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Strengthening Your Marriage Through Daily Choices

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Strengthening Your Marriage Through Daily Choices

Pastor Ron Zappia and his wife, Jody, describe the turbulent early years of their marriage and how God's grace helped restore their relationship. They share the valuable lessons they learned through that process in a discussion based on their book, The Marriage Knot: 7 Choices That Keep Couples Together.
Original Air Date: February 26, 2020

Today's Guests

Episode Summary

Pastor Ron Zappia and his wife, Jody, describe the turbulent early years of their marriage and how God's grace helped restore their relationship. They share the valuable lessons they learned through that process in a discussion based on their book, The Marriage Knot: 7 Choices That Keep Couples Together.
Original Air Date: February 26, 2020

Episode Transcript

Excerpt:

Jody Zappia: I thought we were going there to get an OK for a divorce …I thought the whole meeting was going to be focusing on Ron and what he did and that I was pretty sure the Bible said that that was grounds for divorce.

End of Excerpt

John Fuller: You know, the choices that a husband and wife make in marriage can either strengthen the relationship, or they can weaken the relationship. And this is Focus on the Family. Today, we have a really inspiring story about a couple who were in trouble. And, uh, they learned what God wanted them to do to change their lives and to give them a renewed, wonderful marriage. And your host is Focus president and author Jim Daly. And I’m John Fuller.

Jim Daly: John, Ron and Jody Zappia have an amazing testimony of faith, and it demonstrates God’s power to heal a marriage. And that’s why I’m excited to hear from them today. If you’re struggling in your marriage, uh, this is going to minister to your heart. In fact, God can use a marriage breakdown to draw a couple to himself. That sounds kind of oxymoronic, but it’s how God works. He’ll use your valley to put you on the mountaintop. And that’s the story of the Zappias.

John: Yeah. It really is a miracle to hear what happened. And Ron and Jody have written a book called The Marriage Knot: Seven Choices That Keep Couples Together. And we’re gonna explore those as we go along. You can get the book at focusonthefamily.com/broadcast. Ron is senior pastor of Highpoint Church in the Chicago area. And, uh, that’s a church that he and Jody planted in 2000. He also leads Highpoint Ministries, which is a teaching outreach. Jody has served in women’s ministry, and she works alongside Ron to help couples.

Jim: Ron and Jody, welcome to Focus on the Family.

Ron Zappia: Well, it is a privilege to be here. We’re so grateful to be with you guys.

Jim: I love it. Um, I want to get right into the story.

Ron: Yeah.

Jim: Because there’s so much good stuff here for all of us to learn about commitment and God’s…

Ron: Sure.

Jim: …really, resurrection power in someone’s marriage. Let me ask you. You – you counsel a lot of couples…

Ron: Yeah.

Jim: …as we do on the phone here at Focus on the Family.

Ron: Sure.

Jim: What themes do you see specifically when it comes to the breakdown of marriage within the Christian community, particularly?

Ron: Yeah.

Jim: What themes do you hear in these couples that are breaking up their marriages?

Ron: Well – and, you know, oftentimes, people will start with the communication gap. You know what I mean? We talk about that a lot (laughter). You know…

Jim: That’s probably the core one, really.

Ron: That’s what everybody says. And then to kind of dive in a little bit deeper, you find out that there’s probably some things that are happening underneath the surface that are far greater than the communication gap. And, you know, today, people are having so much difficulty. Many relationships begin long distance.

Jim: Yeah.

Ron: That’s what happened with Jody and I. And that caused some trouble early on in our marriage. There’s issues in regards to family members and faith issues. There’s the faith gap, you know, where maybe not everybody is in the same place, spiritually speaking. So, one is either pulling the other or possibly even dragging somebody else down. You know, we see finances. I’m sure you guys know that, you know, the financial realm and the difficulty of couples together working through those things – you know, those are just a few of the things that we’ve seen.

Jim: That lines up. I mean, the intimacy issues, the finance issues and communication issues probably take the top 75%.

Jody: Yeah. That’s what I would say.

