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The Impact of a Life Well Lived

Focus on the Family / Jim Daly
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February 16, 2024 2:00 am

The Impact of a Life Well Lived

Focus on the Family / Jim Daly

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February 16, 2024 2:00 am

Dr. Gary Chapman reflects on the lessons God has taught him throughout his life—through his parents, his wife, and his children. He recalls how he identified the Five Love Languages and offers some solid insight on marriage and parenting. As he reflects on his personal journey, you’ll be encouraged to do the same!


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God can change patterns that have developed that are detrimental, and he wants to make us more like Christ every day.

And the more we become like Christ, the better parents we're going to be, the better husband and wife we're going to be. That's Dr. Gary Chapman. He's our guest today on Focus on the Family. Thanks for joining us.

Your host is Focus President and author Jim Daly, and I'm John Fuller. John, there's no better place for light to shine than in the darkness, right? I mean, that's where it shines the brightest.

And it's a fair lesson in our situation today. You know, as things become darker, we shouldn't be fearful, we shouldn't be anxious. We should realize that God's light can shine all the brighter in darkness. And so I feel I'd rather live in a time when the Lord is moving, and you can see it tangibly like we can today. And the reminder is even one light, one person can make a difference. Matthew 5 16 tells us to let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, not your good words, see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven.

I can't think of anyone that exemplifies this more or better than Dr. Gary Chapman, who is a good friend to the ministry and a frequent guest here on Focus on the Family. And many of you know him as the author of the five love languages. Talk about a concept that really struck so many people, I think over 20, 25 million copies have been sold, something like that.

That's what we call a blockbuster. That's when you're tapping into a nerve of the human condition. And boy, did it deliver so many great spiritual truths. And today we have the honor and privilege to talk to Gary Chapman, who has come out with another book, his most recent, Life Lessons and Love Languages, What I've Learned on My Unexpected Journey.

Yeah, it is going to be a really fascinating conversation today. And if you'd like a copy of that book, stop by the show notes. And we have a whole archive of other interviews with Dr. Chapman. Let me just say, if you are not familiar with him, he's an author and a counselor. He's been on pastoral staff for over 50 years at a church. He's quite a remarkable individual.

The remarkable Gary Chapman. Welcome back, Gary. Thank you. It's so good to have you as always. Always fun and deep and insightful and spiritually insightful. Seriously, this is a great time to honor you because of your recent book, but the things that you've learned looking back on your journey. Let me start with this idea of looking back. You're an accomplished author. I'm sure that you had some discussion with Carolyn about this. And yet at the same time, you're going, okay, Lord, what have you done with my life? That is a brilliant concept for each one of us to take a look, especially if we have a little bit of time on the horizon. If it comes up wanting, maybe you want to change some things to tune in with God, right?

Yeah. Writing this book was a really spiritual experience for me because I was looking back over all these years and asking myself, what did I learn, and looking at the hand of God who brought about things I never would have even dreamed about. So yeah, and I encourage everybody as you get a little older, begin to look back and observe the hand of God and also look at what you can learn from your failures as well as your successes. That's so good.

Let's go back to the beginning. You grew up in a small town in North Carolina. How did the daily routine created by your parents, and you talk about this obviously in the book, but how did it help you develop your approach to things and especially giving parenting advice? They must have been pretty good parents. They probably weren't perfect.

Yeah, they were. I think structure was one of the big things. You get up in the morning, you go to school, you come home, you do your homework, and then we do dinner together and everybody has a job. I got older. I washed dishes one night. My sister washed dishes the next night. It was just the two of us, but it was very structured. In the summer, we were always working in the garden after we finished our homework with our dad and learning how to plant all kinds of things and grow all kinds of things.

Just a little garden spot out behind the house, but a very structured life and also centered around the church really. Every Sunday morning, we were there. Every Sunday night, we were there. Every Wednesday night, we were there. Those three things were just a given in our lives and grew up in that framework.

Just a deep, deep appreciation really for my parents, for my church, for the impact that they had on my life. Gary, a parent that has young children listening is going, well, that's the way it used to be. It's not that way today because of social media and pads and texts and phones and you name it. You're still counseling parents and spouses.

