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Dave Harvey (DMin, Westminster Theological Seminary) serves as the president of Great Commission Collective, a church planting ministry in the US, Canada, and abroad. Dave founded AmICalled.com, pastored for thirty-three years, serves on the board of CCEF, and travels widely across networks and denominations...more
Dave Harvey talks about the circles of influence that make up each one of us. Everyone has a context, and once a husband or wife understands what their spouse’s context is, they’ll love and understand each other better.
Bob: We often forget that we are living in the middle of a spiritual battlefield. There’s spiritual warfare going on, all around us, all the time. Dave Harvey says that’s one reason why marriage can be so difficult.
Dave H.: We struggle, not against flesh and blood; the devil is a roaring lion, seeking whom he will devour. There are these things in Scripture, where Scripture is clear that these issues are influences. We don’t necessarily understand all the ways that they influence or where they influence; and it’s not like we study Scripture and come away with: “One, two, three, this is the pathway that Satan attacks us.” Nevertheless, we cannot understand personhood, from a biblical perspective, unless we include these influences as well.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Monday, April 20th. Our hosts are Dave and Ann Wilson; I'm Bob Lepine. You’ll find us online at FamilyLifeToday.com. When we begin to understand that there is an enemy, who wants to destroy our marriage and who his actively working toward that end, that can change our perspective on conflict in marriage. We’ll talk more about that today. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. You know, this was more than a decade ago that I got a book sent to me that had an interesting title. I mean, if you think you want a book to be something that people would go, “Oh, yes, I want to read this!”—a book called When Sinners Say “I Do,” you look at it and go, “I don’t know if I want to identify there,”—right? [Laughter]—at least, not at the start.
But I picked it up; it’s a great book on marriage. We called the author, Dave Harvey; we said, “Come in and do some interviews.” They were great interviews, because the book was great.
Dave: That was a long time ago, Bob.
Bob: It was a long time ago.
Dave: Ten years?
Bob: This was more than ten years ago; because we started, a few years later, putting The Art of Marriage video series together. I said, “We need to do an interview with Dave Harvey for The Art of Marriage.” I went to Philadelphia, where he was, sat down with him, videotaped an interview that wound up in The Art of Marriage.
Ann: And it was really good, too; what Dave said was great.
Bob: It was great content that was a part of that. So Dave’s been back here a few times since then to talk about other books he’s written.
Dave: This is the Dave Harvey that threw a pitch that Dan Marino hit like a thousand feet? [Laughter]
Bob: You know the story!
Dave: Yes, I heard about this! [Laughter]
Dave H.: Dan Marino still talks about that, I’m sure. [Laughter]
Bob: Dave is joining us again on FamilyLife Today; welcome back! So good to have you here.
Dave H.: It’s great to be back, Bob.
Bob: Dave is, not only an author, but he has been a pastor for more than three decades. He and his wife Kim live in south Florida.
Now, more than a decade later, he is revisiting the subject of marriage with a new book called I Still Do. I thought it was interesting—because the book’s broken up into three sections; there’s the “Starting Together,” then the “Sticking Together,” and the “Ending Together”—so you’re really following the trajectory of a marriage. The guy, who wrote a book about the impact of sin on a marriage, starts off this new book by talking about, “It’s not all sin that’s the issue; there’s a bigger picture than…” I found this really fascinating and helpful as I read this beginning part of your book.
Dave H.: The older we got, the more we came to appreciate the other categories that Scripture talks about that are so significant in marriage but don’t often get discussed: things like weakness, suffering.
In the book, I tell a story about being in a room with the late Dave Powlison—Dave Powlison was the president of CCEF)—
Bob: —and that’s the Christian Counseling and Education Foundation.
Dave H.: —Christian Counseling and Education Foundation; right.
Bob: —a brilliant Bible teacher and counselor; somebody who really understands the human condition in a profound way.
Dave H.: Yes, brought great thought leadership to the biblical counseling movement.
Somebody posed the question to him—just said: “So, how should we understand personhood? Can you basically map out for us how you understand and articulate the nature of change?” He stood up and went up to a whiteboard, with a marker, and drew a circle; and wrote in the circle: “The human heart.” He began describing how Scripture talks about the human heart: that the human heart is the source of motivations; that we’re born worshippers; we have longings and desires; and that out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks, Jesus said. “Guard your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.”
He just said, “We know that the heart is really where one starts when you want to think about how Scripture describes who we are and why we are what we are; but it doesn’t end there.” He drew another circle around that; and he wrote in that other circle: “The embodied soul.”
He said: “But the heart doesn’t stand apart. The heart is embodied; you can’t separate the two as if there isn’t a direct relationship.” We’re in a frame that is decaying; we’re aging: there is depression; there is menopause; there are all these physical things that are happening that are a vital part of bringing understanding to if you’re going to have a marriage that is really unified.
