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Focus on the Family Broadcast

The Impact of a Life Well Lived

The Impact of a Life Well Lived

Dr. Gary Chapman reflects on the lessons God has taught him throughout his life—through his parents, his wife, and his children. He recalls how he identified the Five Love Languages and offers some solid insight on marriage and parenting. As he reflects on his personal journey, you’ll be encouraged to do the same!
Original Air Date: February 16, 2024

Dr. Gary Chapman: God can change patterns that have developed that are detrimental, and He- He wants to make us more like Christ every day, and the more we become like Christ, the better parents we’re gonna be, the better husband and wife we’re gonna be.

John Fuller: That’s Dr. Gary Chapman, he’s our guest today on Focus on the Family. Thanks for joining us, your host is Focus president and author Jim Daly, and I’m John Fuller.

Jim Daly: John, there’s no better place for light to shine than in the darkness, right? I mean, that’s where it shines the brightest, and, uh, it’s a fair lesson in our situation today. You know, as things become darker, we shouldn’t be fearful, we shouldn’t be anxious, we should realize that God’s light can shine all the brighter-

John: Mm-hmm.

Jim: … in darkness. And so, I feel I’d rather live in a time when the Lord is moving and you can see it tangibly like we can today, and the reminder is even one light, one person, can make a difference. Matthew 5:16 tells us to, “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works,” not your good words-

John: Mm-hmm.

Jim: … “See your good works and glorify your Father who is in Heaven.” I can’t think of anyone that exemplifies this, uh, more or better than Dr. Gary Chapman, who is a good friend to the ministry and a frequent guest here on Focus on the Family. And many of you know him as the author of the Five Love Languages, talk about a concept, uh, that really struck so many people. I think over 20, 25 million copies have been sold, something like that. That’s what we call a blockbuster.

John: Mm-hmm.

Jim: That’s when you’re tapping into a nerve of the human, uh, condition, and boy did it deliver so many great spiritual truths. And, uh, today we have the honor and privilege to talk to Gary Chapman, who has come out with another book, uh, his most recent, Life Lessons and Love Languages: What I’ve Learned on My Unexpected Journey.

John: Yeah, it is gonna be a really fascinating conversation today, and if you’d like a copy of that book, stop by the show notes. And if you’d like a copy of that book, stop by focusonthefamily.com/broadcast. And we have a whole archive of other, uh, interviews with Dr. Chapman. Let me just say, if you are not familiar with him, he’s an author and a counselor, he’s been, uh, on pastoral staff for over 50 years at a church. Uh, he’s quite a remarkable, uh, individual.

Jim: (laughs). The remarkable Gary Chapman.

John: (laughs).

Jim: Welcome back, Gary.

Dr. Chapman: Thank you.

Jim: (laughs). It’s so good to have you, as always. Always fun and deep and insightful and spiritually insightful. Seriously. Uh, this is a great time to honor you because of your recent book, but the things that you’ve learned, uh, looking back on your journey. Let me start with this idea of looking back. You’re, y- y- you’re an accomplished author, I’m sure that you had some discussion with Karolyn about this, and yet at the same time you’re going, “Okay, Lord, what have you done with my life?” That is a brilliant concept for each one of us-

Dr. Chapman: Yeah.

Jim: … to take a look, especially if we have a little bit of time on the horizon. If it comes up wanting, maybe you wanna change some things to tune in with God, right?

Dr. Chapman: Yeah. Oh-

Jim: (laughs).

Dr. Chapman: … oh yeah. Yeah, this, writing this book was a really spiritual experience for me-

Jim: Yeah.

Dr. Chapman: … ’cause I was looking back over all these years and, uh, asking myself, you know, “What did I learn?” And looking at the hand of God, Who brought about things I never would have even dreamed about. So, yeah, and I encourage everybody, as you get a little older, begin to look back, you know?

Jim: Yeah.

Dr. Chapman: And- and observe the hand of God, and also look at what you can learn from your failures as well as your successes.

