About the Guest
Like all young couples, Troy and Sara began their lives together full of hope. But as months passed, they began to realize how challenging becoming one can be. Today on the broadcast, Christian singer and songwriter Sara Groves, and her husband, Troy, tell Dennis what they did to build their marriage on a firm foundation.
Like all young couples, Troy and Sara began their lives together full of hope.
Here is Sara Groves.
Sara: I had a girlfriend growing up – she'd had seven fathers, and her life, it was just so painful. I had just visited her in my hometown, and she had two little girls, and she had said, "Enough." She said, "As for me and my house, we are going to serve the Lord," and she was blessing those little girls, and I was watching the evidence of what God says in Deuteronomy 11 – you can choose to be a blessing or you can choose to be a curse. And she was saying I want to be a blessing to future generations, and she said, "This stops here."
[Sara sings "Generations"]
Bob: And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us on the Tuesday edition. That, of course, is Sara Groves. Some of our listeners will be familiar with not only that song but with her music since her songs have been played on a number of Christian radio stations all across the country, and that particular song is really based on what the Bible says in Deuteronomy, chapter 11, where it says that the choices we make can have an impact on the generations that come behind us.
Dennis: It's a CD entitled "Conversations" by Sara Groves, and the song is entitled "Generations," and I just want to read – I'm not going to sing, Bob – I want to read the chorus one more time, because I really want to challenge listeners to live this out.
"Remind me of this with every decision,
Generations will reap what I sow.
I can pass on a curse or a blessing
To those I will never know."
Those words ought to be a challenge to us that our lives would become the doorway through which life would gain entrance to future generations rather than a doorway through which sin gains entrance to our families and to the generations that follow.
Bob: We don't just have the CD here in the studio with us today to play for our listeners. We actually have the songwriter and the singer with us today.
Dennis: We do – and her manager.
Bob: That's right, her husband.
Dennis: That's right. Troy and Sara Groves join us on FamilyLife Today. Troy, Sara, welcome back to FamilyLife Today.
Sara: Thank you very much.
Troy: Thank you.
Dennis: You all have now been married since 1995. You shared on yesterday's program how you went through a newly married class and how that Homebuilders Bible study that you went through gave you a foundation. What we didn't hear, Bob, was the love story that preceded the newly married couple.
Bob: That's true.
Dennis: I want to ask you, Troy, when did she catch your eye at Evangel College in Springfield, Missouri? No, Bob, this takes me back to my stomping grounds.
Bob: Right up the road from Ozark, isn't it?
Dennis: That's right. A lot of fine folks who are a graduate of Evangel College. Do you remember the first time you saw her?
Troy: I saw a picture of her. I was in her father's office. He's the campus pastor at the school, and I saw a picture of her – it must have been her senior picture. She was a year younger than me. I was a freshman at the school, and I saw a picture on his desk or something.
Dennis: So you had your eye on her even before she started attending.
Troy: I guess so, I guess so, but that stuck in my mind and then a year later, the first day of school a year later was her freshman year, my sophomore year. We ended up in the same group eating dinner or something, do you remember that?
Troy: And just thought, "What a nice, funny, girl, and what a catch that would be."
So we actually went out on our first date that year, maybe halfway into that school year.
Dennis: You waited that long to ask her out?
Troy: Well, yeah.
Bob: It is Evangel College. They try to do things decently and in order there, Dennis.
Dennis: Did you ask the campus pastor's permission for this date?
Troy: No, no, no. But our second date was three years later.
Bob: He's a real slow mover, isn't he?
Troy: She blew me off.
Sara: He says I blew him off. I think he never called me back. He says he called me back, and I had my calendar full.
Bob: Is that right? Was your first date a memorable – you thought, "He's a really nice boy, and I hope he calls me back?"
Sara: I did. It was very memorable. His friends followed us the entire night, and when we came out of dinner, they had covered his car in Oreo cookies. They'd opened them up and smushed Oreo cookies all over his car.
So I thought, "This is a real mature fellow and nice friends," and …
Dennis: Hold it, hold it, Troy, what kind of friends do you run around with?
Troy: I don't know.
Dennis: Smashing Oreo cookies on your car?
Troy: Yes, and I think they wrapped it in toilet paper as well. So it was a mess.
Dennis: It didn't make a big impression on Sara?
Bob: Well, then, what happened three years later when – because you're graduating from college at this point?
Troy: I'm getting ready, it's my last year, and I kind of hung back and waited until she'd had the rest, and now she can have the best.