We can’t just reduce life down to heart; we can’t reduce it down to motivations, because oftentimes, that reduces it down to sin.
Bob: You’re saying our physical frame affects who we are and how we relate to one another, not just the motivations of the heart; but our bodies are a part of this whole equation.
Dave H.: Yes; I mean, you take the average parent—and you remove two days of sleep from them/three days of sleep from them—[Laughter]—and then you ask them to do bills or to watch four children; and there are all kinds of fireworks that are coming out!
Dave H.: But the rational person does not think, “Oh, we need to correct them; there are issues of sin emerging now.” The rational person knows that that person needs sleep. The physical part has a direct effect upon the soul/has a direct effect upon what’s happening in the heart.
It all just comes back around to this idea that there is—in this world/in the fallen world—there is an inseparable bond between the body and the soul; and that if we’re going to live with each other in a really understanding way, we have to understand, not only the heart, but that the heart is physically embodied.
I’m in a room and David Powlison is drawing a circle, and then he draws another circle; and he says, “But that heart and that body are socially embedded.” Then he begins to describe how we all have social systems: we have families or we don’t have families; there is something that has affected us and influenced us in our upbringing/in our past, and that can have a profound and shaping effect on us.
It doesn’t necessarily determine who we are, but it has a profound effect. You’ve had an abusive father or you were raised in poverty—or on the other side—you were raised in a loving, two-parent family, where you were affirmed in all kinds of different ways. Those kinds of things have a profound effect on who we end up becoming. If we’re going to live with our spouse—again, in a way that’s united, in a way that’s really able to help, in a way that knows them—these are the kinds of things that we wade into—that we surface/that we talk about—in the process of getting to know one another.
You take a wife, for instance, who has a history of being sexually abused. Perhaps, for her, it’s really difficult to negotiate their sexual lives. A husband’s not going to just sit across from her, flip open to 1 Corinthians 7, and say, “Hey, give your spouse their conjugal rights”; there’s nothing about that that makes sense; there’s no love in that. Obviously, there is a way of understanding her experience/an importance in understanding her experience, that becomes an important part of loving her, and caring for her, and bringing the relationship to a place where enjoyable sexuality can be a part of their relationship.
Dave: Yet, most people don’t think about any of these things before they get married. I know I didn’t!
Dave H.: I didn’t either.
Ann: We didn’t.
Dave: I mean, I was just like, “I like her; she loves me; we love Jesus.” I mean, we literally walked down the aisle, with no idea of these three circles times two—you have complexity going on.
You just described my wife; she’s been sexually abused. I was the naïve honeymooner, who said: “Oh, that was years ago. It’s not going to affect us now.”
Ann: It’s kind of like that attitude of: “Get over it. That happened a long time ago. Why is it affecting you now?”
Dave H.: When I was younger, I think that was very much my approach and my attitude. I think it was as I got older, and connected with more people, and sat with more couples, and then just trying to evaluate yourself and your marriage in a healthy way, you begin to realize: “Wow! No, these things have influence.”
Grace is potent enough to help us to move beyond them, but only the fool would act like they have no influence whatsoever. Part of living with each other, in a way that is building for the future/is building for an endurable marriage, involves really being able to talk about those things, and more importantly, understand them.
Bob: For many years, I remember having conversations with Dennis Rainey, who was the host of this program. We would run into people, who would express what seemed like irrational fear, or rage, or anger at a level that was not commensurate with what they’d been through—something where emotions were just out of proportion to the facts. Dennis would often, in those situations—I’d be describing something or he’d say something—and he would often say, “You know, everybody has a context.”
That phrase kind of became a mantra for us to recognize that a lot of the acting out that we do in marriage—that we see other people do, that our spouse does, or people around us—a lot of that is influenced by the context—what you’re talking about—the social context that they grew up in, which doesn’t excuse how they’re responding—their rage is still sinful rage—but it does now give us a framework and an understanding of what’s going on and allows us to bring grace to that situation in a different way than if they were just being purposefully sinful in that moment; right?
Dave H.: Yes; we’re not trying to displace blame, or culpability, or go light on sin; we’re just trying to acknowledge these influences that exert a powerful imprint on who we become. I think it makes grace more amazing, you know, when we understand it and don’t ignore it; it makes the work of God and the power of the gospel all the more amazing in who we’re becoming, and some of the things where He has transformed us.
Those things don’t determine who we are, but they can have an influence over who are.
Ann: Dave, how do you, then—now, as you sit with couples, at this point in your life in your marriage—how do you counsel them now in comparison to what you used to do?
