Marriage Interview: John and Missi Wilson
John and Missi Wilson have been attending Redeemer Church since the very beginning. Through (almost) 17 years of marriage they have learned a lot about forgiveness, repentance, and the hope that comes from the gospel.
I recently asked John and Missi Wilson some questions about love and marriage. Below are my questions and their answers.
Ryan Welsh (RW): Tell me about when you met, where you met, when you started dating, when you got married, etc.
John and Missi Wilson (J&M): We met our senior year of high school, where we attended rival high schools outside of Portland and were introduced through mutual friends in Young Life. We were two Christian kids in love, but like many teenage couples, we succumbed to temptations as we pushed Christ from the center of our young relationship. And one month before starting college, we found out Missi was pregnant. Although we were overwhelmed and confused, God showed His grace in treasured, clear ways during this challenging time. After much prayer and deliberation, we decided to get married. In the span of five short weeks we were engaged, married, and had become 19-year-old parents to a healthy baby, our son Drew.
RW: What has been a major hurdle you’ve experienced in your marriage?
J&M: The first five years of our relationship were very hard, and the challenges we faced in those first years have had a lingering impact. Despite the fact that neither of us were prepared for the sudden transition from teenager to adult, we both entered into marriage full of unspoken expectations, which brought our sinful natures to the forefront. John’s love was conditional, and he withheld it from Missi as a weapon. Missi, in pursuit of feeling “wanted” and craving her perception of love, sought cheap comfort outside of the marriage, and handled most arguments within marriage with explosive anger. And in that, John’s pride grew stronger and manifested itself in a judgmental attitude. We separated for a few months, and at times, both felt a sense of complete hopelessness.
RW: How did the gospel inform and direct you through this time?
J&M: Grace, Hope, Forgiveness, Endurance. A few traits the Bible attributes to the Lord. And we can confidently say that we would not be married today without Jesus pursuing us with these traits—among countless others—and imparting them to us, so that we might extend them to one another. Sitting in despair and sin and the mess we had created, the Lord was still pursuing us. Just like the great rescue plan He has for redeeming His people to Himself, He was relentlessly pursuing our individual hearts to redeem our marriage. And He supplied the trust and hope to believe He could, the grace to begin forgiving one another, and the endurance to keep fighting for reconciliation. It really was Him from start to finish. The only thing we brought to the table was our wreckage.
Practically speaking, we received unwavering support from our family, church, small group, counselor, and friends, who prayed, listened, challenged and loved us well through that difficult time. We made necessary changes in our lives and started the process of becoming friends again.
RW: How do disagreements and fights look different today then they did 10-15 years ago?
J&M: Oh we actually don’t fight anymore! *KIDDING!* To be honest, we have had some extremely hard talks/arguments in the process of answering these questions. Marriage is so difficult sometimes, amen!? But there’s a unity that wasn’t present in the beginning of our marriage. A trust that at the end of the day, we are actually for one another and not against each other. As the time passed, God seemed to soften our hard hearts more quickly (usually at least) than in the earlier days or our marriage. When there is strife in our relationship, we also want to be unified because we miss our best friend—something that wasn’t often the case in the early years.
RW: How has your understanding of “love” changed over the years?
J&M: Meeting at 17 and getting married at 19, our understanding of love was more of a feeling or emotion. It was butterflies and passion and sappy love songs. We have seen how hard love actually is. We’ve seen how much love is an action, not a feeling. But more than that, the Lord is using this marriage relationship to continually teach us that Love is a Person (1 John 4:8). And when we’re prone to revert back into our selfish, prideful, resentful ways, it’s not a feeling or an emotion that draws us back to love, It’s not even an action that draws us back to love, It’s Love Himself that draws us back to Love!