Wanna Be Better Together?
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David and Meg RobbinsAs 17-year veterans of Cru, David and Meg Robbins have served in a variety of capacities, beginning as ﬁeld staff at their Alma Mater, the University of Mississippi. In 2003, they moved to Pisa, Italy, to serve as overseas team leaders for Cru. It was during that time they fell in love with ﬁnding ways to relate and communicate with a secular, pluralistic culture. They trained to serve overseas long-term until God surprisingly led them back to the U.S.
Do you and your spouse want to be better together? FamilyLife President David Robbins, and his wife Meg, share a surprise source for strength in your marriage.
Wanna Be Better Together?
Dave: Hey, before we get started, I got to tell you something exciting happening right now at FamilyLife®.
Ann: Yes, this is good news you want to hear.
Dave: Our FamilyLife Weekend to Remember® marriage getaways are half off.
Ann: Whoo hoo!—the registration fee.
Dave: Yes, you can sign up right now—FamilyLifeToday.com—you can go to a Weekend to Remember. It’s literally going to change your marriage, and it’s half off.
So what’s the most important thing you keep in our shower?
Ann: Um, my particular shampoo and conditioner.
Dave: Yes, that wouldn’t be for me. [Laughter]
Ann: It wouldn’t; would it?
Dave: You’re not going to ask me what mine is?
Ann: Okay, what’s yours?
Dave: What do you think it is?
Ann: Uh, your razor.
Dave: Ahh, you’re exactly right!
Ann: Of course.
Dave: I’ve got to shave my bald head!
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: Well, you know, what’s really interesting is I’ve never heard of a couple putting a Ziploc® bag in a shower with their mission and values so they can look at it. Have you ever heard of that?
Ann: I want to meet this couple; like this is pretty remarkable.
Dave: We’ve got them sitting in the studio right in front of us. David and Meg Robbins, the president of FamilyLife—and they are sitting in our studio—welcome to FamilyLife Today.
Meg: It’s a treat to be with y’all.
Ann: I’m sure people are leaning in and intrigued by: “What’s this Ziploc bag thing?”
Dave: So tell us the whole process about—how the Robbins set their mission/their values—what that looks like.
Ann: Wait, wait; you know, this is something a president of an organization called FamilyLife would do. Is this for the people that are like normal people: could we do this?
David: Hey, all we have been is normal people, until we have a title that makes us pose as maybe not normal people; but we are still fully normal people, fully dependent, and experiencing weakness all the time.
Yes, Ziploc bags—they’ve been a big thing for us—it’s a values process that is simple. We had some mentors give it to us, and we’ve used it several times. We’re actually in a process now of doing it again.
It’s so simple. All you do is:
You get away, individually.
You list out—okay, as you think about this next season of life—which at that time, our next season of life was like two to three years. Our most recent one was more like seven to ten years, you know, we’ve got high school to consider and our kids going to college. This chapter we’re in—we’re thinking more in decade chunks—more than the next two- to three-year chunk.
You take that next season, and you list out any value that you have, and passions, giftings, burdens. You know, you get away. After about an hour, you’re just frustrated, I feel like; and you’re like, “Oh, I could have done this in a Starbucks at home. Why are we away?”—you know? Then you just ask the Holy Spirit: “Lord, help me. You know the future. You know what You wired in me; help me surface values that You’ve engrained on our heart for who You uniquely have made us.”
And so you keep listing out values, and the Holy Spirit keeps meeting you in those places. Then you rank them individually:
- what would be most important/what for this next season in your life;
- what needs to be delayed for a season, even though it’s a part of you and you’re passionate about it.
Then you come together, and the most powerful thing happens when you come together. And if you’re not married, you could do this with a close friend—a friend that knows you and can speak life into you—but you come together. And we’ve always had those great moments of: “Why is this one so low? This is who you are; why don’t you believe this about yourself?” or “Why is this one so high?”
And for me, I remember I was 29 when we were first doing this value process. I just felt like I was getting behind of my peers in buying a home; and so I had owning a home really high up there in the spirit of: “You know, we’re creative; and we like making home. We do hospitality out of our home for missional purposes. We need a home.”
