Making Marriage a Safe Place — with Brent Aucoin

Janet Aucoin July 15, 2022

Marriage is the closest human relationship we could ever experience... Which means, as fallen sinners, husbands and wives get a front row seat to each other's exposed sin on a regular basis.

In this episode, Brent and Janet discuss how healthy marriages should be a safe space — not for sin to persist— but one where sinners can receive compassion and help from each other as they fight sin together.

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Episode Transcript


Gospel Treason - Brad Bigney

The Gospel Primer - Milton Vincent

Gentle and Lowly - Dane Ortlund

When Sinners Say I Do - Dave Harvey

The Meaning of Marriage - Tim Keller

What Did You Expect - Paul Tripp


Idols of the Heart Series - Brent Aucoin

The Meaning of Marriage Series - Tim Keller

What Did You Expect - Paul Tripp


Faith Bible Seminary


Janet: I don't just need to feel better. I need the truth. And ultimately that will make me better.

Alexandra: I just want to make it as totally simple and no brainer as possible for ladies to see that the Bible is really applicable to their everyday life.

Jocelyn: When they understand theology, the application flows out of it quickly with joy.

Janet: It is a journey, but even the journey itself is joyful when I'm doing it, holding the hand of my savior and trusting him all along the way. This is the joyful journey podcast, a podcast to inspire and equip women to passionately pursue beautiful biblical truth on their journey as women of God. When you choose truth, you're choosing joy.

Jocelyn: Hi, this is Jocelyn, and today we're going to do something different. Today, I'm going to be interviewing Brent and Janet Aucoin and we're going to be talking about making marriage a safe place. So why don't you both start with giving us a bit of a background on yourselves and your marriage?

Brent: Well, thanks, Jocelyn. We've been married 28 years. We have two grown children, Joshua, who is our son and married for about 18 months now to Noelle and then Karis, who is our production engineer. I don't know what other name I have to call her, right? The engineer on this podcast. They're all walking with the Lord. We're thankful for them and what the Lord has done in their life. We love being together as a family. I'm a pastor and the president of Faith Bible Seminary here at Faith Church.

Janet: In case anybody made the connection. Our podcast is a ministry of Faith Bible Seminary. So that's how we got started is under Brent's ministry there. I'm his wife and I get to oversee the women's ministries at our church and do some counseling. Do a podcast. We get to do some speaking together on marriage and parenting. And as of Saturday, we are once again, empty nesters, right, honey?

Jocelyn: Wow!

Brent: That's right. So by the time this airs, we will be empty nesters. It's Wednesday now and our daughter is moving out to her first grown up apartment on Saturday.

Jocelyn: Oh my word. How exciting! So making marriage a safe place. I know over the years I have really been a beneficiary of Janet helping me think through this topic. It has been really helpful as I've gone through different cycles in my own marriage and tried to build a safe place for my husband to be. You've touched on your background, but what made you want to speak on a subject like this?

Brent: Yeah, well, Jocelyn we've come a long way in our own marriage as well. Both growing believers, but we were also both shocked at how difficult it was in the beginning, not aware of our own heart patterns of idolatry. I know that can be a Christianese term, but just our own sinful ways of responding to life. Those came out right away in the midst of the crucible of marriage.

Janet: I mean right away, in meaning our honeymoon, they came out right away.

Brent: We can talk about that, I suppose.

Janet: You know what? We're not going to get into a lot of it. But it did include Brent angrily walking away from me to take a shower and informing me that I had better be ready to talk about why I was crying when you got out. Remember that, honey?

Brent: Yeah, that was my great problem solving techniques right there.

Janet: Well, and mine were to cry and assume that you could figure it out, if you love me.

Brent: That’s right.

Janet: We have come a long way.

Brent: And we took several years to truly learn what it means to be a safe place and on the same team for each other. we're still obviously learning. Even last week, Janet had a cold and we don't think it was COVID, but she said her nose and sinuses were filled with all kinds of gunk. And I said, well, recently I've been filled with all kinds of sin and I had to ask her forgiveness for several things, so coming a long way and learning how to be a safe place for one another.

Jocelyn: So why don't you tell me what you mean by being a safe place? We love definitions. It helps us all to be on the same page. What do you mean by being a safe place?

Janet: You know, I think we are applying this obviously in our marriage, but whether you're single or married, whatever relationships were in, what we mean by that is growing to be a safe place for the sin of other people to be exposed, not a safe place to sin, but a safe place for it to be exposed meaning we know we're fellow travelers, there's not going to be judgment, but there's going to be help and compassion to be able to grow.

Brent: And our paradigm for this is it starts in Genesis 2 with the Garden of Eden, in that first paradise sanctuary that God created for the first married couple, the final description of that relationship that Adam and Eve had were that they were naked and not ashamed. That imagery has a lot of different implications, but at least this is that there was nothing between Adam and Eve, not even a garment of clothing. Nakedness indicates that they were fully exposed to each other and to their environment.

Jocelyn: That is a huge thought to be fully exposed and known. It's kind of scary, but it also is really interesting. One of the things that you brought up, Janet, is that you're talking about this in the context of marriage, but as you listen, it has implications to lots of different settings. You and I have talked about this in the context of small groups in the women's ministry.

Janet: That's right.

Jocelyn: So think about this just in relation to relationships because this same concept can be applied in lots of different ways, but wow, what a thought fully exposed and known.

