Respecting the Differences
About the Guest
All marriages face challenges. But when a husband and wife don't see eye to eye spiritually, the problems can be especially painful. Dineen Miller and Lynn Donovan tell how they've handled their marital expectations since marrying unbelievers and talk about other areas in their marriage where they share common ground with their husbands.
Dineen MillerDineen A. Miller is an award-winning author of suspense novels, articles and devotions. After a first career in advertising and design for such publications as Time magazine and Car & Driver, she turned full-time to writing and ministry. Dineen has won several prestigious awards for her fiction, and her devotional writing has been featured in Soul Journey and Our Journey. She blogs at UnequalMarriage.Typepad.com.
Lynn DonovanLynn Donovan writes for the online ministry she founded in 2006, Spiritually Unequal Marriage. Lynn is a popular Bible study leader and national speaker who dispels the myths women believe about love and marriage and points them to the freedom that is theirs through a living relationship with Christ. She lives in Temecula, California, with her husband, Mike.
Dineen Miller and Lynn Donovan tell how they’ve handled the expectations with unbelieving husbands and talk about other areas in their marriage where they share common ground with their husbands.
Respecting the Differences
Bob: When a mom and a dad don’t share the same spiritual convictions, there will come a time when their children will have to figure out whether they’re going to side with mom or side with dad. So, what does a believing mom do on a Sunday morning when a teenage boy says, “I’m just going to stay home with Dad today”? Here’s counsel from Lynn Donovan.
Lynn: Don’t panic. You have been feeding into these children. You have been living out your faith. If he’s going to stay home with dad, you can’t wrestle him into the car. I mean, he’s a foot taller than you, at this point. You have to believe. This is where the faithfulness of God comes into our prayers. I absolutely believe in God’s faithfulness. God assures us: “Do your part, Mom. I am right behind you to do My part.”
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Tuesday, March 11th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. Lynn Donovan and Dineen Miller join us today to talk about the challenges that a believing mom faces when she’s trying to raise sons and daughters in a house where dad doesn’t share her faith. We’ll talk about those today. Stay tuned.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. You know, I think both of us, in our marriages, have faced some challenging assignments, as husbands, with our wives. But the reality is that I don’t know that any assignment we have faced, as husbands, has been as challenging as the assignment that—
Dennis: Your wife!—that your wife was given? [Laughter] Is that where you were going, Bob?
Bob: That is not where I was going! That’s probably accurate, but it’s not where I was going. [Laughter] I think you picked it.
I was going to say—I don’t think either of us has faced the kinds of challenges that our guests have faced, and are facing, on an ongoing basis—the challenge of being in a spiritually-mismatched marriage.
Dennis: I think you’re right. Dineen Miller and Lynn Donovan join us again. Dineen, Lynn, welcome back to the broadcast.
Dineen: Thank you. We’re so glad to be here.
Lynn: Thank you.
Dennis: You guys have conspired together to write a book about raising children in a spiritually-mismatched marriage. You got your husbands’ permission to write this book, Not Alone, which, again, is about raising kids in a spiritually-mismatched home. You also had their permission to write another one—that was about a spiritually-mismatched marriage.
Bob: —which was called, Winning Him Without Words. You were, right there on the front, saying, “Here’s the goal.”
Dennis: I mean, what is there unclear about that?!
Lynn: Yes. [Laughter]
Dennis: How did you two meet in the first place?
Lynn: That’s an interesting story. Several years ago, I came to this place where, in my marriage, I felt like God had healed so much of my challenges.
My husband and I had come through so much in our mismatched marriage. So, I started a blog—a simple little blog—where I thought, “I’m just going to write some stories to help other people who are on the path with me to thrive in our marriage.” Out of that blog, Dineen was one of my original readers. It was on her heart to also write to encourage because there aren’t many resources out there for people in marriages such as ours.
