Building Family Priorities
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Dave and Ann WilsonDave and Ann Wilson are hosts of FamilyLife Today®, FamilyLife’s nationally-syndicated radio program. Dave and Ann have been married for more than 38 years and have spent the last 33 teaching and mentoring couples and parents across the country. They have been featured speakers at FamilyLife’s Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway since 1993 and have also hosted their own marriage conferences across the country. Cofounders of Kensington Church—a national, multicampus churc...more
What kind of priorities should we have for our families? Dave Wilson highlights the importance of “honor” in our homes and how it affects every area of our lives.
Building Family Priorities
Ann: Okay; I’m going to give you a date, and then I want you to give me words of what you felt; okay? [Laughter]
Dave: I don’t like these games.
Ann: 2007—Chicago, Illinois—dropping Austin off at college: “Go!”
Dave: Sad, tears, crying, excited.
Dave: Looking in the rearview mirror and seeing downtown Chicago, like, ‘’What are we doing right now?!”
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 our FamilyLife® app.
Ann: This is FamilyLife Today.
So dropping Austin off at college—
Dave: —launching our son into the future.
Ann: —I was feeling like, “How can we be at this point?” Because it felt like, when they were little, especially toddlers, every day seemed like a million years.
Dave: Yes. [Laughter]
Ann: And now, I felt like, “We’re done.” And the question was: “Was it enough? Did I do enough? Did I do the right things?”
I like where we’re going today; because in this message that you gave at our church, you get into what it means to be a family. In the first part of this, you talked about honoring; you talked about family/about God’s family and what that looks like. Now, today, we’re going to get into some more practical things.
Dave: Yes; I think one of the things we had to decide as a family—and I think every family has to decide is—“What are we going to be about?”
Dave: “What are the Wilsons going to be about?” “What is your family going to be about?”
In this message, I tried to say, “Okay, the ideal family is impossible. We’re going to live in a real family, so how do we get to become the family we want to become?” And we decided, long ago, this word, “honor,”—which I already developed in Part One—is the way we want to live: “Honor God; honor each other in our family; and then honor our neighbor.” I’ve already given you the outline of where this message is going to go.
Ann: Yes, that’s good!
Dave: But it’s like, “Man! If we could value others with honor, it would be the home we dreamed of; and I think it would be a home that became a magnet: people would want to be a part of a family that honors.”
Ann: As soon as you said that, I’m thinking I would think this—if I am listening, when our kids were little,—“I already failed! I’ve already failed and messed up my child!” And yet, it’s not about necessarily always doing it perfectly.
Dave: Oh, no!
Ann: But you’re just kind of aiming at what God says a family could be.
Dave: Yes, we need a target; and the word, “honor,” is a pretty good target. So I hope families will listen and say, “Okay, let’s hit that target.”
Dave: Think about this word, “honor.” Think about this: you don’t even have to like someone to honor them. Some of you are like: “I’m not going to honor! I don’t even like him.” You don’t have to! We honor positions. When a judge walks into the courtroom, they say, “Please rise for the honorable judge.” What’s that all about? I don’t even know that judge! I don’t know if I like that judge—it doesn’t matter—they have a position of honor; we stand; other cultures kneel.
Think about that in your family. I don’t necessarily have to agree, or even love, or even like all the people in this room; but I am going to show them honor because of their value. Think what that would mean—think about this—I’ll never forget Gary Smalley saying this; he says, “When you honor somebody that’s really valuable, not only do you sort of bend the knee”—and again, not literally, but you bend the knee in your reverence for them—“but your jaw drops; because when somebody, who’s really valuable, walks in front of you, you go, ‘Oh!!’”
Have you ever do that?—“Oh!! Look!” You know, if some pro-athlete walked in here or somebody that you really respect—who’s an artist, a musician, a movie star—which is crazy that we honor these people! It’s just crazy we do that—and yet, we don’t honor God. But they walk in here, and you see people [gasping sounds], “Look! Look! So-and-so is here!” And you’re like, “Ohhh!” That’s what we do.
What would happen—do you get this?!—what would happen if the people in your home—your sons, your daughters, your spouse, your parents, your grandparents, your neighbors—felt “Oh!!” They’re like, “I don’t even know what happens; but when I’m in their home, I feel so loved! They respect me,”—“Oh!!” They don’t even know how to explain it; but they’re feeling honored/blessed by us; because we’re doing this, in a sense, in our life. That’s what I hope the homes become: homes of honor.
