Planting Hedges to Grow Security and Love
About the Guest
On the broadcast today, Jerry Jenkins, novelist of the blockbuster Left Behind series and author of the book Hedges: Loving Your Marriage Enough to Protect It, talks with Dennis Rainey about the importance of husbands and wives planting hedges around their marriages in order to grow security and love.
Jerry Jenkins talks with Dennis Rainey about the importance of husbands and wives planting hedges around their marriages in order to grow security and love.
Planting Hedges to Grow Security and Love
Jerry: They're inconvenient, and they can be embarrassing. I'll get called once in a while when I'm going to go speak somewhere, and they'll say, “Miss So-and-So will pick you up at the airport," and I say "Well, I have a policy where if a woman comes to pick me up, have somebody else there, too, or send a guy," and there's this long silence on the phone, and sort of, what's your problem here? But I'll tell you, I will trade that embarrassment for 34-and-a-half years of marriage any day.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Thursday, January 27th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. We’ll hear today from Jerry Jenkins about the hedges that he has put in place around his marriage in order to protect it.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us on the Thursday edition. Before we get into what we’re going to talk about today, let me remind our regular listeners that this weekend is the last opportunity you have to sign up for a special opportunity we’re making for FamilyLife Today listeners to attend an upcoming FamilyLife Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway.
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We do hope to see you at one of these Weekend to Remember marriage getaways this spring. They really are a great event, and they speak at some level to what we’re going to talk about today. In fact, this is a subject and actually a book that I think really is a timeless book, because the subject that it deals with is a subject that is timeless.
Dennis: It really is. It is an evergreen book. It's about hedges, and unfortunately …
Bob: Did you catch that? That was kind of a little evergreen – hedges …
Dennis: Yeah, there you go, but the reality is, it's talking about protecting marriages and families, and Jerry Jenkins is the author of that book. Jerry, welcome to FamilyLife Today.
Jerry: Thank you, good to be with you.
Dennis: I think Jerry's name is of no surprise, given the number of books he's written. And I didn't know this, honestly, before he shared it with me – 155 – count 'em, along with 17 – am I correct – 17 New York bestsellers?
Jerry: Something like that. I know I've written more books than I've read by now.
Dennis: I wish this was a bestseller, because emotional adultery as well as adultery are unfortunately invading the Christian community, and we need help in terms of protecting our marriages today. Is that why you brought this book back with a refurbished, re-edited, re-release?
Jerry: Yes, it's sad but true. The book is more relevant now than it ever has been, and every time somebody calls me to tell me about it, they say, "Did you hear about so-and-so?" They could be telling me they won the Nobel Prize, but my first thought is "Oh, no, don't tell me about another broken marriage." Just sad, sad stories.
Dennis: You begin the book with a story of a mythical couple, but it's been replicated in situation after situation around the country. They went on a business trip together, sparked up a relationship …
Jerry: Yeah, and it started long before that, because neither of them had hedges that I recommend, they liked each other, they liked each other's smile and presence, even though they were both married to other people. They became a little emotionally dependent on each other with hardly realizing it.
Nobody sets out to commit adultery or to break up a marriage or to have an affair, but they started missing each other, started counting on each other, and then when they're on this trip together, the puppy love thing happens, they think they're in love, and they don't control themselves. And it breaks up both marriages and, of course, the new marriage that comes out of it rarely lasts either, so now you've got three broken marriages. It causes chaos.
Bob: Most people don't recognize the danger of that kind of a friendship until it has become toxic. What was it for you that caused you to pull back and go, "Oh, there is danger there."
Jerry: Well, it's sort of like – I was raised with a father who was very devoted to my mother, and he was a man's man. He was an ex-Marine and a police chief, but he was also a romantic, and wrote love poetry to my mother and always treated her like a queen. And he was never too much of a man to scrub a floor, wash a dish, change a diaper. I resent that example to this day.
He just sort of lived this without putting it – making it formal. I mean, there were things he would not do with other women. He didn't flirt, he didn't touch, he didn't, you know, I mean, he was cordial and he was courtly, but that was a great example.
But I realized early in our marriage that I didn't think about these types of things, and because I'm in business and have a secretary and have associates and colleagues and editors, I would find myself meeting and sometimes even traveling alone with a woman not related to me, and it just, all of a sudden, sort of hit me that, you know, this could look bad.
It wasn't that I was afraid I was going to fall into all manner of affairs, it was just, you know, if you take care of how things look, you take care of how they are. If you're not meeting or dining or traveling with a woman not related to you because it would look bad, you are not going to allow anything to happen, either.
And crushes develop at work, you can find somebody that you like and admire, and if you don’t fuel that with alone time, it will pass just like high school crushes pass, and you don't have to confess to your wife that you're attracted to somebody else or tell that person – that's the worst thing "I'm actually attracted to you." I think it's important that we realize that big doors turn on small hinges, and sometimes it's just these little friendships that develop.
