Jim: You, I think, you do get the award of the most energetic guest. I mean, it’s hard … we gotta almost tie you in your chair. (Laughter)
David: You always tell me not to pound on this table. (Laughter) I want to pound!
Jim: We only tell a handful of people that.
David: Really, come on.
Jim: Yeah, that’s the hand pounders.
David: But they don’t tie their hands down like mine. That’s wrong.
Jim: Now it’s part of it, let me just ask you, your temperament and your energy, is some of this comin’ from that? Can you be maybe a low-energy person and still have an outrageous marriage?
David: Oh, you can; you can. It helps to be a little high energy, but typically, the high-energy person marries the low-energy person and they can still be outrageous.
Jim: Now why do you like that word “outrageous?” It seems like such a contemporary, almost … I probably used it as a teenager. I don’t know if I was a teenager or college student. That’s outrageous—
John: It’s almost a negative word in some respects.
Jim: Well, and it turned into a good word, but how do you apply it to marriage? I mean, what does an outrageous marriage look like?
David: If you want to have intensity; you want to have deep intimacy; you want to have excitement. The opposite of those is what most couples have. I’m bored. Life is routine. We’re not connected. So, if you don’t have outrageous, you’ve got a lot less usually than outrageous. I don’t want a “nice” marriage, a “friendly” marriage, “we get along” marriage. That’s not what the Bible talks about through these couples. It is outrageously good. That’s what God wants.
Jim: And so often today I think we in the Christian community, we think that the media has kind of spiced the need to be up and to be energetic, that we in our relationships are competing with the media, whatever that might be—movies or articles or pictures or whatever it is. But you know, your book, The Top 10 Most Outrageous Couples of the Bible, those people didn’t have modern media. How did they keep their relationships in a good place, in an outrageous place?
David: Well, the main thing they did was have God at the center of their relationships. That’s true for all of these couples, especially the ones that were doing it right, of course. They made mistakes. They were huge mistakes, but they learned from those mistakes and put God where He belonged.
Jim: Give me an example of one of those 10 couples you talk about.
David: I’m thinking of Abraham and Sarah. I mean, talk about a godly man, father of Israel, the tremendous promises given to him. And Sarah was feisty and she was outspoken and she was beautiful, not that that’s important, but the Bible says she was beautiful. And they made some terrible choices, but they learned from those choices and they were a great team and they brought it around and put God where He belonged, had tremendous faith in Him.
I think that’s true of Sandy and I, “the blonde,” and many couples I’ve worked with. We make mistakes, hopefully not horrible mistakes, but we learn from those, doing it our way and then switch it over to God. And they’re a good example of that, I think.
Jim: Well, in the book you talk about both outrageous being positive and negative. Well, what do you mean by that?
David: Well, outrageously negative is, I’m gonna do things my way, not God’s way. And the choices I’m gonna make are gonna be increasingly outrageously bad, because sin is progressive in its nature. So, that’s true of a number of these couples, terrible choices, godly people, terrible choices, did a lot of damage.
Jim: What are examples of those kinds of choices?
David: Boy, well, we start with Adam and Eve, a catastrophically bad choice. They are standing in front of the tree they’re not supposed to eat from. And Adam’s right as the leader, she goes for the apple and he’s right with her. It’s not, “Oh, Eve, don’t … may not want to do that.” No, he wanted to do it. They both wanted to do it. Terrible choice, changed the course of history.
Jim: How does Adam and Eve’s relationship apply to, you know, Jim and Jean today or you and Sandy or anyone listening and their spouse? How does that work through our modern relationship in a marriage?
David: Well, metaphorically speaking, you and your wife, my wife and I, John and his wife, we’re standing in front of a tree we shouldn’t eat from. It’s right there and we all got a tree. And you have to talk. They were not a team. If you would talk together, if Adam had just said, “Honey, we know what God said. You’re being tempted by that beautiful snake. Let’s you and I spend a moment talking. Let’s talk with God, ‘cause we walk with Him every day in the Garden,” this wouldn’t have happened.