Jim: Jody, now that we’ve covered the 40,000-foot view…

Ron: (Laughter) Right.

Jim: We’ve got to zero in on you.

(Laughter)

Jim: Right?

Jody: Yeah.

Jim: Both of you. What was going on in the early part of your marriage? Where were we at spiritually, if anywhere?

Jody: Mm hmm.

Ron: Yeah.

Jim: And then what was the atmosphere like?

Jody: Sure. Uh, Ron and I grew up high school sweethearts. So, we met young. Um…

Jim: Everybody just went, “Aw.”

(Laughter)

Jody: Yeah. Although, I will say, we did not recommend that to our – our three daughters.

Ron: Yeah. Our three girls – we did not.

Jim: Well, that’s a smart father right there.

(Laughter)

Ron: Exactly.

Jody: But we did. We did. We went to different colleges trying to give each other space. Um, in that process, you know, neither one of us were raised in Christian homes.

Jim: Yeah.

Jody: We had…

Jim: That’s significant.

Jody: It is. And we had – we both had great parents, hardworking…

Ron: Yeah.

Jody: Um, and then upon graduation, I ended up going out east to Connecticut. He was in the Cleveland area in Ohio. And we got engaged during that year, and then we got married. And it took about, uh, five months for us to get in the same city. So, our first five months of marriage…

Jim: Wow.

Jody: …we weren’t together. But then it took us about six months to pretty much trash the marriage, unfortunately…

Jim: Yeah, at six months, most people are going, “Wow, that was fast” to really place the cracks in the foundation. What did that look like?

Jody: Mm hmm.

Ron: Yeah.

Jim: I mean, you’re well beyond that now, obviously.

Ron: Sure.

Jim: But you’re doing this and talking about this to help young couples, particularly, make sure that their foundation is stronger. So, what – what would you label the cracks in your marital foundation?

Ron: Yeah, Jim, I mean, I’m just gonna get right down to it. I mean, Jody and I, you know – I – this was the girl I loved. This is the girl I wanted to marry. Um, you know, we had been both working in the marketplace. We finally got to the same city, Chicago. This was it, and we were together. And there was just something going on inside of me which wasn’t healthy, which wasn’t good. Um, you know, I was doing some things that I shouldn’t be doing. Jody probably would say, hey, she was, you know, not doing some things she could have been doing. You know, now we look back, and we can see that. But uh, you know, I’ll just go straight forward and, you know, with both you guys, just be real honest. I got myself involved in a relationship outside of our marriage at work, uh, downtown Chicago. It wasn’t a good situation.

Jim: In that first six months.

Ron: In that first six months.

Jim: That’s – that’s amazing.

Ron: And yeah. It was the crack. I mean, it was…

Jim: Yeah.

Ron: You know, there was many things that were going on. You know, we – Jody’s speaking and, you know, being really humble. I mean, she had a great opportunity coming out of college. I mean, she just – her business career just skyrocketed. And, you know, I was doing well in the business world, but it wasn’t moving that fast. So, there was a lot of these little things that – I couldn’t even have verbalized them back then. But, I mean, it led to me, you know, in an infidelity. I mean, it was a relationship that got on track somewhere. Jody went, uh, to, uh – you know, went away for a business trip. And I was home, and, um, she came back to surprise me early. And the next thing you know, she got the surprise. And, uh, you know, real candid…

Jim: Yeah. You know, we don’t want to spend a lot of time in the spot, because it’s painful.

Ron: Yeah. Yeah

Jim: And – and you guys have done a great job mending the trust and – and doing that in Christ. What was your conviction at that moment? I mean, this is before you became Christians.

Ron: Yeah.

Jim: But it’s weird in that you had this sensitivity, I guess, would be a good word. You had a sensitivity toward God. Why?

Ron: Yeah.

Jim: What was happening spiritually for you guys? I mean, this is, like, the worst moment of your life.

Jody: Yeah, it is. Ironically, the night before what we call our…

Ron: Yeah, the worst.