Brent: Yeah, and in their full exposure, I mean, really unlike today, there was no fear. There was no hiding. There was no thought of what happens if, you know, he sees that she's a few pounds overweight and that wasn't the case in the first garden, or there was no fear of what would happen if she sees that I don't have a six pack on my belly, but a two liter. Just for a moment, imagine if you were fully exposed, all of you, not just your physical body, but all of the ugliness inside of you. So just for a moment, imagine all of that ugliness externally, we all struggle in some way with our physical appearance, and we don't like to think about it, but internally as well, the yuck and the evil within. So imagine being fully known through and through yet not being rejected, but loved. Not being condemned, but cherished. Not being ashamed for your exposure, but being covered by something that is beautiful. If that were true in your life, fully exposed, but fully loved. I mean, how would that impact you? I don't have to fear. I don't have to shame. I don't have to be ashamed. I could simply rest in that love and be free to love others. You know, continuing with the Genesis 1, 2, and 3 story, in Genesis 3, Adam and Eve ceased worshiping God and they put themselves on the throne. In Genesis 3, they became more interested in their own desires than God. And that first sin of pride in exalting themselves resulted in an inherent recognition that something was wrong. Notice that at that point they had something to hide and they set themselves and all of us on a path of shame because there's something now, when they sin, there's something now innately broken in us that we know is wrong. And so there was fear of exposure, I have something to hide because I am imperfect. I am flawed. I am broken or I am guilty. Adam and his response to God, you know, that woman who you gave to me, she gave me from the tree and I ate. That's a total contrast of what he said in Genesis 2, when he was so excited and he said, this one, this one is flesh of my flesh and bone of my bones. But now he's saying that one, that one, the woman who you gave to be with. He blamed her and in his continuing focus on self, you see right there in Adam's words, a crucial problem in our marriages. Adam, in order to exalt himself, had to put down his wife and attempt to rescue himself at the expense of his wife. She did it. I'm better than her. And right there, you have that condemnation from Adam when he should have been owning his own sin and pointing her toward God. Right there, you have rejection from Adam when he should have been accepting, because he knew that he was just like her. You know, romance or a date night would have not solve that problem at that moment in time. You know, a box of chocolates or flowers would have not solved that problem. The greatest problem in our marriages is not a lack of romance. Marriages are not built upon romance. The greatest problem in our marriage is that we are sinning exalting ourselves, not recognizing it and blaming others and justifying ourselves. Adam created that hostile environment as opposed to a safe environment. So he created a hostile environment of condemnation, judgment superiority, and thereby rejection for his spouse because of his own self-centeredness. So the opposite of a hostile environment, as we flesh out the definition here of a safe place is a safe refuge where each other's sin can be exposed and then covered first by God's love where the offended party grows and modeling God's love and covering each other's sin.

Jocelyn: That is really beautiful. And knowing that theology behind it really helps me to understand it more profoundly. So what would that look like practically? Get practical with us. Tell us what that would look like.

Janet: I'll take this.

Brent: All right. Apparently that wasn't practical enough.

Janet: So what he means is. No, no. Well, I think the first thing is we have to recognize and Brent basically said this, the greatest problem in marriage is your own personal self-centeredness. And we don't think that we think it's something else. I know before I was married, I believed that when I did get married, if God allowed me to be married, I'd finally have someone who understood me and I would be known and loved and I would never be lonely.

Jocelyn: Okay. I feel like that's pretty much on every bridal magazine. Like that's everyone's wedding dream you're describing it.

Janet: And that's so self-centered and then I got married and what did I do? I brought the same selfish, insecure patterns into my marriage. And here's what I thought I won't be insecure anymore. I won't be selfish anymore. Cause I'll have someone.

Jocelyn: Because you’re loved.

Janet: Yeah, and reality, I just brought them into the marriage and the first years included a lot of crying, not Brent's, mine and crying is.

Jocelyn: His favorite.

Janet: Favorite thing.

Brent: All those dreams about me harming you and me throwing you out of an airplane or something.

Janet: I dream and my husband you'd have to know Brent. Jocelyn, you know Brent.

Jocelyn: I know he's the kindest, gentlest person.

Janet: He's not known for provocative anger. I dreamed because I always dream my fears and so now Brant is my new God. I've married Brent. He is now God to me, I need to know he'll be there. I dream that we were in a plane because he is a private pilot so he had taken me in the plane and whatever I saw in the cockpit made me aware he was the killer.

Brent: I was some kind of a murderer.

Janet: Yes, and so I looked at that and then I looked at him, he said, I knew, you'd see that and now I have to kill you too. And I wake up cause Brent's killing me. And at first I wake up.

Brent: You wake up crying.

Janet: Screaming and crying in the middle of the night. At first, he's really, oh, Janet, I'm sorry. After a while he goes, what does that actually mean you think of me? And I said.

Jocelyn: It is pretty offensive.

Janet: I know. Here's what I said, I don't know, I wasn't thinking about you. And he goes, I know.

Jocelyn: Wow.

Brent: We haven't had those kinds of dreams.

Janet: But I was like, but it was true.

Jocelyn: Praise the Lord!

Brent: In a long time.

Janet: Oh, over 20 years.

Brent: For the first seven years of our marriage.

Jocelyn: Wow. Oh, wow. That sounds so fun.

Brent: That's one word for it.

Janet: But we were growing and we were learning to work through problems biblically. I am very thankful. It's not like it was always horrible, but we had a lot of sin and the closeness of our relationship surfaced sin, and it shocked us.

Jocelyn: It's cool that it's possible that the closest of relationship would help you to see sin, but it also is so scary because that means the closeness of your relationship is going to be revealing all sorts of stuff that needs to be dealt with.

Janet: Yeah. Yes. That I didn't even know was there. I remember when God allowed me to understand that I wasn't truly loving Brent when I was trying to make him happy all the time. But you think that's my job. Well, I was really not doing it out of love for him. I was doing it, trying to make him my God. I was functionally behaving as if I needed him. And when you need something, I was focused on me. I was not even loving him. I was too busy clamoring after him to love me. I could not see that he was a human who needed help because nobody wants their God to have needs. That's not okay. So, I was really just clamoring after getting him to love me. Incredible self-centeredness that I hid behind him just trying to make him happy, which was all about me. And that was so eye-opening and it began me on a journey on this path of saying, I need to learn what it looks like to need God only. So I can actually love Brent where he is, and it's not easy, but it's actually easier than trying to make him a God. I mean, what a cruel thing for me to do to him.

Jocelyn: I'm so glad we're talking about this, because I think there are so many people that are gonna identify with what you just described. You're not alone in realizing you have made your husband your God.