What do you say to that excuse? Well, I think it's easy for us to allow technology to control us instead of our controlling technology. One of the things that was meaningful to me then, was meaningful in my family when we had a family, was having dinner together every night. There are many families that don't do that now. Just something that basic.

Yeah, just that basic. You not only eat, but you talk around the table at night. We had to move our schedule when the kids were in sports and all that. Sometimes we'd eat early, sometimes we'd eat late, but we always had time to eat together and talk together. That simple thing was a powerful thing in my own life.

It was just stability. You just knew what was going to happen. With our children, our children look back on that and say, that's one of the most meaningful times in our family. It's so good. One thing that I think we did quite well was developing a pattern doing board games together.

Oh, yes. So the boys always enjoyed that, even now. When we're together at the house for a birthday or something like that, or just dinner on Sunday night. We'll pull out the board games and play and talk around the house. The thing with board games is you're interfacing with each other, looking at each other.

Whereas you're on the screen doing your own game, it's a personal thing. So true. Looking back, of course, this is a memoir, really. Looking back at God's influence in your life, even there, leaving your home, it seems like kids are at a fork in the road.

You chose wisely, obviously. Some young adults don't. They feel freedom for the first time out from underneath their parents' roof.

And they explore all the worldly stuff to figure out if that's meeting a need. What do you think gave you the insight to do something like that, to make the right choice? Well, I think when I was 17 and a senior in high school, I really had the sense that God was leading me into some kind of ministry. I'd given my life to Christ earlier. And I remember I had a few friends I called together and said, can we just meet on Sunday afternoon and you guys pray with me that God will make clear what step I should take? And by the time that prayer meeting was over, I really sensed God had something for me to do vocationally. The only thing I knew you could do in those days would be to be a pastor or a missionary. And in my mind, missionaries lived in the jungle and I didn't like snakes, so I figured God would probably want me to be a pastor.

That's a good choice. Now, the good news, I mean, we're setting up like you're always making the right decisions, but you and Carolyn got married and you had a little issue over, I think, cabinet door shutting or something, which I so appreciate because I have the same thing. Usually with the kids, it's like leaving the drawers open or the cabinet doors. Did you have the same experience?

Okay, what is it in us guys that we really like doors shut? But anyway, you experienced this with your wife. What happened? Yeah, you know, I never anticipated that Carolyn and I would have any problems in marriage. We grew up in the same church. In high school, I dated her best girlfriend. But she broke up with me, so I was free later on to date Carolyn. But at any rate, we had a wonderful time. Before we got married, we were in love and all of that. But we got married and all these things that I just didn't anticipate, like simple things like that. She just didn't close drawers and she didn't close cabinet doors.

I couldn't conceive of why any human being would not do that. And I tried to explain to her why. How successful was that explanation?

It wasn't successful at all. In fact, after, I don't know, months, maybe nine months, I was trying to get her to understand. Our little daughter, this is several years into our marriage now, our little daughter fell and cut the corner of her eye on an open drawer. And when I came home, Carolyn told me what happened and she had taken her to the doctor. The doctor had stitched it up and I said to myself, now God is working on her. And I thought, she'll close drawers now. Well, you were ahead of the game, I thought you were going to say. And I thought to myself, keep my mouth shut. But you were already beyond that point.

But you know, she still didn't close drawers after that. Well, but you also said you learned to shut the door yourself. What happened was, I did what someone had told me.

I don't know who told me this. If you got a problem, you don't know how to solve it. Sit down and just write out every possibility and then choose your best choice. So that's what I did. At first, when I wrote down was number one, I could leave her. You know, that's a possibility, I was a leaver. Second possibility, I could be miserable every time I see an open drawer for the rest of my life. Third possibility, which was the last one I could think of, I could close the drawers. I went back to number one and I marked it off right away, because I thought if I leave her, I never will get a church.

You know, who's going to hire me? Especially when you say, why'd you divorce? Well, she couldn't shut a drawer. And the second possibility, I said, I've been miserable long enough. Yeah. It was about 11 months down the road. And so I just, I said, okay. And so I went home and told her, I said, Carolyn, I said, honey, about those drawers. She said, honey, please don't mention that again.

