John Fuller: How would you react to an unexpected, unwanted message like this from your spouse?
Tiffany Lee: It was, “I’ve actually thought about separating from you.” And I texted him back and I said, “This is the worst joke you could ever play on me. We don’t even joke like that. Are you being serious right now?” And he said, “I’m being completely serious. I don’t want to spend the next 20 years of my life like this. Or the next 40 years or the next whatever. I have thought about it for a while and it’s just … I’m not really sure what to do.”
End of Excerpt
John: Hmmm… That’s Tiffany Lee, a Christian singer/songwriter, describing the heartbreaking revelation from her husband, Jeremy, who was prepared to walk away from their marriage. This is Focus on the Family with your host, Focus president and author, Jim Daly and I’m John Fuller.
Jim Daly: John, we need to share up front that there is good news at the end of this story, because a lot of people are probably wondering what’s gonna happen next? Well, hang on and we’ll get to that very soon.
Last time, Tiffany and Jeremy described their love story, which was wonderful to hear. And obviously a blessed time in their relationship. How they met, and then some of the early challenges they faced in their marriage, which I’m sure many couples are identifying with. They had problems we can all relate to–getting busy with careers and raising kids and not having enough time for each other. Maybe that’s part of your story. Communication tends to break down in that circumstance, and there’s more conflict and a lot less intimacy, emotional, physical, whatever. And before you know it, all the feelings of love that you had simply disappear. And this is so common. And it’s one of the top reasons why couples contact us here at Focus on the Family – because they’re really struggling in their relationship. And if that describes you, don’t feel shame. I want you to reach out to us for help. We have caring Christian counselors who can assist you. This is not abnormal. And we have resources like Hope Restored, our intensive marriage counseling for couples who are already right there at the brink of quitting. Or in some cases, they’ve already decided to quit and signed the papers, just like Jeremy was. But you don’t have to become another divorce statistic. In fact, your marriage reflects God’s heart, and we need to take it seriously.
Get the help you need for your marriage by contacting Focus on the Family today.
John: And our number is 800, the letter A, and the word FAMILY. Or online we’re at focusonthefamily.com/broadcast.
And when you get in touch, ask about Tiffany’s book, Need You Now, along with an audio copy of this two-day conversation. We’ll include last time’s discussion, as well.
Jim: So, we’re gonna pick up the story at the point where after several years of struggling Jeremy decided he wanted out of the marriage altogether, and he sent that text we just heard to Tiffany. And that would’ve been a shattering experience for any one of us. And let’s just keep in mind they had three young children at the time, too. And they were both experiencing great pain and confusion in their faith and in their relationship. But God had something better for them in the very near future.
John: And that’s where we’re going to pick up the story, and the conversation with Jeremy and Tiffany Lee on Focus on the Family.
Jim: What were the elements that began to give you hope? You’re gone, Jeremy. You’ve checked out. You’ve said, “I’m leavin’, honey. I’m separating. I don’t feel anything anymore.”
Tiffany: So, two days after Christmas is when … we made it through Christmas for the sake of the kids and it was two days after Christmas and he moved out.
Jeremy Lee: And it became official. And when we did, it was one of those things that I look back now… because immediately there were a group of 40 of our friends around us that just grabbed us and were like, this isn’t happening.
Jim: And they were for you as a couple, not you individually.
Jeremy: None of them were for just for Jeremy or just for Tiffany. They didn’t want to see me succeeded…succeed.
Jim: That’s awesome.
Jeremy: They wanted to see us succeed.
Tiffany: Well, let me just say, there were a couple of friendships that did sort of take a side and we had to quickly prune them out.
Tiffany: And there was definitely conflict there, of, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa. Why … why aren’t you talking to me anymore? And it was like, well, because you know, you’ve said, this, this and this. And at one point that was my own … my own parents. They were so devastated by this breaking. They were so angry at Jeremy that they, without meaning to, I think—
Tiffany: –just loved their daughter and were taking my side and saying, “You know, well, he did this and you should,” da, da, da, da, da, stuff. So, I had to disconnect from my own family for a while.