Now, here’s all I want to talk about, and I’ve got to do this very quickly—and believe me, last service, Ann was here, so I made her come up and do this with me—too bad for you she’s not here, but I’ll tell you what she said; okay? Here’s what we try to do in our home. I’m just saying this is the Wilson home; I’m not saying—Cody’s right here; he can tell you: “We did not do this perfectly; or sometimes, we didn’t even come close,”—but our goal was—
You’ve got to have a goal for your home! Some of you are young parents, with young kids, and some of you are like me, empty nesters—you’ve got to know—“What is it we’re trying to do in our home?” I’m saying this: “What if you build a home/a family around honor?”
Three areas, and you know where we’re going to go:
- The first priority in our family, that we tried to instill in our legacy—a big word—the first priority is: “Honor who?”—Honor God!
- Second priority: Honor one another in the family;
- Third priority: Honor your neighbors.
That’s it! That was our whole goal. It was something we had to think about every week.
Think about this: if you’re a parent—and you just had a baby—I don’t know if you’ve ever studied this, but from zero/birth through age 18, do you know how many weeks you’ve got?—18 years, you’ve got 936 weeks. I would challenge you to do what we try to do: to break it into weeks. And trust me on this: they’re going to be gone like that! I know you don’t think that if you’re a young parent; because I’d hear older parents tell me that, and I was like [whining], “No they’re not. They’re never leaving! There’s snot! There’s poop all over!” [Laughter] You’re going to blink, and they’re going to be gone; so you’ve got 936 weeks.
What if you decided to say: “I’m going to break these into weeks and have a plan for each week to help my son or daughter honor God as we do”? And let me just say this before I talk about some routines—and this is really important—your kids, parents, are going to catch your faith more than they’re going to get your faith. In other words, faith is caught more than taught. If it isn’t real in you, it probably has a hard time getting real in them. If they hear you talking about: “They should have a walk with God,” “They should be a man or woman of the Word,” “They should do this!” and they never see mom and dad do this, it’s empty words. They’re going to follow the way you walk, not the way you point.
What we tried to—and again, Ann was here last service, just walking through them; and I don’t have time—but we tried to create routines that fit into these weeks that we had with our three sons at the time. It was basically/I wrote them down—there are books written on this—but we just tried to live this out.
- One of the routines was: “Create routines where you can seize the mealtime.”
When you’re sitting down at dinner, at a mealtime, seize that moment! I remember one of the things Ann did—and Cody can tell you this better than I could—she’d say, “Okay, boys, let’s talk about your day. You’ve got to talk about with a feeling word!” They’re like, “What? What do you mean a ‘feeling’ word?” I’m like, “What do you mean a ‘feeling’ word?” She’d say, “I’m trying to draw emotions out!” [Laughter] That was seizing moments about their life and about God at mealtime. Mealtime is critical time!
By the way, the studies that I’ve seen—it’s really—University of Michigan did one, years ago, that said, “If you want your child to turn out like this kind of a stable adult, what is the key denominator that gets the kind of adult you want?”—do you know what it was?!—four mealtimes per week together as a family. “What?! It wasn’t their education?”—nope! “It wasn’t the sports they were in?”—nope! It was: “Do you ever sit down as a family and say, ‘This matters.’” More than all this other stuff that the culture is saying you’ve got to do—“This…” and “This…”—are you sitting down, as a family, and talking about each other and talking about your relationship with God?
How about this?
- “You’ve got to seize bedtime; seize bedtime!”
Lying in bed with your kids, reading Bible stories, listening to Bible stories, talking about the Word of God, talking about your struggles in life when they’re little toddlers and when they’re older.
Some of you don’t know this, but when we started Kensington—1990—that was Ann’s and my ten-year anniversary. You guys know about the ten-year; right? If you’ve read Vertical Marriage, Chapters 1 and 2 are about the ten-year anniversary—1990—when she said, “I’ve lost my feelings for you.” That’s the year we started Kensington! I realized, “She is not getting my time!” And “I have three little boys at home, and I’m not there at night when she’s putting them to bed, seizing bedtime to pray with them and read Scripture with them. I’m gone!”
