The Barrenness of Busyness
About the Guest
Bob was devastated to learn of Audrey's brief affair. He repeatedly questioned her about the details, and even though he knew it was right, he found it hard to forgive her. How had this stranger come between them? Bob and Audrey Meisner reveal how busyness marked their marriage and their ministry, leaving them each isolated, and for Audrey, emotionally vulnerable to the advances of another man. How would their marriage be able to withstand this infidelity and the shocking news of Audrey's unexpected pregnancy?
How would their marriage be able to withstand this infidelity and the shocking news of Audrey’s unexpected pregnancy?
The Barrenness of Busyness
Bob: Audrey Meisner had been unfaithful to her husband, Bob. She had confessed, and they were working to put the marriage back together when she learned she was pregnant. When she found out, she remembers praying what she now says was a foolish prayer.
Audrey: “God, if you love me, you will take this from me.” And that was when I begged Him for a miscarriage. I said, “I’ve never asked you for anything like this before, God, but I need this God.” And I look back now, and I will say, “I am so thankful that because God loves me He did not answer my prayer my way.”
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Friday, September 13th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I’m Bob Lepine. Bob and Audrey Meisner join us today to share about some of the choices and complications they faced as they tried to rebuild a marriage that had been fractured by adultery.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. You know most of our days are pretty normal days—days when you kind of go through the normal routine of life. But all of us, I think, can look back on our lives and find those defining moments, those days when something explosive happened in our lives, that will be with us for the rest of our lives.
Dennis: Yes, and we have a couple with us who have experienced one of those days. Bob and Audrey Meisner join us again on FamilyLife Today. Welcome back.
Bob M: Thank you.
Audrey: Thank you.
Dennis: Bob is the President and CEO of New Day Ministries; and together, Bob and Audrey cohost a television program called My New Day in Canada which is being streamed on the internet, right?
Bob M: Yes.
Dennis: It is a 30-minute daily program there in Canada. Audrey, your parents—
Dennis: —were in ministry for a number of years; and that’s an important point here as we talk about, really, the story of your book, Marriage Undercover—and the subtitle kind of gives it away: Thriving in a Culture of Quiet Desperation.
Bob: And you’ve already shared with us this week that 17 years into what you called a perfect marriage, where everybody is happy and everything is going along, a young man began to show some affection, some attention, that, Audrey, you fell into. That led to an affair that lasted for three weeks. God brought conviction on you. You came to your husband and confessed, and you guys made the decision you were going to get some help.
That’s really where we are in the story, but I’m curious as we pick this up, looking back on that 17-year perfect marriage, you were busy, you liked each other, you got along; but you just weren’t laughing a lot together or enjoying just having fun, were you?
Bob M: We were busy. I mean we got a lot of things to do.
Audrey: We had things to do.
Bob: Didn’t have time for fun.
Bob M: Yes, the world’s lost; and we’ve got to save the world.
Dennis: All about the task.
Bob M: Yes.
Bob M: That’s it. That’s it.
Audrey: We get stuck in our function.
Dennis: But the busyness was really a trap?
Bob M: The busyness is a trap; but what happens with couples is that we miss the face-to-face relationship, and we begin to live side by side. You’ve got your roles and your responsibilities, and I’ve got mine. So, as long as you keep your functions—and so, when we first were married, what amazed us about each other all of the sudden becomes expected. Then when that’s not being met, then, all of the sudden you become a disappointment.
And that’s what many couples suffer with is that “Boy, one day I’m amazing; and the next day, I’m a disappointment.” That’s simply because what was amazing has become expected and, then becomes a disappointment. So, that’s the busyness of life. God’s design of marriage is the union of oneness and that face-to-face relationship.
A lot of us, the difficulty is that when we are face-to-face, it requires an intimacy, a willingness to be known—to be fully known by that other person and then to be fully loved. So, it’s easy to bury ourselves in activity.
Dennis: We marry because we are longing for intimacy. Genesis, Chapter 2, talks about "a man shall leave his father and mother and shall cleave to his wife; and the two shall become one.” Then, it says, “The man and his woman were both naked, and they were not ashamed.” It’s the idea of transparency, of oneness. That’s why we get married.
We don’t get married to be isolated. Yet, as we talk about at the Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway, Bob, that’s the theme of the entire getaway—
Dennis: —that everything in life is moving you toward isolation.
Bob M: Right.
Dennis: It’s dividing you. It’s moving you to you do your thing, let her do her thing; and our lives touch at points, but are we really naked and unashamed? I’m not just talking about the physical nakedness. It’s talking about transparency of what’s really going on in your souls.
