Moving Closer to God, Drawing Closer to My Husband
About the Guest
Have you ever found yourself asking, "Is that all there is?" If so, you're not alone. Bible study teacher Judy Rossi also asked herself that question just a few years after marrying the man of her dreams. Hear how Judy came to Christ, and how her faith commitment changed her life and her marriage.
Have you ever found yourself asking, “Is that all there is?
Moving Closer to God, Drawing Closer to My Husband
Bob: Judy Rossi will never forget when she and her husband John were reunited after he had been away on a temporary duty assignment during his time in the military.
Judy: He came back after a very long time. We had our great entries, and “hellos”, and we had our good time together. Then, I launch. I launch into all the things that went wrong while he was gone and all the things that could have been done differently, had he been here, and, “Where was he when—” and this and that.
He stood there in his big, tall self, just looking at me with his poker face. When I was done ranting, he looked at me and he said, “You know, Judy, you are a Christian for everybody else but me.”
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Wednesday, July 18th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. We’re going to explore what being a Christian wife ought to look like—today, with our guest, Judy Rossi. Stay tuned.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. If I had come to you two weeks before your wedding and asked you—
Dennis: I was cocky—had it nailed.
Bob: If I had asked you—
Dennis: We knew what we were up to, absolutely.
Bob: —the degree of difficulty—scale: one to ten, where one is the easiest, ten’s the hardest. What’s it going to be?
Dennis: I would have probably given us a two or three. We would have said, “Yes, this is going to be like falling off a log.”
Bob: Yes. So, if I’d had come to you two years after you got married and said, “So, how’s that working out for you?”
Dennis: Scaled up to about a six or a seven. [Laughter]
Bob: —on certain days?
Dennis: Well, yes, I pegged it in. Then, ask me how we were doing after we had six kids?
Bob: Yes. [Laughter] Yes, that—
Dennis: Let’s get a new scale.
Bob: —that just enhanced the degree of difficulty; didn’t it?
Dennis: It really did. Well, we have a guest with us who understands marriage and family and, especially, the importance of a woman and her role in the marriage relationship. She has been a Bible teacher of women since back in 1986, and she has put together a Bible study called Enhancing Your Marriage. Judy Rossi joins us on FamilyLife Today. Judy, welcome to the broadcast.
Judy: Thank you for having me.
Dennis: Judy and her husband John have been married for 37 years. They have two married daughters. One of whom is married to a man who served in Iraq as a Green Beret for a number of years—and three grandchildren. She’s put together some Bible studies here that really come out of leading thousands of women through these studies— well, since 1986.
I guess what I wanted to do was just take you back to your own faith journey and ask you—back to Bob’s question—about how difficult marriage can get after a very few months. Did God use your marriage to ultimately bring you into a relationship with Him?
Judy: I think He did, without a doubt. There was a time in my marriage when I’m looking at this dear guy He gave me and these two great kids and all, but there was that—have you ever heard of Peggy Lee? She did a song called Is That All There Is?
Bob: Oh, yes; Is That All There Is?—yes; sure.
Judy: Yes, and that’s where I was. I’m thinking, “Is that all there is?” I couldn’t figure out why the joy wasn’t there, until two very godly women at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas— where we got stationed—just sort of took me under their wings and very flat, straight out said, “Judy, you need Jesus.” I’m thinking, “Why do I need Jesus?”
I’m pretty independent, and I lived my life—although I lived it for my children and pretty much, I thought, I was living it for my husband—I really was living it for me—and to need a Savior, and understanding sin and what that was—it didn’t make a whole lot of sense to me until they explained what an impact sin had on my life.
I got to tell—you my life was not pristine. There were all kinds of things in my past that, as they began to talk to me, were just popping up into my thought life and saying, “Well, yes, that fits, and that wasn’t very good.” To find out that God loved me so much that He would not just cover it but remove it—because it’s one of those things where if you think something is not going right, do you keep doing the same things longer, harder, faster, louder or do you know something’s got to change?
So, I began my walk with Christ in 1982. I should have been one of those Christians you lock in a closet for six months because I got this sense of excitement. Nothing—you know, when I received Christ, after they finished talking with me, I didn’t hear bells and whistles. I thought, “Okay”—
Dennis: Well, now I want to talk to you about that for a second. So, you didn’t feel any need for Christ; then, they began to talk to you about the standard that God requires—
Dennis: —His holiness, His righteousness; and you became aware of your sin.
Judy: Oh, yes; right.