Jim: Yeah, it’s so good. L- let’s go back to the beginning, uh, you grew up in a small town in North Carolina, how did the daily routine created by your parents, and you talk about this obviously in the book, but how did it help you develop your approach to things, and especially (laughing) giving parenting advice?

Dr. Chapman: (laughs).

Jim: They must have been pretty good parents, they probably weren’t perfect.

Dr. Chapman: Yeah, yeah, they were. You know, uh, I think structure was one of the big things.

Jim: (laughs).

Dr. Chapman: You know? You get up in the morning, you go to school, you come home, you do your homework, and then, you know, we’d do dinner together, and- and everybody has a job. As you got older, I washed dishes one night and my sister washed dishes (laughing) the next night, there was just the two of us. And, uh, but it was very structured, and then, uh, in the summer we were always working in the garden after we finished our homework with our dad, uh, and- and learning how to plant all kind of things and grow all kind of things. So, just the little garden spot out behind the house. But a very structured life, and also, uh, centered around the church, really.

Jim: Huh.

Dr. Chapman: Every Sunday morning, we were there, every Sunday night, we were there. Every Wednesday night, we were there. (laughs). Those three things were-

Jim: Yeah.

Dr. Chapman: … just a given in our lives, and grew up in that framework. So, uh, just a deep, deep appreciation really for my parents, for my church, for the impact that they had on my life.

Jim: You know, Gary, a- a parent that has young children listening is going, “Well, that’s the way it used to be.”

Dr. Chapman: Yeah.

Jim: It’s not the way today-

Dr. Chapman: Yeah.

Jim: … ’cause of social media and pads and texts-

Dr. Chapman: Yeah.

Jim: … and phones, and you name it. Uh, you’re still counseling parents and- and spouses, what do you say to that excuse?

Dr. Chapman: Well, you know, I think it’s easy for us to allow technology to control us instead of our controlling technology. One of the things that was meaningful to me then, was meaningful to my family when we had a family, was having dinner together every night.

Jim: Mm-hmm.

Dr. Chapman: And there are many families that don’t do that now.

Jim: Yeah, just something that basic.

Dr. Chapman: Yeah, just that basic, and you not only eat, but you talk around the table at night. And we had to move our schedule when the kids were in sports and all that, sometimes we’d eat early, sometimes we’d eat late, but we always had time to eat together and talk together. And, uh, just that simple thing was a powerful thing in- in my own life, uh-

Jim: Yeah.

Dr. Chapman: … j- just stability, you just knew what was gonna happen, and, you know? Uh, and with our children, our children look back on that and say, “That’s one of the most meaningful times in our family was that time.”

Jim: Yeah, it’s so good, and, you know, one thing that I think we did quite well was developing a pattern doing board games together.

Dr. Chapman: Oh, yes.

Jim: So, the boys always-

John: Mm-hmm.

Jim: … enjoyed that. Even now. I mean, when-

Dr. Chapman: Yeah.

Jim: … we’re together at the house for a birthday or something like that, or just dinner on Sunday night-

Dr. Chapman: Yeah.

Jim: … you know, we’ll pull out the board games and play and talk around the house, and-

Dr. Chapman: Yeah. And the thing with board games is y- you’re- you’re interfacing with each other, looking at each other.

Jim: Yeah.

Dr. Chapman: You know, whereas you’re on the screen doing your own board game-

Jim: Yeah.

Dr. Chapman: … your own game, you know, it’s a- it’s a personal thing.

Jim: So true. And looking back, of course, this is a memoir really, so looking back at God’s influence in your life, even there l- leaving your home, uh, it seems like kids are at a fork in the road, you chose wisely obviously, some young adults don’t.

Dr. Chapman: Yeah.

Jim: They feel freedom for the first time out from underneath their parent’s roof-

Dr. Chapman: Yeah.

Jim: … and they explore all the worldly stuff-

Dr. Chapman: Yeah.

Jim: … to figure out if that’s meeting a need.

Dr. Chapman: Yeah.