We joined forces and started writing. We wrote together, online. She lives in northern California—I live in southern California. We never met, face to face, other than one time at a conference for two minutes. We wrote the entire book together. We finally met after the book was done, and we went to see our publisher. We have been best friends/buddies. We cheer each other on. We pray for our husbands and our families. It’s been one of those amazing God friendships.
Dennis: I’ve got to ask this question: “Have your husbands ever met?”
Dineen: No, they actually haven’t. We’ve met each other’s husbands, but our husbands haven’t met each other yet; no.
Bob: That would be an interesting lunch to set up; don’t you think? [Laughter]
Lynn: It sure would, and they’re both named Mike. [Laughter]
Dineen: God has a wonderful sense of humor.
Lynn: Yes, He does.
Bob: You know, I’ve mentioned already that the last time you guys were here, we talked about the marriage relationship. This time, we’re talking about the challenge of trying to provide spiritual direction in a home when you’re the only one pointing in that direction—when your spouse is pointing in a different direction and saying, “I think this is the way to go.”—and you’re trying to raise sons and daughters to walk with Christ.
Dennis: Dineen, the interesting twist on this is you were raised by a single-parent mom. When you got married, you were looking forward—when you did become a person of faith—for two people to raise a child together—for a husband and wife to raise them together.
As you did come alive, spiritually, did you have to reduce some of your expectations and some of what you were hoping for?
Dineen: I had to give all of my expectations over to God and trust Him to bring our marriage forward, from that point, because I really expected my husband to join me, at that point. When he didn’t, everything had to—I had to trust God to redefine my marriage, and He did.
Dennis: Give us an idea of some of the expectations you had to kind of lay aside.
Dineen: I had to give up the expectation of seeing us both in church on Sundays—like I saw so many other families together with their children. I had to give up the hope that he would be partnering with me to raise my children to know who Jesus was.
I had to give up the expectation that we would grow in faith together, that we would serve God together, that we would do things together in the church, that we would be able to share how we were growing and learning because this is the most intimate part of ourselves. It is who we are—our identity is in Christ. When you can’t share that with the person you’re supposed to love more than anybody in this world, it’s very difficult.
It becomes trust in God to rebuild the marriage and to find common ground in other places. We tell our readers often that, even if your husband were to come to faith that day, that doesn’t mean everything’s going to be fixed. There are still—we’re flawed human beings, and there are challenges we will face. When you’re not matched, that becomes a challenge because you need to find common interest in other areas so you can stay close.
Dennis: Yes; I know the nature of this broadcast is kind of to pry a little bit. [Laughter]
So if I’m overstepping here, you can just kind of push back. Can you give us an idea of what is some of the common ground you have really sought to work hard on so that you and your husband have a piece of turf that you’re both firmly planted on?
Dineen: Well, there are all different areas. One area that I’ve tried to keep very common, of course, is our intimacy. The bedroom is very important. That’s an area that I pray over and ask for God to bless so that I can be a blessing to my husband. I think that’s an important area to be connected. There’s no judgment in the bedroom.
Externally—common interests—my husband is a disc golf player. I support him in that. I’ve gone and been his caddy in the past. I did that once for him as an anniversary present—I toted his disc golf bag around for his tournament.
Bob: Now, wait a minute! How many different discs do you have in a disc golf bag?
Dineen: Oh, gosh. Anywhere from 10 to 20, depending upon what your favorites are.
Dineen: There are differences.
Dineen: There are putters and there are long-distance discs. Trust me, there’s a difference.
Bob: I just figured that it was a Frisbee® that everyone was throwing!
Dennis: I knew there were a couple—but not 15-20!
Dineen: Depending on how big the course is and what their goal is—but, usually, a handful of favorites; but they like choices.
Dineen: They like to have their choices. So, I’m very intentional about being interested in what he’s doing; and I release the expectation for him to be interested in what I’m doing in my ministry and stuff like that. He’s interested, to a point.