Dennis: Have there ever been one of those friendships that has kind of sparked for you mentally and emotionally? And I'm not saying you've ever taken any next steps, but has that happened for you?
Jerry: Well, I think the potential was there, and when you put your hedges down on paper, you reveal your own weaknesses. For instance, there are hedges I don't have. I don't have a hedge against engaging in prostitution, because there's nothing that's more repulsive to me. But I know Christian men who are tempted that way, and they have to plant a hedge.
For me it would be more, you know, the scenario I just described where I might admire and respect somebody and like how they think and talk and smile and start looking forward to seeing them, and you realize this would be a good person not to spend alone time with; not to travel with, and then they can remain a friend, and this little bubbly feeling passes, and you realize, you’ve made a sacred vow, and all those things – the eye contact, the humor, your best stories, they belong to your wife. That’s her right.
And you talk to people, and they'll be hanging – you can see them hanging around somebody of the opposite sex and becoming friendly and chummy, and you say, "Hey, you're not worried about this?" And they go, "Oh, it's nothing, we're just friends. My wife knows her, they're best friends," and then within a few months you hear stories. Now we've got trouble.
Of course, there's all the self-deception of telling yourself, "I married the wrong person in the first place, I was disobedient then, now God has brought this person in my life" – that's my favorite self-deception. I always move out of somebody's way, and I say, "You know, I don't like lightning. Don't be blaming this on God. I was there at your wedding when you said you would not bring anybody else unto you for as long as you both shall live, and now here it is."
Bob: And there doesn't have to be marital dissatisfaction for a spark to occur with somebody else, does there?
Jerry: There doesn't, except that when we were talking about people who were raised in the church, Christians most of their lives, they invent it later. We know of couples who seem to be doing very well, and you talk to the wife, who eventually is the offended party, and she says things were fine. But if the spark occurs, then they have to justify it.
So they say, you know – then they take the worst aspects of their spouse's personality, things we don't tell about each other because we protect each other, and you say, "Well, she's always been a shrew," or "She's always been a nag," or “She's plain,” or “She's nice to everybody else but not to me,” and you go "Now, wait a minute. These aren't grounds for divorce, these aren't grounds for adultery.” But they decide – they take their whole system of values and say, "Now this new relationship is so wonderful, God has to be in it."
Dennis: Jerry, God marked your life, even as a young lad at home, as a 12-year-old, in a conversation with your mother as you watched something tragic happen in your home church. It was this message being, I think, fermented in your heart at an early age.
Jerry: Yes, that's the sort of the bad news and the good news. It was a tough thing that happened, but it really did set the stage for my life and my married life. We had the perfect church, you know, I mean, we had this great young pastor, and he had a big family, and I had grown up in the church so I never knew any other pastor.
Dennis: What city was it?
Jerry: We were in Kalamazoo, Michigan, a little community church. They called it "The Little Lighthouse," informally, and we'd even refer to it as the best church in the world, because everybody knew each other, everybody cared about each other and then, all of a sudden, lots of meetings and lots of stern faces and lots of tears. So I started bugging my mother. "What's going on? What are they talking about?" She said, "You don't want to know," and you tell that to a 12-year-old, of course, I want to know, and I'm bugging her and bugging her, and she said, "You wouldn't believe it, anyway."
So I badgered her for days and, finally, she said "Okay, what would you say if I told you that our pastor doesn't love his wife anymore; that he's in love with somebody else?" I said, "I don't believe it." She said, "That's exactly what I predicted – you don't believe it, so you don't want to know."
Well, obviously, it was true – split the marriage, split the church, sides were taken. But what a shattering experience. I mean, for a kid, you look at your pastor almost like God. He is the emissary of God. And you probably know better in your heart that he could do no wrong, but not something like this. It has marked my life, it really has, and you think nobody is invulnerable.
Bob: We have rules that are in place for us at the ministry where we work. We've kind of established guidelines and patterns for things that we don't allow. For example – and you talk about this in the book – if a male and female co-worker are traveling together, they are not to share a car, they are not to sit together on the airplane. Sometimes, frankly, those are very inconvenient rules.
Jerry: They're inconvenient, and I’m not saying that if somebody drives you 20 minutes from the airport to the hotel that you have to have an affair. It’s just how does it look and what's the reputation and what happens if you get somebody who is troubled or needy?
I tell one story in the book about a young evangelist in his 20s, single, and the last person in the prayer room one night after the services is a teenage girl from the church. She makes a pass at him, and he's horrified. He tells her, "I don't know what I did to give you any signal that I want this, but don't go here." And she is so humiliated and embarrassed that she runs out of the prayer room claiming that he made the pass at her. What can he say? Who are they going to believe – the girl who grew up in the church or this young evangelist who has come to town?