Dennis: Okay, Sara, so what's the rest of the story? How did he grab your heart?
Sara: Oh, we'd been friends for a while, and I was sort of down on myself because I was not a boyfriend kind of girl. I'd never had a real steady boyfriend, and I was just – I felt like I was still young. I don't know, I wasn't really ready to get real committed, but I was hard on myself. Instead of thinking I haven't found the right one yet, I always thought, "I'm just miserable at relationships. I'm just a failure."
And so I decided my junior year, I was really down on myself. I'd had some conversations with my sister and I said, "You know, the next one, I'm going to make it work," no matter what. Don't ever do that, but I was going to force it or something.
I went out with this really – this guy was kind of asking me out, and he was super handsome, a real built kind of guy, and all the girls liked him. So I thought, "You know what? I should like him," and I did, but we didn't have a whole lot in common, really. And Troy was my good friend, and he would just say, you know, "I can see he's a beautiful guy, handsome and all that."
Troy: Did I say beautiful?
Sara: I don't think you said "beautiful" – "He's a handsome guy, but what do you guys have in common? What do you talk about?"
So we were at a school function, and I was in student council, and I looked up – there were always girls around this guy. He was real popular with all the girls, and I look up, and we'd been going out for about a month or so, and he has a girl on each arm, on each bicep, and he's lifting them up off the ground, you know, like, "rrrrooooor," he's lifting them up off the ground.
And I look across the room at Troy, you know, and he's kind of like poking fun, you know, he's making muffled "rrrooooor," you know, and so I look back again, and I was kind of giving Troy the look, you know, "Knock it off, I'm making this work," and I look up again, and I …
Dennis: My one successful relationship, and he's trying to undermine this thing.
Sara: I'm trying to have a good relationship, and so I look over again, and this guy, he had just finished off a Coke, and he slammed it back, and he went, "Rooooorrrrr," and he smashed the can on his forehead, and I look over at Troy, and Troy is rolling on the floor. I mean, he's just dying laughing.
And so the next day at lunch, I sat down, I was sitting by myself, and Troy and his best friend came and sat down across from me, and I didn't notice that they had Styrofoam cups of milk on their trays. We finished lunch, at the end of lunch, they both picked up their Styrofoam cups of milk, slammed them back, went "Roooorrrrhh," and smashed their Styrofoam cups on their head, and my heart went pitter-patter and I thought, "I want to marry the Styrofoam cup guy."
Dennis: This is strange. First, it was the Oreos, and now it's milk.
Sara: Cookies and milk.
Bob: Yeah, a milk-and-cookies [inaudible].
Sara: You know, Troy always snuck up on me. He was always there in my life, you know, for three or four years, and he just was consistent. He's a good friend, he's a good guy, and I woke up one day and said, "I don't enjoy anyone's company more than his. I just enjoy his company so much," and that was the end. When we started dating – that was May we started going out, and by Thanksgiving, in my heart, I knew I wanted to marry him.
Dennis: So you ended up getting married.
Dennis: And you started out your marriage in the Homebuilders class.
Bob: And it was taught by a former baseball player?
Troy: Correct. Dick Stigman was a former Minnesota Twins pitcher, and his wife, Patty, and they taught this class, and they had been through a lot, the two of them and were saved after they were married and had many children. I think they have nine kids and came to the Lord, and it was just on their heart to "Let's model this. Let's teach these principles. Let's do this for others." And we've benefited from them.
Bob: You went through how many studies?
Sara: We did three complete studies and started a fourth. The first one was "Building Your Marriage," which is all about becoming one and how you are one person. That one was great because the basic principle is when you hurt your mate, you hurt yourself, and when you help your mate, you help yourself. And I think that principle has guided me on many occasions.
The second one we did was "Building Your Mate's Self-Esteem," and that one was awesome because we did a lot of history-building with each other, talking about our families and where we come from and language and how you build each other up and how you invest in each other and not bankrupt the other person.
Then we did the financial – what's the financial study?
Bob: "Mastering Money in Your Marriage."
Sara: "Mastering Money in Your Marriage," and that was, again, you need those tools as a newlywed couple spending money together for the first time and coming from two completely different backgrounds. My father is a wonderful man but completely frugal. His father is an extremely successful businessman, so we were coming from two different countries, and my thoughts about money were – I kind of operated out of fear, and he – you know, you have to spend money to make money, he was coming from that place, and so it was really great for us to get on the same page financially.
