Leading So She’ll Follow
About the Guest
Within the heart of a woman is a desire to be protected. Robert and Nancy Wolgemuth, along with Ron Deal, talk about the challenges of shepherding a wife in a blended family. Robert explains what he does in his relationship with Nancy to make following him easier.
Nancy DeMoss WolgemuthNancy has touched millions of women's lives through Revive Our Hearts (an outreach of Life Action Ministries) and the True Woman Movement, calling them to heart revival and biblical womanhood. Her love for the Word and the Lord Jesus are infectious, and permeate her online outreaches, conference messages, books, and two daily nationally syndicated radio programs—...more
Robert WolgemuthRobert Wolgemuth has been in the media business for thirty-nine years. He is former president of Thomas Nelson Publishers and the owner of Wolgemuth & Associates, Inc., a literary agency exclusively representing the writing work of more than one hundred authors. Dr. Wolgemuth is a speaker and best-selling author of over twenty books, including She Calls Me Daddy, the notes to the Dad's Devotional Bible, The Most Important Place on Earth, and What's in the Bible: The...more
Ron DealRon L. Deal is one of the most widely read and viewed experts on blended families in the country. He is Director of FamilyLife Blended® for FamilyLife®, founder of Smart Stepfamilies™, and the author and Consulting Editor of the Smart Stepfamily Series
Within the heart of a woman is a desire to be protected. Robert and Nancy Wolgemuth, along with Ron Deal, talk about the challenges of shepherding a wife in a blended family.
Leading So She’ll Follow
Bob: Is it hard for a wife to follow her husband’s leadership? Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth says, for her, it’s not difficult as long as she knows whose leadership her husband is following.
Nancy: When I know that this man is seeking the Lord, then, when he says: “I have this concern about us,” or “…this thing I’ve observed that I want us to talk about,” or “…this direction I think we need to take,” I go: “This is a man that seeks the Lord. He’s following our Shepherd. I can trust him, not to be perfect, but to lead; and I can trust the Lord is leading through him.”
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Tuesday, January 16th. Our host is Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. How can a husband make it easy for his wife to follow and respond to his leadership? We’ll talk about that today with our guests, Robert and Nancy Wolgemuth. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. You know, the subject we’re talking about this week—about a husband being engaged, and loving, and leading, and shepherding his wife—we’ve got to acknowledge there are some wives who kind of bristle at the whole idea and go: “I don’t need somebody shepherding me. I’m a grown woman. I can take care of myself.”
Dennis: I think, within the heart of a woman, is a desire to be protected, to—can I say it?—to be led in a tender way, in a caring way, in a nourishing and cherishing way. I think we’ve made too much out of the battle of the sexes.
We just need to realize, when God made them male and female, they were designed to complement each other. It’s as husbands pursue their wives—love them, and seek to be a shepherd of their souls, and protect them—that I think it makes—makes the possibility of a great marriage very reasonable.
Bob: Yes; you know that, at the Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway, we have, on Sunday morning, a time when the men get together and the women get together in separate rooms. We talk about what it is that God is calling men to be, as husbands and dads / what it is God is calling women to be, as wives and as moms. People have told us, over the years, that is one of their favorite times of the whole weekend; because I think a lot of husbands and wives don’t really have an understanding of their core responsibilities in a marriage relationship, and that’s what we focus on during that time.
As you know, Dennis, this week and next week, we’re offering FamilyLife® listeners an opportunity to join us at an upcoming Weekend to Remember marriage getaway.
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Now, we’ve got a friend who has been shepherding—well, he shepherded his first marriage for 44 years—and then, after his wife died, God led him to a new pasture, and he saw a new sheep, and he said: “W-o-o-o! [Laughter]
Dennis: “Come join me in my pasture!” [Laughter]
Dennis: Robert Wolgemuth joins us again on FamilyLife Today, along with his wife, Nancy. Welcome back, guys.
Robert: Thanks, Dennis.
