusual times when we actually went three days with our guests, because again, Al and Lisa’s story was so powerful and the conversation was so good, we wanted to make sure we got an ample taste of what they expressed in their book.

These kinds of struggles that they are discussing first of all, I just appreciate their boldness and their wide-open honesty about it, but this is the stuff that others are going through. It may not be the exact story, but pieces of it people are going through. In fact, we got a note from a woman anonymously and she said this: “I wanted to let Al and Lisa Robertson know how profoundly they affected me. Lisa especially helped me, because I had a similar experience with regard to abortion and self-worth. Listening to her made me realize that I have not felt worthy of the gift and mercy of God, so much so that I made mistakes in my life that I am still dealing with. It was a blessing to hear them this morning. Lisa’s journey is a lesson for me that will allow me to be more in Christ than I was yesterday.” Man! That is what it’s all about.

And that’s why we share these stories on the radio every day to help you draw closer to Christ, which in turn will make your marriage stronger, your parenting more effective and your everyday relationships, I think, more enjoyable and more Christ-honoring. And the bottom line is, I want to make sure you hear me, we are here for you. We have resources and tools available. We have caring Christian counselors who will listen and pray with you and give you suggestions, even marriage intensives like our Hope Restored program that help people whose marriages are at the very bottom, maybe even on the brink of divorce. Give us a call. You’re not gonna shock, us with your story and hopefully together, we can help point you in a direction that changes your life for the better in Christ.

Maybe Focus has been there for you this past year and we have walked you through a marriage problem or crisis or a parenting issue. May I ask you to help support the ministry now? This is when about half the budget is raised at this time of year and we need to know if we’re going to have enough gas to move forward throughout the year. And if you can give right now, no amount is too small. It’ll make an impact on families who need your help, so do ministry through Focus on the Family today.

And when you donate today, you’ll give will go twice as far. We have some special friends that put up a matching challenge gift that will double the amount you give today, so $50 becomes $100. And if you can help us like that, as a way of saying thank you, I would like to send you a copy of Al and Lisa Robertson’s book, A New Season.

John: Donate and get your copy of A New Season when you call 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY; 800-232-6459 or go online and donate at www.focusonthefamily.com/radio And then after you’ve made that donation, let me encourage you to look around our new online store. It’s a great place for finding gifts and resources and the proceeds go right back into Focus on the Family’s ministry efforts. So, when you shop there, you’re helping us continue to do that kind of outreach.

On behalf of Jim Daly and the entire Focus on the Family team, thanks for listening. I’m John Fuller, inviting you back for a continuation of our conversation with Al and Lisa Robertson. That’s tomorrow, as we once again, help you and your family thrive.

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A New Season

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