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Baggage in Marriage (You’ve Got it Too): Ron and Nan Deal

Family Life Today / Dave & Ann Wilson, Bob Lepine
The Truth Network Radio
November 30, 2022 3:00 am

Baggage in Marriage (You’ve Got it Too): Ron and Nan Deal

Family Life Today / Dave & Ann Wilson, Bob Lepine

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November 30, 2022 3:00 am

Ron & Nan Deal have led FamilyLife Blended for over a decade, but their story's far from flawless. Like all of us, they carried baggage into marriage.

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Family Life Today
Dave & Ann Wilson, Bob Lepine
Family Life Today
Dave & Ann Wilson, Bob Lepine
Family Life Today
Dave & Ann Wilson, Bob Lepine
Family Life Today
Dave & Ann Wilson, Bob Lepine
Family Life Today
Dave & Ann Wilson, Bob Lepine
Family Life Today
Dave & Ann Wilson, Bob Lepine

Well, if there's anything I underestimated when we got married, it would be the amount of baggage that I was carrying.

I love to say you. Actually, I knew you're bringing baggage in because I knew your family and I'm like, oh boy. But I had no idea. I brought a whole plane full, a truck full. I mean, I would have told you and I probably did. Oh, I'm good.

You totally did. Welcome to Family Life Today, where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I'm Ann Wilson and I'm Dave Wilson and you can find us at or on the Family Life app. This is Family Life Today. I thought Dave doesn't have any baggage. He's still with all his stuff.

I didn't think I did. I mean, all you have to do is look at our bio and go, okay, two alcoholic parents, divorce, death of his brother. But Dave, I think what happens is we assume and we think because we've given our lives to Jesus, it just magically disappears. And in God's graciousness, he allows us to walk through unpacking the bags, but it's hard.

Yeah. And today we get to walk through a pretty remarkable story that we got to hear on a dinner table one night in Little Rock with Ron and Nan Deal, who are in the studio with Family Life. It feels weird saying welcome to Family Life Today because you're such a part of Family Life, but welcome to Family Life Today guys.

Thank you. Glad to be here. It's great to be here.

I mean, it's a little different. You live in Little Rock and now you're down in Orlando with us in the new studio. It's nice.

It's pretty spectacular. Thank you, donors of Family Life to be able to provide this for us. And many of you know Ron is the director of our Family Life blended ministry for how many years? 10 years now.

10 years. Yeah. And I don't know how many know Nan. They've heard your name. Oh, Nan is like this secret weapon. She's amazing.

And I think our listeners are in for a real treat. You're sweet. Yeah. So you laugh when we talk about our baggage, but we get to hear your story today that a lot of your story was hidden. And I don't want to start your story. So start from wherever. You can begin to tell us what we need to know.

Right. You said truckloads. I'd say I had a whole fleet of semis. I did not grow up in a Christian home. It was toxic soup.

My mom and dad and three girls, I'm the youngest of three girls. And it was fists through the wall, fights, unforgiveness, bitterness, rage, and shame. It was shame-based parenting. And as soon as I could get out, I ran as fast as I could. There was just not a safe person to go to.

There was a lot of abandonment there. There was a lot of emotional abandonment, physical abandonment that I learned very early on. I think I was five or six.

I learned very early on. I was on my own. Nobody had my back. And I wasn't worth much. I was told over and over again that they never should have had me or I wouldn't amount to much, which resulted in all three of us having eating disorders and issues of that nature. But it was a hard place to grow up and a very lonely home to grow up in. Nan, was there any faith in your home?

No. And my dad and I started going to church when I was in junior high. I know my dad was searching.

I know my older sister was searching. But it was Easter and Christmas and there was no Bible in the home. And so when we would go to church, Easter and Christmas, the music was the only thing really that spoke to me, but I didn't know God's word.

I didn't know that those words and those songs were actual scriptures from God's word. I knew I wanted to be there. And when I was six, I had a babysitter and she was a Catholic lady and she took me to Catholic mass. And I remember kneeling on that mahogany bench and I can see those crushed velvet cushions and holding her hand in church.

