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Dating or Engaged–with Purpose: Sean Perron & Spencer Harmon

Family Life Today / Dave & Ann Wilson, Bob Lepine
The Truth Network Radio
September 27, 2023 5:15 am

Dating or Engaged–with Purpose: Sean Perron & Spencer Harmon

Family Life Today / Dave & Ann Wilson, Bob Lepine

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September 27, 2023 5:15 am

Want to do relationships differently? Authors Sean Perron and Spencer Harmon point you in the right direction for dating, engagement, or marriage with purpose and depth.

I did not realize how absent-minded I was until I got married, when there was another person counting on me. [Laughter] I remember one time I thought, “I'm going to help make the spaghetti.” This is in the first three months of marriage. I'm in there stirring the spaghetti, thinking “Look at me. I'm such a great husband!” Then my wife comes in after me. This still happens today. She looked up, and there was spaghetti sauce on the ceiling. -- Spencer Harmon

Show Notes and Resources

Check out more from Sean Perron and Spencer Harmon at

Learn how to share of your sexual history with a new romantic interest.

Learn more about Sean Perron and Spencer Harmon's church First Baptist Jacksonville ..and discover their writings

If you're interested in hearing more from Sean and Spencer, listen to their Unspoken Blogs podcast

Purchase Sean and Spencer's books: Letters to a Romantic: On Dating,

Letters to a Romantic: On Engagement, and Letters to a Romantic: First Years of Marriage

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See resources from our past podcasts.

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I did not realize how absent-minded I was until I got married. When there was another person counting on me, I remember this one time, I was like, I'm going to help make the spaghetti. This is like the first three months of marriage. And I'm like in there like stirring the spaghetti.

I'm thinking, look at me. Such a great husband. And then my wife comes in after me. This still happens today. She looked up and there's spaghetti sauce on the ceiling.

And she's like, you're a tall guy, but how did you even do that? Welcome to Family Life Today, where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I'm Shelby Abbott and your hosts are Dave and Ann Wilson. You can find us at or on the Family Life app.

This is Family Life Today. We got Spencer Harman and Sean Perrone back in the studio with us. You guys written this really interesting trilogy, I guess you call it. You're like the Lord of the Rings, you know? That's right. He's definitely Gandalf.

He's Gandalf. No, I mean, we talked about it yesterday, Letters to a Romantic, which I love that title. By the way, okay, I got both of you here. Who came up with the title?

I think it was you. Look at that one! Yeah, and if you missed yesterday, both these guys are married. Four kids and almost three.

Yeah, that's right. And now we know what the third one is. And you've been married 9 and 11 years. Yeah, and so Letters to a Romantic on dating, on engagement, and on marriage. And, you know, we could separate all three. We talked a lot yesterday about dating.

And that's why Ann's story right there of our own sons. And today, let's talk about engagement, maybe marriage. We'll see where it goes.

But as you think about dating, we didn't even bring this up yesterday. What's the goal? I mean, for a Christian that wants to honor God in dating, is it even biblical?

And what's the goal? Yeah, you know, we talked about this a little bit yesterday, that you got these biblical categories for male-female relationships, right? There's brother-sister. There's this category called betrothed in the Bible. And then there's marriage.

Those are the categories. So in God's world, according to Scripture, which is the real world, you're in one of those three categories with every man or woman in your life, right? And so what you got when you're dating is you got a brother and sister.

But we all recognize that we've got to figure out what is this? Like, should we spend our life with each other? Should we enter into this other category called marriage? So what is dating? You know, people obsess about this, like in Christian circles, like, well, we don't date. We do this or we do that.

Or some people say, Oh, that's silly. We date. Here's what I would say.

You don't obsess over titles over this. Define this. The way I define it in our book is dating is exploring with purpose whether or not you should get married with somebody.

Here's what I mean by that. There's an exploration dynamic in dating, right? You don't go on your first date with a girl and be like, Okay, here's my 15 questions to figure out if you're going to be my wife.

