About the Guest
Married in 2003 after almost calling off the wedding, D.A. and Elicia Horton continued to battle in the early years of marriage. Years later they learned that the Bible was to be used for mutual edification, not ammunition. Becoming parents caused them to take a second look at their behavior and their priorities.
D.A. and Elicia Horton continued to battle in the early years of marriage. Becoming parents caused them to take a second look at their behavior and their priorities.
Bob: In the early months of their marriage, D.A. and Elicia Horton continued to have problems with conflict resolution. In fact, in the middle of one fight, Elicia was ready to leave; and D.A. went a little crazy.
D.A.: It was one of those moments that you’re like, “I don’t even know what I should be doing, but this is what I’m doing.” I couldn’t stop—so I took my boots off, took my pants off, took my shirt off, [and] took my undershirt off. I just had my underwear on, and the door was wide open. I started hitting my chest, saying [shouting]: “You’re going to leave me! You’re going to leave me!” She’s just—she starts laughing.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Tuesday, September 11th. Our host is Dennis Rainey, and I’m Bob Lepine. Okay; so there’s more than one way to cut the tension in a fight when that’s happening in your marriage. [Laughter] We’ll hear more from D.A. and Elicia Horton today about resolving conflict. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. I think our guests today would be interested to know what is engraved on the inside of your wife’s wedding band.
Dennis: 1 John, Chapter 4: “Perfect love casts out all fear.”
Dennis: I think when you get married, you don’t realize all the fears you have about being known, and knowing another person, and the fear of the future. I think we have a generation that is frightened about marriage, because they don’t know how it goes the distance.
We have a couple here who have gone the distance since 2003. They’ve got three children that are tagging along for the ride. D.A. and Elicia Horton from North Long Beach, California. Welcome to the broadcast.
Elicia: Thank you.
D.A.: Thank you. It’s a joy to be here.
Bob: You guys have written a book called Enter the Ring: Fighting Together for a Gospel-Saturated Marriage. It’s all about your marriage but about the principles you’ve learned about a healthy marriage in the years that you guys have been husband and wife.
I just want to take a minute, here, before we dive into talking with you to remind our listeners that they can invest in their marriage and learn biblical principles for how to build a strong marriage by joining us one weekend this fall at one of our Weekend to Remember® marriage getaways. We’re going to be hosting more than three dozen of these events in cities all across the country this fall. I’m going to be in Portland, Oregon, for our getaway there; but we’ve got getaways happening from Florida to the Northwest corner of the United States and all locations in between. You can go to our website, FamilyLifeToday.com, to find out more about the getaway.
The reason I’m mentioning here, at the beginning of the program, is because, if you sign up this week, you will save 50 percent off the regular registration fee. It’s a half-price sale that we’re making available this week and next week only. We’d love to have you join us—a little extra incentive to get you signed up.
Go to the website, FamilyLifeToday.com, for more information. Find a location and a date that works for you, and then come join us for one of these getaways; or call us if you have any questions—our number is 1-800-FL-TODAY.
Make sure you sign up this week or next week to take full advantage of the half-off sale that’s going on, on the Weekend to Remember marriage getaway registrations. You’ll learn, at the getaway, principles for resolving conflict, along with healthy communication; God’s design and plan for marriage; the responsibility of the husband / the responsibilities of the wife—all of that’s in there.
I want to turn back to the two of you guys, because you had a conflict—you’ve shared with us this week, during your engagement, where, Elicia, you gave back the ring. That led to a huge fight that happened out in the street that went on until like four in the morning. Obviously, you did wind up working it out; and you got married; right?
D.A.: We did.
Elicia: We did.
D.A.: I mean, Elicia threatened to sue me that night over her wedding dress that she had paid $500 for—she was done. We took time to assess.
Dennis: Had you hired the lawyer? [Laughter]
Bob: In her mind, she had.
Elicia: I did.
D.A.: Yes; yes—but we took time to assess—we prayed; we sought counsel. Then on June 28, 2003, we did take our vows before family and friends. Ever since then, it has been an uphill journey—then there have been valleys, there have been mountaintop experiences, and then there have been mundane plateaus.
Dennis: Well, let’s talk about your first year of marriage. What had happened?
Elicia: Fast forward—we’re still not handling conflict, and the fears, and the battles of what it looks like to live in this marriage that is sanctifying to us. We were resisting and reluctant to it every step of the way—at least, I know I was. We just had a time, where I was emotional—I mean, I think, at seven or eight months’ pregnant, I was frustrated; because we were not seeing, eye to eye.
There were a lot of things, again, that we both brought into the marriage. One of them was dealing with the financial burdens and what we were going to do.