Jim: That takes a lot of courage–
Tiffany: It was really scary.
Jim: –especially when they’re the ones in your corner. So often we as human beings—
Jim: –would say yes, stay in my corner and keep talkin’ to me like that.
Jeremy: I think that we … one of the good things is, we went to a Christian counselor and she … the … one of the first things she said is, that if anyone’s in your corner, then they don’t need to be the ones you’re talking to. You need no one in your corner. You need … everyone needs to be in y’all’s corner, that—
Jim: Both of you.
Jeremy: –are for you.
Jim: That’s good.
Jeremy: And if they’re not supporting both of you, then don’t have conversation with them. You can come back to that relationship later after your relationship’s mended, but anyone that is just an advocate for you, is really not an advocate for you, because they need to be advocating for your marriage.
Jim: How did you begin emotionally to say, okay, it’s worth it? What began to happen? How did God work in both of your hearts?
Jeremy: I had a really good friend that told me… That came out on Tuesday and we just were separated on the 27th and he said, “Okay, that’s great. Now you’re comin’ to church with me on Sunday.” Well, I had been in the same church for 16 years. (Emotional)
Jim: Mmm… Why was it different that time?
Jeremy: Because he was a really good friend.
Tiffany: He … the morning after we separated, he’s the first person I called and he threw up on the phone.
Jim: That’s how it impacted him.
Tiffany: Like I said, “Jeremy has left me” and I gave him a few more details and I heard a horrible sound and his wife grabbed the phone and she said, “Tiff, what’s wrong?” And she thought that I had just told her husband, who is now my tour manager, she thought that I had told him that Jeremy had been killed, ‘cause she saw that it was me calling and it was very early in the morning and Ricky has now dropped the phone and thrown up.
Tiffany: And I said to her what I had said to him and I said, “What is that sound?” And she said, “Ricky’s throwing up and you have friends that love you (Emotion) so much that they get sick, like physically sick at the thought of you walking away from what God has for you.” Those are good friends.
Tiffany: And Ricky was not in his corner. He stayed in our corner and … and I’m only talking because he’s crying harder than I am! (Laughing)
Jim: No, that’s beautiful. I mean, this is the tender spot.
Tiffany: Yeah. And that’s who invited him to church and said, “You’re going to church with me and if I have to carry you on my back in your pajamas, you’re going.”
Jim: He didn’t give up.
Tiffany: –he did not give up.
Jim: You needed that, didn’t you? You needed somebody to say, “Keep going.” What did that look like going to church with Ricky?
Jeremy: It was very different.
Jim: Did you feel vulnerable? Did you feel ugly? Did you feel … what did you feel?
Jeremy: Well, I guess the thing is he called me on Saturday and said, “You’re coming with me tomorrow” and I was like, “Yeah, I don’t know, Ricky.” Well, then he called me the next morning and woke me up and said, “Come on. Get up to meet me. We’re gonna go to breakfast and then we’re gonna go.” And he just loved on me, you know. And I just went to church and he just, you know…
It was very… I was turned off by church at the time. I didn’t want to be there. But you know, the pastor stood up and the very first thing he said out of his mouth was, “If you’re new here today, we want you to know that it’s okay to not be okay.”
Jim: Huh, huh. Spoke right to your heart.
Jeremy: Right to me. And, uh, I think for the next three months, it felt like he was speaking directly to me every single service.
Jim: What was … what was coming about in your heart? I mean, what was changing? You felt justified. You felt ignored. You felt mistreated, whatever you felt.
Jeremy: Well, I think everyone feels justified. You justify your situation.
Jim: Don’t you?