Jody: …you know, the worst night of our life up until that point, I had actually seen some kind of television show, and it had softened my heart to the point where I had recognized something was wrong in our relationship. I didn’t know what. And I actually shot a prayer up to God. I didn’t pray very often. I didn’t know God personally, but occasionally, I would pray, and usually it was when I was in trouble. And I was sensing trouble, um, and I remember just kind of praying like, “Lord, you know” – or, “God, I don’t know what’s going on. But something’s wrong. If You’ll show me what it is, I’ll do my part.” Um, but ironically, you know, that really got my attention, because I remembered the minute, I saw that something was really bad, um, God had my attention. I can remember almost being like, “OK. What do you want?” Like, he had my attention.

Jim: That’s amazing. You know, people that, um, put that offer forward to God, if I could say it in that way – “God, if you speak to me, I’ll do what you tell me to do…”

Jody: Mm hmm.

Ron: Sure.

Jim: It’s usually in a moment of a valley. It’s rare that we do that on the mountaintop.

Ron: Right.

Jim: You know.

Jody: Mm hmm. Yeah.

Jim: And I guess the question is, how – what were those emotions like? I mean, you couldn’t – I’m sure you couldn’t trust Ron at this point. That was blown away.

Jody: Right.

Jim: And how – how did God answer you?

Jody: Yeah. Well, he had my attention and, um – but I had no clue what to do. Uh, so, I sought a little bit of counsel. And, you know, my sister had just kind of said, “Well, you can’t just get a divorce.” Like, I was definitely planning to get divorced, because…

Jim: Why did she say that?

Jody: You know, again, that wouldn’t have been something she would normally say, but her husband, apparently, was actually telling her to say, “You know, make sure she gets counseling and Christian counseling.” And that just came from his church background.

Ron: Right.

Jody: But that wasn’t the way they, you know, would normally – but I – again, I was just in such a – a fog at that moment. I just knew I could trust my sister if she told me something. I was like, “OK, I’ll just do that.” And so, um…

Jim: So, you went to Christian counseling.

Jody: I – well, I went across the street, actually, just to a church that happened to be across from our apartment. And, um – the very next morning, yeah.

Jim: Just on a Sunday. Man think of that. Talk about just churches in neighborhoods all over the country.

Ron: I know, and she put a dress on and left. I looked at her.

Jody: I waited for church to be over.

Ron: “What are you doing? I mean, what do…” You know, you asked how – where we were emotionally. I mean, I was clueless. I had no spiritual awakening, understanding. I was at rock bottom. I mean, I just – you know, that’s where I was.

Jody: Mm hmm. So, I go across the street and I wait for church to actually be over…

Jim: Before you went in (laughter). You would – OK, no.

Jody: Yeah, I didn’t go to church.

Jim: It’s cute.

Jody: I just wanted to get the counseling my sister told me I had to get. So, I walked in there, and I’m looking at the walls and bulletin boards, looking for something about counseling. And then there’s this one really sweet lady there. And she came up and offered to help. And immediately, we had a connection. Ironically, or – um, she had a really heavy Asian accent, and I didn’t realize, but it was actually an Asian church that was getting ready to meet in the afternoon. But, the Lord even (laughter) worked through that language barrier, and she was able to say – you know, I told her, “I need to get counseling.” I think it’s the first time I had to verbalize this to someone. So, I start crying. And she – her eyes welled up, and she was like, um, “Well, my husband he was a failure, too.” And then she said, “But go to Widow Creek.” And it was Willow Creek, which is up in Barrington. But I thought she’d said widow. And I was – I almost said it. And I didn’t. I was like, “Well, I thought about killing him last night, but I – that’s why I’m here.”

Jim: (Laughter) Oh, my goodness.

Jody: “And I thought that was a bad idea.”

John: Oh, my.

Jim: At least you had a sense of humor on you.