Jim: So, was Adam’s sin being too passive?
David: Yes, he was a no-show. He was standing there, but he didn’t step up, which is often the case in marriages. The woman is emotional and she wants to do something and she’s going in the wrong direction. You know, you have to say something. Now it works both ways obviously. I want Sandy if she’s tempted, if she’s in her area of weakness, well I have more than she, but if she’s really tempted and and Satan’s going after her, I want her coming to me. First to God, then to me and then we can fix it.
Jim: You’ve counseled so many people. How specifically on this one, how have those counseling sessions gone? When you’re sitting there counseling with a couple, in the back of your mind you’re thinkin’, oh, this is the Adam and Eve problem. And what do their bad examples look like in the modern world?
David: You know, here’s some examples. I’m sitting with a couple this past week and the man has told the woman that he’s not in love with her anymore. Okay, that is a sinful statement on its face. He’s a Christian. You don’t get to say that unless following it is, “And it’s my fault and here’s the sin I’m into.” So, he … my job at that point is to kind of call him down.
The tree he’s looking for, in this case it turns out, he’s got somebody else. They usually do. Okay, that’s his tree. Satan is leading him. So, we had this bizarre conversation where he actually admitted that. And his wife, his dear wife is sitting there. Now my job is to help him see his sin, side with his wife and with God and hopefully, change the whole situation. But he’s eating from the tree. He’s gorging!
David: And it’s gotta be stopped. And it’s stopped by saying, “You are a sinner, sir. You’re an adulterer.” “Well, I haven’t had intercourse with her yet.” But I don’t care; that’s an emotional affair and so, the whole thing turned because he was called on his sin.
Jim: In that situation, I mean, how … so many people hearing this that might’ve fallen prey to it, and they say those words in their own heart. I just don’t love her anymore. Or it goes the other direction, too. I don’t love him anymore.
Jim: You’re saying that’s a sin.
David: Big time.
Jim: And modernity would say, that’s normal marriage because you can’t compete with always a high-intensity kind of environment that we have, the air-brushed pictures, whatever it might be.
Jim: How do you reconcile that? When you sayin’ your heart that you don’t love your spouse anymore,a sin or a reality?
David: It’s sin. In our society, it … marriage is like an appliance. It’s not gonna take you, you know, 50-60 years. We’re past that now and that’s even filtered into the Christian community. So, it’s okay. Oh, it’s regrettable. Gosh, I feel bad, but I need to leave you for someone else and I’m young enough and I want to have a different life. That’s just sinful. The Bible says to husbands to love your wives as Christ loved the church. That’s the instruction. That’s the command. Anything less than that would place you in sin. Every man I’ve ever heard say “I don’t love you anymore” and every woman is involved in some area of secret sin—every single one, 100 percent.
Jim: What are examples outside of, you know, having an affair, which is so common as the one that is, you know, the destroyer of a marriage, what are some other things that we as men and as women would take as more passive? It’s not that big a deal. But you’re saying, no, it’s still a sin.
David: Still a sin, work, workaholism. I’m in love with my job. I’m in love with my kids. Here’s a good one. I’m in love with my church activities. I was talkin’ to a guy a few weeks ago, who was on every committee the church had to offer. And he loves his church. It’s very important to him. And I said, “Sir, you’re too involved over there. You’re spending more time with these people—and the ladies on the committees—than you are with your own wife.” It could be alcohol. It could be drugs. It could be going to the gym. I had a woman in my office who’s a fanatic, preparing for a marathon, while her marriage is destroyed. I say, “How ironic. Your body looks great. You are in tremendous shape. You could run a marathon. Your marriage however, is falling apart. Get out of the gym.” Can’t you run a 5K? For heaven’s sake! So all those things draw you away from your marriage. They might not be inherently sinful, but they end up being sinful.
