Reflecting God's Love Story in Your Marriage - Part 2

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Announcer: Today on Family Talk.

Roger Marsh: The traditional wedding vows that couples recite include a promise to love one another for better or worse. This idea of a lifelong marriage was conceived by God and not to be entered into lightly.

Kurt Bruner: It's a holy ordinance we entered into. It's a covenant. It's more than just a temporary partnership before God. God was in the midst of our marriage and we made a promise and it reflects the promise He made to Israel. If you remember the story where God made a covenant with Israel, it was a one way covenant. Olivia made a one way promise to me and I made a one way promise to her.

Roger Marsh: That was one of today's guests here on Family Talk, Kurt Bruner. What he said is absolutely correct. A successful marriage is built on the pillar of commitment to one another and to God. Today we're continuing a classic Family Talk broadcast featuring Dr. Dobson and two happy and devoted couples. The first is Kurt and Olivia Bruner. Kurt is the COO of Open Doors International, a ministry that supports persecuted believers around the world. He and his wife, Olivia, are successful authors and have raised four children.

Now the other couple that joined that discussion was Al and Jo Ann Janssen. They are authors and active members of many ministries around the country. Today the Janssens and Bruners will identify what it means to remain faithful in marriage. They'll also talk to those in broken relationships in need of restoration.

Let's listen to the second part of this broadcast now. We've titled it "Reflecting God's Love Story in Your Marriage." You're listening to Family Talk, a production of the James Dobson Family Institute.

Dr. Dobson: Let's really get down to the details here. Suppose you're talking to a young mother who has got a couple of kids in the preschool years and she's handling them pretty much on her own, she has realized now for the first time that the man she married is not who she thought he was. She thought he was disciplined, she thought he was caring, she thought he loved children, she thought he would spend money wisely, she thought that he was going to continue in a love relationship with her, and by love I mean an emotional, caring relationship.

Olivia Bruner: And it's not happening.

Dr. Dobson: And now it's not happening and she's convinced it's never going to happen and you talk to her about covenant marriage and she looks at you askance and says, "I have no idea what you mean."

Olivia Bruner: Well you know what, Al addresses that in the book too where he talks about the one sided marriage, the person who feels like they are doing it on their own and there is story after story, good friends of ours, where they entered into marriage just like that and after a while when she realized it's not happening, what she did instead was do her part. She did the right thing, even if he wasn't doing the right thing. She was responsible to him and she continued to do the right thing in the covenant marriage, because a lot of times in a covenant only one person's being the hero at a time.

Kurt Bruner: In the scriptures, there's an example where God actually called someone to live in that kind of a marriage for His purposes, that that person may have never understood, and that was Hosea.

Dr. Dobson: Yes.

Kurt Bruner: You go marry a prostitute who will be unfaithful to you every day of your marriage. You're going to have to keep calling her back. You're going to have to keep buying her back from prostitution. Hosea, I doubt, ever had a happy day of marriage in his entire life, but God had called him specifically to a purpose to tell a story that he had no idea he was part of. I believe that occurs today. I believe our relationship to our spouse is an expression of worship in the relationship to the God that we serve.

Seeing it that way brings you into the transcendent picture that's bigger than the daily grind. It infuses meaning. You remember Viktor Frankl, the psychiatrist who wrote the book "Man's Search for Meaning." He was one who survived a concentration camp and he made this observation, those who sensed there was a purpose in their suffering survived. Those who didn't, went mad or died.

Dr. Dobson: That concept is so foreign to who we are. It's almost un-American. Almost.

Kurt Bruner: Oh yeah.

Dr. Dobson: To think of living in an unhappy relationship because it's the right thing to do, and yet that's what the scriptures say isn't it, Jo Ann?

Jo Ann Janssen: Absolutely. You gotta believe it and you gotta do it. Somewhere along the line you know there's some deferred hope or joy, but-

Olivia Bruner: There is. There is.

Jo Ann Janssen: That's what keeps you going.

Al Janssen: I think one thing that I would add to that is that a spouse who's feeling they're in a one-sided relationship can do the right thing, Ephesians says, as unto the Lord. So when my wife doesn't feel like fixing dinner, and that's a little thing, but I come home and sometimes she'll say to me at night, I'll say, "Thank you for a wonderful meal," and she'll say, "Well I really didn't feel like doing it." Well, if you're not getting the response back from your spouse, you can say, "Lord, this is for You." I believe that's why this marriage picture is in scripture. That's what He wants us to see, that's what He wants us to experience.