That's the great way to not get a second date. But there's an exploratory element of this. Hey, we're getting to know each other. Can we laugh together? What do you believe about life? What are your friends like?

And we're just spending time together and having fun together. Where are you spiritually? Where are you at spiritually? I want to know what your walk with the Lord is.

Where do you go to church? All of those things. There's an exploratory element that requires some freedom. But it's always governed by purpose, right? We don't date just for the thrill of knowing that there's a pretty person that likes me. That's selfish. And that's not loving your neighbor as you love yourself. There's a purpose that's always governing what we're doing in our exploration. And that purpose is marriage.

Can I marry this person? And when we think about marriage, we're thinking about it biblically. Are you someone who is trusting in Jesus Christ? What role and how much authority does God's Word have in your life? What's your vision for your life?

What do you want to do? Where does the local church play into your life? All of those things are governing the way that you explore things. And some people are listening that like, I just wanted to have fun.

What was all that? But you're saying there should be a purpose behind it because marriage is pretty important. Yes, that's right. And ultimately, we can't be selfish, right? So like, many of us are so worldly in how we think about dating. We're like, the point of dating is for me to have the maximum amount of fun and pleasure as possible.

And it's like, that's incredibly selfish to say. What if the point of marriage was to love and serve this person and explore whether or not you could get married for the glory of God? Yeah, whatever you do, whether you eat, drink, or go on a date, or if you eat and drink on a date, do it all to the glory of God. Is that true pleasure? Is that your definition?

It is. Glorify God and enjoy Him forever. So I think when you do that, when you lose yourself and you have pleasures at the right hand of God, Psalm 16 talks about you're filled with joy that's unspeakable and full of glory. So when you talk to people that are watching The Bachelor and The Bachelorette, and they're saying, I want to get married because I just want to be happy. That's what a majority of people are saying today.

How would you guys respond to that? So I think everyone should want to be happy. I think you should seek happiness. The happiest being that exists is God. God is happier than anyone has ever thought about. Heaven is a world of joy.

Heaven is a world of love, Jonathan Edwards says. And so we will spend an eternity getting to know this happy God. And because happiness originated with God, it was His idea, then we are happiest when we are loving Him. We were enjoying Him when we're knowing Him. And so I would say the person who's watching The Bachelorette and wants to be really happy, they need to know what true happiness is. And they won't find that watch on The Bachelorette.

They'll find that in the scriptures, in the Bible. So as a whole redefinition, it's a paradigm shift, explosion of your world to understand lasting joy, which is a fruit of the Spirit. So one of the things you mentioned, and again, as you talk, I'm thinking you did kiss dating goodbye? Or you didn't?

Yes and no. I mean, you guys sort of grew up. I mean, you're a little young, but that was right as you were probably little boys coming in. So you kissed it goodbye or you kissed it hello? I think it's a mistake to understand dating as a whole category is sinful, but it all depends on what you do with it. So the purpose of dating is to pursue marriage. So if you're dating selfishly, if you're dating aimlessly, then you're going to wind up in a cul-de-sac of brokenness and pain and heartache that you can't get out of. But if you use dating to glorify God, I think that's possible.

So that's why I say yes and no. So we didn't jettison the entire concept, but we are seeking to be purposeful and intentional and biblical in how we go about it. So you guys, you've done this right.

As I look at you, I should say you've done it biblically. Your dating experience, your wedding experience. Engagement. So then you get married. You've been married a while. You have kids. Is there anything you wish you would have known going into these first even five to 10 years?

Like, oh, I wish somebody would have said this to me. Because you're writing about it. So what are those things that like people need to know this those first few years? Write us a letter to a romantic about marriage.

So it's funny. In the marriage book, I wrote the first chapter and I remember sitting down and being like, how do we start this thing? And I wrote this sentence. And that's the first thing that popped into my mind when you asked this question is that marriage is an experiment in exposure.

