Mama Bear Special: How to Support Your Wife in the Way She’s Made
About the Guest
Wondering how to support your wife in the way she’s made? John & Hillary Ferrer talk about their path as John empowered her to launch Mama Bear Apologetics.
Mama Bear Special: How to Support Your Wife in the Way She’s Made
John: I think part of what it means to be heard is to be seen and to be valued. When you see them and value who they are, then those little acknowledgements that you’re hearing them, they mean so much more. But if someone’s just nodding saying, “Yes, yes, I hear you. Sure thing, right away,” it doesn’t sound like you’re really hearing them even if they’re listening.
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.
Dave: We’ve been talking this week with Hillary Ferrer. She’s the Momma Bear Apologetics woman. She helps us answer questions that our kids are asking about God. It’s been some great programs. If you missed them, go onto our FamilyLife Podcast Network and download those and listen to them.
But today we wanted to do something a little different with her and actually her husband, as well.
Ann: Yes, it’s fun because Hillary’s husband, John, has come into the studio with us, and this is a topic that’s really close to my heart, what we’re going to talk about today. It’s about women feeling heard and what that really means.
You guys, I wanted to bring you in and first ask you, Hillary, just as a woman, can you think of a time in your life that that was hard for you because you felt like, “I am not being heard”?
Hillary: Yes, naturally if I’m not being heard, I will just talk louder—[Laughter]—until I’m heard.
Ann: I think that’s common for women, too; like, “Someone hear me!”
Dave: John, is that true? You’re over there smiling.
John: Hillary’s a unique individual. [Laughter]
Hillary: A delicate desert flower—well I guess I am that, too, but a wall flower.
John: I think from an early age, your dad heard you and that helped you feel heard from early on. That really does change the trajectory of your whole life.
Dave: What did that look like? What does that mean: “Your dad heard you”?
Hillary: One of the things that I noticed when I was a kid is I was aware when people were treating me like a child. It’s one of those things where I even remember having a crush on a boy when I was in kindergarten or preschool, but I didn’t like the way he sat because I thought it looked childish. [Laughter] I know, a four-year-old should not be thinking this.
Ann: You do have an old soul like that.
Hillary: Yes. I remember when I would play with my friends, I thought we were playing like kids.
Ann: And you didn’t like it?
Hillary: Well, no, it’s like I thought, “This is just how kids are supposed to play but this isn’t actually who I am.” I look at kids that age now and I’m like, “No, they’re actually acting like that because that’s who they are.” But at the time—I don’t know.
My dad, he took what I said seriously/he wanted to hear my thoughts. I’ve talked to him about this later on that he could tell that when I asked a question, it was coming from a long list of other questions that I’d already—like I understood how A went to B and B went to C and C went to D, but I couldn’t understand how E went to F. That’s where my question would come in. He could see that whole progression of thought before him.
He really would thoughtfully answer my questions/treat me like I had important thoughts.
Ann: He heard you.
Hillary: Yes, he did. He treated me with the unique giftings that I had and didn’t mind me asking questions. Not only did he not mind me asking questions; he encouraged me to ask more questions. Even now he’s still like this. John will always joke about when he’s out to dinner with us, if one of us had a question, it’s just a shot in the dark who’s going to whip out their phone first to try to find the answer to it because we’re just/we’re question askers/we’re interested in the same things.
I think he made me feel very heard and like my thoughts were important. But I remember this was not the case with my peers. I never felt heard by my peers. In fact, I think I distinctly felt rejected by my peers. Because, number one, a lot of them weren’t thinking or asking the same questions as I was. But there was something about me that, especially girls, tended to reject.
I remember I was a cheerleader and we’d be having some problem—like a stunt or something like that or choreography—and I would say, “Hey, guys, what about this? What about this? What about this?” It’s like no one would hear until the really pretty popular one would say it and everybody’s like, “That’s a great idea!” and I’m like, “Yes, that would have been great if we’d listened to me ten minutes ago.” [Laughter]
But I just grew up knowing that probably girls didn’t hear me and people my age didn’t hear me. It wasn’t until I got to college when I started interacting with people who were choosing to be in that conversation.
Ann: What did that feel like with your peers? That’s quite a while.