And actually I wanted her to be my mom. She taught me how to pray and she taught me the Lord's prayer. And then now I lay me down to sleep prayer because I napped at her home. And I remember looking at the stained glass thinking, I want to be in a place like this. Her home felt safe and going to mass with her felt safe. So fast forward that to junior high. I was going to a Presbyterian church with my dad.

We have a choir night and a meal. And there was this girl that went to my church with me, but she also double dipped across town at the assembly of God. And one night she said to me, she said, Hey, would you like to go to a concert with me, Christian concert? And I said, sure.

I don't know what that is. I mean, I grew up on Motown and country Western. My dad loves some country Western, but anyway, I loved music.

It spoke to me. But anyway, so I went to this concert and this Joan Baez type girl comes out on the stage with her guitar and this, this little bench, and she's got this Holly hobby dress up to her, you know, her chin. And she starts singing. It was Amy Grant. I may not be everybody's dream for their little girl. And that was the first song she started singing.

It was. And those words, I may not be every mother's dream for her little girl. And I wept. Father's eyes. And you wept.

I wept because it was like, that's how I feel. That was one of those moments where I knew at six with my babysitter. And in that moment, God was always pursuing me.

He was always pursuing me. Just didn't know exactly what that meant. I didn't know what that meant.

You said a minute ago, she ran as fast as she could, as soon as she could. Yeah. I was thinking, Ron, was that you? How did she come into her life? We met in seventh grade. Seventh grade? We went through junior high and high school together. We're friends long before we ever started dating. Ron Deal, the nicest guy I had ever met. He is a nice guy.

He is a nice guy. I could totally see that. But this is what you didn't know, is her family was Toxic Soup. And mine was a healthy, loving, Christ-centered family in which I never, ever, ever doubted that I was loved or cared for. And yet at the same time, always wondered if I was one mistake away from sort of losing my dad's heart. Sometimes when things are out in the open, you know what you're dealing with. And the baggage I brought into our marriage was what I didn't know I was dealing with. And that was just this, I feel like everything is a test.

And perform well is the name of the game. That's how I coped. So I was good as an athlete. I was okay as a student. But you're a nice guy. But I was a nice guy.

And you live for Jesus because you never know when you might be sharing Jesus or showing people who God is. And so that was a big message within my family that drove us to be good. And so being good was really super important to me. And you fast forward a few years and Nan and I are married and together.

And I'm trying to be good at everything I do in life, in work. And I'm so focused there that I'm not focused on her. Well, Ron, let me go back for a minute. Did you know about what Nan's life was growing up?

I mean, yes. But let me just say after even in my mid 50s, 36 years of marriage, I'm still figuring out me. We're still figuring out her when she grew up. Like the lingering impact of baggage is something that I think for most of us is a lifelong endeavor. So yeah, I had been there. I'd seen it. I'd interacted with her parents even before we started dating. So I've known them a very, very long time.

In some ways it's like you see the bags, you don't know how heavy they are. And my oldest sister who passed away of anorexia at 45. I mean, Ron saw that whole thing. He knew that that was there. He knew my mom and dad's relationship and he knew that there wasn't faith in the home. And God actually used him to bring me to the Lord.

I mean, we studied the Bible and I became a Christian and I was baptized. And many years later, your father. Yeah, and then my dad. And so I think, yes, I was running towards the light and yet I didn't know some of those same things of not really measuring up or being enough were messages I was getting even there. Did you think Ron would kind of be your saving grace? You betcha.

So Ron was your escape. You betcha. You knew Jesus.

Yes. But maybe you didn't know how to help have Jesus interact with all those hard things. Exactly. I wanted Ron to rescue me. I put him on that horse and gave him that shield and that sword and I wanted him to fight every battle. And Ron, you probably wanted to because you said you were a good guy.

