Al and Lisa Robertson, of Duck Dynasty fame, describe how their tumultuous marriage has been redeemed by God, offering hope and wisdom for couples facing difficult challenges in their marriage. (Part 1 of 3)
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Al Robertson: it was that moment, sittin' on that city street in Kenner, Louisiana when I made a decision that I couldn't keep livin' this way or I'd never see 19. And so, just like the prodigal in Luke 15, I came to my senses, you know, by the help of a crow bar and I drove home to mom and dad.
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John Fuller: That is Al Robertson and he and his wife, Lisa join us today on "Focus on the Family" with Jim Daly. Thanks for listening in. I'm John Fuller.
Jim Daly: John, I am really excited to share this Best of 2016 program today. Al and Lisa are part of the Duck Commander family or clan. I think that airs on A&E. He's the oldest. They call him "the beardless brother" (Laughing) and I'm sure you've seen him on "Duck Dynasty" where we have witnessed a taste of their faith on the show. I love the fact that Phil, the dad, always prays at the end of the show.
But as you'll hear today, that faith has been tested and refined through some very difficult times. And what I love about it is, it's normal. This is how family is. It's not perfect. They've got their issues and they talk about 'em. Al and his wife, Lisa had turbulent lives coming together when they got married and that story really struck a chord with you, the listeners. And we received an outpouring of letters, e-mails and phone calls from people in similar situations, looking for help and advice on how to rebuild their lives and their marriages. You're going to appreciate this.
And if you know of somebody who is struggling in their marriage, this is the CD to get them and I hope you'll keep that in mind as you listen or maybe it's for you and that's okay. We're here to help you at Focus on the Family, so make sure you get ahold of us if this strikes a chord in your heart today.
Jim: Well, let me formally welcome you to "Focus on the Family." It's great—
Lisa Robertson: Thank you.
Jim: --to have you.
Al: Great to be here.
Jim: Let's start there. Is the family really like that what we see on TV? Is that the family?
Al: You know, I get that question a lot (Laughter) and usually it's about Si. It's like, is he as crazy (Laughter), like in everyday life as what we see on the show? And I say, you know, "My Uncle Si is like an iceberg. You're only seein' the top part of the crazy. (Laughter) "It runs much deeper underneath."
Jim: I remember one episode where he went and challenged everybody to a donut-eating contest—
Jim: --and he was now my fast friend after that. I loved—
Al: Oh, yeah.
Jim: --that. In fact, he ate like 36 donuts. (Laughter)
Al: He did and was sick for about a week and you know, (Laughter) and Jase is like that, too. You know, he's the hot donut man, so yeah, yeah. It really is. It's very similar to what you see. Obviously, it's you know, we enhance everything by, you know, because you have to do for television, but the core of everything you see is real., you know; it's us.
Jim: Sure. Let's talk about that. You're the firstborn. Not everybody listening will know "Duck Dynasty". Maybe they haven't seen it. Just talk about the family and kinda where you are in the pecking order in the brothers. Give us a little description.
Al: Well, you know, I'm definitely the oldest and I say wisest and best-looking, (Laughter) which Lisa would agree.
Lisa: I agree with that. (Laughter) Absolutely.
Jim: Here we go.
Al: You know, mom relied on me to take care of my brothers. Mom and dad weren't Christians whenever I was a boy.
Jim: They were not.
Al: They were not, no and that happened when I was about 9- or 10-years-old. So, you know, in those early years, you know, dad was in his, what he calls his "rompin', stompin' days." And so, you know, mom relied on me a lot and I took care of my brothers. And so, I've always had that sort of pastoral role with them and that hasn't changed.
And so, even when I came on the show, that's kinda how I was brought in. You know, I was the pastor. My first episode was, you know presiding over mom and dad's vow renewal and which, by the way, Jim, happened to be the highest rated cable show ever about a reality show, almost 12 million that night—
Jim: Oh, my goodness.
Al: --which was our biggest one. So, I just want to thank America for making my debut so special--
Jim: (Laughing) Yeah, that's right.
Al: --to "Duck Dynasty".
Jim: And you remind your brothers of that.
Al: I remind them all the time. (Laughter) My debut got the biggest numbers ever. So, if I'd have been there from the beginning, there's no tellin' where this show would be.