Dennis: Then, they explained how Jesus Christ came to die on the cross for our sins and offer forgiveness to anyone who will respond in faith in Him and receive the free gift of eternal life. Do you remember the day or the night that you made that commitment? Did it occur at a point? Or was it—
Judy: It absolutely occurred at a point. It was—for me, it was November 20, 1982. It was on my real birthday, actually. That makes me smile that God would sort of create a new me on my birthday. I absolutely—I did get that I needed to ask forgiveness for my sins because there were so many.
Bob: So, when your husband came home and you said, “Guess what happened to me today,” did you have that conversation with him?
Judy: I just absolutely hit him over the head with my Bible. [Laughter] You know?
Dennis: Did you really?
Judy: No, not at all! As a matter of fact, it was a little threatening because part of who I was B.C.—before Christ—was a people pleaser. So, the real Judy was never really out there.
Several months later, when John came to Christ, we started attending a local Bible study—which made it a little easier because I began to see that we’re all in the same boat here. We’re all on this journey and this journey is leading God-ward. That’s what I wanted and to be so blessed to have my husband come to Christ, shortly after I did, was just amazing to me. It began to take shape that way. No, I didn’t hit him over the head with my Bible. I really didn’t.
Bob: You started teaching women about marriage about four years after you had come to faith.
Bob: That’s pretty quick—
Judy: That was—yes.
Bob: —to be jumping in and saying, “Look, I’ve got some things that you should learn from the Bible about marriage.”
Judy: Well, actually, I think that was more God’s way of drawing me into His retooling in my life with regard to my own marriage. Before I came to Christ, the Bible never really made a whole lot of sense to me the many times I tried to read it; but I can remember coming home from that retreat, where I accepted Christ, and picking up the Bible that Monday morning. I couldn’t put it down. I mean, I read, and I read, and I read. I read voraciously. Then, I began to dig deeper and do word searches. Things like this fascinated me. I wanted as much as I could get. So, I learned a lot!
Bob: What kinds of things were you learning that were changing you and your relationship with John?
Judy: Well, one of the things that I really needed to know was how much my relationship with Jesus Christ impacted my relationship with my husband. If I think that my relationship with Christ is great and my relationship with my husband is yucky, I’m really going to have to take another look at my relationship with Christ.
There really is, what I call, a 90-degree dynamic. What’s going on between me and Jesus ought to be flowing in a horizontal river toward my husband. If there is something broken between Jesus and me, it’s going to be broken between John and me.
Dennis: Give me an illustration of something that might have been broken between you and John that forced you back—
Dennis: —to your relationship with God because, honestly, I think it’s a powerful principle of what you teach; but it really is the message of the Scriptures.
Dennis: God is calling us into a relationship with Him, and that relationship will flow over to our human relationships.
Judy: Yes, I would say that, for me, one of the most difficult aspects of my relating to my guy was a respect issue. I was independent. Even after a Christian, there was still that element of independence; and John was a big boy. So, I’d say, “Well, there’s a lot he can do for himself.” I’d be being the mom to my kids, or I’d be out being the Christian friend to the gals outside that front door—and didn’t realize that I was really neglecting my guy.
I was also very disrespectful in many ways to John, as we were in marriage. This was something that came back to bite me on a number of occasions. One of them was when he’d come in off the field. He was in the military at the time. He had spent five weeks in the dust and dirt of Fort Hood and whatever training they were doing at the time. He might even have been off on a--deployed to another training area.
He came back, after a very long time. We had our—he’s coming in the door. We have our great entries and our “hellos”, and we had our good time together. Then, I launch. I launch into all the things that went wrong while he was gone and all the things that could have been done differently, had he been here, and, “Where was he when”—and this and that.
He stood there in his big, tall self, just looking at me, with his poker face. When I was done ranting, he looked at me and he said, “You know, Judy, you are a Christian for everybody else but me.”
Judy: Yes. That was, without a doubt, the Holy Spirit speaking through my man; and he was right! I was instantly convicted of my neglect, of my disrespect, of my ingratitude, and a lot of the energy that went outside that front door—that wasn’t inside the house. I began to realize that if my walk with Christ isn’t credible, first, to the one with whom God made me one—that would be my husband—then, he’s not credible at all, no matter what I do outside that front door.
Dennis: How did that moment, where you realized you weren’t respecting your husband but neglecting him, drive you back to the vertical relationship that you have with Jesus Christ?
Judy: Well, I knew I needed a huge infusion of Christ in me. I went back to the drawing board in Scripture. I heavily had to depend on the Holy Spirit because it was a huge habit that I needed to break. If the Holy Spirit, in me, is the One who teaches me all truth, brings to my remembrance everything that I need to use as I’m walking through this life and walking through this marriage—if He’s my Comforter, my Counselor, and my Advocate—then, I’m going to get what I need from Him.