Here’s the thing—Steve Andrews was in trouble in his marriage as well—and we are starting this church. Both of us asked our wives: “If you could pick morning or evening, when do you need us here the most?” They both said, “evening.” We stood in front of Kensington, a small church at the time; and we both said, “Hey, we need to be home with our families at night, putting our little boys to bed and helping our wives. If you want to meet with us, we’re not going to be available to you in the evenings; only in the mornings: four a.m., five a.m., six a.m. Schedule appointments; we’ll meet with you, but not the evening.”
I can tell you, 29 years later, it was worth it being there when he [Cody] is three, and four, and five. And he probably doesn’t even remember it, but I do! I blinked, and now I have a legacy. Again, not perfectly; but I remember Austin, my middle son, right before his wedding night—he spent his wedding night in our house—and we got on our knees, right in front of his bed. Ann said to him, “Austin, what are you going to miss most as you get married?” He didn’t even blink; he goes, “This; praying every night with you guys,”—when he was four, five, fifteen, eighteen.
It is so critical to honor God and create an atmosphere of bending the knee and showing value to the most important Person ever. Again, if you’re not doing it, it’s going to be hard for them to catch it. It’s simply an overflow.
I mean, I have all kinds of things in here!
- You know: “Leverage your drive time.”
Ann was just the best! They were driving to school, and she is praying out loud. They would hear her praying, like, “Here’s what it’s like to talk with God.” That gets caught.
One of the other things I wrote down is:
- “Man, you need to intentionally choose a date night!”
You think, “I’ve got to be with my kids all the time.” No! You don’t! One of the best things you can do is hand your kids—are you listening to me, Jenna and Cody?—hand your kids to their grandparents and go out on a date! [Laughter] You need to pour—how many times have we said that to you guys already?—they’re young parents. We say, “Give us Bryce; go away for two or three hours!” It’s hard for young parents to do that! It’s like, “This is my pride and joy! It’s my precious! I’m not going to give it to a bald guy,” who they don’t think can do anything! [Laughter] We’ve raised a few; we know what we’re doing.
It’s like: “Get somebody! Get out!” You’re saying to your kids, “Dating and marriage is really important.” What are you doing?—you’re honoring your marriage—“It’s very valuable. Your mom is really valuable—she’s actually more valuable than you—because when you guys leave, she’ll still be here; so I’m going to honor her first, second to God.” That’s the whole first point; okay?
The second one—so you honor God first—secondly is what? Do you remember what I said?—each other. And I’m talking specifically at home. It’s a simple point. Here’s the thing: when your kids, when your extended family—maybe your step-kids—walk in your home, what do they feel? Do they feel they’re valued? Because I’ll tell you something! Everywhere else they go, they’re told they’re not valued. People are chopping them down at school—why?—because they want to feel significant, so it makes them feel significant to cut them down.
Where in their world do they walk in a place, and the second their foot goes in the door, they’re like: “I’m so glad I’m here; because here, they appreciate me! They see me; they respect me; they love me.” Is that the atmosphere of your home?
- One of the ways we really tried to do that was through our tongue: “What are we saying to our boys? What are we saying to them?”
Let me tell you, every parent should know this: “Your boys need to know what?”—they have what it takes. It’s at the core of their DNA: “Do I have what it takes?” “Do I have what it takes?” Everywhere they go, probably, they’re being told, “No.” Are they hearing from mom and dad—or mom, or dad, or stepmom, or whoever—are they hearing, “You’ve got what it takes, son! I see greatness in you. You’ve got it!”
Girls need to know what?—they’re loved and cherished as they are—do you hear me?—as they are! Not if they have this beauty or if they hit this intellectual [mark]. No, no, no!—just as you are. Why?—“You’re made in the image of God. You’re a Wilson. You are valued!”
They should feel this every day, like, “Mom and Dad, they honor each other.” Brother and sister—we had rules in our home: “You’re not allowed to use names,” “You’re not allowed to talk down to one another.” Now, we didn’t do that perfectly, but that was the standard; it’s like: “That isn’t allowed…” The tongue is very important; we tried to teach and model: “Show honor to all people,”—no matter what struggle they may be going through—but especially your own children: “Do they feel honored in their own home?”