Jim: You know, Al, I want to go a little deeper with your family before your mom and dad committed to the Lord, because so many families live in that space today or maybe they've made a commitment to Christ, but they're not integrated. They're not living it. They're still living a life that is either duplicitous or whatever. But as a[n] 8-, 9-year-old and your dad, you said it was his romping period--
Al: Stompin' yeah, yeah.
Jim: --what did that look like? Was he drinking or [what]?
Al: Oh, yeah, it was bad. And like a lot of people, it didn't start that badly, but it just progressed to a bad place. Dad was teaching school. He was, you know, right out of college. He had his Masters, was working on at Louisiana Tech. We were in a little town called Junction City, Arkansas, but his drinking got worse.
He loved to hunt, so he was gone a lot, but his buddies, you know, was with those guys and so, it just progressively got worse. He was about to lose his job, so he quit, you know, teachin' and coachin' and started runnin' a bar right on the Arkansas-Louisiana line. So that was, they were gonna make some money. And mom goes along with it, even though she knows, she talks about it now, she knew that was a bad decision, 'cause she--
Jim: 'Cause she had a gut check.
Al: --she knew; that's right. And then of course, our lives really fell apart. We were livin' behind that bar. I was 7-years-old. I would climb up in the top of a magnolia tree and watch. And of course, that was back when segregation was still there, so the back part of the bar was where the black people were. The front part was where the white people were and then there was always chaos in the middle.
And so, there would always be fights and you know, cop cars showin' up and I'm a 7-year-old boy in the top of that tree, you know, watchin' them shoot dice and pull knives on one another and that was our life. That was our existence.
And so, I realize now, it helped me later as a pastor to know that there are a lot of families that that's their life. I mean, their life is something; it's hard for most of us to even imagine how bad it can get. And that's where we were and so, before you know, we saw a crack of light, you know, and God finally, you know, was allowed in, that was the worst possible life we had.
Jim: Well, we're gonna unfold that and I want to bring Lisa in, because I want to hear from her and you didn't meet until later, but I think elementary school you knew each other, right?
Lisa: Right, whenever I was in the sixth grade, the cutest boy I'd ever seen walked through the doors and that happened to be Alan.
Jim: Oh, that was Al.
Lisa: That was.
Al: Yeah. (Laughter) I knew it was me. (Laughter)
Lisa: But you know, I just thought he was the best-lookin' thing and--
Jim: What grade are you in at this point?
Lisa: --I'm in the sixth grade; he's in the eighth grade.
Al: She was all braces and glasses at that stage.
Jim: That's pretty good.
Lisa: So, I was gawky lookin'. He really didn't even know who I was and I don't even know that he ever even knew my name or anything until high school.
Jim: Now you were growing up in a Christian home? Were you going to church? What was your background like?
Lisa: Yes and no. My mom and dad were goin' to church, but you know, usually that depended on how our family was doin'. And if our family was doin' good, then they would go to church. But if one of my siblings was you know, bein' intolerable, then you know, for a month, two months we wouldn't go to church until, of course, they straightened out their messes, you know, because you can't take that mess in church, you know, just a lie that Satan puts in your family and tells you to keep you away from the people who could actually help you.
Jim: Well, and again, I love that where you talked a bit about it at the top, just how refreshing and honest your story is. And we're again, gonna dig in more and more. Let me ask you, Al, you had a day; there was a day your dad and mom turned back to God or turned to God. Describe kinda what led up to that and as a little boy, how you observed that and something you said in your book, A New Season, which is really profound, that you know God is who He is because of the change you saw in your dad. Talk about that.
Al: Well, you know, it kinda started, my dad's sister came up and brought who would later be our pastor to try to study with dad in the bar and dad ran him out of the bar. You know, he wasn't ready. But mom listened and that was interesting, because she was there and listening, although they were really workin' on dad, 'cause it was his sister.
Jim: So, Miss Kay [heard].
Al: Miss Kay heard and so, she became a Christian, which made our home worse in the sense that for dad, because now he's callin' her "holy roller" and "You're bringing all this church stuff in here." So, their relationship got worse.
Jim: So, he really went after her.