Janet: And you would think that Brent would go, that's fun to be somebody's God. I don't think it was pleasant was it, honey?

Jocelyn: You've learned so well, 28 years of marriage, he knows the right answer.

Brent: So, first thing recognize that the biggest problem that our marriage is not a lack of romance, but it's our own personal self-centeredness that is causing the problem. When I say that, however, there are abused wives out there or abused spouses, and I want to put a caveat in that.

Janet: Good point.

Brent: There are legitimate trauma-causing spouses, primarily husbands. It could go the other way, I suppose. But primarily we see wives in a trauma-filled marriage. Wives being abused and manipulating. Gaslighted is a modern term as well. When you hear me say the primary problem is you, I want to nuance that by saying, if that's the kind of spouse you have I am not talking about you and you need to get to the appropriate authorities. If there's a church in your life that has pastoral oversight and protection, you need to get the appropriate help. If there's any physical abuse going on, you seek the appropriate secular authorities that are given by God to adjudicate and put down that kind of heinous sin.

Janet: I appreciate you saying that.

Jocelyn: I was just thinking, I'm very grateful that you had caveat.

Janet: Yeah, and if you're in that situation, you probably don't know if you are not. You're confused. Maybe it is me. He's telling me it's me. And now pastor Brent just said it was me. So I guess he's right. If you're confused, you need to go talk to someone.

Jocelyn: Yeah.

Janet: Go talk to your pastor, go talk to someone who loves God and is trustworthy that you can say this is happening because you may need thoughts outside your own head for that. So we're not talking about abuse. We're talking about the fact that when you're in marriage, your sin will be revealed and your priority should be your own sin to deal with.

Brent: And that leads to our second one. Again, we're not talking about the abusive situation, seek to understand your own patterns of pride or idolatry of self-centeredness, and for those of you who don't know the teaching on the hearts from resources like Brad Bigney's Gospel Treason, or you could actually go to a set of videos that I did that are at

Janet: We'll have links for that in the show notes.

Brent: I'm talking about there's more to sin than outward actions. There is a disposition of the heart where I constantly trying to go after something other than God. So if you're not understanding or you haven't been exposed to teaching on the heart, I would encourage you to get that teaching. And before I was married, I thought love was someone. I thought when I loved somebody, I would immediately have zero problems. So when that person loved me and I loved them, there would be no problems. And this is ultimately reflecting my idolatry or my pursuit of ease and problem free living. So how I thought I would know of the one for me to be married would be that there would be no problems. Like how ridiculous that is. When in life you have no problems?

Jocelyn: Apparently when you find the one.

Brent: That's what I thought.

Janet: And we had lots of problems, so he didn't know what to do with that.

Brent: Because I love living for ease and when I found that right, one, she would be easy, not having bad dreams about me. I wasn't aware of my own patterns of pursuit of ease and as a result, I went into a relationship blind to my sin. Of course I knew I had outward sin, but the patterns of living for myself, I had not fully recognized. The more Janet and I grow in Christ, the more we see the depths of our sin. You know, 28 years ago, I could have not told you the way that my sin manifest itself. Yes, I knew had sinful behavior occasionally here and there, but I did not understand the roots of it.

Janet: Occasionally.

Brent: I did not understand my heart behind it, and now I'm more aware than ever that my pride wanting an easy life results in things like fear or worry or irritation when my wife wakes up with a bad dream crying and it's causing me inconvenience. And sometimes also that's as a pastor, if I'm living for ease in ministry, when my responsibilities get hard or there's challenges in ministry, fear and worry creep up and in moments where fear and worry creep up, I am more distant from my wife in those moments. And in those moments, I become more critical and I'm thankful for all that she does.

Jocelyn: I'm really thankful to hear that cycle because not a lot of men talk about what's going on inside of their head when life is hard, and so I feel like there's a lot of wives who can identify right now really relate to that cycle that you just explained because we're so relational. Women are very relational we're just thinking, oh my word, he's upset with me. Why is he upset? What have I done? What can I do to make this better? So it's helpful to know what that looks like inside of the thought cycle.

Janet: That it wasn't anything to do with me.

Jocelyn: Yeah. It had nothing to do with you.

Janet: And I think so look at my idol. I want him to always be thinking about me. So he comes home distant and I'm immediately, what have I done? What have we done? How do I make it right? It's not fair. Why is he mad at me? I didn't do anything wrong instead of that's need, what would love look like? He's distant. I wonder if he's okay. Wonder what's going on with him, but I can't do that if I'm not aware of my own sin that gets in the way of that.

Brent: And it kind of goes both ways after a while. Just the other night, I was saying Janet what's on your mind because she was quiet. She was preoccupied and she was not her normally bubbly self, and so those things were learning to recognize over time.

Janet: Yeah.

Brent: In the early years of our marriage and my ministry, so my fear and my worry driven by my pursuit of ease, sometimes would result in what I could be terming as despair. For example, when a church member or a regular attender that I had invested heavily in, so not just imparting the truth of the word of God, but as Paul would say, invest my life in them, if they would reject counsel, reject me, and maybe even reject the church and move onward, that would be devastating to me. I mean notice what I did not say my despair was not over them rejecting Christ. It was over them rejecting me and my ministry. That was a self-focused disposition over my perceived rejection of me. So my despair would make life very difficult for Janet when I was not attentive to her, but my self-focus consumed me and I would be consumed with my own problems. And God used those kinds of incidences though, to show me my pattern, living for ease, and then not getting it resulting in fear and worry, possibly despair, had implications on our relationship.

Jocelyn: That’s so interesting.

Brent: And we all have sinful patterns. If we're not aware of them, we continue in them.

Jocelyn: Yeah.

Brent: And if you're not aware of your spouse's. How can you possibly help them?