Jim: Um, what do you think gave you the insight to do something like that, you know, to make the right choice?

Dr. Chapman: Well, I think when I was 17 and a senior in high school, I really had the sense that God was leading me into some kind of ministry.

Jim: Hmm.

Dr. Chapman: I’d given my life to Christ earlier, and I remember I had a- a few friends I called together and said, uh, “Can we just meet on Sunday afternoon, and you guys pray with me that God’ll make clear, you know, what step I should take?” And by the time that prayer meeting was over, I really sensed God had something for me to do, you know, vocationally.

Jim: Huh.

Dr. Chapman: The only thing I knew you could do in those days would be to be a pastor or a missionary, and in my mind, missionaries lived in the jungle and I didn’t like snakes-

Jim: (laughs).

Dr. Chapman: … so I figured God probably wanted me to be a pastor (laughing).

Jim: Yeah. That’s a good choice.

John: (laughs).

Jim: Now, the good news, I mean, we’re setting up like you’re always making the right decisions, but you and Karolyn got married and you had a little issue over, uh, I think cabinet doors shutting or something-

Dr. Chapman: (laughs).

Jim: … which I so appreciate ’cause I have the same- the same thing. (laughs). Usually with the kids, like, leaving the drawers open or the cabinet doors. Did you have the same experience?

John: Mm-hmm. Oh, yes.

Dr. Chapman: (laughs).

Jim: Okay, what is it in us guys that we really like doors shut? But anyway, you experienced this with your wife, what happened?

Dr. Chapman: Yeah, you know, I- I nev-

Jim: (laughs).

Dr. Chapman: … I never anticipated that Karolyn and I would have any problems in marriage. We grew up in the same church, you know, in high- in high school I dated her best girlfriend, you know, but, uh-

Jim: (laughs). That could- that could be a- a-

Dr. Chapman: … she broke up with me, so-

Jim: Yeah.

Dr. Chapman: … I was free later on to date Karolyn.

Jim: (laughs).

Dr. Chapman: But at any rate, you know, we had a wonderful, you know, time before we got married, we were in love and all of that, but- but we got married and all these things that I just didn’t anticipate, you know, like-

Jim: Hmm.

Dr. Chapman: … th- like simple things like this, she just didn’t close drawers, you know?

Jim: Yeah.

Dr. Chapman: And- and- and she couldn’t, didn’t close cabinet doors, and- and I couldn’t conceive of why- why any human being-

Jim: (laughs).

Dr. Chapman: … would not do that, you know? And I tried to explain to her, you know-

Jim: Hmm.

Dr. Chapman: … why. And-

Jim: And how successful was that explanation?

Dr. Chapman: It wasn’t successful at all.

Jim: (laughs).

Dr. Chapman: In fact, after, I don’t know, m- months, maybe nine months, I was on, you know, trying to get her to understand. Our little daughter, this was several years into our marriage now, our little daughter fell and cut the corner of her eye-

Jim: Hmm.

Dr. Chapman: … on an open drawer.

Jim: Mm-hmm.

Dr. Chapman: And when I came home, Karolyn told me what happened, and she had taken her to the doctor, the doctor had stitched it up-

Jim: Mm-hmm.

Dr. Chapman: … and I said to myself, “Now God is working on her.” (laughs).

Jim: (laughs).

Dr. Chapman: And I thought, she’ll close drawers now.

Jim: Well, you were ahead of the game, I thought you were gonna say, “And I thought to myself, keep my mouth shut.”

John: (laughs).

Dr. Chapman: (laughs).

Jim: But you were already beyond that point, so.

Dr. Chapman: But, you know, she still didn’t close drawers-

Jim: (laughs).

Dr. Chapman: … after that.

Jim: Well, but you also said you learned to shut the door yourself.

Dr. Chapman: Wh- what happened was-

Jim: (laughs).

Dr. Chapman: … I did what someone had told me, I don’t know who told me this, they say if you’ve got a problem and you don’t know how to solve it, sit down and just write out every possibility and then choose your best choice.

