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Showing Up with the Grace Your Marriage Craves: David and Meg Robbins

Family Life Today / Dave & Ann Wilson, Bob Lepine
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March 10, 2023 5:15 am

Showing Up with the Grace Your Marriage Craves: David and Meg Robbins

Family Life Today / Dave & Ann Wilson, Bob Lepine

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March 10, 2023 5:15 am

Your spouse has questions: “Am I enough? What happens when I seriously blow it?” David Robbins and wife Meg explore ushering grace into everyday marriage.

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Marriage really is a constant opportunity for lavish grace. Yes.

But at the same time, there's often this temptation to withhold it or not even ask for it when we need it. I'm Ann Wilson. Yes, you are. And I'm Dave Wilson. And you can find us at or on the Family Life app. This is Family Life Today. So what a week. Grace Week.

Fun week. I mean, we've been talking about grace all week. I've been learning a lot of you. I mean, you talk about a topic that you can't talk enough about.

The grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ can never be over explained. I mean, you talk about needing to understand and applying it to marriages. And today we get to play it specifically to marriage. We've got David and Meg Robbins back in the studio, the president of Family Life. Welcome back, guys.

Thanks. We love getting to sit around the table and talk to y'all. So let's talk a little bit about grace. Here's a clip from Dane Ortlund. You guys know Dane. I mean, he's amazing.

And here's a clip that we recorded previously. You wrote in chapter two, I think, it is impossible for the affectionate heart of Christ to be over celebrated, made too much of, exaggerated. It cannot be plumbed, but it is easily neglected, forgotten. We draw too little strength from it. And then you say this, when Christ sees the fallenness of the world and its effect on his people, he moves toward that sin and suffering. He does not turn away from it. And forever we've had the opposite picture. He turns away from me and I sort of have to turn away from him. Sometimes like, wait, wait, wait, are you saying we can't over celebrate this? You are.

Yes. He says his heart is gentle and lowly. His heart. We know from the testimony of Old Testament and New, the heart is not anything frothy.

It's not merely your emotional or affectional life. It's what pours out most deeply from your innermost core. And when Jesus tells us what his heart is, he says, gentle and lowly, conclusion, we're never going to overstate the wondrous, endless patience and love of his heart. We will understate it.

It's all we're ever doing, but we can't go beyond that ceiling. And again, this is consistent with the testimony of the Old Testament. The Lord, the Lord, slow to anger, abounding in steadfast love. Exodus 34, which is picked up time and again throughout the Old Testament, not the God I think is naturally there, the Lord, the Lord tepid and calculating in steadfast love.

No. So this is, as you say, Dave, we picture God as the photo negative of this. It feels very morally serious to make much of God's holiness and to sort of say, oh, hang on, tap the brakes on his grace. That feels right because we know way down deep we are guilty sinners, but actually we're dishonoring Christ. We're free to honor Christ by letting his forgiveness loom larger than all of our guilt, shame and regret. When I hear Dane, and we've interviewed him several times, every time we interview him, I cry almost the whole time because as he paints the picture of Jesus, I'm overwhelmed with his grace and his love toward us. And just listening to him, I'm always blown away of how much God gives us grace. But let's talk about what Dane was getting into, the grace of God and applying it to our marriages.

So let's frame it this way. If you would say to your spouse, I need grace, what area would it be? Who wants to go first?

I'll go first. I think one of the ways, Meg, you do this often and I'm grateful for, and every time we get in a situation like this, I'm so thankful for how you connect with Jesus and are able to operate in grace that is like his and reflects his, is that when I'm weak and experiencing discouragement or doubting myself, you don't come in to fix and control, you come in and you get to the places of my longings where we start talking about how I am feeling like, do I have what it takes? I think most men are, that's a core question we have. Julie Slattery says, every man wakes up every single day saying, do I have what it takes? Amen. I think she's right. Yeah, like I woke up today going, am I living on purpose enough?

I left a message to a coworker going, I know I don't have enough deep think time set apart to really be leading well. Like, there it is. Okay, let's just pause for a second.