Jeremy: No matter where you’re at, you justify your situation. And so, I think at the time, I just began to fall back in love with God and just began to, you know, want to be at church and want to hear what was gonna be said. And that happened for a while, a few weeks. And then I invited Tiffany to come with me.
Jeremy: Because he had a message that I was like, man, she needs to hear this, you know.
Tiffany: It was about six weeks later.
Jim: How were … Tiffany, how are you feeling? I mean, I hear where Jeremy was at and God’s working on him and what an incredible place to go. Not to Tiffany, but to the Lord and say, “Okay, Lord, where’s the log in my eye?” I’m sure that was some of it.
Jim: But how are you feeling in your heart? Were you feeling abandoned?
Tiffany: Um… I was devastated and I was expecting… because something like him leaving me was so black and white wrong to me that I wanted God to get ahold of him immediately. And I was like, “God, intervene right now.” And I was … I became an orchestrator and a manipulator. And I started calling all of his friends and saying, “Can you take him to lunch and tell him what an idiot he’s being?” And then, “Hey, can you go out and, you know, play basketball with him and then just slip it in, in the, you know, the middle of shooting baskets, that his wife’s fantastic and he would be stupid to leave.” You know, just I was so desperate and I was–
Jim: You’re being the daughter of Eve.
Tiffany: –yeah, I was physically depleted. I, without intention, I’m only 5’2” and I dropped about 25 pounds really quickly. I was really frail. Not eating very much. I would put the kids to bed. I would pray and I would act as if everything was okay.
And I remember coming into the kitchen one night to get something really quick and I heard Dennis Rainey talking.
Tiffany: (Emotional) And I listened. (Voice cracking) And I realized … I realized God needed to fix me. And the only thing I could control was me. And I realized that, although Jeremy has left and Jeremy has made some bad choices, I’ve been really hard to live with. And I haven’t been who You created me to be. So, fix me. Start there. Just start there. And so, um, that night I felt like I just recommitted my life to God that night and–
Jim: In a whole way.
Tiffany: –in a … in a whole new way. And I didn’t know if Jeremy would come back, but I was like I can’t keep trying to manipulate that and orchestrate that and fix him. I need to fix me. I need to be the woman and the mother for these three babies, no matter what, with or without Jeremy Lee. I need to work on her.
Jim: So, how long were you separated and then God brought you back together?
Jeremy: Well that … it’s exactly six months, but the process began after about two months. We had this pizza place that we liked to go to and on this Sunday night I told Tiffany to meet me there and bring the kids. It’s like, “Just let’s meet for dinner. I want to see the kids.” And you know, that was one of those times that I think was when the transition started to happen. We sat down and I ordered. They weren’t there yet. Tiffany was running late (Laughter), as usual. And—
Jim: Some things not even God can change.
Tiffany: That is true. That is true. (Laughter)
Jim: I’m just kidding. (Laughter) I’m just kidding!
Jeremy: –I’m praying He’ll still change that (lighthearted). But anyway, so we’re there and I ordered drinks for everyone and I ordered Tiffany a root beer because she loved root beer. And she comes and sits down and she’s like, why did you order me a root beer? I said, “Well, I knew that’s what you’d want.” And the thought in her mind was like, “You don’t know me anymore, like we’re separated. It’s not your place.” So, she says to the waiter, she goes, “Excuse me; I’d like a diet Dr. Pepper.”
Tiffany: I’ve never ordered diet Dr. Pepper in my life.
Jeremy: And I …
Jim: Is this your response mechanism?
Jeremy: In her life—
Jim: It’s your protection.
Jeremy: –since I’ve known her, she’s never ordered a diet Dr. Pepper. (Laughter) And I look at her and I’m like, “That’s …
Tiffany: But I’m not looking in his eyes this whole time. I’m just avoiding lookin’ at him. I’ve now let him go and I’m being tough girl and I don’t want you to know me.