Dennis: I think that’s important because, if you’re not careful—if you continue to nag—
Dennis: —and everybody knows what nagging is—it’s like being nibbled to death by a duck; [Laughter] okay? It just irritates. It’s terrible. You’ve had to let that go and be silent about that.
Dineen: Right, right.
Lynn: Been there—done that.
Dennis: You raised your hand, Lynn, when I talked about common turf to develop with your husband. How have you done it?
Lynn: Well, I agree with Dineen. We had to surrender some of our own expectations; but with Christ, we can do that.
One of the most fun things I’ve ever done with my husband—to connect with him and have some commonality—is I learned to play Fantasy Football. So, on Sunday mornings, I go to church; he warms up the laptops. [Laughter] We have teams, and we cheer for our team. We tease each other about what our scores are. Did I know anything about Fantasy Football? No! But I learned. I have more fun, now, than he does—I think—in Fantasy Football!
Dennis: Do you beat him?
Lynn: I do. [Laughter] I won the whole league the second year I was in it!
Dennis: No kidding!?
Lynn: That didn’t go over well. [Laughter] But we have so much fun.
Dineen: You have to tell them the name of your team.
Lynn: Oh, my team’s name is called “The Pink Princesses.” [Laughter]
We just have so much fun!
Dennis: Was it a male league?
Lynn: Well, there were men and women from our neighborhood.
Dennis: “The Pink Princesses” team—
Bob: —took it all!
Lynn: We did.
Dennis: Way to go!
Lynn: It was so much fun.
Dennis: Nice work.
Lynn: It’s being intentional. The Lord puts that in us—you can reach out—make effort to connect with your husband. Don’t isolate him. He feels threatened by this new man in our life, often.
We had one of our readers, who said, “I would like to go find this Jesus and punch Him in the face so He would stay away from you,” because he was so threatened by her faith and the changes that were happening. If we just love them and invite them in—in other ways—there are a million and one ways. Go spend time with them if they go into the garage. You know, there are many things we can do to connect with them and make them feel loved and appreciated—that’s loving them through the power of Christ.
Lynn: It’s so beautiful!
Bob: I want to ask you both—as you raise kids—you are governed, in your life, by God’s Word. So, if God says, “This is right,” you say, “Okay.” If God says, “This is wrong,” you say, “Okay.” Even if you want to do it, you say, “No,” because God says it’s wrong. Even if you don’t want to do it—you understand.
Your husbands don’t have that same kind governing. They’re governing their lives by what seems best to them. As unbelievers—just make a decision based on what seems right to them.
So now, here come your kids; and you’re trying to raise your kids. I know you do have some common values; but I also know there are some places where your values—there are things you go: “I just think this is wrong. God’s Word tells me this is wrong.” Your husband says, “Well, that’s wrong for you, but it’s not wrong for me.” Then, you have to raise the kids in that kind of a situation. Has that been a reality for you?—something you’ve had to—
Lynn: Oh, absolutely!
What jumps to my mind, immediately, is media. How do you walk your child through media when Dad doesn’t see a problem with watching this or seeing that? It’s okay with him. I’ll tell you—I’ve had lots of conversations with my husband, saying, “I don’t feel good about this program.” I would tell my daughter, “We’re not going to watch this program.” I don’t think it’s, “Do it because I say so!” I gave her really valid reasons.
I believe—I kind of stumbled through that—through raising her—but now she’s very set about what she’ll let into her life, and what she watches, and the choices that she makes in media. It was never like shaming her father in front of her. It was, with love and respect: “You know, Daddy doesn’t know Jesus yet; but I absolutely believe he will one day. We’re just going to pray for Daddy.” You know, do it in a very kind way. We’re not going to pray for him because he’s a bad person—it’s: “We love Daddy. We want him to know Jesus.”
Dennis: The ages of your children, Dineen, are?
Dineen: Currently, they are 24 and 20.
Dennis: Okay; and yours, Lynn?
Lynn: My son is 31, and my daughter is 18.
