The Four Horsemen
May 6, 2007
You know, in a crowd this size there is a number of us who are experiencing different levels of marital satisfaction. Some of you are on the brink of divorce. No one knows it but you and your spouse. Obviously God does, but your family doesn’t really know it. Your best friends don’t really realize it. But in your heart of hearts you know it’s not working for you. And you’re here today wondering if it can ever work again. It used to work by virtue of you being married, but it’s just a secret that you have between you and your spouse.
Now there are some other marriages here and you would be sort of in relational purgatory. You would be between the two. Let’s say this is the door of marital fulfillment, the other door is the door of divorce. And you would say, “You know, it’s not that good, Ed. Just to be frank with you, to be honest with you, it’s not really flowing.”
And you realize intuitively that if you continue down this path, you’re going to end up as another statistic. One day you know you will end up in divorce.
So some here, you have your hands on the door gear ready to bolt through the door of divorce. Others are between the two.
Now, some here have experienced the dark underbelly of divorce. Maybe you’re a child of divorce. When I say the word “child,” you could be 10, you could be 30, you could be 45 for all I know. Divorce has a ripple effect. It’s not just between a man and a woman or a husband and a wife. It is between family members and it is highly emotional and the scars tend to run very, very deep. And the wounds are just hideous.
Just the other day I was out of town, and I got into a conversation with a couple of students. And they asked me what I did for a living. It is always interesting when I tell people what I do for a living because the conversation always changes.
Obviously, these people were very far away from God, and I said, “I’m a pastor.”
And they said, “You’re kidding me!”
And I said, “Nope.”
And they said, “You don’t look like a pastor.”
And I said, “I’m not sure what I’m supposed to look like, but I’m a pastor. “
I take that as a compliment; thank you very much.
They began to say, “What do you talk about when you do the pastor thing?”
I said, “Recently, I’ve been talking about divorce.”
When I said the “D” word, they leaned in and they said, “Divorce is horrible!” And they looked at each other and they said, “Our parents have just gone through divorces, and we absolutely hate it.”
And they talked about how much anger and animosity they had toward their parents. One was 18 and she said her boyfriend was 30. And she said, “I’m thinking about just moving in with him.”
I said, “Don’t do that. Don’t do that. You’re making a major mistake.”
The other said, “I’ll never get married. I don’t trust men.” Divorce is devastating.
Several minutes later I walked into a pet store. This woman walked up to me, who was in her mid fifties, and we began to talk about dog collars. My wife and I have four dogs, and I was looking for this certain type of dog collar.
She said, “What do you do for a living?”
I said, “I’m a pastor.”
She said, “Really? I’m not religious.”
I said, “I’m not either.” I said, “I’m into a relationship with Jesus, but I’m not religious.”
We began to talk, and she asked me the same question.
She said, “What do you talk about at your mass or the thing that you do?”
I said, “Recently,” I just tossed it out again, “I’ve been talking about divorce.”
When I said that, she got a strange look on her face and she said, “Divorce?! That will <blank> up your life.” She said, “I left my husband ten years ago, and someone should have taken my <blank> and tied me to a tree and beat the <blank> out of me.”
I could just feel the hurt, and I experienced some of the venom. She said, “You know what,” she said, “My daughter called me just a couple days ago. And she said, ‘Mom, our family isn’t normal. You’re here; dad is over there. Everything is totally screwed up.’ ”
And then she looked at me and said, “You know what? My daughter was right.”
And then she said, “When you talk about divorce, you tell people the grass is never greener. And you tell these couples, these husbands and wives to look past the now.”
Wow! Powerful words from a pagan.
I was thinking, “What if we could go back ten years ago in that lady’s marriage? What if we could go back to when she had her hands on the hardware of the door? And what if we could go back and see what pushed her into the door and through the door of divorce?” That would be interesting. I could tell you, though, what did it.
I’ve talked to enough people; I’ve done enough marital counseling; I’ve read enough books. I can tell you what led her to divorce. In fact, these predictors pretty much lead every couple through the door of divorce. And what’s so interesting about it is that recently I sat down and had a conversation with a relational expert about some of these things. And I want you to join our conversation and listen very, very carefully to what this guy has to say.
