“At the time, we were the youngest couple ever to come to re|engage. That wasn’t exactly encouraging. We were comforted as we looked around at the hundreds of couples in attendance and realized that we were not the only ones having a tough time.” – Andrea Walker
There was no honeymoon phase for Matt and Andrea Walker. Just a few short months after saying, ‘I do,’ the Walkers’ marriage was on the brink of collapse. “Our relationship was not where either one of us thought it would be,” said Matt. Andrea grew up in Northern Arkansas in a home where abuse, conflict, and alcoholism spun a web of chaos and instability. As a young girl, Andrea wondered why a God who said He loved her would allow her to live in such a difficult place. Fear and shame kept her from telling anyone her story or voicing questions about faith.
Andrea found some answers when she went to college at Ouachita Baptist University. “The gospel was shared abundantly, and I was surrounded by people who consistently reminded me that God loved me and was always with me, even during my suffering. I dug into God’s Word and started memorizing it. After years of doubt and reluctance to fully accept God’s love, I finally embraced the truth and started to abide in His love.”
Matt and Andrea met each other during college and married in 2009. From the beginning of their marriage, it was difficult. Failure to resolve conflict and the fallout from being raised in two very different environments led to a steady stream of arguments and mistrust. “As a child, I’d always felt unlovable, so when there was conflict, I questioned Matt’s love for me,” said Andrea. “I was full of anger, and not long after we married, I wanted a way out.”
Matt says his passivity and struggle with pornography only amplified the conflict in their marriage. “My struggle with lust and pornography was revealed during our engagement,” said Matt. “I had always thought my sin didn’t affect anyone else other than the Lord. But now my sin was causing Andrea pain. It made her wonder if I was going to let her down like so many other people had.”
By the time the Walkers made it to Dallas, Andrea wasn’t sure how much longer their relationship would last. When they attended re|engage, Watermark’s ministry to married couples, they were asked to individually rank their satisfaction level in their marriage. Matt ranked their marriage a six. Andrea wrote down minus one.
“At the time, we were the youngest couple ever to come to re|engage,” said Andrea. “That wasn’t exactly encouraging. We were comforted as we looked around at the hundreds of couples in attendance and realized that we were not the only ones having a tough time.”
AAs the Walkers did the hard work of rebuilding their relationship at re|engage, they recognized patterns and habits that were creating tension and dividing their hearts. Matt says he was a classic avoider, shutting down any possibility of resolving conflict. He also was accustomed to keeping the problems in their marriage behind closed doors. “We’d been very isolated in the past,” said Matt. “We had an unending list of conflicts that we had internalized and nobody knew about.”
The turning point for Andrea was discovering that her pain and insecurity had less to do with her relationship with Matt and more to do with her understanding of the Lord’s love. “Our leaders, Meredith and John Hall, really invested in us, and I am so thankful. One day Meredith pulled me aside and asked how I thought God saw me. At the time, I really didn’t know. She explained that because of Christ, God saw me as ‘pure and holy.’ (1 Corinthians 1:30) I walked away from that conversation choosing to believe the truth about what God’s Word says about me. That was a life-changing moment.”
Both Matt and Andrea say that one of the most significant tools God used to heal their marriage was the community they built with other couples. “Nothing in our life was better because we had lived in isolation and let our conflicts fester,” said Matt. “By being transparent with other couples, we saw healthy conflict resolution modeled for us and were able to develop better patterns in our marriage. From that point forward, I wanted to live more openly and honestly in community.”
For the first time in their relationship, Andrea says she and Matt were finally on the same page and seeking unity. The two began memorizing Scripture together, and there was an atmosphere of gentleness and kindness in their home that was not there before. “Because of God’s work in our hearts, our marriage got better,” said Andrea. “Matt was finally able to share openly with me, and I was able to truly listen.”
The Walkers agree that the challenges in the early years of their marriage gave them both hearts of humility and dependence on the Lord that they might otherwise never have had. The love that God gave them for Himself and for each other moved them to a place of stability and peace, and it prepared them for the adversity to come.