As a culture we are drawn to shows of remodeling and restoration. Taking old worn out, broken down homes and totally remodeling them peaks our interests. Seeing old structures with new life gives a sense of joy and inspiration to our hearts. If we dig down deep to our foundations it brings a sense of hope that old things can be made new and they don’t need to be tossed aside when they are broken.
Andrea and I are no different. We love to remodel and restore. Our home is an 1840’s farmhouse that we have been working on for over 18 years. We own several antique tractors that have been restored. Our daughter’s first vehicle was a 1988 that we restored. It’s in our blood to rebuild, renew and restore.
By far, the most challenging restoration came about 8 years ago: our marriage needed some serious restoration.
Let me back up and tell you of the years of neglect that led right down to the foundation being compromised. Pornography and lust were mortared into the cracks of my foundation at a very young age. I was exposed to it before I could understand it. I was drawn to it by culture and curiosity for years to follow. I formed my foundations of relationships through the teen years feeling that sex was the ultimate relationship-building material -all the while foolishly being tricked by building a compromised structure that would crumble later while being married.
Eight years ago, when God gave me a choice to surrender completely or dive headlong into my own sin choices, I was at the bottom. The foundation collapsed, the façade of who I was masquerading as fell completely and my heart was exposed. It looked like one of those buildings that needs to be demolished and buried in the dump. God saw different and Andrea shared that same view deep down within her soul. He saw potential, he saw His creation, He saw unrealized hope, and He saw NEW LIFE.
The journey from that pit has been a long, hard road filled with setbacks, potholes and some deep joys that are unexplainable. God showed me how to rebuild, renew and restore my heart, our marriage and our family His way. We are still on that road and won’t finish until we end our time here on this earth.
Through this journey, God has impressed upon our hearts that we are not alone in this struggle. As we dig deeper and continue to build our new marriage relationship we can’t help but see this epidemic around us. Marriages are crumbling at an astonishing rate. Pornography, lust and infidelity have become “normal” behavior in mainstream culture and sadly has infiltrated Christian marriages. Should we be surprised? Andrea and I firmly believe that Christian marriages have a target placed upon them by our enemy. It’s the primary way to destroy churches, families and young hearts. If the foundation is attacked and weakened then any structure built upon it will eventually crumble. The more elaborate and expansive façade becomes on a compromised foundation then more destruction will occur when it falls.
In 2015, we formed Proclaiming Freedom as a nonprofit ministry to help couples rebuild, renew and restore their marriage God’s way. God is in the business of restoration. He doesn’t want to put a fresh coat of paint on your marriage, He longs to restore and renew from the foundation up. We have experienced it in our marriage and long to walk with couples as they discover His plan for their marriage. God imprinted this verse on our hearts:
“They will rebuild the ancient ruins and restore the places long devastated; they will renew the ruined cities that have been devastated for generations” Isaiah 61:4
Our marriage was a front-row seat to seeing God’s deepest desires in marriage. He longs to rebuild, restore and renew.
As we began this ministry, I had hopes of building this great thing that would help hundreds of marriages. We would see great success and make a name for His kingdom. But to be brutally transparent, I still wanted to build my kingdom up and gain acceptance through what we were doing. I wanted to erase the shame and guilt of the choices I had made by replacing it with everyone seeing what we were doing for God. When this was revealed to my heart I thought I hadn’t changed much at all. I quickly learned that God wanted to continue to refine me and us through this process. My heart and soul still needed guardrails and discipline. Andrea and I made a pledge and prayer to each other and God. We weren’t going to move ahead of God’s heart and plan for this ministry no matter what we thought or wanted it to look like. Instead of promoting what we do with couples to churches and counseling centers, we will faithfully share with people as God leads them to us. In my mind, that seemed kind of a cute way of saying we were just going to be lazy. To my surprise, it has been the opposite.
God has brought a great number of couples over the past 3 years. We have said we will faithfully serve those who have been brought to us and not chase after more. He knows what we can handle and we will trust His plans.
Sexual sin and pornography aren’t subjects people like to talk about in an open fashion. In order to create an opportunity for couples to start the conversation, we have created events that would allow for vulnerability to be fostered. We have sponsored two date nights for couples to spend time together sharing a meal and hearing challenging testimonies laced with valuable tools to use to create strong marriages. In November 2018, we partnered with First Christian Church to host
“Marriage Strong.” It was weekend filled with songs, stories and great speaking on the subjects of communication, expectations, forgiveness and intimacy in marriage.
We love these events because it’s a time where couples step out of there marriages to see where the cracks may be forming in the foundation or they are in the process of trying to build a new foundation. From these events, we are able to connect on a more personal level with couples as we follow up afterward.
What we do most of the time is meet with couples in crisis. Some secrets have been exposed or a person in the marriage has been devastated with sin that has been revealed and doesn’t know where to turn. We have been in that dark lonely spot and know the desperation. It is in those moments that couples make decisions that can affect their marriage and family in a positive or negative way. We have felt that power of Christ’s hope in those situations personally. Our heart is to speak His hope in the times where all hope is lost. Those moments when the world says quit and divorce, God showed us that he longs to rebuild, renew and restore!