Shawn Martinez took a glass from the cabinet and set it on his kitchen counter. He grabbed a bottle of liquor, twisted off the cap and filled the glass. He picked up his headphones, put them on and turned the music up. It was 2:00 AM, and he walked out the door of his apartment. He wandered around the complex, carrying the weight of his mistakes. He couldn’t tell his fiancée Amber the truth. I’m taking this to my grave, he thought.
Shawn kept walking, and drinking, contemplating the choice ahead of him. I can go one way, or the other, he thought. He peered down the destructive route, the path toward more lies, more deceit, and he knew it was the easy way out. It was the path he longed to take.
Blinking away fiery tears, he deliberated the other path. For the first time, he considered telling Amber the truth. He knew it was what God wanted of him, but he also knew it was the harder road. I’d have to change a lot of things about myself, Shawn thought. He wondered what it would be like to lay his burden down. He doubted he could do it – he didn’t have the strength.
For as long as he could remember, Shawn chased the attention of women. He also sought approval through money and possessions, going so far as to steal from others. He pursued happiness and fulfillment in one night stands. He lived for the moment, seeking contentment in money and sex, while displaying another life to his family and friends. For years, Shawn kept his two worlds apart.
Shawn met Amber at a gym where they both worked, and they were immediately drawn to each other. They started dating, and Shawn fell in love with Amber – but he continued his other pursuits in secret. The weight of his two worlds grew heavier.
After meeting Amber, God brought another person into Shawn’s life, Ronnie Smith. Ronnie came in to the gym looking for a personal trainer and, from looking at him, Shawn knew it would be a hard sell. But Ronnie surprised him by signing up for a three month plan.
They started the workout plan and spent time together each week. After just a few sessions, Ronnie started asking about church. They discovered a shared background, growing up in the same denomination. They talked about God. Shawn knew about Jesus, but didn’t trust him. He asked Ronnie questions, and Ronnie preached the gospel during the workouts. One day Ronnie told him, “You give me a good sweat, and I’ll teach you about Jesus.”
As the three months drew to a close, Ronnie pressed on Shawn’s life more and more. The hard questions sometimes rubbed Shawn the wrong way, but he could not stay away. After Ronnie completed the plan they stayed in touch, and Shawn and Amber began attending The Austin Stone Community Church. Amber was a Christian, and she was happy to have a church they could go to together.
After almost three years of dating, Shawn and Amber got engaged. They signed up for the Nearly & Newlywed class at the Stone. They met other people and began to form friendships. God was drawing them closer to himself, but Shawn was still living his double life, seeking approval and happiness in other women. He could see his two worlds bearing down on each other.
That’s when Shawn found himself walking around his apartment complex late one night, caught between what he knew was right and what he wanted. He thought about the sex and the greed. He thought about his bride-to-be. He thought about the paths that he could take. He had to choose.
After that night, God continued to pull Shawn into his arms. Shawn started fighting his sin. Shawn confessed his sins to God, but not to Amber. They joined a missional community, and Shawn began meeting with two of the guys in a weekly Life Transformation Group. In June of 2011, Shawn and Amber were married.
His struggle continued and the weight of his two worlds increased in the first few months of their new marriage. One day at lunch with one of his LTG guys, Shawn’s strength failed, and his two worlds finally crashed into each other. “I confessed these things to God,” Shawn began. “Do I really need to ask forgiveness from my wife?”
His friend did not hesitate. “You need to talk to your wife.”
After this Shawn was on a date with Amber and he could not fight the conviction of the Spirit anymore. “All the way up until the moment that the words crossed my lips, I was fighting it with all my being,” Shawn says. Shawn started tentatively, asking Amber, if there were things in his past he hadn’t told her about, would she want to know?
Amber remembers thinking, God calls us to be completely transparent with each other, so as much as it is going to hurt, I want to know. She told him that, and they left the restaurant. “Even on the drive after, I was like, ‘No, this is not going to happen. I can’t do it,’” Shawn says. When they got home, Shawn finally yielded. “I fought it, and then I just gave up and let it out.” He told his wife about his past, about his infidelity. In this act of confession to his Lord and his wife, Shawn knew he was reborn. For the first time, his burden started to lessen.
But, it was a soul-wrenching moment. As he confessed, Shawn remembers being scared, but knowing God was there with him. “It was the most humiliating experience I’ve ever had,” Shawn recalls. “It was an experience beyond myself, it was beyond me that the words came out of my mouth.” He was terrified of what would happen next.
Amber’s reaction was not what he expected. “I remember hugging him, because he was crying hard,” she says. “I feel like God gave me the strength to get through it. Christ gave me the backbone and strength to listen to him.”
For the next several days, they continued to talk about his confession, and Shawn recounted his past further. It was hard, but not without hope. “All I wanted was for him to be guilt-free, and completely free of everything,” says Amber. “When he confessed that, as much as I was sad and hurt, I remember feeling joy too. Finally, he was allow- ing himself to be vulnerable to Christ.” After several days of conversation, it was all on the table and the healing could begin.
The next year was not easy. Shawn and Amber immediately brought a mature couple into their struggle. Shawn opened up further to the men in his LTG and they responded with encouragement. During that year Shawn struggled with his sin, seeing victory and failure both. He started to understand the weight of his sin. But he also started to truly understand the grace of God.
It was grace that defeated his shame, and removed the weight of sin from Shawn’s shoulders. It is grace that’s restoring Shawn and Amber’s marriage to something greater than it ever was. “I see that he loves Jesus,” Amber says. “I’m grateful for everything God has brought us through.”