Al: Oh, yeah and then one night he just kicked us out. You know, we were livin' about 45 minutes north of West Monroe, which is where we all live now. And so, we left and that was it and so, for about three months, we were there. We were goin' to church with mom. The church, White's Ferry Road, the same church that I pastored embraced this little broken family—mom and three sons at this point and without a dad. And we didn't think they would ever reconnect.
And he showed up one day at mom's work and so, she had their people ready for 911, you know, 'cause she's thinkin' he's drunk and he's probably come in here and hurt us, you know, 'cause he was a bad guy. And he was crying when she went to the window of his truck.
And he looked up and he said, "I want my family back." And she said, "Well, Phil, the boys want you back. I want you back. We love you, but we can't do it the way we were doin' it. We can't take you like you are." And he said, "I want to change, but I don't know how." And she said, "Well, I know a guy."
And so, she took him to that same pastor that went in that bar and tried to talk to him and got ran out of there. And then after three nights of studying and talkin' about the gospel, he finally relented. And you're right, the life change that I saw in dad especially, really inspired me to know that God could do miracles in people's lives, because he went from the worst reprobate in the, you know, area to John the Baptist, seemingly overnight. And he began leadin' people to Christ like crazy and hasn't stopped by the way. So, the same guy you see now came out of that conversion at 28-years-old.
Jim: Let me turn back to you, Lisa, because you had some difficulties in your childhood—
Lisa: I did.
Jim: --that were really tough. Tell us what happened as a little girl.
Lisa: Well, my mom worked outside the home and so, whenever she was at work, I would stay with my grandmother. And my grandmother lived in a house and had a lot of my uncles that lived with her and one of 'em was an alcoholic and a drug addict. And at 7-years-old, when I was 7, that's the earliest memory that I can remember, he started molesting me.
And that lasted until I was 14 and by that point, he was a little guy, so by 14, I was just about as big as he was and so, at 14, I just said, "No more. I'm not takin' anymore of this." But it really, you know, whenever something so traumatic happens at 7 and goes on for so long, it really does mess up your emotions. It messes up how you feel about yourself. You really wonder about men and your identity to them, but also your relationship with them and how will you relate to men?
And with me, it was, you know, I really thought and it's again, a lie from Satan, that that's what I meant for, that my purpose on earth was to please men. And I believe it was because I was taught that just from that early age.
Lisa: And you know, he told me, "You can't ever tell anybody about this, because you're gonna get in trouble if you do." And you know, at 7-years-old, up to 14, who wants to get in trouble with their parents? And you know, for somebody to know somethin', because I was ashamed and I thought it was my fault that this was happening.
Jim: Sure, my heart breaks and there are many people listening, many women who have gone through something similar. We didn't talk about all the details, but [there was] someone in the immediate family or the extended family that wounded them terribly. What did you do with that? Even at 14, that was kinda the first way that you would put your foot down and say no more. But how did those things linger, those attitudes that you developed and you know, looking toward men for your validation? That really sets you on a tough path, doesn't it?
Lisa: It does and you know, at 14, I was boy crazy. And all I wanted was, you know, the next conquest. You know, you could get one, but that wasn't good enough, because this one over here wasn't payin' any attention, so you would go for the next one. So, I was already boy crazy by this point and you know, I thought that they were just conquests at the time, but you know, with each one, I still could not find what I was lookin' for.
Al: She wanted a rescuer, you know, somebody to rescue her out of that which was bad that had led to that point.
Lisa: Which is how I saw Alan, you know, especially in the sixth grade. I saw him as someone who could rescue me. He was my Prince Charming.
John: Well, we're listening to Lisa and Al Robertson on today's "Focus on the Family" with Jim Daly. Thanks for joining us. You can find out about their book, A New Season; you can get the CD or a download of this program or our mobile app, so you can listen on the go, all of that at www.focusonthefamily.com/radio.
And we've touched on some things that might prompt you to want to reach out and contact us here. We have caring Christian counselors on staff. Our phone number is 800-A-FAMILY.
Jim: Lisa and Al, again, let me paint that picture. So, you're coming into a relationship with Al, not quite yet, but you're coming in with all this brokenness and abuse. And Al, you're coming in, growing up in a home of turmoil and I know that home. Phil was like my dad. I mean, an alcoholic and unfortunately, my dad never made that turn. But all that chaos and how did you two eventually, even though you knew of each other, how did you actually then meet and come together and begin to [get acquainted]?
