Larry Crabb: We have become personas, not persons. I want to hide who I really am for one big reason—this is true of both men and women—is because somewhere in the core of my soul, to go … talk a very big deep word, I’m terrified, that if you saw me for exactly who I am, you wouldn’t want me.
End of Excerpt
John Fuller: Dr. Larry Crabb is back with us again today on Focus on the Family to share how we can live out our unique roles as men and women, as we can be accepted by others in doing it. Your host is Focus president, Jim Daly, and I’m John Fuller.
Jim Daly: John, what a fascinating conversation last time with Dr. Larry Crabb about gender roles and why they’re important to God. Very timely message as well given our culture and where we’re at. I’d encourage you to get the download of the CD and hear it if you missed it because it was really good stuff. I think you’ll learn a lot as I have from Dr. Crabb, and I’m looking forward to hearing part 2 of this conversation today. As you listen, you may realize that you’re struggling to fulfill your role as a man or a woman, maybe in the context of your marriage. If you’re having difficulties in your marriage,we wanna encourage youto find out about our marriage intensive program called Hope Restored, and we’ll have more to say about that at the close of the program.
John: Sure, and for now just stop by focusonthefamily.com/broadcast to learn more.
Let’s go ahead and return to that recorded conversation with Dr. Larry Crabb about God’s design for men and women.
Jim: Dr. Crabb, welcome back to Focus on the Family.
Larry: Great to be with you guys.
Jim: We left off last time with me kinda teasing everyone that we want to talk about David, ‘cause David, to me, is a really unique figure. I mean, the Lord said he had a heart for Him, yet he committed the big no-no’s; let’s be honest here—adultery and murder. He could be conniving. He was killing people. He was a military man, and when you talk about Fully Alive, which is the title of your book, I can’t think of another human character out of Scripture that was more fully alive, both for good, and for ill, than King David. Talk about him.
Larry: Well, I think that’s true. I think that when David committed his big no-no, adultery and murder, that he came to realize something that he really hadn’t seen before, apparently, because in the Psalm that he talks about that, he said, “In sin did my mother conceive me.” I read that and I say, well, wait a minute. That’s not what we’re talkin’ about here. You just committed adultery and murder. How about talkin’ about that?
And he said, no, there’s something deep within me that has been there all along that I never even saw; I never saw how clear it was until I committed these two horrible sins. And now I realize that I have to do far more than simply repent of adultery and murder. Obviously that, nothing less than that, but I’ve gotta deal with something deep in my soul that has been problematic from the very beginning, and it began to evidence itself.
And I think one of the reasons I’m glad you’re bringing up David, is-- and this will sound like a sidetrack, but it’s not--think about how many … how many guys—women, too—but thinkin’ about guys for the moment, how many guys have incredible struggles with sexual sin? Whether it’s pornography, whether it’s adultery, whether it’s whatever, all sorts of things that guys are … homosexuality, which I would still define as a sin, even though it’s politically incorrect to put it that way.
Well, here David, he had a sexual struggle, ‘cause he was up on the roof and he saw this pretty girl and he arranged for her to come, and they had sex, and that was obviously, not part of God’s plan for his life. But it’s so striking that the context for his sin is when he didn’t go to war. The context for his sin was when his troops were sent out to battle, he chose to stay behind. There was a man, as we talked about last time, there was a man who didn’t move.
Remember manhood, the word zâkâr means to remember God’s purposes, remember God’s plan and move in consistency with God’s direction, move in consistency with putting the nature of God on display by moving the way God moved into our world. He moved into our neighborhood, as John 1 puts it, and the way Peterson puts it in The Message. God moved into our neighborhood. That’s masculine. God invites us into His presence. That’s feminine. That’s the male-female distinction.
So, here’s David, who didn’t move in the way that he was intended to move as the king. Now when a man doesn’t move, he becomes vulnerable to all sorts of other ways to feel good about himself. And when I don’t move toward my wife, when I see some struggle in her that I want to avoid, then I’m more vulnerable, if I see a pretty girl, to lust.