And so he, of course, insisted on a meeting with the elders – they wanted to meet with him, but he insisted that she be there and her parents be there, and he just pleaded with her to tell the truth. He said, "My entire life is at stake here as far as my ministry," and she did break down and admit it. Otherwise, he wouldn't be in ministry today. It wasn't that he did anything, it was that he didn't have any defense, and so, again, take care of how it looks, and you take care of how it is.
Bob: I was, not long ago, in Sydney, and I was doing some radio recording in Sydney because FamilyLife Today is on the air in Australia, and we were talking with couples from Australia, and we had been working all morning. I was in the studio, and the recording engineer for that session was a female. And we worked throughout the morning and, in fact, we were at a conference center, and we worked right through lunch. Lunch was served, and it was done.
We got all done recording, and I said, "We'll just walk down the hill and grab something to eat." Well, we walked down the hill, and there was a restaurant there, and so we went in to grab something to eat and got seated at the table, and, actually, it was out on a patio looking out over the Pacific, and it was a nice, warm afternoon, and I'm looking out at the Pacific, and I had just ordered lunch, and I looked up across the table at this recording engineer, and I thought, "How did I get here? I shouldn't be– we shouldn't be here."
And, all of a sudden, it kind of hit me and, in fact, I think, in the middle of the meal, I said to her, "We shouldn't have done this." Again, there was nothing romantic going on, but it's just that hedge. I went right back to the conference center, sent an e-mail to my wife saying, "Let me tell you what just happened. It happened innocently. I'll tell you, I'll tell Dennis and make sure he's aware." We've got to have that accountability because we – our own hearts are wicked, aren't they?
Jerry: Yes, and when you talk about the inconvenience of that hedge – I remember one time I was going to go to a different state, fly to a different state with our retail manager at Moody, a woman, and I told her to bring an assistant, and we get to the airport, and the assistant is sick and can't go. So we've got our tickets, we've got to go, we've got these meetings, and so I called Diana, and I said, "Here is the situation." And she doesn't need me to check in. These hedges aren't because she demands them – she appreciates them.
And it was, like, sure, she was fine with it, and she trusted me and trusted the woman. And so we went and did that, and the important thing there is if somebody would call my wife and say, "I saw your husband with so-and-so," Diana would say "Either I knew about it or it didn't happen," because she knows everything, you know? And that's another hedge. If you have to violate a hedge, and it's going to look a little strange, your wife should know about it so she's not going, "What's happening here?"
Dennis: You keep speaking of hedges. That was a gift you gave your wife of 34 years about, what, 15, 16 years ago?
Jerry: Right, right.
Dennis: What were the circumstances that brought about this gift of planting these hedges around your marriage?
Jerry: Well, it actually started with a conversation with my younger brother who – he's 10 years younger, and he was getting married about that time, and he asked me – he said, "When I get married will I stop looking at other women?" And I said, "Oh, may it ever be so.
You won't go blind, and you won't wear blinders," but --and I said, "No, you won't, and yet you're going to make this sacred vow before God and to your wife, and you're going to want to plant protection, hedges, around your hands and your eyes and your heart and your mind."
I told him the things that I do, and I hadn't formalized them until that time. They were automatic things that I decided on. And then I wrote a column about that in Moody Magazine, and I got more response to that than anything I had ever written, and I realized then that it needed to be a book.
But I remember talking to Diana about it and saying, "You know, these are things that I've done for a few years, and I’ll formalize them," and you could just feel the security that she felt. And she started thinking about her own hedges and, occasionally, because she was raising the kids and I was off at work, you'd have suppliers come to the house, or you'd have somebody come to talk about something or give a bid, and she would tell me the boundaries she had – wouldn't let a man in the house, and if she talked outside, how brief it was, and the whole bit, and to let me know.
So hedges for women, too. I don't claim to be able to think for women. I know they think differently about sexuality and that type of thing, but they still need hedges as well.
Dennis: You mentioned for your wife the idea of not letting a man in the house then – how would you work around the issue of a repair that occurred? I'm just reflecting back on Barbara – as we were raising our children.
Bob: The dryer repairman.
Dennis: I'm telling you, I mean, it's critical stuff at that point.
Jerry: Yes, and there are times when exceptions have to be made, if there's an emergency and that type of thing, but Diana had a friend down the street, and they would trade if they had a repairman. Nowadays, especially in the last 20 years, although horrible stories about people who are supposed to be repairmen or meter readers or whatever, come in and do dastardly things -- so they would just say, "You know, I've got a guy coming at 10 so why don't you come at 9:30, and you'll be here when he's here," and you trade things like that, and I think that's a great thing to do.
Dennis: Jerry, you mentioned one benefit of hedges being security. That's not the only benefit of having these hedges around your marriage relationship. It also allows other things to occur like romance, and it creates commitment and trust and respect and allows other things to grow inside the fence.