Fast forward—our precious baby girl was our souvenir from our honeymoon. We were just like, “Okay; we have no time to prepare; no time to plan—we’re in knee deep,” so we were fighting. I said: “Okay; I’m done. I need some time.” I was gathering my stuff and saying, “I’m just going to go stay at my mom’s house.” It was going to be temporary—just temporary.
D.A.: But she didn’t say that.
Elicia: I didn’t say that because I just wanted to see what reaction I got out of him. I was standing there; and all of a sudden, he just starts undressing himself.
Bob: Physically undressing?
Elicia: Physically undressing himself.
Dennis: So, why were you doing that?
D.A.: You know what—it was one of those moments that you’re like, “I don’t even know what I should be doing, but this is what I’m doing.” I couldn’t stop—so I took my boots off, took my pants off, took my shirt off, [and] took my undershirt off. I just had my underwear on, and the door was wide open. I started hitting my chest, saying [shouting], “You’re going to leave me! You’re going to leave me.” She’s just—she starts laughing. [Laughter]
I’m a talker, and I had no words to say; I couldn’t think clearly. I didn’t know what was going on, so this was the only option that I thought of.
Elicia: I, literally—I did start laughing; because I’m like, “This fool is literally underdressing himself,”—mind you it’s January. So, it’s Kansas City—it’s like 2 degrees outside. He has the door wide open, and he is just standing there. All I could do is laugh and thinking: “Okay; how did we get this far? How did we come to this point? What drew us to this, where we couldn’t just stop, and just pray, and ask God to help us?”
Elicia: We knew the right thing to say / we knew the right thing to do; but our flesh was just accelerating it, and we couldn’t go any further.
D.A.: Yes; even in our spiritual immaturity—just to be honest, so the listeners can understand some context—we had been walking with the Lord since we were in our mid-teenage years; but because of a lack of discipleship, even at this point in our marriage—
D.A.: —we didn’t get discipled until like 2005. It was two years into our marriage where we had real, genuine biblical discipleship.
We used the Bible as ammunition to fight and shoot each other—
—it was not for mutual edification. It wasn’t for brokenness and humility. For both of us, it was, “No; this Scripture says”—and pop, pop, pop. We would just pop off at each other, using Scripture.
Bob: What got you—now, you’re still pregnant. This is still the first year of marriage.
Bob: What had brought such a level of frustration in your marriage—
Bob: —that you’re thinking, “I’m going to go live with Mom”?
Elicia: We had faced some financial burdens during that time.
D.A.: —because of my immaturity.
Elicia: Yes; go ahead.
D.A.: I was never good with finances.
D.A.: I mean, this is no excuse; but again, just trying to give a framework. Growing up in poverty—when I had a job and Elicia had a job, and we had income—and I actually got to see that income—I began to say: “Man, let’s spend it on this. Let’s spend it on this.” She knew financial stewardship—she had discipline; I had no discipline.
Nobody ever walked me through 1 Timothy 3; nobody ever walked me through Titus 1. When I began to see those Scriptures, I removed myself from ministry—I stepped out of the pastorate; because I said: “That’s not me.
“No one’s every taught me how to study the Bible. No one’s ever taught me how to prepare a sermon.”
I felt like I had just been thrown up there in youth ministry, because I’m a gospel rapper. That’s when I began to see the shallowness in my life—just that term, “pastor”—I was like, “That’s very shallow.” That’s when I said: “This cannot be. I’m convicted. We need to have life change.”
Elicia: So, yes, it was a financial burden of that. It was also the fact that he stepped away from some income that we needed to have supplemented elsewhere. That was just a strain on us; because, at the time, I was the one working consistently. I’m like: “I’m about to take a maternity leave. How are we going to figure this out?”—so that’s what kind of brought it to a head.
Dennis: So, how much was it, when they placed your firstborn daughter in your arms and you realized: “We’re in a relay race here. We’re passing on—
Elicia: Yes; I also believe, honestly, that the Lord used our daughter to grow us up in a way that showed us our immaturities / showed us our selfishness—
Elicia: —showed us the things we focused too heavily on versus you saying: “You know what? This is what marriage can look like. Now, we have another human being to be concerned about and provide for.” I really feel like both of us—that kind of just put us in a different light of maturity, saying, “Okay; this is where the rubber meets the road and the struggle is.”
D.A.: It really showed me my immaturity. First of all, trying to learn—because being the baby of the family and having two older brothers, there is such an age gap between me and my brothers. When I was coming of age, my older brother was already married and out of the house. It was almost like I was an only child, so there were high levels of selfishness I never considered.