But, if I am moving toward my wife in a way that God has called me to and to be curious about her soul, to enter into who she is and to be there for her in very significant ways, when I do that, something in my soul feels alive. There’s some joy, and then, when temptation comes, it’s much easier to resist. David didn’t move and therefore, his soul felt empty, and he found a sinful way to temporarily feel alive, as a guy in a very perverted kind of way, and that’s why he sinned.
Jim: Let me ask you about this. It’s a little off the track, as well, but when you look at sin, how does God view that? I mean, I think often we think of God as an elderly grandfather, who we are shocking when we sin. I’m starting to rethink that (Chuckling), because He knows what it is. He knows that we are conceived in sin, that we are fallen in our nature. That’s the very reason that He sent Jesus to die for us—
Jim: --His Son, to die for us, the incarnation of God Himself, giving Himself for us. We’re not shocking Him with sin; He knows it. He’s God, but talk about that, if you can. How does God see sin and its use in helping us better understand who we are?
Larry: Yeah, God obviously knows everything and He knew what happened in the Garden of Eden and I believe that one way to look at this whole topic of our failure is to realize three things. We’re wounded, we’ve been failed, and it hurts. It really hurts to be wounded. All of us have been wounded in some form--a father who wasn’t involved with us as kids, maybe--that’s woundedness.
But secondly, there’s wickedness. There’s something in me that says, I’m gonna take responsibility for my own life. God, the dickens with You. You failed me. You didn’t protect me from being wounded, so I’m not gonna trust You anymore. I’m gonna look out for myself. That’s the essence of sin. That’s rebellion. That’s unbelief. That’s wickedness.
But He also knows that we’re weak. There’s woundedness, there’s wickedness and there’s weakness. I think it’s the unholy triad that goes on within us. And God sees all that and no, is He shocked by it? No, He knows what it is and His attitude toward it is, what an opportunity your sin presents Me to show you the character that I have of grace and to show you what the word “love” means. I’m committed to your well-being at any cost to Myself, and it cost Me the death of My Son.
Now that’s the character of God. Can I put that character on display as a man when I see someone else messin’ up?
Jim: You know, Larry, that is again, so well-said. When you think about it, whether you’re male or female, this whole thing is about Him.
Jim: It’s not—
Larry: It’s so huge.
Jim: --about us, is it?
Larry: Exactly and that’s a thrill. You’ve got opportunities here, men and women. Get with it. It’s unbelievable. It’s good.”
Jim: You know, again, I wanna, let me wrap up the David thought with this question cause uh, in some ways, the beauty of it is David was all out. He lived fully, I mean, in every direction.
Jim: And some bad directions like that, but there’s something about that okay that The Lord loves, I think when a human being lives in that way but can recognize their failures, which we’ve gotta give David credit even though it took him time and it took another person to point out the sin in his life. He responded appropriately and was grieved and showed that to The Lord. That’s a good expression. It’s not that we’re not gonna stumble or fall, it’s when we try to hide from reality, and we deny it, and we hide from God. That’s the greater sins.
Larry: And I think the fact that we deny it so easily is a lot of us, me included, has not committed the big no-no’s. So I guess I don’t really have to worry about the sin problem. As opposed to recognizing that, that I have reason every day to repent and I have reason every day to claim my sin as an opportunity to know the grace of God more deeply. Get more excited about Him, this gets me more interested in putting Him on display by the way I live.
Jim: If when you think about that, too, I think the very nature of the relationship between us and God, He’s not looking for the robot. He’s not looking for the person to just blindly move forward. He wants that feeling. He wants that emotion in us. He wants us to love Him so much that we’ll choose to do the right thing, not to do it out of fear, that somehow we’re gonna get this colossal whop of the head or judgment. He wants us to act accordingly, because we love Him, and He’s done that for us, out of His love for us.
Larry: Absolutely and that’s perfectly illustrated in Exodus 2 and 23 and 24, where God heard the Israelites’ groaning and their slavery and they were makin’ a mess of it and they were hurting really badly and what did He do? The Bible says four things that He did and this is a perfect illustration of manhood.
