God's Redemptive Power At Work in a Marriage
Posted by Laura Rendall | Published September 5, 2016
In 2003, Curt and Terri’s marriage was nearly finished. Although they were done with each other, God was not done with them. For many years they had both been alcoholics. Their marriage, while not ideal, had at least been a shared experience. Recently though, Terri had changed her ways, gotten involved in AA, and tried to reform her life. Curt, however, did not share her conviction and made no serious effort to change. His alcoholism became worse than ever. Terri was fed up with her marriage and, looking for answers, began attending Oakwood Road Church occasionally with her son, Curtis. At Curtis’ encouragement she became involved with a small midweek group that met at Steve and Judy Kemp’s house on Wednesday nights. “I knew that I needed to go to church and find out what God wanted of me. Curt and I were having a hard time. He was drinking a lot. Ultimatums and threats weren’t working to change him.”
One night, after many months of attending midweek, Terri experienced a moment that would come to define the next decade of her life. Curt had come home drunk again, and she decided to talk about it with Aaron Keller. “I got up and went over to Aaron at midweek and asked him the question, ‘When do you know that a marriage is over?’ He was real quiet a long time and then he just showed me a verse in 1 Peter, 1 Peter 3:1: ‘Wives, in the same way submit yourselves to your own husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives.’ It was then that I understood. I understood that I was supposed to be an example to Curt, and show him God by the way that I lived.”
Terri’s life began to change some more. Progress was slow, but she was committed to learning and growing. She began to pray for her husband around the principles of Scripture, and chose to trust wholeheartedly in 1 Peter 3:1. She remembers a morning when Curt came home, after having spent another drunken night in jail, when she said to him, “You’re lucky. God told me I had to stick by you because I’m your wife, and that’s what I’m going to do.” She began to study The First Principles books, first with Carol Beckett and then with Julie Berg. And she discovered a newfound sense of peace with the realization that if she chose to follow the Bible’s principles with her life, God would work out everything to be right in the end.
When Oakwood Road Church reorganized into the CityChurch of Ames/Des Moines, the midweek group Terri was part of became Northwest Ames Church. It was then that Steve Kemp started praying for and pursuing Curt. “I had the attitude that Terri was part of our church, and therefore Curt was part of our church whether he wanted to be or not!” says Steve. Curt couldn’t figure out why Steve kept calling him. “He would call and say, ‘I want to invite you for breakfast,’ and I would be thinking, ‘Why does this guy keep wanting to invite me for breakfast?’ But eventually I would give in, and when we were at Perkins he would ask me questions about if I believed in God, if I believed in Christ, and if I thought I was living the way Christ wanted me to. And I had to answer no to that. I kept thinking ‘Man, leave me alone!’ I tried ignoring his calls but then he would leave me messages! I was still into partying and drinking and didn’t want to have anything to do with a preachy-type person. But I liked hearing what he had to say. He really knew a lot.”
As Steve kept praying for Curt and pursuing him, Curt began noticing the changes in Terri’s life. “I saw that her life was getting better while mine was getting worse, and I wanted to know why.” He also noticed the success in his son Curtis’ life and became more and more curious about it.
Then, as Curt was spending yet another night in jail, something happened that would change his life. “I was passed out on a bench and all of the sudden I felt like somebody had kicked me. ‘What are you doing with your life?’ flashed through my head and I couldn’t stop thinking about that question. When I got home, Terri had changed her entire outlook on how she would react to my drinking. She just said ‘I can’t stop you or change you. You’re going to do what you’re going to do. You just need to decide which way you’re going to go with your life.’ So I thought that I would try doing things the way I knew I was supposed to. The way of life I had been living was a way that got old really fast. I knew there had to be something else out there. I’d learned about God from my mom growing up.” So Curt started coming to church with Terri, and they started going through “The First Principles” together, first as a study their whole church was doing and then just with Steve. It was the year 2012. It had been nine years since Terri made her initial decision to trust the principle found in 1 Peter 3:1 and had chosen to be an example of God’s ways to her husband.
“As I started going through “The First Principles,” says Curt, “it was cool to realize that the Bible really does contain answers to all the questions a person can ask about life.” And he found his life being opened from a small sphere containing just his wife and children, to a large new family, his church.
As Curt and Terri learned together, others in their church began to notice changes in their marriage and in the way they approached life. Kevin Berg says that in the past Terri was a very angry person. Angry towards God, towards life, and towards family. But not anymore. “Now we see that anger is all but gone. Now we can see the joy in her life and the desire for her kids to feel the same joy and peace.” In addition to Terri’s transformation, Kevin says he has seen Curt take on the role of head of household. He now has a huge desire to pass his faith on to his children and grandchildren. “Both Curt and Terri have much more order and structure in their lives now, and more purpose,” describes Kevin.
When asked to explain her new way of living, Terri points to her study of God’s principles as the transformative element. “Studying God’s principles taught me the way that He really wants us to be: what our roles are, how he wants us to relate to people.” She also says she has found a new peace through trusting in God to work everything out for the best. “I used to be frantic with worry about everything, but now I can live without worrying.”
As for Curt, he loves how studying God’s word and being part of a church has broadened his life to include so many more people. “Before, my whole realm of influence was just my wife and kids. I didn’t really think of anybody else.” He also appreciates how it has given his life more structure and direction. “Now I know how to make my life a more structured life. ‘First Principles’ taught me to treat everyone as a brother and sister and the importance of being established in my faith and actually applying things I learned to my life.”
Today, Curt and Terri have reached the point of starting to think about how they can use their abilities and resources to give back to the church. “One thing they already do,” says Steve, “is they are very open about their own experience and quick to encourage others from it when they see an opportunity.” Also, Curt is starting to take seriously the requirements for a deacon as a result of his study in “The First Principles” Series 3.
Curt and Terri themselves say they aren’t completely sure yet how all their abilities are supposed to fit in, but they are full of ideas of things they want to try. “I want to switch the roles,” says Terri. “Everyone has been a role model for us up to this point and now I want to be a role model for them.” “We want to be a resource to the church,” adds Curt. “We need to figure out what our priorities should be with our time and money. And we think about our kids a lot. We want to be role models to our kids and help them be able to see God’s ways too.” After going through “The First Principles” once himself, Curt has already been able to take what he learned, turn around, and teach it to one of his daughters.
Curt and Terri’s commitment to their new way of life can be summed up by a picture they have hanging in their house as a Session 6 project from the “Enjoying Your Relationship” and “Passing On Your Beliefs” booklets. It’s their wedding picture, and underneath it are the two verses that have been most influential to them. For Curt, it’s Ephesians 5:25, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” And for Terri it’s the 1 Peter passage that brought the beginning of change so many years ago. They hung their picture up with those verses both as a reminder to themselves and as a testimony to others of their commitment to each other and to following God’s way of life. As they look to the future, Curt and Terri are excited about continuing to learn new things from God’s Word and His Church. “Do a follow-up story on us in a year and see where we are then!” says Curt.
Posted In Life Development