Hillary: That there’s something different and that there was something wrong with me and I needed to keep myself in check because who I was was annoying, and I didn’t want to be annoying to people. There was something about who I was that was wrong.
The LGBT machine, or whatever you want to call it, has capitalized on this idea of kids feeling out of sync: number one, with their gender; number two, with their peers, and saying, “If this is how you’re feeling, we have the answer for you.”
What would I have done when I was young, if someone said, “If you feel like this, there’s a whole group of us that feel this way and we have the solution for where you can fit in”? It’s very possible that I could have gone down that road.
But I think a lot more people than we even recognize/I think even sometimes the pretty and popular girls feel unheard and unseen because who knows if who they are portraying is the real person.
Ann: I think in my life, I felt like my dad didn’t hear me. Being the youngest of four, I felt like my brothers were certainly heard. But I was trying to get my dad’s attention and trying to perform so he would hear me or see me.
Maybe I felt like my peers heard me but to have that gaping wound of my dad never hearing me—it’s interesting that we both had it in different places, but the result was the same/kind of that “What’s wrong with me that I’m not being heard?” That’s hard.
Tell me about when you really felt like, “God hears me.” I’m thinking of Psalm 34:17 that says, “The righteous cry out and the Lord hears them. He delivers them from all their troubles.”
Hillary: I think one particular time when I knew the Lord just didn’t hear me, but He was really making a point to say, “I see you and everything that’s about to happen is with My knowledge; it’s not because I’ve forgotten you.” That was before I was diagnosed with cancer, which was back in 2010.
I had been having pain for about a year and didn’t know where it was coming from. As it got worse and worse, I remember at this one point before I started having some of the tests that finally did reveal what was going on, every little, tiny prayer I prayed, the Lord answered.
It was stuff like, “I need a parking space please,” because I just didn’t feel well enough to walk in somewhere. At the time, I worked as a teacher and in the summer times I tutored so I was just like, “I can’t do this today; I need them to cancel,” and they would cancel. Or I had previously been a photographer and “I have this photo shoot that I’m supposed to do. Please let them cancel.” And it would rain.
Ann: What did that feel like?
Hillary: That felt like the Lord getting my attention, saying, “Whatever you’re about to walk through is under My full knowledge. Because I think suffering, knowing that the Lord is walking through it with you, is different than suffering and feeling like it’s because the Lord’s like, “Oh, I didn’t realize what was going in there. Hold on; let Me….”
He was completely in control of it, and He wanted to get my attention to show me, “I am listening to you right now.”
That was one of the things that gave me peace so that when that diagnosis of cancer did come down, instead of it being this bomb that rocked my world, it was more like I saw a tornado from really far away and I was just starting to strap myself in and be like, “Okay, it’s about to get bumpy. Let’s prepare for it,” and then when it comes, you’re like, “Yes, this is what I prepared for.”
I felt really blessed that He kind of gave me a head’s up. It might have been because I was listening for that.
Ann: Oh yes.
Hillary: I don’t know if my experience is different than other people’s or why but that was a time that I felt like the Lord was getting my attention.
Ann: We talked about, a little bit, how many times in marriage women don’t feel heard, and that honestly, for us, one of the loneliest times for me was in our marriage. I’ve heard other women say that, as well.
But you did not say that.
Hillary: I’m the opposite.
Ann: Yes, talk about that.
Hillary: I like to tell my husband that verse that talks about “Husband’s live with your wives in understanding.” That’s what your PhD should be in. [Laughter]
Ann: Yes, give John’s background a little bit. Let’s just brag on him.
Hillary: Yes, I had forgotten about my love of apologetics before we got married, and so when he and I first started interacting, it kind of sparked that love again. I think he could see everything—all of this ministry that I’m doing now is probably more of a surprise to me than it is to him because he saw this in me back when we were dating.
Dave: How long ago?
Ann: They’ve been 15 years.
Hillary: Yes, 2006.
John: Our first date was an apologetics conference. [Laughter]
Hillary: —William Lane Craig, “God, Time and the Cosmological Argument.”
Dave: I mean you really went to a—I thought you were talking about your conversation. You went to a—
John: We went to an apologetics conference—
Hillary: —as our first date.