I remember Meg challenging me, going, “Okay, why is that one so high?” When I got underneath it, it was because I felt like I was falling behind my peers. It’s still probably ranked high for missionaries, who said, “We’ll go wherever we need to go and do whatever God commands to do”; but it was put in its right place as we came and meshed our values together and ranked them together.
Then you [Meg] share what we do with them.
Meg: Yes, and then, for us, I mean, everyone can choose your own method; but for us, we kind of see: “Okay, where’s the cutoff line of about the top three to five that we really feel like the Lord”—I mean a lot of prayer goes into this too; you know?—“just asking the Lord to shine a flashlight on the ones that He is writing on our life.”
When we kind of have the top three to five—or sometimes, you know, maybe there’s seven; but three that you really want to be true about you—we print them out and put them in a Ziploc bag and tape them up in the shower and just pray over them every day.
If we’re trying to make a decision, then we pray through the decision. For us, it has been so much more powerful than like a pro-con list, because you can kind of pro-con anything; you know?
Ann: Give us an example of your top three.
Meg: Okay, that’s a good one. When we were—I’m thinking about when we were moving to New York City—we had been living—
David: We did not know that we were moving to New York City.
Meg: Right, we didn’t know what God had for us; but we knew God was stirring up change and just challenging us to something different. One of the top ones was to live in a more lost and diverse context, just a place where not everybody—we were kind of living in a suburban, very churched area—and we felt like God was calling us to step outside of that and more diversity.
David: Another one was us leading together in more tangible ways as part of our job descriptions. I was a regional director, visiting campuses. I was traveling a lot away from my family.
Meg: We had small children; so you know, it made sense at that time. But they were getting a little older; and we were starting to think through: “Okay, what does it look like for us to partner in ministry again?”
Ann: So you tape those up in your shower, and you pray over those whenever you’re in the shower?
Dave: And we can put your worksheet—you have a worksheet—right?
David: That’s right.
Dave: We can put that on FamilyLife.com.
David: Yes, we’ll do it.
Dave: You [listener] can use that. Because I’m. right now, foreseeing that a Ziploc bag is going into my shower. [Laughter] Because my wife is over there—I can tell Ann’s all excited about that—it’s like, “Yes, what would that look like, even at our stage in life?”
Well, I mean, coming out of those values as well—I’ve heard both of you say, many times; in fact, one of the first times I was around you, I heard this phrase come out—and now I’ve heard it often that I know this is part of how you work: “If dependence is the goal, weakness is an advantage.”
Dave: Again, I get it as soon as I hear it; but I’ve never really heard that stated like that. So talk about that.
David: Yes, well, “Ultimately, if dependence on the Lord is how we live our lives, if abiding in Him is the requirement for fruit to be produced—I don’t know what it is in me; but I believe that with all my heart; but yet, functionally, I get it backwards all the time—I have to remind myself, over and over and over again, I am not sufficiently good, wise, or gifted enough to make this thing work—whether it’s my kids, whether it’s our relationship as a husband and wife, whether it is leading a ministry—I’m not good enough! I have to depend upon the Lord, even if I feel like all the boxes are checked and everything is perfect. Dependence is the key to living out an abiding life that bears fruit/fruit that will remain.”
Then, if you really start digging into: “What does it look like to feel dependent all the time?” I remember Meg, when we took this role—it was about nine months in—and she just goes, “Dependence is exhausting.” [Laughter] I was like, “Oh my goodness! You’re right,” because we were jumping into a deep end of leadership in this role that we have not led at this level before; and yet, God keeps showing up: provisions—like you guys showing up as hosts for FamilyLife Today—and so many other provisions that He keeps favoring and blessing us with. Yet, it comes out of fully experiencing our weakness.
That is the thing that gets hard for me—that I feel like He started teaching me, when I was around 30, of: “You’ve really got to be okay with your weakness.” Almost inviting diving into your weakness; because as Paul says in 2 Corinthians, “It is in our weakness that God’s power is made perfect.”
Ann: It is so funny; as you say that, I’m recalling the first year of speaking at the Weekend to Remember getaway. I was 29/30 years old. I was petrified; I’m thinking, “What do I have to say? These women have been married longer than I have. I’m nobody. I have nothing to say.” Right before I would get up to speak, I’m in the shower that morning, laying—like I am on the bathtub, laying prostrate—begging God, “I can’t do it! I cannot do it! I have nothing in me that would help me to do this except for You. I depend totally and completely on You, God. I need You to do this in and through me.”
