But The Fab Four as they were called, might have contributed to the confusion. Today we're going to take a hard look at love, courtesy of Bob Lepine, who has just written a book on that subject entitled, Love Like You Mean It. And the subtitle is, The Heart of a Marriage That Honors God. Bob has been the cohost of FamilyLife Today for 26 years on the radio, and the program is still on. In fact, I'm going to ask Bob to give us an update on it when I've finished my introduction. Bob is now a pastor and the announcer on the Alistair Begg program. He's still working with FamilyLife Today, obviously. The Begg program is entitled Truth For Life. Bob also has a responsibility on the board of directors of the National Religious Broadcasters. He's married to Mary Ann and they have five children, and we're delighted to have him with us. Bob, welcome to Family Talk.
Bob Lepine: Dr. Dobson, it is an honor to be with you. Thanks for the invitation.
Dr. Dobson: Tell me about FamilyLife Today. You are still serving as the cohost of the program, but Dennis Rainey has now retired. Is that right?
Bob Lepine: Yeah. There was a transition that took place about two years ago as Dennis stepped away from being president of FamilyLife and from his responsibilities on FamilyLife Today. He and Barbara continue to write and do ministry and work on projects. They've got a website called theraineys.org that they operate and are continuing to be vital in ministry. I have stayed here with FamilyLife as cohost of FamilyLife Today with our new hosts, Dave and Ann Wilson, and our audience is getting introduced to them and getting to know them, and the response to their ministry has been very gratifying from our listeners. So, we've been looking at how we can continue the vital work of FamilyLife for another generation, and that's what we're hoping will happen through the work of FamilyLife Today.
Dr. Dobson: Well, I wish you would give our love and regards to Dennis and Barbara. They have been on this program and on Focus On The Family when I was there many times and I have great love and respect for them and the work that they do.
Bob Lepine: Well, I can assure you, it is mutual love and respect. We have talked many times about our respect for you and our gratitude for your influence in our lives personally, and your influence in the work of the church for decades. So thank you for that, Dr. Dobson.
Dr. Dobson: Love Like You Mean It is I believe your fourth book, isn't it?
Bob Lepine: Yeah. It's a book that I have kind of stewed on for many years just recognizing that most people think about love in emotional terms rather than thinking about it, as I like to say, with work boots on. In fact, I was thinking as I wrote the book, I was thinking about your book, Love Must Be Tough, and the impact that book had on me as a young man, recognizing that love is an action word. It's not an emotional word. It's something we're called to live out and to know how to do. And sometimes love is hard. Sometimes it has to be tough. And this book is a call to married couples to embrace a more biblical understanding of what love is supposed to be.
You and I have a similar pre-marriage experience because, if I remember correctly, there was a time when Shirley came to you and said, "Yeah, this is over. We're not going anywhere." And she dumped you. Mary Ann dumped me while we were dating as well. Isn't that [crosstalk 00:05:07] what happened with you?
Dr. Dobson: No, you got it backwards.
Bob Lepine: Oh, you were the one who dumped her.
Dr. Dobson: Yeah, I had gone with her for two years. I was about to go into graduate school and I didn't have any money and I just didn't see getting married. And it was her senior year in college and I was already out of school and I was about to go into graduate school, as I said. And I just thought it all over and didn't feel that I was ready to get married, but I didn't want to tie her up during her senior year because there would be other guys that would be standing in line for her. And so I cut her loose and it was the biggest mistake of my life. And by the next morning I knew it. I stayed up all night thinking about having hurt the best friend I ever had. And so from there to marriage was a short journey.
Bob Lepine: Well, here's what I remember from that story. I remember you saying that when you broke it off with her, she kind of took it somewhat coolly and said, "Well, if that's what you think." She didn't moan or groan, and you were a little taken aback by that and found yourself even more attracted to her as she was being broken up with. Right?
Dr. Dobson: Well, you've got a good memory because it was not till I knew I was free of her that I knew I desperately wanted her, and it often works that way. And she let me go with such dignity that I immediately thought I'd made a mistake. And it is really amazing how that works. I wrote a book about it called Love Must Be Tough.
Bob Lepine: I remember as I read that book getting a fresh vision of what love is supposed to be, because I think, and you've seen this, so many young couples have this idea of love that it's just supposed to be Hallmark movies all the time and we're supposed to feel a certain way every moment of every day. And that's just not the reality of married love, is it?
Dr. Dobson: It doesn't work that way. It's not a feeling. It's a determination, it's a commitment. And you've talked about that.