And let me explain what I mean by that. So I did not understand how much marriage was going to expose me in my heart. Good and bad. So you walk into marriage and you know, we did premarital counseling, so we know in theory, like, hey, you're going to go into marriage and listen, you're going to see your own sin. But then you get into marriage and you get this like 3D picture of your sin and it's everywhere you look because you're living life with another person.

Oh, that's good. At least you saw your own sin. I'm like, look at his sin.

And I think that it is my pride, though, that actually motivates that answer because I think you go into marriage and you're like, well, I think I know the ways that they need to grow. But then you're like, wait a second. I'm the common denominator in all our problems. And that was a shocker. That was something that I had to really wrestle with.

I'm an internal processor and so there's not like loud explosions of anger with me or like all of this stuff happens inside of me. And I'm wrestling with the Lord of I am not as far along as I thought I was before we said I do. And it was a humbling experience for me and actually motivated a lot of what we wrote to say like, OK, OK, we got to do this all over again. We've got to figure out how do we apply the gospel of Christ to all these different areas, all these different firsts of marriage.

How do we apply it here? I mean, was there one that jumps out? Because when I think of me, and this is 42 years ago, I was shocked at how selfish I was. Yeah. And I was even more shocked at how more selfish she was than I was. I was shocked at how selfish you were, too. I know. But I mean, it's really I knew I was selfish.

Like you said, it was 3D. Do you have something like that? You're like, wow, I just didn't realize I was this bad. And mine was pride. I didn't realize how pride I was. So I think I think two things.

One, there's pride and pride in a very particular way. You know, I actually have to put this in real quick. The first time she admitted she was wrong. It was probably six months in. I said, wait, wait, wait. Did you just say you're wrong? I'm writing the date down.

That's how bad it was. You have never once admitted. That's a great way to break through your life. She just fell right in love with me right there.

I love these guys. She's like, man, that's so romantic. You know, so I realized I so pride I I this is going to sound really funny, but I did not realize how absent minded I was until I got married. And when there was another person counting on me, I remember this one time I was like, I'm going to help make the spaghetti.

This is like the first three months of marriage. And I'm like in there like stirring the spaghetti pan. And I'm thinking, look at me, such a great husband. And then my wife comes in after me.

This still happens today. And she's looking around. She's like, I don't know how it's humanly possible for you to make such a mess. She looked up and there's spaghetti sauce on the ceiling. And she's like, how is there spaghetti? How did you even?

You're a tall guy, but how did you even do that? She's very, very gracious with me. The other thing I think was I did not realize that there was a lot of fear of man and people pleasing in my heart. Because when you're a man and you get married, God is calling you to lead and to be courageous and have a vision and to set direction and to lead your family according to God's word.

And I realized there's still just a lot of fear there. There's a lot of timidity that I had to overcome and say, OK, like this precious woman that God has given me is counting on me to lead us spiritually. And then we had kids right away.

We got pregnant three months into marriage. It's like, OK, now there's these sweet little people that are looking to me for leadership, too. And I need to lead this family spiritually.

And there was fear that I had to overcome and grow and encourage in the world. Hey, Sean, share your sins with us. I was only thinking of Spencer's sins.

There's one right there. No, I talk about this briefly in one of the letters. I realized that I was on a different time schedule than Jenny. And by even me saying that, that's part of my sin. I realized that my time, the way it needed to work was the correct way and the way that she wanted to work was not aligned with mine.

So that's a small thing, but it's the small things that add up. And if you don't keep short accounts with one another, if you're not continually seeking to confess like, oh, I blew it just then. I was trying to rush you out the door. I was delaying, dragging my feet because I didn't think we needed to be there on time. If I don't confess that right away and say, would you please forgive me? That was arrogant. You know, I shouldn't have said that. That was sinful. I was harsh. I was rough.

I wasn't gentle. When you keep short accounts, it serves your whole family. It serves the Lord.

It serves the church. It serves the people you're around because people know like, oh, they're not harboring bitterness. They're not keeping wrongs.

They're real. They're trying to confess their sin. They're trying to repent. And that's what the Lord wants in this to honor Him.