Yeah. I mean, I did want to rescue and help and serve and love her well. And at the same time, I wanted to please everybody under the sun. I wanted, you know, fear of man. If I have an idol, like that's my weak spot is I want people to approve of me.

I want people to be thrilled or impressed with my work. And so I was driven and perfectionistic. And in the back of my mind, it was all serving the kingdom. Right?

So how do you argue with that? Yeah. So many times, like, she's opened my eyes to how do you win when you're in her shoes and I'm chasing stuff for God?

Like, she can't compete with that. That's a losing day. This is the story of our lives too. Like, you're competing against God and God should always be first, right? So you take a back seat as a wife. Right. For sure. And I had a pride in that, that I didn't know I had. Again, part of my baggage was I took pride in doing well, performing well, ministry well, everything related to that and couldn't wrap my mind around why she wasn't thrilled. Everybody else seems to be thrilled. Why aren't you thrilled? You know? And so that became a sore spot in my heart.

And then what was it like for you? And once again, there's the abandonment. I'm not enough. You're chasing after something else or after you have worked all day long, you're exhausted and so there's nothing left for me.

It was really hard. And then when the voice came along, and you know, when I was at home and I was growing up in that, I learned I needed to do things by myself, become self-reliant. I will be the defender of my heart. I will take care of me and I will figure out how to do this environment.

So I'm married to this guy in this wonderful Christian family and there's some overt messages of how to be and what to do in there. So I'll learn how to do that. And after you learn how to do that, and then you're still not getting the acknowledgement or you don't feel accepted, I just get angry and I wall off. And the bitterness and the resentment creep in.

And so I became very resentful towards my family and it was like, peace out. I'm going to go to him and see you later. I'll take care of my college.

I'll pay for it. And I've got this guy now and I'll show you how to parent. And then as Ron's in ministry, and I was never the typical minister's wife. Oh my goodness, you know, because I didn't come from anything.

I didn't come from a Christian home. I always felt like I was never enough. And so here's this guy chasing after work and other things. And I'm like, well, then I'll do it. Forget you. I'll, you know, and I'll wall myself off. Self-protect.

Self-protect for sure. And especially when the boys came along, if anything that I was good at, I did not want to parent like they had parented me. And I hope I did that. I never wanted them for one moment to not think they were wanted, loved or anything but amazing. And that I was all in as their mother and that there was nothing they could do to make me not love them. You know, part of that was my pride.

Part of that was I was going to show my parents how to do it. And part of that was this love for these three little guys that, you know, I'm like, how could you not? And they were probably enthralled with you. It's so wonderful.

I loved, and I love every moment of it. So there was a safe and wonderful place. And as Ron's going and blowing and you know, I'm doing this for God. I'm like, well, I'm going to protect these boys at all costs and I'm going to protect myself and more walling off, more bitterness, resentment and anger. And you've got abandonment from that and abandonment in this. And you know, it's just, you had feel to that and it's just going to go. I mean, Ron, did you see what was happening in your home?

Because in my life, it's a little different but similar. And I couldn't see it. I was so focused on your job, building a successful ministry that even when she would say it, I sort of looked at her like she was needy. Like, come on, you've got, so I couldn't see it. Could you?

I didn't see it. We kind of divide our 36 years up into the first 10 or 15. I was completely consumed in my own endeavors. I thought I was building God's kingdom. And that's, I think the way it started, I think I had really good intentions and somewhere along the way I started building my kingdom and could not see it. As a matter of fact, I probably, I know I did because we've processed this. I gave her the look and the speech and the, come on, what are you complaining about?

Why are you? And I just have to say, you know, it was terrible. I was a pariaholic.

That was my drink of choice was I'm right. And you just got to figure this out and you got to start performing well. Like again, that's a standard that I had grown up with and had put on myself and had adopted in my life as my approach to life. And I was pushing that off on her. And oh, by the way, since I'm so good at what I do, I have the right to tell you how mistakes you're making.