John: You talked about something a moment ago, David, that I think seems pretty appropriate to unpack a little bit more right here and that is, you said that if Sandy is feeling tempted to go somewhere else for life that she should bring that temptation to you. How does that play out? That requires a lot of honesty, a lot of safety. And there’s emotional baggage there that, as a man, I don’t really want to deal with that. I mean, so there’s a lot to overcome. How can we get some first steps toward being honest about things like that?
David: Well, I give Sandy permission. This is very important. She needs to know I’m okay with that. And early in our marriage, she knew that I wasn’t okay with that–immature, I didn’t want to hear it, defensive, don’t want to talk about the relationship. But we’ve learned over 30 years now, 32 years, hard to believe, that this is the best thing to do. Now it works both ways. If Satan’s after me and he’s after all of us with my tree. I’ve got a couple—
Jim: Every day.
David: –yeah, I got a couple of trees (Chuckling). Anyway, so I gotta watch that, work being one of them and busyness. So, I … if I’m in a crack and I’m really feeling stressed, I go to Sandy. It’s okay with her that I say, “Sandy, like it’s happening. I’m really struggling here.”
David: Now if it’s a more personal and nasty sin, okay, now it’s really hard to do. But I try to get couples in my office and in my seminars to be honest, lay it out. ‘Cause if you don’t, you’re gonna keep sinning.
Jim: Is there a line that could go too far—
David: I don’t think so.
Jim: –in terms of your honesty?
David: I don’t think so. Other than this. I would say this and let’s take sexual sin, because that’s probably a very sensitive area, of course. I don’t share with Sandy every single nasty thought I have. I would not be married more than three minutes, let alone 32 years. Women can’t take that. That’s for Rocky, my best friend. That’s for a group of guys that I’m accountable to. But if I’m in serious temptation, let’s say and I really … nothing’s happened, but I am in a crack. Satan’s kinda got me on a roll. That’s when I need to go to Sandy. And that’s hugely important. We can pray. We can talk. Sin doesn’t happen. We’re closer. Satan is defeated. If I don’t do that, I lose. That’s what happens.
Jim: And that, what you’re describing there is a great deal of intimacy. Is that what is required to have an outrageous marriage, is a great depth of intimacy?
David: It is. You don’t—
David: –get there without that. Right. So, you will go through maybe some difficult times, but if you’re honest about those times and very clear about what I did wrong and I’m sorry, my fault, would you help me? That leads to restoration and real intimacy. And then in the future–’cause Satan never gives up; he’s always after us–as that happens, then we have this strand of two. I can talk to my wife. We’re gonna defeat him.
John: And you know, Jim, that’s reminiscent of something that Dr. Arch Hart said on this broadcast many years ago. It’s stuck in my mind where he said that when you share about a temptation you’re going through, it robs that temptation of its power over you. You shine a light on those areas of struggle. That does require a lot of trust and I can see where that would foster deeper intimacy.
Jim: Well, and David, let me ask you a question. How does a couple who has not had that regular training, if I could say it that way, they haven’t opened up in that way, how do they get started? Because it could be dangerous. The man could be sayin’, “I don’t think she can handle what I’m about to tell her.” Or she might say, “I don’t think my husband can manage that.” How do they begin to build intimacy? Is it a wall? Or is it a brick at a time and building the wall?
David: I think it’s more of a brick. We’ve got … we’ve got these stages to go through. Those are valid fears you just mentioned, every single one of them. Now what’s gonna happen? What … and my marriage, will I really hurt my partner?
So, there’s some pre-conversations that I’ll have in my office and they can have at home, where you start talking about this concept. “Honey, I heard a ‘Focus’ broadcast and I think that it’s very important that we start sharing on a more deep level about our weaknesses, our areas of sin and potential weakness. And we’ll … “ And so, we introduce the idea. And then we talk about, what’s … what’s gonna stop us from doing this? Nothing’s been shared yet. That’s to come.
