Author and speaker Ann White shares how God helped restore her troubled marriage by helping her to break dysfunctional patterns and overcome her deep-seated fears of seeking help. (Part 2 of 2)
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Mrs. Ann White: "You can no longer live like this. You can no longer hide your pain, your sin, your brokenness. It's time for you to come out and be open and get this dealt with."
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John Fuller: Mrs. Ann White, sharing about how God worked in her life and her broken marriage. And you'll hear more from her today on "Focus on the Family." We're going to have hope for your marriage. And your host is Focus president and author, Jim Daly.
Jim Daly: John, Ann White, she shared last time about a super dysfunctional marriage. And I really appreciated her openness, because all of us can connect to portions of that. She talked about how she hid, her and her husband both. They projected a really professional marriage, a good marriage, a strong marriage, a Christian marriage. But underneath it, there was a lot of turmoil that they were struggling to deal with. And I love it because it's refreshingly honest. And I think many couples are in that place where, on the outside, it looks good, especially on Sunday.
But, on the other days, uh, there's a lot of turmoil, a lot of angst, a lot of anger, a lot of bad things going on. And she talked about that very openly. If you missed it last time, get the download. Uh, on your smartphone, you can get the app and listen that way. Or call us for a CD, uh, whatever you need to do. I think you will connect with what Ann had to share last time. And today we're going to pick up where we left off and continue the discussion to provide you the hope and the, I think, inspiration to really move forward with God first and then your marriage second. Ann, welcome back to the - "Focus on the Family."
Ann: Thank you again for having me. It's wonderful to be here.
Jim: Now, we - we did give you three words to end last time. And I - I want to give you a little bit more. You're - to set the stage, you were in Israel with your son. And, uh, you had a slam-the-phone kind of disagreement. Not that you did - I'm just saying it didn't end right. And you burst into tears, thinking the marriage was over, what are the next steps. But you did something that took a lot of courage, and that was you wrote this note to your pastor and his wife, who were good friends who thought you had a good marriage. And you delivered it that evening to them, which was your first step in courage, right?
Ann: It was.
Jim: Which is the title of your book, Courage For Life. This is step one.
Ann: This is.
Jim: I can feel it.
Jim: And, uh, I took - that took a lot of courage. And I commend you for it, because that was the ripping-away of the facade.
Ann: It was. It was. It did. It took a lot more courage than I - I would have ever dreamed it would take.
Jim: I mean, the way you described it last time, hearing the - the sounds in the room and the hallway, and the two grandsons of the - your pastor. And the vibrancy of your description says to me your body chemistry was searing this memory into your mind.
Ann: Oh, I can remember every moment, every detail, and when I dropped this letter off to them and - and said, "just pray for us. We're on life support, and we need your prayers." And I came back. And I - I think I mentioned in our last time together, just very briefly as we were ending the program, that I got back on the phone with Mike, shared with him what I had done. At first, he was not really happy, because it's - it was difficult. It was a new thing for us. And so, it was a - you know, it was a surprise to him. And then he...
Jim: That was your next conversation.
Ann: Yes. That was the next conversation.
Jim: Still, you in Israel with your son...
Jim: ...and Mike back home?
Ann: But I had to let him know.
Jim: Oh, yeah. But...
Jim: Yeah. Describe that a little bit, because that would have been - you know, you took a step of faith and courage, but maybe Mike wasn't ready. A lot of us husbands would be going, "how could she do that?"
Ann: (Laughter) Exactly. And I'm sure he was. I think he was quiet, best I can remember. And I simply told him - I said, "Mike, I'm going to get help." I knew for myself that I had to get help. Whether he chose to get help with me or not, I needed to reach out and ask for help. And I think our - our first conversation was short. But I remember him calling me back, shortly thereafter and saying - and I do. I credit him with so much courage that he said, "you know what, Ann? Let's get help together."
Jim: Awesome. That is the answer. And, uh...
Ann: It is the answer.
Jim: You know, when - when - at Hope Restored, our marriage intensives, that's one of the questions - that's the question we ask a couple who's in trouble. Again, maybe the divorce papers are signed. And the question is, do you believe God can work a miracle in your marriage? And oftentimes that answer is yes, but, you know, He doesn't really know my husband. You know.
Jim: Or He doesn't know my wife, or whatever it might. But if they can affirmatively answer that to say, "yes, I believe that. I don't understand how that can happen" - and I'm sure you and Mike in this moment were in that same boat. You didn't know what the next steps were going to be.
Ann: We had no clue.
Jim: But you were willing. And that is the first step.