Don't bring that up again. I said, no, no, no. I said, this time I have an answer. I said, you don't ever have to close another door or another drawer the rest of your life. When I come in, I'm going to close the doors and close the doors. If you want to open them again, that'll be fine.

I'll close them when I come by. You don't ever have to worry about it again. You know what she said? Fine. No big deal with her. Finally. Big deal for me. But it's so, I guess the followup to all that is what is in us that triggers us when we see that and we don't come to that same conclusion rather than moan and complain and create angst and anger. Just shut the drawer. I mean, it sounds so simple and so unchildish. I think the reality is we're all self-centered and we're all selfish. And our way is the right way.

And I want you to do it my way. Same thing that we had with loading a dishwasher. I load it organized.

She loaded it like she was playing Frisbee. And I'm sure you have permission to say these things. And now I wash the dishes.

For many years, I put them in the dishwasher. She actually has done quite a good job giving you that load. You do the dishes, you vacuum, and you also clean the toilets.

That's right. Carolyn's done a great job getting those jobs over to you. Hey, you speak about a particular time in your marriage which required an attitude adjustment on your part. I guess the right question is what was that revelation that gave you an attitude adjustment similar to the cabinets and all that.

But there were three questions that you started to ask yourself and to ask her. Well, it happened after God changed my heart because I realized this thing was not working out. It was hard.

It was rough. And I was going to be a pastor, and I thought there's no way I can be a pastor and be miserable in my marriage. And I just said to God, I don't know what to do. And when I did that, the idea of Jesus washing the feet of his disciples came to me. And I just heard God say, that's the problem.

You don't have the attitude that Christ had of serving the people. And I asked God to forgive me and give me the attitude of Christ. And he changed my heart toward her. And these are the three questions. When I was willing to ask these three questions, my marriage began to change. First question was, honey, what can I do to help you? Second question, what can I do to make your life easier?

And the third question, how can I be a better husband? And she gave me answers. And now my attitude was changed.

And so I started doing those things. And within three months, she started asking me those three questions. Now, you know, when I go home and say this to Jean, she goes, oh, did you sit with Gary Chapman on the broadcast? She has done that before.

I got a great idea, honey. Oh, you're talking to Gary Chapman. That's so good.

Gary, turning a little bit of a corner, Carolyn was diagnosed with cancer. How did that impact you? How did it help you to lean into God's sovereignty?

Maybe not kind of your fist raising at God saying, why have you done this to us? Look what I've done for you. Yeah, well, by that time, of course, we were down the road and we had a really healthy marriage. But it was a hard year. She calls it her lost year because for a whole year, she basically could do nothing.

Yeah. She did the surgery. She did the chemo. She lost her hair. She lost her weight. She had no energy. She couldn't keep food down. What a tough time.

It was a hard, hard time. In fact, there were many times that I thought this may be it, and I think she thought this may be it. Of course, that was 12 years ago now, and she's fine. She's been fine ever since that year. She's had no more problems with that.

But yeah, it was a hard year for her. And what I said to her when we found out, in fact, here shows you her heart. One morning, she said, you need to sit down. I need to share something with you. And I sat down, and she shared with me. The doctor told her the day before it was cancer, and there was going to be surgery, and he was going to do it next week. She said, I didn't tell you last night because I didn't want to keep you awake.

Yeah. And so I heard her, and after I cried, I said, okay, I'm going to cancel all of my speaking engagements for the next year, and I'm going to be here with you. I'm going to walk with you through this.

And she pointed a finger at me and said, you listen to me. You are not going to cancel a thing. God knew this was going to happen.

It's no surprise to him. God's leading you and has led you to commit to do these things. You're going to do those things. Wow. You'll be here when I need you, and if you happen to be out of town and I need somebody, I've got friends.

They'll be here in five minutes. And I knew that was true. I said, okay, well, let me pray about it. So I prayed about it, and I agreed with her.