David: Of course, the wife’s thinking, “What is it … what do you have to share with me?” Well, okay, we’ll get there. But this is even before maybe something’s happened. Let’s talk about what’s gonna stop us, family or origin issues. I was hurt by a boyfriend that told me something. Let’s get all that out right now, ‘cause all that’s gonna hit the fan the first time you say, “I’ve got somethin’ to say to you and it’s personal.”
Jim: But you won’t know why.
Jim: It’s hitting the fan, but you don’t know the definition of why is she reacting this way?
David: So, we’re gonna crank the fan up right now and have everything hit it, if you know what I mean. And we’re gonna talk through all those things and then, when the time comes, when it’s shared, it’s still hard, but it’s doable. It’s just about what I just talked to you about, not everything else that could get in the way.
Jim: Is it necessary or wise to do that with a third person, a counselor?
David: I think it is. I really do. It’s so sensitive. Of course, and when couples come to see me, it’s already hit the fan. Something’s already happened. I caught my husband on the computer looking at pornography. I mean, he’s been e-mailing an old girlfriend from high school. He’s working too hard. Or something else has happened. It’s already boom! This is happening. Our marriage is falling apart. So, we start there and so, they’re more likely to get right into it. But even in those cases, I talk about those other steps because it’s still gonna be a problem for them.
Jim: You talk in your book, The Top 10 Most Outrageous Couples of the Bible, you talk about spending time together as a couple. I’ve got a couple of questions related to that. I mean, one the practical nature of that. It’s easier for Jean and I now to spend a little time together and I give her credit, ‘cause she really is the one who says, “Okay, let’s just sit down and talk for a few minutes.” And it’s not pre-programmed. She’ll just notice we both have a little down time, so let’s engage.
Households that are busy, you have kids in ‘em. You’re takin’ ‘em to football practice. You’re takin’ ‘em home and then takin’ the other one someplace and bringin’ him home. How can they practically say, four nights a week or four mornings, they’re gonna spend a little time together? Tell me about what the formula is that you found that works and then why you need to not talk yourself out of doin’ it.
David: Well, I speak from experience. We had four kids. Sandy had four kids, like right in a row. She couldn’t be stopped. I guess I was involved. (Laughter) Anyway, so we have them running around (Chuckling) and so, we began to lose our marriage to a degree. We were not in love anymore because the kids were just taking over. Well—
David: –we decided, no longer. We’re gonna have them in bed at a decent hour, earlier than any other kid in this neighborhood. We are running …
Jim: Like 5 … 5 p.m.?
David: Oh, yeah. We’re running a penitentiary here, a prison! And so, we would literally lock them in their rooms. We reversed the locks (Laughter), okay.
Jim: Are you serious? (Laughing)
David: I will never forget this moment where they’re running out of their rooms. It’s 8 o’clock. They’re not going to bed and Sandy said, “We can just reverse their locks, Dave.” I said, “I’ve married a genius.” (Laughter) They thought it was a game. She reversed the locks. We put them in their room and it was like animals at the zoo. They were (Laughter) … it was over.
Jim: It had to be one child per room.
David: Yes, that helped. (Laughter) Exactly.
John: Otherwise, the animals are fighting each other.
David: That’s right.
Jim: Is that why it—
Jim: –would never work for us.
David: So, we fought for those times. We got those four days a week and we were cartin’ ‘em everywhere. And it was even worse when they couldn’t drive and they had to be taken places.
David: Then you can’t …
Jim: That’s where we’re living.
David: Yeah and then they can’t lock ‘em in their room, ‘cause they can get out.
Jim: Go out the window. (Laughing)
David: Exactly. But we fought for those times. Some weeks, okay, not so good, but most weeks we got our 20, 30 minutes. And now once they get to middle school, you’re gonna be in better shape, because they hate you and they’re gonna be in their rooms. You can’t get them out of their rooms. (Laughter)
Jim: (Laughing) Right.
