God’s Loving Kindness
About the Guest
Author Lauren Chandler, wife of Pastor Matt Chandler, fondly shares how she and Matt met and eventually married. But their marriage was not without bumps. Chandler tells how she struggled in the shadow of Matt's obvious calling to preach, mothering their children and waiting on God to reveal her calling, which she hoped would involve music.
Author Lauren Chandler, wife of Pastor Matt Chandler, fondly shares how she and Matt met and married. Chandler tells how she struggled in the shadow of Matt’s obvious calling to preach.
God’s Loving Kindness
Bob: Jesus talks about a broad road that leads to destruction and a narrow way that leads to God. Lauren Chandler remembers, as a teenager, being at the crossroads, looking at those paths and having to decide which one she was going to walk.
Lauren: I had gone to a party at the end of my junior year of high school and made bad decisions and was found out. It totally broke my heart to confess that I’d made bad decisions—I had not honored the Lord. I remember my youth minister saying: “Now, this is a defining moment. You could either—just this could be snowball moment, where it just is going to get worse and worse and worse, or you can decide to do things differently.”
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Monday, September 18th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey. I'm Bob Lepine. Lauren Chandler joins us today to talk about a life that has been marked by God’s kindness and God’s providence.
Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. Do you know what characteristic / what character quality of God is referred to most often in the Old Testament? What defining characteristic?—more than anything else that is said about God—do you know what’s said about Him?
Dennis: Loving kindness?
Bob: Did you, come in, knowing that; or did you just guess that?
Dennis: I just guessed. First of all, I wanted to say: “The fear of God.”
Dennis: But that’s not really—
Bob: That’s a response.
Dennis: That’s a response to God. Then, I thought, “Now, how did the psalmist start?” Then, I started replaying a few; and that was my next answer.
Bob: His hesed—His steadfast love or loving kindness. In fact, what is it?—
Psalm 136—where every other line is: “His steadfast love endures forever. His steadfast love endures forever”? I think the Holy Spirit wanted God’s people to understand: “This is true about our God.”
Dennis: It’s true of what Lauren Chandler has written in her book called Steadfast Love. Lauren, welcome to FamilyLife Today.
Lauren: Thanks for having me.
Dennis: We’ve had you on the Stepping Up® video series for men. You and Matt were in that—
Dennis: —and talked about how you went through a period of suffering. We’re going to talk about that in a minute. Never had you on the broadcast, but it is fun to have you here.
Lauren: I’m glad to be here.
Dennis: Lauren is the wife to Matt Chandler—been married to him since 1999—a mom to three. She loves writing, music, and leading worship at The Village Church in—what’s the exact city?
Bob: Flower Mound; right?!
Lauren: That’s right!
Bob and Lauren: Flower Mound.
Dennis: I was almost going to say, “Grapevine,” and thought, “No; that’s not right.” But she has written a book called Steadfast Love, and this is about Psalm 107. I want to take you back to when you and Matt first met. You guys dated in college.
Lauren: We backed it up a little bit before—he was in college, and I was in high school.
Lauren: Oh, yes.
Our story’s got a little scandal to it—[Laughter]—but enough for Christian radio. We’re fine. [Laughter]
Dennis: So, you weren’t even 18 years old when he started dating you.
Lauren: No; I was 17. We met—actually, it sounds terrible—but my parents approved, and we did the best we could.
Bob: Okay; wait! We’ve got to get to the juicy details.
Lauren: Okay; you ready?
Bob: Were you kind of—you heard him speak somewhere—and it was like: “Oh, he’s so cute. He’s so smart, and he’s so funny,” and “I’ve just got to…”
Dennis: Well, now, wait, Bob. He was only 19 or 20 at that point.
Bob: When you’re 17, those guys can look cute and smart and funny; right?
Lauren: They can.
Dennis: I’m not sure he was that good when he was 19 or 20.
Bob: Well, that’s a good point.
Lauren: He was actually 23.
Dennis: Oh! Really?! [Laughter]
Lauren: It just gets better.
Lauren: He was preaching at my youth camp—he was a camp speaker. I made a profession of faith when I was nine years old / got baptized. I was in Sunday school. I was in youth group. I mean, I did everything—
Bob: You followed the rules.