Now, I know some of you are like: “Yes, but I’ve got to speak the truth! I’ve got to tell them how they’ve missed it.” Yes, you do; yes, you do. That’s an important part of being an adult and a parent. You have to honor them by speaking the truth at times. Let me tell you something—you know this—if you’re always speaking negative, negative, negative, and then you bring another negative, it doesn’t land; but if you’re speaking positive—life, affirmation, respect—because you’re saying stuff to them nobody’s saying to them: “You’re great,” “You’re great, “You’ve got an amazing future!” “I love you,” “I see you,” “I cherish you,”—and then you bring truth—they’ll receive it much better [than] if you’re never doing it [showing honor].
Do you hear me? That’s what honor looks like! They feel this almost all the time: “Oh, you’re awesome! You’re incredible.” I could tell you story after story of my wife doing that with these guys. And I’m thinking they’ll remember this like: “Honor, honor, honor.”
Okay, so the first one: “Honor God”; the second one, “Honor each other”; and final: “Honor your neighbor.” What does that mean? It’s really a big picture. I don’t have time to develop this—it’s a whole other series—but God didn’t institute your family just for you to be self-focused and be all about you. He instituted your family—here’s the big picture—your family is a vehicle God instituted to take the gospel through you and your legacy and your generations to the world; do you get it? It’s much bigger than you. It’s not even about you! It’s about you impacting the world through what God does through the parents.
We’re a first-generation Christian family. My parents weren’t Christians; Ann’s [parents weren’t.] We’re the starters of a new legacy, and here’s the next generation; they’ve got to continue it. That’s God’s design: “Have children, that are not just children, but a godly legacy that will impact the world.”
But let me just close with this, because the beauty of the family—and again, it is so hard and so messed up—and sometimes/some of you are sitting here, like man, you’ve been so hurt by your family that you can’t even think about how you would honor your family. A woman came up to me, right at the front door after the first service, and she said, “I’ve just got to say this to you.” And I was like, “What?” I’m like, “Oh, no,”—you know, when they say it like that, it’s like, “Here comes the critique,”—she goes, “Twelve years ago, you shared a message about family, and it had some of the similar idea of honoring your family.” She said, “I was sitting there, thinking, ‘I have grown up in the worst family ever.’” She was in tears, saying to me, “Every day of my life, my dad said, ‘You’re no good,’ every day! And you’re up there saying, ‘You need to honor your family.’”
She said, “You made one comment I’ve never forgotten; and I think it saved my life.” I said, “What did I say?” She said, “One of the ways you can honor a family that’s been really difficult is you need to choose to forgive that family.” She goes, “That day, I said, ‘Okay, I’m going to start that journey.’” She has since forgiven. She goes, “It freed me from the past to the present; and now, as a mom, to a new legacy.”
So some of you, that might be the way to start—the way to bend the knee—and again, you can’t do this without the power of God. Ask God: “God, give me the power to honor somebody who doesn’t deserve it.” You don’t love them; you don’t even like them—it doesn’t matter—honor is: “Ohh! I’m going to honor them and break free to a new future.”
Ann: We’ve been listening today—and Dave, you gave this sermon back in 2019—you ended in a place that’s like, “Oh, man! This is hard,” because you ended with forgiveness.
Dave: Yes; and the amazing thing is I didn’t plan to end there.
Dave: This woman came up to me after the first service; we do three services on Sunday. I don’t even remember the message she’s referring to years before, but I do know this. I had to do the same thing to my biological family: forgive my dad for leaving; forgive my mom. I mean, we all have things in our family that are not perfect/that are hurtful. And we have to make a choice to forgive.
If we don’t, it’s very difficult to change the legacy for our family, like now that we’re parents. I don’t think we could have raised our boys the way we did—again, not perfectly—but if I had never broken free from the bitterness and resentment I had toward my parents, I would have never been able to be the dad that my kids needed.
Ann: Well, I remember what you were like before you forgave them: you had anger issues; there was a bitterness to you every time the name of your family would come up. You struggled with that. I see you now, and because of your forgiveness, you have been set free. Now, you’re free to continue a new legacy instead of continuing an old legacy that was kind of/it was just a really hard legacy.
Dave: Yes; and I know there are families—there are husbands; there are wives; moms and dads—listening right now, maybe children, who are carrying what I carried;—
Dave: —you know?
Ann: And they feel like, “My family—if you knew what happened to me, you’d realize—
Ann: —“They don’t deserve to be forgiven.”