No. 1, He heard their groaning? Do I as a man, hear somebody else groaning? I don’t really want to, ‘cause I don’t know what to do with it. So, I just try to pray for you quickly and not talk to you anymore, as opposed to really hearing.
No. 2, He remembered. The word there is zâkâr again. It means to remember what’s important, remember the story God is telling. He knew His character and He knew He was going to move and then He looked deeply into it. He explored the situation. He saw what was really happening.
And then, the last thing we’re told in Exodus 2 is, He moved to act. He remembered and He moved. Do I know how to relate to my wife? This applies to single men and women, as well. Do I know how to relate to anybody as a man? And do I hear where they are? Do I want to hear? Am I curious? Do I remember what, that God is telling a story that I can further? Do I hear the depths of their struggle and do I realize that I can act in a way that reveals the character of God and be an incredible blessing in their life? That’s masculinity.
Jim: Larry again, this has been so good and hopefully, you can apply it in your life where you’re at today and that’s the goal. How do we reflect on our relationship with Christ, where we’re at with God, where we’re at with our fellow human being[s]? To make it more practical though, let me push you a bit in terms of your own fear, your own failure. Talk about that. How did you see this, not just as a theologian, an academic? How did it work out in your own life in your relationship with your wife and your kids and where did it show up? Where did your fear show up?
Larry: Now let me rephrase your question. You said, how has it worked out? How about, how is it working out--
Jim: (Laughing) Okay, that’s fair.
Larry: --in my whole life? (Laughter) Oh, my, I can be very, very impatient. (Laughter) Now this’ll sound unkind. I don’t want to … this is not unkind. I don’t mean it unkindly at all. My wife enjoys reporting events in detail.
Jim: (Laughing) Yeah, okay. My wife, does, too? How about Dena?
John: I would say the same thing, yes. (Laughter)
Larry: And I want her to cut to the chase and make the point and get on.
Larry: And it’s very easy for me when she’s telling me a story with detail that I’m really not terribly interested in, it’s very easy for me to very kindly show my impatience by saying,
“Honey, I appreciate that. Now tell me your point.” And when I do that, she feels invisible to me. When I … but rather than that, can I begin to understand that there is a beauty in my wife’s soul that I can enter and I can be a lot more of what she wants me to be by, rather than carving her up, by exploring what’s really happening in her at that point.
“Honey, tell me what you mean by that? Tell me why those details are important to you. Tell me what you’re really saying here.” When I can learn to do that, then that makes a big difference to me. And when I don’t do that and when I actually express my impatience, then I have reason to repent and I have reason to understand that I failed in my masculinity yet again. But, until I understand relational sin, until I understand those little things that sound so much less significant than adultery and murder and all the other kind of terrible things that I don’t do, until I recognize that kind of relational sin, then I don’t think I’m really growing as a man.
John: Well, you can see some very practical application to your marriage relationship and your work relationships and those with neighbors and family members in what we’re talking about today with Dr. Larry Crabb on. This Focus on the Family with Jim Daly and as he said,we do have this program available on CD or as a download. You can also stream it hrough your smart speaker or get our mobile app so you can listen on the go. All the links and more, including information about Dr. Crabb’s book, Fully Alive, at www.focusonthefamily.com/broadcast, or when you call 800, the letter A, and the word FAMILY.
Jim: Dr. Crabb, you talk in your book, Fully Alive, about your parents and their example, both positive and some negative. Talk to us about that, what you observed and the power of what parents provide in terms of example to all of us. We all come from a mom and dad.
Jim: Talk about the impact your mom and dad had on you.
Larry: I couldn’t be more grateful for my parents, because they both knew the Lord and they both loved each other in incredible ways that I’m very, very grateful for, but as I began to think about male and female in the ways I’ve expressed in the book, something disturbing became clear to me, that I don’t know if mother ever was able to seize the opportunity of womanhood to reflect the beauty that was in her soul.
