Couple Finds No Freedom After Divorce

“I saw this cute boy in the corner playing guitar and thought I’d like to get to know him,” remembers Stephanie.

Chris and Stephanie, both Christians, met at church, and got to know each other on a youth missions trip.

“We just quickly developed a really deep friendship on that trip,” says Stephanie.

“I think even 3 months in, we were saying, ‘I love you’ and talking about marriage,” adds Chris.

They married at 19 and 20 when they were in college, but soon realized they had different ideas about marriage.

“There were things that were going in my life at the same time that really began to drive a wedge between Stephanie and I,” says Chris.

“I came into our marriage with expectations of what he was going to be like,” says Stephanie. “He was going to be home with me at dinner every night. And we would go out and do everything together.”

“I would sometimes not come home ’til 2:00, 3:00 in the morning,” says Chris. “I started getting into drugs and the parties and alcohol and that whole life.”

“It affected the intimacy of our marriage,” adds Stephanie. “There were times when I didn’t feel emotionally safe, I guess you could say.”

The alcohol and drug use continued. But Chris had a deeper problem.

“I never could pull myself to say I do not believe that God exists,” says Chris. “It was always very deep questioning and maybe agnostic.”

As Chris drifted farther away from Stephanie and his faith, he began to have serious questions about God.

“It began to seep down into my faith and shook my belief if God was real at all. I felt a lot of shame about that. And so I think the drugs were a way to self-medicate.”

“I had seen all through my life ways that God had shown up and provided,” says Stephanie. “And so doubt was not something that I was dealing with at the same time as he was.”

Chris was still leading worship at their church, because he felt spiritually accountable to the church and to his wife.  

“I felt afraid of what people would think if they knew the truth. I pushed God away because I didn’t want the accountability. I knew that what I was doing deep down was wrong, but I needed the accountability to go away.”

“It would get heated,” says Stephanie. “And it was never, ‘Hey, let’s look for a win-win together.’ It was always,there was always a win-lose.”

Four years after their wedding, Chris filed for divorce.

“I just sat her down and I said I don’t believe in God anymore and I don’t want to be married anymore,” says Chris.

“In that moment, my life as I knew it was completely ripped out from under me,” says Stephanie.

“Divorce meant freedom,” says Chris. “And divorce meant no more accountability.”

“I find so much security in being able to be in control of my situation,” says Stephanie. “And in those moments, that moment that it took him to say he didn’t want to be married anymore, it was forced violently out of my hands.”

A month later, Stephanie went on a women’s retreat with a group from her church.

“The theme was about finding joy in the trials. And so I was such a sponge for all the messages that weekend. All these Biblical passages of ways that God is close to the brokenhearted. And man, that was such a breath of fresh air for me. I was able to see and read and believe the truth that it was worth it. That God was doing something, that He was still there, even though I’m in the midst of the most painful period of my life.”

Meanwhile, Stephanie, her friends, her church, and Chris’s mother were all praying for him - as he explored his newfound ‘freedom’.”

“My prayers were obviously for restoration of marriage,” says Stephanie. “But even more so, his faith was in question. And that’s huge. Even if our relationship was never restored again, I wanted him to come back to the Lord.”

“I’d built walls up around my own life and created this wall of sin and it all just caved in,” says Chris.

Stephanie began to realize her own need for change.

“God showed me the sin. It may not have been as outward as Chris’s, but I had sin that was just as ugly in my heart that I brought into our marriage. It was that pride. It was the self-righteousness. I think the need to control my life, his life - these things that are just as sinful and ugly.”

“My rock bottom was finally God, I feel like, pulling blinders off of me to wake up in the morning and not see a brave man who left it all.” says Chris, “But He showed me a terrified, selfish, scared boy. But God didn’t find me through intellectual arguments. He found me through my heart. When I was at the end of myself, I began talking to God and praying to Him again.”

Stephanie’s prayers were answered when Chris rededicated his life to Christ.

“You can’t unwind years of doubt overnight,” says Chris. “But through my pride being stripped away, I was able to see God more clearly for the first time in my life.”

“And to see this authenticity and transparency that I hadn’t seen and just a humble spirit, truly humble spirit,” says Stephanie. “It got around to the whole, ‘Well, God’s telling me that we should be together again’ and my response was not ‘OK’. That was definitely not my first response. As happy as I was to see him in the place he was in, I needed the Lord to tell me that this is what He wanted for us.”

A year after the divorce was final, Chris asked Stephanie to marry him. Again. She forgave him for leaving her and they went through pastoral counseling together.  It was obvious to Stephanie that Chris was a different man.

“And I opened the door and he was on his knee at the bottom of my steps. We were just ready. We were ready to start our lives together again. I really saw Jesus in him in a way that I hadn’t seen before.”

“As we got remarried, the new me found freedom, not in myself, but in Christ,” says Chris.

“I think we were very purposeful about creating an environment in our marriage that was safe and a healthy space to be able to come to each other with our issues, with our doubts, with our struggles and know it was going to be met with grace and understand and love,” says Stephanie.

Chris and Stephanie have been remarried since 2011. They now have two children, Asher and Nora.

“Day to day our marriage is different because we are intentional about spending more time together in honest communication,” says Chris.

“We feel responsible with this story and what God has brought us through, to share that, to bring hope, and hopefully healing to people that are struggling,” adds Stephanie. “To give them this picture, not of us, but of how big God is and what He can do.”

Learn more about Chris and Stephanie at their website www.outofthedustmusic.com. Be sure to also visit their Facebook and Twitter.

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