Is that really true? Do you guys both wake up thinking that, do I have what it takes? Like our sons, are they waking up wondering? Yeah, and I would just say, I don't know about you, David, I would say I don't have that literal word structure in my brain, but I think pretty much all day long, and I could say for every day of my life, there's a part of me, am I measuring up? Did I do a good job with this? I lead this meeting? Do I do a good job on this broadcast?

How did it go? Am I a good dad? Am I a good husband? All day long. Really? And there are times I go, yeah, yeah, I did a good job. And there's a lot of times I go, wow, I could have really done a lot better. I need to encourage you. I think as a woman listener, that's good for us to hear because we need to step into that and bolster our guys.

Right. I mean, it's funny to hear you say that you think that I do that well, because I feel like I don't. I get so caught up in all the things happening in our home and often miss the opportunities to say, you are doing this so well.

And thank you for the ways that you come alongside me or lead at Family Life or lead in our family. Well, I'm just saying when the insecurity crops up and I become aware of it, like it's fascinating, Dave, that you asked that question that Julie Slattery just said, and I had an example that I could go, oh, yeah, I left a message with somebody today. I wasn't thinking about it consciously.

But holy cow, that's exactly what was happening this morning. And when I crack open about that, Meg, you do hold space. It's such a gift that you operate and give me what I don't deserve.

Simple definition of grace. You allow me to bring that to you and together process that of how do I bring that to the Lord. I think that's what you do well, is that you allow it to not just get so crippling that you go, all right, let's talk about that. Tell me more.

Unpack more of it. I want to know what's there. And from that place, we can actually go to God himself and experience his grace in deeper and deeper ways. And I just think you you're convinced in a healthy way and you operate with me that weakness is an advantage, like you're not enough. And so when you're weak, it's actually that amazing opportunity to lunge toward Jesus to the one who is strong enough that can make me a strong man.

And you helped me do that. Is that something we should ask as women? Do you feel adequate? Do you feel like you can do this? Do you feel, do you wake up in the morning wondering if you have what it takes? Should we ask that or should we just encourage our guys? Like, hey, I want you to know you have what it takes. Part of me is thinking, don't ask it, just tell us.

I mean, yeah, there's times when if you ask that question, I feel like you're my partner. I can remember, again, this is a long time ago, doing the Weekend Remember in Dallas. Do you remember this? The day they opened the Dallas Gaylord Texan.

Oh, yeah, yeah, I remember that. It was a brand new hotel. It's huge, you know, and they were just opening it. And we didn't know this as we flew down to do it. The governor of Texas coming in and doing a big thing. And then it's the biggest conference Family Life had ever done. They had TV screens, you know, halfway.

It was thousands. And I remember that Friday afternoon before opening that session, I can't do this. I'm not good enough. We're not good enough. I had no idea you were thinking that.

I mean, because of the churning, because it was bigger than normal. I was like, what are we doing here? I mean, I'm crying in the bathtub saying, God, I can't do it. But I had no idea you had doubts.

Well, here's why I remember it so profoundly is Friday night, right before we walked on the stage, we'd prayed, we'd prepped. You just said, you're the man. You're great at this. You're going to you're going to own this place.

I'm like, thank you. I need to hear that. And it was your belief in me that maybe I'll walk up to that microphone and go, okay, let's go.

God's going to show up and he's going to change marriages. I remember. Yes, because I think, you know, when I was listening to Dane Orland, the quote at the beginning, you know, it's like I'm listening to that. I'm thinking marriage really is a constant opportunity for lavish grace.

Yes. But at the same time, there's often this temptation to withhold it or not even ask for it when we need it. And so when I hear you, David, say, you know, that's where you need grace or that example that you just gave Dave of Anne just coming and saying you can do this, like you are made for this. And it's like, okay, what does it look like to step into those moments every time that door is opened? You know, I think I probably do hold back at times. And I mean, that's what's so amazing about how Jesus' grace for us is so lavish every time.

But he can give us the power and strength to do that for each other, you know. I mean, I'm thinking of this example and it just makes me think of an example from last month where we were going into board meetings. And I feel like I was really struggling with, man, we're not as far as I wanted to be. I was a little concerned, like at the progress report that I was giving.