[Video: Ed Young interviews Dr. Jonathan Cude, a licensed Marital and Family Therapist in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, about the four horsemen of divorce: Criticism, Defensiveness, Contempt, and Stonewalling. After the video ends, Ed speaks live from stage again.]
Well, the question that hangs in the balance is this: You have these 4 predictors of divorce, these 4 horsemen of divorce that many people are riding into divorce. Some people know you’re riding them; others don’t. How do we grab the reigns, though, and reverse field? How do we jump onto some other horses? And how do we ride these horses through the door of marital fulfillment? Now that’s a good question.
At this point it is very tempting for those of us who are married to think about our spouse. Over the next few moments it’s tempting for me to think about Lisa or for Lisa to think about me. It’s tempting, men, for you to think about your wife; or women, for you to think about your husband. Don’t do it. Just breathe this prayer to yourself, “God change me. God, speak to me.”
The moment we walk through the door, what happens? In John 10:9-10 (NKJV) Jesus said, “I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture … I have come that they may have life, and have it more abundantly.” Even marital life.
Jesus desires us to have an abundant marital life. So when it’s all about Jesus and as we receive him, we have the power to grab the reigns and reverse field. So instead of criticism, I believe we can ride some other horses like affirmation.
What does it mean when I affirm something? It’s a statement that I exert about the existence of something. So when I affirm Lisa, I would say, “Lisa, you’re a great cook.” She is; that’s a fact, that’s a reality, that’s an existence. “Lisa, you’re an awesome chef.” We need affirmation.
We also need admiration. Admiration is when I am, or you are, enthusiastically approving of something. So I am enthusiastic about it. I’m stoked about it.
Like several nights ago I said Lisa, “The tres leches was phenomenal.” The cake melted in my mouth. I love tres leches, do you? Wow, what a great cake! So, affirmation and admiration.
I hear women tell me this all the time, “You know, I am just looking for a guy to put me on a pedestal. I just need my husband to put me on a pedestal.” “When I am dating him, he needs to put me on a pedestal.” Or, “I used to be on a pedestal and now I’m not.”
That is true. Men, we have got to put the women on pedestal. But also, women need to put the men on the pedestal. We need it. We need it.
So often people come up to me and say, “Ed, I enjoyed that talk. That really meant a lot to me, and God really used you.” I love those words of affirmation and admiration.
Sometimes people say, “Well Ed, I know you must hear this all the time, but—”
No, I don’t hear that all the time. I appreciate that. Thank you for the e‑mails and the cards and the comments over the years. They really put wind in my sail.
However, there is one person that can take affirmation and admiration in my life to an HNL: a ‘hole ‘notha level. Lisa. When Lisa affirms me and admires me; when she says, “Honey, I loved today’s message.” Wow, that just does it for me! The power of affirmation and admiration.
Scripture is so cool because it puts it in words that women can understand. Scripture calls words jewelry. You think I’m lying to you? If you have your Bibles turn to the book of Proverbs 25:11. This is the jewelry verse. Ladies, you might use this verse as leverage for your man to buy you some nice jewelry. Check it out. Proverbs 25:11, “A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.”
Bling, bling; ka‑ching ka‑ching.
Study your spouse. Know what puts wind in their sail. A touch, a look, a comment? That’s TLC. We have got to be about affirmation and admiration.
Those are some good horses to ride. They will take you to the door of marital fulfillment.
Well, instead of being defensive as we discussed, what can we do or what should we be? How about vulnerability? Say that with me, “Vulnerability.” That’s hard to even say.
Vulnerability and intimacy are intrinsically tied together. We don’t need to be defensive; we need to be vulnerable. When I’m vulnerable with Lisa and when she’s vulnerable with me, we share our fears, our dreams, our successes, our questions, and vulnerability.
Men, we don’t naturally do the whole vulnerability thing, do we? That’s not really in our DNA. Yet, I would challenge you to create venues of vulnerability. You can’t have vulnerability on the fly. You can’t have vulnerability when you’re over committed, over stimulated, and over the top. You can’t have vulnerability when you’re just flying through the game of life. We have to stop and create venues of vulnerability.