And I needed to correct her and help her to see the parts of her that were lacking. You know, what did that do? There was one time he traveled and he was gone from Tuesday to Sunday. You know, three little boys and he's gone from Tuesday to Sunday and he comes home that Sunday night late. And I said to him, I said, if you could just stay home Monday morning and have breakfast with us. He's like, you have no idea what you're asking of me. Cause you know, he had done this conference for someone else, but he's got to come home and he's got a church waiting for him. And what I heard was you all are not as important as what I just did out there and what I'm going to be doing at church. And that's when I started to think, yeah, I'm not going to open myself up to you.

I am going to continue to wall off. And I really got angry, bitter, resentful, and I started to hate his work. Every book that came out, every conference he went to, everything he did, I wanted to get on the radio with him and say, y'all don't know how bad he is to me. I mean, I really, with every passing year, I was off the chain angry. But you never did. I never did on air.

I did enough of that at home. He walked on eggshells around me forever. Yeah. That's what I was wondering because the public sees the Deal family as, oh, they're the image of what we all want. And yet that was the reality behind that. But he knew. So Ron, you knew, but were you thinking this is Nan's fault? Yes.

At least a big part of it was her fault. Yes, I had things I needed to grow in. Okay. So one of the advantages of being a family therapist is you preach to yourself a lot. Oh no.

Right. So you're reading stuff all the time and you're going, oh my God, I think I need to work on that. But here's the way I would say in hindsight, if I found something I needed to work on, it was sort of like a three on a 10 scale. Like I had a little problem. I didn't have a serious problem.

So I constantly graded myself better than I was. And you probably weren't verbally abusive in terms of what you said to Nan. No. Right.

So none of that. So you're probably thinking, I'm a good husband. Dave used to say to me, I'm an amazing husband. I'm so much better than everyone else.

Because I knew all the other husbands out there. I'm like, you have no idea how much better you got it. But I couldn't see.

I was as bad as all of them. Right. You know, he just kept learning all these things and had all of these wonderful tools and he really was helping the masses, all these other people. Now I will say he tried to bring it home and I'd be saying, yeah, go help all your little friends out there. But don't be trying to help me. You know, my heart was stone. Resentment got in the way. Anger got in the way. And of course, okay, think about this.

So I would then see her anger and I would think, man, she's got problems. We got to work on this. We got to try to work through this. And we would try to work through this. But that that wall was there and that was evident to me. So again, it kind of fueled my little narrative that she's the problem.

I got stuff to work on, but there's real problems over there. Think about it from her standpoint for a minute. Every time I took that posture, I was more distant. I was more unavailable. I was less in tune.

And what's her big baggage? Abandonment. And so I was feeding into the abandonment. Like this is one of the crazy things I think about. It's true for us and I think it's true for a lot of couples.

A lot of us walk in with two or three really big things that are kind of great sensitivities to us and life would just have it that our spouse sort of pecks away at those very things. And we absolutely did that to each other. I became somebody who abandoned another person who added to that life experience. That's terrible.

I was sitting here just listening to her talk a minute ago and I'm just thinking that's awful. And I was blind. That's what pride does. It blinds you to yourself.

And so I couldn't see it and I didn't even realize it. And I was just contributing to it. And likewise, she's being angry and constantly telling me that I'm not measuring up. Well, what's my goal in life?

To measure up, right? To be enough. And she's telling me, you're not enough. You're not enough.

You're not enough. So I work harder and worked harder and worked harder. And we're both constantly failing. And there was a season in there where when Ron had just written his first book and I was still staying at home and I was boxing up those books.

We had three little levels and in the basement we had this little office and I was taking those books with our youngest to the post office and delivering them and working part time for him to just try to help this ministry. I really was trying to do and be a support. And yet the travel wouldn't stop and the walking into church and I'm by myself with three little boys and he's off to go teach another class and see afterwords and it just kept going and going.

And in my mind, I thought, if I'll do enough for you and show you how wonderful I am and is supportive, then you'll come back to me. And it never happens. So then it's like, well, this isn't working. Why don't I get angry?

