Shepherding Her Heart
About the Guest
Authors Robert and Nancy Wolgemuth fondly remember the days of their courtship when they discussed becoming a blended family. Nancy recalls how her heart skipped a beat and began to soften as Robert told her how he loved being married and shepherding a wife. Robert gives his best advice for husbands seeking to shepherd well. Joining them is Ron Deal, director of FamilyLife Blended.
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Robert and Nancy Wolgemuth fondly remember the days of their courtship when they discussed becoming a blended family. Robert gives his best advice for husbands seeking to shepherd well. Ron Deal joins them.
Bob: Robert Wolgemuth takes seriously the responsibility to shepherd his wife’s heart. His wife, Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, says this is one way that he shepherds her well—
Nancy: He keeps pursuing me. He notices—he hears what I say; he cares about it; he asks me about it. I said to Robert, “I think women would be amazingly more responsive, than many are, if their husbands would keep pursuing their hearts.”
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Monday, January 15th. Our host is Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. How can a husband succeed in being the husband God has called him to be? We’ll explore that idea today with our guests, Robert and Nancy Wolgemuth. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. You know, it occurs to me that you can have a talented basketball player, who’s got all of the skills necessary to play the game right; but if he doesn’t have a coach and a game plan, the talent isn’t sufficient to get the job done. I’m thinking about that, not so much in relation to basketball, but I’m thinking of it in relation to marriage—guys, who say, “I want to be a good husband,”—they may have the skill / the talent to do it; but they may need to have a little coaching and, maybe, have a game plan for what it is they’re supposed to be doing.
Dennis: I think you’re putting your finger on one of the top reasons why marriages are failing today. It’s why we created the Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway—to give people the blueprints to train them in how to resolve conflict; how to communicate; how to be a husband / how to be a wife; and to realize they’ve got an overall mission, together, as a couple.
Bob: Well, this week and next week, our listeners have a special opportunity to sign up for an upcoming Weekend to Remember getaway and save 50 percent off the regular registration fee, as a couple.
Go to our website, FamilyLifeToday.com—all of the information is available there. This is just a great time to sign up for any of the 55-plus events that are going to be taking place throughout the spring in cities all across the country; but you need to sign up either this week or next week if you want to take advantage of the half-price opportunity you have to register for an upcoming Weekend to Remember.
The website is FamilyLifeToday.com. If you have any questions, call us at 1-800-FL-TODAY. Come out and join us at a Weekend to Remember. We’ll see if we can’t help both of you get on the same page and get moving in the same direction in your marriage.
Dennis: And, you know, to answer that question today, Bob—about how you can get a game plan—we’ve got a ton of folks in the studio. [Laughter] I mean, we’ve got Robert and Nancy Wolgemuth in the studio with us. Robert/Nancy, welcome back.
Robert: Thank you, Dennis.
Nancy: Thanks, Dennis.
Robert: Thank you, Bob.
Dennis: They’re veterans. I don’t know how many times you guys have been on, but you keep coming back!
Robert: It’s like a bad penny. It keeps showing up! [Laughter]
Dennis: Also, Ron Deal joins us again. Ron, welcome back.
Ron: Thank you. It’s always good to be here.
Dennis: In case our listeners don’t know, Robert is—he is my agent / book agent.
Robert: That’s right.
Dennis: And he heads up an agency for more than 100 authors; is that right?
Robert: More than 200.
Bob: I thought you were going to say, “…100 years.”
Robert: I shouldn’t have said that. I should have said, “We have two clients: you and Barbara,”—that’s what I should have said.
Dennis: You should have said that.
Robert: I missed an opportunity. [Laughter]
Dennis: Your bio needs to be updated just a little bit. But it does have the fact that you’re married to Nancy—
Dennis: —since 2015.
Robert: That’s right.
Dennis: And because of Robert’s unique background of having been married to Bobbie for 44 years—
Dennis: —forty-four-and-a-half years—Nancy married into and created a blended family.
Bob: In fact, Robert, you and I were having a conversation in the early days of—do we call it your courtship with Nancy?