(Laughter)

Jody: But anyhow, I – I figured it out – yes, I figured out, no. So, I trusted, again, her, but she gave me some really wise words. And that was, um, “But don’t go there with half your heart. Go there with your whole heart.” And those words would come back to me. So, we ended up leaving, um, or I end up leaving, and Ron decided to come along to this marriage ministry that was meeting at this large church in uh, um, in Illinois. And they – uh, we walked in there. And, um, that was where God started this work. And then within two weeks of being in this workshop, I ended up requesting for a meeting, because I had to make a decision about this divorce.

Jim: Right.

John: And today on Focus on the Family with Jim Daly, our guests are Ron and Jody Zappia. And, uh, we’ve got their book, The Marriage Knot. Uh, we’ve got caring Christian counselors a click or call away and other resources to help you and your marriage. Our number is 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY, or stop by focusonthefamily.com/broadcast.

Jim: Ron, I want to capture something, and the emotion of it, because for some reason, you had what I would call a conviction.

Ron: Yeah. Right.

Jim: You know, you were feeling bad.

Ron: Right.

Jim: That’s a good thing.

Ron: Yeah, yeah.

Jim: It’s interesting in our culture today how we’ll run from that. But that is what I would say is the Holy Spirit and your conscience working in tandem…

Ron: Yeah, totally.

Jim: …about good and evil.

Ron: Yeah.

Jim: And so, you had that. That’s really good. What happened next? I mean, that remorse – what – how were you dealing with Jody? And what were you saying to her?

Ron: Yeah. Yeah. Well, Jim, you know what? The thing was this, is, I – you know, I was at the rock bottom. You know, people say that all the time, but I was there, man. I mean, I had some, you know, rough edges that need to be filed off. And you know, God had just – you know, this was the woman that I loved, that – you know, nobody stands at the altar and says, “You know, I want to end my marriage and I want it to be – you know, go bad.” I mean, but that’s where we were. So, I had no place to turn. We were in Chicago. I didn’t have any friends or family there. And so, it was almost easier that I didn’t have anybody to talk to, anybody to dissuade me.  Jody let me come with her to this pastor’s office.

Jim: That’s amazing, too, quite frankly.

Ron: You know, yeah. It was incredible. And we went into this pastor’s office. And he asked us – it was the most unconventional counseling technique (laughter) I’ve ever heard of. He asked us – he said, “Well, I’ve only got 45 minutes for you,” which is a great thing, you know, for pastors (laughter).

Jim: That kind of puts the pressure.

Ron: (Laughter) And he said…

Jim: “Let’s get to it.”

Ron: Right. And he said, “You know, we can do one of two things. We can either, one, talk about how bad your marriage is and the crisis that you’re in,” which it was. Or he said, “Number two, we can do this. Um, I can talk to you about the truth of the Lord, Jesus Christ, and the forgiveness that’s available in the cross and how you can build your life and marriage on the rock.” And we were just like – um, we looked at each other. I remember the tears in the eyes. And, you know, I – I mean, it was happening. Repentance was happening right in that moment.

Jim: Yeah.

Ron: And I just said, “You know, give us the Jesus thing.” And literally, he lead us in the prayer. He explained what was going on. He, um, lead us both to Jesus. We walked out of that counseling meeting, you know, certainly not with everything fixed and…

Jim: Oh, right.

Ron: You know, it was going to be a long road.

Jim: A lot of work ahead.

Ron: But I’m telling you, man, I – you know, you said, you know, how was God working? I was convicted. That sense of – the backpack of guilt and shame was gone. I mean, that forgiveness was real. I’d had never experienced anything like that in my life. And so, we went back out in the car, and, you know, God was working. And – and we began to make, then, the choices that were necessary to really put the pieces back together.

Jim: Yeah. Jody, um, women hearing this are going, “Are you kidding me, Jody? Why – what were you thinking? The fact that you let him back into your life and let him tag along.” And – and, you know, I would say that could be a critical spirit. And I – I’m very impressed with how you responded, actually. But I want to recognize the deep wounds that do exist with some women that have been hurt.

Jody: Mm hmm.

Ron: Sure.

Jim: And they’d – maybe it didn’t work out, or maybe they’re still struggling to work it out. Where did you find that ability to say, “OK, let’s keep moving forward; I think I’m in the process of forgiving you”? I don’t want to put words in your mouth.