Bob: Yes. And when a couple finds themselves in that place of isolation, they should not be surprised or feel like we’re the only couple who has ever been here because that’s where the drift takes you. You have to understand that most couples haven’t figured out how to work your way back to oneness. That’s what the Bible points us to, and that’s where it takes us.
Audrey: And that’s where I don’t want the listeners to have to face the kind of crisis that forced us to go one way or the other. Either we were going to face each other for the first time in years, or we were going to actually split up.
Bob: Well, and I want to go back, Bob, because in a situation like this—here your wife pulled out of the marriage. She has got somebody preying on her. She falls. It’s easy for a husband to get a little self-righteous here—okay?—and to go, “You know I’ve been carrying my side of the bargain. I’ve been doing what a husband is supposed to do.”
But I have to believe that as you’ve looked back in those 17 years, you could look back and say, “There were some things—there were some ways I contributed to this whole situation.”
Bob M: Yes. And I would not necessarily categorize it as a self-righteousness; but what happened in my life is I switched to the role of the victim. So, that’s more of the role, you know, that happened with me. And that’s what happens in marriage is that we create a partnership, like a business. Then you create contract rather than recognizing the union of oneness and the covenant of marriage and the protection and the safety and the strength that it creates.
Dennis: When did you forgive? When did you give up the right to punish Audrey? This role you’re playing of being a victim, I think that’s some of, really, the result, kind of a - natural consequence of being hurt deeply, obviously; but the antidote for that is to get out of the role of being a victim and to become proactive and to do the most unnatural thing God ever commanded a human heart to do in a situation like this.
It’s in Ephesians, Chapter 4, verse 32: “Be kind to one another, tender hearted, forgiving one another as God in Christ forgave you.” When did you give up the right to punish Audrey?
Bob M: That took years. That was a process, and I believe forgiveness culminates in a moment where it’s finished. But what happened was that it’s not me forgiving her, but rather me recognizing how forgiven I am, because you can’t give away something that you don’t have. So, I began—because my life had its own hurt, my life had its own pain. And with that, I shrouded myself in activity. I shrouded myself in religious work, in anger. Those were my fronts.
But all of the sudden here—this is something that is out of my control. I can’t pretend anymore. We haven’t talked about this; but as a result of the affair Audrey became pregnant. So my biggest question was this: “Will I be able to love this baby as my own, or will this baby forever be a reminder of the betrayal and the rejection?” So I quickly began to recognize my deficiency and capacity to be able to love. That’s where it happened.
So, to forgive Audrey, it’s almost as though it’s a natural; but then, to stop the punishment, that was a big deal because you punish out of fear. So, what we’ve found is that in our marriage of 17 years, we had a real fear-based love for one another. It’s a false love, but that was my turning point—was that I knew that this baby was innocent. This baby didn’t do anything wrong, and it was unfair for this baby to be raised by an angry father.
So, I needed to know the extravagance of my Father’s love, the completeness of my Father’s forgiveness. When His realities became mine—Colossians 1:27, “Christ in you, your hope of glory,”--Christ in you gives you the confidence, the assurance, the knowing and glory is when His view and opinion of you becomes your reality. That’s glorious.
When God’s realities became mine, then, I was able to then extend that same love and that forgiveness and that covering and that nurturing and that cherishing that I was missing all of these years.
Bob: Audrey, did you find out that you were pregnant after you had confessed to Bob what had happened?
Audrey: Absolutely, I didn’t have any idea or even think it was possible for me to be pregnant. After I told Bob, it was about two weeks later. We had gone to Phoenix, got some help, and really felt like, “Okay, we have enough that we’re going to be okay. We’re going to make it through this. It’s going to be tough. We are in massive amounts of pain.”
Bob: So, you felt, Audrey, like you were maybe making some progress toward healing over the betrayal when all of the sudden you get news that you know is going to be a huge setback.
Audrey: Oh my gosh! You have no idea how this affected me because when I told Bob about the affair, I didn’t think I could face my future. But walking out of that doctor’s office knowing that I am pregnant—our other kids are 10, 12, and 15 years old. I’m one of those kind of moms would do anything to take a bullet for my kids. I love my kids with everything I’ve got.
And now, I’m walking out of this doctor’s office thinking, “I’ve messed up my kids’ lives. I’ve messed up my husband. I’ve been in ministry all my life—just wanting to be a Jesus girl so that everyone knows I love Jesus. And now, everyone is going to know the most stupid and selfish thing I’ve ever done.” When I walked out of that office, I didn’t know I could face my life. It was probably the moment of despair where I had no hope and that desperate fear.