Jim: Hmm.

Dr. Chapman: So that’s what I did.

John: Yeah.

Dr. Chapman: The first one I wrote down was number one, I could leave her, you know, I just, that- that’s a possibility, I’d just leave her.

Jim: Hmm.

Dr. Chapman: Second possibility, I could be miserable every time I see an open drawer for the rest of my life. Third possibility, which was the last one I could think of, I could close the drawers. I went back to number one, and I marked it off right away, ’cause I thought if I leave her, I never will go to church.

Jim: Hmm.

Dr. Chapman: You know, who- who’s going- who’s going-? (laughing)

Jim: Especially when you say, “Why’d you divorce?” “Well, she couldn’t shut a drawer.” (laughs).

Dr. Chapman: And the second possibility, I said, “I’ve been miserable long enough.”

Jim: Yeah.

Dr. Chapman: You know, it was about 11 months down the road, and I- I said… And so, I just, I- I said, “Okay, I’ll- I’ll just…” And so, I went home and told her, I said, “Karolyn,” I said, “Honey, about those drawers,” she said, “Honey, please don’t mention that again.”

Jim: Hmm.

Dr. Chapman: “Don’t bring that up again.” I said, “No, no, no,” I said, “This time I have an answer.” I said, “You don’t ever have to close another door or another drawer the rest of your life. When I come in, I’m gonna close the doors and close the drawers. If you wanna open them again, that’ll be fine, and I’ll close ’em when I come by. You don’t ever have to worry about it again.”

Jim: Hmm.

Dr. Chapman: You know what she said? “Fine.”

Jim: (laughs).

John: (laughs).

Dr. Chapman: No big deal with her. (laughs).

Jim: Finally.

Dr. Chapman: Big deal for me.

Jim: Yeah, no kidding. But it’s so… I guess the- the follow-up to all that is what is in us that triggers us when we see that and we don’t come to that same conclusion? Rather than moan and complain, and create angst and anger-

Dr. Chapman: Yeah.

Jim: … just shut the drawer.

Dr. Chapman: (laughs). Yeah.

Jim: I mean, it sounds so s- s- simple and so unchildish, but-

Dr. Chapman: Well, I think the reality is we’re all self-centered and we’re all selfish, and our way’s the right way, you know? It-

Jim: Yeah, and I want you to do it-

Dr. Chapman: Yeah.

Jim: … my way.

Dr. Chapman: You need to do it my way, absolutely. Same thing that we have with loading the dishwasher, you know-

Jim: Yeah.

Dr. Chapman: … I load it organized, she loads it like she’s playing Frisbee, you know?

Jim: (laughs).

John: (laughs).

Dr. Chapman: (laughs).

Jim: And I’m sure you have permission to say these things (laughing).

Dr. Chapman: And now- and now, I wash the dishes. For many years, I’ve put ’em-

Jim: Right. She-

Dr. Chapman: … in the dishwasher.

Jim: … she actually has done quite a good job giv- giving you that load, you do the dishes, you vacuum, and you also clean the toilets.

Dr. Chapman: That’s right.

Jim: So, Karolyn’s done a great job getting those jobs over to you. Hey, um, you- you speak about a particular time in your marriage wh- which required an attitude adjustment on your part, uh, I guess the right question is what was that revelation that gave you an attitude adjustment? Similar to the cabinets and all that, but there were three questions that you started to ask yourself, and to ask her.

Dr. Chapman: Yeah, yeah. Well, it hap- it happened after God changed my heart, because I realized, you know, that- that this thing was not working out, it was hard, it was rough, and I was a pa- gonna be a pastor, and I thought, there’s no way I can be a pastor and- and- and be miserable in my marriage. And I just said to God, “I don’t know what to do,” and, uh, when I did that, uh, uh, the- the idea of Jesus-

Jim: Hmm.

Dr. Chapman: … washing the feet of his disciples came to me, and I just heard God say, “That’s the problem. You- you- you don’t have the attitude that Christ had-

Jim: Hmm.