David: So, I would say and I say this to couples all the time. If you had cancer, you both had cancer or even one of you and you had to have four 30-minute cancer treatments every week or you would die, let me guess what would happen. You’d make it and that’s driving somewhere. So your marriage is at stake, your marriage. If you don’t spend the time now, you’re gonna lose your marriage.
Jim: How do you … yeah and that’s powerful. I think the answer to the question’s right there. But what about that couple that tries and they do it well for the first week? Second week doesn’t go so well and they settle right back into the previous rut?
David: And that happens; that happened to us before. You now have … each person has an accountability person. This is the way it works. I’ve got Rocky Glissen, my best friend at work and in my life.
Jim: What guy doesn’t want a friend named Rocky?
David: Oh! (Laughter) He’s great. He’s 6;2” and he’s mean. (Laughter)
Jim: He’ll beat you if you don’t do it.
David: He will.
John: We’ll all get in touch with Rocky after—
Jim: Yeah, right.
Jim: I hope Rocky can handle 2 million people!
David: Yeah. Sandy has her lady. Now it’s Marcy, her best friend, Marcy. So, if we have those peo[ple], they’re gonna call us once a week. How did you do this week? I see Rocky every Saturday morning and he can ask me. And he’ll ask me, “What’s your marriage been like this week? Did you get those four couple talk times?” And he’s holding a steak knife in one hand. Look, I’m not gonna take a chance. (Laughter) So, with that kind of … see, if nobody knows and it’s just us, eh, we can blow it off and we tried and it’s just not working. No, we have other people that are aggressive enough to hold our feet to the fire.
John: Yeah, but we have crisis after crisis for our children and we don’t have any place to go, and we don’t want to do that reverse lock thing. That doesn’t sound safe, so—
Jim: I’m liking that.
John: –I guess we just have to make it through this season, right?
David: Now you’re breaking my heart. Join the club. That … those are just excuses. You … who’s in charge, you or your kids? You had four or five, you had three or four. We had four. Okay, they … you are the parents and if you want you some counseling to get to be a team, but you can win. They’re beating you right now. You can beat … not beat them in a wrong way, but beat them by controlling and having their lives end at 8 o’clock (Laughter), in terms of not living, but—
David: –not bothering you.
Jim: Go to sleep.
John: Yeah, let’s clarify that (Laughter).
David: ‘Cause my kids would say, “We’re not (behind the locked door), I’m not going to sleep. You can’t make me sleep.” “No, I can’t. I could care less. You’re locked in and stay awake all night, but you’re not going to bother your mother and I; we’re working on our marriage.” “Is your marriage more important than me?” “Yes.”
Jim: What does that … I was gonna ask, what does that communicate to your children?
David: It’s a powerful message. Mom and I, our relationship is more important significantly than you. You’re gonna grow up and leave.
Jim: Now some people are going, “Uh!” That helicopter mom—
David: Oh, freak out time.
Jim: –okay, feel her heart right now. She’s going, “I cannot believe he said that.”
David: Yeah, well, I want that lady to fast forward to middle school and high school and the first day of college, when you drop that daughter or son off. Oh, if you have invested too heavily, your marriage is very weak and vulnerable and you’re in trouble.
Let’s have some conversations and be very honest about what … are we going too far? Are we spending too much time with the kids? It wouldn’t take long to figure out, yeah, that’s true. I would even get some outside input, your pastor, a close friend who’s seen you operate. Close friends don’t come up and say, “You’re spending too much time with your kids. You’re a—
Jim: You’ve got to invite it.
David: –helicopter. You do. Please … would you please tell me? And then they’ll say, “Yes, yes, you are. Love you—
David: –but …”
Jim: –there a couple in the Bible that over-invested in their children?
David: Oh, by all means, Isaac and Rebecca, oh, disastrous parents–
John: How so?