Al: Well, in our family, things were finally great when mom and dad are new Christians and we're at the church now and so, I'm there. Unfortunately, and I don't know if this happened in a lot in families, it's almost like when the devil loses a territory here, he turns to the next weakest link. In our case, in our family it was me. As solid and strong as I'd been for my family and mom and now all of a sudden, there was some darkness growing in me.
Jim: At what age now?
Al: And now I'm about 14-years-old.
Al: And I started school early in Arkansas, because mom and dad worked, were both in the school system. So, at this age, I'm already in high school, you know. So, I was always younger than everybody else. And I began, like a lot of people, I made a couple of friends that, you know, were into some stuff, bad drinkin' and stuff like that.
And so, at first it was kinda just like curiosity and you know, slippin' around. But I began to love it and I was still goin' to church. Mom and dad are doin' great. I'm totally hidin' everything, but I'm like a double agent, you know. I'm there. I'm in the youth group, all of the little old ladies loved me, 'cause I'm so respectful, but on the weekends, I'm out, you know; it's party central.
Jim: How did you keep that from Miss Kay and Phil, you mom and dad?
Al: Well, one thing is, because I was very good. I was a great deceiver. I was kinda like Jacob, you know. And two, is because Mom didn't want to believe it. And I think dad, you know, I don't know his role in the process, you know, what he was thinkin' at the time, but I think they just didn't want to believe it and I think a lot of parents are like that. You just didn't want to dive in, because you don't want it to be true.
Jim: Well, let me ask you this though and you know, I have a 15- and 13-year-old and if you were counseling me and I see only the good sides, what would you say to me to make sure you're connected or looking out for the good deceiver?
Al: I think you have to be a good detective and you have to look at what they're looking at, understand what they're doing in their life. So, one is, you gotta know. You gotta invest that interest to know what they're doing. And then the second thing is, you've gotta not be afraid to just talk about it and ask them the questions, you know. Well, I saw this. What does that [mean]? You are here; what was goin' on there?
I mean, a lot of parents just don't want to ask because they're thinkin', you know, well, I don't want to be intrusive. And so, a lot of it is just willing to dive into that. And I think that was a big distance that mom and dad had with me, because they didn't really want to know. You know, because some of the clues were there and they said that later.
Unfortunate[ly] in our case, it just got to that terrible place when I graduated high school. I was 16-years-old. I was very young, turned 17 and now, I'm sorta more into the lifestyle and now things are comin' out that they can't deny anymore. And so, finally dad had that sit-down with me and just said, "Al, you know," which is kind of ironic, 'cause he had the same conversation with mom. And he said, "You can't stay here and influence your brothers if you're gonna life the way you're livin'. So, you've gotta change or hit the road."
Al: You know, that was the conversation we had. Now during this time is when unfortunately, I crossed paths with Lisa, so our story [began].
Jim: You say "unfortunately."
Al: --Well, I say "unfortunately" because I was so bad—
Al: --and she needed obviously, something much better than where I was.
Jim: Well, healthier.
Al: Exactly and yet, I was the one that then just took her to that, you know, finally she thought she had her prince, you know, her white knight to lead her out, you know and instead, I took her deeper into, you know, my life and my world, which by now was drugs and drinking and sex, eventually it was between the two of us. So instead of bein' the guy that God could've used for an influence for who ultimately became my wife, I was in the devil's camp and he used me to pull her further down.
Jim: Wow, Lisa, I mean, just hearing that, how does that make you feel? I mean, you were looking for something positive and I'm sure you thought you were getting that from your relationship with Al, but it was negative.
Lisa: Well, it was, but you know, at this point I still thought that he was the prince, that you know, was gonna take me away from all of this. So, I was willing to do anything to be with him. It did not matter what it was.
Jim: As a teenager.
Lisa: As a teenager, yes and you know, [in] my family, I had lived with some of the same turmoil with my uncles, you know, at my grandmother's house. And so, you know, it's almost like it was normal, but it was very abnormal, very destructive behavior. But I loved his family and I knew his brothers and you know, once I met Miss Kay, it was just, yep, this is where I need to be. This is who I need to be with and this is, you know, gonna be where I stay.