Dennis: And you went through those three studies all in what length of time?
Troy: We went slow. I mean, we would be, like, on one page for weeks. We had no – and that was kind of how the class was structured for us, was as long as people are talking, and this is getting through to people, let's just stay on it. And that was great for us.
Sara: We did three books in about three years. Yeah, we did the three books.
Dennis: By comparison, I just want our listeners to know that these books are designed to be completed in about six weeks.
Bob: Right, six to eight sessions is pretty typical, but if you get into it, and if you're with couples who will be transparent.
Dennis: Share a little bit about one of the side benefits of Homebuilders that I think most people underestimate their need for, and that's friendships. You don't realize when you're going through this small group study that you really are forging some kindred spirit friendships with other couples – some of those relationships will last for a lifetime.
Sara: They will, yes. We work very closely with a couple from our marriage class in our ministry. He's on our board, and he helps us – he's the financial planning, and he helps us a lot with our making good decisions with our family, with our ministry, with our money, and, yes, those relationships are lifelong.
There is such a feeling of goodwill in that classroom. We shared so much together, so much personal information and things, that people we've really – outside of that class probably would not have been drawn to necessarily, but it was a really neat group, and we've actually just recently talked about a reunion, you know, having sort of a reunion now five years later.
When we started having kids, and everyone started getting to a different place in life, you know, the class started to – people said, "Maybe we want to go into some other Sunday school classes and things." We weren't really newlyweds anymore after three years, but the class grew up together. We spent three years sharing our most personal experiences with each other and, it was, it was – those are friendships that we'll have forever.
Bob: So many times couples can get isolated from one another in a marriage, but it's also the case that a husband and wife, as a unit, can become isolated from other couples, and that can be negative on a marriage relationship. It's good for you to have the other couples around. In fact, I was thinking about the song that you wrote where you kind of envision everybody going camping together, right?
[Sara sings "Every Minute"]
Dennis: Troy, there are some women who are listening right now who would love to get their husband in a Homebuilders group, but they're going, "No way, Jose." Speak to the wife who is maybe married to that man who – well, she does find it difficult to interest him in some kind of Bible study around marriage relationships. What would you say to her?
Troy: I think, in our home, there wasn't a lot of emotional discussion going on.
Bob: When you were growing up there wasn't?
Troy: Yes, yes.
Dennis: So you married a songwriter.
Troy: I married an emotional one.
Dennis: Who really sings from the heart, and now you're hearing a whole new language yourself.
Troy: Yes, and I was – on a weekly basis, I was getting my tail kicked.
Bob: Not by your wife.
Troy: No, by the Lord, by honesty, by truth, and loving it – loving just the whole aspect of just learning more about myself and opening up these other doors in my heart and everything.
But, no, going into it, I had no idea what I was in for, and it was fun, and we laughed a ton, and it was great.
Bob: I think there are a lot of guys who hear about a group like a Homebuilders group or a couples' Sunday school class, and they think, "Oh, I know what this is going to be. This is going to be all the wives in a group, on the husbands – this is their chance to vent and talk about how lousy he is and what's wrong with him and" …
Sara: No. That's what I was just going to say – I sound like a commercial – I'll be your commercial – the books do a great job of leading you both into self-confession and truth, and the way the books are set up help you keep that balance.
And so with that in place – that we weren't on the attack. It wasn't about attacking. We both wanted better things for our marriage. Let's find out how we get there, and I thought the book did a really good job in leading both people into looking at the error of their ways – the woman tends to be passive/aggressive. You need to communicate better.
Troy: Something just dawned on me, and you can correct me if I'm wrong, but that class was eight years ago, and there were anywhere from, like, 15 to 20 couples in the class at the time and week after week. I can't name any of them that are divorced.
Sara: No, or even troubled. I feel like, yeah, I mean, that's amazing because right when we got married …
Troy: … a number of friends I grew up with …
Sara: … we have a number of friends got divorced.
Troy: The number of weddings we've been in within an eight-year span, you would think that – I mean – the average is …
Bob: Well, it goes back to the whole issue of a spiritual foundation for a marriage. You talked yesterday about the house built on the rock versus the house built on the sand. Storms are going to come in every relationship. The question is what you build on.
Dennis: That's right, and Homebuilders is effective because of three things – number one, it's built on the Scripture and around the person of Jesus Christ.
