Beautiful People Don’t Just Happen: Scott Sauls
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Scott SaulsScott Sauls is senior pastor of Christ Presbyterian Church in Nashville, Tennessee, and author of Jesus Outside the Lines, Befriend, From Weakness to Strength, Irresistible Faith, and A Gentle Answer. Scott also served at New York City's Redeemer Presbyterian Church as a lead and preaching pastor and planted two churches in the Midwest. His work has been featured in publications including Christianity Today, Relevant, Qideas, Propel Women, He Reads Truth, Leadership Magazine, The Gospel Coaliti...more
Beautiful people don’t just happen, insists author and pastor Scott Sauls. So what’s it look like to shape true beauty in the souls within our four walls?
Beautiful People Don’t Just Happen: Scott Sauls
Scott: Worst thing in the world for a kid is a home that is centered around that kid’s happiness. The worst thing in the world for a kid is a home that’s centered around the kid.
Ann: Welcome to FamilyLife Today, where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I’m Ann Wilson.
Dave: And I’m Dave Wilson, and you can find us at FamilyLifeToday.com or on the FamilyLife® app.
Ann: This is FamilyLife Today!
Dave: I sure have enjoyed the last couple days.
Ann: I love having Scott Sauls in the studio.
Dave: Yes, we get him for one more day. I know Scott you’re going on a vacation pretty soon, but this has been rich discussion. I think our listeners are going to love this and they’re going to share this.
Scott, welcome back to FamilyLife Today.
Scott: Thank you, Dave/Ann. [It’s] good to be back with you.
Dave: Scott, we’ve been discussing for the last couple of days your book, Beautiful People Don’t Just Happen. Where, obviously—you know this—but you wrote “beautiful people happen through adversity/through trials, through struggle,” and yet, as we’ve said, we often try to hide that.
Where do we start? I mean do we just admit out loud that we struggle, that we have sin. We want to hide that, but is the best thing to do to start with an out loud confession?
Scott: What if we just all admitted that we’re all addicts/that we’re all in recovery, humble enough to acknowledge; like, “Maybe I’m not drunk on alcohol or high on cocaine, but I’m drunk on ambition. I’m high on gossip/I’m intoxicated with greed.” We’re all hooked on something.
The stage is set for the Lord to say, “Stick Me right in the middle of the room and just start getting real.” Don’t bleed on each other, because we can easily start to dramatize our stories to make ourselves the point instead of—the great thing about Paul with his whole “I’m the chief of sinners” [1 Timothy 1:15, Paraphrased] thing—that’s a very dramatic statement, right? But he immediately says, “Now, look at Christ. Look at His mercy. What I just told you is about that; not about me. It’s not about my story; it’s not even about my recovery. It’s about that: His mercy and where His mercy can meet anyone because it would dare to meet somebody like me.”
Or somebody like David, you guys. I think we’re too soft on what David did when we say, “Oh, he was an adulterer.” Well, yes, he was, but it also says in that story that when he saw Bathsheba bathing next door, the wife of one of his closest, most loyal friends, it says he saw her, he sent for her, and he took her. That’s assault; that’s abuse of power. This is the Psalmist we’re talking about. It's all of it.
Ann: And he takes the next step to have one of his best buddies murdered.
Scott: And he does that, and then what happens? Nathan comes, says, “You’re the man,” [2 Samuel 12:7] and I don’t mean that in a good way; like, “You’re the man in a way that nobody wants to be the man. Being the man is what made you this/got you here because you forgot who you are.”
Yet, look at how the David story unfolds. We get the 51st Psalm, which is like the confession of all confessions that we all now have at our disposal to use in our low place.
Think about what Bathsheba must have gone through to forgive him because it says she marries him, has a kid with him and eventually Solomon, whose name means “peace,”—God gave him that name, born out of that situation.
Now we have David the author of half of the Psalms. We have the genealogy of Jesus that says, “Oh, and there was David who had Solomon, not by Bathsheba, but by Uriah the Hittites wife.” [Matthew 1:6, Paraphrased] Then we have Jesus calling Himself the Son of David. [Mark 12:35, Paraphrased]
How long would David last in the current climate we’re in right now where everything is unforgivable - everything is a reason for your erasure from the face of the earth if you slip once. I’m not saying there’s certain people that don’t need to be removed from positions of authority, etcetera, for the protection of other people. But I think when we lose sight of how offensively vast and far reaching the grace of God is, we also forget that it can reach our deepest places that we are tying to hide. When Jesus says the only thing that’s going to heal that stuff is when you bring it into the light.