Ann: The first step in - in courage is just to make that commitment, to say, "I will get help. I will do what God is calling me to do." And - and Mike and I loved each other. We've loved each other since we were teenagers. That never ended. You know, God grounded that love from the very beginning. But we allowed the world, and we allowed sin and difficulties and hardships and frustrations and anger and mistreating one another, to really just put so many cracks in our marriage that it separated us to a point we didn't think that we could bridge ourselves back together. And we couldn't, but God could.
Jim: Yeah. Ann, let me explore that for a minute, on behalf of the listeners, because I think it - this is vital. We allow those patterns to develop where we get snippy and we think we're winning. There may be a little tote board in our heads. You know, I won that one, whatever it might be. But we do fall into these traps of patterns that we just get on each other. And talk to us about the deadly nature of that, and what you're experiencing now with Mike versus what you had before that was destructive, dysfunctional, and now closer to God, more in tune with each other. Describe that difference and what it means to your heart.
Ann: Well, the dance is - that you're talking about is often described as a dysfunctional dance. And it's - often we bring it out of childhood. We learn by what we see, and we observe other broken relationships. And of course, in the case of my husband's, upbringing and mine, both, we witnessed very broken relationships within our households. So, we saw that dance going around where one person hurts the other person, and the other person gets defensive and comes back and criticizes or hurts the other. It becomes a vicious cycle. And I think, in order to break that cycle, you've got to take your eyes off the other person and start looking in the mirror.
And that's one of the most courageous steps that I had to learn in this process that I talk about in the book, is I had to learn I can't change someone else. I spent my entire life and my entire marriage believing I could change Mike, I could change my kids, I could change whatever I needed to change and make it the way I thought it needed to be, or make that person the way I thought they needed to be, when instead I needed to be looking in the mirror and saying, "what needs to change in me? Is it my attitude, my behaviors, my amount of courage? What needs to change in my life?" And so, I think God was calling me to look in the mirror. And I think that's the first step, number one, we talked about. And if a couple's struggling, it takes two - takes two to get married. It takes two to stay married. And if you've got both members of that marriage that are willing to get help and willing to surrender their marriage to God, it cannot only be healed, but it can be better than ever. And that's been the experience Mike and I have had.
Jim: And that's the goal. But let me ask you, when you're describing that dance, that dysfunctional dance, as you mentioned, how does a person really get a hold of that? You - what I tend to think is that it's - these are steps. The steps have different gaps, some large steps, some small steps. And I think this is one of the larger steps, to actually embrace the fact that I'm not going to try to control my spouse. I'm going to look in my own heart and say, "this is what I can control. It's only me." It's easy to say, and it can be really hard to do.
Ann: Well, Jim, it's a process. I mean, it - and it takes time. And I think that's what - when I decided to write a book, I had never wanted to write a book. That was not something that I set out to do, or say, "you know, someday I want to write a book." In fact, I was terrible at English. So (laughter), we won't go there.
Jim: (Laughter) Join the crowd.
Ann: It was - you know, it's just not something that was ever on my radar. But when God called me to comfort others with the same comfort He'd given me and called me, I felt that it was imperative that I share the steps in that process that I went through to heal myself. And in healing myself, it changed the dynamics of our relationship and our marriage. And of course, Mike joined me in that healing, in the counseling. But in order to change that dance, this dysfunctional dance, if you change one partner in that dance, the dance changes. If one partner gets healthier, the entire dance changes, and then the other person responds differently. They see and recognize that change in the person. So, I've had couples go through the seven steps of courage that's in the book, Courage for Life. I've had many women in, um, whatever they need courage for, but - go through this. So, I talk about this process that I went to and committing to change, looking at the obstacles that I needed to overcome. And those obstacles could be bad attitudes. They could be behaviors. They could be sin in my life. They could be past hurt, fear, pain that I was experiencing that I needed to deal with.
Jim: And those seven steps - you're touching on the first one - this acrostic that - you used the word courage for that. So, let's go through them. Let's hit them for the listener. So “C,” you just hit it.
Ann: Sure. “C,” commit to change. I mean, the first - the first thing we have to do, when we step out in courage, is make a commitment. And I made that commitment on that day that I was going to change, that I - I knew, um - I learned - I didn't know right up front, and it wasn't ingrained in my, you know, personality at first - but I learned over time I can't change anyone else. I can only change myself. So, I knew I had to make a commitment to change the things that were broken, change those broken places in my life to get healing and allow God to usher in the healing.
Jim: Ann, a tough question. And we're going to get to the others. I want to cover them all. And, of course, this is in your book. And you can get a copy of the book through "Focus," and John will have those details in a minute. But - but, Ann, Mike responded in a way that made this doable.