Then, when I got married—when I would come in with something to eat, and I ran through a drive-thru, she’s like, “Where’s mine?” I’m like: “What do you mean, ‘Where’s yours?’ You should have gotten yourself something to eat,”—stuff, where you are just like, “Bro, you shouldn’t even think like that!” [Laughter]
She comes from a family of four siblings. They would get a bag of cheeseburgers from McDonald’s®—no fries—and they would share, so she came from a very communal environment. I came from a very—
D.A.: —independent environment.
I had to unlearn independence / she had to unlearn co-dependence; and we had to allow the Holy Spirit to form interdependence. It took time; but once we had that foundation of interdependence, it strengthened us and broke down more barriers to our oneness. That is what God used to propel us into everything you see in the book.
Dennis: And it’s just what you said—God gives a man to a woman and a woman to a man as a good gift.
Dennis: Bob, we talk about this at the Weekend to Remember. We talk about how: “Have you received your gift? Have you received your spouse as God’s gift to you?
Dennis: “Even in her imperfections/in his brokenness, have you received your spouse as God’s perfect gift for you?”
Elicia: That’s good.
Dennis: And “If you’ll do that, it’ll take your eyes off of the weaknesses/—
Dennis: —“the deficiencies—and you both have them.” You’ve shared them here, but that’s the beginning of a great marriage right there.
I truly believe that. I affirm everything you’re saying; because that’s when I began to realize—and in Spanish, it’s machismo—it’s the pride/it’s the arrogance of a man that: “I’m supposed to have all these things together. I don’t show weakness / I don’t show emotion,”—I have to fight against that a lot.
That was a turning point—is that, when the Lord used our brokenness from filing bankruptcy—to losing the dream house that we wanted, to moving in to a two-bedroom / one bathroom, infested with mold and cockroaches—when we saw those turns, some of our most joyful memories were, in poverty, after we came out of the bankruptcy and everything; because it was there that we felt like that was just a symbol of what God was doing in our lives—breaking down the idols, calling out our sin.
D.A.: Confessing and repentance were a reality. Then, I began to recognize—like what you said: “My wife is a gift given to me by Jesus. I am a steward. I must empower. I must allow her, where she is strong, to be strong; and I catch my cues from her in the areas of her strength—
Elicia: —“vice versa.”
D.A.: —“but then vice versa. I’ve got to step up, and be strong, and lead in the areas where I’m strong so that she can feel led and catch her cues from me in those areas that I am strong that she’s weak in.”
That’s where that complementary aspect began—to recognize: “Elicia is not my hindrance. She’s a helpmate. I need to learn how to stop being a hindrance to her and start serving my wife as a helpmate, not a hindrance.”
Bob: If you were doing—and you’ve done marriage counseling since you’ve been in the pastorate—
Bob: —if you were doing marriage counseling today for the two of you, when you were engaged, what kind of counsel and advice would you give to that couple about where they were headed and what they needed most?
Elicia: One of the things I would definitely say is that the premarital counseling was good; but I feel like people need to have other people that have been married longer than they have—
Bob: You need some mentors; yes.
Elicia: —some mentors, who just really come alongside of them. I feel like that’s what I would have counseled—
—to say: “Go, hang tight to them. Find those people. Ask God to show you who they are and hang tight to them so they can walk with you.
“Also, taking their spiritual walks with the Lord as important, but also taking it seriously enough to say: “Okay; I need discipleship. I need accountability, personally, in my life and vice versa for my spouse. Then, also, encouraging each other in our spiritual walks with the Lord; because a lot of times we’ll take it and say: ‘We’ll individualize. For me, I’m just going to worry about myself.’ It’s like, ‘No; I just need to be as equally concerned about my husband’s walk with the Lord as my own.’”
I would say those are the things I would definitely counsel us to do.
D.A.: Yes; if I was there; and it was six months out before the wedding day, I would say:
I’m going to take you under my wing, and I’m going to pour into you the things of God’s Word but in a practical aspect. I’m going to call out all the nuances of your sin that you have nobody in your life that you are accountable to. I’m going to talk through your sexual issues. I’m going to talk to your lack of financial stewardship. I’m going to talk about your lack of backbone and cowardiceness in the midst of conflict, and you’re an avoider.
I’m going to talk through your lack of appropriating biblical theology to practical living; and your stumbling block, right now, Damon—that is stopping that—is you’re not having heart transformation from the Holy Spirit, who lives inside of you. You’re not surrendering the idols of your heart and life to your Lord Jesus Christ. He’s got competition in your heart right now.
I would call all those things out.
What’s crazy is—in all honesty, from me being an older millennial to then a younger millennial—I know I would receive it; because I know, deep down, that’s what I really want.