So the small things do add up. I thought of wanting an engagement, though. This is a bit of a curve ball.

So I wish someone had told me, so you asked what you wish you knew in advance. I did not anticipate the onslaught of bad advice I would receive. I was struck over and over again with people's opinions. There's so many opinions. Everyone has an opinion about everything. Which is why we wrote a book.

We have opinions, too. I had people come up and they'd be like, oh, you know what? You guys seem happy now, but just wait until the day after you're married. And I'm like, well, what happens the day after you get married? And then I'd be like, that was really weird, Jenni. These people, something bad must happen the second day.

And then I had people say, oh, you know what? You're going to do great the first six months of marriage. Just wait till year one. And year one, that's when all of the hordes of Satan come and visit your home. And I'm like, what is wrong with everyone? Everyone's like doom and gloom.

They're like prophesying like the world's going to end at some determinative point in the relationship in marriage. And I was like, do you know what? I need to figure this out. I need to figure out, is that true? Is that what they're saying?

Is there really something that happens at year five or something that happens at year whatever that makes this really bad? And the answer is no. The answer is we're sinners. And this can happen at any time. But praise God for the gospel who allows us to, has mercy and grace to fill us up so that we can change. And we don't have to be stuck in our sinful preferences or sinful idiosyncrasies.

We can really grow and change over time. That's good. Yeah, I was thinking, I had no idea, and I didn't really deal with it for more than five years, how harsh my words were. And she told me, but I didn't believe it. I didn't see it. And it's a long story.

I had a videotape catch me on tape and I saw it for the first time. But a few years ago, maybe you know the name John Gottman. You know that name?

Yes. A Jewish man who's a writer and a studier of marriage relationships, especially conflict. He put a name on that that I had never heard before. And he says the worst thing that can happen in a marriage is contempt. And he says, you know, he calls us four horsemen and one of them's criticism, we criticize our spouse. But he says, contempt is when you criticize your spouse with a sense of arrogance. I'm better than you.

Why are you such a? That's what I had. I had contempt. And she saw it and would point it out. I couldn't see it. And I, I was shocked when I saw it.

It was ugly and it was hurtful. And if I wouldn't have had a wife to be able to sharpen me and speak truth and love. And she did sometimes not in love, but she spoke truth and many times with grace and love.

But if I wouldn't have seen that, I don't think we're sitting here today. And that's one of the beauties of marriage too, because it's like, God gives you a partner who is going to make, help you sharpen to become like Christ, which is our ultimate goal. And that's the beauty of marriage, but it's also the agony because it's hard, isn't it?

The wounds of a friend are better than the kisses of an enemy. And you want your wife to be kissing you all the time, but also your wife needs to be able to point out your sin and point out, Hey, you know what? I think this is an area you can grow in Christ and she can do it in truth and love, but it's a real blessing.

It's a real help. So, I don't know. Let's talk about this a little bit because you guys talk about it in your book, in your letters. You talk about the importance of going to church as a couple. And honestly, since the pandemic, a lot of people, especially your age, are leaving the church.

And maybe they left for a while, but they haven't come back. Why is it so important, do you think, that young and old married couples are in the church? Yeah, the church is where all the action is.

If I had everybody to remember a phrase, it'd be that one. The church is where all the action is in God's plan. So, God is saving a people from every tribe and tongue and nation, and He's including them in His people, the church, which is His family. And what's really striking is that every piece of marriage advice, almost every piece of marriage advice in the Bible, is written to a letter in the context of a church, right? Paul is writing about marriage in Ephesians 5, the passage that's always read at every wedding.

Who's he writing? To a bunch of Christians in a church. 1 Corinthians 13, it's written to a bunch of Christians in a church. Marriage advice in the Bible happens in the context of the local church.

And letters, I just now realized that the letters, that's another reason why we chose our titles. The Bible's advice assumes the church for romance, so it assumes it throughout, because that's where all the advice comes. Okay, so here's a couple of things.

