Marriage, It Takes Two Players
About the Guest
Former NFL quarterback Jeff Kemp says we live in a me-centric consumer culture. So what happens when that world-view bumps up against the reality of self sacrificing marriage. Lessons on Biblical marriage, from Jeff and Stacy Kemp.
Jeff KempJeff is dedicated to strengthening families and strengthening teams. He is passionate about advancing collaboration to support marriages, families and children. In 2012 Jeff joined FamilyLife as Vice President and Catalyst for Helping Others. FamilyLife is a national ministry leader in marriage conferences, radio outreach and empowering resources to heal and strengthen families. Jeff founded and led Stronger Families in the Pacific Northwest from 1993 to 2010. Stronger Families united communitie...more
What happens when a me-centric culture bumps up against the reality of self sacrificing marriage?
Marriage, It Takes Two Players
Bob: To build teamwork in marriage, you don’t have to be the same people. In fact, what you need is to be different people who are on the same team. Here are Jeff and Stacy Kemp.
Stacy: As soon as we started living together, after being married, it was very apparent that we were opposite in just every way! Jeff is an extrovert—recharges by being with people. I am an extreme introvert—I recharge by being alone. If we’re both exhausted, he wants to go do something to recharge; and I just want to go do nothing to recharge.
Every way like that—just extreme differences—except, we do share one category—and that is we are both incredibly dominant. I’m a 99.
Jeff: I’m a 97. That really bugs me because I’m competitive, and she beat me. [Laughter]
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Friday, June 28th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. How do two competitive, dominant, different people make a marriage work? We’ll hear some thoughts on that today. Stay tuned.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us on the Friday edition. I have a confession I need to make to you.
Dennis: Here, on national radio?
Bob: Yes. Um-m—
Dennis: This is bad for the reputation.
Bob: Do you remember, back in February, when we had the Love Like You Mean It® marriage cruise; right?
Bob: And you know that the days on the cruise are long days; right? They go—
Dennis: Well, for those of us who are working, we’re working from sun-up to beyond sun-down.
Bob: Yes, but even for those who are cruising—by the time the sessions are over, in the evening, then you have the bonus session—you have a concert that’s going to happen.
Dennis: Ballroom dancing—you have comedians.
Bob: You have all kinds of things going on. So, it could be midnight or even later before you wind up back at your cabin and headed off to bed. One of the things we have, on the Love Like You Mean It marriage cruise, is a morning devotion for couples—where you can get up, and you can kind of start your day with a spiritual direction.
Dennis: Let me guess what your confession is. Having worked with you, here, for 20 years—[Laughter]
Bob: You have it figured out; don’t you?
Dennis: Folks, he didn’t go. I’m telling you. There is no way he went!
Bob: I was not at—I did not.
Dennis: But Keith—
Bob: Keith Lynch was there.
Dennis: Keith was there. Why were you there, Keith?—because you engineered the sound?
Bob: He had to record it for us. [Laughter] I’m grateful that he did because now I can hear what Jeff and Stacy Kemp shared with the audience. In fact, I’ll pay particular attention today as we give our listeners an opportunity to hear how one of our days, onboard the Love Like You Mean It marriage cruise, started for some of our guests. Others of us were still preparing for the day.
Dennis: I would say there were 400 or 500 people in there; but anyway, it’s just a lot of fun. In fact, we’re coming up on a deadline—aren’t we?—where folks need to take advantage of signing up now.
Bob: We are, yes. Next week, the rate for the cruise is going to increase. So, folks who’d like to go with us—we’re about 60 percent booked for the cruise for next Valentine’s week—that’s February 10th through the 14th. We’ll be leaving from Miami—coming back to Miami.
Dennis: It ought to be illegal. [Laughter] We have so much fun—it ought to be illegal. I mean, the content that we offer is really a wide spectrum—from comedians to couples like Jeff and Stacy Kemp. Jeff was a former NFL all-pro quarterback, at least that’s what he told me, at one point. [Laughter] Jeff spoke—and people really liked what they had to say because they’re real people who shared out of their lives.
Bob: Okay, I’ve been looking forward to this. So, let’s listen, together, now—
Dennis: Now, Jeff knows that you weren’t there.
