Jeff and Michelle
Somewhere out in the Darkness on the Edge of Town

It’s been nearly 40 years since my 19th birthday. Over the last few weeks as my beautiful wife began to share her story and her part in what has become our story, I thought a lot about that kid and all the hope and dreams he had back in the late seventies. I reflect now how much of that journey was in many ways a Springsteen song, some literally and some in its essence of wanting and sorrow. His wordless introductions to songs like “Backstreets,” says more about heartbreak and longing than other artists do with their words.

Today, I am very much still that child of hope and dreams, but the journey has left scars that still cut deep and will never be right until Jesus welcomes us home. My friend Mike D. shared recently, “I was scanning through some (Alan) Hirsch/(Michael) Frost articles this afternoon and the word that jumped off the page at me was ‘exile,’ something that I have felt for a longtime.” Mike went on to say that he was glad we are fellow travelers in this God journey and I concurred.

As we have walked through the 10 years at Clean Socks Hope and beyond, Shelly and I have felt the exile that Mike refers to and certainly the isolation that lives in Springsteen’s music. My loneliness became hers and hers mine and that is so many times why God is amid these broken things. She and I both believe that ours is a love affair of a lifetime, but as close as we are we had never told our story in front of each other. We were always like, “Hey, we lived it and forgave—what else do we need to say?”

But in the ride to her “Journey of Life,” and the attacks from Satan and others, it left us struggling, desperate and doubting. She and I rarely get into fights, but as the weeks tumbled toward her testimony we had a bad one. That, along with a nagging flu we were like a boxer on the ropes just trying to protect oneself from a final knockout punch. A punch so devastating that you lose all you had worked so hard to attain. On the ropes and in absolute despair, we covered up in the corner waiting to be knocked down and carried out.

Then a funny thing happened, as she shared her side of our story this great cloud of hope began to rise and there in the darkness a light appeared and it became brighter just like it did when we first met. She, this beautiful young woman whose hope became my hope and this guy who had already lived a life, though lost and desperate for years, who took it out on her. She was fierce and she dug in and I know now that God knew what he was doing and exactly what I needed; his grace and her. It had been years since I felt a release of such magnitude.

And, more amazingly (and so God) her story resonated deeply with those of us in the room. As she and I sobbed throughout our journey as it happened, we revisited many of those tears again, but as in a redemption story and not in tears of sorrow. For me it was a release and for her—well, that’ll be one for her to write.

What was so evident in her story, as in mine and frankly ours, was—is we are so broken and ill equipped to do this work. And honestly, longing to belong that leads to heartbreak is all we ever achieve as mere mortals. But God, being God sanctified it in us as his precious son hung on the cross in our behalf. Over the last few weeks she and I have been attacked by friends and foe and the one true constant and comfort has been Jesus.