SHARI: "My husband, Bobby, and I met at a pub on Greenville Avenue," said Shari Johns. "We fell in love instantly and were inseparable after that. We lived together for about six years and then got married.
"Our marriage spiraled downward following two miscarriages and a very scary ectopic pregnancy. I wondered if all that pain was punishment for a previous abortion and rebellion earlier in my life.
"After our first son arrived, I was contemplating divorce. Fortunately, a friend invited me to Watermark. I thought my son needed to be in church, so I agreed to go. What was said that Sunday stuck with me: when we're not living in accordance with God's plan for marriage, we're simply undivorced. I'd never thought about marriage that way, and I started praying that Bobby would join me at church."
BOBBY: "My parents divorced after my father revealed he struggled with homosexuality," said Bobby Johns. "My mom tried a different spirituality each week, from Baptist to Unitarian. I didn't find anyone who could answer my questions about faith in an intellectually honest way, so I ran from God.
"By the time I met Shari, I'd been married and divorced. I'd taken part in an abortion, so I guess I've broken all Ten Commandments. Passivity and lack of leadership seeped into my marriage with Shari. Though I'd always been a scoffer, I didn't make fun of Shari when she started coming to Watermark. Her life-threatening ectopic pregnancy made me see how little control I really had. Our marriage was dying, and the most logical conclusion seemed like divorce. I had to do something, so I decided to join my wife at church.
"What drove me to start asking questions about God was my family. Was I capable of being a good husband, father and man? On my first Sunday at Watermark, the speaker talked about marriage in ways I had never heard before. After a lot of searching, I realized that I needed something bigger than myself to become the husband and dad I needed to be.
"At the beginning, I didn't know the Gospel of John from 1 John. But I said a feeble prayer and asked God to show me what life with Him was like. I started reading the Bible, cover to cover. I stopped isolating myself and got involved with Equipped Disciple classes at Watermark. Eventually, I trusted Christ, and God changed my life."
SHARI: "When Bobby did a complete 180-degree turn, I was skeptical. I struggled because the changes were too fast for me. "God knew I had a hard heart. I felt like Bobby hadn't led well, and I had pure anger toward him. We tried self-help, couples therapy and anything else you could think of. At re|engage, Watermark's marriage ministry, I finally saw that there were no tips and tricks or a magic pill to fix our marriage. It was all about following Jesus. That was really an 'a-ha' moment for me. Slowly, my heart began to soften."
BOBBY: "My favorite book in the Bible became James because it was all about 'less talk and more walk' with Christ. I was raised to think it was not what I did but how things looked that mattered. As I read James, I began to see the value in authenticity with Shari and with others.
"God made a lot of changes, and we started relating differently to each other. Teamwork became part of our marriage. There was still conflict, but it didn't last as long or have the viciousness it once did. In Christ, we discovered a lot of hope and grace."
SHARI: "Now, Bobby and I are leaders in Watermark's marriage ministry. The last time we spoke at re|engage, we showed the couples a photo from our family Christmas card. Our two sons, Bobby and I are dressed as The Incredibles. We're all in costumes, and Bobby is in tights, so it got a big laugh. That photo really encompasses who we are as a family now. We are joyful, happy and silly, and we don't take ourselves too seriously.
"After all God has done for us, I can't scream this loud enough: there is living water in Christ! He is the answer. If the Lord can take this broken, hard-hearted redhead who was 'all about me' and turn her into the person I am today, He can help you."
BOBBY: "There's nobody more surprised than me about who I've become in Christ. Shari and I now serve couples who come to re|engage just like we did – hanging by a thread. I tell them that it took me 40-plus years to realize that God loves me more than anyone has loved me. God's love changed me, as well as my relationships with my wife, sons and those I work with. What He wanted was so much better than I ever could have planned."