Jody: Yeah.

Jim: But was it kind of instantaneous, or how was that forgiveness process for you?

Jody: Well, honestly, I was actually pretty skeptical. You know, Ron did – did tag along.

Jim: OK, that’s good. I mean, that feels right to hear that, frankly.

Jody: Yeah, yeah. He tagged along when we came. I – I couldn’t explain everything other than the Holy Spirit was definitely at work. Like I said, I did have a sense that, uh, you know, God had my attention – I will say that – maybe because of that prayer I prayed. I don’t know.

Jim: Did you want the marriage to work after that, or were you ambivalent?

Jody: Uh, I actually – I thought we were going there to get an OK for a divorce, so…

Jim: OK, so that was your mindset.

Jody: Yes, and I also thought…

Jim: OK. So, how’d you start to turn?

Jody: I thought the whole meeting was going to be focusing on Ron and what he did and that I was pretty sure the Bible said that that was grounds for divorce. So, I was actually the harder person in that – in the meeting. But the pastor was wise in drilling into me. He made me own my part. And what I’ll say to women…

Jim: What did that feel like? I mean, did you get defensive?

Jody: Well, I was mad.

Jim: Yeah.

Jody: I was- yeah – I was ticked.

(Laughter)

Jim: “What are you talking about? I’m not the one that did that.”

John: (Laughter) Yeah…

Jim: I can completely understand that.

Jody: Right. Oh yeah. Yeah. Yeah

Jim: So, how did you absorb that? How did you embrace what he was saying?

Jody: Well, I can remember…

Jim: …rather than just reject it?

Jody: Yeah, at moments, I was really mad. And I probably did – I know there was one time, you know, where he’d asked even about our relationship prior to getting married. And had we had sex before marriage? And I remember – you know, I said, “Well, yes, but he’s the only person.” And I can’t say – you know, none of my friends could say the same thing here, you know? And I was – it was my little self, you know, trying…

Jim: Protection.

Jody: …to be a good person. Um, and then he said, “Oh, so you guys told each other it was OK to have sex outside of marriage, then.” And I said, “No. We did not. I would never say that.” You know? And so, I can remember being mad and defensive and then, at the same time, recognizing, you know, well, I guess actions do speak louder than words. And the other thing is, I also had sin in my life that I was never quite sure if I had been forgiven or not. So, I knew I needed the forgiveness. I just didn’t plan on talking about my need that day. I thought it was gonna be about him and, again, getting this OK for a divorce. But, um, what ended up happening is, you know, we both owned our sin. And at the foot of the cross, the ground is even. And we did pray at the end of that meeting. And I remember walking out of there saying, “Wait a minute. What about the marriage, though?” You know, like, we didn’t really figure out, what are we supposed to do?

Jim: That’s interesting.

Jody: Like, he…

John: Wow.

Ron: Yeah.

Jody: Does he need to move out? You know, like basic things…

Ron: Or get out.

Jody: And, you know, we confirmed certain thing – yeah, we confirmed certain things. Like, the relationship had ended. You know, Ron was able to say definitively that that was the case. And then he said, “Well, then if possible, it’d be best if you could stay together. Are you willing to do that?” And I was willing to try that. So, what happened from there is, um, he said, “Well, I don’t know what’s going to happen with your marriage” (laughter). And, um…

Jim: The pastor said that?

John: A lot of hope there.

(Laughter)

Jim: Well, that’s pretty true. It’s straight, though.

John: Yeah.

Jody: Yeah.

Jim: But you know what? I can only imagine he thought, “If their hearts get right with God, their marriage has a chance.”

Jody: Yeah.

Jim: And that’s pretty good counseling, actually.

Jody: It was.

Jim: And you guys took it well. You both look inward to yourselves, before you started pointing fingers.

Jody: Yeah.

Ron: Yeah.

Jim: Now, the question is, did that last? How long did you guys continue to work on your own thing before you maybe wanted to work on your spouse’s thing?