Dr. Chapman: … of serving, serving the people,” you know? And I- I- I asked God to forgive me and give me the attitude of Christ, and He changed my heart-

Jim: Yeah.

Dr. Chapman: … toward her. And then, these are the three questions, when I was willing to ask these three questions, my marriage began to change. First question was, “Honey, what can I do to help you?” Second question, “What can I do to make your life easier?” And the third question, “How can I be a better husband?” And she gave me answers.

Jim: (laughs).

Dr. Chapman: And now, my attitude was changed, and so I started doing those things, and within three months she started asking me those three questions.

John: Hmm.

Jim: Now, you know when I go home and say this to Jean, she goes, “Oh, did you sit with Gary Chapman on the broadcast?”

Dr. Chapman: (laughs).

John: (laughs).

Jim: (laughs). She’s done that before. “I’ve got a great idea, hon.”

John: Yeah.

Jim: Yeah. “Oh, you were talking to Gary Chapman.” That’s so good. Uh, Gary, turning a little bit of a corner, uh, Karolyn was diagnosed with cancer, um, how did that impact you, how did it help you to lean into God’s sovereignty maybe and not kinda your fist raising at God saying, “Why have you done this-

Dr. Chapman: Yeah.

Jim: … to us? Look what I’ve done for you.”

Dr. Chapman: Yeah. Well, by that time, of course, we were down the road and we’d had a really healthy marriage, but, uh, it was a hard year. She calls it her lost year-

Jim: Hmm.

Dr. Chapman: … because for a whole year she basically could do nothing.

Jim: Yeah.

Dr. Chapman: Uh, she did the surgery, she did the chemo, she lost her hair, she lost her weight, she had no energy, she couldn’t keep food down.

Jim: What a tough time.

Dr. Chapman: It was a hard, hard time. In fact, there were many times that I thought, you know, this may be it, you know, and I think-

Jim: Yeah.

Dr. Chapman: … she thought this may be it. Of course, that was 12 years ago now, and she’s fine, she’s been fine-

Jim: Yeah.

Dr. Chapman: … ever since that year, uh, she’s had no more problems with that. But, uh, yeah, it was a- it was a hard year for- for her. And what- what I said to her when we found out… In fact, here- here- here shows you her heart, one morning she said, “You need to sit down, I need to share something with you.”

Jim: Hmm.

Dr. Chapman: And I sat down, and she shared with me, she said the doc- the doctor told her the day before it was cancer, and there was gonna be surgery and he was gonna do it next week. She said, “I didn’t tell you last night because I didn’t wanna keep you awake.”

Jim: Huh.

John: Hmm.

Jim: Yeah.

Dr. Chapman: And so, I heard her, and after I cried, I said, “Okay, I’m gonna cancel all of my speaking engagements for the next year and I’m gonna be here with you. I’m gonna walk with you through this.” And she pointed her finger at me and said-

Jim: (laughs).

Dr. Chapman: … “You listen to me. You are not gonna cancel a thing. God knew this was gonna happen, it’s no surprise to Him, God’s leading you and has led you to s- commit to do these things, you’re gonna do those things.”

Jim: Wow.

Dr. Chapman: “You’ll be here when I need you, and if you happen to be out of town and I need somebody, I’ve got friends, they’ll be here in five minutes.”

Jim: Hmm.

Dr. Chapman: And I knew that was true. I said, “Okay, well, let me pray about it.” So, I prayed about it, and I agreed with her.

Jim: Hmm.

Dr. Chapman: I didn’t cancel anything. But I was there on the key issues, I sat with her many of those times when she was getting chemo-

Jim: Yeah.

Dr. Chapman: … you know, but when she needed people and I wasn’t there, there were friends that were there that stayed with her. So, it was a hard year, but we both look back on it with just deep gratitude that- that God brought her through that, brought us through that. And I tell you what it did, it not only led me to accept the things that had irritated me in the past, it made me laugh about ’em and give thanks to God for them.

Jim: Hmm.