I didn't cancel anything. But I was there on the key issues. I sat with her many of those times when she was getting chemo. But when she needed people and I wasn't there, they were friends that were there. I stayed with her. So it was a hard year, but we both looked back on it with just deep gratitude that God brought her through that, brought us through that. And I'll tell you what it did, it not only led me to accept the things that had irritated me in the past, it made me laugh about them and give thanks to God for them. So ever since then, if she happened to load the dishwasher the night before and I look in there and see the knives laying horizontal and all this stuff, I look at her. First of all, I laugh, and then I say, thank you, God, that she's still here. Yeah. Think of that. So you come to laugh about those things and you come to thank God that they're still here.

You didn't instantly come up with the love languages. I think, if I have this correctly, you are recognized as the number one author within the Christian Booksellers Association, what was the CBA, I don't know what they call it now. But that's quite an amazing thing to look back on. And I'm sure when you were in your 20s, you weren't expecting later in your 60s and 70s to be able to say, wow, I'm the most prolific writer. I mean, that's amazing. That's quite an achievement. Getting to the love languages, you said that was like a 20-year journey to figure those things out. That's a long time too.

Yeah. You know, Jim, to be very honest, I never ever thought of being an author. That's actually quite funny. In the early years, never ever thought about it. The love languages, of course, did develop over a number of years in which over and over and over, couples would sit in my office and one of them would say, like she would say, I just feel like he doesn't love me. And he would say, I don't get it.

I do this and this and this and this. Why would she not feel loved? And I knew he was sincere. That people could be sincerely loving but they weren't connecting emotionally. And so eventually I went back through my notes, years of notes that I'd made when I was counseling and asked myself when someone said that, I feel like my spouse doesn't love me, what did they want?

What were they complaining about? And their answers fell into five categories. And I later called them the five love languages and started using it in my counseling. And it would just revolutionize people's marriage. And probably five years later, I thought, you know, if I could put this concept in a book, maybe I could help a lot of couples I would never have time to see in my office. You know, that's what motivated me.

So, yeah, that's one of the things I look back at and I marvel, you know, how God has used books that I never ever anticipated writing, you know? And all of them have been an overflow of my counseling with people. For those that may not have heard, they're not one of the 20, 25 million, the five love languages, what are the five just to touch base with that? One is words of affirmation. One is gifts. One is acts of service, doing things for the other person. Actions speak louder than words to these people. Quality time, giving them your undivided attention and physical touch. Simple things. And each of us has a primary love language.

And if you don't speak their primary language, they won't feel loved, even though you're speaking some of the others. In fact, Gary, and this is one reason I so appreciate you and your journey and what you have become because you're willing to talk about your failures. I think you had an impactful experience with your son where you guys both kind of hit heads together. And, you know, the difference, and again, what I like is you walked away saying, okay, where did I fail in that? And the Lord showed you pretty quickly.

Describe that because I think it could help a lot of us fathers. Well, you know, Jim, I have to be honest. I never had a problem with anger until I got married. And I never had a super problem with anger until I had a teenage son. You know how many guys just said, amen?

Yep, yep. And I remember the night he and I got into it. It wasn't the first night that we got into it.

He was probably 14 at this time. And we were in his room. I don't even remember the topic, but we were yelling at each other. And he was saying hateful things to me, and I was saying hateful things to him. And in the middle of that interface, he walked out of the room, walked across the living room, walked out the front door and slammed the door. And when the door slammed, I woke up. And I said, oh, God, I thought I was further along than this to be yelling at the son I love. And I went in and sat on the couch and I just wept.

I can see the emotion now. Yeah, and Carolyn came in and tried to console me. She said, Gary, he has got to learn how to respect you. She said, I heard the whole thing. He started that.

He should not be talking to you that way. She tried to console me, but it's hard to console the sinner when you know that what you did was wrong. So she finally gave up and left the room. And finally, he walked back in. I don't know how long he was gone, but he walked back in. And when he did, I said, Derek, son, could you come in here a minute?

And he sat down on the gold chair. And I said, I want to apologize to you for the way I talked to you. I said, no father should ever talk to a son the way I talked to you. And I said, I said some horrible things to you. I lost my temper, and that's not the way I feel about you.

I love you very much. And I feel so badly about what I've done, and I want to ask you to forgive. I just poured my heart out to him. And when I got through, he said, Dad, that was not your fault.