Number two, it is highly relational and gives people with a fast-paced lifestyle a chance to stop and connect not only spouse-to-spouse but couple-to-couple – get to know some people around something other than the latest sports of the weather or children. It gives you a chance to truly get to know someone on a more intimate level.
And, third, it's effective because it moves couples to practical application of the Scriptures. There are make-a-dates where couples go out on a date. You guys are nodding your heads. You had a few of those make-a-dates over that three-year period, and it builds the Scripture into the life of a couple in a very pragmatic way. It's not just a theoretical study.
And, Bob, I just want to throw out a challenge – a twofold challenge. First of all, to the younger married couples who have been married less than five years. I'd like to challenge you to go to an older couple in your church who have maybe been married 10, 15, 20 years or longer and challenge them to step into the life of a number of you younger couples and to lead this Bible study.
Bob: The younger couples go to the older couples and say, "Would you lead us through this material" …
Bob: Our friends and us so that we could get this foundation.
Dennis: That's right, and the older couple is going to say, "We can't really teach you."
Bob: We don't have anything …
Dennis: We're not qualified, we're not trained, but the reality is, if they've been married 20 years, they have 20 years of training, no doubt about it. Their mistakes may be their greatest spiritual lessons that they pass on to the younger generation.
My second challenge is to that group, though, the older married couples who have been married 10, 15, 20 or more years. You know, you talked about a baseball player from Minnesota who, out of their brokenness, out of their own trouble, started a class in a church.
And, Bob, I think if we're going to see families rebuilt and see a generation of young couples do what happened with the 15 to 20 couples that Troy and Sara have talked about today, if we're going to see that many not get a divorce, well, you have to have a foundation. You have to start out headed in the right direction.
And you, as an older generation, can do that. You can step in and teach this class. You don't have to commit to three years.
Bob: You don't have to wait for the younger couple to come to you and invite you to do it.
Dennis: No, we've done the research. We know the younger couples want to come. So hang a sign out at your church, have it in your home, bake some cookies, and you will not believe how much couples want to talk today.
Bob: It's interesting – a lot of couples report back to us that they invited some friends over for one of these studies, and they had no idea that these friends were in a tough spot in their marriage, and Homebuilders was one of the tools God used to help bring that issue out in the open and help get it dealt with.
So you never know what kind of an impact you might be having in some other couple's life just by inviting them to be a part of one of these groups.
During the month of August, we are making our Homebuilders studies available to our listeners at a discounted rate, and you can go on our website for all the details about that, but here is a great opportunity for you to save money as you order these study guides. And, again, the information is on our website at FamilyLife.com.
When you get to the home page, you can click a red button that says, "Go," and it will take you right to an area of the site where there is more information about the August sale on the Homebuilders Couples Series. There is also a list of different titles that are available.
The website, again, is FamilyLife.com, and you want to click the red button you see in the center of the screen that says "Go," and that will take you right to the area of the site where the information is available, and you can order online, if you'd like, and we hope you'll get a group together and plan to go through this material this fall.
I'm thinking back to where we began our program today with a song that you recorded a number of years ago, Sara, that reflects on the fact that the decisions we make in our marriages and our families today do have an impact on future generations. And now, as you and Troy are a mom and a dad, you're really seeing this firsthand. You're consciously aware that the decisions the two of you make are going to have an impact on your boys, aren't you?
Sara: Absolutely. You know, I wrote this song before I had kids. We were newlyweds, and I had a girlfriend growing up. She'd had seven fathers, her mom had been married seven times, and her life, and the effects of those different relationships and the brokenness of her home and all that was tremendous, it was just so painful, and she'd sort of become a surrogate member of our family.
I had just visited her in my hometown, and she had two little girls, and she had said, "Enough." She said, "As for me and my house, we are going to serve the Lord," and she was blessing those little girls, and I was watching the evidence of what God says in Deuteronomy 11 – you can choose to be a blessing or you can choose to be a curse. And she was saying I want to be a blessing to future generations, and she said, "This stops here. This stops with me."
And those two girls are beautiful, and they're sweet, and she has created a home and a marriage, and she is working harder than I will ever have to work because she doesn't even have the history or the tools to work with. But by the grace of Jesus Christ, she said, "I am going to make my family better. I am going to work to this end."
And I was so inspired by her in that visit that this song was born out of that and just thinking, "Yeah, you know, my job is just not to blow it." I come from a tradition of faith as far back as we can remember, and my job is to just continue to humble my heart and my family before the Lord and to pass on those things that are so important.
[Sara sings "Generations"]
Bob: FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas, a ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ.
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