Jeremy: And so, at that point she looks over at me and I said, “You’ve never ordered a diet Dr. Pepper before.” And she just looks and she (Emotional) …
Tiffany: I caught his eye on accident ‘cause I was kind of avoiding looking at him and I blurted out, “It’s you. It’s you.” And his face just filled with tears. And for anyone out there that has been through anything like this, when you [are] in a broken relationship, he had become a stranger and this is someone that knew everything about me, and that I knew everything about him. And when he left, he just kind of… he started a new life. Like, he just um…
Tiffany: … he’d already started branching off and was gonna have a new life and just be someone different. And when I would look at him, I wouldn’t know him and for some reason, that was scary to me. It was lonely to me.
And I just blurted out, “It’s you.” And he managed to finally, after the tears were streaming down his face, he managed to say, “It’s me. And I’ve been in a dark place. And I sent you an e-mail, ‘cause …” he said, “So, can you just read that e-mail when you get home and let’s just enjoy our pizza.”
And I ate my pizza and I drank my diet Dr. Pepper (Laughter) and I got through the meal, but I just couldn’t wait to get out of there and get the kids in bed and get my laptop out and read this e-mail. But you know, we carried it out. And so, finally, fast forward, I get home and I … the laptop was dead, of course. And so, I, you know, plug it in and I’m just, “Come on … oh, come on, come on, come on.” And it finally charges.
And I read the e-mail and Jeremy sends me this letter that says everything. He kinda just confesses certain things that nobody needs to know. That just, this is where I’ve been for a couple of years. And here’s some of the dumb things I’ve done, and here is where my heart’s been and this is some of the reasons why. And I’ve told you da-da-da-da-da-da-da about you. Some of those things are true about you, but they don’t justify me leaving. Some of those thing aren’t really true about you, and I just wanted to make you feel worse because of how bad I feel about myself and some of the choices that I’ve made that you don’t know about. And just a confession. And at the very end of this long e-mail, it says, “If there’s any hope, call me.” And I raced to the phone that was fortunately charged. (Laughter) My phone was charged at that moment and I called him and he answered and he said, “Hello.” And I’ll never forget just blurting out, “Jeremy Lee, there is always hope.” (Emotional)
Jim: Mm… There is always hope.
Tiffany: (Weeping) There is always hope. And um… and he said, “I don’t know if we’re gonna stay married. I’ll just be real honest.” He said, “I don’t know that this will work out, so I don’t want to give you some false sense that everything’s fine.” He said, “All my feelings have not returned for you and I know that’s a really unromantic thing to say, but I don’t want to lie anymore. I’m gonna be honest. I don’t feel everything I would like to feel and there’s a lot of things about you that still really bother me that aren’t changed. And at the same time, that doesn’t justify my behavior.” And he said, “So, I’m gonna work on me and so, maybe we could start spending time together as a family around the kids instead of individual time alone with them.
And that doesn’t mean I’m moving back in. But it’s just me saying, I’m willing to give this a shot because I feel like we’re about to divorce and I haven’t really tried to work this out with you.
Tiffany: I basically came to a realization that I hate all this stuff about our life and this is where I am, so I’m just abandoning ship.” And he said, “And I feel like I will regret this for the rest of my life for at least not trying.”
Tiffany: So, I didn’t have a promise of us staying together in that moment, but I was—
Jim: Just a little step.
Tiffany: –I was holding onto that little shred of hope with everything I had.
Jim: Yeah. It sounds like you had that. You had that hope in you even though it was a flicker. It was just a candle flame.
Jim: But you both are expressing that. The desire was there. Is that what kept you going? That little bit of hope that God could work this out?
Jeremy: Yes. And I think the community around us that was saying, God can work this out.
Jim: They kept reinforcing that.
Jeremy: They kept reinforcing it, even if we … if there was a time that I didn’t maybe think so, that we had a group of friends that thought it, and believed it, and prayed it, and spoke it into our lives, saying, “God can work this out. And you know, I don’t think that I ever had anyone that I could go to, any of my friends that I could’ve gone to and complained about Tiffany, because they would’ve reminded me about all of my issues. (Laughter) And so, it began … you know, I think that God used the community to … around us to say, “I can do a miracle.”
