Unequally Yoked: Three Stories
About the Guest
Do you wish you and your husband were on the same page spiritually? That's what authors Lynn Donovan, Dineen Miller and Darla Stone also wanted as they dove deeper into their faith. But what could they do while they waited for their husbands to come to the Lord? Find out what these prayer warriors did to help their marriage thrive and grow despite the spiritual differences.
Do you wish you and your husband were on the same page spiritually?
Bob: Dineen Miller remembers, being a fairly new Christian, hoping, wishing, and praying that her husband would join her on the journey.
Dineen: One day my husband came home with a Bible. I thought, “Okay, here we go. He’s going to open that book. He’s going to be hooked. He’s going to be on the journey with me, and we’re going to be this couple in church.” But an argument just sparked into the wee hours of the morning, and he finally told me that he decided he was an atheist.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Monday, December 3rd. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. How do you pursue oneness in a marriage relationship when you and your spouse are in completely different places when it comes to the thing that is most important to you in your life? We’re going to talk about that today. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. You know, most of us live in a place or in a time where we really don’t have a lot to do with yokes unless we’re cooking eggs; right? I mean, you hear about yoking—you think of eggs, not oxen.
Dennis: You and I have been doing radio for 20 years. [Laughter] I’m always astounded where you come up with the transition into what we’re talking about. We’re talking about spiritually-mismatched marriages, and—
Bob: Haven’t you ever wondered—
Dennis: —you begin with an egg yolk.
Bob: Haven’t you ever wondered if some people read about being unequally yoked, and they think it’s all about omelets? [Laughter] I just think there are folks who do that.
Dennis: Other people think about other things, Bob, than food.
Bob: In the old days, the yoke was that piece of wood you’d put across the shoulders of a pair of oxen. If one of them is going forward and the other one is not, you’re just going to plow in circles; right?
Dennis: And it’s going to chafe one or both in the yoke. We have three ladies with us on FamilyLife Today. Dineen, Lynn, and Darla join us on the broadcast. Ladies, welcome to the broadcast.
Dineen: Thank you for having us.
Lynn: Thank you for having us.
Darla: Thank you for having us.
Dennis: They all share the same common experience of being in spiritually- mismatched marriages. Dineen Miller and Lynn Donovan have written a book called Winning Him Without Words, and both have ministries to numerous women through women’s groups. Both are writers. Dineen has been married for 25 years, Lynn for 20 years.
Darla has written a book called In Christ Alone. She and John have—well, I want to read what you said. You said you and John have journeyed through three marriages in your 40 years together—not three different marriages to different people, but three marriages together.
Darla: That’s correct.
Dennis: Explain what you mean by that statement.
Darla: Well, our very first part of our marriage pretty much was a marriage of just being attracted to each other physically. It was all about what the world today calls love and just living in the moment, looking for fun, and enjoying what the other can give, too.
Bob: How old were you when you and John met?
Darla: Twenty—well, I was 19 when we met. We got married—I was 20; he was 21.
Bob: Okay. So, you were young, and life was exciting.
Bob: Was there anything going on spiritually in your life at the time?
Darla: At that time, I can say that I knew that Jesus died for my sins and that I was going to be with Him in heaven one day; but I hadn’t been taught anything. I had been saved at a Bible camp as an 11-year-old child and, then, lived in a home environment that was pretty chaotic—alcoholic parents. There was no teaching that I encountered after that point.
Bob: So, you weren’t looking for a godly guy to marry. You were just—
Bob: —looking for a cute guy to marry; right?
Darla: Prince Charming.
Dennis: Did you have any kind of conversations about the spiritual—
Darla: I actually—
Dennis: —dimension of a marriage?
Darla: —on our second date, I said, “Are you a Christian?” He said, “Yes.” I took an invisible check mark and checked it off and said, “Oh, he’s a Christian”—
Bob: You didn’t—you weren’t going to church together?
Darla: That is one aspect of our relationship that is unique in the fact that I would go to church, and he would go with me. In fact, throughout the first part—that first part of that marriage, we did. We just went to church together.
Dennis: So, give us an overview of those three marriages you experienced with John.
Darla: Well, the first marriage—because I knew Jesus Christ and because I felt as though I was the spiritual leader of our home, I was pretty much John’s Holy Spirit. I spent a lot of time telling him how, and when, and where, and why he did something that was ungodly. We did live a worldly lifestyle. I would say we blended.
I had this very self-righteous attitude of what I believed was right and wrong. I didn’t have a Bible background, but I just had this self-righteous attitude to the point of—toward the end of that period, looking for a way out—
Dennis: Oh, really?
Darla: —because his worldly lifestyle became more and mine became less. We had two daughters. I was starting to be more concerned about what we needed to do with our goals and our future. He was still with the fact of really enjoying himself in the world.