Dennis: Robert is the founder and president of Wolgemuth and Associates, who—yesterday, I shrunk it down to only 100 authors that he had—that he corrected me quickly; he said he has over  authors.
Robert: Only two—you and Barbara. [Laughter]
Dennis: Also, we’re joined by Ron Deal, who heads up FamilyLife’s blended initiative. We’re really honored to have you with us, Ron. These subjects that we talk about—about shepherding a woman’s soul—are really great lessons to learn, especially if you have a blended family. There are some unique challenges there. Comment on some of the challenges that a husband might have as the shepherd of a wife in a blended marriage.
Ron: Let’s say you are also, not just a husband, but you’re a stepdad. You may have your own children; but let’s say she has children, and you’re the stepfather to her children. You know, your first task is trying to form a relationship with them—so: “How do you lead?” “What does that look like with sheep who don’t want to follow you?”—who are not sure who you are / if they can trust you. They are not sure where you’re leading or if they want to go. “How do you go about doing that?”
That, obviously, is a pretty significant challenge for stepdads. We could talk around that a little bit today. I think winning the heart of your wife probably would be the first step; and then, you can lead the children through her—if not directly, you can lead indirectly.
Bob: That’s been a lot of what we’ve been talking about—is the need for a shepherd to win the heart of his wife—to romance, to lure, to draw.
But, Robert, as we’ve said, there are some wives who are resistant to a husband’s shepherding. Even the best-intended husband, who wants to do this right, faces a wife who bristles, and her back bows up, and she says, “You’re demeaning in how you’re doing this.” What does a husband do in that moment?
Robert: What I would say is—and for good reason—I mean, there are some husbands that don’t lead well. I read a book, while I was writing this book, written by a woman who was beaten—physically beaten and abused—by her pastor husband—
Bob: Oh my word!
Robert: —who quoted Ephesians 5 to a woman in the fetal position on the kitchen floor—true. I needed to read that book, because I am not a cynical person / I don’t have any friends who are cynical people; but I’m my own cynical reviewer when I write. I want to look at the furrowed brow of the person I’m writing to. When you’re speaking, you get that; when you’re writing, you have no idea.
So, I wanted to write to people who looked at that—the “S”-word / the submission word—and bristled at it, as you said. I wanted to unpack that—to say, “Yep; I understand where this is coming from because there is abuse / there is misuse of that concept, and I’d like to show you a different way.”
Dennis: So Nancy, I just want to ask you: “What does Robert do, as he shepherds you, to make you following him easier?”
Nancy: I have a picture sitting in front of me—that if I could just describe it for a moment—I think it’s such a beautiful picture of this whole concept and how it works in our marriage. Someone gave this to me a few weeks ago. It was taken at one of our conferences that our ministry does. I was on the platform—I’m getting ready to speak. I don’t actually remember this moment; but I’m kneeling at the podium before speaking, praying.
Robert is kneeling next to me on the platform in such a way—because he’s quite a bit taller—that he is over me. Behind us both, as we have our heads bowed in prayer, behind us both is a large wooden cross.
I love this picture; it’s such a picture of how our relationship functions. We’re kneeling before the cross of Christ—He is our Shepherd / He is our Lord—we are bowing our hearts and heads in prayer and in submission to the Lord. Robert is praying over me. I’m under him in the sense that—it’s not inferior / not less than—he cherishes me / he values me—but he prays over me. He covers me with his prayers and his love; and we do it together, as partners, before the cross of Christ.
In a very specific way, we start every day—Robert is the one who has initiated this / I love this—he gets up much earlier in the morning than I do, typically.
But if I’m stirring at all, we’ll just come together in the bed there. He will hold my hand—bring his face / nuzzle it up close to mine—and just pray a short pray. It’s not a long theological anything—I’m only half awake—but he prays.
Last thing at night—he’s falling asleep, and I’m still quite awake—but we come together and we pray. We hold hands / we come close to each other, and he prays. He prays a blessing—he prays a covering / he prays a protection—he prays for our family. He leads in this. It’s simple / you don’t have to go to seminary to do this; but he is shepherding. He’s showing me that what he cares about is—not his way or his will—but he’s saying, “What does God want in our lives and in our marriage?”