That’s why I talk about the date night so much. What you use to get her, guys, is what you use to keep her. Date your mate. I have written books on it; I have done lectures about it. Have a date night at least three nights a month, or you could say three days a month. Day or night, whatever.
You and your spouse, alone, dating in that venue where you draw away, where you’re alone. You can share your fears and your dreams and your questions and desires. You can have this time of vulnerability, but it has to be a venue. It doesn’t happen in a vacuum; it happens in a venue. That’s why I encourage taking trips together as least once or twice a year. Just you and your spouse.
Kids are critical when it comes to vulnerability. I have a book called Kid CEO, and I defined the word kids. K.I.D.S.— Keeping Intimacy at a Distance Successfully. That’s what kids are. Keeping Intimacy at a Distance Successfully.
So if you want to have those venues of vulnerability, you better keep your kids at a distance successfully. Remember, spouses stay, kids leave.
Here’s another point. Don’t take your vulnerability and make it visible. It is very tempting for women, because women speak thousands more words than men; it’s very tempting for women to talk about times of vulnerability and intimacy with their friends they play tennis with or their friends they see at the country club, with their friends they see at the school.
Talk to your spouse about it. Talk to God about it. Talk to a Christian counselor about it. Maybe a pastor about it. Because when you do that, your words will be like apples of gold in settings of silver.
Lisa forced me into vulnerability a while back, because we have spent like, I was counting the other day, 31 Valentine’s Days together. 31 Valentine’s Days together we’ve spent. That is a long, long time, isn’t it? What do you do creative after 31 Valentine’s Days? That’s a lot, isn’t it? Well, Lisa thought of something. We know a photographer here in the church, and she took this picture of us [Ed holds up a large framed picture of him and Lisa].
Well, Lisa had this framed with this giant matte around the picture. And when I saw it I was wondering, “Why the giant matte? Why not the picture being bigger?”
But anyway, she had an idea. Valentine’s night, this was on our bed with two Sharpie markers around. And she said, “Honey, we’re going to write about our relationship.”
I said, “What?
She said, “We’re going to write just meaningful words, pithy comments about our 31 years together. I have some things in mind, and we’re writing on a matte with this picture.”
So we began to write. And at first it was like, “I’m kind of vulnerable.” But the more I wrote, the more I got into it. And this is one of my favorite pictures I have. I have this in my office.
I’ll read some of the statements. “Carport kisses,” “Charlie perfume,”—she used to wear Charlie, do you remember that? And then she wrote, “Jovan Musk Oil.” That was my cologne of choice. Wow, that’s a great cologne. No cologne smells like musk oil, I’ll tell you that.
Oh, here is a funny one, “Boo to you, too.” I will tell you a funny story about that. “Boo to you too.”
Lisa and I had been dating for several weeks, and I was over at her house, and she had a downstairs area. There’s a pool table down there, and we were sitting on the couch watching television and I was thinking, “Okay, should I kiss her?” I’m thinking that, and then she said, “Would you like something to eat?” I said, “Yes.”
So she runs upstairs to get me something to eat. I thought, “Okay, I’m going to hide and scare her and then she might jump into my arms and plant one on me.” Something like that.
So I hear the little feet coming down the steps and I’m hiding and they get closer and closer, and I go, “Boo!” It was her mom. And her mom says, “Boo to you, too!”
As I said, vulnerability. We have to be vulnerable.
Contempt. That is a pretty tough word. The word contempt. It’s a lack of respect or reverence of something. The covenant of marriage, a blood bond for life, a commitment on steroids, a relationship on ‘hole ‘notha level, is all about respect. It’s all about vulnerability. It’s all about affirmation. It’s all about admiration. So instead of defensiveness, try vulnerability. Instead of contempt, try respect. Respect.
I can tell if a marriage is really together by watching how the wife watches her husband when he talks. If he’s taking and she’s looking at him like this, or correcting everything he says, “No, no honey, it was 14-3.” “No, we didn’t see Dirk; it was Steve Nash at Chili’s.” You can just tell; you can feel it.