Dr. Chapman: So ever since then, if she happened to load the dishwasher the night before and I look in there-

Jim: (laughs).

Dr. Chapman: … and see the- the knives laying horizontal and, you know, all this stuff, I look at it, first of all I laugh, and then I say, “Thank you God that she’s still here.”

Jim: Yeah.

Dr. Chapman: You know?

Jim: Think of that.

Dr. Chapman: So, you come to laugh about those things, and you come to thank God that they’re still here.

Jim: Yeah.

John: Yeah, that’s a really good point, and, uh, Dr. Gary Chapman is our guest today on Focus on the Family with Jim Daly, offering insight on how to see your marriage, maybe even the things that your spouse does that annoy you, from a different perspective. And you can learn more from Gary and his book, Life Lessons and Love Languages: What I’ve Learned on My Unexpected Journey, or stop by the link at focusonthefamily.com/broadcast.

Jim: Um, y- you didn’t instantly come up with the love languages. I think, if I have this correctly, y- y- you are recognized as the number one author within the Christian Book Seller’s Association, what was the CBA, I don’t know what they call it now, but that’s quite- that’s quite an amazing thing to look back on. I’m sure when you were in your twenties, you weren’t expecting later in your sixties and seventies to be able to say, “Wow, I’m the most prolific writer.” (laughs) I mean, that’s amazing. That’s quite an achievement. Um, getting to the love languages, you said that was like a 20-year journey to figure those things out.

Dr. Chapman: Yeah.

Jim: That’s a long time, too.

Dr. Chapman: Yeah. You know, Jim, to be very honest, I never, ever thought of being an author.

Jim: (laughs). That’s- that’s actually quite funny.

Dr. Chapman: Yeah, in the early years-

Jim: Yeah.

Dr. Chapman: … never, ever thought about it. Uh, the love languages of course did develop over a number of years in which over and over and over the couples who would sit in my office and one of them would say, like she would say, “I just feel like he doesn’t love me,” and he would say, “I don’t get it, I do this and this and this and this-

Jim: Hmm.

Dr. Chapman: … why would she not feel loved?” And I knew he was sincere, that people could be sincerely loving but they weren’t connecting emotionally. And so, eventually I went back through my notes, years of notes that I had made when I was counseling, and asked myself when someone said that, “I feel like my spouse doesn’t love me,” what did they want? What were they complaining about? And their answers fit in the five categories, and I later called them the five love languages, and I started using it in my counseling and it would just-

Jim: Hmm.

Dr. Chapman: … revolutionize people’s marriage. And probably five years later, I thought, you know, if I could put this concept in a book, maybe I could help a lot of couples-

Jim: (laughs).

Dr. Chapman: … I would never have time to see in my office. You know, that’s what motivated me. So, yeah, that’s one of the things I look back at, and- and I marvel, you know, how God has used books that I never, ever anticipated writing.

Jim: Right.

Dr. Chapman: You know? And all of them have been an overflow of my counseling with people.

Jim: For those that may not have heard, uh, they’re not one of the 20, 25 million-

Dr. Chapman: (laughs).

Jim: … th- the five love languages, what are the five, just to touch base with that?

Dr. Chapman: One is words of affirmation, one is gifts, one is acts of service, doing things for the other person, acts-

Jim: Yeah.

Dr. Chapman: … can speak louder than words to these people, quality time, giving them your undivided attention, and physical touch.

Jim: Yeah.

Dr. Chapman: Simple things, and each of us has a primary love language, and if you don’t speak their primary language, they won’t feel loved-

Jim: Yeah.

Dr. Chapman: … even though you’re speaking some of the others.

Jim: In fact, Gary, and this is one reason I so appreciate you and your journey and what you have become, because you’re willing to talk about your failures. I think you had an impactful experience with your son where you guys both kinda hit heads together-

Dr. Chapman: Yep.

Jim: … and, you know, the difference, and again, what I like, is you walked away saying, “Okay, where did I fail in that?”

Dr. Chapman: Yeah.