If I'm talking to a couple and they're like, all right, tell me why I need to go to church in my marriage. Do we really need to prioritize this? Like, we can just watch it on TV. Yeah, like, do we really need to do this?

It's a lot. It's our one day to sleep in. What do we do? I want to say to somebody, okay, first off, do you want your marriage to grow in a way that honors God? Most Christians are going to say absolutely. I'm going to say, okay, listen, at church is the place where you are going to be hearing the Bible preached regularly. And your relationship needs to be built on the truth of God's word. The Bible says that the church is the pillar and buttress of truth.

It holds it up in the culture and it holds it up for us to see in our relationships. The second thing is that the church is going to be the place where you're going to be in relationships with other Christians who, Ephesians 4.15, are going to speak the truth in love into your life. In our dating, engagement, and marriage, the most crucial parts and moments of our dating, engagement, and marriage were punctuated with couples from our local church speaking into our life. When we were deciding to date, there were older couples who loved God, who were speaking into that and giving us counsel. When we were about to get married, there was Ward and Heather who were speaking into our life, helping us think through conflict. And they were a part of our church and they were seeing us on Sunday and they were seeing us on Tuesday. And they were there when the conflicts were happening and they were seeing all the ugly stuff that was coming out.

They were there and they were applying God's truth to our life. And now we're married and look, we've written books on dating, engagement, and marriage. I would say at least once a year, me and Taylor are like trying to figure something out in our marriage or in a conflict in our marriage. And we're like, we can't figure this out. We can't figure this out. We need help. And we call an older godly couple and we say, hey, we need to talk.

And they're like, OK, you need to talk. Let's set something up. No, we need to talk tonight about this. We're coming over right now to talk about this.

This is urgent. We've got to get on the same page. And I'm just saying that is the gift of the body of Christ. And the real question is not why should we go to church? It's why would you not? When we know what God's design is, why would we want to prioritize anything else in our life out of this incredible gift that God has given us? It's not perfect.

It'll hurt you sometimes, but it will also build into your marriage for a lifetime. A screen doesn't know you. A screen is just a screen. But people in the church, to what Spencer's saying, they know you.

They can speak and say, oh, yeah, you do have a blind spot. Oh, yeah, you got a booger in your nose. Oh, yeah, you got something on your face.

Let's get that off. Like, let me help you out. And you can be like, oh, wow, I do. I thank you. I needed that.

It's a real gift that a screen just can't give. We need to build into our lives in a culture in which we are more lonely and isolated than ever. We need to build into our lives places for our marriage where we can't hide. And if we hide, we will not thrive, and we will not glorify God in the way He wants us to.

We were built for the body of Christ. Actually, one of the things I would say to a couple, if you're thinking about this right now, is if you're a believer, God has made the church to be a blessing in your life, but then He's made you to be a blessing in the life of other couples. You do not know the people who you are meant to be ministering to right now that are not being ministered to to you. You don't know how God's going to use your story. You don't know how God's going to use where you are right now in five years to bless somebody who's going to be where you are.

Avail yourself of that. And you guys are talking about more than just attending a church for that hour and then leaving and then not having anything to do with anybody or a small group. You're saying this is your local body of believers that you're invested in, that you're spending time in, that you're serving and loving. And you guys are both in a church, you're pastors. So like, yeah, this is your soapbox.

Yeah, this is it. Well, you know, we speak, we have for almost 40 years now, marriage conferences around the country. We do our own vertical marriage weekend and we do family life weekend remembers. And you guys know this at the end of the conference. Actually, from the beginning to the end, we're always saying this conference will change your marriage. What you do after will. So we're going to give you a great biblical God's word. But if you don't do anything after, you're not going to be any better six months.

You may be better for a couple weeks, but six months later, you'll be like, that didn't work. And I'll never forget. No, I was I was speaking to athletes in Iowa.

This is decades ago. And I'm walking through this hotel lobby with a six six Iowa college basketball player. And this woman is sitting in the lobby and she yells, hey, you. And we both look, I don't know this lady.