And I think I kind of cracked open that day to Meg, like I'm just discouraged. And ultimately I just, I was seeking their approval suddenly more than the Lord's approval. And you right-sized that going, God has been providing so much. And you called out a few things that just lifted to my eyes of how much God is doing and how much growth family life is seeing. And man, going back to your question, I feel like we're always just, why, what's that next step?

How do we get to more? We don't rest in the provision God gives us, the abundant grace in times of good or the sufficient grace in times of struggle and wilderness time. God's always relating to us in grace. And we sometimes in our flesh, I think strive for it's never enough. And you in that moment really helped me see God in His abundant and sufficient grace is doing amazing things. Go in with your identity in Him.

And it was that little switch that I needed. And it just reminds me of Henry Nouwen quote, you have to listen to the voice who calls you beloved because otherwise you will run around begging for affirmation, for praise, for success. And then you are not free.

And I go, a God of grace makes us free. But you can assume instead of ask. I think you don't have to ask. I mean, you can assume your man as just the churn of life starts happening, starts running around begging for that affirmation, praise and success. It's just wired into most men.

Not all these are generalizations, but do we have what it takes? But that brokenness that surfaces and it goes back to why I brought this up. It is a bridge to encountering Jesus's grace, not a barrier. And that's what you do. You help take me to Jesus when I open up the brokenness that's happening in me and how I can encounter His grace. You know, that's what men wake up thinking. I just thought, what do women wake up thinking? What do you two wives wake up?

Is there something that sort of drives you like it sort of drives us? Why are you guys smiling? I wake up thinking, what do I need to do today? Who needs my help today? Where's the coffee? That's my very first thought. What am I cooking today?

Why is my husband not helping right now? No, I don't think that. I used to. I will say, I don't know that this is what I wake up thinking, but one of those underlying things that I know I need grace from you, David, is just my desire for you to know me deeply, but yet sometimes my hesitancy to let you in. I think I just need massive grace for you to keep pursuing me when I'm closing off.

I think you do that so well. Just last night, we were on a date, and you asked me a question. I just recently heard someone say that sometimes when your spouse is asking you a question, you should always answer honestly, but sometimes you need to say, actually, thanks for asking that, but here's the question I need you to ask.

This is the area where my heart is feeling closed off. You just jumped right in in that moment last night. You were really humble and able to say, I'm sorry, I haven't been pursuing you and asking those questions, but I think you were extremely patient and gracious just to wait because I'm very much an internal processor. Sometimes it's really hard for me to say on the spot, oh, how are you doing, or what are you really thinking or feeling about that? Let's just say as an activator, I didn't do a good job early in our marriage when she would say, I don't know. David, I'm an activator, and Dave's an internal processor. I would just drill into him.

It was terrible. That's what David used to do to me. I didn't know yet. Your thoughts are forming, but you're not going to say it until it actually is a thought.

I'm like, how can you not know what you're thinking? That's exactly our conversation. So the grace to not drill in, or I don't know, has been something we've learned.

Oh, goodness. But it reminds me of Proverbs 20, verse 5, that says, the purposes of a person's heart are deep waters, but one who has insight draws them out. And I have just seen you so many times over the years in our marriage have amazing lavish grace to have the insight and the patience to draw those things out. And sometimes it's continuing to ask and waiting for me to say, I don't know, many times. But other times it's, let's revisit this when you've had more time to process it. And I think there are times when it would probably be easy for you to fill in the gaps and to speak, but I think also of how we're called to be slow to speak and quick to listen. And sometimes we sit in silence, but I do long to be known. I want him to know what's going on in my heart. But sometimes it takes me time to process that with Jesus and be able to process that with him openly. It is interesting. Years ago, Ann said to me, probably about around year 10, when we were really struggling with, you were struggling with your feelings for me.

Yeah. Our listeners heard that many times. But remember you said, you know, when we go on a date, I would love you. And she said, write this down, write this question down. So I remember a pencil, you know, at Bill Knapp's.

Anybody remember Bill Knapp's? Is that a restaurant? You guys are too young. No.

It could be regional. I'm not feeling that young anymore. This is making me feel really good today. Anyway, we're sitting in this restaurant. It's long gone.

There's some listeners that know, oh, we love Bill Knapp. But she just looked at me and said, just ask me this question. And I was like, oh, this is going to be profound. What is it? How are you doing?

