A Marriage Union Resurrected from Ashes
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“Tatum was in the other room getting changed out of her wedding dress,” recalls Jason Bilbro, “and I said out loud, ‘I just made the biggest mistake of my life.’” By the look of their wedding photos Jason and Tatum Bilbro should have a picture-perfect marriage. He was a career Navy officer who grew up in a strong Christian family. Tatum, who was a new Christian, had recently gone through a painful divorce and thought she found the spiritual partner she’d longed for.
“I knew I wanted to marry a Christian,” says Tatum. “He knew all the right things to say and he knew all about the Bible, I was just head over heels in love with him very quickly.”
Jason wasn’t the spiritual man he projected. He had a secret life he wasn’t about to share with Tatum and right away he told her wanted out of the marriage. He says, “Being a preacher's kid, I knew all the stories and I could talk the talk. Um, and so I was really, I guess in some ways a wolf in sheep's clothing. I began to talk about divorce, like routinely, like, regularly. Like, it was, it was my answer. The constant thought in my head was, how do I end this so I can just go back to doing what I want? Really? Like in hindsight, like, I really lived in the darkness and I, and I didn't like the light that she represented."
Tatum wasn’t convinced divorce was the answer. She says, “I felt like the enemy had taken my first marriage, and so I didn't want him to take my second marriage. And so this faith rose up in me to fight. I'm gonna do everything I can. I'm gonna stand before the Lord and know I did what I could. And if I get divorced, then I'm divorced. But it's not because I didn't do my part. It's not 'cause I didn't try.'”
They eventually separated and Jason served Tatum divorce papers. During that time, Tatum found peace as she pressed into her relationship with Christ, still praying for a miracle. She says, "'Okay, God, but Your, Your word says that nothing's impossible with you. Like, you can do this.’ And I would, I would read the Bible and I’d say, ‘This is who You say You are.’ My prayer life really shifted from ‘God, will you save my marriage?’ to praying that Jason would, have, have what I had. I wanted him to have the freedom that I had, the peace that I had, the joy that I had. I knew that he was so tormented, and I really just wanted him to have peace. I would still have liked God to save my marriage, but it was not as important to me as him knowing Jesus, like I did.”
Jason lived in constant tension and internal conflict due to his secret addiction to online pornography. He recalls, “What I really, what I desired at the core of my being was connection. I wanted to be connected with Tatum, but I couldn't be connected with her because of my shame, because of what I was doing. Because to bring that into the light would be too painful. And so, the lie that I believed was that if I confessed, if I was vulnerable with her, that she, she could never love me, right? That's the, that's the lie of shame. Like, if you knew, if you really knew what was beneath here, what was going on in here, what I was doing behind closed doors, when you, when you weren't home, you couldn't love me, right? That's the, that's the lie. I didn't realize that. But that was the lie that I lived with, for, for the entirety of our marriage.”
Then one night he watched a YouTube video about pornography’s destructive effects on the human brain and intimacy. Jason stopped viewing porn and decided to tell Tatum his secret - even though he still wanted a divorce. He says, “What do you say to the person that you've made your worst enemy that you've, um, disparaged that you've, you know, tried to get away from for five years? And so I just blurted it out. I said, ‘I've been addicted to porn for 23 years.’”
Tatum remembers, “I'm going, oh, this fits, like, it felt like a puzzle piece that had been missing the whole time that I didn't know was missing. And I started, all the pieces started to come together for me.”
Jason believed the marriage was at its end. But then one night, alone in his apartment, he prayed. “And I say, ‘God, I don't know. You're out there, if You're listening,’ I said, ‘but if it's Your desire for me to learn to love my wife, then I want to learn to love her. Like you love her and see her like you see her.’ And I said, 'amen.' The next morning when I woke up, everything had changed, everything. I've never quite found the words to explain what it's like to be born again. It's kind of like waking up in someone else's body.”
For the next month he didn’t want to leave Tatum’s side, sleeping on her couch and eventually winning back her trust. He says, “And I cannot express to you in words how overjoyed I was just to go and like, like be in her presence.”
“He was like gushing,” says Tatum, “Like he was so in love with me. He just wanted to be near me. It was very foreign, um, but you couldn't deny that it was something was very different. Jason was actually being honest, like with himself and with God for like, the first time in his life. And that, that was actually something to build on.”
They burned their divorce papers and rebuilt their relationship with Christ as the foundation: Thankful for the miracle of a restored life and marriage. Jason says, “She fought for me when I was, at my worst, you know, at my most unredeemable. Through her, you know, through her faith, through her persistence, through her trust in God, she got to see the miracle that she believed that He was capable of.”
Tatum says, “I would do it all again because going through that, I wouldn't know Jesus the way that I know him had I not gone through the hard things. So it was absolutely worth it. I'm very thankful.”
Jason and Tatum share their story and minister to other couples with their ministry, Broken Bonds Ministry. To learn more, please visit: www.brokenbondsministry.com.
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