Well, does that ever help? And I will say this, I bet there are people listening going, wow, why didn't you just hang it up? We genuinely have always loved each other and we have quite the chemistry together, but we genuinely love each other and we loved and love our children and there were seasons in there when it was good. It was really good. That's the thing. You know, there's so much good in the midst of all of this, but there's just sort of this under the surface, dysfunctional dance we could narrative. We just couldn't ever outrun and sort of figured out how to tiptoe around and yet that there were good things in the middle of all of that.

And so you just sort of, you know, keep going, not realizing that the distance was growing tremendously. I know that your story's resonating with so many. I was thinking you have unique circumstances you've already shared that are different than many couples, but yet the result is everybody's story. I mean, Ron, I'm like, I've done that.

Ann's done that. I know every listener's like, I felt what you felt. Well here's the thing, and we can tell more of the story next time. We haven't even gotten to the hard part. We haven't even gotten to the real hard and the devastating impact that it had on us.

So here's the bottom line. If you were to ask me, what is this story? I would say, this is the story of God's mercy. We love each other like crazy and we are not enough for one another. We rely on Him. And every single day at this season of our life, we are incredibly grateful for God's kindness to us in seeing us through this and continue. We don't think we're done. Marriage isn't done. We're never done. We're still going, but that's this story. God has been very kind to us.

And you didn't quit? No. You're listening to Dave and Ann Wilson with Ron and Nan Diehl on Family Life Today. There's some really honest and heavy stuff we're tackling here today, but that's where we genuinely want to live in the ministry of family life.

Reality, not pretend. So share some of your thoughts with us on this, Dave. You know, Ron and Nan really hit on something that's core to all of us. We long to be seen, to be heard, to be valued. And boy, oh boy, it's at the core of our being with somebody know me, see me, and understand what I'm going through. And I really think that's what family life today does. We are a ministry that helps you be seen as we go to God's word, as we tell our stories and stories like Ron and Nan's.

Hopefully you're going, they see me. They know exactly the same struggles that I'm going through. And I think too, Dave, in those good times and hard times, family life is here to help you every single day. And you often hear us at the beginning of the program say this, and this is what's true. We're all about helping families pursue the relationships that matter the most.

Yeah, and the relationships that matter most are the people sitting beside you in your home every single day. And we really don't talk about this all that often, but this ministry is fueled by people like you who pray for us and give financially to make this ministry do what we do. And I'm sure that it impacts you, and I'm sure you want it to impact others as well. And so today we're talking about it. We need you not only to pray for us, and we value that, but we'd like you to join us financially and contribute to make this ministry continue to go and to thrive.

And here's the good news. If you want to give right now, your gift is going to be doubled. We have a matching gift happening right now. So think about that. You give some money, you just doubled what you gave to impact not only your life and your neighborhood, but your city and the world to help other people be seen and known and find Christ in the middle of their struggle.

Yeah, that's right. I'm so grateful to be a part of this incredible ministry. And you could partner with us right now by giving to Family Life. And when you do, your gift will be matched dollar for dollar up to $2 million. You can give today at, or you can give us a call at 800-358-6329.

That's 800-F as in Family, L as in Life, and then the word today. And as I said, we've gone deep today and you can dive deeper into this topic with Ron and Nan by joining them Valentine's Week for Family Life's Empowered to Love Beach Resort Getaway at Sandestin, Florida, February the 13th through the 17th next year in 2023. Head over to for more details. And tomorrow on Family Life Today, David and Wilson are joined again by Nan and Ron Deal as she continues the conversation which takes an even darker turn when her 12-year-old son dies, which spirals her into alcohol abuse and becoming unrecognizable to Ron. That's tomorrow. On behalf of David and Wilson, I'm Shelby Abbott. We'll see you back next time for another edition of Family Life Today. Family Life Today is a production of Family Life, a crew ministry helping you pursue the relationships that matter most.
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