Dave: And they don’t! And you and I don’t deserve to be forgiven either by Jesus, and we are. It’s an amazing gift that we are forgiven. As forgiven people, we have a choice to forgive people. I mean, the biggest place to start—and maybe the hardest—is to start with your family. I mean, that wound is deep. We said it earlier, but it’s emotional. I know, because I felt it; but I also know, I’m free because I forgave my dad.
Ann: Yes, and you can see that freedom.
And let me add this: I think many of us need to receive the forgiveness that Jesus offers us. Maybe we’ve done things that have injured our family—we’ve hurt our kids; we’ve hurt our spouse—and I think we’re plagued with this shame and self-hatred. Jesus set us free and has forgiven us. We need to receive that forgiveness and let ourselves go free.
Dave: Yes, and I would maybe add this: “If this message has touched your life, maybe there’s somebody else who needs to hear it as well;—
Dave: —“it’s one of those that you could send them the link and let God work in their family as well.”
At the end of the day, if we could live out what today was all about—honor—
Dave: —honor God first; honor your family or your spouse second; and then, honor others. I’m telling you: you’re going to produce a family that others want to be around.
Ann: —not perfect.
Dave: Oh, no!—not perfect—but man, honor is a magnet; it draws people to you. They want to know how you can honor and how you can live in forgiveness. And you get to point them to the Author, who is God Himself.
Bob: As Dave was talking about sharing a link of this message with others, I was thinking about people I know who would benefit from hearing what Dave and Ann shared today. We’ve got the link he was talking about on our website at FamilyLifeToday.com. In fact, FamilyLife Today is available on-demand as a podcast. If you’re a regular podcast listener, spread the word about FamilyLife Today to other people you know who might benefit from hearing this program. And one of the best things you can do for us is to leave feedback about the podcast; it helps spread the word. So podcast listeners, do that if you will. If you want to share the link for today’s program with somebody, go FamilyLifeToday.com, and the link is available there.
You’ll also find information about Dave and Ann’s books, which are called Vertical Marriage and No Perfect Parents. These are wonderful books about marriage and parenting that you can read for yourself or pass along as gifts to others. You can order the books from us online at FamilyLifeToday.com, or call 1-800-FL-TODAY to get a copy of the book. Again, the website is FamilyLifeToday.com. The number to call if you’d like to order either of the books from the Wilsons is 1-800-358-6329; that’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”
Now, we have got a big weekend happening here at FamilyLife. We’ve got thousands of couples who will be joining us for a Weekend to Remember® getaway in Sioux Falls, South Dakota; in Irving, Texas, just outside Dallas; in Monterey, California; South Padre Island in Texas; Coeur d’Alene, Idaho; Estes Park, Colorado.
David Robbins, who’s the president of FamilyLife, is here with me today. David, these weekends away for couples are so transformative/so revolutionary in the lives of all of the coupes who attend.
David: Yes; we know the challenges that have been on marriages through this pandemic, and we’re seeing Weekends to Remember produce a ton of fruit: of God meeting people in their time of need and in wedges they feel in their own personal lives, with their spouse. I just want to take a moment, as Bob said, to ask you to pray. This is a spiritual work. You know, we can present God’s timeless truth; but God is the One who allows hearts to be soft in order to receive what He wants to do in a couple’s life.
Would you take a moment right now and pray that God would work mightily in the truly thousands of people who are coming to these getaways this weekend? Would you ask that God would meet people and show them their need for Jesus, and to work mightily to meet them in their time of need?
Bob: And if you’d like to find out more about our Weekend to Remember marriage getaways, go to our website, FamilyLifeToday.com; the information is available there. And to those of you who support the ministry of FamilyLife, you’re the ones who make these getaways possible for other couples; so thank you for your investment in their lives and in their marriages. We are grateful, and we appreciate you.
And we hope you have a great weekend! Hope you and your family are able to worship together in your local church this weekend. We hope you can join us on Monday when we’re going to talk about some of the issues that are pressing against the faith of our teenagers and our young adults. Rebecca McLaughlin is going to join us to talk about answers to the questions about faith and life that most young people are grappling with today. We hope you can be here for that conversation.
On behalf of our hosts, Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Bob Lepine. Have a great weekend. We’ll see you back Monday for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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