Ann: Made the marriage possible. Yes.
Jim: So, I want to first say, "way to go, Mike," your husband. And then, secondly, what about the spouse - it could be the husband or the wife - who doesn't get that response? They're ready to go. They're ready to make the change. And they have the phone call, and the spouse says, "well, you know, all the best with that, because you really do need to work on yourself."
Ann: And they need to have the courage to make those changes, because those - that change that they're going to go through and make in their life, and when they begin to build courage, and they go through these steps, they're going to be able to handle whatever situation comes up before them, with God, with courage, and with healing
Jim: Let me ask you, because I don't want to leave this scar ripped open and left there bleeding for somebody.
Jim: What advice do you have for that person who's not seeing the responsiveness - a positive responsiveness from that spouse? What advice would you give her, or him, in terms of working on yourself in this area to commit to change - changing yourself? What would you say to them? God has to work that out in their lives. You can't be responsible for that. You can't control that.
Jim: Work on yourself. Those are the things that jump to my head. But, you lived it.
Ann: That's exactly what I would say, yes. And I would say those and others - you have to give God time to heal yourself. You can't control the other person. And so, if they choose to leave, you have to give them the grace and let - and let them go. But you pray for them. You don't harbor that anger and that bitterness...
Jim: That's critical.
Ann: ...Because you understand they're broken.
Jim: Yeah, that's critical. Because part of me, I would say, don't take the bait. I mean, when you love somebody, really, that test of love comes at the bottom. In the valley. Not on the mountaintop. You need to love that person, even though they may be baiting you into an argument.
Jim: So, you have to step back, and at that point, be the one who's more mature to say, "I love you. I love who we are together. I know God's heart is for us. So, I'm sorry I've wounded you. Let me continue to work on my thing, and I'm gonna try to do better." And then walk away.
Ann: Absolutely. That's one of the things I talk about in the book. We have to communicate care at all times, even when we don't feel like it. When we start a conversation with our spouse, or really with really with anyone, God tells us to speak truth and love. But if we don't start with care, then everything else falls apart.
John: Hm... This is "Focus on the Family" with Jim Daly. I'm John Fuller. And our guest on the broadcast today is Ann White. And, uh, you can find out more about her story and this acrostic "courage" when you get her book, Courage for Life. Uh, we've got that and a CD or download, uh, as well as our mobile app - all available for you at focusonthefamily.com/radio. Or call us. And our number is 800-232-6459.
Jim: Uh, Ann, when you look at that acrostic that John mentioned - commit to change, that's the C. Let's get to the O, which is overcome obstacles. Describe it.
Ann: We all have obstacles. And, uh...
Jim: No, we don't.
Ann: Yes, we do.
Ann: Yes, we...
Jim: We need a little levity here.
Ann: Oh. But in this life, we definitely have obstacles.
Jim: What do they look like?
Ann: You know, they can be a lot of things. They could be our attitude. They could be our past. And I talk about - what I call in the book - the four pests of pressure.
Jim: The four pests of pressure.
Ann: As I began to think about, God, what is underneath all of my obstacles in life? What are the things that are kind of at the surface of my obstacles causing me the biggest issues? I came up with fear, hurt, sin and shame.
Jim: Say it again so people grab it.
Ann: Fear, hurt, sin and shame.
Jim: Boy, those are powerful.
Ann: They are. And they tend to control our life if we allow them to. Now Satan, of course, will take those and just beat us over the head with 'em. And if we don't deal with our fear, our hurt, our sin and our shame, then we're just gonna stay in this cycle, uh, that's gonna be very difficult, and we're gonna come up against obstacles all the time. You know, I operated for years making choices and decisions based on fear - maybe fear of rejection, fear of abandonment, fear of, uh - fear of someone knowing and judging me.
Jim: Yeah. That's obvious.
Ann: That was the reason for hiding all of our issues for so many years is, how will others perceive this?
Ann: And so, when you lay that fear aside and God says, "What other people think of you is none of your business" (laughter)...
Jim: It's hard to embrace, but it's true.
Ann: It's true. But what God thinks of you is what really matters.
Ann: And so, as I began to walk through those steps, committing to change and then overcoming the obstacles, I had to identify what obstacles were there. Because my obstacle might be my attitude or my behavior, but is it fear that's driving my attitude? Is it sin? Or is it shame that's driving my attitude? What is it that's going on underneath that I need to deal with?
Jim: Let's get to U. That's C-O - commit to change, being C, overcome obstacles, we just covered. Now U - uncover your true self.
Ann: Uncover your true self.
Jim: Ooh, this one's a little risky (laughter).