Jocelyn: So I'm imagining right now that we have listeners falling into one of two extremes right now, maybe other categories too, but either very, very aware of their partner's sinful patterns, and probably really super critical or even hopeless as a result like, oh, we just keep dealing with this over and over and over. Or there's this other extreme where you're completely oblivious to the sin pattern that your spouse is dealing with, and they're surprised every time they catch them doing something wrong. So it's either like in the dumps or up on a pedestal. And so why don't you help us understand the point? Like, why do we need to be aware of each other's sin patterns?

Janet: I love that because like you said, both of those are unloving. It seems loving to put them on a pedestal because you're saying they're so amazing, they're so great, but the reality is they're not perfect and you're not willing to see them as they really are and help them.

Jocelyn: That's the thing is when you in my case, when you have your husband on a pedestal, if they fail, it's going to be devastating.

Janet: Oh yeah, and then you are mad at them. Instead of we're made of the same stuff, and when I think they're on a pedestal, sometimes it's, I believe I need them and now they can't fail or I deserve better. And I see everything they do wrong and I'm critical. And I would say, and in that case, I would say you're probably not very aware of your own sin. For you to think your husband or your spouse is the only sinner in the room means you're not aware of your own.

Jocelyn: Or biggest one, the most irritating one.

Janet: Yes. So you're not aware of your own sin. And if I don't know their sin pattern, I can't help them. And we have to say, what do we mean by that? The best way spouses help each other is to help them look more like Christ. This is a short life. Eternity's really long. And if I love Brent, I'm not thinking, how can I get him to behave in a way that my life's easier? How can I get him to change so that he doesn't worry so much so he's just happier?

Jocelyn: So he's more pleasant to be around or whatever.

Janet: I want him to give a good account when he sees his Savior because I know that in that day, that's what he's going to want too. So I want to love him in a way that helps him see those areas of his life, where he's not like Jesus, not out of judgment because I got plenty of mine, but where it's a safe place for him to know, she sees that and together I want to help him learn how to be more like Jesus. We see in Genesis, women were designed to help their husbands. And then we read in Ephesians 5, that passage that we talk about with husbands and wives roles. Husbands are told to cleanse their wives by the washing of water with the word. So we're to help our husbands. We are helpers. They are told to cleanse and help us by washing us with the word. And I have to tell you, I used to read that and just think, oh, that's like being in one of those new kind of showers with the rain thing coming down and it's cascading over my head. And he soothing me. He's reading Proverbs in a tone with music in the background. And in reality, it's more like when I was in fourth grade and I fell off my bike and I had cuts everywhere and my teeth were falling out and my mom had to push them back in. She put me in the water and scrubbed all of the dirt off of my bleeding body.

Jocelyn: That sounds very painful. Honestly, the whole bike thing sounds painful, but also being washed with the water of the word in marriage. That's also painful.

Janet: It stings.

Jocelyn: Yeah.

Janet: If you're going to have to clean off the parts of me that are dirty, it's going to sting. If the goal is to be conformed to the image of Christ, then getting squeezed into that mold and the process of doing that is going to mean scraping and scrubbing sin off. My spouse is the primary person doing that.

Jocelyn: That should be part of premarital counseling and in every marriage ceremony. Get ready for the scrub.

Brent: And that's actually what Janet and I do in pre-marriage counseling.

Janet: Yeah. It is what we do.

Brent: We try to teach them their sin patterns and how to become a safe place for each other so that they start on that good foundation.

Jocelyn: What a great plan.

Janet: So what Brent and I also seek to do then is to cultivate regular repentance of these patterns. Not.

Brent: That's number three.

Janet: Oh, number three, cultivate regular repentance of these patterns. The first years of our marriage, I don't know that we really knew how to help each other. We did not know how to be a safe place. We really functioned like competitors and not teammates.

Jocelyn: Yeah.

Brent: Who was better?

Janet: While I was.

Brent: And the moment somebody sinned, we would try to say, well, yeah, I sinned, but here's what you did to.

Janet: Yeah. This is why I did it because of you. You did this. And you know, it's not that we never enjoyed each other, but if one of us needed to confront the other one immediately, instead of repenting, we're defensive and pointing out the other person's flaws. Being confronted then wasn't just uncomfortable. It just wasn't safe or it didn't seem to be.

Jocelyn: I can remember when we were in a period of marriage counseling when we'd been married about 10 years that came on the heels of parenting counseling and learning from our counselor that we were supposed to be on the same team, like teammates who have the same goal, and we have each other's back. It was like revolutionary in our counseling.

Janet: Isn't that crazy?

Jocelyn: What? It changed the way we talked to each other because we're on the same team, let's actually deal with this problem together. It was crazy. And if you don't know that marriage just becomes this like tit for tat relationship where you shift blame back and forth, back and forth until you end up really far apart because you're not on the same team you're competing with each other.

Janet: And then you say we have fallen out of love.

Jocelyn: Yes.

Janet: Because we've not been operating as we ought. Yeah. You know, I can think back to a time when Brent and I were meeting with another young couple, probably premarital counseling, or maybe right after they were married and they were having some conflict. And so we were all four of us, I remember because, you know, certain conversations, you just remember we were sitting at a restaurant, I remember where we were sitting and Brent brings up this idea, and with my permission he brought up an area where I struggled. He had my permission. That was okay. But then he said this, she'll probably always struggle with that and that's okay. I really didn't know what to do with that. My first thought was, did he just say.

Brent: She can never change!

Jocelyn: She's never getting better.

Janet: She's not even working at growing, but the more I thought about it while I'm staring at this other people and trying not to show all the things on my face, it's actually really freeing. He was seeing that particular area of struggle. I need to keep fighting it, but I may never be free of that. And instead of being impatient and saying, we've talked about this, Janet, you know better. He was committing to helping me in that same area over and over. And he was acknowledging that he will do that for the rest of my life, if that's what was necessary and what a picture of God's helped us.

Jocelyn: That's so cool, but it's also so hard. Like you really want to think that one day you're going to be done working on stuff, and then you can just coast, you know, even in parenting, I think, oh, do I have to deal with this again? And I think that helps. Cause it just like Brent was saying like, we have so much of a heart that longs for ease. I just want to be done with it at some point. So it's helpful to know that we have besetting sins and they may be a part of our existence forever, and it's okay to keep on fighting them.