Dr. Dobson: There is an element of hope here that we're not talking about. I taught a Sunday School class of young married couples for ten years or so and I dealt with a lot of men and women during that time who were involved in infidelity and all kinds of difficulties. They'd fallen out of love with each other and the amazing thing is about half of them not only survived but actually fell in love with each other all over again.

Olivia Bruner: Yes.

Al Janssen: You can have it back.

Dr. Dobson: That's right.

Olivia Bruner: Those friends that I was talking about earlier, that's what's happened with them. It's been so neat. They've been married 40 years now and he will say, "I was a jerk back then." He'll admit it and he knows he was, but for about 12 years he never said it. She had to continue to be the hero in that relationship not hearing it from him.

Al Janssen: And if she had left, and she from the American perspective, she was not happy. We know this couple as well. The world would have said she had every right to leave and follow her own desires, but today, this couple is a picture to both of us that here's a beautiful picture because she was heroic in her love and her husband rises up today and calls her blessed.

Dr. Dobson: Kurt, we've talked about heroes several times here. What do you mean by that phrase?

Kurt Bruner: I think this is the critical message of the book, but the critical message of what marriage is. All of what we've discussed so far, we never even have gotten into yet, the passionate marriage. God's marriage is also a passionate marriage. There is the thrill and the excitement that comes with that, so it's not all, "Stick to it whether you like it or not," type of thing. I think all of us around the table have had our wonderful times and our difficult times, but all of this builds. I think of it as a drama unfolding. Every great drama has some type of a tension that has to be resolved and it needs a hero. Every great drama needs a hero.

Kurt Bruner: Well, all of the difficulty that we've talked about, all of the ... the fact that God has an unfaithful spouse and the fact that God said, "And if you are unfaithful, I'll pay the price," where does that point us? It points us to the ultimate hero of history and of our lives, Jesus Christ. Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus, who did what? Who gave up everything for us. The essence of being heroic is giving up yourself for someone else. Christ did it by giving his life, I may do it by biting my tongue when I know I'm right in the argument. But it's-

Olivia Bruner: Wait a minute, here.

Dr. Dobson: It would really be kind of fitting for us to all have a big fight wouldn't it?

Kurt Bruner: But it could be ... it could go all the way to someone who spends their entire life as a spouse like Hosea, who's faithful, who gives love, who serves their part of the covenant, and it never comes back. It really never does until that moment on the other side when they hear, "Well done, good and faithful servant. Now enter into the joy of your true marriage to me."

Al Janssen: I think marriage is really about, over a lifetime, learning to lose yourself and give up your selfishness and there's no better place to learn that lesson that our Lord said of, "He who seeks to find life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it." Marriage is the place to learn that.

Kurt Bruner: The thought that comes to me is when God got married to mankind, He knew He was marrying a fallen creature who would fail. I think back to, Al paints a beautiful picture in the book, of the first marriage before the fall. What was it like for Adam and Eve, and he tells the story. But then comes the fall. The scriptures say that when Eve was tempted and took the fruit that Adam was right there with her. He wasn't off somewhere else, he was right there with her and he ... he paints a picture of what would have happened had Adam been heroic at that moment, rather than going along? Could he have stood up and said, "Wait a minute. Take my life instead of hers?" What might have happened if he was heroic? But he wasn't. He was a coward and husbands have been cowards ever since. But that's the impact of the fall, and when that young lady or young man's getting married, recognize you're marrying a fallen person and the covenant you're making is one way, whether it ever comes back to you or not.

Dr. Dobson: If he seems perfect, there's something wrong.

Kurt Bruner: He's lying.

Olivia Bruner: That's very true.

Dr. Dobson: There's something wrong with the contract there.

Kurt Bruner: There's only been one or two of those kind of husbands and Olivia got one of them.

Jo Ann Janssen: I got the other one, yes.

Dr. Dobson: We're talking about the book, "The Marriage Masterpiece, A Bold New Vision For Your Marriage." This is not a how-to book, is it?

Kurt Bruner: No it isn't.

Al Janssen: I think there will be helpful insights. I hope there will be, of how to apply it, but primarily it's about what is the meaning in my marriage and where is this heading and why do I do the things that I need to do in my marriage to make it work?

Kurt Bruner: I was gonna say that the how-to, there are many, many great how-to books.

Al Janssen: Absolutely.

