Chris and Steph were high school, mission trip sweethearts who met and began falling in love on a 13 hour road trip from Nashville to Pennsylvania. Sitting next to each other on brown plastic, fake leather bench seats, neither could’ve ever known how far that trip on a giant yellow school bus to downtown Philadelphia would actually take them. While dating through high school and marrying in college, they were volunteer worship leaders and served together in a variety of ways (Chris still laughs at his days of wearing a headset microphone and choreographing dozens of children for worship). They seemed like a perfectly normal, happy Christian couple. Everyone would’ve agreed, especially Chris and Steph. However, things started to change when Chris entered a season of doubt that many people walk through on their faith journey. Though these seasons are normal and sometimes essential, Chris believed that as a leader he should have it all together. No one would truly understand. So, he kept his doubts a secret and they just kept growing. It didn’t help that he was in school for a degree in the music industry. This offered plenty of “alternative” activities to alleviate the shame he felt from the divide between who he pretended to be at church and who he actually was becoming. Eventually, Chris was spending all night out on Saturdays with friends drinking and “partaking” a variety of substances, then waking up Sunday mornings and leading worship to a God he no longer believed in… but no one could know, not even Stephanie.
Weeks turned into months then years and Chris began to believe the lie that he could find freedom from shame and live the way he wanted if he left Stephanie. So he made a plan, mustered up some courage and sat down with her one night in January 2010. Hearing those 14 words that shattered her life and her heart, “I don’t believe in God anymore and I don’t want to be married anymore,” Steph sat speechless for nearly an hour. Processing years of lies and betrayal, she began a painstaking journey with the Lord to her own freedom that lasted long after the divorce was final. “What is my life now? Why wasn’t I enough for him? God, how could you let this happen?” Questions and devastation flooded her heart as the levy of control and self sufficiency broke. Yet somehow with the gentle presence of God’s Spirit, over time, letting go of control and surrendering that she couldn’t fix her life on her own wasn’t terrifying. It was completely freeing. Unhinging from the old life she’d carefully calculated allowed God to reveal a new path to freedom that would transform her suffering into something good and beautiful. However, that freedom was not without cost. It required that Stephanie come face to face and acknowledge her own self reliance, pride, and all the ways she had failed Chris in their marriage. Her life before was just that… her life. Self-ordered, self-built, and though outwardly appearing to be yielded to God, it was ultimately self-centered. Through this revelation, she now stood at the edge of a new way of surrendered life that was born after the death of a marriage and as the scriptures say, from the death of an old self.
While Stephanie was discovering what it meant to be truly free, Chris was running further and further away into the arms of a captor. His journey to religious and relational freedom was fueled by an intense desire for indulgences both physical and emotional. Friends, lovers, drugs and alcohol were his companions in this new unfettered life. No longer bound by the accountability of a God honoring life, freed from the shame of a secret self, Chris was able to openly pursue everything he thought would make him feel happy and fulfilled. The seeds of lies he once believed were now in full fruition as rebellion and a self seeking nature ruled his heart. New relationships he formed were guided by the same selfishness that led him to leave Stephanie. This monumentally prideful kingdom Chris was building was bound to fall. Then about 7 months after leaving, the tides shifted and all the consequences that had been kept at bay finally came crashing in. So when the kingdom fell, all those pleasures and freedoms that seemed so promising were exposed as forgery. Freedom turned to fear and reckless abandon was replaced with anxiety. There was no more hiding, but there was immense isolation yet in the darkest of moments, when all hope seemed lost, Chris found Jesus. Already there, waiting for him and with him at the bottom. The Lord kindly and gently showed Chris that although intellectual doubt is good and necessary, Chris’s deepest problem did not reside in his mind but in his heart. “A fool says in his heart there is no God” is the truth that came bounding through. The deepest issue he needed to resolve was that of a sick heart. One riddled with selfishness, pride and idolatry. He could settle his doubts later, he needed a savior.
Gospel transformation broke through as Chris, with help, began unpacking the years of lies and deception he’d fallen prey to and also the acts of sin and rebellion he’d willfully committed. Vulnerability became common place as he realized where hiding and pretending had gotten him. Chris confessed to God all the doubts, disappointments, and fears he’d held in for so long. And the Lord continued pouring into Chris’s heart and soul over weeks and months through the Word and prayer. To say God was giving Chris bread crumbs to follow would be an understatement. Chris kept a document on his phone of all the impossible, improbable and down right miraculous ways God was showing up and revealing Himself. Then, something truly unbelievable happened. Chris ignored it at first, but a prompting from God continued to grow so loud in his heart that it was inescapable. God was asking Chris to pursue Stephanie again.
Their first conversation took place after Stephanie finished a divorce care group of all things. As they walked and talked for hours, they delighted one another in the many ways that God had been at work in their lives over the months they’d been apart. They both look back now on that evening fondly. Then as the night came to a close Chris revealed what God had told him, that he believed God was calling him to pursue her again… Steph’s response was gracious but still a pretty solid and understandable “hold your horses” type of response! As expected, she needed a lot more time than just one evening and they both needed input from their leaders. So they both took time away from each other to pray, go to counseling, and seek guidance from trusted friends and family. This led to the next step of going to counseling together for a couple of months and helped to truly drill down and work through the trauma and heartbreak that had happened to both of them over the years. After much more prayer and work, Chris, Stephanie and their community of leaders and friends agreed that God was doing a miracle and that He would be most glorified through recommitment and remarriage. So, in a tiny candlelight ceremony, Chris and Stephanie re-began their lives together in a miracle rebirth of love that was once lost and dead to pride and sin.
Today, Chris and Stephanie have the what they consider a “dream life” opportunity to travel the country as full time “musicianaries,” telling the story of God’s grace in their lives that saved and transformed them individually as well as their marriage. They have two children who travel with them and they have two albums of “redemption music” that include songs of hope, joy and redemption in the midst of loss and suffering. For more information or inquiry visit their contact page to send them a message or book them for an event.