Janet: Right. It's not okay to just say, oh, well that's me, but I also can know he can help me fight.

Brent: But keeping on fighting means, recognizing as we've talked about recognizing your own patterns and repenting.

Jaent: Yes.

Brent: Now I know many times, if you don't have a robust view of what sin is, and more of a pharisaical view of what sin is, which is outward behavior, you're thinking of sin as something that you do just like once in a while, like, oh yeah, I remember repenting once, you know, I was partying in college and got a little drunk and I repented of that. So there was another time I repented, but reflects a shallow view of repentance and a shallow view of sin. You know, in 2017 Protestant churches celebrated the 500th anniversary of the famous event of the Reformation on October 31st, 1517, Martin Luther nailed those Ninety-Five Theses to the door of the Wittenberg Castle Church to begin the dialogue about heretical practices in the church of selling indulgences and his first thesis was to help us to think about what repentance was. He said this, "when our Lord and master Jesus Christ said, repent, what Jesus willed was that the entire life of believers be one of repentance." What that means is day by day, moment by moment, repent.

Jocelyn: That's really deep, and that changes your view of repentance. It's not just an every now and then hardly ever kind of thing. It's like it is the heartbeat of my life. Like I'm constantly giving up.

Brent: Because the problem of my heart is that I'm constantly seeking after things other than God, whether it be ease or comfort or romance or the comfort of a spouse. So a safe place is where you recognize that the biggest problem in a marriage relationship is me. Again, caveat, we're not talking about those abusive situations and I'm growing in my understanding of sin and then not only year by year, month by month, day by day, but moment by moment, turning from selfishness to love. Turning that means repent. So that means more often now when Janet and I are in a tense moment, not seeing eye to eye. We can quickly, more quickly, ask ourselves is this my typical pattern that is cropping up once again? And most often the answer is yes.

Jocelyn: Well, you can bet that if that was your question, is this my typical pattern of sin cropping up again? You're going to get a much different response than, oh my word, is he doing that again?

Brent: Right.

Janet: Yes.

Jocelyn: That's going to be a completely different way of handling it.

Brent: Yeah.

Janet: The other way we do that and I use it in counseling too. How might my typical pattern of sin be impacting my view of this situation? So even if the other person isn't perfect either and is doing something, instead of focusing on that, how might my desire to be exalted and to have my husband think I'm amazing be impacting how I'm handling his response right now?

Jocelyn: Absolutely.

Brent: And you can use this in, not just marriage, all of this, you create, if you understand this, relationships that are safe places for other people. So when I think about is my pattern of sin impacting the way I'm viewing my boss, my friend, whatever that helps me in all of my relationships.

Jocelyn: It's almost like if you think about it, like in a small group, think about the context of, if everybody has this, like besetting sin, that's just like beating out of them and they have their besetting sin that's beating out of them, and all of you are trying to relate to one another, like, oh my word there's. If you can't acknowledge it and say like, hey, we're all working on our sin together at the same time, then you're going to end up at some point saying, oh, our small group isn't working anymore. We're going to do something different.

Janet: We just don't click.

Jocelyn: Yeah. We're not working together.

Janet: Our idols don't click. I'm sorry to hear that. Yeah.

Brent: So forth. we've talked about so far, in a marriage, the primary problem is our own self-centeredness. Recognize your own patterns and be quick to repent, and what we mean by that is a daily moment by moment, turning from that pattern. And then Janet, go ahead.

Janet: And I think fourthly, just gazing at how Christ has fully covered you because that could be a really depressing thing everything we've said so far. But how awesome is it to know that Christ knows all of that about me and He's fully covered me, and He's fully covered my sinful patterns as deep as they go. I know it's going to sound really silly, but I actually used to think that if I didn't need Brent, I wouldn't feel as close to him. If I were really truly just close to Christ, if Christ was all I needed, then Brent and I wouldn't be close, and I wanted that closeness. I had to repent of wanting that closeness more than I wanted Christ. And then as I've grown, and I realized I really, really do need Christ and I really don't need Brent, here's what I found, I'm freer to see him as he is in the areas where he struggles with his sin patterns. I'm free to love him more now, and we're closer than we've ever been, which really makes sense because now we're on the same path. We're desiring to walk toward Christ and we get to help each other draw closer as well.

Jocelyn: And that's really more what actual love is when you see that person in their imperfections and love them anyways. When you love a perfect person, is that even really hard? Like it was easy to love them.

Janet: Yeah.

Jocelyn: You're not making much of a sacrifice, but when you see someone flawed and you say, and I choose to love you, I don't need anything from you. I will give to you. That's a totally different thing.

Brent: Yeah, and that's Jesus. Remember what I said earlier, just for a moment, imagine if you were fully exposed, all of you, not just your physical body, but the inside of you, how terrifying is that? So entering into these relationships and marriages, the closest one has a way of exposing our sin and bringing us face to face with our true lack of genuine love for each other, and then exposing our self-centeredness. The marriage relationship in particular exposes the core of our beings as hypocrites. You know, we make these soaring vows to love. I promise to be with you and be faithful all the years of my life and to cherish you all the time.

Jocelyn: Every morning for the rest of time.

Brent: Every morning, and we don't. That's pretty ugly to see.

Jocelyn: Yeah.

Janet: Yep.

Brent: So again, just for a moment, imagine all the ugliness, externally and internally in you. Imagine being fully known with all of that, but yet not rejected and loved. Not being condemned, but cherished. Not being shamed for that nakedness, that exposure, but somebody coming along and saying here is how I'm covering you and it's okay. The gospel of Jesus Christ, if we're talking about going to Christ in our exposure, the gospel of Jesus Christ teaches us that ultimately we are, Tim Keller, I believe says this, more wicked than we could ever know, but we are more loved than we could ever imagine. So there is no safe place for exposing these patterns of sin without something that will cover the guilt and shame. So here's what I would ask, all of us to pray in our relationships, Father, through these relationships like marriage or friendship, please expose the depth of my sin, but Father, don't do it without showing me afterwards the depths of your grace that can cover me.