It was just a couple days later that I called the abortion clinic—and I say that saying just to any of the listeners out there, “I understand that kind of desperation;” but I’m here today saying I’m so thankful I hung up the phone and I fell to my knees. I said, “Jesus, I know that’s not the answer. I know you. I know you, my Dad in Heaven.”
Then, I remember praying this: “God, if you love me, you will take this from me.” And that was when I begged Him for a miscarriage. I said, “I’ve never asked you for anything like this before God, but I need this, God.” I look back, now, and I will say, “I am so thankful that, because God loves me, He did not answer my prayer my way.” You see, I wanted to get evacuated out of my circumstances.
I mean how many times do we think of the best way for God to answer our prayer, our situation—whether it’s our health, our finances, our family, our kids—we just think of the best way that God could just make this all better. And I know the character of my God.
My Daddy in Heaven said, “Audrey”—basically, I look back and He said, “I’m not going to evacuate you out, but I, in my love and in my comfort, am going to walk you through.” And when you walk through something—“Yea, though you walk through the valley of the shadow of death, you fear no evil for I am with you. My rod and my staff, they comfort you.”
For those who are in pain right now that are listening, you know that it’s in those times where you have nothing left and you are hanging onto Jesus with all your might, you find Him in a place in your heart where He heals you and He holds you and He loves you to a place of healing that is much beyond any circumstances. When you’ve experienced that kind of love and unconditional intimacy with God and that mercy, you know Him in a way.
After you’ve gone through, you come out different. After you’ve gone through, you come out knowing who God is, His nature, His character. You come out with authority to help others who have been through pain. You come out with passion to help people who are in similar circumstances. And you know I get emotional—and you can hear the emotion in my voice because I still remember that kind of desperation; but I cry, not out of sadness, but out of worship because I know the Lord is my Shepherd.
Dennis: Well, I’m thinking about your other three children. They were teenagers. I mean old enough to know. How did you tell them?
Bob M: It was extremely intentional. One evening after dinner, I told the kids, “We’re going to have a Meisner family meeting,” which was a custom in our home; but that evening they came up to our bedroom, and they walked in seeing a mom and dad sitting on the floor crying.
I remember my oldest son, 15 years old, the fear that gripped his heart and it was expressed over his face. And he sits down in concern. My daughter comes in, and she is also wondering what’s happening. She’s 13, and then, my third born, David, he’s ten. And he comes in and sits down.
As a family as we sat there on the floor, I stood up immediately and I went over to the bed and I pulled the large queen-sized blanket from the bed; and with Audrey seated on the floor, I took that blanket and I covered her from head to foot. I knelt down beside her and I wrapped my arms around her and I looked deep into my kids’ eyes.
I said, “Kids, this is what God does when we make a mistake. He comes to us, He covers us, and He wraps His arms around us and He says, ‘I’ll never leave you. I’ll never forsake you.” With Audrey covered and held in my arms, I looked deep into my kids’ eyes, and I began to express to them how much I loved their mom and how much we are a family and that we belong with each other. I knew that the number one key element that I needed to communicate to them was security—
Bob M: —and I’m just speaking to them that we’re a family and we belong with each other. With Audrey covered and held in my arms, I said, “Kids, you are going to have a baby brother.” I had had a vasectomy. My older children knew what had happened immediately. My son, 15, he begins to cry. My daughter, 13—she’s crying and crying.
Then, she looks at me; and she’s got this contagious smile all over her face. She said, “Daddy, we’re having a baby.” She begins to cry again, but she can’t contain the excitement. “Daddy, we’re having a baby.” My ten-year-old, he’s a little confused and he’s looking at all of us and he said, “I just don’t get it.” He said, “At least, I’m not going to be the youngest anymore.” And I knew that we were going to be okay.
Again, I struggled. My greatest struggle was with my capacity, or my ability, to be able to love because of the wound, because of the pain, because of my interrogation, because of my questioning, I had vivid imaginations of what took place, where, when, how many times; and these would send me into moments of anger and rage and depression. I was learning over the months to be able to manage that; but I would just be honest with my pastor.
One morning, we had just a quick cup of coffee, but he knew my questioning. “What am I going to do?” And this one morning, he answered me. He said, “Bob, there’s a baby on your doorstep. What will you do? Will you participate with this fatherless generation, or will you become a father to the fatherless? It’s time to grow up.”
So, I mean it was months of intensity; but I knew what I was wrestling with. So that night when we went to the hospital and my daughter insisted--she’s like “I’m going to be there.” She would sing to the baby. She would rub Audrey’s tummy. She couldn’t wait for this baby to be born. And as we were there in the hospital room, we were together; and I needed to find a middle name—because I’ve had pastors--
I was well known in the Christian community. People would call me, and they said, “Bob, you’re doing so well. You can’t keep this baby. Don’t put that added pressure on your family and on your children. We have people in our church. You can adopt this baby out.” I mean those were the kinds of things that I was being bombarded with; but it was like, “No, I’m a father, and this will be my son.”