Rather than that, she became very, very dutiful. She was the appropriate mother in that generation. She made my breakfast. She took me to the doctor. She did all the right things. Mother never once in all of my living with her and all through my adulthood until she died in her late ‘70’s, early ‘80’s, mother never told me she loved me, and I think the reason was that … was not because she didn’t love me, not because she wasn’t a good woman, I don’t think she understood the power of her invitational nature to draw this little boy who was her son into the depths of the beauty of her womanhood, as one who is putting Jesus on display. I think that is for … was foreign language to my mother. and that’s very sad for me to think back on.
I remember she was degenerating into Alzheimer’s; before it became profound, I was taking her out for lunch one day as her Alzheimer’s was maybe “halfway gone,” I can put it that way. And a woman who I’d only seen cry twice in my life, she grabbed me and she said, “I don’t think I’m good to anybody” and she wept. And I was so sad. Does she not understand the privilege of femininity, the privilege of womanhood? She was a beautiful woman as a young lady. She was very attractive and feminine by cultural style, but I don’t think she revealed the femininity of her soul to realize that she could put the Lord on display by being profoundly invitational, way beyond just being dutiful, and all the things a woman should do, a mother, a wife should do.
Jim: Well, and in that comment, what I hear is a woman who feels she’s always coming up short—
Jim: --which applies to so many women. I mean, what your mom was saying there is almost said on behalf of all women. And women are so good about looking at themselves first and saying, “Okay, what have I done to cause this?” I really believe that. They have an incredible capacity to look at the log in their eye and they do it quickly. I mean, that’s the first thing. I see that in my wife, Jean. She’s always looking to herself first to say, okay, what have I done?
Jim: And I can see why that would be a natural response to say, what have I not done to make myself good enough?
Larry: And wouldn’t it be wonderful if she could take that assessment of herself, realizing I’ve not been good enough, where … where have I fallen short and to see that as a doorway into grace, as a doorway into deeper opportunities, as a doorway into the beauty that God has put in her soul? I’m so taken with 1 Peter 3, when Peter’s talking about wives and he’s saying, “Ladies, you do have a deep beauty in your soul and it’s not the way your hair looks. It’s not your good clothing that you wear and it’s not the jewelry that you put on.” He specifies those things. It’s not external. There’s something deep in your soul that’s alive and you can put the character of Christ on display. I don’t think mom every thought about that—
Larry: --because she wasn’t taught that. And I think my father, a godly man, who’s the most significant influence on my life—there’s no question about that; I’m so grateful for my dad—he said to me in his senior years, he said, “I don’t understand why God is keeping me alive. I’m not worth anything.”
Jim: And where was that coming from?
Larry: And I think that’s the question. And I think the answer to that question is … has something to do with a failure to understand what manhood could look like at any age. I remember saying to him, “Dad, you … I know you’re in your late ‘70’s, your early ‘80’s. Why don’t you write letters to your grandkids just telling ‘em what goes on in your life as you age?” And he said, “Oh, I’d feel like that wouldn’t be worth anything to anybody.” And I’m thinkin’, not worth anything to anybody? I’d be readin’ that, until the day I die. And my grandkids I think would salivate over reading letters from their grandfather, their great-grandfather in this case. I think that’d be a wonderful thing to be able to look at.
And I don’t think that he understood, as godly a man as he was, as much as he knew about the Lord, as much as he loved the Scriptures, I don’t think he came to grips with the privilege of manhood to put Jesus on display by the way he related, to move into people’s lives, knowing that there was some profound weight to his soul that could make an impact on other people.
I want to believe that I can ma … I struggle with this. I want to believe that I can make an impact. I’ve written a bunch of books. I lead a bunch of seminars and every time I finish a seminar, everybody’s still a mess, including me. (Laughter) And so, my response is, why bother? As opposed to saying, no, God is still getting His good done. Can I really … do I believe that as a man, I have the weight to make a difference in people’s lives, even when I can’t see it? Do I believe by faith that it’s worth doing a radio show, that it’s worth writing a book, that it’s worth leading a seminar, that it’s worth taking my grandkids out to dinner, that it’s worth spending time with them? I don’t feel weighty. I feel like a loser half the time, but in the core of my soul, I know that’s not true, ‘cause I’m a man.