John: —as our first date. But we lived on opposite sides of the country. I was in South Carolina at the time, having just finished up or about to finish up my Master of Divinity at Southern Evangelical Seminary, and she was in California. So we weren’t going to happen across each other at a coffee shop in, I don’t know, Missouri or whatever. We couldn’t meet in the middle there, so we had to meet online. That’s a big risk.
Anybody who’s dated before knows that distance relationships, where you haven’t met in person, there’s a big risk. But we got to see each other’s writing and our minds mingled before we ever met in person. I fell in love with her that way.
Ann: John, you have your M.Div.; you have your PhD. You both love learning; you love apologetics; you love Scripture/theology. You saw that part of Hillary and you wanted to pull that out.
John: I think part of what it means to be heard is to be seen and to be valued. When you see them and value who they are, then those little acknowledgements that you’re hearing them, they mean so much more.
But if someone’s just nodding saying, “Yes, yes, I hear you. Sure thing, right away,” it doesn’t sound like you’re really hearing them even if you’re listening. You might distinguish between hearing and listening/something like that, but as a husband, part of what I can do to really hear Hillary is to acknowledge that I see her—I see where she’s at/I see where she’s coming from, and I value who she is and where she’s at—
Hillary: —and what I’m good at.
Hillary: You were able to pull out things. I like people to know that John basically was in grad school for 12 years to do what I’m doing now. An M.Div. is a pretty—I mean that’s 120-hour program.
John: Some of them are shorter.
Hillary: Some of them are shorter. His was 120 graduate level hours onto a Th.M. and then onto a PhD. I was all prepared to be the little wifey pooh that was following him around to apologetics conferences and the professor’s wife having the kids over after class for worldview discussions and all that stuff.
But because once I got cancer, all our employment decisions revolved around who had healthcare. When all the professor jobs went to adjuncts that didn’t have healthcare, he had to sacrifice basically his academic trajectory in order to be at a job that would provide me healthcare to the point of where my now Dr. John/Dr. Ferrer is working on a manufacturing line making windows and now doors supporting me and to not make me feel guilty for basically doing this ministry and doing whatever. He always talked about [Inaudible].
John: Going into marriage our conversations back and forth/part of how nerds have romance is we talk about what biblical masculinity/femininity look like. We talk about our theology of marriage, and we worked through some of this stuff beforehand to make sure—
Ann: Were you in agreement?
Hillary: Okay, I have to say that our fights are different than most couples. We don’t fight a lot. But this week one of our big fights was how to chart the ideas in the book of like the flow chart. [Laughter]
John: —how to script out a worldview chart.
Hillary: —how to script out a worldview chart; that’s our big argument.
Dave: That’s your argument/marital conflict, okay.
Hillary: I think, what were some of the other ones I had?
John: Divine impassibility.
Hillary: Divine impassibility; that’s the other one that we just don’t even get in that conversation anymore. [Laughter]
John: But we recognize that everybody has to figure out what their marriage is going to look like beneath the glory of God. I see Hillary and going into marriage I knew, “She’s my garden, and whatever public ministry I may have, if I fail at home, I’ve failed.”
My first and foremost job as a husband is to make sure that my garden flourishes and to invest and bless her. Seeing her as someone to cultivate and see her ministry flourish, that’s a blessing to me. We’re on the same team. It’s us against the world when it comes down to it.
Hillary: That’s something he says to me all the time is if we’re frustrated with each other and he’ll just be, “We’re on the same team, Hill. We’re on the same team.”
Dave: I’m sitting here looking at you, John, thinking, “Here’s a dude with a PhD, like you said, twelve years of graduate school and you’re not telling anybody that. You’re not jumping in front of Hillary going, “Hey, hey, hey, by the way….”
Ann: You didn’t say, “I’m Dr. John Ferrer,” today.
John: Well, people start acting weird around me when I say I’m a doctor. [Laughter] Some of them want to show me some rash and ask me if it’s normal. [Laughter] Then I have to clarify, “Okay, not that kind of doctor.” But once they realize that I’ve got this ministry training and I’ve got this theological training, they change their language/they change their body language/they start acting fake around me and I don’t get to meet the real person then.