Robert: Sure, let’s do that.
Bob: You and Nancy had been communicating about the possibility of a relationship developing for maybe a month-and-a-half when you and I were chatting. I said, “If this is going somewhere, you ought to get some time with Ron Deal; because you’re forming a blended family. Ron’s the guy who can help you navigate those waters.”
Robert: If you googled “spectacular advice,” that’s what would show up. [Laughter]
Bob: —Ron’s picture.
Dennis: Nancy, you would never have thought that—due to your Dad passing away, way too young—he was a great man / heaven had a great gain, but the earth had a great loss when your dad passed away—
Dennis: —that Bob Lepine would become a surrogate father, forcing Robert—[Laughter]
Bob: It wasn’t just me! You were in on this, too, buddy!
Dennis: It was kind of a family event, here, at FamilyLife.
Robert: It was!
Dennis: You introduced him to Ron Deal, and Ron spent some time—
Ron: —some time.
Dennis: —some time. How much time, Robert?
Robert: Six weeks, night and day. [Laughter]
Ron: We just skimmed the surface. [Laughter]
Robert: We just got started!
Dennis: “This couple needed a lot of help!” [Laughter]
Bob: There was a hymn, when you guys were courting,—
Bob: —that was kind of the hymn that defined your courtship.
Robert: It became our song.
Robert: You know, couples have “our song.”
Bob: And your song was?
Robert: “Savior, like a shepherd lead us, much we need Thy tender care,”—that was it.
Bob: Now, were you meditating on what ultimately became a book called Like the Shepherd?
Robert: No; I can’t say that I was; but as our courtship developed, and as we got engaged and then married, that image of a shepherd found its way into our texts, late at night. So, early in our marriage, I said, “I think it would be fun to write that book.”
Nancy: Well, I have to share with you that, in one of our very earliest conversations, Robert was talking about his wife, Bobbie.
He’d been married for all of those years; and he said, “One of the things I loved about being married was I loved shepherding a wife.” I had never heard a man describe his calling as a husband that way. I mean, I knew it was true; but I’m thinking, “He didn’t talk about loving what she did for him, or what she meant to him, or how he felt because he was married to her.” He said, “I loved shepherding a wife.”
Dennis: And we haven’t mentioned what terminated that marriage of 44 years, but it was cancer. You became his wife, obviously, after that courtship and Bob bringing you together and blessing your relationship. [Laughter]
Here’s my question for you, Nancy. You’ve been married since 2015—now, that’s not a long time yet—but what would be the best advice you could give a man, right now, in being the shepherd of his wife?
Nancy: Well, I’m no expert on this subject now, and probably never will be; but I would just say, from my heart, that one of the things in our marriage that has been so precious—and I’ve said to Robert, “If other men would do more of this, they can’t imagine how much it would mean to their wives,”—and that is that he keeps pursuing my heart. He’s being intentional about listening—about asking questions / about conversation. We don’t rush through dinner. Now, I know some families have to; but we’re in a season of life where we can just stop after dinner and talk about our day. He’s asking me to unpack: “What do you think about this? How did that make you feel?” He’s a much better conversationalist than I am!
So he keeps pursuing me. He notices—he hears what I say; he cares about it; he asks me about it. I said to Robert, “I think women would be amazingly more responsive, than many are, if their husbands would keep pursuing their hearts,”—
—not in aggressive or controlling ways, but just in gentle and tender ways—that’s shepherding!
Robert: Here’s a word picture that could be problematic, let’s say, for some women. The first story that Jesus told in Luke 15 was the wandering sheep. And so, not only does the image of a sheep sometimes become problematic, for a woman to say: “Oh, I see! So you’re the shepherd, and I’m this dirty sheep!”
Robert: But the sheep wandered off, and the shepherd lovingly pursued that sheep. In my experience with Nancy, I’m discovering / I discovered, early on, she’s a person with lots of responsibility in ministry. We’ll have this dinner time; and we’ll be sitting there, enjoying dinner. I’m looking at her face, and she has wandered off. I want you to hear me—
—she’s thinking about this conference coming up; she’s thinking about this book deadline; she’s thinking about another recording session. She’s not there / she’s not there with me—she’s wandered off: “What do I do to bring her back? What do I do to capture her?” It is patience, and it’s warming—it’s wooing her—it’s not forgetting to woo her.