Lauren: I followed the rules, because I wanted to be perfect. Then, that started wearing thin, where there wasn’t as much relationship with the Lord. It was more: “I want to do things right, and I want to please God by my good behavior,” instead of knowing I’m so loved and accepted by Him that I don’t need to earn that. So, that started just wearing thin—my obedience started to—especially, the later I got in high school years. It looked a little bit more fun to kind of throw those things off and be one person at church—singing in the choir / singing a special during the service—and then to be another person on the soccer team / in the halls at my high school with my friends.
There was just a God-ordained moment, where I had gone to a party at the end of my junior year of high school and made bad decisions / was found out. It totally broke my heart to confess that I’d made bad decisions—
—I had not honored the Lord. I remember my youth minister saying: “Now, this is a defining moment. You could either—just this could be snowball moment, where it just is going to get worse and worse and worse, or you can decide to do things differently.”
Dennis: That’s great advice; isn’t it?
Lauren: Yes! I said: “I want to love Jesus with whole life. That’s what I want. I don’t want this to get worse and worse.” So, I just walked through some real repentance. I think I finally saw how much grace cost; you know? I think I just assumed: “Well, I’m good. So, God has grace for me.” Then, I saw: “Oh, no; I’m not good, and He still loves me.”
That was about a month before I met Matt. I went into camp, thinking: “Lord, I know You have got something for me. This has been a huge month. I am anticipating something big from You and with You.” I really didn’t think it was going to be a guy—I really did not.
But when I stepped off that bus, I remember thinking: “This is a moment I need to remember. The Lord is about to do something.”
And He did! The Lord used Matt’s preaching. I’d never seen a man preach like he had—I’d never seen a young man love Jesus like he did. He caught my eye—but it was more his passion for Jesus. I remember feeling jealous—it was like: “I want to know Jesus like that. I want to have this relationship that he has with the Lord.” I was attracted more to his passion for Jesus than I was to his good looks, but he had them—he was a little skinnier then, but he was handsome.
So, throughout that week, the Lord was doing things in my heart; but I mean, I thought he was cute / I was attracted to him. Then, at the end of the week, we kind of had our Kum Ba Yah moment around the fire. I looked across at Matt; and it was like I had just this little voice in my head saying, “That’s your husband.”
I was like: “What?!” [Laughter]
Dennis: Did you tell him at that moment?
Lauren: No; I did not tell him. No! That would have been creepy. [Laughter]
Dennis: It was Kum Ba Yah moment. I thought you might have pulled it out.
Bob: We should say there were 14 other girls at the camp who had that same voice in their—
Lauren: Oh, yes!
Bob: —heads saying the same thing.
Lauren: So true. So true—they did.
Dennis: So, how long before he asked you out?
Lauren: So, to paint a broader picture—my dad and my younger brother were at camp also and got to know Matt too. My dad was a CPA at the time and had offered Matt, like: “If there is anything I can ever do to serve you and your ministry, would you let me know?” They started the process of becoming 501(c)(3), and my dad was helping him do that. So, we kind of had a context for each other. At the end of the Kum Ba Yah night, Matt did come up to me and say, “Hey, I would love to stay in touch”—I am like, “Okay,”—“with your family.”
So, I was like, “Okay.”
Dennis: Oh, now, wait a second. If we called him on the phone—
Lauren: He was above board. Let me just say this—he didn’t do anything inappropriate.
Dennis: Of course; yes.
Lauren: But he—probably, a month or two into our dating relationship—he said: “That last night at camp, I looked over at you; and I knew you would be my wife,” and “I called my little sister and told her, ‘I think I’ve met my wife.’”
Dennis: See, I told you—you should have told him at that moment. [Laughter] He could have proposed—
Lauren: You knew.
Dennis: —he could have proposed at the fire, right there.
Bob: Right then. [Laughter] Did he wrestle at all with the fact that he was 23 years, and he was looking across the fire at a 17-year-old girl?
Lauren: Not in those moments. He knew it would be complicated; but I mean, this is Matt Chandler. He’s like—give him a hard situation; he’s going to conquer it. [Laughter]
Now, my parents encouraged us dating—loved him / just fully embraced him into our lives. And that’s kind of how we started dating—was my parents had invited him to stay at our home when he was driving through on the way to preach at another camp.