Ann: It is. But it - actually, this is where you really get to open up. 'Cause God set us free for freedom. Not so that we would live a life of bondage and shame, and in fear. And so, when we uncover our true self, we take a look at what God has to say about us, and uncover who we truly are - the good, the bad and the ugly. But not looking at what the world has to say, but what does God have to say about us? And then, we began to understand that we are fully loved right where we are, that we are wonderfully made, and it - we have to uncover two things. We have to uncover who we are and the things that we need to work on in our lives and allow God to bring those to the surface. But at the same time, we need to uncover who we are in Christ. And that gives us a lot of courage.
John: And you've already talked about this, uh, in the previous broadcast and today a little bit. We have a lot of things that hold us back from sharing our true selves. And yet, close friends of yours - pastors of the church with whom you traveled and spent so much time over so many years - they didn't know your true self. How do we get there? How do we get there without a crisis moment?
Ann: Transparency and vulnerability - two words that are very scary, until you exercise them. And you don't have to reveal your every deepest, darkest secret. But God didn't create us to walk through this life alone. He created us to be together, and his Word tells us that we sharpen one another, we're to pray for one another that we might be healed, that two are better than one - when one falls down there's someone to pick him up. And I believed in isolation. I grew up believing that - that I was to keep everything to myself, that it was just me and God. And while God is there and He is our Savior. He is there - our Comforter, our hope and our encouragement, He also wants to bring us in relationship with what I call, for me, would be safe - what I call safe sisters, and I talk about that in the book. But people who will come alongside us, that we can be transparent and vulnerable with, to speak all of our hurt and our fear and our shame and get that out, where it can be dealt with.
John: We have so many lone wolf Christians - if you will - so many isolated Christians that don't have that kind of community, around them.
Jim: Well, and it's interesting, too, that the church, if you think of our strengths and weaknesses, as a community of believers, this is one of our weaknesses.
Ann: It is.
Jim: We try to project perfection, so people think we're better than we are. And the Lord’s saying, "I want the exact opposite from you. Project your weakness, so they can see me in you."
Jim: Yeah. Well, we need to work on that.
Ann: We do need to work on that.
Jim: And that's good to recognize it. Um, let's talk about R - we're not gonna have time for A and G, but I wanna cover R and E, in COURAGE.
Jim: So, let's get R, which is, replace worldly lies with scriptural truth. This is - this is it.
Ann: It's a biggie. And - and I go through a worksheet in the, um, in my book and in the workbook, that you really break down those lies. I had about 16 lies I believed about myself.
Ann: Um, lies that I needed to prove myself to others to be valuable - things like that that the world would tell us that we need. And yet, God says, "you're valuable. I love you unconditionally, and you're valuable." So, I had to replace the worldly lies that I'd learned for many, many years and replace them with God's word that was healing and gave me courage.
John: And that requires spending time in the scripture on a regular basis.
Ann: Every day. You know, um, there are statistics out that tell us if we're in God's word four or more times a week that it changes our behavior, it - and it gives us courage. I mean, John, Jim, y'all realize that. But I found that to be so true. The more I imparted God's word into my life, the healthier, spiritually, I became.
Jim: Well, again, that's one of the great secrets to marriage. You know, people that pray together regularly - not every day, but regularly - and read the Word together, the divorce rate there is extremely low - single digits.
Ann: That's correct.
Jim: And, uh, that's the silver bullet, if you really want to hear that. Um, again, Ann, uh, A in the acrostic, COURAGE, is accept the things we cannot change. Uh, people can read that in the book. G is grasp God's love for us. That's a big one as well. None of these are weak, but let's get to E, which is embrace a life of grace. This is probably one of the most difficult things for us as human beings to accept - that God's love for us is unconditional, it's not about our performance. Because we are saturated in performance from the time we're born - about, uh, you know, if we act this way or behave this way, we get these rewards. Why do we need, as Christians, to say "no, no. God's grace is what it's about"?
Ann: We have to embrace it, and that's what I talk about in that chapter. You know, the definition of grace is unmerited favor, undeserved. God's given us His grace. It's already there. But the result of grace is empowerment. And so, if we embrace it, God gives us the power to do what He's calling us to do. And I not only had to have grace for myself - and that was actually hard for me. You know, going through some things I went through in my childhood - things that I did in my teenage years that I'm not proud of - I carried shame along with me for many, many, many years. And as I did, Satan just continued to undermine my confidence, my ability to be transparent and vulnerable, and to deal with the hurt and pain and that shame - I just kept on piling it on. I said that I didn't deserve grace. And I don't, but I had to embrace it anyway. And I had to say - you know what? – God’s wiped all that away. And so, I had to embrace it for myself. But then, you have to take it a step further, and you've got to give that same grace to your spouse, or other people in your family. You may not need courage for a marriage. You may need courage - your listeners may need courage for something else.