Jim: On the move.
Larry: On the move (Laughter), remembering the story of God, that I can tell it by how I live.
Jim: Well, and Larry, I so appreciate that vulnerability. I think as you describe your mom and dad, that describes so much of humanity—
Jim: --that many of us have felt like, if not on our deathbed yet, we feel like, do I matter? Has my life amounted to anything? Am I beautiful enough? Am I being seen, as you’ve described both men and women.
Jim: You talk in the book about relational masculinity and relational femininity. Describe that. What are you getting at there with the relational component of that?
Larry: It’s so counter-cultural, because we define femininity and masculinity in so many superficial ways, in so many, whether it’s behavioral, whether it’s appearance-wise, whether it’s achievement-wise, but relational femininity, relational masculinity gets to the core of what God is after, because God’s a relational being. And we’re to put His relational character on display, so when a woman is open to receive, knowing that there is a core beauty in her soul, that’s the woman who’s relationally feminine, who can, whether she is pretty, whether she is attractive, whether she is overweight, whether she’s all the things that women in these days are not supposed to be, she can be fully relationally beautiful if she understands that the way she relates is by putting the character of Jesus invitational nature on display.
I once had a guy and if this inappropriate—I don’t think it is—but I remember a guy at one of our classes, [he] was telling me that his wife had breast cancer and had to have a double mastectomy. And he said in front of the class, he said, “My wife refused for many, many months to let me see the scars, because she felt her beauty was gone.”
And then this man, who was a big strong-looking guy, he began to cry in front of the class as he was telling us this story. And he said, “My wife finally had the courage to let me see what had happened with the double mastectomy and I broke in tears over how beautiful she was. He said this: “Our sex life has never been better.”
Larry: And he said, “I have learned to love this woman, because the beauty of her soul, whether she had the physical attractiveness that defines femininity or not, just wasn’t the point.” He saw the beauty in that woman’s soul, and she became far more relationally feminine, knowing that her beauty didn’t depend on physical attractiveness. Her beauty depended on the way she related to her husband, and he valued that lady.
Larry: And their marriage took a wonderful turn for the better.
Jim: I was gonna say, “I’d love to talk to her today to see how she’s feeling about herself. That’s a beautiful story.
Larry: That’s a true story.
Jim: And you know, again, it points to the fear of most women, that if, as I age, I get wrinkles, you know, the normal process of how God has created life, and they understandably, because of the culture, because [of] how we, as men, treat them, they become fearful that they no longer have value. And that’s a beautiful story about how men should behave—
Larry: Yeah, absolutely.
Jim: --when it comes to these tough places.
Jim: Larry, let me come back almost to where we started this discussion last time, when we look at how the culture speaks to us and really, how the enemy of our soul speaks to us in those quiet places. You know, it says in John 10:10, that he comes to steal, kill and destroy and it … he really is effective when it comes to this area.
Jim: It’s almost in the image of God, as we’ve been created, he has such mischief in this area to get us off trail, to get us fearful. In the last few minutes that we have here, talk to that husband and to that wife. They’ve struggled. They don’t know how to communicate. They’ve both withdrawn. They don’t understand who they are in Christ and they’re just tryin’ to survive, maybe put that veneer on that we talked about last time. Give them some handles that they can sit down tonight, maybe before they go to bed and they can have a real open, honest discussion about where they need to go as a couple, who needs to have the image of Christ stamped on them? What can they do?
Larry: You know, I think that one of the rarest conversations that husbands and wives tend to have could be the most important and perhaps, maybe the rarest conversation would be to sit down with your spouse, whether it’s the wife who starts or the woman or the man who starts, the husband who starts, but start.