Dennis: Alright, so, for all practical purposes, you’ve made it through the teenage years—18—that’s about done there. Did it ever occur—in those teen years—where the card was played: “Well, Mom, Dad doesn’t believe that—Dad doesn’t do that,”—and pit you two against each another? I mean, my mom and dad were singing off the same song sheet; and I remember, growing up, pitting them against each other.
Dennis: I would think a child, growing up in a spiritually-mismatched family, would find a way to drive a wedge and maybe exploit it. Did that ever occur in either of your families?
Lynn: For me, personally, no. That did not happen, but I do know that that is a common issue. It tends to be more toward teenage boys.
I see that moms will write us or email us—you know, he’s 15 or 16—and she comes out in the living room and says to little Johnny—or, now, tall Johnny—
Bob: Big Johnny, yes.
Lynn: — “Why aren’t you ready for church?” “Well, Dad’s staying home to watch football. I’m going to stay home and watch football with Dad.” Dad chimes in: “Give the kid a break! Let him stay home.”
Most mothers panic, at that moment. I say: “Don’t panic. You have been feeding into these children. You have been living out your faith. This is where the faithfulness of God comes into our prayers. God assures us: ‘Do your part, Mom. I am right behind you to do My part.’ You have poured into them all of their lives. You have taught them with love, and kindness, and joy. You have made Jesus the center and the happiness of your life. That’s attractive to them—they will come back to it.”
Dennis: I’m going to give both of you an interesting assignment right now.
Dennis: There has to be a husband, listening to our broadcast—maybe, he was just channel surfing on the radio or on his phone. Somehow, it got downloaded—who knows how—but he stumbled onto this broadcast. He’s on the outside, spiritually-speaking—looking in at his wife and the kids—as she’s attempting to do well what you two did, for all practical purposes. I’m going to give each of you two minutes with this guy. [Laughter] What would you say to him?
Dineen: That’s a good question. I think I would say to him—to understand his wife’s heart and to understand that her motivation is by no means for herself. Her heart is for her family to know a hope and a future in our Creator. We’re not perfect, but our heart is the love of Christ. That’s the love that we want to share. Sometimes, we don’t do it quite right; but our motivation is always because we are so profoundly loved. The cross is just that representation that the Son of God gave His life up for us. He was willing in it. If it was just one person, He still would have done it.
It’s such a profound love and that’s what’s at the heart of it. It’s not a judgment. It’s not trying to make him feel in any way less. It’s because—it’s desperation in realizing that, because we are so loved—so loved by God—we want that person we love so much to know how much they are loved, too.
Lynn: I would say something very different [Laughter] but the same. I would look at him, straight in the face and say: “I’m so sorry because, sometimes, we just go overboard. So, for all the times we try to pressure you, or manipulate you, or we hurt your feelings, or we leave you out, ‘I’m sorry.’ We love this God so much that we want you to know what it feels like;”—
Lynn: —“but we’re messed up people, and wives, and we don’t always go about it in the best way. So, we ask for your grace / your forgiveness. Know that we love you. We will never leave you or forsake you because we are never left or forsaken.”—
“Be patient. Have a sense of humor.” Then, I would wrap my arms around him and say, “Thank you.”
Dennis: “Thank you for putting up with the mistakes;” right?
Dennis: Interesting. And here’s what I would say to him—or if it’s a woman, who’s in a spiritually-mismatched marriage, and it’s the guy who is a believer—I would say: “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. We are justified by His grace as a gift through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” Then I would say, “Why wait another day?”
Dennis: [Crying] “Why wait another day of being on the outside?”
Dennis: “Your family needs you. Get on your knees—receive the gift that results in forgiveness of sin, and eternal life, and get on with the program—God’s program—because you are missing life.”
Dineen: Oh, yes—the abundant life.
Bob: You know, I remember watching a documentary—that was shot a few years back—where a pastor from Idaho was in a series of debates with a prominent atheist. They were going from city to city, doing their debating.
