Part One: The Suffering of this Present Time
Jake turned the engine over again. Nothing.
Still covered in yesterday’s Austin City Limits Music Festival sweat and booze, he looked in the back of his car for an easy change of clothes. All his belongings were there, and as he turned back to the front, his eyes settled on the crumpled receipt from his 401K—he’d cashed it out two days ago and given it all to his wife.
And in the middle of the passenger seat sat the directions to his old youth leader’s house in Arkansas. He was going to drive there, murder that man, and then kill himself.
That was five years ago. Now, sitting at his kitchen table with his wife and daughter—preparing to move overseas to share the gospel—Jake and Rebecca can see God’s goodness working through each line of cocaine, each lie to cover his tracks, and each lifeline Rebecca threw him in her own attempts to be his savior.
Jake’s mother left when he was eight years old, dropping him at his father’s house for “the weekend.” Heartbroken, Jake began to attend a church in Huntsville, Alabama, where he first learned to love Jesus. At 11, he was baptized and joined the youth group at his church. “The youth leader took an interest in me,” Jake recalls. “I thought he was my friend, someone I could turn to.” Soon after, that leader decided to show Jake pornography. “It wasn’t the first time I’d seen porn, but to have an adult show it was a whole different situation.”
Jake reported him, and the leader was removed from his position, but remained at the church.
When Jake was 12, the youth leader again approached Jake, and this time the relationship became sexual. The shame swallowed Jake alive, and when added to the abandonment of his mother, Jake began to believe that it was all his fault. He fantasized about his own death throughout his teenage years and begged God to kill him. Because his first sexual experience was with a man, Jake thought he was gay and tried to “prove” himself in high school by sleeping around with multiple girls.
At 21, Jake had his first drink and found what he thought was the cure for his pain. When he drank, he could talk—never about the youth leader—but at least about the hurt from his mom. “I’d drink myself into oblivion and then cry myself into this place of ‘why does my mom hate me?’” he recalls.
When he met Rebecca, now his wife, he was 24, and she was 18. It took another 10 years for Jake to open up about the molestation. Rebecca remembers that she never thought Jake was an alcoholic: “I just thought he was really depressed about his past, because he only talked about it when he was drunk. I was glad he was talking—that it wasn’t just stuck in there.”
Rebecca and Jake dated on and off for a while. Though they had a couple breaks, they always came back to each other. “My heart was always with Rebecca,” Jake remembers.
In January 2007, Jake got his first DWI when he rolled his Jeep through the front of a house on Mary St. in Austin, Texas.
It seemed like a turning point. Jake spent hours in the drunk tank, not knowing if his buddy in the passenger seat had survived. He was mortified that he was capable of what he’d done. His friend did survive, and he called Rebecca to go pick up Jake the next morning.
The incident shook both of them out of their routine, and things started lining up.
Rebecca started going back to church. Jake resisted, but begrudgingly agreed. Later that year, Jake proposed—like a storybook, he slipped a ring on his sleeping beauty while she dozed on the couch one night. He loved every suspenseful moment between the time she woke up and the time she realized there was something new on her finger.
Rebecca also convinced him to come with her on a trip to Nicaragua to provide medical care for the people there. At the end of ten hard, sweat-filled days of serving others, Jake and Rebecca found a butterfly garden near Selva Negra and were married. They enlisted a pastor on their trip to perform the ceremony, and the team who had served with them threw everything together. One man grabbed his guitar, a group of women collected flowers for a bouquet, and another man—a professional photographer—readied his camera. By midday, the Harrisons were married, surrounded by new friends and the beauty of God’s creation.
It seemed like a turning point, but it wasn’t. The trappings of marriage and church attendance simply masked the deep brokenness lurking underneath.