It sounds like you guys have done that many times: “I can’t do this apart from You, Lord.”
Meg: Yes, I feel like we find ourselves there a lot. You’re very right, and I think the dependence on the Lord is actually the part that is not exhausting. It’s the sitting in the weakness, and continually finding ourselves there, just, “Okay, we don’t have everything it takes.” That’s why we desperately need the Lord and what He can do in His power.
Ann: It sounds like Moses, sounds like Gideon; you know?
Meg: It’s everybody, all through the Bible.
David: It’s all through Scripture.
Meg: In fact, when we were asked to consider taking this role, we were praying about it for a few months and, certainly, seeking the Lord. David was out of town one week. We were living in New York City in our small apartment, and he had been out of town for three or four days. It was a Sunday morning; and I was thinking, “I’ve got to get everybody to church,”—if for no other reason, certainly, we all need Jesus—“but I might just need a minute”; you know? [Laughter]
We’re on our way to church; and at this time, we had four children. They were all ten and under. Somebody almost tripped an elderly lady, and I just lost it. I just lost my temper and snapped at somebody. We get to church, and I get everybody checked into their class and sit down.
Ann: —which is an accomplishment, Meg. I’m just going to say, “Way to go!”
Meg: Thank you. Thank you—on my own—it felt like it. [Laughter] I texted David, though, and I said, “I really don’t think we can take this role.”
David: No, no; that is not what you said. You texted me and said, “Hey, we’re not doing it. We’ll talk after church.” [Laughter]
Dave: That was it? That was the text?
Meg: That was actually more accurate.
David: I go, “Oh no! What has happened?”
Meg: “It is over.”
Dave: You sent that text; why?
Meg: Because I was feeling the reality of how I’m a terrible mom—all of the inadequacies that I was feeling—and taking this role to lead a family ministry?—and I can’t even keep my cool on the way to church; you know? I mean, it just felt like, “This is not for me.”
When they first—actually, when Steve Sellers first asked us to consider the role—my first comment was, “Um, I think if you had been with us at Disney® today, you would not be asking us.” [Laughter] Because we were in Orlando for a conference. I just felt like, “Maybe, you need to come live with us for a week before you ask us to do that.”
He was so gracious and said, “Well, we really/that’s why we want you to do this. We want someone who is authentic and who knows they don’t have it all together,” which was encouraging to hear; but the Lord just kept having to bring me back to this place of: “What does dependency look like?” because I am weak.
And that morning in church—we were going to Redeemer at the time—and Tim Keller was preaching on that day on John, Chapter 21—after He has died; He has risen again; He is coming back to the disciples, and He is talking to Peter—He says three times, “Do you love Me?” He’s like, “Yes, Lord,”—almost to the point of: “Why are You asking me the third time?”—but Tim Keller talked about how He/Jesus was doing that on purpose, three times, just like he [Peter] had denied Jesus three times—to let him experience that: “Yes, you messed up; but I still love you,” and “Because you are right here with Me, plunging the reality of your sin into My grace,”—because Peter was bringing that to Jesus and experiencing that fellowship again, Jesus tells him—“If you love Me, feed My sheep.”
He says it three times. Every time, He says, “Do you love Me?” He [Peter] says, “Yes.” “Then, feed My sheep.” He [Tim] talks about: “Because we don’t have it all together, Jesus doesn’t call the equipped. He equips those that He calls.”
The Lord just used that morning. After/by the time church was over, and we did have a conversation, it was really like the Lord said, “Do you trust Me to be—the gaps in your life—to fill in? I’m not asking you to be perfect in order to step into this; I’m asking you to trust Me in a radical way.”
David: Every follower of Jesus gets invited by the Holy Spirit, [who] is embedded in their lives. The Spirit is the One [who] equips them with the gifts and empowers them to be able to live out mission—every person—whether it’s in your neighborhood and God’s lifting your eyes to your neighbors, whether you are in a school and He’s lifting your eyes to people around you, whether it is your grandkids—the list goes on and on—God invites us to building His kingdom by impacting others.
