August 25th. A date that holds so much emotion and history for us.
In 2005, it was the day we went on our first date. The evening was a train wreck and ended awkwardly, but the Lord had big plans for us so it was only the beginning. Brett and I married nine months later at just twenty years old. We weren’t walking with Jesus and both brought a myriad of dysfunctions, baggage, and pain to the table. It wasn’t long before those issues began to manifest bad fruit in our marriage. In 2008, after the loss of our first child, I encountered the living God and gave my life to Him. Because Brett was raised in the church, he was able to talk the talk but was still living a secret life that left a disconnect between us. Though I was now following Jesus, I didn’t know yet what it meant to have Him be Lord of my life. I was still holding tightly to many things that weren’t life for me, including a destructive drinking habit.
Then came August 25th, 2009. The year prior had been a journey for me of learning how to honor Brett and pray for him. His heart had been softened toward me and the Lord knew the right timing. That night, while at a men’s Bible study, Brett listened to a message from John 8:31-32, “…the truth will set you free.” In that moment, Brett made a powerful choice to risk everything and bring truth into the light. He confessed all that he’d been hiding to the men in the group. They graciously surrounded him, and prayed for him, but then the Lord instructed Brett that he wasn’t done.
Brett came home that night, sat down next to me, and proceeded to share all the lies he’d been hiding since before we were married and during our three plus years of marriage. He confessed to taking off his wedding ring to go out with friends, secret struggles he’d hidden and more. As he poured out his confessions, the tangible presence of Jesus was so real, sitting on the couch between us. A supernatural grace fell on me to receive these nightmarish revelations and I sat quietly, listening, I was filled with compassion. As Brett finished sharing, I looked over to our wedding photo and my heart broke. I realized the perfect life I’d been working so hard to present to the world was forever tarnished, forever gone. As I expressed this to Brett, he simply said, “I have been trying to change me for a long time and I haven’t succeeded. I know I’ve given you every reason to leave me, but I’m asking that you’d stay and give Jesus a chance to change me and help us.”
In the weeks to come, we found a marriage counselor and went after our junk for the first time. We got rid of all the alcohol in our home, finally admitting our drinking problems to ourselves. We decided that for the time, worship music was the only thing to be played in our home as we needed the encouragement to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus and not our problems or ourselves. That first year was incredibly painful. At times, I wondered if I would ever feel joy again. One day, as I drove I was sobbing and crying out to the Lord. I told Him that if He could promise me that Brett would never do this to me again, then I wouldn’t divorce him and I’d stay and work it out. Jesus spoke to me in that moment and affirmed to me that I don’t get that promise. He said, “I will not take away Brett’s free will. What I will do is promise you that I will never leave you nor forsake you. I will be with you in everything you ever face. But you have to decide that is enough.” That was the moment I realized what it really meant to ask Jesus to be the Lord of my life.
In 2012, at a conference, a prophet called us out of the crowd and gave us a word of encouragement from the Lord. As he was prophesying, he looked at me and said, “the Lord says there is a date that represents immense pain for you. He wants you to know that He intends to redeem and reconcile that date so faithfully that it becomes a day of celebration.” Naturally, I lost it sobbing. I knew He was referring to August 25th, 2009. Although Brett and I were now happily married and working daily toward health, I still could not dream of how that day could ever be celebrated. At that time, we had only ever shared with our mentors, counselor and pastors what we’d been dealing with. At one point, our mentor’s pastor also prophesied that someday we’d share our story with the world and it would change millions of marriages. Again, I simply couldn’t dream that big.
In 2013, we started a married couples life group. Week by week, we grew closer to the other couples and the Lord asked us to begin to share our story. We only shared small details at first but then the shame began to fall away and we began to share more and more. We started seeing fruit of sharing our truth and over time, it became a delight to encourage others with what God had done for us. In 2015, we were invited to share our story at the young adults service of our church and the response was overwhelming. The freedom we now walk in encouraged everyone in the room. We stayed for hours praying for others as they brought their issues into the light and asked us to believe with them for freedom. It was exhilarating to share God’s goodness, then stand as a conduit of His Holy Spirit to connect other’s with the freedom and abundant life Jesus paid for for them. We finally started to understand what God meant about His plans to redeem the date and work it for our good and His.
As we started the year 2019, we knew God was prompting us to celebrate the ten year anniversary of our walking in truth, sobriety, freedom, and transformation. God has so completely redeemed the date of August 25th that we only see it with gratitude now. We are so thankful for His faithfulness to reconcile our marriage and restore our love to something far beyond what it ever even started with. Our story is one of true love and the power of choosing life over death with truth, especially when it means the death of so many things we’ve previously held tightly to. About a month ago, Brett reached out to a couple in our congregation and asked if they’d be willing to host a celebration at their home. We were imagining something small and potluck style, given our lack of budget for the event. They graciously challenged us to dream bigger and keep knocking on doors. In the past three weeks, God and our community miraculously pulled together a vow renewal celebration that surpassed our wildest dreams! Our people came together to make it happen and we are still in shock and awe at what beauty and blessing manifested.
In the spirit of transparency, I want to be honest that even this week, we weren’t sure our celebration would actually happen. On Tuesday, Brett, Elle, and Johnny were diagnosed with the flu so we spent the week quarantined away from each other desperately trying to not spread sickness any further. This meant I had the two little girls solo and all of us were exhausted and not sleeping well. The weather was forecasting horrible storms for the weekend and at one point I melted into sobs asking the Lord for help. He reminded me that the declaration of this being a day of celebration was His plan and it is simply my job to partner with Him in the fulfillment of that prophesy. I reached out to my intercession friends and community asking for prayer and help. Sickness cleared on Friday morning, the weather disappeared (as did a lot of the August heat), and the celebration went beautifully. Standing with Brett at the alter, renewing our vows and actually understanding what weight our words carry, I was reminded of my fear that our “perfect” lives were ruined ten years ago when Brett shared his truth. As Brett finished his vows to me, he said, “I have come to realize that while we are not perfect people, we are perfect for each other.” I couldn’t agree more!
I want to end by giving thanks. I am so thankful for God’s goodness, faithfulness, mercy, and love. Giving Jesus my heart and my life is by far the best two decisions I ever made. I have come to truly fall in love with my husband and together, with Jesus, we have built a beautiful, imperfect marriage, family and home that we love to host others in as we do real life together. I no longer desire to live a perfect life (that’s not even a real thing), but to live a real life, fully alive to experience every joy, sadness, disappointment and victory. Today, I am celebrating that we have overcome perfection, or the idea of it, and we have embraced being real, choosing life, and being present enough to experience it all personally, together, and with Jesus and His people. Today, August 25th, 2019, is truly a celebration of ten years of beautiful, perfectly imperfect, abundant life. I couldn’t be more grateful.