Jerry: Yes, I've always said that I think the responsibility for your spouse's well being is your own. You really have to take responsibility for that. Ever since writing a book on marriage, and I'm sure you have this happen all the time – I hear from couples. They want counsel or they want to tell their story.
So often they say things like, you know, "My spouse has shut down," and that's a very dangerous spot to be in. Once one has shut down, you can tell the other "You do everything not for the gain of it, not for the payback, but because it's the right thing to do." You serve them, and you take the Scripture personally and take it home. This idea of preferring others over yourself starts in your own home with your own spouse. And sometimes it's too late.
But when you plant hedges, and you say "This is my gift." Because who else benefits? You benefit because you're not falling into adultery and falling into sin and ruining your marriage, but you're doing this in honor of your spouse. When I talk to kids about hedges before they get married – and my own sons – I have three sons who are in their 20s and two are married. I say, "The gift you want to give your spouse on your wedding day is that she marry a virgin. And when you're dating, you don't know if you're going to marry that person. You still want her to be able to give her spouse that gift on their wedding day and especially if that spouse is you.” And so, yeah, there are all kinds of benefits to applying hedges.
Bob: You know, it's interesting that that issue of security -- in the heart of a woman, particularly, there is a strong need for that security. The ability to be transparent and real; to be, in biblical terms, naked and unashamed, all comes out of "Do I feel safe in this relationship?" I think for a lot of women there's almost an instinctive lack of security so that something like these hedges are a way to build a foundation that's lacking in the heart of many women, don’t you think?
Jerry: Yes, and it's a very healthy sense that they get, and one of the things that I often counsel guys is that you'll find that your spouse – they tease about it. They'll say, "Oh, you've probably got somebody on the side," or "When you go on a trip you probably see somebody," and they're kidding, and you want to laugh, and the tendency for a guy, especially if you like to be funny, is to run with that. "Oh, yeah, I beat them off with a stick," you know.
I don't do that. When my wife teases about, you know, "You could have anybody you want," or "If I died you could be married tomorrow," my response is always serious. I say, "I can't even imagine that. I can't imagine ever being married to anybody else but you, even if you died today, and when I go on a trip, there's nobody I want to see more than you and get back to you.”
I'm not scolding her, I'm not saying don't tease about that, but I think that's just a little funny way for her to throw out a little test. I always advise guys, you know, just answer that seriously and say, you know, you know what they want to hear.
Bob: That's right. They want to hear that you'd marry them all over again; that you'd marry them 10 times out of 10. The things that I've heard you tell Barbara and the things that I've said to Mary Ann, and they never get tired of hearing it, and they never mind hearing it. There is a longing in a woman's soul to be reminded that your devotion and your allegiance is to her, and that you love her, and that helps build that wall of protection that you've been talking about, Jerry, in our marriages.
I've really benefited from the counsel that you give in the book, Hedges. It has caused me to pull back and think about my own practices. I mean, I wouldn’t naturally think about not sharing a cab ride with a co-worker to a meeting somewhere, but as I've thought it through and read your counsel on it, it helped me see there's real wisdom in that.
I want to encourage listeners to get a copy of the book Hedges. We've got it in our FamilyLife resource center. With the book, there is a DVD in the back of you presenting this material at a church. I had a friend of mine recently who contacted me and said, "Can you recommend a DVD that I could show to a men's group," and this is one of the ones I recommended to him.
Again, we've got copies of the book with the free DVD in our FamilyLife resource center. You can go online to request a copy at FamilyLifeToday.com or you can call for more information at 1-800-FL-TODAY. Ask about the book Hedges, along with the free DVD when you call 1-800-FL-TODAY, or simply order it when you go online at FamilyLifeToday.com.
And of course, don’t forget that this weekend is your last opportunity to take advantage of the special offer we are making for FamilyLife Today listeners. Plan to attend an upcoming FamilyLife Weekend to Remember marriage getaway. If you register before the weekend is over, and you register at the regular rate, your spouse comes at no additional cost; it’s a buy one, get one free offer for couples.
You’ve got to be a FamilyLife Today listener to qualify, and the way we know you’re a FamilyLife Today listener is you either write my name in the key code box on the online registration form; just type “BOB” in there, or you call 1-800-FL-TODAY, register over the phone, and mention that you listen to FamilyLife Today. If you need more information you can find it online at FamilyLifeToday.com. Plan to join us for an upcoming FamilyLife Weekend to Remember marriage getaway. It’s the best thing you can do to strengthen your marriage relationship.
Now tomorrow we want to encourage you to be back with us. Jerry Jenkins is going to be here again. We’re going to continue talking about how we can establish the right kind of boundaries in our marriage. I hope you can join us for that.
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 tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas, a ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ. Help for today. Hope for tomorrow.
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