Dave: As you think about, like you just said, David [and] other heroes of the faith in Scripture that we sort of downplay their sin and their struggle, because I think we’re almost embarrassed; like, “They couldn’t have been that bad,” but they really are. Like you said, if any of that was known in our culture, they’re done and Twitter and social media would shut them quickly.
Turn that toward our kids. If we’re trying to raise children that are going to become beautiful people, we know that they’re going to have to go through hardship/they’re going to make mistakes.
As parents, because we’re a marriage and family show, let’s help our parents. We tend to bail them out; we tend to jump in when they make a mistake and rescue. And there are times we need to do that. You’re not going to let them ride their bike into the street because it’s going to kill them. But there’s other situations where they make a mistake and we’re not going to let any consequences happen to them because we’re just going to bail them out.
Ann: I’m just going to add, Dave, as a mom, I hate it when my kids feel regret, hurt or fear.
Ann: I want to protect them from all of those things. Yet, you’ve been stating and we’ve been talking about your book, Beautiful People Don’t just Happen, we’re saying, “Oh, that’s like the greenhouse it could be - the greenhouse for growth.”
Scott: Raising kids is not for the faint of heart. [Laughter] We felt desperate during every season.
Ann: We did, too.
Scott: We still—our kids are both adult kids—and we still have our desperate moments. Thank God they are in God’s hands, because if they were ultimately in our hands, I don’t know if we would ever sleep.
Ann: Yes. [Laughter]
Scott: We were a little bit against the grain; not so radically so that nobody wanted to be their friends, but like, “Your phone is done after dinner. We’re going to have eye contact. I’m sorry because I know a lot of social media stuff happens. You’re just going to have to catch up during your 40-minute window tomorrow.”
Of course, it’s like, “You’re the only parents…!”
“Well, let me pick up the phone,” and we start calling, “Are we the only parents?”
It’s like, “No, but we’re told we’re the only parents too.”
But being counter-culture, being different is part of the call of what it means to be a Christian person as well as a Christian household, which means that you’ve got to subject your kids to some stuff that feels uncomfortable, might even feel unpopular at times, but—
Ann: So, their happiness isn’t your number one goal.
Scott: Can’t be.
Scott: Worst thing in the world for a kid is a home that is centered around that kid’s happiness. The worst thing in the world for a kid is a home that’s centered around the kid. A marriage-centered home is the very best thing for a kid. It’s the very best thing for a marriage. It’s the very best thing for everything in the home.
Of course, there are going to be single parents that are listening in that I hope don’t feel wounded by that statement. I guess you would say as well that the single parent has a marriage to Christ because we’re the bride, Christ is the groom. Even then, the message to the kids can be “It’s Jesus and me, you all. He’s the head of the household. You can take it up with me if you want but you’ve really got to take it up with Him about whatever the case/whatever the thing is that we’re working through together as parents and kids.”
But a couple has to be that way, too. It’s like, “It’s Jesus and us, kids. We’re under His authority just like you’re under ours. Because we believe that everything that He says is good and right and healthy and life-giving and will lead us on the pathway of making us whole, you might not like us for this, but in our house, we follow Jesus. In our house we go to church every Sunday, even when your friends, they don’t anymore, even your Christian friends, they don’t anymore because their parents are following them to other places and their parents are being discipled by their kids boredom in church, rather than saying, ‘Kids, this is part of what we do.’”
You’ll make your kids study when they don’t want to study. You’ll make your kids eat vegetables when they don’t want to eat vegetables. Why won’t you make them sit in the presence of the Living God when they don’t want to do that? [Laughter]
Ann: I love that. I love that. “We’re going to sit in the presence of the Living God.” Talk about compelling.
Scott: The other piece, too, that makes it more credible in the eyes of our kids is to also lead in repentance. Don’t just lead in teaching our kids what’s the right path, but also lead in demonstrating to our kids what it looks like when we fall off the right path. The worst thing - another bad thing for a kid is a perfect parent who never gets it wrong and never owns it.
Some parents are like, “We’ve just screwed it up so much; I don’t know how we could ever recover from being the hypocrites that we’ve been.”
I’m like, “The first step toward that is just admitting to your kids the hypocrites you’ve been.”
We wrote graduation letters to both of our daughters, and the letters began “I’m sorry and you’re welcome.” [Laughter] That’s a Christian home right there is “I’m sorry,” and “You’re welcome.”
“You’re welcome,” because we did the best we could unfinished frail sinful, broken, misguided people that we can be sometimes, clueless parents that we definitely were in your case and still are in many ways, but we put the gospel in front of you/we put you in the atmosphere where you could hear about Jesus, including the home/including the church, including certain friends that we had in our lives. “You’re welcome.”
