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Redeeming Childhood

A Q&A with Focus on the Family President, Jim Daly and his wife, Jean

For Jim Daly, life is good. President and ceo of Focus on the Family, he's been married to Jean for 21 years and has two sons. But Jim overcame significant obstacles to reach the place he's in today. He shares his harrowing journey through a difficult childhood in his book, Finding Home: An Imperfect Path to Faith and Family. MP talked with the Dalys about the impact faith and a painful history has had on their marriage.

You've been married more than two decades. What about each other took some getting used to?

Jim: Jean is more exacting. When we make pancakes, she measures exactly one cup of flour, exactly one-and-a-half cups of water. For me, it's just throw it in the bowl and mix it. If the consistency is close, let's make those pancakes.

Also, I tend to shrug things off. At one point Jean was dealing with depression and I didn't clue into it. During one conversation my response to Jean was, "Let's pick ourselves up by our bootstraps and keep going. This isn't a big deal." She looked at me and said, "You know, Jim, some of us just can't do that."

Jean: I could see that was such a foreign concept to him. But for me, it wasn't so easy. That was a difficult season for us to move through.

How has Jim's childhood impacted your marriage?

Jim: For most of my childhood I was parentless: my mother died of cancer when I was nine and my father was an alcoholic. I learned quickly that people let you down. So keeping promises is really big to me.

Jean: Jim rebounds quickly—he doesn't hold grudges and things don't linger. But that caused him not to be a great communicator. Counseling helped tremendously with our ability to talk things through. We have a much healthier communication style now.

Did you ever think of calling it quits?

Jean: I've struggled with low self-esteem, and there were times it was painful for me to stay in such a close relationship—mostly because I didn't feel good enough for Jim. But I knew I needed to honor my vows. It came to a head one night during our third year of marriage. Jim found me in bed crying. I told him I didn't think I could stay married to him, that I wasn't a good enough wife. I thought he'd be better off without me.

Jim: I was shocked she felt that way. We lay in bed, crying together. I told her, "There are only two ways we can do this—be married happily or unhappily. Because divorce isn't an option." It not only made a huge difference in our marriage that night, it was a bedrock moment for us in terms of our commitment. Although our relationship didn't instantly fix itself, that experience did bring a new level of transparency and intimacy as we asked God to draw us closer to each other. He's proved faithful.

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Commitment; Family; Marriage
Today's Christian Woman, Spring, 2008
Posted September 12, 2008

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