Dave H.: I think that—as a pastor, and as a husband, and as a father—I think that, for a long time, I felt like my task was to help another person uncover the sin that was in the human heart; and that by uncovering that sin, that was going to be the biggest help to them, so they could apply the gospel.
It’s not as if that is unimportant now; it’s more the pathway that we take in order to get to the human heart. I was talking with a guy, not long ago, who was just acknowledging a history of fear, and has sat with different people and tried to get help, and has kind of locked on this idea that, because his father was abusive, that he has these fears.
I realized that that was a really deeply-entrenched idea that had kind of locked in through counseling, and that in order to love him and in order to serve him, I really had to park there and let that breathe a bit, and find space for him to be able to express that—ask him a lot of questions.
We kind of parked at that socially-embedded phase and talked around his upbringing, talked around his father, talked around that influence and how those things affected him. As we continued there, he became open to beginning to think about, “Okay, what else is going on?” We talked a little bit about his physical: how’s he doing?—has he had a physical lately?—is he on many medications?—or anything I should know about?
Then we opened up the Word of God. We looked at John, Chapter 12, together, where there’s this description of fear. Many of the authorities believed in Jesus; but for fear of the Pharisees, they didn’t confess it, because they didn’t want to be put out of the synagogue. We talked about how there’s this legitimate fear that comes from the circumstances/comes from the environment—and it’s an understandable fear—because their reputation would be completely trashed if they identified with Jesus.
But the next verse kind of pops the hood and helps the reader see the engine that’s driving the fear, where it says, “For they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God.” Some translations say, “They loved the praise that comes from man…” So we began to look at the heart. We began to look at: “What are the longings, and desires, and drawings of the heart that are in play here that are causing you to experience some of the fear? Let’s not relate to fear as if it’s bottoming things out. Let’s see fear as maybe a want or a desire that’s masquerading as a fear that we can get beneath.”
Bob: You’re saying that the pathway to the heart is important for us to be aware of and to acknowledge. When we want to address heart issues, rather than just diving straight to, “What are the sin issues that may be present in your life?” we may need to spend some time working our way through these circles, through the life circumstances, through the physical issues; and there are other—we haven’t covered the full circle yet; have we?
Dave H.: Yes, what I’m saying is that this helps define the path of care. This helps define the path for helping other people. In other words, they’re not just like a heart on a stick, where we just approach them and all we see is their heart.
Dave H.: We want to recognize them holistically; we want to identify their personhood, which was the exercise that Dave Powlison was getting at. He was saying: “This is what personhood looks like. It has all of these layers.”
Ann: Each circle/each layer affects another layer.
Dave H.: Yes, absolutely.
Ann: So you’re looking at all of those layers.
Dave H.: That’s right.
Dave: You used the analogy early in your book—and it’s what your saying right now—I love the picture of the luggage that we bring into marriage. I mean, Ann and I, when we do our marriage weekends, every once in a while, we’ll have a couple stand up—like on their wedding day—and have bags beside them, and make a joke like—
Bob: —suitcases/actual suitcases.
Ann: Yes, actually suitcases at the altar.
Dave: —literally, right there, like: “This is what you don’t see, but every couple is bringing. When you get married, you were like, ‘What is that?’ and the husband’s like, ‘What do you mean, what’s this? This has been part of my life my whole life.’”
You’re getting at layers of bags! There’s not just one sin bag—which a lot of us identify: “You’re a sinner, and you have to deal with that sin,”—you’re saying: “There’s a carry-on; there’s an 80-pound…”—[Laughter]—you know, there are multiple [bags], and every one of them matters.
Dave H.: And what’s in the bags has changed; it’s broadened. That’s what the title of the chapter is: “Brokenness Is Broader than Sin”—
Dave H.: —because our brokenness includes all these other categories.
Dave: This is so good.
Bob: In addition to our heart motivations, and to our physical bodies, and the social environment we’re in, Powlison gave you two other layers to consider as a part of personhood; right?
Dave H.: The next one was mind-boggling, because I just did not expect David Powlison of biblical counseling fame to go here. He drew the next circle and wrote down, “Spiritually embattled,” and began talking about how we struggle, not against flesh and blood; about how the devil is a roaring lion, seeking whom he will devour; and that there are these things in Scripture, where Scripture is clear that these issues are influences. We don’t necessarily understand all the ways that they influence or where they influence; and it’s not like we study Scripture, and we come away with: “One, two, three; this is the pathway that Satan attacks us.” Nevertheless, we cannot understand personhood, from a biblical perspective, unless we include these influences as well.
Dave: It’s also easy to think, “My spouse is the devil.” [Laughter]
Ann: —or “…my enemy.”