Bob: So, how many years into your marriage before marriage number two started?
Darla: Marriage number two started at the seven-year point. We were about to move from our home in Southwestern New York state. I got my Bible out because I was so crushed by his worldly lifestyle that I thought, “I need to know. Can I get out of this marriage?”
I started to search, but I had to search first for the Bible because I never looked at my Bible. I found my Bible, and looked in it, and found the passage that said, “If the unbelieving one wants to go, go ahead and let them go.” I approached my husband and said, “What do you think about moving without me? If you would like to go and continue with what you are currently enjoying, just allow me to stay behind with the girls.”
It took him a couple of days of thinking that over and said, “No, I think I want you to go with me.” I took that to mean it was going to get better, but it didn’t. The relationship continued to deteriorate; but we had moved into Houston, and I had gone to some welcome meeting. A girl across the room said, “Jesus”—I heard her say, “Jesus.” I made my way over to her; and this girl, then, discipled me—she—specifically in the area of being married to someone who didn’t live for God. Then, I found the 1 Peter 3 principle.
Bob: “Winning him without a word” principle is what you are talking about?
Darla: Yes, exactly; exactly! This is something that I thought I was at the end—I was crushed. I didn’t know what else to do. So, I thought I would try this.
Dennis: So, what marked the beginning of the third season of your marriage?
Darla: It was pretty cool because we were, then, moving out of Houston. We moved to Houston three times. We were moving out of Houston to a small town, Shreveport, Louisiana; but because I was at the point of letting everything go and he had gone to church with me before, I said, “Why don’t you decide what you would like to do?”
We visited a few churches. He said, “I think we’ll go to this small one,”—this small country church. Every week, this pastor would say, “If there’s anyone here today that just wants to come forward just to pray, just to come on up here with me and pray at the end of service.” We’d have our heads down, and I would feel movement beside me. I would realize he got up and went forward, and he would be up there crying. I would just be amazed that I didn’t have anything to do with it and that—
Dennis: He did this more than once?
Darla: Yes, he did. He did it several times. It really, truly was the 1 Peter 3 principle of, “It’s your behavior.” It’s not what you say, or manipulate, or in any other way try to force your husband’s salvation to come.
Bob: So, you guys have been on the same page, spiritually, for how long now?
Darla: I would say 25 years, but I would also say that his coming out of the worldly lifestyle and into living for the Lord was a slow process.
Dennis: And the number one thing you learned in those three different seasons of your marriage?
Darla: The number one thing was security in Jesus Christ.
Dennis: That’s what your book is about.
Darla: It is truly.
Dennis: It’s finding comfort in Him personally, regardless—
Dennis: —of what your spouse does or how—
Dennis: —he or she responds.
Bob: I’m glad you said he or she; because while we’re talking to three wives who are married or have been married to unbelieving husbands, we’ve got listeners who are godly men married to unbelieving wives. A lot of these principles we are going to talk about are the same, whether it’s a man or a woman involved in the unequal yoking.
Dennis: They are. I want to go to Lynn next. You’ve been married 20 years.
Lynn: I have.
Dennis: You said you met your husband—
Lynn: Yes, I met my husband when I was on a prodigal journey; and I grew up in church. I think I had more of a relationship with church than with Jesus Christ. In my early 20s, I fell away and went on this prodigal journey. I met my husband at a bar. We—he was interesting—so different than I was. We fell in love, and we got married. It was fine for the first three years because we lived like Darla said, “The ways of the world.”
It was about three years into our marriage when the Lord said to me, “Enough! I want you back!” My little Sunday school girl came out, and I ran home to the Father; but I was also dragging behind me my unbelieving husband. He was kicking and screaming all the way.
Bob: Now, you’ve got to unpack that just a little bit. God wooing you back—how did that happen?
Lynn: I just—I felt this calling. It’s interesting—when you’re unequally yoked—it’s about that time, I started thinking about having a baby. That’s very common for us, who are unequally yoked, women will start having children—that’s when our faith, that we were raised in, really becomes very important again. For me, that was very true. That was the time I stepped off into this unequally yoked journey. I have to say, now looking back, my husband asked me the hard questions; and I didn’t know the answers!
Bob: Questions like, “How do you know God exists?”
Lynn: “And I don’t believe this. Why would you believe this? The Bible isn’t real! How do you—” you know?” I didn’t know! How could I answer him? Boy, I tell you what—my husband’s unbelief pushed me to really know my faith, to know my Jesus. Stepping through this journey—for me, it was also a very long journey of learning to surrender. I felt like I was walking it alone.