Bob Lepine: Well, you mentioned the Beatles earlier, and I do think that popular music and Hollywood movies and the Hallmark Channel, like I said, have all worked together, conspired together, to give us this highly romantic idea of love. And the Bible comes along, I think, and corrects that for us and says, "Love is going to be harder than you imagined." But when you press in to these character qualities of love that are outlined in 1 Corinthians 13, you find a deeper, richer, more satisfying kind of relationship than if all you had was the whipped cream and the froth of romantic love.
Dr. Dobson: And you have based this book on that chapter in 1 Corinthians 13, haven't you?
Bob Lepine: Yeah. I was doing a sermon series at our church on that passage and just talking about how love is foundational to everything in the Christian life. And as I worked on it, I sensed the Lord saying to me, "You talk on the radio regularly about marriage and family. Why don't you apply this passage to the marriage relationship and help couples understand what it means for love to be patient in marriage? Or, for love to be kind in marriage? Or, not keeping a record of wrongs?" All of the things that are described in this passage. And I went back to that passage with fresh eyes, and I said, "There's a lot for husbands and wives to learn here." And that was really the genesis of the book, Love Like You Mean It.
Dr. Dobson: Well, reading it, it's obvious that you just got a lot of information out of it and we want to be talking about that. You say early on in the book that during your early married life that you had an immature view of love. Did I understand that correctly?
Bob Lepine: Yeah. I came into marriage thinking, "What benefits will I accrue from this relationship? I'm about to pledge myself to somebody else, so what am I going to get out of this? What's the good that's going to come my way?" And it wasn't long before I recognized that the heart of God for marriage is not for us to be focused on what am I getting out of this? It's more for us to focus on, what am I giving in this relationship.
Dr. Dobson: It doesn't work as a selfish relationship, does it?
Bob Lepine: It doesn't. It'll deteriorate. Rather than asking the question, "Am I happy?" And even rather than asking the question, "Is Mary Ann happy?" I think the question we need to be asking is, "Is God happy with how we're living together as husband and wife?" And when that's our pursuit, when that's our goal, the richness of the reward we receive by making that our focus is just immeasurable.
Dr. Dobson: Well, that is a wonderful concept and we want to build on it. Why is love so difficult to understand? You said you came into marriage not fully understanding what it was all about. I think that's rather typical and maybe the culture teaches false concepts of love, but we all start out that way. We have to learn how to give. It doesn't come natural to us, does it?
Bob Lepine: No, what comes natural to us is to be self-focused and self-oriented, and to be thinking like I was thinking, which is, "What will I get out of this, and what am I willing to trade in order to get what I want?" Between the cultural definition of love and our own innate selfishness we start off in marriage with wrong thinking about what love in a relationship should look like. And that's where we so desperately need the Bible. We need the Holy Spirit. We need God to redirect our thinking so that we can get his understanding of what love is. I think often, Dr. Dobson, of Jesus' statement, "Greater love has no one than this, that he lays down his life for his friend." And that's the idea in marriage. We're laying down our lives for one another.
Dr. Dobson: Bob, I think it's a wonderfully creative thing to look to the creator to define love. That's what you've done, essentially, isn't it? I mean, the Bible is his marriage manual.
Bob Lepine: And I didn't really realize that. In fact, when I first came to FamilyLife, back in 1992, I remember a conversation with Dennis Rainey, where he was talking about marriage and family. And he said, "Are you passionate about marriage and family?" And I said, "Well, I'm passionate about the things of God, and to the extent that marriage and family is on the heart of God, yeah, I'm passionate about that." What I didn't realize at the time is how much marriage and family is on the heart of God. How central it is to how we live out our faith. Of course, you've recognized this for decades and have pointed us in this direction. Marriage and family is so integral to everything that God is doing in human history that we need to be getting it right and getting his definition for love and marriage right.
Dr. Dobson: Do you find there is a way of a definition of sacrificial love? What does that really mean day by day by day?
Bob Lepine: Well, I'll tell you a story. I sat down with a young couple who was... I was doing their premarital counseling many years ago, and I asked them on the first night of premarital counseling to write down their definition of love. And what I got back from them that first night was pretty romantic. It was kind of like a cross between Rod McKeun poems and a Hallmark card. It was sweet, but it wasn't really durable, and by the end of our premarital counseling, they came away with an understanding that I believe that love really does come down to commitment and self-sacrifice. Those are the two cornerstones of biblical love, that we're committed to one another to say, "Whatever happens, I'm here. I'm not going anywhere. That's what we said when we vowed 'for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, sickness and health,' whatever. I'm staying here, no matter how hard it gets."
Dr. Dobson: I wish a young man and a woman about to get married fully understood the import and the significance of the wedding vows, because, I mean, you are committing yourself for life. Of course, we all know them, 'to have and to hold from this day forward, for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish till death do us part, according to God's Holy law.' That is the very definition of commitment. You stay together. You're committed to each other. That word commitment, I think, is the essence of it.