Jocelyn: That's really critical, isn't it? Because you're not just exposing them and leaving them for dead. You're exposing and then grace is covering the failures and the weaknesses and the lacks.

Brent: And Janet and I have grown in our understanding of the gospel over the last 28 years. You can just see it in even my teaching, if you were to listen to my heart of change videos, which I did 17 years ago, the gospel is not as forefront as it is now. If you would hear me teach the same thing today. We've grown in that because of resources like Milton Vincent's book, The Gospel Primer, and we find that meditating on how Christ has loved us in the depth of our wickedness allows us to humble ourselves more quickly and repent. So when I truly understand the gospel and I haven't gotten there yet, and day by day, I'm getting more understanding, but when I truly understand the gospel. I am not shocked by my need to repent. Each time I repent, my gratitude for the gospel and Jesus only grows. I had a friend that I was helping years ago ask me how I could see so much sin in my life and not be depressed. It is an interesting question. I mean, when you grow in your understanding of the heart and year by year, you begin to see your heart is more wicked than you ever thought. I'm worse than I thought, but every time I have to think, and I see that, then I have to look at the gospel and because I'm more loved than I could ever imagine and that's safety. God knew all about me when he chose me and he covered me with the righteous of Christ in the gospel.

Jocelyn: And that really breeds loyalty to God. It reminds me of Luke 7:47, " When we have been forgiven very much, we love very much".

Brent: That's exactly right.

Jocelyn: And constant awareness of our sin can, if you don't know the gospel can crush you. Like I'm such a loser. All I ever do is sin, but if we have a right view of the gospel, we see how much we sin and how much we need forgiven. And the fact that Jesus continues to make that possible. God continues to forgive us through Christ sacrificial death. That makes me so loyal to Him. I want to continue to love Him and serve Him and obey Him because look, I've been forgiven so much.

Janet: Which I think leads to a practical way discover in your own life, where am I living? Because if I'm living in works righteousness, and then I sin. I become more aware of the depth of my sin. I'm led to despair. It's like, I'm worse than I thought and I am in despair because it's devastating to find out how bad you are.

Jocelyn: And in marriage that could look like both of you having this performance relationship with each other, like you better perform you better not screw up. You better not mess up because then I can't love you anymore.

Janet: Yes or does, when I'm aware of my sin, does it lead me to humble gratitude? That's how I know where I'm living.

Brent: When I'm not abiding close to Christ, I still sin in the same ways as I always have. My sin is not any prettier, but the hope is that we can see it early in each other and point each other back to the cross, not judge each other, not appease each other, not try to impress each other or compete with one another, but see the sin patterns as we've talked about, come alongside and reassure like Christ has done with us, reassure each other of our love and commitment, and then take each other to the cross or together, go to the cross and remind one another. This is why we needed a Savior in the first place. So that in our brokenness Christ covers us with His righteousness and what a privilege that is.

Jocelyn: It's almost like you just listed every possible reason someone could end up in marriage counseling. Judging each other, appeasing each other, impressing each other, competing with each other.

Janet: And to think that we get to be that taste of the gospel of grace to each other. As we and what are we on number five? I don't know what this is. The next thing respond compassionately to your spouses patterns of selfishness, which means we're assuming they have them because you know how deep your own sinful patterns go, but at the same time, you know how deep God's grace goes in your life. We see the sin in each other far more than anyone else does. I can hide my sin from Jocelyn more than I can hide it from Brent.

Jocelyn: Absolutely. Because you wake up next to each other every day. You spend the entire day together. When you don't feel good, you're together. When you have to wash the laundry, you're together. Like you live together.

Janet: Yes. So what are we going to do with that? Are we going to use that against each other? Because that's what competitors do I get? I get ammunition. He better not ever say something to me because I saw him.

Jocelyn: You’re ready.

Janet: Yes, but a safe place isn't for competitors, it's for companions. We're on the same team, and we actually had family shirts made that we just updated so we could add our new daughter-in-law to remind ourselves we're on the same team that we have each other's back. Not that we're going to excuse each other's sin, but we're going to be a safe place for that to be exposed.

Jocelyn: I think that's a good point that you just made, like you don't have each other's back to cover for each other. We're not talking about like helping each other get away with stuff. You're saying we're on the same team and that is Jesus' team, His righteousness.

Janet: Yes.

Brent: Before we go on from that point, we tried in our family also to, not just in our marriage, but in our family to regularly communicate about this is a safe place for your sin to be exposed. So Karis is our production engineer she has her patterns of issues. My son does as well, Joshua, and we try to cultivate that this is a family where your patterns can be exposed.

Janet: And they know our patterns.

Brent: And they know our patterns and the shirts.

Janet: As if we could hide it from them anyway.

Brent: I don't know if we can get the picture in our show notes, but we just came back from a family trip from Disney world and we have a picture with our, you know, our new shirts on it. So that's just been something we have tried to do in our family.

Jocelyn: But just think about how parenting, even really challenging stuff, would change. If that was the atmosphere first born in your marriage and then applied outward into your family. Like this is a safe place where sins can be exposed and we're not going to get irritated with you. We're not going to give up on you. We're not going to belittle you. We're not going to be so exasperated that we still have to deal with this. But if this is a safe place, that means when sins are uncovered, we're going to work through them, not be shocked by them.

Janet: We're not surprised.

Jocelyn: Not surprised.

Janet: We expect it.

Jocelyn: We're looking for it because we want to fall on the side of Jesus' righteousness, and grow in that over time.

Janet: Yeah, I can remember one day I was coming into the kitchen from the garage. I was very angry about something. I have absolutely no idea what it was, but it was incredibly important, I'm sure of it.

Brent: It wasn't me.