Jody: Yeah.

Ron: Right, well, I think the forgiveness was important for you, Jody. And I know it was more about, you know, forgiveness for you was, you know, that “I can forgive, but I’m not going to stay married.” So, the real question was what?

Jody: Yeah. I remember figuring out within the first week was – recognizing that I knew I needed to forgive. But then, and – and I want to say the – the way I knew that I needed to forgive was because I had just been forgiven for the first time. So that feeling of knowing for the first time that I was forgiven helped me to recognize that, “OK, I know I need to forgive.” And I knew enough – I didn’t know the Bible, but I had heard – one time, I had looked in the Scripture and came across the Scripture that said something about, “Unless you forgive your brother, you won’t be forgiven.”

Jim: Yeah

Jody: I think it was in college. I – that, like, stopped me…

Jim: So that stuck there, though.

Jody: …reading one time. Yeah, because I was like, “Oh, I’m in trouble.” But…

Jim: God will use everything (laughter).

John: Power of the Word.

Jody: But I remembered that, yeah. And so, I had a sense I needed to forgive. So, I was willing to do that. I – I had experienced that it can happen in a moment, but it still felt like stepping off the edge of a cliff. It felt very scary, but, um- so I said, “OK, I know I need to forgive. I think I can do that, but I don’t need to stay married.” And that was a fair question, because again, we had had this experience, but we didn’t know for sure what it actually meant.

Jim: So – so in moving forward, how – when did you come to the conclusion that, yes, I want to stay married to Ron?

Jody: I would say I was willing to move forward with the marriage when, finally, um, I understood that my bigger issue was – was trust.

Jim: Right.

Jody: And what I figured out about trust – and this was probably two weeks into this process – was just that, um, I had said, “OK, I think I can forgive, but how do you have a marriage without trust?” And the pastor said, “Well, that’s interesting. Does the Bible say to trust one another?” And I said, “I don’t think so.” And he said, “That’s correct.” And then he said, um, “What does it say?” I said, “Well, to love one another.” And I was like, “Oh, OK.” And he goes, “So you don’t need to worry about that. Like, why do you think it says that?” I said, “Well, probably because we’re not trustworthy.” And he’s like, “Yeah. You’re absolutely right. You know, none of us really, truly are.” And he said, “By the way, who do you think you’re supposed to trust?”

Jim: Huh. Wow.

Jody: And I said, “God.” And he said, “That’s right.” You know, so I left that day, and I can remember just, like, I – probably another couple of weeks, all I thought about was, “OK. Can I trust God? Do I trust God?” And then, “I don’t need to worry about trusting Ron. I just need to love Ron.”

Jim: Yeah.

Jody: And that was kind of freeing, as well, because trusting Ron was asking too much of me at that point.

Jim: Correct, at that moment.

Jody: But it took me about two weeks to decide if I trusted God. And it’s kind of embarrassing to say that now, but it was true. I didn’t know if I had trusted God. Um, you know, I just – that was just spending time asking Him, you know, “Can I trust you? And why did you let this happen?” And – and um, but I came to the conclusion that I could trust Him. And that made all the difference in the world to me, because now the pressure was off of…

John: That’s the kind of honesty I think God wants, right?

Jody: Mmm hmm. Yeah.

Ron: And, you know, Jim and John, one of the things for us was – we learned this equation after, you know. And – but it really – you know, no matter what your breakdown is – so you’ve got a marriage couple that’s listening. And whether it’s like ours or it’s any situation, you know, that causes marital division and breakdown, the trust part has always got to be worked on. So, we learned this equation, CB over T. And so, what that means is, the CB stands for changed behavior over time. And so, Jody had to see changes in behavior with me. And, you know, as we counsel couples now, you know, you need to see the changed behavior over time.

Jim: Right. You can’t stay in the same spot.