John: Hm… This is Focus on the Family with Jim Daly. I’m John Fuller. And we’re listening to Jeremy and Tiffany Lee who were on the brink of a broken marriage, but God helped heal and restore their relationship.
Jim: And John, that’s the point! God can do anything! Far beyond what we imagine possible. So many couples are living right now in the place of misery that the Lee’s experienced. You don’t see any hope for the future. And maybe you’ve already filed papers for a divorce. But remember what Jeremy just said: God can work this out, even when you don’t see it, or don’t feel it. And here at Focus on the Family we believe miracles still happen.
In fact, we see them happening on a regular basis through our Hope Restored program. Hope Restored provides hurting couples with that opportunity to heal, offering intensive counseling and godly advice over a span of several days. You really get to the core issues in that environment. It’s a life-changing experience. And those couples we’ve surveyed, four out of five are still together and doing well two years after going through the program. That’s the miracle God does through Hope Restored.
John: And we will tell you more about Hope Restored and other resources when you call 800, the letter A, and the word FAMILY. Or stop by focusonthefamily.com/broadcast.
And let’s go ahead and hear the conclusion now of our conversation with Jeremy and Tiffany Lee on Focus on the Family.
Jim: Let’s put the icing on the cake. So, you’ve worked through these months. Jeremy, you did something that all the wives in the audience are gonna go, wow (Laughter), because it’s time. You guys are back together. Talk about what you did with your friends to let Tiffany know that you loved her.
Tiffany: After … I was gonna say about … after about six months of this separation period, that we decided to get back together, we sort of “married-dated” for about a year.
Jeremy: For about a year.
Jeremy: And I think Tiffany had this expectation of, you know, me giving her a ring or doing this or doing that. And I just wanted to take things in stride. I wanted to just, let’s take our time with this.
Jim: Slow and steady.
Jeremy: Slow and steady, like let’s just make sure that everything’s great. Let’s work through issues.
Jim: ‘Cause you were both healing.
Jeremy: We are healing. And I’m not one to just sort of jump in and then say, “Oh, commit. Everything’s great,” and then we haven’t addressed all the issues. So, we spent about a year addressing the issues. And it was May 16th, which was when we had reconciled, so the next May 16th, I was like, I was gonna throw a surprise. I was actually in India and got back on the 15th of May, the day before. And so, I just sorta downplayed it. It was like, “Babe, I had no time to plan anything. I was in India. Let’s just go to dinner.”
But what I had done is I had planned a whole entire wedding. I went and [gone] shopping and I’d gotten two wedding dresses and I had gotten flowers and I had gotten our kids clothes and we had rented 40 chairs and I had went to the park where I’d asked her to marry me the first time and had them all set up and had the 40 group of friends that had prayed for us and said, “We support you and that we’re for you.” And Justin and Trish, Justin was the pastor for that, our friends that we told you about.
And … and I blindfolded her and said, “Let’s go to … I’ve got a surprise.” Well, when we pulled up, we backed in and I asked her there if she would marry me. And I just told her, took her blindfold off and said, “Look at me.” And I said, “Will you marry me?” And she’s like, “Yes.” I was like, “I want you to marry me again.” She’s like, “Yes.” And I said, “Now.” And she turned around and–
Jim: All the friends.
Jeremy: –all the friends were there and it was great and we had …
Tiffany: An ugly cry. I had an ugly cry goin’ on, big time (Laughter), ‘cause I … I couldn’t … I couldn’t breathe, I was crying so hard. I couldn’t cry hard enough.
Jim: Crying for joy.
Tiffany: Oh, yes.
Jeremy: So, we had a three-piece little a band playing music.