Bob Lepine: I think it's so foundational, and I think it's why we have couples make a vow. I mean, we don't make people take a vow on something that's going to be simple and easy. You take a vow for something that's going to be challenging and tough and where you're going to want to quit from time to time. And the vow is there to keep you from quitting. And that's what this is all about. When I'm doing a wedding, I will often say to couples, "This vow that you're about to take is not a romantic statement you're making to one another. This is a bold declaration that you expect hard things to come your way, and when they do, you're not going anywhere and you're going to figure out how to work this out." I've said to couples, "If I gave you a car the day that you got married, and I said, 'This car is the only car you will ever be able to have for your entire life.'"
I said, "Two things would happen. First of all, you would take better care of that car, knowing that it's going to have to last you a lifetime, and then the second thing is, when it broke down, you'd take it to the shop and get it fixed because it's the only car you've got." And I say with marriage, we need to treat it like it's the only relationship we're supposed to have, and that means take better care of it in the first place. And when it breaks down, because it will, you go get help and you get it fixed. God's grace is available to help couples through the challenges and struggles of marriage, if they're both willing to submit to him and surrender to him.
Dr. Dobson: But, Bob, what if you marry a clunker?
Bob Lepine: Well, you'll have to ask Mary Ann because she did. All right? You know, we all start off as clunkers. We're two selfish, sinful individuals coming together to form a marriage. And, yeah, that's where God goes to work. In fact, my greatest growth in my relationship with Christ has come through the challenges that I've faced in marriage. And that's been God's laboratory for making me more like Jesus.
Dr. Dobson: Well, let's work our way through some of the concepts of 1 Corinthians 13. Let's start with the word 'patience.' What does that mean in reality?
Bob Lepine: Isn't it interesting that that's where the Bible starts when it says, "Here's what love is. It is patient." We would start with love is affectionate, or love is endearing, but it starts with patient. I like the old King James language that says, "Love is long-suffering," because patience is the ability to suffer long, to bear up. In the middle of all kinds of challenges and all kinds of trials, we patiently endure, and we need to be quick to say, we're not talking about enduring physical suffering. If somebody is experiencing physical abuse, the Bible is not saying, "Well, you just bear it." What the Bible is saying is that when you face the kinds of challenges that are the irritations and the annoyances that are going to come with a marriage relationship, you make the decision ahead of time. Patience is commitment and self-sacrifice in the midst of the regular challenges that we face in a relationship.
Dr. Dobson: Boy, long suffering takes the romance out of it, doesn't it?
Bob Lepine: And isn't that interesting? Because that's where Paul starts. The Bible says, "Jesus patiently endured for the joy that was set before him. He endured the cross." And I think in marriage, we patiently work through the challenges that we deal with. We suffer through those things because there is a joy on the other side that God has promised us if we will be patient with one another in our marriage relationship.
Dr. Dobson: Yeah. It's not at all that the thrill of it all isn't important, because it is, but it's the commitment that undergirds it all, and that's where the permanence, that's the commitment, that's the steadiness that comes from that determination.
Bob Lepine: Whenever Mary Ann and I have done premarital counseling together, I will often say to these couples who are thinking about getting married, I will say, "Now, look, this is going to get hard. This is going to be tough." And Mary Ann will chime in. She'll say, "And it's also going to be wonderful and glorious." And I say, "Yeah, it is, but it's going to be hard and tough." And she'll say, "But don't lose the fact that it's going to be wonderful and glorious." Those two-
Dr. Dobson: It can be both, actually.
Bob Lepine: It can be.
Dr. Dobson: And it must be.
Bob Lepine: It's supposed to be.
Dr. Dobson: Yeah, well, then it goes from patience to kindness. What's the meaning of kindness there?
Bob Lepine: Kindness is the proactive desire to bless another person. It's more than niceness. Niceness can be polite, or we can be friendly toward another person. Kindness is the decision to proactively seek to bless another person. The formula I use in the book is that my goal is your good. So as we start a marriage relationship, we start with that objective that my goal in this relationship is your good, your thriving, your growing, for you to be the person that God causes you to be.
And I think sometimes, too, Dr. Dobson, kindness is the little things we do for one another in a marriage relationship that we often take for granted. For example, I went to the drawer this morning and opened my drawer and there were clean undershirts in my drawer. And those kind of magically appear there once a week. And I have to pause from time to time and say, "This is an act of kindness on the part of my wife to say, 'I'm going to serve you in this way and do these little things that are a blessing to you that make life work for you.'"
Dr. Dobson: And you indicated in your book that that kind of kindness is the marital disinfectant. Explain that.