And “We’re so sorry. Here are the 17 reasons why we’re sorry, and do you want to talk about it?” Our kids melted with that stuff. You think they’re like, “Eighteen now about to go, they want to hear it. They don’t want to get all vulnerable with mom.”
That’s all they want; that’s all they want.
Ann: Scott, you shared that you struggle with depression, anxiety. I’m assuming that you’ve shared that with them.
Ann: That you’ve shared openly about your own struggle, and how was that perceived?
Scott: Warmth—I mean it’s received by your kids as a sign of strength that you are willing to talk about your weakness. Isn’t it true, kids whose parents give off this demeanor of being super strong, they know intuitively that their parents are weak.
It’s that whole Shakespeare line, you protest too much; like, “You act so strong and powerful, you must be really trying hard to compensate for something.”
I think of that image in the movie, Shrek, where Shrek and donkey are looking up at Little Farquaad - Lord Farquaad’s tower. Donkey is like, “Wow! What an amazing man this must be to live in a castle like this and to have all this power and everything.”
Shrek’s like, “He must be compensating for something.” [Laughter] Kids can see right through that.
Ann: They smell hypocrisy.
Scott: Vulnerability is the greatest strength in the world.
Scott: People say, “Oh, the power for Jesus’s resurrection.” You think it took less power for Him to voluntarily die on the cross and resist the impulse to retaliate against those who are crucifying Him, resist the impulse not to pray, “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they do” [Luke 23:34] - resist the impulse to go the cross in the first place? You think that took less power than rising from the dead? Who can do that stuff?
Dave: Were there any times that you remember as your kids were growing up where they were going through a struggle-a weakness, could have been fear/regret/hurt, and your temptation was to come in and solve it for them, but you had to step back and let them grow into beautiful people?
Scott: Yes and no. One instance, one of our kids did something they shouldn’t have done. We ratted them out to the person in charge, as opposed to trying to protect them from consequences. What was remarkable was that response to us was “I really respect you for doing that.”
I think the more we hover and try to keep the difficulty away, the more we set them up to really languish as adults. No better place than your home of origin, if it’s a safe place of origin to let your kids get knocked down, not knocked out, right? “No, I will tackle you on your bike if you are going toward a busy street. But if you’re going to make a C or a D on your exam because you procrastinated, I’m not going to hover.”
Dave: “I’m not going to write the paper for you.”
Scott: That’s right.
Dave: We’ve been tempted to do that when you see your child going through one of those three things: regret, hurt, or fear, there’s a real tendency to just soften it even.
Sometimes we need to, but a lot of times we need to step back, and it’s a trusting God moment for us parents to go, “The goal here is a lot bigger than this situation or this circumstance. It’s that they become a mature man or woman of God, and we’re going to be a part of that by not stepping in and stopping it. We’re going to let God’s work have its final do,” which is what your book is all about, that they become a beautiful person.
I think it’s hard to do as a parent though.
Ann: I think it’s harder with adult kids than ever before, because we’re out of the picture. I think I’ve had more sleepless nights with adult kids than with toddlers or even teenagers, honestly, because I’ll wake up in the middle of the night thinking of something I’ve seen or something I’m worried about. I can’t go back to sleep, and then I have to talk to Jesus about it.
I’m like, “Lord, here’s what I’m thinking; here’s what I’m afraid of,” and I have to surrender them continually and remember there’s not a prayer that I’ve prayed for them that He hasn’t heard and that He’s not acting upon. It may not be my timing, it may not be the way I like it, but I can trust that He’s hearing me and that He loves them. But it’s hard to let go and it’s hard to realize our prayers really do make a difference.
Dave: Here’s my last question in regard to parenting and developing beautiful people: Do you have a parenting mistake that comes to your mind; like “Here’s an event”—
Scott: —a question like that; like where do we start?
Dave: —like one or five. What’s the first one you think of?
Scott: I’m going to say, intensity; like taking a three and escalating it to a five, because I’m scared.
Ann: I’m impressed that it’s a five.
Scott: —or whatever; like five’s the biggest number on the scale, or take a nine, or take a four and turn it into a ten.
If they make a choice that is sometimes a step toward another choice that’s the worse choice, panicking and not letting God be there first Father, and entering in as a dictator instead of a coach. That’s not “a mistake,” that’s many of the same mistake made over the course of many years.
I’m thankful our kids still love us. [Laughter] For those, in spite of those moments, but again, the one thing that we’ve always done is say “I’m sorry.” I don’t have memory of a time when either my wife or I hurt our kids that we didn’t apologize.
If you ask me “What’s the best thing you’ve ever done as a parent?” It’s probably that.