I started that, and I should not have talked to you that way. When I was walking up the road, I asked God to forgive me, and I want to ask you to forgive me. And we hugged each other, and we both cried. And we hugged each other, and we cried. And when we got through, I said, Derek, why don't we try to learn how to talk our way through anger rather than yelling our way through anger?

So why don't we try this? The next time you're angry at me, you just say, Dad, I'm angry, can we talk? And I'll just sit down and listen to you. And when I'm angry, I'll say to you, Derek, I'm angry, can we talk?

And let's sit down, and let's talk our way through rather than yelling our way through. And that was the beginning of a tremendous change in both of our lives in how we handled anger, and we learned how to do that. You know, Gary, the pattern there, again, I would say it's wisdom, and somehow, and I want to know the how, this is really the question. You've tapped in, I think, to the Lord's heart, obviously, but it's really difficult in the heat of those arguments to be able to pull back. Somehow you found a way, whether it was a silly thing like the cabinets being open with your wife, or more serious issues with your marriage, or confronting suffering with Carolyn's diagnosis of cancer. You admit you didn't always get it right, but somehow you tapped into God's heart and His wisdom.

So probably the hardest question is, how did you learn to do that? What made you aware that if I lay down my life, then perhaps Derek, your son, will say, you know, that was my fault? And I'm sure you weren't even thinking that.

No, no, I wasn't thinking that at all. Jim, you know, I think one of the things is that for many, many years, starting way back when I was in college, I would have a daily sit-down time with God and read a chapter in the Bible and ask God, I want to hear whatever you have to say to me today. And in that context, God brings to my mind the things where I'm failing, and things often, and things that I need to confess to Him first and then to the other person. And I think it's that giving God a chance every day to listen to what He's saying to me has helped me to tap into the reality that God can help me. God can change patterns that have developed that are detrimental, and He wants to make us more like Christ every day. And the more we become like Christ, the better parents we're going to be, the better husband and wife we're going to be.

So I think that has been a major part in that. Yeah, and it's that sincerity, because you can be heart of heart and sit down and say those exact same words, and you don't get the result. It's not God's problem.

It's your problem. But that sincerity opens your spiritual ears so that your heart can hear, if I could say it that way. I'll tell you one of the most sobering questions I ever asked myself, and I ask it several times along the journey about my kids. What if my children turned out to be like me?

What are the surface things that you need to deal with? Well, and the big difference is it changed the way you acted over the years, and that's the whole point. What a great book. Life lessons and love languages. What I've learned on my unexpected journey, really I look back to say, Lord, look at what you've done in my life. And I so relate to that, and I know you're not for your own purposes pleased, but you're hopeful that God is happy and pleased with what you've done with the life he's given you. And don't we all hope for that same thing?

Absolutely, but I am deeply grateful for the life God has given me, and I could never have pulled off myself and never made that happen myself. My favorite hymn, I close that book with that hymn that starts out, I stand amazed in the presence of Jesus the Nazarene that he could love me, a sinner condemned unclean. Amen. And he does.

He does. And not just you, but everyone he's created, and that's the great gift that he gives us. Gary, this has been so good. Thank you again for being with us. This is really good to look back. Thank you.

I always enjoy being with you guys. Yeah. I think you can hear the deep questions that Dr. Gary Chapman has been presenting to us, and he's that kind of guy that just doesn't present us the questions. He's presented them to himself, and you can hear the answers that he's found. And this is not a hidden treasure. This wisdom is there for all of us. And Gary simply is pointing the way to tap into God's heart, to God's wisdom, to apply to your own life, so that you too can look back and go, wow, the Lord has been so good and so kind and so gracious to me. Don't we all want that?

I hope so. And get started by reading this wonderful book, Life Lessons and Love Languages from Gary Chapman. Get it here. Be in ministry with us. Send us a gift of any amount, and we'll send it as our way of saying thank you.

Yeah. Get a copy of this book when you donate by calling 800, the letter A in the word family, or stop by the show notes. We've got all the details there for you. And on behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team, thanks for joining us today for Focus on the Family. I'm John Fuller inviting you back as we once again help you and your family thrive in Christ. We'll be right back.
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-02-16 05:13:58 / 2024-02-16 05:25:52 / 12

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