Janet: And it wasn't you. And that I know that's actually kind of shocking, but it wasn't, but I was really mad and I walked into the kitchen and Brent is standing there. He has no idea what's about to happen, but I started spewing. I started telling him all the things I was mad about, and I don't know about you, Jocelyn, but there are times that I actually believe I'm righteously angry.

Jocelyn: That never happens to me.

Janet: You can't imagine?

Jocelyn: I'm glad I have that example.

Janet: Yeah, but this was even worse. I'm hearing it and knowing, that is ugly, but I can't stop talking. So I am yelling. I am telling him things. I am mad. And now, because I know it's sinful and I can't stop. I mad at him for hearing it. I'm mad at him for seeing me because I feel so exposed. And so now I start going and you probably think you're better than me. And you probably think I shouldn't be mad like this. Well, you don't know how hard it is, but here's the beauty, I have to breathe. So there came a point where I had to stop talking because I had talked so much, I had used so much breath that I needed a really deep breath. So in the moment that I actually took a deep breath, Brent had his moment, what's he going to do?

Brent: I had one in life. At least one.

Janet: And what's he going to do with it? There's so many things he could have said. He could have said stop talking, that is just wicked. He could have said so many things. And here's what he did. He opened his arms and said, come here. I was shocked because I knew how ugly I sounded and I was defending myself, I felt very exposed, it didn't feel safe, and for him to do that, I just started sobbing. I'm crying. I did ask forgiveness. I was clearly sinning. We prayed together. He took me to the throne. He doesn't do that every time. Whenever I share this, I say that because then women are like, well, it's easy for you because your husband perfect. He doesn't do that every time. I know how to push his buttons. I'm not proud of that, but I know how to provoke him as well. But what was I going to do with that? I could either say, well, he's supposed to do that. He better do that every time, he's a pastor, or I could at least say he may never do that again, but he just gave me an example of what Christ does for me all day long.

Brent: So responding compassionately. That was one of one moment in my life.

Janet: I'm not going to share those others, honey.

Brent: So number six, I believe we're on six. Remember to point your spouse to truth and grace in Christ, not you, you know, when the kids were younger, it was not easy for me to handle a lack of a full night's sleep. I like my sleep. You know how the toddlers and the children are, they can be anxious about something, a scary dream, and I can deem those things as trivial and Janet learned how she could help me by handling many of those nights where the children were anxious or scared and when I got up to help a child, she would helpfully remind me of truth before I got to them. So I wouldn't be irritable, angry, scolding.

Janet: Sorry, children. I didn't always get to him.

Brent: She did not. So well, I had my one shining moment and here telling about the other moments that were not so great, but going through some of our memorabilia and preparing for my son Joshua's graduation from high school reminded me this pattern of mine. You know, I found this note from my son when he was 10. He said, dear daddy, thanks for putting up with me. I can tell sometimes you get impatient, but God will strengthen you. Love, Joshua. So he was pointing me to God out of the mouth of babes. Josh too, was learning that we can see each other's sin and help each other because we're on the same team. You know, also, I mentioned to you about my fear and my worry and my occasional despair. And Janet has learned to speak truth to me in love, pointing me to Christ, and I don't always want it to hear it. Many times she says, Brent, let's pray, and that's the last thing I want to do, but she reminds me, Brent is your job to have a growing ministry. Is your job to have people always respond to truth, and like you? No, what is required you to be faithful and that's super helpful.

Jocelyn: Yeah.

Brent: And Janet, in my moments of fear and worry from my response patterns will say, let's pray and even when I don't want to, she helps point me to Christ and directs me back to Jesus.

Jocelyn: I appreciate that very practical example because I think a lot of women are saying, okay, what does this look like? What does this look like? And that's what it looks like. Like you're worrying, you're upset, and she asks you a question and then let's you think about it. It's not like she preaches at you.

Brent: I don't always like the question though.

Jocelyn: And I don't think any person who is confronted in that kind of way is going to always like the question, but it's what we need to hear.

Janet: And does he know it's in a context of, I don't think I'm better than him? Because yesterday he was asking me questions. Like, do we know that we're not better? We're a team.

Jocelyn: You’re teammates.

Brent: If, when we get to that place, that truly is a safe place. And when we're operating that way, we can thank God that we have become that safe place, a taste of Eden, exposed, but without fear so that's never going to be perfect in this life, but that's what we mean again, by becoming a safe place.

Janet: Yeah, and I would say one of the beautiful results of all of that is going to be a deepening in our one flesh relationship. We like to say, there just be far less need to agree to disagree. We hear that phrase. Well, I guess we're just going to have to agree to disagree. Well, I know that we're going to continue to have problems. They're going to need to be addressed. They're going to need to be solved, but I really believe we believe the biggest hindrance to solving those problems is not that we're just disagreeing. It's our idolatry. Problems only become conflicts when our idols are involved. I mean, if I think about that, it's really true. If we're able to know ourselves and each other and repent of the idols that are impacting the problem, then we're free to decide together how to resolve the problem. If we're both committed to that, there is rarely a reason to agree to disagree. Or as I hear from women, I submitted to his decision I disagreed with you should be able to come to a resolution together most of the time, because now it's not, I want my preference. I may not get my preference, but I'm not about that anymore. Now we're together trying to solve a problem and how beautiful is that?

Jocelyn: So where do you see as the end result of this kind of a safe place in marriage?

Brent: As we mentioned, we're entering into our empty nest kind of phase here, and I feel like it's a beautiful time. Not because I don't love my children being with us, but because I'm looking forward to, I get to have the rest of my life with my wife and it's garden of Edenish.

Janet: A lot of ish sometimes, but still.

Brent: Where we enjoy now, we're on the same team, so we go to marriage conferences and we get to teach together. We're doing all kinds of things together now as a team and we enjoy it. We love it. We've been keeping a secret from our children that I will reveal now for the first time to the entire world. Josh won't listen to this, but Karis.

Janet: Noelle will, his wife will.

Brent: You know, we even started taking dance lessons.

Jocelyn: How exciting!

