Within 24 hours, they agreed that Jake needed to go to rehab. Tuesday, the Harrisons were on a plane to Florida to a facility that would take Jake.
The plane ride was terrible. The two-hour drive to the center was terrible. They got lost. They fought. But by Wednesday, Jake was in rehab, awakening to the truth of God’s love—that through Christ, Jake and Rebecca had the rest they so desperately needed.
October 20, 2010 was the first day Jake went to an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, and the first day he admitted he’s an alcoholic.
Jake spent 37 days in rehab. At the end, the director of the program looked at the 10 recovering addicts and told them half would be back. To this day, Jake is one of two who never used again. “It’s all glory to God,” Jake says. “It’s nothing I’ve done.”
Rebecca joined Jake in Florida, and they began to rebuild their life together. They attended counseling together and separately, and Jake went to 90 meetings in 90 days. Rebecca began to deal with the pain Jake had caused her—something she’d set aside for a while, by God’s grace, to help care for Jake. She still wasn’t sure she was going to stay with him. Jake was still in touch with his mistress—a different addiction—and Jake thought he could handle it.
And at 34, he still hadn’t told anyone what his youth leader had done—not his addiction therapist, his friends in the program, or his wife. Though he had freedom from addiction for the first time in his life, this secret festered. It needed to be brought into the light, to become light, so that God could keep healing Jake’s wounds and taking on his burdens.
Even when Jake told his addiction therapist that he was bulimic and she asked point-blank if he was molested, Jake denied it. “I remember asking her why she’d ask that, and she said, ‘Well, you’re bulimic, a drug addict, an alcoholic, you had an affair, and you’ve confessed homosexual thoughts. So I figured you were molested,’” Jake shares. “Man, it was so ridiculous that I still couldn’t tell the truth.”
In late 2011, a news update about the Jerry Sandusky Penn State scandal came across the radio one day when Rebecca was driving with Jake in the car. The announcement elicited such a visceral reaction from Jake that Rebecca knew almost instantly. “It was an intuition thing,” Rebecca remembers. They rode in silence the rest of the way home. They went inside, sat on the couch, and Jake finally shared, “I was 11 or 12. It was a man at church.”
“That was all I could get out,” he remembers. “It was the first time I’d ever told anybody. It had been my secret for 20 years. It was terrifying. I thought she was going to leave me—but she just did what Rebecca does. She loved me.”
Slowly, the Lord knit Jake and Rebecca back together. Their faith grew. They abandoned bad habits. They confessed old hurts. They had their first child, a sweet, blue-eyed girl, on August 26, 2012. Jake and Rebecca finally believed that God was loving enough and gracious enough to overcome their pain.
But they were still in Florida where it felt safe. Bit by bit, they began flying back to Austin for long weekends here and there. They never told anyone—Jake was still fearful of what would happen if he had contact with his old way of life or his mistress. God’s faithfulness and protection continued, and soon, Rebecca and Jake were ready to come back to their beloved city.
They moved back to Austin on October 20, 2012—Jake’s two-year sobriety date—and began attending The Austin Stone Community Church regularly.
Within a month, Jake and Rebecca heard Andy Kampman talk about going overseas to serve others and share the gospel. Memories of Nicaragua flooded them both, and they remembered how much joy they’d felt. That morning, both felt God wanted them to go overseas. “We’d always had a heart for it,” Rebecca remembers, “but finally, it was the right time. So we thought, Why not now?”
As a next step, they joined a group at the Stone called a Goer Missional Community, or GMC, designed to train and prepare people to share the gospel overseas.
In that group, Jake and Rebecca found a community unlike any they’d ever experienced. At their first meeting, the GMC raised $2500 to help the Harrisons move into their community’s apartment complex. Their generosity and obedience to God was powerful to Rebecca and Jake. “I’d never seen Christians be that way,” Jake shares. “It was an instant family.”
Everything seemed to be working out. They were closer to God than they’d ever been, doted on their new baby girl, and their marriage grew stronger each day. They read the Bible and beamed. They knew now the joy of the psalmist who delights in God’s promise to lift his head up above his enemies and says, “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Psalm 16:11).
But on the first day they moved into GMC housing, their beloved dog died unexpectedly, curled up on their bed. Then, Rebecca figured out that her eldest sister was doing meth regularly, often putting Rebecca’s niece, Julie, in danger. Rebecca’s sister refused help, and Rebecca had to call Child Protective Services to intervene. Then, Julie, who was 15, got pregnant by a man 10 years her senior. “I had a lot of guilt about that,” Rebecca shares. “I took her to church. I tried to save her. I felt like I failed.”
Everyone argued about what to do with the baby, including the Harrisons. Rebecca wanted to adopt the child, but Jake was worried she was falling into her habit of trying to save everyone. “That was the second biggest blow to our marriage. We fought a lot. We didn’t let God guide us,” Rebecca shares. “It’s just been so much spiritual warfare ever since we said ‘yes’ to going overseas.” While they were fighting and figuring out how to care for Julie’s infant son, Rebecca’s three-year-old nephew Isaac died suddenly in Dallas. “To come home from that funeral and have to find parents for my niece’s baby…” she pauses. “It was just two hard losses in a row.”
With each loss, the Harrison’s GMC wept, suffered, and prayed alongside them. One couple sat outside their door all night and prayed for them. Others buried their dog when the Harrisons couldn’t muster the strength. The GMC reminded the Harrisons of the truths from the Bible that their suffering was not in vain, that the God of the universe loves Jake, He loves Rebecca, that He is truly working all things for the good of those who love Him.
“If any good came out of that,” Rebecca says, “it’s the sense of urgency we have now to see the Great Commission completed. It made me want to see the kingdom come faster.”
They decided to stay in the U.S. another year while they recovered from the losses and allow God to heal them. Since they were staying, they decided to lead a new GMC, and they scheduled their first trip to Central Asia to confirm their desire to go serve the people of that region.
Over the past year, God has taught them how to speak about their joy in Christ and to use their story to demonstrate God’s goodness and faithfulness, even in awful circumstances. It can be painful to keep reliving, but Jake shares, “If I have to make myself vulnerable so God can allow others to be free of their secrets, then great.”
Each of them sees how their story and the choices they’ve made has allowed them to love each other better, to love God more, and to bring the freedom of a relationship with Christ to nonbelievers.
“We want to share about the affair, that God is bigger than it. It’s only God who can overcome what happened to us, what I did to Rebecca,” Jake shares.
“It’s beautiful to stick by someone through the mess and be made more like Christ as a result,” adds Rebecca.
“I think that’s why I love Jesus so much—from where we started, from where I started, now we’ve got two kids, we’re moving to Central Asia,” Jake says. “We’re just normal people. And He’s using us.”
And truly, Jake and Rebecca believe, God has shown them over and over again how His timing, His wisdom, and His plans are the way to find rest for their souls.
Their second child arrived in 2015. Jake celebrated that he’s been sober five years on October 20, 2015. They plan to move to Central Asia some time in 2016.
The Harrisons know more suffering will come, even as they obey Christ’s commandment to go and make disciples of all nations. But now, they have Christ’s example to follow in their suffering—an example of entrusting all things completely to God, even to the point of death.
And in this, they find the rest that only Christ can give. It is the promise found in Matthew 11:28: “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”