Bob: —as we hear what Jeff and Stacy Kemp shared, for couples, at the morning devotion on the Love Like You Mean It marriage cruise, back, in February.
Jeff: It was about—let’s see—14 years or so ago—our son, Keegan, was five years old. We were in the hallway—Stacy and I. We were having a dialogue—somewhat of a disagreement. Things were not exactly going perfectly in this dialogue. You could tell how different we were because we were just saying things differently—kind of frustrated with one another—a little bit.
Our five-year-old son could figure it out pretty quickly. So, Keegan—hearing his mom and dad having this dialogue, that’s friction-oriented and disagreeing—goes, “Daddy, you guys are too different to be married.” I’m thinking: “Wow! This is a teachable moment. I’d better come up with something here.” So, I got down on my knee. I said: “No, no, no, Keegan. Mommy and Daddy are married because we are so different. You see, God needs two differents to come together to become a team.”
Now, I used to play football. All of my boys play football. So, football is kind of the common word picture in our family. I said: “No, listen, Keegan. Imagine, that in football, what if a running back didn’t have an offensive lineman? He’d be in trouble. The lineman is great big and strong; but the running back is small, and quick, and darts. So, they need each other.
“And quarterbacks—we would be no good without receivers to catch—but we’re very different. They’re fast, and can jump, and leap, and catch; and we’re not as fast but can throw. So, we need different people to come together to make a team. You don’t need to worry. In marriage, God has brought us together to make us a team—even a mommy and a daddy—as a man and a woman are very different—and we have God to glue us together.” His brain starts churning on this one—thinking about his mom and dad. He says, “Well, Dad, with you guys, it’s going to take Crazy Glue.” [Laughter]
Stacy: We met back in 1981 and quickly found that we had a lot of shared interests. We like to snow ski, we like to play tennis, we shared values, we both love the Lord and love family, and thought this was great. We ended up getting married in March of 1983. It didn’t take very long for us to realize that, while we had some common interests and shared values, everything else about us was radically different.
As soon as we started living together, after being married, it was very apparent that we were opposite—in just every way—and not just a little bit—but to extremes. Jeff is an extrovert—recharges by being with people. I am an extreme introvert—and I recharge by being alone. I like to read, and play games, and watch movies; and he likes to be out doing things—active.
If we’re both exhausted, he wants to go do something to recharge; and I just want to go do nothing to recharge. He is very subjective—he’s a feeler. I’m very objective—black and white, factual—more like a man, actually. Every way, like that—just extreme differences—except, we do share one category—and that is we are both incredibly dominant. I’m a 99—
Jeff: I’m a 97. That really bugs me because I’m competitive, and she beat me. [Laughter]
Stacy: So needless to say, we started out our marriage and had a lot of difficulties. The one thing we had going for us, outside of Christ, was the fact that we were committed. We knew that we were there—we would not divorce—and we were committed, but it wasn’t a whole lot of fun. But thankfully, we had friends that got us to a marriage conference. We began learning, and gaining tools, and everything.
I think the verses that really helped us a lot was just the fact, in Romans 8:28 and 29: “We know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God and are called according to His purpose”—which, we needed to make His purpose our purpose. And also in 29, it goes on to say, “For those He foreknew He predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son.” God wants us to be more like Jesus Christ. Marriage is a great way that He can use to do that if we will allow Him to do so.
Jeff: So, that’s really the center of our message this morning: “All things work together for good for those who love God and who are called according to His purpose.” When we wonder what our purpose is, we can just remember that His purpose is for us to get conformed to the image of Jesus Christ—for our personalities to become more and more like Him. Everything that happens in our lives is an opportunity for Him to reshape us to be less selfish and more loving, to be less prideful and to be more humble, to be less self-oriented and more oriented about the other.
This helps a lot when you get into those tough spots in marriage. You realize: “Wow! This isn’t just that we didn’t match up well, or I got a raw deal by marrying this person. No, this is God’s appointed crucible—if you will—to melt me down, and purify me, and take away a bunch of my selfishness and yuckiness—to make me more like Jesus.”