I tell the story in the book—this is a book for men—so, sometimes, a woman will read it and go: “Wait a minute! Are you calling me a sheep?!” “Are you calling me a 150-pound marlin?” But the image is—the guy’s going fishing. When he’s out there, he realizes he’s only got 15-pound test line; and he’s going for a 150-pound fish. He’s going to have to get the fish in the ship without breaking the line—that’s called “wooing”/ that’s called “romancing.” That’s understanding that she has to want to respond to you—you can’t force it.
Bob: I’m thinking, as you’re talking, about 1 Peter, Chapter 3, verse 7: “Husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way.”
Dennis has said, for years, that a husband’s assignment is to become a student of his wife and to know her better than any human being knows her. You’re talking about this being a diligent pursuit for a man; right?
Robert: That’s right—it’s Deuteronomy 24. I don’t have to become an expert on all women—I have to become an expert on one woman. The admonition there was to take a year off of work and get good at this. Don’t be overwhelmed by all women; just study this one woman and become an expert at her.
Dennis: As you were talking, I was thinking—to that point about being the expert of one woman—if we’re going to learn how to be a shepherd, we ought to study the greatest shepherd who’s ever existed.
Dennis: He’s described in, probably, one of the most familiar passages in the Bible—Psalm 23. I’ll not read it all, but just think about this—especially the guys who are married—think about this in light of your wife:
“The Lord is my shepherd. I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His Name’s sake.” Then it goes on to talk about how He guides us through the valley of the shadow of death; so He shepherds us when we go through trials—
Dennis: —and life’s full of trials.
Bob: And Robert, you had spent four-and-a-half decades being the shepherd of Bobbie—
Bob: —making it your life’s goal to know her better than any person on earth. Then, all of a sudden, you’ve got to turn around and start from scratch. What was that like?
Robert: That’s a great question; because Nancy’s very, very different than Bobbie. So, I couldn’t use the old playbook; I had to start again.
Now, the lovely thing is—I married a woman of grace, and I married a grown-up—[Laughter]—who doesn’t overreact to stuff / doesn’t get carried away; is very deliberate/very measured. In fact, early on—we were dating, Honey—when I said, “What do you think our first fight is going to be about?” She got this quizzical look on her face. I think she said, “What do you mean ‘fight’?”
Now, I don’t want for this to be off-putting for couples who do fight; but we don’t fight. I think part of it is our age. When you’re young and married, and you’ve got a lot of stuff—you’ve got a lot of your own stuff to work out—sometimes that looks like conflict in your marriage. You’re kind of—you’re working it out in the presence of somebody else. But if, at 67, I don’t know who I am; and Nancy, at 57, doesn’t know who she is, we’re in trouble.
Bob: You disagree?
Robert: Oh, like crazy!
Nancy: I was going to say—it’s not that we don’t have disagreements—
Robert: No; right.
Nancy: —but that we talk about those things; we pray about those things; and we defer to each other—and to really want to honor the other, to make allowances, to try and understand the other.
Nancy: These are things that are—they are people skills that you develop, as you walk with the Lord over a course of years,—
Robert: That’s right.
Nancy: —we’re applying, now, in the context of our marriage.
Bob: Ron, I want to ask you to comment on what Robert talked about—not being able to use the old playbook and just do with Nancy what he’d done with Bobbie. When it’s a blended marriage, husbands and wives have to learn, “We can’t just go back into our old patterns, because we’ve got new people here.”
Ron: Right. And here’s the thing—you don’t even realize it’s a pattern until you find yourself in a situation where the other person doesn’t respond the way you would maybe predict or assume. All of a sudden, you’re feeling something you’ve never felt before and: “Hmmm, this is foreign territory,”—not necessarily familiar territory.