He doesn't know this lady. So we just sort of to be nice. We go, are you talking to one of us? She goes, yeah, the bald guy.

And so we walk over both of us and I say, do I know you? She goes, I went to a marriage conference three years ago in Des Moines. Did you speak? It was family life.

I go, yeah, yeah. I spoke there and Ann wasn't with me. It was just I was with another couple and I was the single male guy there. Anyway, long story short, I said to her, how was the conference? And she goes, life changing, amazing, best thing we ever did for a marriage.

And then she got like this look of despair. And I said, well, how are you doing now? She said, we didn't make it. Oh, no. I said, what do you mean you didn't make it?

We said, well, we're not divorced, but we're separated and we're not doing well. And I said, huh? I said, can I ask you a question?

I'll never forget this moment. She goes, sure, what? I go, you know, when we talked at the weekend, you remember us saying get plugged into a local church and there's some resources you need to get connected with other couples. I said, can I just ask you an honest question?

Did you do that? She goes, no, we did nothing after that conference. And I said, can I pray for you? And I walked away and I remember saying to that dude, I said, dude, listen to what happened there. It was a great weekend. It did nothing. Because the local church is where this is all.

You said, what did you say? Local church is where all the action is. It's where the action is. I like that.

Because it sounds like you don't want to miss it. That's right. That's right.

I was going to say, I mean, we're at the end of another day. I would just say listening to a podcast is not going to change your marriage either. It's helpful. It's why we do it. But if you don't do what these guys are saying right here, and we're not saying it because we're pastors in the ministry. We're saying it because that's the way God made the body of Christ.

You can watch it on screen. You can sing a song in your living room by yourself. It's nothing like standing beside flesh and blood, people you don't even like beside you, singing a song and then getting connected in a small group with other couples who are ahead of you.

And I'm guessing you guys are now pouring into other couples behind you. That's the beauty of the church. And I'm just going to remind you, if you don't do that, I can promise you one thing. Nothing's going to change your life. And if you do that, I can promise you something else. God will show up and do something in your life. Listen to what these guys are saying.

And let me add, Dave, too. It will change the lives of your kids. Get into a church that they're preaching the gospel, that they're studying the Word, and that you're connecting with other couples. It's life-changing, and it's what Jesus intended. You know, community is always a part of what it means to live the Christian life. Christianity was never meant to be a solo thing. So if you haven't already, find a church, get with your people, and lean in. It'll be messy, but it'll also be amazing.

And I've experienced nothing but messiness and amazingness in my church experience, and I love it. I'm Shelby Abbott, and you've been listening to Dave and Anne Wilson with Sean Perrone and Spencer Harmon on Family Life Today. You know, Sean and Spencer have written a collection of books. They're called Letters to a Romantic. So they've written it to specific areas of life. So Letters to a Romantic on dating, on engagement, and then for the first years of marriage. Now, you might be thinking, well, that's not me.

I'm not dating or engaged, or I am not experiencing the first years of marriage. Well, there are more likely people in your life or in your church or in your family that are going through that right now. And so these three books could be a fantastic gift to give away to someone who's going through that right now. So this book bundle is going to be our gift to you when you partner with us financially here at Family Life Today. So you can go online to or give us a call with your donation at 800-358-6329.

Again, that number is 800 F as in family, L as in life, and then the word today. Also, if you know anyone who needs to hear conversations like the one you heard today, would you be willing to share this program from wherever you get your podcasts? And while you're there, you can really help others learn about Family Life Today by leaving us a review. So tomorrow, Dave and Anne Wilson are going to be back again with Sean Perrone and Spencer Harmon. They're going to talk about how modesty and beauty are not contradictory to one another. That's coming up tomorrow. We hope you'll join us. On behalf of Dave and Anne Wilson, I'm Shelby Abbott. We'll see you back next time for another edition of Family Life Today. Family Life Today is a donor-supported production of Family Life, a crew ministry helping you pursue the relationships that matter most.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-10-27 21:20:27 / 2023-10-27 21:33:21 / 13

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