Brent: Ballroom dance lessons together. And so same team, we get to enjoy these things together. I say that because now you might say, oh, how romantic, but I want you to know how we got there not because our marriage was built on romance. It was built upon what we've talked about up to this point. The biggest problem in our life is self-centeredness. We have to recognize our own patterns and we have to repent, and then we respond compassionately pointing others to God. In that regard, romance is built upon that.

Jocelyn: Romance is built on good theology. It's the result of good theology.

Janet: It's not the foundation.

Jocelyn: It's not the foundation.

Brent: Yeah, and let me kind of close here with something I was reading last night and we're coming up on the biblical counseling conference and the pre-conferences is with Dane Ortland. for those of you, this may air after the conference, but you can always go back and sign up for the.

Janet: Take it virtually.

Brent: Take it virtually and watch the videos. But Dane Orland in his book, Gentle and Lowly, I was reading this last night and just preparing for getting my head immersed in the pre-conference as the overseer of that, and let me read this verse, Ephesians 2:4 and following, "But God being rich in mercy" now, Dane Ortland develops that there is no other attribute in the scriptures that God has said to be rich in. He is not rich in wrath, although He's perfectly righteous. He is exacting in justice. But what the scripture says, He is rich in mercy, but God being rich in mercy because of the great love, which He has loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ. By grace, you have been saved and raised up with Him and seated with Him and that I have any places in Christ Jesus. So that in the coming ages, He might show to us and lock onto this, the immeasurable riches of His grace in kindness toward us. all of creation is moving toward the place where He showing us the immeasurable riches of His grace, which will be the ultimate safe place that will be the return to Eden or an Eden 2.0. Dane quotes this, he says "the souls of departed saints with Christ in heaven." So we're talking about heaven where all of history is moving toward, "shall have Christ as it were on bosom unto them manifesting those infinite riches of love toward them that have been there from eternity. They shall eat and drink abundantly and swim in the ocean of love and be eternally swallowed up in the infinitely bright and infinitely mild and sweet beams of His divine love." Now here's the implication of that. "It means that as we stand there, we will never be scolded for the sins of this life. Never looked down upon and never be told, enjoy this, but remember you didn't deserve this. The very point of heaven and eternity is to enjoy His grace and kindness, and the point of heaven is to show us the immeasurable riches of His grace and kindness." This is what cued me in to read this today. He says, "then we are safe." Then we are safe. We're fully exposed, but fully loved. Then we are safe.

Janet: I think that's a beautiful way to end it because our marriages will never fully be that.

Brent: That’s right.

Janet: And I think some are listening to this and thinking, I got to get my husband to listen to this because we need this so that we can have this kind of marriage. It's kind of ironic when we summarize the truths of our marriage conference, we kind of end it by saying this, God's goal for you in your marriage isn't a great marriage. It's a platform for you to live out your purpose, to represent God to your spouse, to be the safe place, to be that Ededish, whether your spouse is or not. And then to know the day is coming when you're going to be with him. And because of that, it's worth emulating Him now to your spouse.

Brent: Absolutely. Becoming a safe place in marriage, a safe place for your sin to be exposed, and each one having the gentle and lowly heart to come alongside and just say, I love you and I'm here to point you to Christ.

Jocelyn: That fact can be applied in so many relationships. We've been talking today about how it applies in marriage, but I would encourage you as you listen to this, to think about other ways that can be practiced in small groups, at your workplace, with your extended family. concept of being a safe place in relationships is such an important way that we can image Jesus Christ to the world around us. What are some resources that you guys like to recommend that would help a couple think about marriage in a more theologically accurate way?

Brent: Yeah, a couple of resources. The one that I mentioned, Gentle and Lowly. I think that gives you a feel for Christ heart for you that you truly are in a safe place.

Janet: Which can give me the motivation to be able to be that for someone else.

Brent: Yeah, so.

Jocelyn: I've heard of a couple of different couples reading that together, out loud, in the context of them working through some issues in their marriage because as they're reminded of what Jesus is to them, they can then live that out to each other.

Brent: I haven't thought about that before, but that is a grand idea. Probably a book also called, When Sinners Say I Do.

Janet: Yeah.

Brent: Off the top of my head, I don't have the author in my mind.

Janet: But we'll have that in the show notes.

Brent: We'll have that the show notes. Tim Keller's book, The Meaning of Marriage and we have personally benefited many times when we travel, listening to Tim Keller's sermon series on marriage. You can go to Gospel in Life and search for marriage and his 10 part marriage series that has been helpful to us.

Janet: Which is the material from The Meaning of Marriage. So it's just the sermon series instead of the book, which we enjoy.

Brent: And also, we use Paul Tripp's DVDs. I know he has a book on What Did You Expect? But in our media-saturated culture that likes videos. tend to use the videos, What Did You Expect? DVDs, I use those in pre-marriage counseling and I use those in marriage. What that does is just give you an understanding of the heart that we've talked about, our patterns, and the depths of our sin there. So I would recommend that as well.

Janet: Yeah.

Jocelyn: I'm so thankful all of you could enjoy this conversation with us today and we look forward to you coming back and checking out our next episode. Thanks for being with us, Brent and Janet.

To keep from missing any future episodes, please sign up for our newsletter on our webpage From there you can also subscribe to this podcast on Apple, Google, or Spotify. You can also visit us on our Facebook page or Instagram at Joyful Journey Podcast. If you have questions or comments for us, you can email us at Joyful Journey Podcast is a ministry of Faith Bible Seminary. All proceeds go to offset costs of this podcast and toward scholarships for women to receive their MABC through Faith Bible Seminary.

Host Janet and her husband, Brent, also speak at a variety of conferences as a way to raise money for the seminary. If you want to look at what they offer or book them for a conference, go to their website.

Janet Aucoin


Janet is the Director of Women's Ministry at Faith Church (Lafayette, IN); Host of the Joyful Journey Podcast (helping women learn that when you choose truth you choose joy); ACBC certified; teacher in Faith Community Institute; Coordinator of FBS seminary wives fellowship, retreat and conference speaker; B.S. Human Resources, University of South Florida.