What? She goes, write it down. How are you doing? I'm like, I don't want to ask you how you're doing. She goes, no. And I would love you. And what she's saying, Megan, is what you said. I want you to know my heart, and I'm not doing well right now.

We got little kids in the house, and I'm crazy. And could we just stop at a meal and go, how are you doing? I'm a verbal processor, so sometimes just talking it through helps me to know what I'm feeling, because I don't always know. So that was really, it seems so elementary, but you're like, okay. Well, here you go. The next date, when there was a week or two later, when I said, hey, let me ask you, how are you doing?

She started to tear up. It was so, it was like, nobody's asked me that. Thank you for asking. I mean, you asked, you know, what do you wake up thinking? And I think we do, I at least have a deep need for emotional connection and intimacy, you know, and to be known. I mean, I think we're all created with that desire to be known and to be loved, to be fully known and fully loved. And of course we get that fully and completely from the Lord. But there is something about oneness in marriage that comes from being known.

And that question, as simple as it may seem, how are you doing? That's digging into your heart. You know, one thing that, that connection piece is something that we had to practice last night. And it's been a recent thing that's kind of popped up of looking each other in the eyes while we are sharing our heart. There's something so powerful.

And yet we almost forget, like you're processing, and you do need to think up and look to the right to, you know, what am I thinking? I want to share my heart. But yet as you begin to share it, we kind of stopped last night. Like, hey, can we? Well, you did that. You said, can you look me in the eye? Did you really?

There's a much greater level of vulnerability when you do that. It's the authors that we interviewed, the four, it's the brain guys. Marcus Warner and Chris Gorcey in their book, The Four Habits of Joy-Filled Marriages. That's one of the exercises that they say is so important to when you speak to one another, look each other in the eye directly. That's grace. Yeah. When you give somebody the honor of not going to look at my phone, you're going to listen to them and look them in the eye, you're literally being graceful. You're saying you're valuable. I want to hear what you say.

And we don't do it our own spouse. Yeah. I'm watching football games, like, really? You want to talk about your heart right now? Come on.

It's like the third quarter. But you know who's always intently wanting to hear is Jesus. Talk about His grace of just being in it with me.

It helps me to say to Him what I'm feeling and to verbalize to Him sometimes first before I take it to Dave, because it helps me get settled in my mind. In the quote in the beginning that we listened to, I think you said, Dave, that when Jesus sees the fallenness, He moves toward us in it. That's a Dane quote.

Yes. I mean, Dane talks about that. We have the opportunity to do that in marriage. And I think that ultimately when I'm closing off and kind of being self-sufficient, that's my mess, my sin, that David has the opportunity to move toward me and say, no, I'm going to keep pursuing what is this in your heart that you're, you know, maybe I'm afraid to share it or maybe it's something that I haven't processed yet.

Or wounds from the past that you're not even sure why you're not bringing it to me. I'll tell you what, when I thought of what I wanted to say to Anne, that you've done to give me grace, that was it. I feel like in my sin, in my weakness, you've been graceful.

When I snap in anger, when I sin, I feel like I get Jesus' response. Those have been times. That's miraculous. Let's just say. Yeah.

And there have been times, you know, it's been really difficult for you to understand some of my, but I mean, we've been married a long time now and I'd say the last 10, 15, 20 years, that's a long time in itself. I've received grace. Oh, that's so nice. I live with Jesus. That's what I do. You certainly do not. No, I don't. But I mean, you have extended that. Here's mine, you guys.

Mine is so recent. I feel like this has been an ongoing need for grace because I feel like I'm not good at it and I'm not always doing well in it, is putting the kids before my marriage. Our kids are all gone. And yet I still have grandkids and it's always in my mind, like, what do we need to do for them? How can we help them? How are they doing?

It's still there. They're out of the house. And I'm still thinking of that for our grandkids. So you're telling me this isn't going to change when the kids get back. It is not going to change. I'm prioritizing them often before our marriage, still.

We just look at a condo to downsize. And I'm thinking, what will it be like when they all come to visit, you know? So it's always in my mind. And I'm like, that happens like once a month.