Ann: But grace is that important component that we need to receive for ourselves and embrace it, but we also have to embrace it and give it to others.
Jim: You know, Ann, there's no scientific proof of this, but when you look at grace and how you embraced grace in your own life and then how you project it to those around you, I think there's an equation there of equilibrium. In other words, as much as you receive for yourself is what you're going to give to others. And if you're in that spot, where you're not a grace-filled person - that you're a judgmental person with everyone around you, my guess will be you're also that way with yourself. And that's part of your dilemma.
Ann: Very well said.
Jim: And you've got to move into that - what I love - your embrace of God's grace. That is the secret. The - and it's not a secret. We just gotta believe it.
Ann, I want you to pray for folks and their marriages in just a minute, but I got to ask you this, and we're gonna wrap up here. But, um, with you and Mike now, a few years beyond this revelation and the embrace of something different, uh, do you still have those disagreements? Is it better?
Jim: How do you two battle through each other's desires and wants and disagreements today?
Ann: Well, a lot has changed, but there is no perfect relationship. There - there will never be a perfect marriage, because we're both human. But we're - we are more equipped now to handle our disagreements with love - truth and love. We sit down. We pray about 'em. And yet, we have that grace for one another. We communicate care. We've learned communication skills that I've talked about in the book that are critical to being able to have those healthy conversations and healthy disagreements, that they're then resolved, and we can move on. And not all of them are necessarily resolved, I do talk about that. We're not always gonna agree on everything.
Jim: And that's OK.
Ann: But we can respect one another, love one another, pray for one another and be healed, like God's Word tells us.
Jim: Well, I love that, and your book, Courage for Life, is a great resource and tool to help couples start that process. If you're living in that dark place where you've covered up, you've projected that perfection we were talking about, especially in your marriage, get Ann's book. You can get it here at "Focus on the Family." And if you can send a donation of any amount, our way of saying thank you will be to send the book along to you. If you can't afford it, we'll get it in your hands. Just call us. We believe in the content that Ann has provided - the testimony of Ann and Mike and what God has done in their lives. This is the right stuff, everybody. And again, if you're in a place where you need help, just contact us.
John: Yeah, we have counselors here, and so many resources that you can rely on. So, please - make a regular monthly donation to support this broadcast and all the other efforts here at Focus on the Family. And, uh, we'll say thank you by sending Ann's book, Courage for Life. Our number here is 800, the letter A, and the word FAMILY. 800-232-6459. Or online, you can contribute and get resources at focusonthefamily.com/radio.
Jim: Also, John, let me make sure people hear this - that if you're in a desperate spot, we have Hope Restored, which is an intensive marriage counseling experience. It's in Branson, Mo. Uh, we have an 81 percent, two-year success rate, meaning that post-two years of the counseling, those couples are still together and doing better in their marriages. So, get a hold of us for that as well. Ann, let me have you pray for those marriages that are struggling. Can we do it?
Ann: We absolutely can do it. It'd be an honor. Father, thank you, Lord, for this opportunity to, um, to speak through You today, Father and God. I just pray for marriages out there that are in the place where I've been. And, God, my heart goes out to each and every person that's listening today that's struggling and suffering and needs to come forward, God, and just receive your healing and hope and encouragement, Lord. So, Father, God, I just pray your holy protection around those marriages. Give them hope and give them encouragement and give them wisdom and discernment, Father, and to do - and to take that first step in courage - to take that step and commit to making a change and commit to getting the help that they need, Lord. God, just bring people into their life that can help them on their journey to restoring and healing their marriage. Father, we ask these things in your holy and precious name, and we give you all the glory in Jesus Christ, Amen.
John: Amen. Well, again, our thanks to our guest Ann White, uh, for her story and for the book, Courage for Life. And thank you for listening today to "Focus on the Family." On behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team, I'm John Fuller, inviting you back next time as we once more help you and your family thrive in Christ.
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Ann WhiteView Bio
Ann White is an internationally known author, speaker and Bible teacher. She founded her global ministry, Courage For Life, out of a calling to share with others how God and His Word brought restoration to her life and marriage. Having personally experienced God’s grace, salvation and the life-changing power of the Bible, Ann’s desire is to extend this same love, mercy and encouragement to others, so they too may be reconciled to God. Ann is a wife, mother and grandmother. She and her family reside in Belleair Shores, Fla. Learn more about Ann at her website, annwhite.com.