Tiffany: My keyboard player was playing accordion.
Jeremy: And then we had … we had … I had girls that had to bring a big black sheet and they wrapped around her and she picked out one of the dresses and got extremely lucky because it fit perfect[ly]. And (Laughter) … and the kids changed right there in the park. She changed there. They put a blanket around her.
Tiffany: Kind of like a little tent.
Jeremy: And she changed.
Tiffany: Little tent.
Jeremy: And then we … our kids walked with us down the aisle and we had a recommitment service and we remarried there and Justin and Trish married us and it was … we all went to a restaurant. I … we did catering. We catered at a restaurant and we had a full meal afterwards.
Tiffany: Wedding cake.
Jeremy: Wedding cake. And I had done all of that and with help of some friends, we had a … it was amazing. It was great.
Jim: Wow, that had to be shocking for you!
Tiffany: I …
Jim: Show up in a parking lot of a … of a park blindfolded–
Jim: –and a full wedding is right in front of you.
Tiffany: And that morning, I mean, he had arranged that morning for me to go to the girl that had typically is where I would get my hair cut from. He had arranged for me to go see her and [have] her do my hair and makeup. And she was like, “Jeremy just said you all are havin’ a really special date tonight, so I’m doin’ your hair and makeup.” And you know, there’s flowers and there was a cupcake and (Laughter) wow, well, this is really sweet of him.
And so, then we go out, so I’m … you know, my hair and my makeup is extra nice and … and we go to this dinner that I think, you know. And he “unblindfolds” me and he says, “Do you realize where we are?” And I could tell with my peripheral vision that we were in the park where we had gotten engaged.
But he asked me to marry him in the car and so I remember thinking like, “This park is so beautiful. Why is he asking me in the car?” But I’m still excited (Laughter) that he’s asking me at all. And of course, I said yes and I turned around and saw everyone and I will never, ever, ever, ever forget the most beautiful sight I’ve ever seen in my whole life is our daughter walking around the corner in this little flower girl dress. And I was like, that is reason enough to fight.
Jim: Wow, that is a great story, John, and what a wonderful conclusion to this two-day conversation with Jeremy and Tiffany Lee. And I so appreciate simply how vulnerable they were in sharing their story. I think more of us in the church need to do that.
Jim: Their example is instructive for every marriage, not just their own. Even those of us who have been married 30 or 40 years can learn from this experience about trusting God through a difficult season in their relationship. And you know what? I’m so grateful for that group of faithful friends who helped support and rescue their relationship. It reinforces the fact that we do need community and that God wired us for relationship.
John: Mm-hm. Yeah.
Jim: It’s something we should all be doing in our churches, too. Focus on the Family wants to be a part of your marriage support team. And I hope you’ll contact us about the many resources we have for both husbands and wives. And we have our Counseling team, and Hope Restored – the intensive marriage effort, and copies of Tiffany’s book, Need You Now, which will inspire you in the days ahead.
And when you partner with Focus on the Family financially, we can do so much more together to rescue and strengthen marriages, offering hurting couples godly advice and the tools they need to live out their faith in front of a culture that doesn’t understand or value marriage today.
So, can you help us make a difference in marriages? I hope so.
John: Donate and learn more about Hope Restored and our Counseling team at focusonthefamily.com/broadcast or when you call 800, the letter A, and the word FAMILY.
And if you can, please, make a generous contribution of any amount today and we’ll say thank you by sending a complimentary copy of Plumb’s wonderful book, Need You Now: A Story of Hope.
Well, we hope you have a great weekend with your family and your church community, as well, and that you’ll make plans to join us again on Monday. Bible teacher, Ray Vander Laan, will be here to challenge all of us to engage today’s culture with our faith.
Ray Vander Laan: That’s what Jesus did. He went out and lived a certain way. And ate with sinners. Cared about the poor. And touched the unclean. And died for the undeserving. And changed the whole world.
End of Teaser