I love dogs. And several years ago I was calling some dog breeders. I was looking for a Bull Mastiff; one of those big hulking dogs. And I was talking to this lady on the phone and she was saying, “I would love for you to have one of our Bull Mastiffs. In fact, here’s Sadie, she is going to have babies. Ed, I wish you could see her right now.” And then she started talking to the dog like it was a baby, “You’re going to be a good mommy, aren’t you Sadie? Such a good girl…”
Then all of the sudden she yells at her husband, “What do you want? Shut up, I’m on the phone. Ed, I’m sorry my husband interrupted our conversation…” Man, she was treating Sadie the dog better than her husband.
One time Lisa and I were in an argument. And my voice is loud anyway, but I was kind of raising my voice and my pulse rate was definitely over 100. And then the phone rang. “Hello, yes this is Pastor Ed Young from Fellowship Church. Nice to talk to you…”
Isn’t that amazing? Talk to your spouse respectfully, because you’re one flesh. The two shall become one. So we must have that respect.
Philippians 2:3 says, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others (consider your spouse) better than yourselves.”
So that’s something else we can do.
Respect, vulnerability, honor (admiration and affirmation): that’s all about marital fulfillment.
Then instead of stonewalling; instead of icing someone out, how about reconciliation? Here’s what happens. Let’s go back to John 10. Jesus said (paraphrased), “I am the door. If anyone enters through me, he or she will be saved, will go in and out and find pasture, will be saved, safe and satisfied.”
And because of Jesus we have the power and the ability to do these things and to walk through the door of marital fulfillment.
Here’s what happens when we walk through the door. 2 Corinthians 5:18-19. Check this out. “All of this is from God.”
Everything is from God. I’m not just making this stuff up. I mean, this is from God. This is what it means to be a full court follower of Christ, a full court husband or a full court wife.
“All this is from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to Himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them..”
That’s some good news right there. God does not count my sins against me.
[the verse continues] “And he has committed us to the message of reconciliation.” Isn’t that great to know that today?
Because I have been reconciled by God through Christ; because I’ve walked through the door; because Christ is in my life, as a Christ follower, I should rush to reconcile.
Any time Lisa and I have a relational sticking point; any time there’s an argument; any time there’s a problem; any time I’ve done something against her, as a believer, I should rush to reconcile because I’ve been greatly and perfectly reconciled by the person of Jesus Christ.
Several days a week I take our kids to school. Our oldest is in college, and the three others are at those ages where you have to drive them to school. Our kids argue and fight. I know that’s hard for you to believe, but yes, preachers’ kids argue and fight, too. And usually, when they’re arguing and fighting, after about five minutes I will say, “Stop! Not another word until we get to school. Okay?”
“Yes, sir.” And all you hear is the engine.
When we go the back way, we always go over this bridge to get to school. And inevitably on the bridge, this is hilarious, one of the kids will go, “Dad, can I say something?”
I say, “Yes, Laurie.”
“Landra, I am sorry. Will you forgive me?”
And then maybe the next week, “Laurie, will you forgive me?”
Next week, “EJ, will you forgive me?” It always happens on the bridge.
So now I have called the bridge the Bridge of Forgiveness. Whenever we go on the bridge, I know forgiveness will take place. Just last week they were in a fight and I said, “I know what is going to happen? We’re going to go over the bridge of forgiveness and everything will be okay.”
I think marriages here need a bridge of forgiveness, don’t you? I think we need to travel on that bridge regularly, daily, weekly, monthly, yearly, and have this ministry of forgiveness and reconciliation. Forgiveness can be that rung on the ladder that will take your marriage to a ‘hole ‘notha level. It really, really will.
You know, in John 10, Jesus kept going. In verse 10 (NAS) specifically, he said, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.”
To steal, kill and destroy. And the enemy has done a great job when it comes to marriage. He has stolen marriage from us.
To have a great marriage, though, we have to do the opposite of what our culture says, the opposite of what we see in movies, the opposite of what we read in magazines, the opposite of what we see on television. The opposite.
The evil one has stolen this covenant from us and he has told us, “You know what? It’s just about feelings. And if you don’t feel love for him or her anymore, just jump into another bed; hook‑up with someone else. It will be okay over there.”
And we deal with the same junk and the same funk and our problems are multiplied exponentially because we’re going to deal with the same stuff in a bigger way, a broader way, a deeper way when we leave one marriage and get into another one. So, he has stolen it from us.