John: Not to mention there’s a higher standard of expectations. They expect me never to do stupid stuff. [Laughter] Even if you’ve got a PhD, you still forget where you leave your keys every once in a while.
Dave: Let me ask you this: When you watch Hillary thrive in what God’s given her and created in her and through her in Mamma Bear Apologetics and her ministry, what does that do to you?
John: When my garden flourishes, I consider that an honor to the gardener. I look at what Hillary does, and I’m reminded of one of these lessons within the Henry Blackaby’s Experiencing God series that I did back in high school: “Find where God is working and join Him there.”
I’ve tried to do different kinds of ministry things: you know writing, speaking, debates, preaching, teaching, all sorts of different things, and God has blessed that, but nothing like what I’ve seen here/nothing like what I’ve seen with Momma Bear. There’s a real need there. She’s not just doing something that she enjoys; she’s addressing a very thirsty ground with life-giving water.
Ann: For sure.
John: There’s a lot of women out there who felt marginalized in the whole apologetics community in thus disempowered when it comes to training up their kids. But when she says, “Momma Bear Apologetics,” it’s like a light goes off. They get it because they recognize, “Oh, I’m defending the faith by defending my family.”
You don’t have to revert to football and military analogies all the time and go into stereotypically masculine framing for it all to do apologetics. You can do apologetics in a deeply feminine way because there’s nothing so feminine and yet fierce as a momma bear protecting her cubs.
That’s not a compromise of her femininity; that’s an exercise of it. She’s been able to develop that concept and to unleash it into the world. I think part of it is because I can be by her side, and she can run an idea by me. We can interact over this stuff and she’s that much more empowered because of that.
Ann: It reminds me of when we were with Howard Hendricks’ wife, Jeannie. He was a Dallas professor. He had this big personality. Jeannie was a little more quiet. Somebody said, “Jeannie, what is it like to be married to Howard when he’s so big? Do you ever feel lost, and do you ever feel forgotten, or do you feel like you’ve lost your voice?”
She’s just calm and cool and she goes, “Oh, girls, girls, I know something about Howard that nobody knows.” We’re all like, “Tell us.” [Laughter] We’re on the edge of our seats.
John: A juicy bit of gossip here.
Ann: “Here it comes.” [Laughter] She goes, “Howard would be nothing without me.”
And we’re all like, “Yes! That’s so true!”
John what you’re saying is the same thing; like, “I’m the wind beneath those—
Hillary: I’ll say it.
Hillary: I will say it. This ministry would not have gone anywhere without John.
First, I thought, “Well, it will be a blog and maybe we’ll do some podcasts.” I did not feel confident enough to even post anything because I thought, “As soon as I post someone’s going to poke a hole in the logic, and say, ‘Well, you haven’t thought about this.’” But knowing that John had the background that he has, I would run everything I wrote by him.
I never thought I was going to have original thoughts. I even thought, “Well, I guess my goal is going to be to present the same things that everybody else is presenting but just presenting it for moms.”
Ann: Hillary, your podcast is at the top. You are doing so well. [Laughter]
Hillary: That’s amazing considering that we didn’t record at all last year so that’s just a testament that the Lord is working in this. Having John be able to be that second set of eyes/educated set of eyes, knowing that if I’m saying something stupid that someone else has already said and some 13th century philosopher already addressed this, he’ll know about it.
I would run it by him and put it on there. But it got to the point where I realized I was saying things that he hadn’t heard anyone else say. For the first time I thought, “Maybe I do have original thoughts.” The way that I piece together information is different than the way other people have, which right there is how maybe I’ve had a disconnect with some of my peers because it is a different way.
Ann: And you’re funny; you’re funny when you do it.
Hillary: Well, thanks.
John: Speaking of being heard, you’ve got a unique voice, and I don’t know that you realized early on that what you offered was different from what’s out there.
Hillary: I don’t think I did but he did.
John: You’re doing practical apologetics and I’ve read a lot of apologetics. I’ve interacted with a lot of apologists. I’ve been at events in the green room talking with folks who are coming up next, so I get to interact with this stuff.