That’s where you begin to unlearn how you shepherded Bobbie—
Ron: —and what a beautiful thing that that was! Comment on discovering and what it requires of you, as a husband/as a shepherd, to have the openness to discover that.
Robert: Well, first, I had to want to do that—you know, your actions follow your desires/your heart. So I wanted to because I pursued her—I wooed her / I wanted to win her heart. I was intentional about being careful, being deliberate, being patient, being gentle—all of those things. That was my desire, so I did those things.
Actually, I see that looking back, that really wasn’t the playbook. This isn’t—we’re dealing with somebody with a will of her own. I do talk about the difference between riding a motorcycle and riding a horse—“How is this for man talk?”—right?! [Laughter]
A motorcycle is predictable—you get on; you twist your wrist; and then, you’re off. The motorcycle has no will of its own. A horse does. I know, from experience, that you can wind up in the ditch [Laughter] if the horse decides he doesn’t want to take you where you think you want him to go. That’s the difference! So you have to romance / you have to woo—you have to get that fish onboard without breaking the line.
My favorite Aesop’s fable is the sun and the wind—the argument that they have. The sun and the wind are having an argument to see who’s the strongest. They see a man walking with a cloak on. The wind goes first, because he’s sure that he’s the stronger. He says, “I bet I can get that guy to take his coat off.” He blows and blows and blows—harder, harder, harder. The harder he blows the wind, the tighter the man clings to his coat; so, he runs out of air. Then the sun says, “Now it’s my turn.” He warms the man, and he takes his coat off.
That’s really the magic, I think, that I would love husbands to pick up in this book—that you woo your wife—you romance her / you warm her. Then, she wants to please you; she doesn’t do it out of obligation. She wants to please you—she wants to be your lover, your wife, your companion, your partner, your friend. We text each other, early in the morning: “I love you, my shepherd friend,” is what Nancy responds, almost every morning, to my early texts.
Bob: So you’re not just talking about a guy listening and saying: “Okay; I’ll buy flowers when I go home tonight,” and do that. “I guess I’m supposed to show a little romance here.” You’re talking about a nurturing kind of relationship that involves a whole lot more than just a trip to the grocery store and a few dollars.
Robert: Yes, a lot more; it sure does.
Nancy: Although a trip to the grocery store every once in a while can really help! [Laughter]
Bob: Did you pick up on that, shepherd?
Robert: That’s right! [Laughter]
Well, you know, it’s interesting because—
Nancy: He’s great at that, let me just say!
Robert: —typically, men conquer; right? Women romance—women understand that. But Nancy conquers at the grocery store—you should see it; it is amazing! It’s amazing. But I do that if it’s going to help her / if it’s going to save her some time: “It’s my pleasure.” I say that a lot—“…my pleasure!”—Chick-fil-A® got it right. [Laughter]
Dennis: Yes; they did.
I want to go back to Ron, though; because I don’t think we truly touched on how the blended family dynamic impacts what we’re talking about here. What’s the best coaching you can give a husband, who’s in a blended family relationship, which will throw some curveballs at that relationship?
Ron: Yes; yes. For example, one of the dynamics here is—it’s not just about you wooing your wife. In many blended family situations, your kids are watching—they’re going: “Wait a minute! You didn’t do that with Mom,” or “It was different with Mom,” or “Dad, you were a different person with her.”
There’s this sense that you can see yourself through the eyes of your kids. That adds another dynamic to, “How do I approach my wife?” “…pursue my wife?” / “…shepherd my wife?” and yet, have this awareness that the children are thinking this as odd or strange. Or maybe they’re even jealous of what you’re doing now with wife number two versus the mother of the kids. It adds a level of complexity to how this shepherding process takes place.
Robert’s nailing it, in terms of the heart and the willingness of the husband to shepherd / to pursue. It’s just being done with a larger crowd of people watching.
Bob: Robert, did you ever have a tinge of guilt?
Robert: There could have been if the following hadn’t taken place—
—two months before Bobbie stepped into heaven, she told two friends that she wants Robert to marry Nancy Leigh DeMoss.
Bob: She didn’t tell you that.
