Jason: Mandy and I met at a fall retreat in high school.
Mandy: And at the time, we were complete opposites. Jason was a grungy band guy and I was a blonde cheerleader who was into everything school spirit. And the only thing we had in common was Jesus.
Jason: Shortly after we started dating, my college career was cut short when I tried out for a TV show called American Idol. And it went better than I could’ve ever imagine. I ended up being the third runner-up on the seventh season.
And it kind of shot me into a music career that I had always dreamed of. As I pursued this career and this dream, things looked really well from the outside and things were going great professionally. But I really struggled to connect with God during this time. I was constantly traveling on the road and without any real community.
In that time, I started heavily leaning on pornography to deal with my stress and depression. And the further I went, the longer I went in pornography and in isolation, it ultimately led me to an inappropriate relationship that would put Mandy and I’s relationship in jeopardy.
Mandy: I was just extremely hurt and in shock that the person I knew and loved could do this. And we decided to take several months apart. And after those months, I really saw that Jason had a truly repentant heart. And I made the decision that I was going to try and forgive him.
Jason: Over the next few years, Mandy and I made huge strides in the trust department. I did whatever I could to show her that my true desire was to love God, and to love her, and leave my reckless behavior behind. So as we were doing that, we ended up getting engaged on Halloween. And then we were married two months later on January 2, 2010.
And I really thought marriage would mark an end to all my troubles, but instead what it did was place a spotlight on my faults. My pornography habit didn’t disappear overnight as I had hoped. About nine months into our relationship, we decided to go to a recovery ministry at our church on the suggestion of a friend.
Around the same time, we joined a small group at our church. And these two things started to have a big impact on me. I had always told Mandy half-truths about my past and about my struggles. I came to a point where I believed the right thing to do is to be open and to confess.
Mandy: I decided I wanted out of my marriage. And I started looking at divorce attorneys in Dallas. And ultimately, my love for Jason was completely conditional and not at all a picture of the unwavering love of Christ.
Jason: And so whenever we shared with our new small group where we were at and what was going on, we didn’t really know what to expect. But we were really embraced with open arms. And we didn’t feel any judgment or condemnation.
But our mentor couple actually opened up to us in light of our circumstance and shared a bit of their story. And we were shocked to find out that they had a very similar past to ours. And it was especially surprising just because they had three kids, a great marriage, they were on staff at our church and were just great leaders. And if God can do this for them where they were, then maybe He can do it for us.
Mandy: After hearing our mentor couple’s story, I really had a change of heart. God gave me a new conviction to stay in my marriage and a resolve to love my husband through this struggle and to forgive him. I often felt justified in my anger, and my unforgiveness, and bitterness and didn’t see those for what they truly were. Luckily God, in His grace, opened my eyes to my own sin and my own need for forgiveness.
Jason: Another thing that we did along this journey that really helped was getting involved in our church’s marriage ministry. It’s called re|engage. It laid the groundwork and gave us a structure to really just build up our marriage again on the truths of God and what he says.
I continued to struggle and my pornography addiction didn’t stop overnight. But as I learned to be open and honest with my wife, and our small group, and even myself, my life and marriage began to change. Through confession, God taught me humility. I had to acknowledge that I couldn’t overcome my sin on my own. I couldn’t even love my wife well without God’s direct and daily help.
Mandy: Today, I’m no longer a prisoner of pain, or anger, or the past. I’m free to forgive because God’s forgiven me. Forgiveness isn’t a one-time thing you say or you do, it’s a way of life. Identity is in Christ alone, not in my husband, not in our marriage, not in how good and bad we’re doing, but that God alone is the only one who can satisfy me.
Jason: 2 Corinthians 5:17 says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”
Mandy: Jason and I are in a better place than we ever thought possible. I trust him and he loves me well. God took our mess and made it into something beautiful.