Here’s another great part about that, too. Psalm 139 talks about how God knows every word on my lips before ever one of them exits. That tells me that the Holy Spirit can stop something that comes out of my mouth before it comes out of my mouth. I began to depend on what I knew to be truth and began to use that gift in me—that gift of the Spirit in me to begin to unfold my role as John’s wife. Now, by then, the first study had been completed; but for that entire period of time afterwards—there was seven-year period when I really needed to be retooled.
One of the issues—John and I had a long-standing issue. I’m not going to say what it is because I think, as I talk about it, gals can put their own issue in there. There was an issue in our marriage that was heartache for me. We just didn’t agree. We couldn’t find a comfortable place where the two of us could agree. I can remember, at a point in time, in one of our conversations—I walked away feeling just kind of dead inside and realized that if I didn’t get a lot closer to Christ, this could really separate us more.
Dennis: So, what did you do with it? I mean—
Judy: Well, it’s more like what that issue did with me because what happened was— over that issue, I became more resentful. Over a period of time, that resentment became hostility; and that hostility settled in almost a depression.
Dennis: Was your hostility toward yourself, toward John, toward God?
Judy: It was toward John. It was toward John.
Dennis: So, you were angry at him?
Judy: I was angry! That’s exactly right. That secondary emotion of anger came right up. It began to create in me dissatisfaction with this relationship that I had because I expected more. Before I knew it, I was having panic attacks and really having a difficult time dealing with this relationship.
I went through every excuse in the book, “Well, if I only had married at this age—,” or, “If John was only this way—” or, “If we just had that—” or pick an excuse rather than say, “Judy, look inside yourself,” or, “What responsibility do I have here?” I didn’t do any of that because I just lived my life in anger for a very long time. I just let it get all pent up; and at one point in time, it just sort of imploded in me.
Bob: What did that look like?
Judy: An emotional meltdown.
Dennis: In front of John?
Judy: Actually, no. He was at the battalion, and we were—I was getting over the flu, and it just—I had just this intense anxiety overwhelmed me. I knew that it was a culmination of all this stuff—to include some other things—and it just consumed me for awhile.
Dennis: So, you just broke down crying?
Judy: I just broke down; right.
Dennis: How long did you cry?
Judy: Probably for about four months. It was one of those times when the Lord and I had—and John—we had to really come back. Then, I could remember—this was just so God. We were—I had just sent the kids off to school, John off to work, and I go take my place in my chair where I did my devotionals—and yes, I continued to do my devotionals. I continued to do all the right, Christian things while I lived in this anger—which is so wrong.
Sitting there, listening to myself talk, in my brain—just going off, “Poor Judy! It could be different—” or— Just out of the blue, this still, small voice—or for some, it’s impression—in my soul—said, “Judy, are you tired of this yet?” I mean, it might have well been a bull horn. “Judy, are you tired of living like this yet?” It just almost like it sort of slapped me upside the head. I said, “Yes, I am. I’m tired of being constantly angry, moody, uncooperative, and disrespectful. I am tired of this. I’m tired of being me—that I know really doesn’t please God.” I mean it was just like a light switch flipped because I knew that was the Holy Spirit saying, “Something’s got to change here.”
Dennis: “It’s time.”
Judy: “It’s time!” Yes, “You’re not representing Me well. You’re out here doing this and taking that Bible study and going through all the motions, but offending Me, all along the way.” He took me to a place of repentance. I had to repent. You’ve got to repent of that stuff. I laid it out very clearly, and I was on my face before the Lord. I asked His forgiveness. When I came back up, it was changing. I didn’t suddenly—all of a sudden—not have any more panic attacks or didn’t feel the—but I knew—you know Jesus said in John 8, “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.”
I knew from that moment on that truth was going to be forging my path. I no longer had to lie to me. All I had to do was take God seriously, and at His Word, and apply it to my life. He would begin to lead that journey for me in a way that would bless my husband, grow me, bless me, as well, and the children, and glorify God.
I think that’s probably the bottom line in our walk with Christ—is to glorify God. It’s not just Judy, as a woman of God, glorifying God. It’s Judy, as a wife to her husband. It’s Judy, as a mother to her children. It’s Judy, as a mentor to these women that God brings alongside her.
Dennis: For the truth to set you free,—
Dennis: —we have to surrender.
Dennis: That’s what I heard—
Judy: I did.