For the most part—there’s few exceptions—but for the most part, they weren’t doing practical apologetics. They weren’t equipping lay people/normal people who don’t have advanced degrees. They aren’t necessarily equipping them to do this with folks who aren’t also educated. They are for the most part saying, “Here’s some of the arguments; Here’s some of the evidence. Go do with it what you will.”
But there wasn’t that layman’s learner that’s communicating how to go apply this stuff.
Ann: John, talk to the husband whose wife has told him over and over, “You don’t hear me. You don’t see me. I’m not a priority to you.” How would you encourage him to be able to be there for his wife?
Shelby: That’s Dave and Ann Wilson with Hillary Morgan Ferrer and John Ferrer on FamilyLife Today.
We’re going to hear John’s response in just a second; but first, as a listener at FamilyLife Today, you have heard many stories of how God can do amazing work even in the toughest marriages. The amazing thing is that God chooses to use people just like you to help.
One way you can make an impact for more marriages and families is by financially partnering with FamilyLife Today. All this week, as our thanks for your partnership, we want to send you a copy of Hillary Ferrer’s book as our thanks. It’s called Momma Bear Apologetics.
You can get your copy when you give this week at FamilyLifeToday.com, or you can call us with your donation at 800-358-6329. That’s 800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”
Alright, now back to Dave and Ann’s conversation with Hillary and John Ferrer and how a husband can engage and be there for his wife.
John: It’s not a bad idea to every once in a while, just say, “I see you,” and pause, and literally, consciously see her where she’s at. Tell her one or two things in your own words that she just told you, communicating that you’ve heard her. Then identify one or two things that are valuable about her to you.
Ann: I’m telling you guys, just [if] a guy does that/husband does that she’ll probably cry. [With emotion]
Dave: Ann is tearing up.
Ann: I am tearing up.
Dave: But you know what that says, she’s married to a guy who hasn’t done a good job of that.
Ann: No, you do do that now.
Dave: Yes, now.
Hillary: And also learning how to ask for it because I think a lot of times women don’t—
John: She makes it easy, by the way. [Laughter] She literally will say, “Tell me ten different ways that you love me.”
Hillary: Yes, I will. I will say that if I’m having a particularly insecure day I’ll ask him, “Tell me ten—why you love me in ten different ways,” or—
Ann: That’s so sweet.
Hillary: —“What are some things that this is why you’re glad that you married me?” Of course, I’ll do it back to him if he asks but a lot of times, honestly, it’s just me asking because I’m having an insecure day—
Ann: —as we all do.
Hillary: —as we all do. He will sit there, and he will think. He won’t just rattle off something stupid. He will really sit there and think, “Okay, what’s a new way that I can say this.”
Dave: This is really rare.
Ann: Isn’t it. That’s what I was going to say, Dave.
Dave: I’m thinking that. I don’t know; you know better because you work with so many women.
She has a Heard Women’s Night once a month up in Michigan. It sells out in five minutes. I was at the last one playing guitar in the band. The band never left the stage. We just did music through the whole night.
I got to sit there in a room full of women and listen. I was shocked at, I didn’t hear this/I didn’t hear women saying, “I feel seen and heard.” I heard the opposite. They weren’t lamenting as much as going, “Here’s my story.”
The story was a lot of guys like me and others that just are so focused on themselves and their life, they just put their woman or even their daughter or their mom to the side; like, “You’re not as important as me.” They don’t even realize they’re doing it. I did it for a while.
But to sit here and listen to you, it’s so refreshing to think, “Wow, this is rare!” It shouldn’t be rare. I’m hoping women that are listening are going to think, “I am seen, first of all by God. He sees me.”
Ann: I was going to say, Dave, that’s the theme of our nights together with women is “You are seen/you are heard by the God of the universe that created you/that knows you/that knows every cell in your body, and He celebrates you.
Shelby: You’ve been listening to Dave and Ann Wilson with Hillary Morgan Ferrer and her husband, John, on FamilyLife Today.
Hillary’s book is called Momma Bear Apologetics: Empowering Your Kids to Challenge Cultural Lies. You can get your copy when you give this week at FamilyLifeToday.com.
You know miscarriage is often seen as something women suffer from. But what about the men? Eric Shumaker will be joining Dave and Ann Wilson next week to address just that.
I hope you have a great weekend and get to worship at your local church.
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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