Bob: I think this is so key, Robert—for a husband to recognize: “In your leadership, we always have to be asking: ‘Is this what I want, or is this what God wants? Is this my impulse, or is this the impulse of the Spirit?” We’re under submission, as leaders, under the submission to the Lord.
If we’re leading on our own strength, our own initiative, in our own desires, then we are mishandling our assignment; aren’t we?
Robert: Yes; if you want to be a good leader, learn how to be led. So, there you go—that’s the sequence. I’m learning how to be led and that teaches me how to lead—it’s got to happen like that.
Dennis: Being a follower is a prerequisite—
Robert: No doubt.
Dennis: —to being able to lead another.
Robert: No doubt!
Dennis: If you were coaching a young man, starting out his marriage—maybe there’s a couple, right now, listening to our broadcast / they are in the first months of their marriage—maybe there are engaged couples listening to us today—how would you coach him to begin this process of leading? We’ve just heard some illustrations already— praying together—I would advise that as well. How else can a young man lead his wife?
Robert: Learn how to be a great talker and listener—both of those things. You know statistics—how much time a couple actually spends talking.
But Nancy’s ability to express herself is the bridge that our love walks across. There is no such thing as “no communication” / you’re always communicating. So use words to clarify what you are thinking—to hear yourself saying: “What are you thinking?” or “How does that feel?” or “When I did that, how did that make you feel? Tell me how that made you feel,”—being a safe place. You know, don’t cut her off; let her finish, and then tell her how that made you feel. Use “I” statements; right? Don’t point your finger—say, “This is how I feel about that.”
Dennis: Don’t defend.
Robert: Don’t defend; right. Be willing to be wrong; so if you drive a stake in the ground, you might be in trouble.
Dennis: I think a good question for any man, who is leading his wife well, is to answer this question: “What’s the last time you had to ask your wife to forgive you for something you did that was clearly wrong?”
Robert: Yes; my favorite—you just said it; right—asking her to forgive you—not saying, “I’m sorry”; because when you say, “I’m sorry,” that doesn’t evoke a response. Usually, the person says, “Oh, that’s alright,” even when it wasn’t alright.
So if I say to you: “I was wrong,” and “I’d love for you to forgive me. Would you forgive me for that?”—that evokes the response and eliminates the problem. Now, your wife may say, “Give me some time on that,” because she knows that when she says, “Yes; I forgive you,” then that erases the words from the white board; and it’s clean again.
Nancy: One of the things we’ve said often is: “Our desire in our marriage—when there has been a misunderstanding/disagreement—we want to race to the cross. We want to see who can get there first—to humble himself / to seek forgiveness.” I will say that, in that race, Robert usually wins.
He’s just quick; from the outset, he’s been quick to come back and say: “I’m so sorry. I was wrong when I said it that way. Would you please forgive me?” That makes my heart be more responsive and tender, but I want to race to the cross too. As the Holy Spirit convicts us, we want to see if we can get to that humble place first.
Ron: Can I just make an observation? You just came, all the way, full circle. You shared an image, a little while ago, of the two of you bowing in prayer—and him being beside you, over you, near you—but both of you under the cross. Listen to what you just said: “When we make a mistake and we hurt one another,”—or whatever it is—“he races back to his knees at the foot of the cross.”
The conversation around shepherding begs the question: “How does a woman, then, submit and follow?” But if you listened to the last ten minutes of the conversation, what we described a shepherd as being—Robert’s talking about—talking and listening, and really caring and tuning in, and really meeting her where she is and attuning to your wife.
You talked about bowing in prayer and bringing everything before the Lord—that he himself is a person, who is constantly under God’s direction and care, and is seeking the Lord in all things. When you paint that picture—help me, Nancy—I think submission gets a whole lot easier.