Dennis: —took place in your life as you got on your face. You mentioned how Jesus Christ swept into your life—
Dennis: —made you a new creature—made you clean—
Dennis: —that brought the hope and the joy that you’d been looking for. However, what you’ve just taken us into, after that commitment was made, was into a dusty, dirty time, where the Holy Spirit was doing some closet cleaning—
Dennis: —and cleaning out some rooms, and some attitudes, and issues. What I want our listeners to hear, “We have not contradicted ourselves here.” When Christ comes in and changes a person’s life, He forgives you.
Judy: That’s exactly right.
Dennis: He makes you a new creature; but then, you begin, in earnest, what is a big word—it’s talked about by theologians—sanctification.
Dennis: You start being made just like Jesus Christ. To do that, you’ve got to have the Holy Spirit having access to those closets, and those rooms, and the basement that’s got the stuff that’s stored that has to be cleaned out. In the process, it demands a response, which I heard you say you’ve made—
Judy: That’s right.
Dennis: —toward God and, then, toward John, which brought life, and hope, and joy—
Judy: That’s exactly right.
Dennis: —back into the relationship.
Bob: I’m thinking—you had some remodeling done at your house awhile back, and you remember the project. It was long, and messy, and frustrating, and not easy to get to where you wanted the house to be; right?
Dennis: We would wake up in the morning with sounds of the workmen; okay? You know, that’s a picture of the Christian life. You start every day with the Workman—
Judy: It’s true.
Dennis: —the Holy Spirit who came—as you said—to convict us of sin, to comfort us in that process, to conform us to the image of Christ, to counsel us, to empower us, to give us the ability, not only to love God, but also love an imperfect person that we’re married to.
Dennis: What I said to you before we came in the studio, I feel like FamilyLife Today is a broadcast that is all about teaching the Christian faith and the Christian life to people around the most difficult and most challenging set of relationships on the planet—
Dennis: —marriage and family.
Bob: I think when there is remodeling that needs to be done in a marriage relationship, you have to start off and ask the question, “What needs to be remodeled in my life?”, whether you are a husband or a wife. Rather than trying to center the need for the remodeling project in the other person, you really have to ask, “Where do the walls need to be knocked out in my own life?”
Judy: That’s exactly right. I’ll tell the ladies, “My marriage was God’s workshop. My sanctification—you know, that big word—everything that needed to be cleaned up was evident in my relationship with my husband.
Bob: You know what? We, too—we’ll tell the same thing. It’s a part of God’s tool in all of our lives.
Judy: Yes, and I thank God for that period of time because there is no greater evidence of God’s reality in our lives than to look back at a tough time and say, “Boy, I really wouldn’t want to go back and do that again; but oh, the blessing that came from it.” When I look back on that period of time—that season in our marriage that was difficult—I can see how that just opened up doors for me to even learn more and more and pour more into women’s lives.
There are women in some very tough places today, but they need to know that we serve the God of hope—not a God of hopelessness.
Bob: You’re happy with the way the remodeling turned out at your house; aren’t you?
Dennis: I am. I have not forgotten the pain of waking up to the sound of workmen.
Bob: Was it worth the pain?
Dennis: It was worth the pain.
Dennis: It’s also been worth the pain in our marriage. I’m sure you’d say the same as well, Bob. I think the message today that Judy is really imploring women—and as far as that goes, we’re imploring men, as well—is that you have to lean into God and keep a teachable spirit—
Judy: That’s right.
Dennis: —and learn the lesson well that He’s teaching you right now because if you don’t learn it, the workmen are going to show up again tomorrow morning. You’ll be waking up to the sound of the hammers and the saws.
Bob: Well, and one of the ways that Judy is helping us, in this process, is by taking what you learned as you went through those months of study, and as you began to apply it in your own marriage, and sharing that with women through the study that you’ve written called Enhancing Your Marriage. This is a Bible study for wives that can be a very helpful biblical guide to what it means to be a godly wife.
We’ve got information about the Enhancing Your Marriage study available on our website, FamilyLifeToday.com. Again, go to the web for more information; or if you’d like to order a copy of this study from us, again, it’s called Enhancing Your Marriage. It’s by Judy Rossi, and our website is FamilyLifeToday.com. If it’s easier to get in touch with us by phone, call, toll-free, at 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”. Ask about the study, Enhancing Your Marriage, by Judy Rossi when you get in touch with us.
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We want to encourage you to be back with us again tomorrow. Judy Rossi is going to be here again. We are going to continue talking about a wife’s role in a marriage relationship. We’ll talk, tomorrow, about the differences between men and women, husbands and wives—our personality differences. How do we live as one in marriage when we’re so different? We’ll talk about that tomorrow. Hope you can be with us.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.
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