He’s also killed marriages. 50 percent of first time marriages end in divorce. 67 percent of second time marriages end in divorce. 74 percent of third time marriages end in divorce. The enemy comes to steal to kill and also to destroy.
Just talk to kids of divorce. The enemy will destroy covenant, he’ll destroy commitment, he’ll destroy reconciliation, he’ll destroy vulnerability, he’ll destroy affirmation and admiration. He’ll destroy all of these things. And he’s doing it now. Divorce wouldn’t be that bad if it was just between the man and the woman, a husband and a wife. But that’s not the deal.
There’s a ripple effect going on and it’s tearing our culture apart. But the good news is, we have the answer because we know the door. And we can rush through the door of marital fulfillment because the horsemen of marital fulfillment smell the barn, they smell the door and they’re going for it.
Last Sunday, I flew out after this service and spoke at our church in Miami where we have a Sunday night service. I took one of the twins with me, Landra.
After preaching, we went out to eat at a restaurant with several people down there, some in the ministry, and we were sitting there in one of these cool Miami restaurants. It was very, very casual. The place was jamming. I think it was some kind of Peruvian food; anyway, it was good.
After we had finished eating, the waiter just puts the bill on the table, and thankfully my friend picked the tab up. I had my wallet out and Landra was looking at my wallet and she was like, “Dad these credit cards are pretty.” I said, “Yeah, yeah, they are, they are.” And I said, “Let me have my wallet back.” So, I took the wallet and just put it in my chair under my leg. I thought, “We were getting ready to go.”
We began to talk more and more about Miami and the church. And you know how people in the ministry are; it just goes on and on and on. Or, maybe you don’t. We know how to talk and talk and talk and talk. And I could tell Landra was tired, and I had spoken five times that weekend, and was starting to getting tired so I said, “Let’s go.”
So I stand up and head out. Jump into this car, and cruise back to the hotel where my friend drops us off. Landra and I are going to our rooms and I say, “Landra, do you have my wallet?”
I said, “Landra, come on, are you kidding me?”
“Oh no, I have lost my wallet. I’m in Miami and it’s gone!”
So I picked the cell phone up and called my friend, “Hey, listen. I know you’re close to the restaurant; would you mind going there and quickly asking our waiter, I think his name was Luis, about the wallet?”
So my friend goes to the restaurant, talks to the manager, talks to the Luis, talks to the busboy, nothing. I rush down to the lobby and call the restaurant, nothing. My friend even asked the people who were sitting in the table that we were sitting in to stand up and looked around. He was looking in their chairs and under the table, nothing. I’m like, “This is the worst!” We were looking everywhere.
Then we took the car to the hotel and were ripping it apart looking for the wallet. In the midst of all of this, my 12-year-old daughter said, “Dad, have you prayed about it?”
I said, “No, Landra. The wallet is gone. We’re in Miami, the wallet is history. I have not prayed about it.”
Then, man I felt so convicted. I said okay, “Landra, I will pray for it.”
So we got into a little circle; it was Landra and several others, and here’s my prayer. This is a pitiful prayer. Here is how I prayed. “Dear Heavenly Father, bring me back my wallet. In Jesus’ name, Amen.” I even threw my hands down. Is that pitiful?
Fifteen seconds later, the cell phone rings, “Mr. Young, we found your wallet.”
We jumped in the car and drove to the restaurant. We’re in there in about two minutes. We get out, and there’s my wallet. Someone was sitting on it, and it was the same color as the seat when they got up to look. Nothing was missing. All the money was there; all the credit cards were there. Man, I was so excited. There is nothing like finding something that you think was lost and gone.
Maybe that’s true with some of your marriages. Maybe, just maybe, you’re thinking, “Okay, my marriage is gone. It’s lost. It’s curtains. There’s no way I can find it again. It’s impossible.”
I want to ask you the same question my daughter asked me, “Have you prayed about it?”
Because Jesus is the door, and the door is all about the abundant life, and it’s all about marital fulfillment. And when we enter through the door and ride the four horsemen of fulfillment through the door, our lives and our marriages will be on a ‘hole ‘notha level.