Nancy: It does. What woman is going to resist that or resent that? I say: “Thank You, Lord!” All these years, I was a single woman—and I thank the Lord for that season—God gave grace / He was my shepherd in a very direct way. But now, to have this gift / this provision of a man who cares, who cherishes, who treasures me—he calls me his precious girl—and to see him on his knees, in the Word, seeking the Lord.
Submission isn’t a daily or frequent battle. It’s not something that surfaces often in our marriage, because we are both submitting to the Lord. My disposition—I want to be a woman who is lead-able. I’ve been telling this to other women for all these years; and now, I get a chance to do it—but, thankfully, with a man who is following Christ—and it makes it a joy!
Robert: It’s so important that I say, at this point; may I? I’m a sinful man. My wife characterizing me like this is overwhelming, because I am very aware of my own sinfulness. I follow the Good Shepherd. As we said earlier, I’m learning how to be a leader by learning to be a good follower. People follow because they want to be like the person that’s leading. The leader doesn’t say: “Come here. Follow me!” You know, this is a shepherd, not a cowboy. I want my wife to want to be like that; then, it gives me the privilege of leading.
Bob: Ron, it occurs to me that, in a blended relationship, sometimes, a husband will begin to shepherd—to lead, to nudge, to say, “I think we need to go this direction,”—and a wife may have flashes from the past where that was done poorly.
She’s resistant, not because he’s doing anything wrong, but just because she built a reflex, over years, to back away when this was being mishandled.
Ron: Fundamentally, it’s an issue of trust; right? “How do I know I can trust you to lead in a self-sacrificial way, in a way that brings glory to God, not your glory / not your kingdom, but His kingdom?” That may take some time. The word I would then give to her husband, at that point, is: “Be careful to guard your heart against discouragement. You might go: ‘Man, I’m doing all the right things. I’m doing everything Robert said—I read his book / I memorized it frontwards and backwards—it’s not working!’”—right?
He tells a story about a decision that needed to be made in their marriage—I don’t even remember the scenario—but what I remember was that his attitude / his response to Nancy was: “…and gave Himself up for her”—he just quoted Ephesians 5.
In a situation, where your wife is struggling to trust you—first marriage, second marriage, whatever it is—“…and gave Himself up for her”—if that is your continual posture—continually loving, serving, cherishing—as Dennis said, “That softens the heart,”—it takes distrust and moves it towards trust.
Bob: The way I’ve said that, over the years, is: “If couples would apply Philippians 2:3, ‘Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility, regard one another as more important than yourself,’ that cures a whole lot of marriage issues.” People look and go: “We’ve got this problem,” “We’ve got that problem,”—“Okay; regard the other person as more important than yourself and see how many of those problems go away.”
Ron: And it can take a long time. We just have to add that it’s not overnight in some situations. Again, the scenario you painted—a woman, who’s really been hurt, based on a previous relationship, could take a long time before her heart softens; but that is the path.
Bob: And a shepherd in that situation needs to be patient, and gentle, and full of grace—
Ron: That’s right.
Dennis: Earlier, I said: “If we want to know how to be a shepherd, we ought to look at the One who did it perfectly and who is still doing it today. And that’s Psalm 23: ‘The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want.’” But I want to go to a portion of that passage I didn’t read—it begins in verse 4, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for You are with me, Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.”
Now, there’s more there than we can unpack in the time that we have left; but I want you to comment, Robert, on how you do two things. One is: “How do you protect Nancy?” And the other thing I want you to comment on: “When you do go through a valley—it may not be the valley of the shadow of death / it may not have taken anyone’s life or had the loss of a family member—but it’s just a—it’s a valley—it’s dark; it’s rugged.
Comment on both of those: “How you protect,” and “How you’ve traveled through the valley with her.”
Robert: Let me take you to a baseball game. A baseball manager comes running out of the dugout when there’s a call that he doesn’t agree with. Does he do that because the umpire will change his mind?—never!—never! So why does he do that?—why does he go out? I’m thinking of Tommy Lasorda—nose to nose with the umpire, screaming, and sometimes kicking dirt on the umpire’s shoes—what is that about? [Laughter] Oh, it’s a very simple answer. It’s about protecting your ball players and saying to them, “I’m willing, in front of 40,000 people, to look like an idiot to protect you.”