Kurt Bruner: When we went into this project, this was the idea. We don't need right now another how-to. We've got to remind the people of God what this is all about, why marriage, what is marriage, and I would describe it as an inspirational book. You read this book and the passion ignites again of there's a purpose behind all of this, I'm not just trapped in the daily grind. It's about something bigger than me and therefore it infuses meaning in every part of life.

Within that context, the how-to is critical. If you're in a fighting marriage as described here, you probably need "Love Must Be Tough," sometimes. You need the how-to of "Love Must Be Tough." What do you do when there's a crisis? But if you don't have the commitment to know that it's about something bigger, why even go through the crisis? Why even be tough?

Dr. Dobson: Kurt, this subtitle is interesting. You call it a "bold new vision for your marriage." This is as old as mankind. The scriptures [crosstalk 00:12:45].

Kurt Bruner: Isn't that sad, that we've had [crosstalk 00:12:47]

Dr. Dobson: Are we saying, are you saying, that this is not being taught in churches?

Kurt Bruner: Well, when we began brainstorming the concepts in this, we realized we can't find this anywhere. We can't find this information anywhere. There were bits and pieces, but no one has painted the grand masterpiece in one Sistine Chapel, if you will, to let us see the whole thing and say, "Wow. That's what it's about." We all probably would say we believe this, we would all say that, "Yeah, I agree with that," but we haven't entered in and experienced it the way I think it's been painted here.

Dr. Dobson: I tell you what, when it functions as designed it's a wonderful thing.

Kurt Bruner: It sure is.

Dr. Dobson: Shirley and I have had these 41 years and like everybody else, there have been more difficult years than others. There was the year Shirley broke her leg and Ryan was two years of age and I had to be Mr. Mom and we were halfway through rebuilding a house and we were living in plaster dust, so we had our-

Olivia Bruner: Yeah, that was a little stressful.

Dr. Dobson: Our tough years, but never to the point of questioning for a second that we did the right thing. I've said many times I would not be sitting here, would not be doing what I'm doing if it were not for the support and love and encouragement that Shirley gave me. She is the greatest gift to me.

Jo Ann Janssen: Amen.

Dr. Dobson: I have ever had and when you do enter in to that kind of relationship, it is marvelous.

Al Janssen: Dr. Dobson, could I just say on top of that that you and Shirley are a picture to Jo and me of what it should be like, and one of the things that I think is so important and the reason I believe so passionately that Christians need to get this picture in their heads is the world is looking and we have a message to give to the world, but in many times it's a message that's pictured, not spoken. For Jo and me, couples that have been married 50, 60, 70 years and have been faithful to the Lord are a tremendous inspiration to us.

Dr. Dobson: And they're fewer and fewer out there.

Al Janssen: Unfortunately there are. Christian couples would see that yes, times are tough right now, we're going through a difficult period, but there's a beautiful picture that's being painted and then later on we'll see it, but not just us, others will see it around us. I think of one couple that - tremendous inspiration to us - for the last 15 years of their marriage before they passed away, she had Alzheimer's. And for the last eight or nine years, she pretty much couldn't communicate with her husband at all and the way he loved her was such a picture to me of the beauty of love and gave me an insight into what God is like. That's what the stakes are.

Dr. Dobson: I know a family like that right now where the husband is taking care of his wife who has Alzheimer's and he treats her like a queen, like an absolute queen. She can give him very little back in return.

Kurt Bruner: I'm also sensitive to the listener who hears that and says, "You know, if your mate can't, it's a little easier to be heroic than if your mate won't." They won't give back even though they could. Al does a beautiful job of pointing the hope that's even in that situation. It's not just a message to those who have the situations that are easy to handle.

Dr. Dobson: You know, Kurt, I think it's important to say right here that we're not talking about trying to be a hero when your spouse is physically abusing you or having repeated affairs for which he or she is unrepentant. There are certain situations where you do need to practice tough love and perhaps even separate for a while and get some help and then see if there's any possible way to reconcile or come back together. I wrote about that of course in my book, "Love Must Be Tough."

Kurt, I don't think I've ever asked anybody to role play a prayer, a kind of a conversation with God before, but I'm gonna ask you to do that now. I'm probably gonna put you on the spot just a little bit, but let's suppose you're in a loveless, passionless marriage and that's been going on for 10 years and you want to do what's right. You want a covenant marriage and you get on your knees before the Lord, and what do you say to Him?