Bob: You know, we’d like to think that a young man or a young woman could get all of these things working right before they get married.
Bob: But the reality is one of the reason God brings us together in marriage is so we can work out these things; right?
Bob: That’s why you have to start from a foundation that says: “Look, we’re in this for life. We’re committed to one another,” because that keeps you from fleeing when things get tough and keeps you right in the crucible God wants you in, convicting you to grow you up.
D.A.: Absolutely; you’re absolutely right—
—that’s to God’s glory.
This is not a superficial statement at all; but that is where, I think, we still are broken by the comments that are given to us by people; because we bucked the trend, as millennials. We got married in our early 20s; so, now, there are millennial couples that are like, “Man, we are three years in; and you guys have been doing this for fifteen years.”
Dennis: “That’s a lifetime.”
D.A.: It is. No; it sincerely is. That’s where I’m like, “Man, Lord, the way You have written our story is unique; but it’s not too unique that’s it is not relatable.”
D.A.: And I think that’s where the vulnerability and the transparency comes in; because when they hear there is still present tense sin struggles in my and Elicia’s life—that we’re not perfect; that we do have arguments / we don’t see eye to eye; I need to stop working so much and spend more time with my daughters and my son—when they hear those confessions of progress and progressive sanctification,—
Elicia: Yes; amen.
D.A.: —then they are like, “Okay; so I’m still going to be in progressive sanctification in year 15 in as much as year 1”—
D.A.: —“or 10 months before we get married.” That’s a pathway of hope that they see; and the one that they are pursuing is not Damon and Elicia—it’s Jesus.
Bob: And can we just say, “When you get to years 35, and 40, and 45, you’re still going to be—
Dennis: Yes; that’s what I was getting ready to say, too, Bob—there’s no opting out of this process; okay?
Dennis: Okay; but you did say something—you said, “You don’t use the D-word.” And I want you both to unpack that, because this culture throws that around as both a threat and a living alternative.
Dennis: Why do you not use that word?
Elicia: Well, I have to confess—in the beginning, I did use that word. I did use that word, because I felt like that was the easy way out; you know? I didn’t see this as something long-term and worth fighting for; because I was just, again, very spiritually immature—not understanding that: “Wow, God has done so much in my life; and He has given me this gift as a part of my sanctification. Why am I resisting it?”
But now, seeing how God has redeemed a lot of our story for the greater good/for His glory, I feel like God has really showed us what it means to fight for the oneness—fight for the togetherness / fight for the fact that we’re not supposed to be fighting against each other—but we’re going to fight against the world, our flesh, and the evil one. The fight comes as we’re standing together.
I feel like fighting together for our marriage has been the best testimony for us to give to our kids—saying: “You know, this is not perfect,”—but being real, and authentic, and saying—“You know what? We’re going to mess up, but we’re going to keep repenting—keep confessing / keep working this out—because we know that God has given us a reason to do that by giving us His love first.”
Dennis: D.A., before you share your response to my question, I want you to share with our listeners: “How did her threats of divorce, early on in your marriage—how did that impact you?”
D.A.: It hurt. It set me back; because partially, Elicia did it for shock value. She would always say these extreme statements.
I would say—the only way I would tell her is: “Stop using terminal language.” She would say statements like: “I’m done!” “I’m finished,” “I want a divorce.” I’m like: “You’ve got to stop using terminal language; because every time you do that, that’s like dropping an atom bomb on my heart. I don’t know how many times I’m going to recover from that, emotionally, Elicia,”—I had to tell her that.
When she began to recognize, “Yes; I didn’t really mean it,” because that was the problem—I started to believe her. I started to believe that she did not want to be with me—that she was only with me because I was the provider—so I saw myself as an ATM. [Laughter] When I began to tell her the emotional damages that that terminal language caused in my heart, she learned to put her tongue under submission of the Holy Spirit and refrain from saying that type of terminal language to me—to which, she will now confront conflict—or me and my mistake or poor habits—and she won’t say, “I’m done.” She will say, “Here’s an issue that we need to deal with.”
D.A.: It’s no longer terminal—
D.A.: —but she’s actually bringing me in to the privilege of hearing her heart.
Bob: I don’t know how many couples I’ve talked to, over the years, where I’ve said: “That’s the highest card in your hand—that’s the trump card.
Bob: “It trumps everything else.” People will throw it casually around in an attempt to try to power out whatever else is going on: “So, you’re coming at me with this. I’m going to throw the trump card and shut you down.” There is no harder stone you can throw in a marriage—
Elicia: Oh, absolutely.