It’s very common for people who are unequally yoked to feel lonely; but I learned to surrender many things, including my loneliness, and allowed Jesus to fill me up. That’s when my vibrant relationship with Him just blossomed. I was able to really understand what 1 Peter 3 meant, and that all my nagging and begging him to go to church with me, and all that, was not helping the situation. In fact, I probably was a bigger stumbling block in his faith journey than a help—in the early years, at least, for sure.
Bob: Your husband is still in a different place than you are spiritually; right?
Lynn: That’s correct, yes.
Bob: But he knows you’ve got a blog where you deal with this—
Bob: —you’ve co-written a book on this. He’s fine with you telling your story.
Lynn: It’s amazing, and I credit that to the Lord working in our lives. When I first wanted to start the blog and write about this after I’d come through this long journey, I wanted to help others on the path with me. I came home and I said, “Honey, I think I’m going to start this up. I’d really like to write about us.” He said, “Sweetie, if you can help one other couple to not go through what we’ve gone through, then, you go for it!” He’s been my biggest cheerleader ever since; and with the book, he’s been supportive.
We came through some difficulty, and he sees how I was transformed by the love of Christ. He’s dealing with it in his own time and his own way—which for women, that’s kind of frustrating because we really like to push them a little faster than they go; but I want him to experience Jesus on his own terms.
When I started using this principle to win him with my actions and not with just what I said, that is where the profound power comes in because he can just see me—I have a vibrant, fantastic relationship with Jesus Christ. It can’t help but impact him. He sees things that happen in my life. Then, he’s like it gets—it builds a curiosity; but mostly, what he sees is I love him because I have the love of Jesus. I accept him for who he is. I will love him through thick and thin. That is the most powerful thing I brought, through Jesus Christ, into our marriage.
Dennis: I’ve got to go to Dineen and hear your story quickly because you started out your marriage how? I mean how’d you meet your husband?
Dineen: We actually were high school sweethearts. We met in high school, parted ways, just as friends, and then, kind of re-met. For me, I didn’t grow up in a Christian home. I was put on a bus to go to Sunday school as a young child, which I will be forever grateful to my mother for doing because I think that is when I really met Jesus—and through the childhood that I had—was so grateful for that constant protection, but I kind of walked in and out of the faith. It was something I would pursue on my own for a while and then walk away.
When we started dating, I knew God. I felt like I had a relationship; but I didn’t understand what that relationship was, and he was seeking to some degree. We started dating, and we got married, and we started living the American dream. We had good jobs. We were pursuing our careers. We started our family. We started building our house—our dream home—and lived this wonderful life. It started to get really hard to get out of bed in the morning, and I couldn’t understand why. I had everything. Why would I be so depressed?
A friend of mine invited me to go to a Bible study with her. It just opened my eyes to what I was missing and what it really meant to have a relationship with God. Those first few weeks and months, I carried my Bible around with me around the house constantly because it was like reading a New York Times bestseller. I couldn’t get enough—just got involved in church, and started doing all these things, and pursuing my faith, and taking the kids, too.
One day, my husband came home with a Bible. I thought, “Okay, here we go. He’s going to open that book. He’s going to be hooked. He’s going to be on the journey with me, and we’re going to be this couple in church.” One night, an argument just sparked into the wee hours of the morning. He finally told me that he decided he was an atheist. It was the least expected reply—answer—explanation. It was so far from what I expected.
Bob: You and he are still in that same place on the journey with him saying, “No, it’s not for me.”
Dineen: Right; right.
Bob: But he’s fine with you embracing your faith and talking about your relationship publically; right?
Dineen: He is. He’s been very supportive. In the last—I’d say—the last year of our marriage, a lot of things have changed in terms of we can now talk about my faith and it doesn’t become this confrontation. I have to say that’s probably more because God has changed me. I’ve learned that I don’t have to defend God. I don’t have to defend who Christ is. As Darla said, having that security in Christ, and knowing who we are, and knowing that we are that loved and we’re that accepted, we don’t have to say a lot.
Bob: You know, with marriage there’s a degree of difficulty built in—two sinful getting married. There are going to be challenges; but when I think about things that up the degree of difficulty in marriage—being on different pages, spiritually, has got to be one of those things that raises the bar several inches higher than anything else.
Dennis: No doubt about it. There’s a question I didn’t ask Dineen and Lynn; and that is, “What is your number one takeaway that you’ve learned as a result of the experience that you’ve been in?” Dineen—
Dineen: That’s a good question. That it is all about God’s love—when you realize how much our God loves us, and that He allowed Himself to come, as a man, to suffer so much and to be put on the Cross, and just to understand what that love is.
If you look in the Bible and how Jesus loved people—and that’s what He did—the first thing. He didn’t judge them. He didn’t ask them questions. He didn’t condemn them. The first thing He did is He loved them. That’s what I’ve learned—is that my job is just to love my husband. He is my husband. He is the leader of our family, and I’m going to stand by him. I’m going to affirm him. When I do that, I know I’m serving God. I am loving the way Jesus is calling me to love.