Now, I remember a certain point in our marriage, where these little frictions of ours happened frequently. I kind of whined, in my spirit, about it. I would not really change myself as much as think: “I wish she was different or our marriage was easier.” It was very much of a consumer attitude, rather than an investor attitude. I wanted to get the best deal out of this marriage and frustrated that it wasn’t going well. But Romans 8:28 and 29 kind of hit me, at that point. It changed my perspective. I started to see our marital challenges—which God had appointed—to be used to help change us to be more like Him. He started to show me that those were part of what He wanted to help me conform to the image of Christ.
Just the other day, I had an example. I walked in. I’m very impulsive, as Stacy said. She was doing something on the computer, related to our son’s wedding. I just interrupted her and said, “Hey, look at this,” and I showed her these papers. I thought they were important. I kind of ignored her feelings and her situation. She was a little bit offended by me. She explained it to me. Once she started explaining it to me, I really didn’t agree with her much. I was just sitting there, kind of calm.
Stacy: No, you didn’t sit there kind of calm—not to correct you in front of everybody.
Jeff: Oh, after a while, I said something.
Stacy: You were like, “Oh, so like that’s important.” It was something really not nice.
Jeff: Then, she started to be kind of hyped up about it. I didn’t practice my Dennis Rainey or Bob Lepine sensitive husbanding skills. [Laughter] I said, “Don’t freak out!” Ooh!
Stacy: Which made me freak out! [Laughter]
Jeff: Those were bad words. [Laughter] Then, we went into it. My wife understands the Scriptures and explained them to me—how I should have treated her. [Laughter]
Stacy: Since I’m objective.
Jeff: Yes, I was not receiving the message super well; but I was, at least, buttoning my lip and just sitting there—kind of tolerating this explanation of how insensitive I was and how I had offended her. I remember that it just didn’t go well. All of a sudden, after it was finished, and I tried to say, “I’m sorry,”—but she could tell I wasn’t really all that sorry—and I wasn’t—
Stacy: He wasn’t.
Jeff: —terribly, terribly sorry. I went downstairs to have my quiet time. I said, “God, this situation I was just in has happened over, and over, and over in our marriage. Is there something You want to teach me about it?” In essence, I have a huge problem with empathy. I think I’m compassionate for the poor, and the underdog, and the needy; but when it comes to the most important person in my life—who, when I hurt her, she says something back that reflects poorly on me—I don’t like to feel that.
So, I’m not very empathetic, and I wasn’t appreciating her feelings. I said I was sorry, but I really didn’t have a deep passionate concern for her feelings. So, as I was just writing in this journal, God was revealing to me that: “This is an area that you have had a problem with for many, many years. It’s very not like Jesus. And if you want to be like Jesus, it would be great to set a goal to start changing in this area.”
I’m not going to claim that I’ve changed in the week since this quiet time, but Bob’s message last night included Colossians 3, verse 13, when he said you can’t just get rid of the bad stuff; right? You have to put something good in its place—which is why, when you confess your sins, then, you can say, “Holy Spirit, fill me up and take me over.” So, in this case, this verse clarifies what God was saying to me. In verse 12, it is, “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.” Compassion—that’s what He wants to have in me—I’m facing this situation with Stacy, where when my feelings are challenged by her saying, “You’ve hurt my feelings.” I don’t really empathize with her well, and I don’t have a lot of compassion.
I realized, in that quiet time, that since this has happened for 29 years, I must not be able to do this on my own. So, I finished my little four-page journal entry by saying: “God, this is an issue You raised. Please help me fix it through Your power.” So, I’m a work in progress. But this is just an example of Romans 8:29—that I need to be conformed to the image of Christ. This issue—that I was blind to, in my life—it didn’t come up with people at work. It didn’t come up with other folks. It came up with the most tender person, who also I feel most offended by, if she ever tells me that I hurt her feelings because I’m not as empathetic. I am pathetic, but I’m not that empathetic. [Laughter]
Any of you ever read a book called Sacred Marriage by Gary Thomas? In it, he has a classic line. He says, “What if God did not mean for marriage so much to make us happy as to make us holy?” What if He wanted us not to focus on happiness and our personal satisfaction but, actually, to focus on holiness?—which is what Romans 8:29 is talking about—conform to the image of Christ, and you’ll become holy. If you do that, the cool thing is—you become a better spouse. If you’re a better spouse, you treat your spouse better; and she has something much better to respond to than what I was giving her before. Pretty soon, I come a lot closer to happiness than I would have if I aimed at happiness—and became selfish—and ended up unholy and unhappy.