Jim: And the Lord showed you pretty quickly.

Dr. Chapman: Yeah.

Jim: Describe that, ’cause I think that can happen to a lot of us fathers.

Dr. Chapman: Well, you know, Jim, I have to be honest, I never had a problem with anger ’til I got married.

Jim: Huh.

Dr. Chapman: And I never had a super problem with anger-

Jim: (laughs).

Dr. Chapman: … until I had a teenage son.

Jim: You know how many guys just said, “Amen”?

Dr. Chapman: (laughs). Yep, yep.

Jim: (laughs).

Dr. Chapman: And I remember the night he and I got into it, it wasn’t- it wasn’t the first night that we got into it, he was probably 14 at this time, and we were in his room, I don’t re- even remember the topic, but we were yelling at each other and he was saying hateful things to me and I was saying hateful things to him. In the middle of that interface, he walked out of the room, walked across the living room, walked out the front door, and slammed the door.

Jim: Hmm.

Dr. Chapman: And when the door slammed, I woke up.

Jim: Huh.

Dr. Chapman: And I said, “Oh, God, I thought I was further along than this to be yelling at the son I love.” And I went in and sat on the couch, and just, I just wept. And-

Jim: I can see the emotion now.

Dr. Chapman: Yeah. And Karolyn came in and tried to console me, she said, “Gary, he has got to learn how to respect you,” she said, “I heard the whole thing, he started that, he should not be talking to you that way.” And she tried to console me, but it’s hard to console a sinner-

Jim: Huh.

Dr. Chapman: … when you know that what you did was wrong.

Jim: Hmm.

Dr. Chapman: So, she finally gave up and left the room, and then finally he walked back in, I don’t know how long he was gone, but he walked back in, and when he did, I said, “Derek, son, could you come in here a minute?” And he sat down on the gold chair, and I said, “I want to apologize to you for the way I talked to you,” I said, “No father should ever talk to a son the way I talked to you.” And I said, “I said some horrible things to you, I lost my temper, and that- that’s not the way I feel about you. I love you very much, and I- I- I feel so badly about what I’ve done, and I want to ask you to for…” I mean, I just poured my heart out to him. And when I got through, he said, “Dad, that was not your fault, I started that, and I should not have talked to you that way. When I was walking up the road, I asked God to forgive me, and I wanna ask you to forgive me.”

Jim: Huh.

Dr. Chapman: And we hugged each other, and we both cried. (laughs).

Jim: Yeah.

Dr. Chapman: And we hugged each other, and we cried. And when we got through, I said, “Derek, why don’t we try to learn how to talk our way through anger-

Jim: Hmm.

Dr. Chapman: … rather than yelling our way through the anger? So why don’t we try this, the next time you’re angry at me, you just say, ‘Dad, I’m angry, can we talk?’ And I’ll just sit down and listen to you. And when I’m angry, I’ll say to you, ‘Derek, I’m angry, can we talk?’ And let’s sit down, and let’s talk our way through rather than yelling our way through.”

Jim: Yeah.

Dr. Chapman: And that was the beginning of a tremendous change in both of our lives and how we handle anger.

Jim: Yeah.

Dr. Chapman: And we learned how to do that.

Jim: You know, Gary, the- the pattern there, and again, I- I would say it’s wisdom and somehow, and I wanna know the how, this is really the question, you’ve tapped in, I think, to the Lord’s heart obviously, but it’s really difficult in the heat of those arguments to be able to pull back. Somehow, you’ve found a way, whether it was a silly thing like the cabinets being open with your wife or more serious issues with your marriage or confronting suffering with Karolyn’s diagnosis of cancer, y- you admit you didn’t always get it right, but somehow you tapped into God’s heart and His wisdom. So, how, probably the hardest question is how did you learn to do that? What made you aware that if I lay down my life, then perhaps Derek, your son, will say, um, “You know, that was my fault.” And I’m sure you weren’t even thinking that.