Jim: What attracted you there? I'm just curious, to Miss Kay and to the family? Was it humor or was it life or what drew you into the family?
Lisa: I think it was that love of family, because at my house, I had a[n] older brother who was 12 years older. I had a[n] older sister who was seven years older and they were both gone, so it was just me and my mom and my dad.
At Alan's house, it was people all the time, because you had the boys. Then you had Miss Kay and Phil. Then you had Granny and Paul, who were Phil's parents and they lived right down the hill. You had this life and just family all of the time. Every time you went, we were eating, you know.
Al: Playin' dominoes.
Lisa: Yeah, it was just fun, you know.
Jim: Yeah, that sounds like we need to remember when we're thinking of our families, to make sure that it's full of life and—
Lisa: Oh, absolutely.
Jim: --fun and those kinds of things. Al, you began to talk about your departure. Your dad kicks you out of the home. You head down to New Orleans as a 17-year-old.
Jim: My goodness, what a city to go to—
Jim: --as a 17-year-old on your own. What kind of trouble did you end up in there?
Al: Well, you know, I say now lookin' back, that I was goin' there tryin' to find myself and all I found was trouble. I worked at a hospital and I sorta was tethered a little bit, because I lived with my aunt, which was dad's sister. And so, there was still a little tether to the family. I hadn't kinda realized it at the time. In other words, I wasn't totally on my own, but they were, you know, I was out doin' my own thing and so, there was no supervision.
I worked at night. I got involved with some people at the hospital and got into drugs and that sort of thing and finally, started having a relationship with a woman. Of course, I ditched Lisa and broke her heart in that process, 'cause I had told her when I left that we would have this long-distance relationship, but I had no integrity, so I had no intention of keeping that.
So, I began this relationship with this woman and I'm 17 and I turned 18 when I was down there, but she was 26 and married and told me that she and her husband had been separated, I think she said for 11 months or somethin' like that. But it turns out, it was two weeks and so, I left her apartment one Sunday morning and her husband, who I obviously didn't know who he was, he was younger than her, he had flattened two tires on my car.
And so, I went out and I had two flats, so I didn't know, you know, there was anything goin' on, so I start to change one. Then I'm gonna have to go and find a tire. And he comes up from behind me, starts cursing me and then he picks up a tire tool and just starts wailin' on me. I still don't know it's her husband. I think it's just [that] I'm bein' attacked in New Orleans. You know, it's not unusual.
So, I'm 18-years-old, you know, I wrestle around with him. He gets a few good licks in and I take off runnin' down the street and he can't catch me, 'cause I'm very fleet of foot. (Laughter) I run into a little 7-Eleven there and the guy that's workin', I say, "Call the cops. Some guy's attackin' me." And so, I'm lookin' over the counter, you know, with a plunger in my hand, you know, expectin' him to come round the corner at any moment and the cops show up.
We go back around there. He had gone back. He beat my car up with a crow bar. There's a gun layin' on the hood of the car and he's in one of the police cars. And then it all comes, 'cause she's out there by now and this just, you know, this looks like somethin' off of "CSI" now. And it turns out, the witnesses said, you know, he beat my car up. He looked around. I had a gun that my uncle had given me. I forgot about it; it was in the glove compartment. He got the gun, was comin' back down the street and he made it to the corner [and] I was just there and the first cop car showed up.
So, when they told me that, you know, you just turn icy, because you realize if he makes the corner, he comes in the store, he's gonna shoot me and maybe the guy behind the counter, but me for sure and because I was sleepin' with his wife.
And so, I got no love from the cops, because they just saw a punk 18-year-old kid who was sleepin' with a guy's wife. Turns out he was a drug informant anyway for them. And so, they all left one by one and there was one guy left there and he took pictures and he was a Christian. And so, I'm sittin' there just in shock, you know and he starts tellin' me, you know, talkin' to me, havin' a conversation with me about my life, where I was.
And so, I began to cry and he told me about goin' home and it sounded so good, you know. And that's what I did. And so, it was that moment, sittin' on that city street in Kenner, Louisiana when I made a decision that I couldn't keep livin' this way or I'd never see 19. And so, just like the prodigal in Luke 15, I came to my senses, you know, by the help of a crow bar and I drove home to mom and dad.