This documentary had the behind-the-scenes discussion that went on between the pastor and the atheist. So, it wasn’t just their public presentation. It was their private dialogue that you got to see a little bit of. Of course, they knew the cameras were on—so I don’t know how private it was—but one of the comments that the prominent atheist made, near the end of the film—that was very interesting—he said, “You know, if I was to win the argument and convince everybody that my way is right,”—he said—“I’m not sure I’d want to live in a world where everybody believed what I believe.”
And I have to think—I have to think your husbands would think, “I’m not sure I’d want to be married to somebody who doesn’t have the convictions and the values you have.” Even though they haven’t embraced them for themselves, they have to admire, and respect, and be grateful for how your kids have turned out—
Dennis: The peace that results in the home where you’ve got someone who has humility.
Bob: Yes! They look around at marriages that are having a hard time; and they have to go: “I’m a lucky man to be married to the woman I’m married to. I may not think Jesus had anything to do with that,”—you guys know He did; right?
Dineen: Oh, yes.
Bob: But I think they have to recognize that they have been blessed because they married godly women.
I want to let our listeners know—we’ve got copies of the books that Lynn and Dineen have written. Both of these books are in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. We have the book we’ve been talking about today, which is called Not Alone, about raising godly kids in a spiritually-mismatched home. And we have Winning Him without Words: 10 Keys to Thriving in a Spiritually Mismatched Marriage.
You can request copies of either or both of these books when you go to our website, which is FamilyLifeToday.com. Again, go to FamilyLifeToday.com. You can order these books from us, online, or you can order 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.”
Now, let me just take a minute and talk to those of you who are regular FamilyLife Today listeners. You’ve been tuned in for a while and you, undoubtedly, by this point, know that FamilyLife Today is listener-supported.
It is folks, like you, who make this daily program possible by helping us cover the costs for producing and syndicating a daily radio program like FamilyLife Today. What you may not know is that the foundation of that support for FamilyLife Today comes from our Legacy Partners. These are families, all across the country, who have said: “FamilyLife Today is important for our family. We think it’s important in our community. We want other husbands and wives—and moms and dads—to be able to hear this program / and tune in and listen. We’ll provide some monthly financial help so that FamilyLife Today can cover the costs of producing this radio program.”
We appreciate those of you who are Legacy Partners. During the month of March, we are hoping and praying that we might add 1,000 new Legacy Partners to strengthen the financial foundation for this program. That sounds like a lot of people, but it’s actually about 20 families in each state where FamilyLife Today is heard.
So, would you stop and consider that? Would you pray about whether or not you and your family should join in, as brand-new Legacy Partners? If you do decide to become a Legacy Partner, we’d like to say, “Thank you,” by sending you our Legacy Partner welcome kit that includes a couple of CDs with some favorite programs from FamilyLife Today, the Coffee Dates for Couples book that’s got some great date ideas, and the brand-new Legacy Partner Cookbook. We’ve put together some recipes—some from Dennis and Barbara, some from Mary Ann and me, some from our staff, and a lot of recipes from Legacy Partners.
We’ll pass the cookbook along to you, along with the rest of these resources in our welcome kit, when you become a new Legacy Partner. Go to FamilyLifeToday.com. Click the button that says, “I CARE.” You can sign up as a Legacy Partner, online. Or call1-800-FL-TODAY and say, “I’m interested in becoming a Legacy Partner.” We’ll get you all set up.
Let me just say, “Thanks,” in advance, for prayerfully considering this opportunity. We hope you’ll join with us.
And we hope you’ll be here again tomorrow when we’ll continue our conversation with Lynn Donovan and Dineen Miller. We’re going to talk tomorrow about the whole issue of Christian schools because I know one of you—you guys did not see, eye to eye, on the Christian school thing. I think you were the one who had to surrender on that one. We’ll talk more about that tomorrow. I hope you can tune in.
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.
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