Ron: Yeah. Exactly. And so, you know, how much time is the real question. And, for us, you know, we had marriage difficulty, you know, in the first year. So, it didn’t take us as long to kind of move forward once we were willing to commit ourselves to the Lord. And we saw Him making these changes that we couldn’t make in ourselves. But a couple may be listening that it’s – you know, many years of a real difficult situation, unforgiveness. Maybe it’s even infidelity, or it’s a problem with pornography, or whatever the case is. It’s time. And if it’s gone on for too long, that secret sin, you know, that changed behavior is going to require more time for the other person to trust.

Jim: OK. We got to get to some help…

Jody: Sure.

Jim: …for folks.

Jody: Awesome.

Jim: I mean, we are winding down. But you mention in the book seven choices that can keep couples together. So, I think it’d be easier for you to quickly list them.

Ron: Yeah.

Jim: …and just highlight a couple as we go through quickly.

Ron: Yeah, that’s great.

John: And we’ll put the whole list on – online, as well.

Jody: Awesome.

Ron: Awesome, yeah. Let me just start with choice number one. It’s what we were talking about – to grow spiritually. And so, you gotta make the choice to build your life individually on the Rock, but also your marriage. And I think that’s where couples at times have difficulty, is choice number one. We gotta grow spiritually. Like you said, Jody and I were just in the infant stages of doing that. Choice number two – choose to love unconditionally. And, you know, our culture has a different attitude take on what love is. Certainly, it’s more about feeling. It’s all about all these kinds of things. You know, but it’s the choices daily. We talk a lot about you before me and the self-sacrifice that’s necessary to love unconditionally.

Jim: That is so important.

Ron: Yeah.

Jim: I – I don’t want to rush too fast…

Ron: Yeah, totally.

Jim: …because it’s critical, and I think it’s as simple as that.

Ron: Yeah.

Jim: God does not make this complex. “So, you want to become more like Me?”

Ron: Right.

Jim: “I’m going to put you in a marriage.”

Ron: Yeah.

Jim: “And then you gotta become selfless.”

John: Right. (laughter)

Jim: “And it’s going to grind your flesh. Your sin nature right to a pulp.”

Ron: Yeah.

Jim: “…if you’re…”

Ron: Yeah, totally.

Jim: “…reliant upon me.” Isn’t that it?

Jody: Mm hmm. It is true.

Ron: Oh, that’s it. I mean…

Jim: And that – and you get there.

Ron: Yeah.

Jim: Now you’re on the mountain.

Jim: OK. Sorry. Keep going.

Ron: Yeah. No – no problem. And choice number three, we talk about serving sacrificially. And I think one of the keys there is – we’ve learned – is that the best way you can serve your spouse is by fulfilling your God-given biblical roles. And so, um, you know, some of the choices that we talked about are, uh, choosing – please regularly. And I – you know, we’re not talking about taking out the trash or emptying the dishwasher here (laughter).

Jim: Although that does help.

Jody: It helps.

(Laughter)

Ron: Yes, it does.

Jody: Right. It does.

Jim: Love starts in the kitchen, right?

Ron: (Laughter) Yes, it does. But really, you know, that intimacy that’s gained in a relationship is so, so critical. And we’ve found that many couples are struggling in this area, as we’ve counseled…

Jim: Emotional and physical.

Ron: Yes, totally. And, you know – and we’ve got to be honest about – you know, there’s past reasons. There’s hurt. There’s abuse – that if that’s happening to you now, you know, get the help that you need. And slow down, men and women, to really get the help you need to move forward in this area. We talk about choosing to persevere persistently. And, you know, the Scripture is clear, you know? It’s not a matter of if but when. The trial’s coming. What are you gonna choose to build on? And, um, you know, the last two choices are to communicate respectfully, which is so critical in a marriage relationship, and then lastly, to choose to bless abundantly. And so, these aren’t choices that happened once or twice. These are things that happen over and over and over again that really will strengthen the marriage knot.

Jim: For thirty years.

Ron: Totally. (laughter)

Jody: Yeah.

Jim: And this is year one of your marriage. I mean, that’s so awesome. I think at the end here, what I’d like to suggest is, um, that person that maybe doesn’t know the Lord…

Jody: Yeah.