Jim: And he was the crime scene photographer.
Al: He was a crime scene photographer. I can't wait to get to heaven to find him—
Al: --to tell him how much I appreciate it. And any time I speak today to police officers, I say, "Look, you guys are in a position if you're a Christian especially, to impact people's lives, 'cause I was impacted by an officer.
John: What a compelling conversation we've had for you today with Al and Lisa Robertson and certainly, it's easy to see why this has been one of our Best of 2016 programs. You won't want to miss tomorrow's edition of the program, as we continue the story with the Robertsons.
Jim: I really love talking with Al and Lisa. I think their openness, their honesty about the mistakes they made in their marriage, it was refreshing. They didn't try to hide behind platitudes or excuses. Their vulnerability touched my heart and judging by the response, it touched your heart, as well. And in fact, Tomika wrote to us to say this: "God bless you for airing such a candid broadcast with Pastor Al and Mrs. Lisa Robertson. I could see myself in Lisa's story. Last year, after a broken engagement, the Lord patiently walked me through a rough season of confronting and healing from a past of hardship and sin, ranging from my childhood abuse to infidelity. During this process I'd come to realize that although I had accepted salvation, I had not taken advantage of the grace God so freely extends. After hearing this broadcast, I am now clinging to the hope that God will redeem my pain as He has done for Lisa."
That should take all of our collective breath away that God moved through your help, your prayers, through the ministry here at Focus to touch Tomika with Lisa's story particularly, such a moving letter.
And you know, many families, especially at this time of year with Christmas approaching, are going to go or are currently going through difficulties like this, maybe not to the degree Al and Lisa experienced, but any struggle can seem overwhelming and probably too high a mountain to climb.
But let me say Focus on the Family is here, especially for you. Give us a call. We're here to help your marriage, your parenting, your faith. The answers you need are just a phone call away and you may be among those we've helped in the past and if Focus has touched your life in some way, can I ask you to help support us so we can together touch the lives of others in the name of Christ? Your year-end gift will have an immediate and eternal impact like you heart in that note. By donating today to Focus on the Family, you allow us to spread some Christmas joy to families in crisis. You're giving the gift of family. Let us hear from you today.
And let me assure you, no amount is too small. In fact, when you donate today, your gift's going to be doubled by some special friends that have agreed to put up matching funds. So, if you give $25, it'll be 50. If you give 50, it'll be 100. What a fun way to challenge each of us to step up to the plate and be there for that couple in need. And as our way of saying thank you for your gift, we'd like to send you a copy of Al and Lisa Robertson's book, A New Season.
John: When you donate, ask about that book, A New Season and our Best of 2016 CD set, as well. Our number is 800-232-6459; 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY or donate and do some online shopping at www.focusonthefamily.com/radio .
On behalf of Jim Daly and the entire Focus on the Family team, thanks for listening. I'm John Fuller. Join us again tomorrow for more from Al and Lisa Robertson, as we once again, help you and your family thrive.
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Al RobertsonView Bio
Al Robertson is the eldest son of Phil Robertson, the founder of the successful Duck Commander brand of duck-hunting merchandise and the head of the Robertson family who is featured on the highly popular A&E reality television show Duck Dynasty. Al helped his father build the foundation of the family business and recently returned to it after serving in full-time ministry for more than 25 years. Al made his first appearance on Duck Dynasty during the show's fourth season premiere and has become known as the "Beardless Brother" of the family, whose men are known for their long beards. Al and his wife, Lisa, have two grown daughters and four grandchildren.
Lisa RobertsonView Bio
Lisa Robertson and her husband, Al, are members of the famous Robertson family who is featured on the highly popular A&E reality television show Duck Dynasty. Lisa and Al share a speaking ministry in which they have addressed audiences at churches, marriage retreats and seminars for more than 15 years. The couple has co-authored a book titled A New Season, and they are currently working on a couple's devotional book due to be released in early 2016. Lisa has also co-authored The Women of Duck Commander along with her sisters- and mother-in-law. Al and Lisa have two grown daughters and four grandchildren.