So, as my daughter and I sat together in that hospital chair, we came across the name Theodore. Theodore is “divine gift.” Because I choose my words carefully, when our son was born, I gave him my name Robert—Robert because I don’t want him to ever question one day in his life whose boy he is. This is my son—Theodore, “divine gift,” because he’s not an accident, he’s not a mistake, he’s not the result of a sexual affair. He’s born out of the heart of God—just like my other three kids—and entrusted to us. We’re a family.
Dennis: You know as you share that story I just—this verse, I’ve got it right here. I just want to read it. It just kept bouncing around in my head because I love to hear stories where God takes something that could have turned out terribly and how He delights in redemption. Heaven is going to be filled with great stories of redemption.
Ephesians chapter 3, verse 20: “Now, to Him who is able to do far more abundantly than all we can ask or think according to the power at work within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations forever and ever. Amen.”
God has been at work here and is still at work. I’m sure we haven’t heard all the story, but I’m glad you guys didn’t quit. I’m glad you exhibited the courage to tell your story, not only in print, but on your TV show and also here on FamilyLife Today—and I think provide hope for some listeners who may be facing some uncertain days and the need to move toward forgiveness. Thanks for being obedient.
Bob M: Our pleasure. Thank you.
Bob: I would imagine some of our listeners are going to want to get copies of the book, Marriage Undercover, that Bob and Audrey have written which we have in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. Go online at FamilyLifeToday.com for more information on how to order a copy of the book. You can order online if you’d like. Again, the website, FamilyLifeToday.com; or call toll-free at 1-800-FL-TODAY, 1-800-358-6329; that’s 1-800- “F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then, the word, “TODAY”.
Let me remind you quickly that today is the last day I have to tell you about the special offer for FamilyLife Today listeners to attend a Weekend to Remember marriage getaway this fall. We’ll be in about four dozen cities this fall with our two-and-a-half day weekend getaway for couples.
If you sign up this weekend—Sunday is the cutoff—sign up to attend, pay the regular registration fee for yourself, and your spouse comes free. So, it’s basically the Weekend to Remember marriage getaway at half price for the two of you.
Go to FamilyLifeToday.com; and if you register online, we’ll need to know that you’re a FamilyLife Today listener so you’ll be eligible for the special offer. Just type my name, “BOB”—type “B-O-B”—in the promotion code box on the online registration form; and then as you finish up the process, the special offer will kick in.
Or you can call 1-800-FL-TODAY, register over the phone. Just mention that you listen to FamilyLife Today so you’ll qualify for the buy one, get one free special offer for FamilyLife Today listeners. Again, the offer expires this weekend, so let us hear from you right now.
Then, finally, I want to encourage you to consider getting together with four other couples this fall for something very special—something you guys can do that would help your marriage and would help strengthen the marriages of people you know in your church, in your work place, folks you know in the neighborhood.
I’m talking about The Art of Marriage® small group study. It’s a six-week study that we’ve designed that uses about a 30-minute video each session and then a workbook that couples can go through together. And it’s a great way to cultivate relationships with other couples and to strengthen your marriage at the same time.
This week, our team has put together a special offer—and I say it’s this week. The offer expires this weekend. So, if you want to take advantage of this, we need to hear from you today. If you will cover the cost for ten manuals and what we call the starter kit, we will subtract out the cost of the DVDs from the starter kit price. So, basically, you get the DVDs free as long as you cover the cost of the manuals for everybody in the group.
Again, the offer is good this week only. But let me challenge you to consider doing this. This is a great way to reach out to people in your community and maybe invite some folks over who don’t normally go to church but who would be interested in getting together with other couples and strengthening their marriage.
Find out more. Go to FamilyLifeToday.com and look for information about The Art of Marriage small group series, available this week at a special price for FamilyLife Today listeners. Or call 1-800-FL-TODAY and ask about The Art of Marriage small group series. We’ll provide whatever help we can.
With that, we’ve got to wrap things up for today. Thanks for being with us. Hope you have a great weekend. I hope you and your family can worship together this weekend, and I hope you can join us back on Monday when we’re going to hear a remarkable story.
We’re going to hear about a woman who was a tenured professor; she was a lesbian who was confronted with the kind love of a local pastor and his wife. We’ll introduce you to Rosaria Butterfield on Monday. Hope you can join us for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, with special help from Justin Adams, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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