Bob: —than to say: “Maybe, we should get out of this. Maybe, we should shut this down.” That’s where couples have got to understand: “The seed that is planted in the soul of the other person, when you threaten that in a moment of anger—that seed stays there—
Bob: —“for a long, long time.” The next time there is conflict, there is this little voice in your head saying, “She wants out again.”
Bob: So, the whole stability of everything in your marriage is always on—well, you live in California. You know what it’s like to live on a fault line.
D.A.: Shaky ground; yes!
Dennis: What about you?
D.A.: We believe that marriage is an illustration for the gospel, and every Christian home should be a billboard for the gospel—
—the reality of saying: “Divorce—that is contrary to the doctrine of reconciliation——
D.A.: —that is contrary to the finished work of Jesus Christ.”
If we’re going to say: “Look, I’m done with this. We’re going to dissolve this. We’re going to go our separate ways,” I don’t see Jesus doing that in Scripture. When He speaks to the seven churches in Asia, He doesn’t use that type of language. And when I look at the redemptive component—and how Jesus is going to make all things new—like that’s what I look at.
I look at—as one sister in our church put it—this is the only time Elicia and I will have the opportunity to tell our flesh, “No,” and say, “Yes,” to the Spirit of God that lives inside of us; because when we’re in glory, there is going to be no more struggle with sin; there is going to be no more battle; [and] there is going to be no more scars. This is the time that God has given for us to maximize those opportunities to walk out by denying our flesh / denying the things that we want to say in those moments or even moving forward with carnal realities and saying: “No; you’re not my god. My comfort is not my God; Jesus is my God.
“Divorce is the most comfortable move right now that I think in my mind; but I don’t think of all the intricate nuances that will come from that type of decision; so I need to say: ‘No,’ to my flesh; ‘No,’ to what I want; ‘No,’ to my anger—it is not to be my master. Christ is my master; so I need to subject my wounded, bleeding heart to Jesus in this moment.”
Bob: Yes; and Jesus is the one who has said, “I will never—
D.A.: —“leave you.”
Elicia: —“leave you.”
Bob: —“leave you or forsake you.
Bob: “Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
I’ve talked with couples—again, I’ve said: “I know the pain you’re in right now. If you went out to a doctor—and you had that pain in your leg—and the doctor said, ‘Well, we can cut it off, but then you’ll be a one-legged man for the rest of your life; or we can do the hard work of correcting that pain and fixing it, and you can run again.’” Some people go, ‘The pain is so bad; just cut it off, Doc.’ I just go, ‘Think about the choice you’re making for the rest—
Elicia: That’s good.
Bob: —“’of your life when you do that. If there is a way to fix this, let’s get in there and fix it, surgically, rather than amputating and hoping that the pain goes away as a result.’”
Dennis: “Divorce is not a solution.
Elicia: You’re right.
Dennis: “It’s an exchange of problems.”
D.A.: That’s good.
Dennis: It’s why the Scriptures and the Book of Genesis begin, setting the standard: “Therefore, a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” The command is to run the race all the way to the finish line—
Dennis: —because you promised, before a living God; but there is a generation of children, who desperately need to see some people—even in their brokenness—just finish the race.
Bob: And a lot of couples just need some mentoring—some counsel/some instruction—to know what to do. They need to get a copy of your book, Enter the Ring: Fighting Together for a Gospel-Saturated Marriage, which we’ve got available in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. You can go, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com to order a copy of D.A. and Elicia’s book.
Then, plan to spend a weekend with us at one of our upcoming Weekend to Remember marriage getaways. We’re going to be hosting more than three dozen of these events this fall in cities all across the country. And I mentioned this earlier—if you register for a getaway this week or next week, you’ll save 50 percent off the regular registration fee. This is something we are doing for FamilyLife Today listeners—we’d love to have you join us.
If you’ve been but it’s been a few years, it might be a good time for a tune up. If you’ve never been—and a lot of you have never been to one of these getaways—make this fall the year that you come out and join us so that you can build a strong, healthy marriage—build a foundation under your marriage so that it can go the distance. Find out where and when we’ll be hosting these events when you go to our website at FamilyLifeToday.com; or call if you have any questions—1-800-FL-TODAY is our number. Again, if you register this week or next week, you’ll save 50 percent off the regular registration fee; so please get in touch with us and plan to be a part of one of these upcoming getaways.
We’d love to see you at a Weekend to Remember.
Now, tomorrow, we’re going to continue to talk about some of those early struggles that this couple, D.A. and Elicia Horton, faced in the early years of their marriage—including some significant money issues that almost derailed your marriage. We’ll hear more about that tomorrow. I hope you can be with us for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, with an able assist from Mark Ramey. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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