Dave H.: Right, there’s that! [Laughter]
Dave: And there’s that; but honestly, couples do that; but yet, here is a real devil—that’s what you were saying—and it’s not your spouse. There’s a third entity that we often don’t even acknowledge, but it’s real.
Dave H.: Yes.
Bob: What’s the last circle that Powlison drew on the board?
Dave H.: Well, the last circle is, by far, the most glorious; and that is that he just wrote in the last circle, “The God of providence.” He began to describe how a providential God is encircling all of these things with His good purposes, that He is the God who causes all things to work together for good.
Joseph is this object of a totally dysfunctional family, with an enabling father and brothers that sold him into slavery. He lives in exile as a result of their decisions; he is unjustly incarcerated; he is oppressed; and yet, he comes out of the whole thing and he comes into a position of influence. Fast-forward to the end of his story; and it’s, “You meant if for evil, but God meant it for good.”
There is this sense, where there is a sovereign—and not just sovereign—but the providence of God/the goodness of God in His sovereignty, encircles all these things and works through all these things so that His purposes are worked out for our good; and godliness is created, even through the worst circumstances.
Bob: I have to tell you—this chapter—I mean, you—the rest of the book is a bonus, and not an inconsequential bonus, as we’ll hear as we continue our conversation—but the book’s worth just this chapter.
I remember reading this the first time and thinking, “How helpful for a couple to be able to go: ‘The conflict we’re dealing with/the lack of oneness in our marriage, there are other factors—not just my sinful heart, which is real and at work here—but my background is a part of this; the social construct I grew up in; my physical body: how much rest I got or whether I’m cranky for some other reason; the spiritual warfare that’s going on around me and in our marriage; and then, it may be that God, for providential purposes, is at work.”
Now, all of a sudden, I go, “There’s more at play here than just my wife said something cranky, and she needs to be confronted about that.” That reshapes the way we think about how we interact with one another and about how we serve one another in marriage.
Ann: I think that’s really important, because it takes the blame off. So often, when Dave and I were struggling, and our kids were little and we’re tired, I think what I would do is—I would think, “What’s wrong?” and my finger would go directly to my husband.
Dave: It was never me; never. [Laughter]
Ann: I think it’s good to have those things in mind: “There’s much more going on than just him being at fault.”
Bob: And to pray through those categories, and to think about those categories, and say, “Where do I need to pour grace on this?” because there are places you may need to pour grace on a conflict. That doesn’t mean you minimize or you dismiss what are sinful patterns or tendencies; but now, all of a sudden, you see them in a different context.
When I picked up your book, Dave, I Still Do, and I read the first chapter, I thought to myself: “This is going to be a different marriage book than any marriage book I’ve read in a long time. This is a paradigm-shift for a lot of couples,” and a healthy paradigm-shift.
Dave’s book is called I Still Do, and we have copies of the book available in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. You can go online at FamilyLifeToday.com to get your copy, or you can call 1-800-FL-TODAY. Again, Dave Harvey’s book is called I Still Do: Growing Closer and Stronger Through Life’s Defining Moments. Order the book from us, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com; or call 1-800-358-6329 to order—that’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”
I think all of us are going to look back on the spring of 2020 as a defining moment for our marriages, for our families, for our nation. This is one of those seasons, where we’re having to come back to what is most important. That’s why we’ve seen so many people coming back to family/coming back to the home as the most important thing. I’m guessing you have had more contact with extended family members/adult children. You’re talking more regularly with one another in your family than maybe you’ve done in a long time.
In that way, the pandemic we’ve been living through has been a good thing for us. God has been at work, in the midst of this season; and we’ve been at work here, too, at FamilyLife®. Our commitment in every season is to provide you with practical biblical help and hope for your marriage and your family. We want to see marriages and families thrive; and we want to make sure that marriages and families are ready for seasons like we’re living through/that we’re building our homes stronger, in season and out of season.
We appreciate so much those of you who are able to stand with us and to support the ongoing work of FamilyLife Today. During challenging times, all of us have had to re-examine priorities. We understand that; and we’re doing that, here at FamilyLife, and making adjustments as a result of that.
Those of you who are able to continue to support this ministry on an ongoing basis, just know that you are helping tens of thousands of marriages and families every time you make an investment in this ministry. We’re grateful for the partnership we have with you. You can donate to support FamilyLife Today by going online at FamilyLifeToday.com, or you can call 1-800-FL-TODAY to donate. We are grateful for your prayers for us, and we’re grateful for every donation that is made during this challenging season. Thank you.
We hope you can be back with us again tomorrow. We’re going to talk about seasons of suffering in a marriage and family and how God is at work in the midst of those seasons. Dave Harvey will be with us again. We hope you can be with us as well.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our hosts, Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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