We experience transformation with Jesus—and Him meeting us in our weakness—and then, He uses us as agents of transformation; right?—for others to experience, because we can guarantee others are experiencing their weakness also. When it comes to living it out, God delights, I believe, in putting His people in positions, where they are desperate on Him—
David: —because that’s when His glory comes through with power; because we get to the end of ourselves, and we say, “God, I need You to show up or else.” Just like Second Avenue and going to church—He does—He meets us in the places we need Him most.
Dave: It’s interesting; because I think it’s so against how we try to live. Even the culture is like: “Be strong,” “You are strong.”
Meg: “You’ve got this.”
Dave: Yes; I mean, I’m thinking of all the years I spent in the NFL, in those locker rooms. It’s the opposite; nobody is talking about weakness there.
What about the couple, though, that just will not embrace/because you are saying, “Embrace weakness.”
Ann: Well, I’m thinking of the listeners that are in it right now, that they are just struggling—that they are at the end of themselves, that they feel desperate and alone, and they see no hope—how would you encourage them?
David: I would just say, “First of all, don’t just be a believer of grace in getting what you don’t deserve. Be a lover of grace.” The fact that we have a God, who comes to us in grace and truth, and gives us what we don’t deserve, and sent Jesus to meet the criteria of truth for us to have a relationship with Him—be a lover of grace and relate to God—just start pouring your heart out to Him.
Dave, you said it—because we’re in Christ—Colossians says, “Christ in us, the hope of glory.”
David: Because we are in Christ, it’s not our performance and others’ opinions that becomes our identity—but that is how we operate, even as followers of Jesus—believers of grace can believe all the right things; but yet, deep down, when they are functioning, it’s my performance and others’ opinions; and that’s my identity—instead of Christ’s performance, His opinion, and that being our identity. That may feel a little trite and a spiritual platitude; but just that honest, gut-level of: “God, I don’t have it; and I don’t even know where to turn.”
I mean, Meg invites me into humility, being able to have a space to be humble and go, “I’ve been trying to hold it all together, and I don’t have it. I’m so sorry I’ve created distance between me and you.” I often create distance, because I try to hold it all together too long. Then I can be a lover of grace to the Lord, and then move toward her and go: “I’m going to stop performing so wholeheartedly here; I’m going to trust in Christ’s performance.”
Meg: Yes, I think a really practical thing that we’ve tried to live out—and it’s hard to do—but I think of Nancy Leigh DeMoss Wolgemuth talks about taking the roof off before the Lord, and the walls down before others. I think that, when we are feeling that way—inadequate or like things/just weak—ultimately, we’re feeling our weakness—
Meg: —our tendency is to kind of hole-up and cover that up.
Ann: We hide in shame.
Meg: We do; we hide in shame, and I’m totally guilty of that. But I think the times that we’ve experienced God’s power the most is when we confess that before the Lord and come to Him and say, “Lord, I don’t have it. I don’t have what it takes. I desperately need You,”—and coming before one another or close friends—and taking those walls down and saying, “This is where I am feeling so weak, where I’m really struggling.” That almost makes room for God’s power to come alive even more.
Dave: Now, I’m guessing—I don’t know for sure—you’ve had some moments in the last couple of years—because you’ve had to lead FamilyLife, a major ministry, through one of the hardest seasons—
Ann: —a pandemic
Dave: —in the world,—
Dave: —let alone a ministry. I mean, we had to shut down the Weekends to Remember. The cruise got shut down.
Ann: Lots of stress.
Dave: Again, a lot of listeners don’t even think—those are income for us—but you walked through that. Take us into your family room or, maybe, your kitchen when you’re trying to lead this ministry through this, really valley, as a couple. What were those nights like? Were they nights, where you had to say to Meg, “Man, I’m scared to death,” or “I don’t think…”
David: Part of it was—really depending upon the Lord out of the gate; but then as it lengthened, it began—and we’ve been honest—it began to drive a wedge in between us. I started worrying so much about keeping FamilyLife afloat; and the functioning of our family moving during the pandemic, which was a part of what we had to do. I really got so overly busy in that; that 12 months into the pandemic, we had to look at each other in the eye and go, “Okay, we’re functioning well; but how are we really when it comes to our oneness?”
The pandemic has caused a current and a drift in our own lives that has drifted us apart. We really had to get out of the current—and just like we go to the beach, and the currents are strong—we have to wave our kids back to get lined up with us, and our umbrella, and our color. The current is strong; we tell them: “Get on the sand and walk back to us; that’s the only way you are going to be able to make it back.”