Robert: No; she did not. So, two months after we were dating, those two friends sent me an email—each—and said, “We think you ought to know something.”
I’m probably the exception. I would understand, totally, how you would sort of second-guess your heart; because after almost 45 years of devotion to one person, and then, suddenly, you’re shifting gears, without ruining your transmission—
Robert: —that would be a huge challenge. For us, that was tremendous release. It sort of gave me permission / it sort of blessed our relationship. I didn’t feel obligation because Bobbie had said that, because I was already falling in love with this woman.
Nancy: And this was something you and Bobbie had talked about a lot, in terms of you getting remarried.
Nancy: She knew that she was terminal. You and she had this conversation.
She loved you, and really wanted what was best for you, and gave you that gift of saying, “I want you to get remarried.”
Robert: Yes; huge! Yes.
Bob: And, Ron, that’s an unusual situation; because in a divorce, you don’t get a blessing to go marry somebody else.
Bob: And even with the death of a spouse, you don’t always get that release that Bobbie gave to Robert.
Ron: That was a huge gift on Bobbie’s part—just an amazing act of grace out of her spirit, for sure.
At the same time, though, you have to relearn. You have to unlearn some of the things of the past, and relearn, and discover. The shepherd heart that Robert is talking about is what makes the difference. It’s fine that you had permission; right? “Okay; I feel like I can turn that corner,” but you still have to ride the horse / you still have to discover the territory. You still have to figure out how to work, as a team, and come together and: “What is it about this woman who needs you?
Ron: “What is your place and your role in leading her?”
Dennis: And I’m just reflecting on all that we’ve talked about here today. I just come back to two words in Ephesians, Chapter 5. The husband is commanded to love his wife, and there’s actually an allusion in the passage that I’m about to quote that goes back to how Christ loves the church. He uses two words—He says He nourishes and cherishes it. “Nourish” means to cause to grow—to bring the nutrients to the life. A smart shepherd knows how to lead the sheep where the green fields are, not where the danger is.
The second word is to “cherish”; that means “to soften.” This speaks to the heart of what a shepherd needs to be pursuing, where he’s causing the heart to grow soft to receive his leadership—to receive the Scriptures / to grow spiritually—I think.
I think it’s a challenging assignment. I can tell you—I’ve been in God’s school of being a husband for 45 years; and I’m astounded at how much there is, still, to learn in the process.
Bob: And every husband who signs up for the responsibility ought to be signing up to be a life-long lover, a life-long learner, a life-long leader, and to get the kind of coaching he’s going to need to pull that off—the kind of coaching that Robert provides in the book, Like the Shepherd, which is a book that we’ve got in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. You can order the book from us, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com; or you can call to order at 1-800-FL-TODAY. Again, the website is FamilyLifeToday.com; or call 1-800-358-6329—that’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY,” to get a copy of Robert’s book.
And then, don’t forget, you can get some great coaching and training on how to be both a husband and a wife when the two of you attend one of our upcoming Weekend to Remember marriage getaways this spring. We’re going to be in more than 50 cities across the country this spring, starting next month.
If you sign up today for any of these upcoming getaways, or if you buy a gift card today and send it to someone you know who would benefit from attending one of our getaways, you can save 50 percent off the regular registration fee. That offer is good this week and next week only; it’s the best offer we make all year. If you’d like to join us for a fun, romantic getaway at one of our Weekend to Remember getaways, now is the best time to take advantage of the offer we’re making.
You can register, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com; or you can call 1-800-FL-TODAY to register. If you have any questions, give us a call. Make this a priority for your marriage. I mean, your marriage is worth it—it’s worth the investment / it’s worth the time.
Your marriage will benefit from having this time together—just the two of you. Again, find out more at FamilyLifeToday.com. Register online, or call to register at 1-800-FL-TODAY.
Now, tomorrow, we’re going to continue our conversation about a husband’s responsibility to be a loving shepherd for his wife. Our guests, Robert and Nancy Wolgemuth, will be back with us tomorrow. I hope you can be back with us as well.
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’ll see you tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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