You know, I mean, it happens more, but yeah, I don't go there first. So that's been hard. It's been hard for you because when our kids were little, I was tired. I'm always, their needs are just demanding. So you're always putting your kids' needs because you have to address them. And so I feel like you were gypped out then, but I feel like I really still need your grace in that. And you've been really gracious to me because I know that's super frustrating.

No comment. You know what's beautiful about that is that as we give and receive grace from one another and encounter it with Jesus and extend it to one another, Jeremiah 2 13 comes to my mind. For my people have committed two evils. They've forsaken me, the fountains of living water, and they have made for themselves cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water. And in a marriage, we end up knowing the broken cisterns each one of us have more intimately than anything else. And we can use that against one another. And yep, there you go again. All this need you have.

Your kids are your idol. That's right. Go into that broken cistern to fill your cup and they'll do it, but it'll always beg for more, you know, because it's going to leak out. Yet in grace, we can love one another, approach God's throne of grace to receive the grace and mercy that we need in our time of need. And we push one another to the living water. The fountain of living water that we find out in John 7, of course, is Jesus himself that can flow in and through us through the Holy Spirit. This is the invitation we get, and Jesus allows us to, in a marriage, to extend that to one another and leave away our broken cisterns and go to the living water.

Yeah, I would just add this. As you were saying that, David, I thought we can't do it unless we allow the living water through His Spirit, Jesus, to empower us. I mean, we all want to, we want to receive grace. Please give me grace.

But we want to extend it, and it's hard. I think it's impossible, but in the power of Christ, in the power of the Holy Spirit, we go, you know what? I'm going to forgive. I'm going to give you grace.

And when that happens, the spouse is sensing the living water. It draws you to the source of life. A good verse to close out on is Matthew 11, 28 through 30, when Jesus said, Come to Me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.

Rest. Sounds good, right? I love those words from Jesus. You've been listening to Dave and Anne Wilson with Meg Robbins and President of Family Life David Robbins on Family Life Today.

You know, stick around. David wants to share his appreciation for you in just a second. But first, you know, earlier this week, we talked about experiencing the grace that Jesus gives in the context of our families. We did that with author and pastor Dane Ortlund.

And he's written a book called Surprised by Jesus, Subversive Grace in the Four Gospels. And we'll send you two copies as our thanks when you partner financially with us at That's one copy for you and one to give away. You can get your copies when you give at or by calling 800-358-6329.

That's 800, F as in family, L as in life, and then the word today. You know, we'd love for you to join us along with David and Meg Robbins for the 2024 Love Like You Mean It Marriage Cruise. Our biggest sale is happening right now for the cruise. Join us next February in the Caribbean with many of your favorite Christian speakers and artists for a romantic week you will not forget.

I've been on the cruise before and I have not forgotten it, trust me. You can learn more at Well, we wanted to throw it back to David Robbins with a few more important words about this special time in Family Life Today's history.

Here's D-Rob. You know, as we think about all that God has been doing, one more thought in this moment that we have together. The day we are recording is the 30th anniversary of Family Life Today going on air. And when I think about the grace of God continuing and sustaining and the marriages and families and perspectives and relationships with God that have been transformed over 30 years, I just want to thank you as a listener. You journey with us every day, you pursuing your own walk with Jesus, you pursuing your home and the relationships that matter most.

You seeking to reflect Jesus to the homes around you. That's what we're all about. And we're so grateful that you are a part of family life. And for those of you who are partners of family life and give financially in order to keep programs like today going for 30 years, we are so grateful for the ways you sacrifice to get the good news of Jesus and the beauty of the gospel and the timeless principles that are found around marriage and family in God's word to more and more homes. We are so grateful for your partnership. It really is a treat and a privilege to get to serve alongside you. Yeah, it really is a treat to be a part of a ministry that impacts so many people for the glory of Jesus.

I am personally so grateful for family life and all that it has done in my walk with God, in my marriage and in my relationships. You know, are you feeling distant from God lately? Maybe turning away and even questioning the truth of his word. I've been there.

Maybe that's OK. I believe a message next week may be for you to help you in this season of doubt. Dave and Ann are going to be joined by John Marriott to tell us the hidden realities of losing faith. That's next week. We hope you'll join us. On behalf of Dave and Ann 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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