That’s kind of where we started to get to know each other and where the relationship started to blossom. My parents loved him—we had their blessing.
Now, my youth minister didn’t really like it too much; and there were people in his life, like: “I just don’t think this is a good idea. She’s really young.” Matt was like: “No; I mean, this is a woman I could, not right now, but see myself marrying in a few years. She has attributes that I want in a wife, and I can, at least, see an inkling of it. Maybe, it’s just a seedling of a characteristic that will grow.”
Dennis: And so, he waited several years to ask you to marry him.
Lauren: He waited two years—
Dennis: So, you were 19?
Lauren: —until I was 19.
Dennis: How did he ask you to marry him?
Lauren: I ended up going to college where he was. My freshman year, I lived in the dorm the first semester. Then, I lived in an apartment with his sister and some other girls.
Home was five hours away from college. He had to ask to borrow my car to drive back to my parents’ house to ask my dad for my hand in marriage, because his car was not reliable. [Laughter]
Dennis: Ten-hour round trip?
Lauren: Ten-hour round trip. But when we were dating, my senior year of high school, he would leave late on a Thursday night, get into Long View around 2 a.m., so we could hang out for like a day or two.
Lauren: Then, he would drive back.
Bob: So, on this particular night, were you out on some fancy date?
Lauren: Oh, yes.
Bob: Was it Valentine’s Day? Was it some anniversary or something special?
Lauren: No, but I knew it was any moment that we were going to do something. He comes to my apartment door, and he’s got some roses—he gives me the roses. Then, he takes me to his car, and he hands me a pair of socks. I was like: “What is he doing? Are we going bowling?—
—“roller skating? I don’t know what’s happening.” Then, we went to eat. Then, he gave me a candle. Then, we went back to his apartment. He had candles everywhere, music playing. He had a friend set all that up, and that’s where he got down on one knee.
Then, the last thing he gave me was The Power of a Praying Wife. I opened it up. There was this letter that said: “All of these things are a symbol. The roses are your beauty that first attracted me to you. The candle is the light of Christ I see shining in you. The socks are that I can’t imagine a more perfect pair.” Then: “The book”—
Dennis: Oh, that’s a little corny. [Laughter]
Lauren: I love it! And then, the book was: “…to help you pray for me as my wife.” Then, he got down on one knee and proposed.
Bob: You have a daughter who is 14; right?
Bob: So, jump ahead three years.
Lauren: I know.
Dennis: I wish—
Lauren: We think about it all the time.
Dennis: —I wish people could see the grin on her face. She knows what the question is.
Lauren: I knew exactly where you were going with that. [Laughter]
Bob: So, what would you do?!
Lauren: If it were Matt—I would be fine with that / I mean, someone like him, who—he is spending his life for the gospel / for the glory of Christ. He, by no means, was mature. I mean, there was a lot of immaturity; but you could, at least, see that he—because he loved the Lord so much and he was so serious about Him—that he would love me.
Dennis: But you did say, you both grew up—
Lauren: We did.
Lauren: Yes; he wasn’t that much more mature than I was at 17. [Laughter] My baggage looked prettier, but we both had baggage. He might have had a little bit more than I did, because he was a little older—kind of—the older you get, the more baggage you can accumulate.
Dennis: So, you started out your marriage. When you said: “I do,” and “I will,” and “I’ll love, honor, and cherish you until death do us part…”—
Dennis: —if you were like Barbara and me, when we started out, you had no idea what that would entail.
You’ve been through some deserts. In fact, that’s what your book is about—
Dennis: —the barren places that looked hopeless. What was the first one?
Lauren: Yes. For me, personally, being married to someone like Matt—whose calling is so apparent to everyone else—I kind of felt like I was in the shadows. I didn’t know: “What’s my calling?”
One of the places that I was really drawn to and looked was leading worship. I felt like: “Okay; Matt’s the preacher man. I’m going to lead worship.” I love music / I love singing—I love leading worship. The Lord just would not let me get a lot of satisfaction there. So, I was kind of digging my own wells, so to speak, in the desert instead of letting the Lord lead me through the desert of kind of longing and some dissatisfaction to really get to the root of: “Why do you want to lead worship?”