Scott: Yes and expose our kids to the gospel. That’s part of how you expose your kids to the gospel is making yourself vulnerable and being willing to own that you are on the journey with them, that you haven’t arrived and where you are is not their goal. Where Jesus is - is your goal and theirs. In some ways they’re closer to that goal than we are, even at a very young age. That’s humbling, right?
Dave: I’m guessing you would say/I think I would say, if you are listening and you feel like you’ve blown it with your child, you’ve got a regret because you haven’t done a good job - you’ve hurt them, if you are living in fear of that, to start over with your child would be apologize, start there?
Scott: It’s amazing how many decades of hard history can be erased by a genuine “I am so sorry. Here’s how I have hurt you in detail as I understand it. If there’s anything I’m missing, I want to hear your heart. It’s painful but I owe it to you, and I’m indebted to the Lord to say, ‘I’m sorry about this or that or these things.’ Will you forgive me? I’m putting myself in a vulnerable position with the child I raised and I’m giving you all the power in this moment to release me and to release yourself, to release both of us from what I’ve done.”
It's amazing how a genuine five minutes of that can completely reset the trajectory of a 40-year-old relationship with your adult kid who has been holding things. That doesn’t mean everything goes away; that doesn't mean nobody needs therapy anymore or anything like that.
Ann: I think maybe, too, to even add, “I don’t even need you to respond right now.” You might want to take a minute just to take a space because it’s not about me getting your forgiveness; it’s about me coming to you with a sorrowful repentant heart.
Scott: Maybe after Thanksgiving say, “Here I wrote some things down for you. Take it; read it. It my heart on a page.”
Ann: Oh, so good.
Scott: “If you ever want to talk about it, my door’s open and I love you.” That’s a lot of wisdom, Ann, that you just gave there of invite them to go at their pace.
Dave: Yes, give them some time.
Ann: Scott, thanks. This has been rich.
Dave: It’s been awesome.
So, what do you think of Scott Sauls?
Ann: It’s so rich; it’s so good.
Dave: I’ve got to tell you, I just love that guy.
Ann: Did you see me crying the whole time? What is that?
Dave: You crying?
Ann: Yes, like tears are plopping on the table.
Dave: He teared, too, and Scott’s not super emotional. But why were you tearing up?
Ann: He and Dane Ortlund do the same thing. They are presenting the gospel just as a way of life, the foundation and the beauty of the gospel. It’s presented so beautifully; it just touches my soul and it makes me weep out of the goodness and graciousness of Jesus.
Dave: I was thinking we spent three days with Scott, and every minute of those three days I felt like he was laying out truth that we can all live on. We applied what he was saying to parenting, to marriage. It applies everywhere. I think it’s because of what you said, it’s foundational truth from Scripture, but in the end, it’s the gospel; it’s the truth of Jesus overwhelming us in our lives.
I couldn’t be more excited to let people hear these—
Ann: Me, too.
Dave: —and to share it with others. I sit here and think, “I can’t believe we get to do this.”
Ann: I’m thinking of the parents right now that even heard this ending about apologizing to your kids and the necessity of that, not only for our kids, but for ourselves to start new.
Dave: Hopefully, there’s going to be some reconciliation in some homes as a result.
Even as I think about that, I just want to say thanks to the partners with FamilyLife who pray for us. I know some of you pray daily and a lot of you don’t know this but many give financially to us. This doesn’t happen without your financial gifts. Thank you for allowing us to get this kind of content, not only into your lives, but into your neighbors lives.
I would just say if you are a listener and you’ve never jumped in either to pray for us or with us or to give financially, could I just say, I believe this is worth giving to. Don’t take money away from your church but—
Ann: —become a part of our team; be partners with us.
Dave: —be a partner and say, “I don’t want to just listen; I want to be a participant. I want to give sacrificially to help this ministry to grow and I want this want to go into the homes all around me and around the world.”
Shelby: You’ve been listening to Dave and Ann Wilson with Scott Sauls on FamilyLife Today.
Scott’s written a book called Beautiful People Don’t Just Happen. We’ll send you a copy as our thanks when you partner financially with us this week.
You can go online to FamilyLifeToday.com or you can give us a call with your donation at 800-358-6329. Now that can be a one-time gift or a recurring monthly gift. Giving sacrificially is something that we deeply appreciate as Dave and Ann were talking about.
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Now, have you ever felt like you and your partner do life separately, maybe you’re like roommates instead of spouses? Tomorrow, Dave and Ann Are joined by Jason and Tori Benham to talk about valuable lessons they learned together while teaming up in CrossFit. That’s going to be tomorrow. We hope you’ll join us.
On behalf of Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Shelby Abbott. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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