And say, “Would you tell me what it’s like to live with me? How do I impact you? Where do you feel cherished? Where do you feel respected? Where do you feel alive, because of me? Where do you feel put down because of me? Where do you struggle, because of me? How do I fail you? How do I bless you?
And if you get really open about that sort of thing, then you’re going to hear the other person’s soul, and if you’re a Christian and you have the Spirit of God within you, my wife and I’ve had these conversations and when I see the way that I’ve hurt her, when I see the way that I bless her, something comes alive inside of me.
I don’t want to hurt her, I really don’t. I love the lady. And I’m a man, meaning I have the equipment. I have the resources. I have the weight, all because of God, not because of … without Him, I don’t … I don’t have it, but with Him, I have it. With Him I can do it! Without Him, I can’t do anything.
But with Him, when I realized that I impact my wife in a way that is very difficult for her, that leads to the joy of repentance. It isn’t just, “Oh, I’m a jerk. I failed. How come you’re stuck with me?” Now you’re just full of pride saying all that.
Jim: Learn to live with me.
Larry: Learn to live with me. What do you … you know, I do some good things, for cryin’ out loud. I make enough money, you can buy a dress when you want to. What’s your problem?
Larry: As opposed to, no, I … there’s something in the core of who you are that you’re revealing to me as we’re having this conversation, and something comes alive in me. I want to move toward you. And as my wife is talking to me and the husband is revealing, “You know, I feel very put down by you. I feel very controlled by you sometimes.”
The woman who is godly, the woman who is open to the working of the Spirit of God, she’s gonna recognize something inside of her soul that doesn’t want it that way. And she’s gonna re … repentance is going to flow, as opposed to, “Oh, okay, I’ll repent. I’ll try to do better.” But when she realizes the impact relationally that she’s making on her husband, when she sees that and she says, “That’s not who I am. That’s not who I want to be,” then she’s gonna ask for forgiveness.
Then she’s gonna discover there’s something in her soul [that] really wants to move differently and now they can start talking about, “Well, what can I do? Who could I be that would make the difference that you want to feel from me?” Then the conversation gets really good. Then the conversation becomes full of possibilities and then, I think you might start having a marriage.
Jim: Well, that’s a relationship that’s on the move for God and I love that advice. That is really, really … it’s a fearful place--
Jim: --but what a great place to go. Dr. Larry Crabb, author of the book, Fully Alive: A Biblical Vision of Gender That Frees Men and Women to Live Beyond Stereotypes, this has been awesome. Thanks for bein’ with us
Larry: It’s been a great privilege. Thank you, guys.
John: Some great advice these last couple of days from Dr. Larry Crabb about the unique differences between men and women and how we’re designed for relationship with each other and of course, with God. The book by Dr. Crabb that Jim mentioned, Fully Alive is available to you for a gift to Focus on the Family of any amount today. You can find the book and a CD or download of this program and our mobile app as well at focusonthefamily.com/broadcast.
Jim: And John, we mentioned it earlier, our Hope Restored program. If you or your spouse are hurting in your marriage, we’re here to help you. We’ve seen God restore so many marriages that were on the brink of divorce. We often survey those couples that come two years after they participate, and I am pleased to say that more than 80% of those who’ve come through Hope Restored are still married and doing better. No matter what you’re going through in your marriage, please get in touch with us, let us help.
John: You can call and request an initial consultation with a Christian counselor here, or to ask more about Hope Restored. Our number is 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY. 800-232-6459. Or, stop by focusonthefamily.com/broadcast. On behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team, thanks for listening today to Focus on the Family. I’m John Fuller inviting you back next time as we once again help you and your family thrive in Christ.
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Dr. Larry CrabbView Bio
Dr. Larry Crabb is a well-known psychologist, public speaker, Bible teacher, author, and the founder and director of NewWay Ministries. He is currently Scholar in Residence at Colorado Christian University, and serves as Spiritual Director for the American Association of Christian Counselors. Dr. Crabb has authored numerous books including Understanding People, The Marriage Builder and Fully Alive. He and his wife, Rachael, reside in the Denver, Colorado area.