Sandi: When I met Rusty, I was an alcoholic, I abused pills and I had just gotten out of a bad relationship. I was always looking for attention and had a history of being abused by men.
Rusty: Growing up, I believed women were objects and only necessary for self-pleasure. So when I met Sandi in a bar, I ended up pursuing her, regardless of the other relationship I was in at the time.
Sandi: I was only somewhat interested in Rusty, and I was dating a few other people at the time, too.
Rusty: After a couple months, Sandi agreed to move in with me.
At the time, Sandi was just another girl at the bar, and that’s how I treated her.
Sandi: We lived together for the next year and a half and eventually my cousin moved in with us too. I had always been close to my cousin growing up and knew she had been an atheist. However, she had found a church and became a Christian before she moved in with us.
I always noticed how happy my cousin was, she was so different than the cousin I grew up with.
She talked us into attending Sandals Church with her, even though I had a fear of people judging us.
Trying to Do the Right Thing
Rusty: We both started to get more involved in the church and even got baptized, but soon after, we both started to party again.
Sandi: I was feeling so guilty that we had been living together and attending church at the same time. I felt like God was asking me to stop having sex with Rusty and move out so we could make things right and get married.
Rusty: I didn't want to be the person that got in the way of Sandi and her relationship with God. When I ended up proposing to her, we had been abstaining from sex for a little bit, but that only lasted so long. Soon enough we found out that we were pregnant.
So we set up a tent in my parents’ backyard and threw together a small wedding. It wasn't the wedding we wanted, but it was a step in the right direction to doing things God's way.
I was just a boy who didn’t know how to be a man, a husband or a father.
A New Challenge
Sandi: A few months later, our daughter, Abigail, was born. I felt like I was in a fog and I felt like I had no idea what I was doing. I grew deep into a depression and I lost sight of who I was.
Rusty: I instantly felt love with our little girl and I was so excited to be a dad. Sandi didn’t want to see her and Abigail became my job, 100%, for at least the first 8 months.
I realized soon what I did not know as much as I previously thought; especially once I was thrown into a world where I was responsible for everything.
Sandi: Our marriage was hanging on by a thread, and just when I thought things couldn't get any worse, I found some emails on Rusty's phone. As someone who has always struggled with trust issues, looking through Rusty’s phone wasn’t anything new for me. But this time I discovered that Rusty had been sending photos of me to a complete stranger on Craigslist.
I felt used and I felt dirty.
Without hesitation, I immediately confronted Rusty in a whirlwind of hurt and anger, my words barely able to leave my mouth.
Rusty: I knew about Sandi's past abuse with other men, but I did what I did, regardless. Seeing my wife in that state made me realize that I couldn’t live life the way I had been any longer. The old me would have lied my way out of the situation, but God held my tongue and had me own up to my wrongdoing.
For the first time in my relationship with Sandi, I actually knew what God wanted me to do.
We started marriage counseling at Sandals Church two days later.
Hope for Healing
Sandi: Through our counseling and processing my past abuse I feel like we’re in a completely different place now. I feel like there is constant movement in our lives. If we weren’t at Sandals Church, we probably wouldn't be married or know God and we wouldn't be healthy individuals.
Rusty: To this day, I still struggle with being a man of God. The difference now is that I actually desire to be that man of God.
I can see now that the mistakes in my life can help someone else. I can also see how allowing myself to be open about the things I've gone through - even the ugly things - can be used by God for good.