Dr. Chapman: No. No, I wasn’t thinking that at all. Jim, you know, I think one of the things is that for many, many years, starting way back when I was in college, I have a daily sit-down time with God and read a chapter in the Bible, and ask God, “I wanna hear whatever You have to say to me today.”

Jim: Huh.

Dr. Chapman: And in that context, God brings to my mind the things where I’m failing (laughing), and things often, and things that I need to- I need to confess to Him first and then to the other person. And I think it’s that giving God a chance every day to listen to what He’s saying to me has helped me to tap into the, to the reality that God can help me, God can change patterns that have developed that are detrimental, and He- He wants to make us more like Christ every day, and the more we become like Christ, the better parents we’re gonna be, the better husband and wife we’re gonna be. So, I- I think that has- has been a major part in that.

Jim: Yeah, and it’s that sincerity, ’cause you can be hard of heart and sit down and say those exact same words, and you don’t get the result.

Dr. Chapman: Yeah.

Jim: It’s not God’s problem-

Dr. Chapman: Yeah.

Jim: … it’s your problem.

Dr. Chapman: Yeah.

Jim: But that sincerity opens your- your spiritual ears so that your-

Dr. Chapman: Yeah.

Jim: … heart can hear, if I could say it that way.

Dr. Chapman: I’ll tell you, one of the most sobering questions I ever asked myself, and I asked it several times along the journey, about my kids, “What if my children turn out to be like me?”

Jim: Hmm.

Dr. Chapman: That’ll surface things that you need to deal with. (laughs).

Jim: Well, and the big difference is it changed the way you acted-

Dr. Chapman: Yeah.

Jim: … over the years, and that’s the whole point. What a great book. Life Lessons and Love Languages: What I’ve Learned on My Unexpected Journey, really a look back to say, “Lord, look at what you’ve done in my life.”

Dr. Chapman: Yeah.

Jim: And I so relate to that, and I know you’re, um, uh, n- not for your own purposes pleased, but you’re- you’re hopeful that God is happy and pleased with what you’ve done-

Dr. Chapman: Mm-hmm.

Jim: … with the life He’s given you.

Dr. Chapman: Yeah.

Jim: And don’t we all hope for that same thing?

Dr. Chapman: Absolutely. And I am deeply grateful (laughing) for the life God has given me-

Jim: Yeah.

Dr. Chapman: … and I could never have pulled it off myself and never made that happen myself.

Jim: Yeah.

Dr. Chapman: You know, my favorite hymn, I close that book with this, that hymn that starts out, “I stand amazed in the presence of Jesus of Nazarene, and wonder that He could love me, a sinner condemned, unclean.”

Jim: Amen. And He does.

Dr. Chapman: He does.

Jim: And not just you, but everyone He’s created, and that’s the great gift that He gives us. Gary, this has been so good. Thank you again for being with us, this is-

Dr. Chapman: Yeah.

Jim: … this is really good to look back.

Dr. Chapman: Thank you, always enjoy being with you guys.

Jim: Yeah. I think you can hear the deep questions that, uh, Dr. Gary Chapman has been presenting to us, and he’s, uh, th- that kind of guy that just doesn’t present us the questions, he’s presented them to himself, and you can hear the answers that he’s found. And this is not a tr- a hidden treasure (laughing), this wisdom is there for all of us, and, uh, Gary simply is pointing the way to tap into God’s heart, to God’s wisdom, to apply to your own life so that you too can look back and go, “Wow, the Lord has been so good and so kind and so gracious to me.” Don’t we all want that? I hope so. And get started by reading this wonderful book, Life Lessons and Love Languages from Gary Chapman. Get it here, uh, be in ministry with us, send us a gift of any amount, and we’ll send it as our way of saying thank you.

John: Yeah, get a copy of this book when you donate by calling 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY, 800-232-6459, or stop by focusonthefamily.com/broadcast. And 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 again help you and your family thrive in Christ.

Today's Guests

Life Lessons and Love Languages Book Cover

Life Lessons and Love Languages: What I've Learned on My Unexpected Journey

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