David: –godly people. Oh, they made the two key mistakes in parenting that we’re startin’ to talk about. They played favorites, No. 1, which you should never do. Biological, stepchild or someone you’ve adopted, they’re all the same in God’s kingdom. You have to work as hard as you can to love every child the same and not play favorites.
If you know deep down that you are more drawn to one of your kids because of personality and interest, you take that to your stinking grave. You don’t ever admit that. If a child asks, “I think you like Timmy more than me,” the answer’s “No.” That’s a Rahab lie. You go with it, because you can’t harm that child. And they didn’t do that. It was Isaac and Esau and it was Rebecca and Jacob, I mean, two fused little satellites. And they had a child-centered marriage. It was all about the kids. Oh, God brought them together. These were godly people. The Bible’s clear about that, but then over time with this parenting, uh … disaster.
Jim: How do you not communicate that to your wayward child, the one that’s not getting the grades, the one that’s acting out, the one that the personality grinds everybody in the family? How do you not even unintentionally give the impression that, “You know what? Your brothers and sisters are a lot better than you.” How do you avoid that?
David: You know what? I think honesty is the best policy. You would sit down with that child and you can be honest and you want to make it very clear, “I love you as much as I love any of the other kids.” ‘Cause you know that kid may be wondering.
You can also add, “You know, for whatever reason,” of course, you know the reasons, “we are … we’re having difficulty. We’re having trouble clicking.” And admit … and you own it. This is a child. You’re the parent. You own it. “I am really struggling here and … but I’m gonna really make an effort to make … to love you just as much, to really spend time and I’ll never stop trying.” That can go a long way. ‘Cause there are children that are more difficult than other children. Now that’s true.
Jim: And so often, Dr. Clarke, the difficulty is, in your frustration as a parent, you will communicate the value proposition is different, that you don’t love the child as much. And they’re wondering; you’re right. They wonder, is my behavior getting me into trouble? And I think there is a tipping point there, especially like junior high, high school age, where if you’re not careful to have that open dialogue, that honest discussion. “It’s not you. It’s not your core that is displeasing me. I love you because I love you. You’re made in the image of God.
Jim: But behaviorally, we got some things to work on and I probably have failed you as a parent. But how are we gonna go about repairing these things?” Because that child, if you don’t have that kind of discussion, you look at four or five years, they’ve now bought the lie of Satan that they’re not worth anything.
Jim: And they start behaving in that way, disrespectfully, dishonestly, ungodly, right?
David: Oh, yeah and he’s got a whole horrible plan for them, an outrageously bad one with a bunch of trees that they shouldn’t be eating from because they’re so upset at home and he just uses that. It’s a sliver of truth. Yeah, there’s problems here [sic] and you know, I’m not clicking with dad. But he’ll use that to get them into deep sin.
David: So, honesty is critically important.
Jim: Well, I mean, yeah, honesty is critically important. It’s kind of the core issue, isn’t it? We’re not that honest with each other and therefore, the enemy of our soul works mischief with us. You’ve talked about Adam and Eve and the need for us in marriage to be a team together and how their outrageous marriage, both negatively and positively, prove that point, that idea of prioritizing in marriage over everything, including your child-rearing.
Now I know some of you are gonna want to write and call us. I encourage you to do so. Let us talk more with you about that, because it’s critical that your kids see a thriving, healthy marriage, because you’re with ‘em 18 years. The rest of their life will be set up by your modeling a good marriage, which means don’t let your kids interfere in that way. Be bold; be the parent, not the child.
Let’s come back next time. We still want to talk about selfish husbands and yep, selfish wives. You have something called “the wimp and the witch.” I’m very intrigued by that one and of course, Proverbs 31. So many women carry that burden of having to be the perfect wife and the perfect mom. And I would like to talk to you about those characters in the Bible that tried to do that, too and failed. So, let’s come back next time and talk about those themes. Can we do it?
David: Let’s do it.