So what does that look like? Well, that looks like—if you’re home, and you’ve got teenagers; and it is dinnertime, and some child says something to his or her mother that’s unkind/snarky—rolls their eyes—whatever: “What do you do to protect your wife?” You stop it—you say: “Oh, I’m sorry. That is not acceptable,” and you protect your wife. You don’t do it to change your child’s mind, like the umpire; you do it to say to your wife: “I’m going to go to bat for you. I’m going to protect you by keeping others from hurting you / from discouraging you—I’m going to step in.”
You asked a question about the dark places. What’s interesting is that Nancy knew—as you said, Bobbie—and I actually was right there the moment she stepped into heaven. I’ve told Nancy that story in our very first conversation, as a potential suitor. I had known Nancy as her agent / as her literary agent.
This was 13 years later. We were having a conversation that I wanted to lead toward a friendship. I told her that story, and Nancy comes into that valley with me.
I think part of the answer is—in fact, the first year of our marriage, we went to a lot of funerals. How many, like, was it?
Nancy: Quite a few; yes.
Robert: Seven or eight funerals. You visit the house of mourning together and that gives you a chance to unpack some of that darkness / some of that hard stuff. You listen with your eyes. Deaf people teach us how to listen—you don’t listen with your ears; you listen with your eyes. Your wife knows if you are listening, because you’re looking at her. The same is true when she’s talking—you’re listening with your eyes.
Bob: —not at your device; right?—not at your device.
Robert: That’s right! [Laughter]
Dennis: So if the guys didn’t get it today: “If you want to be a shepherd of your wife’s soul, lead her in a loving, gracious way; protect her; and third, go through the dark valleys together—invite her into yours and ask to be invited into hers.
Bob: I’d just say—a guy’s got to continue to sharpen the saw / he’s got to keep his game fresh. I’m thinking about guys in the NBA, who are at the top of their game—and they still go and practice their free throws; they still get coaching from their coach, or get with the shooting coach, or the conditioning training people; because, in order for them to execute at the level that they are being called to execute, they’ve got to have input / they’ve got to have help.
The same is true for us, as husbands. In order for us to be the kinds of husbands God has called us to be and that we want to be, we need help. We need to be reading books like the book that you’ve written here, Like the Shepherd. It’s a book that we’ve got in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. You can order it, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com; or you can call to order—1-800-FL-TODAY is our number. Again, this is the kind of on-going equipping that all of us need, as husbands. The book, again, by Robert Wolgemuth is called, Like the Shepherd. It’s available, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com; or call 1-800-FL-TODAY to order a copy.
Let me just add—for you, as a husband, to take the initiative with your wife and say: “You know what we should do this spring? We ought to go to one of those Weekend to Remember marriage getaways we’ve heard about on the radio. We’ve talked about this for years; we’ve just never gotten around to doing it. Why don’t we do it this spring?” Carve out a weekend—make the plans / make the arrangements. You can go to our website, FamilyLifeToday.com, and find out when the getaway is going to be in a city near you. You can make arrangements with the babysitter. I mean, as a guy, you can take the initiative to make all of this happen.
If you sign up this week or next week for a getaway, you’ll save 50 percent off the regular registration fee. So, this is a great investment in your marriage; and right now, the investment is half-price. If you want to give your marriage a 100 percent, you can get away for half price and do that; okay? Go to our website, FamilyLifeToday.com, to register for a getaway; or call 1-800-FL-TODAY if you have any questions or if you’d like to register over the phone.
Again, the website—FamilyLifeToday.com—or call 1-800-FL-TODAY. Plan now to be with us and sign up now so you can save 50 percent off your getaway.
Tomorrow, we’ll continue our conversation with our guests, Robert and Nancy Wolgemuth, talking about husbands being the kind of husband God has called us to be. I hope you can join us for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. 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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