Brooke Rathbun

In 2016, I was living a different life. Had you asked me then where I saw myself in five years, my plan would look nothing like the one the Lord was laying out for me. At the time, I let anxiety, fear, and anger rule my life. I was a self-proclaimed atheist, after being raised in church by God-fearing, devoted parents.

words + photographs BROOKE RATHBUN

Against the advice of many, I married not long after I graduated from high school. My happily-ever-after brought abuse into my life. He abused drugs and alcohol and allowed suicide to be an option, especially when something didn’t go as he planned. I believed my job as his wife was to save him from himself. Despite the never-ending challenges, I was determined to prove I would not have a broken marriage. I became a mother in 2014 and while I love my son, Will, beyond comprehension, I allowed myself to believe his existence would make my life whole. I began to live solely in my negative thoughts, succumbing to the idea my unhealthy marriage was tolerable. I had managed for the past five years without anyone’s help. Certainly not the Lord’s.

The Lord began to show Himself in ways I had previously ignored. My in-laws invited us to their church’s Christmas program. Reluctantly, we attended the event. However, after years of not being in church, when I walked into the sanctuary, it felt like home. I realized I was homesick.

The Lord has taken a broken, defeated life and beautifully written a story of redemption.

Within a week’s time, the Lord intervened in my marriage, allowing me a way out. I realized it wasn’t my place to save the man I married. I cried out to the Lord in desperation. With strength not my own, I left the only adult life I had ever known. Despite my reluctance, I knew the Lord had a grand plan for the lives of me and my son.

My parents welcomed me home with open arms. They had fervently prayed for me over the years, and their prodigal daughter had returned home. My first Sunday with them, we went to church as a family for the first time in several years. Immediately, I felt as if I had never left. To most, it was an ordinary Sunday morning routine, but for me, it was life changing and life saving.

Over the next two years, the Lord worked on my heart. He provided Christ-centered counselors, a supportive single moms’ group, and loving friendships. My son was able to grow up in church, just as I once had. Hearing his little voice shout, “Amen,” at the end of our prayers was evidence of the Lord’s work in our lives, as well as His faithfulness.

In 2018, I met my now-husband, Jesse. For me, it was love at first sight. For him, well, he needed a little more convincing. Following a year of friendship, we had our first date. From then on, I knew this was the man the Lord had for me. Our individual lives intertwined, as if the journey had been divinely planned.

Brooke and Jesse Rathbun on their wedding day. Fun fact: Brooke went to Jamaica on a mission trip in 2011, her senior year of high school. Jesse’s younger brother, Zach, was also part of that team. However, Brooke and Jesse didn’t meet until 2018. “We narrowly missed each other for years,” she says.

Jesse has fervently loved, not just me, but Will as well, just as Christ loved the church. He was and is the godly man I spent sleepless nights praying for. We have been able to grow in the Lord alongside one another and set an example for Will. Additionally, Jesse helped me realize my passion in life.

My husband has been a paraplegic for 14 years. While he is usually quite independent, there are times when I have the opportunity to show my love by caring for him. After numerous hospital stays due to infections and/or surgeries, I have been exposed to the world of healthcare. Through caring for Jesse, I discovered my desire to serve others. I am currently pursuing a degree in nursing and should graduate within the next year.

The Lord has taken a broken, defeated life and beautifully written a story of redemption.

Leaving is hard.
Starting over is hard.
Waiting is hard.
And nursing school is … well, you get the idea. 

But the Lord is faithful through and in all things — of that, I am certain.

I am thankful the Lord fought for me, even when I wanted nothing to do with Him. It’s one thing to hear He always loves us, and it’s another to experience His never-ending pursuit of our hearts. Despite our decisions, He continues calling out to us and extending grace. Amazing grace. Oh, how sweet the sound. BR

Brooke Rathbun lives in Springfield, Missouri, with her husband, Jesse, son and their two puppy dogs. When she isn’t studying, you’ll find her in the kitchen baking a sweet treat or preparing a home cooked meal. She loves her ordinary, yet extraordinary, life.

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