Dennis: That’s great. Lynn, what about you?
Lynn: Well, I’m about the practical. For me, it was expectations. I think every young girl wants to marry Prince Charming and live happily ever after. Bob, like you said, marriage—real marriage—there is challenges; but when you’re spiritually-mismatched, there’s many, many more on top of the regulars.
But I had expectations of my husband that were so lofty that no man could ever meet them. I’m convinced most women are that way when they go into marriage. They have these enormous expectations “to fill me,” “fill my needs”—“Do this for me.” That’s just not God’s design. The biggest thing, for me, was to take those expectations off of my husband, who is a fallible, normal, human man; but I could put all my expectations into the Lord Jesus Christ. That brought such freedom to our marriage!
My husband—I finally freed the poor guy from these silly expectations that I had for him. When I finally did that, I released him from these expectations and put my eyes fully on Jesus Christ. That is when we entered thriving—it’s what I call it. Even though he doesn’t know Jesus, I do! That makes every bit of the difference in our marriage because I’m praying Christ into our marriage. I’m showing him the love, and it’s not just about me; but it’s allowing Jesus to be a part of our home and to give my husband his own freedom to discover faith on his own terms—and Wow! I’m the one that truly experienced freedom in every way when I let go of those expectations.
Dennis: I know we’re talking about spiritually-mismatched marriages; but what you just said—and really what all three of you have said here today—is that if you’re married, you’re an imperfect person and your spouse is. You’ve got two imperfect people who are both in need of love, forgiveness, grace—and yes, that’s found in Jesus Christ—some, it takes a little longer to find that than others; but the message is clear. That’s how you build a home—
Dennis: —that ultimately goes the distance and honors God.
Bob: Well, it’s true that these principles are true for a marriage where two people are spiritually on the same page. You still have to love one another well. You still have to deal with expectations. You still have to find your security in Christ; but I think you guys have captured that in the books that you’ve written. Darla’s written a book called In Christ Alone: When Your Husband Does Not Walk with Him. Lynn and Dineen, together, have written a book called Winning Him Without Words.
As I’ve already said, our focus this week is on wives who are married to unbelieving husbands. I know we have listeners who are tuned in—men who are married to women who don’t love Christ. You know what? We’ll loop back around, and we’ll address that subject at a later date because that’s a very real issue. I know the guys who are listening go, “What about us?” We’ll get to that.
But I want to encourage wives who are married to men who don’t have a relationship with Christ, go to our website, FamilyLifeToday.com, and order copies of either or both of these books: In Christ Alone by Darla Stone; Winning Him Without Words by Lynn Donovan and Dineen Miller. The website, again, is FamilyLifeToday.com. You can order the books from us online; or you can call to order at 1-800- “F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then, the word, “TODAY”—1-800-358-6329.
Now, we are in the final weeks of 2012. I need to take just a minute and talk to those of you who are friends of the ministry—those of you who are regular listeners to FamilyLife Today. We want to ask you to consider making a special yearend donation to FamilyLife Today.
We have had an exciting year. There is a lot going on here—more people than ever who are responding to all that is happening at FamilyLife Today. In fact, we got a note just recently from a listener who wrote to say: “I stumbled on your radio program four years ago. I was struggling in my life and in my marriage. Our family was a mess. Your program inspired me to give my life to Christ. Since then, God has been doing some amazing things. I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for being there for us with the message of God’s love.” I want you to know, as one who is a listener and a supporter of this ministry, you’re a part of making that happen.
The dilemma we’re facing right now is this—we’ve seen a dramatic drop in donations from radio listeners this year. As a result, over the last several months, we’ve had to make some tough choices to slow some things down—even stop some of what we are doing. We’re asking God, here at the end of the year, to provide the funding we need to be able to restart some of these projects and get things going again in the New Year. The good news is we’ve had some friends of the ministry who have stepped forward. They have agreed that they will match every donation we receive, during December, on a dollar-for-dollar basis—up to a total of what is right now $3 million. We’re still hearing from folks—that number may actually increase over the next couple of weeks.
So, would you take a minute today? Talk together with your spouse. Pray together about making a yearend contribution to FamilyLife Today. Keep in mind, when you make that donation in December, your donation will be doubled, thanks to the matching- gift that is in place. You can donate online at FamilyLifeToday.com; or you can donate by calling 1-800-358-6329, 1-800-FL-TODAY. We just want to say, “Thanks,” in advance, for whatever you are able to do. Every gift is important; and we hope you will prayerfully consider being as generous as you can be, here, at the end of 2012.
And we hope you can be back with us again tomorrow. We’re going to continue our conversation on wives who are spiritually-mismatched in their marriages. I hope you can tune in for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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