Picture this: a church, a man and a woman. But don't picture them together in a tuxedo and a wedding dress just yet. In June of 2008 at The Potter's House Church in Virginia Beach, Virginia was when and where Emmanuel and Rubylee met each other for the first time, not knowing that this would also be the place where they would meet each other for the first time as Mr. and Mrs. Emmanuel Gardner. Before they fell in love with each other, they were both in love with Jesus. They had no idea of the future He had in store for them. The relationship skyrocketed as it launched off with Emmanuel's first phone call to Rubylee. One evening, Rubylee answered a phone call from an unknown number to hear a deep voice speak the words "Heyyy bebe!" Knowing it to be a prank call, she impatiently responded, "Who is this?" A few jokes and giggles later, she quickly learned it to be the voice of Emmanuel Gardner who was fellowshipping with some friends at a familiar residence. He invited her over at the request of the host and she lazily dressed herself and sped to meet them. That initial phone call was the beginning of a very intense and adventurous rollercoaster. After a while, the couple found themselves talking and texting the days away; more time was spent getting to know each other than getting to know God. Instead of having conversations with God, they would have conversations with each other. Instead of reading the Word of God, they would read the text messages from each other. Instead of focusing on what pleased God, they would focus on what pleased each other. Soon, unestablished boundaries were crossed and the twosome grew gruesome and desired to know each other just a little more. (Just in case you don't know what we mean: the passion they used to have for the things of God was increasingly outweighed by their passion for each other.) Not more than three (3) months after meeting, they were involved in sexual immorality. Though the couple was able to hide it from friends for a few months, this secret sin destroyed their lives little by little. Petty "serious talks" soon flamed to raging verbal warfare. They would constantly argue, in private, in public, in the middle of the night while in the middle of the streets, in workplaces, online, the list goes on and on. After eight (8) months of rebellion, crisis and disarray, what was done in darkness finally came out to light. Once the pastor learned of their chaotic mess, he guided them to stay away from each other for the next six (6) months with the aim of returning to their first love, Jesus. Unfortunately, the advice was not taken and the couple engaged in the same destructive acts. They did not pursue a right relationship with God but instead pursued a wrong relationship with each other. Emmanuel and Rubylee would cause hurt to one another, constantly breaking each other's hearts. They could not free themselves from committing these catastrophic violations. Once again, the secret was no longer and the couple was on the verge of being kicked out of the fellowship for their own good. Amazingly, God's hand of grace seemed to cover them. They were given an undeserved chance to remain in the church and instructed to separate from each other for an entire year. Completely ignorant to the outpouring of grace, they each allowed bitterness to settle in their hearts. Because of their hardened hearts, the separation was seemingly easier. This time, the effects of their sin caused them to outwardly and aggressively express their hatred for one another to a disgraceful degree. Their extreme disgust for one another removed every inkling of desire to be near each other. However, no matter how vile their hearts were, they were not too far for God to reach and touch them - and save them. Time passed, attitudes passed and healing began. The two learned to function in the same church without crossing paths or exchanging dirty looks. The two started to fall in love again - with Jesus. With the help ofGod, they went about their own agendas and started to mind Kingdom business as they should have in the very beginning. Each of them surrendered and re-dedicated their lives to serving the Lord Jesus Christ. They repented, turned completely away from the former mindsets, attitudes, actions and desires that nearly ruined their lives. God was now allowed to change them. And that He did. God was faithful to restore that which was lost (and still is!) Lost minds, lost souls and even lost time. As stated in 2 Corinthians 5:17, "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new." They each were born again, as if they had never sinned. God gracefully casted their sins as far as the east is from the west and chose to remember them no more. He gave Emmanuel and Rubylee LIFE. Carrying on as new people, no longer bound to lust, perversion, sexual immorality, bitterness, hatred, envy and more, the two re-discovered one another. With rightfully desiring to please God FIRST, they were able to build a great foundation in their new relationship for the future. The future which is the now. Godsaved their marriage before there even was one. And now there is one, the purpose of this wedding is to magnify the name of Jesus Christ. The moral of their story? Love God, love people.
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