We’ve actually started rhythms of getting on the sand and not letting life, and the currents, sweep us away too much.
Meg: Yes, for me, I had to recognize that there were times when I felt like I didn’t want to put more on David.
Meg: He had so much on him, and so I was being really careful and not sharing. He would ask me, “How are you?” I was thinking, as you were talking, that for me, it was that I had to take a step of faith, and trust in him, and risk that: “Yes, you know what? This might put one more thing on him for me to say, ‘I’m struggling too’; but I know that he cares about me. He loves me, and he wants to know that.” I had to be intentional just not to be too careful, and to take that step into intimacy of: “Yes, this is hard for me too.”
David: We started having a little mantra of: “Let’s be a little less careful,” which is an interesting time; but it was good for us.
Dave: I just know, when hard times hit our home, it’s very easy for the marriage—you drift into isolation; that’s what Meg just said—“I don’t want to take the roof off with God, because I don’t know where He is; and I don’t want to take the walls down.” So we close in, and your marriage can really suffer. The opposite is a gift: when you open up to your spouse and open up to God, God says, “That’s why I put you together. You two are better together, and you two need each other.”
I’ve heard your story enough to know you had to get there. It wasn’t easy; you got there. I’m thinking there are couples, listening right now—they are still isolated through the pandemic—whatever. I hope, as they are listening today, they say: “Today is the day,” or “Tonight is the night. We have to hit the pause button. We have to say, ‘We need to talk.’”
Ann: When Dave has come to me in weakness, of saying, “I’m at the end of myself. I can’t even do this,” I feel so much love; and I want to encourage him versus when he shuts down; I don’t know what to do with that. I think, as a spouse, when we can go to each other and be vulnerable, and say, “I need your help. I have nothing left. I am so fearful,” that’s Level 5 communication we talk about at the Weekend to Remember getaways, where you are going deep. You are exposing the vulnerability of your soul. That is when we come together, and we become one.
Dave: It’s a scary place to go.
Dave: You are full of fear, but I’m just going to tell you: “Do it today; it will change everything.”
Bob: I remember hearing someone describe intimacy in marriage by breaking the word down and saying, “Intimacy means Into Me See.” It is that oneness that all of us have as a goal in marriage. We were designed for oneness; marriage was built so that two would become one. That’s God’s design.
At our Weekend to Remember marriage getaways that we host in cities all around the country, that’s our focus: helping couples move from isolation to intimacy. The natural drift in every relationship is toward isolation. We move away from one another rather than moving toward one another. We need to be trained; we need to be equipped to know how we can pursue oneness and pursue each other.
If you have never attended one of our Weekend to Remember getaways, I want to challenge you to make this spring the spring, where you finally do what you’ve talked about doing for a long time. I run into so many listeners; and I say, “Have you ever been to one of our getaways?” They say, “Oh, we’ve always talked about doing that; but we’ve never been.” “Well, this is the spring to stop talking and start doing”; alright?
If you sign up today—this weekend is the last opportunity for you to register for an upcoming Weekend to Remember marriage getaway and save 50 percent off the regular registration fee—so we’re doing everything we can to incentivize you to join us and to build a healthier, stronger marriage. You’ve talked about it; now, do it this spring.
Maybe, you’ve been to a Weekend to Remember—but it was ten years ago—time for a refresher; right? Again, go to our website, FamilyLifeToday.com; look through the list of about four dozen getaways that we’re hosting all across the country this spring; find a getaway that’s happening in a city near where you live or a city you’d like to visit; get out your calendar, block out that weekend; and then register right now so you can save
50 percent off the registration fee.
Go to FamilyLifeToday.com and register online for a getaway; or call 1-800-FL-TODAY if you have any questions/if we can help you with anything. The number, again: 1-800-358-6329; 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.” Join us this spring at a FamilyLife Weekend to Remember marriage getaway.
And with that, we have to wrap things up today. I hope you have a great weekend. I hope you and your family are able to worship together in your local church this weekend, and I hope you can join us back on Monday when we are going to talk about how all of us can do a better job with our screens; and as parents, “How can we help our kids manage their screens?” Jonathan McKee will be here to help with that. I hope you can join us as well.
On behalf of our hosts, Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back Monday for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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