And the Lord finally just—
—literally, there was a room that I was sitting in that a friend of mine / the roommate before her had written: “My grace is sufficient for you,” at the very top of the wall—it was almost like a border. The Lord just really writing: “My grace is enough for you,”—like: “Am I going to be enough for you? You don’t have to be a worship leader. You don’t need this special position, because you have that with Me. That’s where you’ve got to operate from.”
Dennis: There are seasons in all of our lives. What you were comparing your own life to and the season you were in was with a husband who had a very prominent position in a local church, and nationwide, in being very influential.
Dennis: You—and I don’t want to sound like motherhood, apple pie, et cetera—but you were called to be his wife—
Dennis: —his counterpart, but also a mom.
Dennis: Comment on that, if you would.
Lauren: And that’s when I had kind of this epiphany—really, I think it was the Holy Spirit kind of whispering this to me. When our oldest was probably a year—maybe 18 months—and He said, “Lauren, a lot of women can sing and lead worship; but only one woman can be Audrey’s mom.” That was a moment for me, where: “Okay; there’s something else here. I am expending a lot of energy and thoughts toward what I don’t have and I’m not experiencing when I’ve got this right in front of me.”
Bob: Did you embrace that?—I mean, when you sensed the Holy Spirit saying, “This is a unique calling.” I know some moms, who would go: “Yes; but changing diapers—the fulfillment is not the same as it is if you are doing direct discipleship ministry with somebody.” Did you kind of chaff against the idea that: “Wait! This is what you’ve got for me, Lord—is the diaper-changing business?”
Lauren: Yes; yes. There was some of that. I would be lying if I didn’t say that part of me was like, “Oh, but that’s just not as glamourous!” [Laughter]
Lauren: But I will say—in God’s providence and His great care for me—He put some women around me, who I’d looked up to as worship leaders / as artists, who were going through the same thing I was going through, where the Lord was saying, “Hey, yes; I’ve given you this gift to lead worship; but I’ve also given you this gift of your children. They are right here in front of you.” It was encouraging to hear these women that were my heroes. One woman, in particular, who was my hero, said: “You know what? The Lord is kind of drawing me back home to focus on that; and then, also, to trust the Lord with my desires and with my gifts,”—that, if I would focus on Audrey / on my home right now, that He knows how He made me. He knows what I love. He knows what He’s called me to do.
He will fulfill it at the right time when it’s the most fulfilling for me.
Bob: Was your husband mature enough, shrewd enough, wise enough, at the time to recognize the angst in your soul and be able to come alongside and help; or was he kind of focused on what God was calling him to, and you were figuring it out on your own?
Lauren: Because his calling is so clear, it was hard for him to empathize with my wrestle. He apologizes, now, for kind of how he handled it then. He had made a comment, where he just didn’t—he was unsure that maybe that was my calling. It was devastating; but I can imagine when you watch someone wrestle and struggle, you want to fix it for them.
Lauren: You want them to just get through it—get on the other side / help them—and when they just seem to keep wallowing—and, maybe, not wallowing out of self-pity but just really struggling—
—you get tired. You want to just be like: “Well, maybe, that’s just not the Lord,” or—
Bob: So, I’ll give some advice to husbands here—
Bob: —but then, you give some advice to a wife who might be in a season like you were in, where she just goes: “This is not what I dreamed life would be. I don’t feel God’s pleasure in what I’m doing, and I’m just wrestling with that.”
To the husbands, who have a wife who is there: “Don’t try to fix it!”
Lauren: Yes; yes.
Bob: Stop doing what we often do—which is rush in and say: “Well, if you just do this,” “If you wouldn’t do that,”—but be like Job’s friends were, at first. Go sit with her and say: “This has got to be hard for you. I can’t imagine. I’m here for you.” Then, you shut up; right? You’d agree that that’s decent advice; right?
Lauren: I do.
Dennis: And I would say—if Barbara were here, she would say, “There was a point in our marriage”—and I don’t think it came as the aha / it didn’t come as early as your aha did—
—where she finally had to say to me: “You know, I don’t want three points in a poem. [Laughter] I’m not interested in being fixed. I want to be understood.”
Lauren: Yes; absolutely.