Bob Lepine: Yeah. It really does wash away a lot of the toxins that can build up in a marriage relationship when we do an act of kindness for another person. Mary Ann was going on a road trip to see her mom recently. And so she was going to be leaving the next morning and she had gone to bed. And I got to thinking, "I wonder if she had a chance to fill up her car before she would leave the next day." And I went out and checked and the car was half empty, and I thought, "Well, this will save her a little time." So I drove down the street and filled it up and brought it back in. And so the next morning, as she's taking off, she notices that her gas tank is filled up. And there's just something about, "You thought about me. You cared for me. You did a little thing to bless me." That is the disinfectant, the oil that makes the relationship run more smoothly and causes all of the toxins to begin to drain away.
It's hard to be frustrated with or mad at somebody who is regularly being kind toward you. Mary Ann and I were at a Bible study years ago, and the question that we were being asked, all of us were sharing, was, "What was the last romantic thing your spouse did for you?" And I was kind of waiting with some anticipation to see how Mary Ann would answer that question, because I was trying to think, "When have I done anything romantic recently? Is she going to have to go back to when we were dating?"
And so it got to her and she said, "Well, the other night I was in doing the dishes and without me saying anything, Bob got up and turned off the TV and came and started drying the dishes." And I looked at her and I said, "No, honey, they wanted something romantic I had done." And she said, "That was so romantic when you did that." Of course, now, anytime I pick up a dish towel, Mary Ann looks at me like, "I know what you're thinking about here."
Dr. Dobson: Well, let's go onto the word humility, which is very prominently written in the Scripture.
Bob Lepine: Yeah. And the Bible says, "Love is not self-seeking. It does not seek its own." That's what humility is. Humility is this idea that we have the other person's good as our goal and that we are... I think a lot of people have a false idea about humility. They think it means that we are supposed to think less of ourselves, and it doesn't mean that at all. It means we're supposed to think of ourselves less. So we should have a correct appraisal of who God has made us to be, but instead of thinking of ourselves, we should be thinking of others. That's what Philippians 2 says. "Don't merely look out for your own interests, which you are naturally inclined to do, but also for the interests of others." That's the mind of Christ that's spoken of in Philippians chapter 2. And that needs to be present in a marriage relationship.
Dr. Dobson: Bob, I just looked at the clock. I can't believe it, our time is gone. It's just fun talking to you about this very important subject. Let's close out the interview today and let's pick up with it in our next program. Would you be willing to do that?
Bob Lepine: Love to do that. Thank you.
Dr. Dobson: All right. Let's summarize. The title of the book is, Love Like You Mean It, and the subtitle is, The Heart of a Marriage That Honors God. And we'll pick up right here next time. Bob, it's a pleasure talking to you. All those times when Dennis and Barbara have come to Family Talk or Focus On The Family, he didn't bring you with him, and I don't understand that. It's fun talking to you.
Bob Lepine: This is a treat for me, so it's an honor and a delight to be on with you today.
Roger Marsh: You've been listening to Dr. James Dobson's Family Talk, and I'm Roger Marsh. We've all heard 1 Corinthians 13 quoted at more weddings than any of us can remember, that's why our eyes might glaze over a bit when we hear the attributes of patience, kindness and humility articulated as demonstrations of the kind of unconditional love that we should have for our spouse. But think about this for just a moment. Could your marriage use the marital disinfectants, if you will, of patience, kindness and humility right about now? Bob Lepine is right. Marriage is indeed the laboratory that God uses to make us more like Jesus.
To learn more about Bob Lepine and his new book, Love Like You Mean It: The Heart of a Marriage That Honors God, visit our broadcast page at drjamesdobson.org. Now, if you want to go back and revisit any part of the program, if you want to hear something again, or maybe you missed a portion listening to it on radio, visit drjamesdobson.org/broadcast, and that way you can hear the program in its entirety.
Now throughout the month of February, we're offering you a copy of Dr. Dobson's book, Nightlight: A Devotional for Couples. You know it's important to have regular quiet moments with your spouse to renew love and intimacy, and also to connect with each other and the Lord. The book, Nightlight, written by Dr. Dobson and his wife, Shirley, will help you do just that. It's a daily devotional that offers the personal, practical and biblical insights that have sustained the Dobson's marriage for over 60 years. Now you can receive your copy as our way of thanking you for a suggested donation of $20 or more to the Dr. James Dobson Family Institute.
For more information on how you can receive a copy of this book, go to drjamesdobson.org/couples. That's drjamesdobson.org/couples. Or you can call us at (877) 732-6825. Be sure to join us again tomorrow for part two of Dr. Dobson's conversation with Bob Lepine talking about Loving Like You Mean It, in marriage. Be sure to join us again then for the next edition of Dr. James Dobson's Family Talk. I'm Roger Marsh. Thanks for listening.
Announcer: This has been a presentation of the Dr. James Dobson Family Institute.