But if we aim at holiness—Christ-likeness—I’m not talking about religiosity or perfection—but the humility and the character of Christ. If we aim at that, then all of a sudden, we are going to be better in our relationships with people; and it leads to better happiness.
I have a friend named Jeremy—Jeremy Vallerand. He’s probably about 32 years old. A few years, I wrote to him when he was 29. I said, “Would you tell me what your generation thinks about marriage?” because I did a lot of speaking on marriage and I was curious about what Gen Y thinks. He said: “Our generation is the most marketed-to generation in the history of mankind, and we are consumers. We have been trained to be consumers. Everything in our lives is viewed through the prism—through the lens of consumerism. We’ve been told that, since you’re the consumer, you’re right; and you always should get what you want.”
But then, you move into marriage—a world where there are no quick fixes and no easy upgrades—and everything is counter to consumerism. But even in marriage, how often do we act like consumers?—thinking, “What am I getting from this?” as opposed to, “What am I putting into this relationship?”—which is more of the Christ-like Spirit.
As I said, my job, before I went into the non-profit world, was professional football. I was a quarterback. When they teach the quarterbacks and receivers, they take them into separate meeting rooms. In those separate meeting rooms they give them their assignments. One of the things they talk to the quarterbacks about is the standards of accuracy that they expect in the way they pass the ball.
Now, I played on the San Francisco 49ers. There was this pretty good guy ahead of me—that beat me out—named Joe Montana. I couldn’t understand that—until he won the Hall of Fame. But Joe Montana used to live up to what the coaches said. They said, “The expectation we have of you quarterbacks is that you will put the ball within a one-foot diameter of accuracy, right in front of the receiver—not below his waist, not above his shoulders, not behind him, and not too far out in front of him. We want it right here so he can catch the ball, turn upfield, get a first down, and perhaps, a score. Serve the receiver so he can continue to get yardage for the team.”
Guess what they were telling the receivers? “If you can touch it, you must catch it.” What are they teaching?—ultimate personal accountability to serve the other on the team; and sacrifice yourself so they get the best possible opportunity to succeed. That’s an investor mentality. They don’t tell the receivers, “Hey, did you know that quarterbacks are supposed to throw the ball within a one-foot diameter, right here, where it’s easy to catch, and you won’t get hit by anyone, and you can keep on running?” If that were the case, the receivers would run down the field—they’re looking for the ball—there’s a couple of safeties and linebackers coming after them—and the ball is thrown a little bit behind them, here. They might look and say: “I’ll wait for the next one. That doesn’t look so good.” [Laughter]
What if the quarterbacks were thinking, “The receivers are taught that—wherever you throw it—if they can touch, it they have to catch it”?So quarterbacks are like: “Geez! These guys are coming after me. I don’t want to stand in here and throw an accurate pass. I’ll just chuck it up somewhere close.” You would get the worst possible service of one to another, and the team would all fall apart.
So, let’s swing it around to marriage. Let’s swing it around to that consumer/investor mentality. Remember those words of John F. Kennedy, who said, “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.” That is the Christ-like attitude of selfless service to another person—investing in the relationship and in them—which, of course, is going to make you more conformed to the image of Christ because you have to lay down your self-interest to put someone else ahead of yourself. The cool thing about it is—when you do that, it makes your marriage better.
I want to kind of close—again, with the verses that we shared. Then, I’ll remind us about being investors, not consumers: “For we know that God works all things together for our good, for those who love God and are called according to His purpose.” Walk out of here, remembering that your purpose—having been predestined and called by God—is to be conformed to the image of Christ. That’s exactly where your marriage is a wonderful instrument for Him to do. Any of your challenges, difficult as they may be, are excellent, in God’s hands, to turn you into more and more the Jesus Christ-type person. That will be a better witness in the world, give you a better marriage, and give your kids a great testimony to look at.
Stacy: Let’s pray: “Lord, thank You that Your Word does not return void. Father, I ask that You help us to invest in our relationship, Lord, and that we would begin to see the returns on that investment—that we would be patient—knowing that, oftentimes, the returns on investments come down the road. Lord, we love You and praise You. In Christ’s name, Amen.