Kurt Bruner: God, first of all I feel betrayed. I thought this was gonna be better than it is. I want to be honest with you about that, and I'm mad. I'm angry about it. But I have to believe and hold on to the fact that you've told me you're gonna be faithful and that you've called me to something bigger than what I'm living, and so what I'm gonna ask you for is the grace, every single day, to live what you've called me to live. I'm also gonna believe, my hope comes and whether it's in this life or if it's in the life to come, you're gonna say to me, "Well done." You're gonna smile. You're gonna put your arm around me and you're gonna say, "Now I'm gonna show you what marriage is really about. Enter into my intimacy."

I believe you're gonna say to me as you wipe my tears, "You know the moment when you most wanted to throw in the towel? That's the well done good and faithful servant moment because you didn't." If I don't believe that, then I will throw in the towel. But I need Your grace right now, because I'm mad at You and I'm mad at my mate. You've gotta sustain me.

Dr. Dobson: I believe the Lord will honor that prayer too. Don't you? You have tears in your eyes, Olivia.

Olivia Bruner: God's faithfulness has got to be motivation for the reason we're faithful to our spouse. His faithfulness to us is a huge motivation so that we can continue to be faithful to our spouse.

Dr. Dobson: Jo Ann?

Jo Ann Janssen: I don't talk very good when I'm crying. That was beautiful, Kurt.

Dr. Dobson: You realize we're talking to people who could pray that prayer.

Al Janssen: Lots of people.

Jo Ann Janssen: That's exactly what hit me because I know people that need to be praying that prayer on an hourly basis and I know people that probably didn't pray that prayer and gave up. That's a disaster to me, that's a heartbreak.

Al Janssen: Thank God our Lord didn't give up in Gethsemane because He prayed a prayer like that saying, "Lord. I don't want to go through this, but not my will but Thy will be done."

Dr. Dobson: What we have to understand is that the Lord has neither called us to be happy or promised us that we would be happy. He has promised us to walk with us. There may be circumstances like you described with Hosea where it is tough, it is difficult, and yet He will, I think, honor the kind of prayer that you prayed, Kurt.

Kurt Bruner: I love the picture painted by J.R.R. Tolkien in his Lord of the Rings book where he has these characters who are going through a very terrible time and they're talking about stories, and they realize they're in a story and they say, "You know, sometimes the story you're chosen to be in is not the greatest part to play but it's the best story to read." I believe some day the story of every single marriage is gonna be read and the best ones are the ones most people wish they were never in, but they were faithful and they were heroic and that's what we're called to be.

Dr. Dobson: Al, give us a bottom line for your book.

Al Janssen: God has given us the model for marriage and that model is Himself. He has experienced everything in His marriage that I believe we as human beings experience in our marriage. Despite pain and disappointment and anger, He has been faithful to His beloved. His model and His picture is an inspiration to us and to me to go the distance in our marriage.

Dr. Dobson: The title of the book again is "The Marriage Masterpiece, A Bold New Vision For Your Marriage," by Al Janssen. Jo Ann you played a role in this.

Jo Ann Janssen: I read every word of every edition of every thought. Yes. I keep reading it. It's an important book. I'm very touched that my husband wrote it.

Dr. Dobson: And it has your input in it as well.

Jo Ann Janssen: Oh there's lots of Al and Jo Ann stories. Yes, there is, there's a lot of input there.

Dr. Dobson: Kurt Bruner, you have played a role in this book as well. You said you feel this is the most important book on marriage in the last decade or so.

Kurt Bruner: I do. I really do, because this is what we've forgotten and we need to be reminded.

Dr. Dobson: Olivia, did you play a role in this book?

Olivia Bruner: I'm just married to Kurt.

Dr. Dobson: And that's good enough.

Kurt Bruner: Talk about heroic.

Olivia Bruner: Yeah.

Dr. Dobson: Well thank you all for being our guests. I'm sure we'll get a lot of interesting mail. I wouldn't be at all surprised if some of it didn't come from people who could have prayed the prayer that you prayed, Kurt, and that is the foundation, that's the basis, and anything short of that will not sustain you through the tough times.

Dr. Dobson: Blessings to you all and I trust that the book will be a great success.

Kurt Bruner: Thank you.

Olivia Bruner: Thank you.

Jo Ann Janssen: Thank you.

Al Janssen: Thank you, Dr. Dobson.

Roger Marsh: I'm Roger Marsh and you've been listening to an encouraging and important broadcast here on Family Talk. I hope this discussion over the past couple of programs has challenged you to reevaluate your relationship with your spouse. Visit our broadcast page at drjamesdobson.org to learn more about today's guests and the book "Your Marriage Masterpiece." That's drjamesdobson.org and then click on to the broadcast menu.

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