Dennis: I want you to enter into—and in Psalm 107, which is the passage your book is built around, it talks about: “They cried to the Lord in their trouble,” and He delivered them from their distress.
Dennis: What a wife is looking for is for a husband who asks questions and holds back on the answers.
Dennis: Just listen to understand and, maybe, restate to your wife what she’s expressing. So, back to Bob’s second half of the question.
Bob: To the wife who is in the angst, what would you say to her?
Lauren: To continue to cry out to the Lord in the midst of your distress. That’s one of the phrases I love about that. That’s kind of a refrain throughout the whole psalm—is: “And they cried out to the Lord in their distress,”—
—that you don’t have to pull it all together and to cry out to Him; but in your distress, cry out to the Lord.
Be patient with your husband. He is trying to help, usually. Usually, it might not come across as helpful; but most of the time, their heart is: “I want to help, Babe. I want to fix this problem for you.” And that’s what husbands like to do—they want to be the answer. They want to help solve things and carry on. You can just help him understand—like your wife did—where you say: “Babe, I appreciate that you want to fix this for me; but really, I just need you to empathize. I need some compassion. I know the Lord and I are going to work this out; but right now, pray for me.”
Some of the things that Matt did do is—he has built in some latitude in his schedule so that, if there are things I do want to do, like—so I started leading worship at a recovery ministry. He would make sure on Thursday nights that he would be home with the kids so I could go do that.
I think husbands being willing to kind of step in in some places so your wife can do some of the things that she’s gifted and loves to do.
Bob: That’s how you nourish and cherish a wife; isn’t it?
Dennis: It is. And sometimes, it takes a wife having to explain to her husband—like Barbara did to me: “Here are the words you say, Sweetheart: ‘I understand some of what you’re feeling.’”
Bob: “That sounds hard!”
Bob: “That must be really tough for you.”
Dennis: I do think our relationship—it wasn’t a 180—but it was an adjustment of sorts that enabled us to continue down the trail, now, at some 44/45 years later in our relationship, where I wouldn’t want to go back and trade for the early years.
Lauren: Yes; oh my goodness. [Laughter]
Dennis: Yes; I mean, it’s a maturity of a relationship, where you do understand and you do feel like you have one another’s backs.
Dennis: And if you are looking for some help in terms of finding the solution if you’re in that desert, and you can’t find your way—
Bob: See, you’re trying to go to the solutions there. You’re trying to fix it. [Laughter]
Dennis: I am, because Lauren wrote about it—
Lauren: I did write about it. [Laughter]
Dennis: —in her book, Steadfast Love.
Bob: Okay; I guess that’s fair. [Laughter]
Dennis: Get a copy of it.
Bob: And we do have copies of Lauren’s book in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. You can go, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com to order; or you can call 1-800-FL-TODAY. Again, the website for the book, Steadfast Love, is FamilyLifeToday.com; or call to order: 1-800-FL-TODAY. That’s 1-800-358-6329—1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”
Speaking of great books, Dennis has just finished a book called Choosing a Life That Matters—seven non-negotiables that make a huge difference in a person’s life. We are excited about this book. In fact, we’re so excited about it that we’d love to send you a copy.
We’re making it available to anyone who can help support the ministry of FamilyLife with a donation of any amount. You can go, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com or call 1-800-FL-TODAY to donate. We’ll be happy to get a copy of Dennis’s brand-new book out to you.
This is really a book that focuses in on the core issues that are foundational to everything about our lives. I was thinking, “It’s not so much a marriage book or a parenting book; but if you want your marriage and your parenting to be what God intends for it to be, there are some foundational issues that need to be addressed first. And that’s what this book talks about.” Again, the title of the book is Choosing a Life That Matters. We’ll send you a copy when you help support the work of this ministry—help us reach more people with practical biblical help and hope for marriages and families. Donate at FamilyLifeToday.com; or call to donate at 1-800-358-6329—1-800-FL-TODAY. Or you can mail a donation to us.
Our mailing address is FamilyLife Today, PO Box 7111, Little Rock, AR; our zip code is 72223.
Now, tomorrow, we’re going to hear from Lauren Chandler about the events that took place on Thanksgiving a number of years ago—events that would put Matt and Lauren’s faith to the test. We’ll hear about that test tomorrow. I hope you can tune in for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We will see you back tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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