Jim: …kind of right where you guys were…

Ron: Right.

Jim: And they’re struggling. And Jody, it may be…

Ron: Yeah.

Jim: …the wife. And she doesn’t know where to turn. That idea that you leaned into God – what would you say to convince that person to say…

Ron: That’s good.

Jim: “OK, God. I don’t know what to do…”

Ron: Yeah.

Jim: “But I want to hear from you” – kind of what you did.

Ron: Mm. Yeah.

Jim: How would you encourage somebody? How have you encouraged somebody who’s in that exact spot, but maybe not leaning in the direction that you did, which was into God?

Jody: Yeah. I would say, you know, there is hope for you. I have found God to be 100% trustworthy and faithful. And, um, he does meet us right where we’re at. He’ll take…

Jim: No preconditions.

Jody: No preconditions.

Ron: No.

Jim: You don’t have to clean up your act.

Jody: No.

Jim: Just go to Him.

Jody: And I would go for the first year I felt like all I gave Him was garbage. I can remember – because I would take a lot of the things – I was still processing the hurt. And it was – I was receiving healing from Him is what was happening. But I just kept giving it to Him and giving it to Him. And I remember one day finally crying and saying, “OK. One of these days, I’m gonna give You something good. I promise, you know?” And – but He’s been so faithful. And what I’ll say, too, is you can’t control the outcome. You don’t know what’s going to happen.

Jim: Right.

Jody: But when you do put your faith and your trust in the Lord, He’s got your back. You know? And, um….

Jim: Yeah, that’s good.

Jody: And one thing my mom had even – you know, and one of the advice she had given me was, um – originally, she was saying like, “Get out of that marriage, and get out of it quick.” And she said, “Or you’ll end up an empty shell of a person.” And I – again, I had just made this faith commitment to the Lord, and for the first time in my life, I felt full. I couldn’t even describe it.

Jim: Wow.

Jody: But I was able to read that letter and say, “OK. I think my mom’s talking about herself, maybe, right here. And I know she means well, but I’m never gonna be an empty shell of a person, because I could just tell, like, God had moved in and taken residency.” So, when you put your faith and your hope in God, He’s got your back. He’s with you, um, regardless what happens in your marriage. If you do that, you’re gonna be OK.

Jim: Yeah.

Jodi: He’ll give you the answers you need. And you just keep praying for your – for your marriage and your spouse.

Jim: Ron and Jody, I mean, this is so good. This is exactly what the Word talks about – a testimony…

John: Yeah.

Jim: …that people overcome their shortcomings, their sinful environment because of the testimony of others. And you are doing that. And it’s wonderful to encourage couples to continue to seek God first and then work on the marriage. And you’ve demonstrated that beautifully. Um, The Marriage Knot – that’s your great book. And I hope people will contact us to get a copy of that. And, you know, if you can send a gift of any amount, we’ll send it along as our way of saying thank you. But if you can’t afford it, we’ll trust that others will cover that expense. Just get in touch with us, because your marriage is that important to us that we’ll trust the Lord to make sure we can put this into your hands.

And, if you’re in a spot where, man, it’s the last hope, we have a great intensive marriage program called Hope Restored. It has a post-two-year 80% success rate. And the couples are doing so much better. It’s one of the…

Jody: That’s great.

Jim: I’m very proud of what our team is doing in that area, because this is the ground floor. Marriage is where it starts for the Christian community, in my opinion. Not everyone’s going to be married. I get that. You don’t need to send me an email about that. But it is great to build the foundation in God’s way, and you have demonstrated that. Thanks for being with us.

Ron: Oh, thanks so much for having us today.

Jody: Yes.

John: And be sure to call our number, and get a copy of this great book, The Marriage Knot. And we can tell you more about Hope Restored. And we can also set up a time for you to consult with one of our counselors here. That number – 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY. 800-232-6459. Or we have details at focusonthefamily.com/broadcast. Well, on behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team, thanks for joining us today for Focus on the Family. I’m John Fuller inviting you back as we once more help you and your family thrive in Christ.

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