Jeff: Amen. Thanks for coming. Have an awesome day! [Applause]
Bob: Well, we’ve been listening, together, to Jeff and Stacy Kemp, as they started our day on—I think it was Tuesday, onboard the Love Like You Mean It marriage cruise, back in February. I can tell you—when Jeff said, “Have an awesome day!” I did, even though I wasn’t there to hear him say it that morning. [Laughter] But I’m glad I had a chance to hear what they were sharing. That was good stuff!
Dennis: Exactly; and the reason it’s good stuff is number one—it’s from the Scriptures—and number two—they’re authentic. They just talked about how real relationships can grow, over a lifetime together, and how it does get better, as Jeff was sharing there. I have a confession, too, Bob.
Bob: What’s that?
Dennis: I didn’t go, either. [Laughter]
Bob: You wait till now! You wait till now!
Dennis: I didn’t go either, and it really was a good devotional.
Bob: Yes, it was.
Dennis: And you know what? Here’s the thing. We start the mornings out with a good devotion like this. It really is just one of the little seeds that, biblically-speaking, we plant in people’s hearts. When couples get this stuff Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday—when they get into port on Friday morning—they have a spring in their step and have a fresh vision for their marriage and family.
Bob: And I think fresh is a great word because that’s really—you come on the Love Like You Mean It marriage cruise—and it’s not that you have anything wrong with your marriage—but there’s a freshness, you have at the end of the week, that you didn’t have when you got there.
Dennis: And a lot of folks come to build some healthy growth in their marriage relationship. If you come on the Love Like You Mean It cruise, I can almost guarantee it. I can’t because you have a choice—you have a choice.
Bob: Yes. But you can make some great memories, together, as a couple. We want to encourage listeners—today is the last day for the early-bird rates. If you want to have a week away together, in the middle of winter—Valentine’s week—a fun, relaxing, romantic week, where you can hear some great messages from guys like Dr. Gary Chapman, who is going to be joining us this year. Ron Deal is going to be doing a breakout session. Crawford and Karen Loritts are going to be with us. We’re going to have music from Laura Story, and Building 429, Nicole C. Mullen, Chris August, and others.
It’s going to be a great week away. Take advantage of the lower rates by calling us today; or going, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com. Click the button for the Love Like You Mean It marriage cruise. If you sign up today, our team has put together a little gift pack to welcome you aboard. You’ll get a gift card for dinner—50 bucks, where you can go out and have dinner on us—and a $25 gift card for the movies. We’ll pay for the date night if you’ll sign up, today, to be a part of the Love Like You Mean It marriage cruise next February.
Again, go to FamilyLifeToday.com and click on the link for the Love Like You Mean It marriage cruise for more information. Or sign up by calling 1-800-FL-TODAY: 1-800-358-6329. That’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then, the word, “TODAY”. Hope to see you onboard the cruise in February of 2014.
Finally, we want to say, “Thank you,” to those of you who make FamilyLife Today possible; and you know who you are. It’s those of you who, from time to time, will get in touch with us and make a donation to help support this ministry. We couldn’t do it without you. In fact, the costs for producing and syndicating a program like this add up. It’s folks, like you, who go online or give us a call to make a donation—you guys make FamilyLife Today possible, and we really appreciate you.
This week, if you can make a donation of $25 or more, we’d like to say, “Thank you,” by sending you a six-CD set that features messages from the original Love Like You Mean It marriage cruise, held back in 2011. So you’ll hear Kirk and Chelsea Cameron, Shaunti Feldhahn, Crawford and Karen Loritts, Tim and Joy Downs, Dennis, me—six messages on strengthening your marriage—our thank-you gift to you if you can make a $25 or more donation, this week, to FamilyLife Today.
We just want to say, “Thanks,” in advance, for whatever you’re able to do. Again, go to FamilyLifeToday.com. Click the button that says, “I CARE”, to make an online donation; or call 1-800-FL-TODAY to make your donation over the phone.
And we hope you have a great weekend. Hope you and your family are able to worship together this weekend, and I hope you can join us back on Monday when we’re going to hear from Eric Metaxas, author of the book Bonhoeffer. He’s written a new book about seven courageous, heroic people who have marked our culture. We’ll hear a message from Eric on Monday. Hope you can tune in for that.
I want to thank our engineer today--his name is Keith Lynch--along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We will see you next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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