Markus and Mary Kay Jabek

re|engage Testimonies

Two people. Two different cultures. The same dark life. Markus and Mary Kay may have grown up on opposite sides of the world, but they were both living similarly broken lives. Only Jesus could take their mess and make it beautiful.

Apr 3, 2019

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In This Series (356)

Markus Hi, my name is Markus Jabek and this is my wife Mary Kay. We’ve been married now for 11 or 12 years depending on which anniversary we use. (But, Ha! But we will we’ll get to that later) We have one 10 year-old son, Isaiah, who is in the third grade.

I was born and raised in Vienna, Austria. I lived with both of my parents and I have one older brother. I went to a private Catholic school; but faith, church, or believing in God was not a part of my parent’s life or my life. Culturally we were Catholic, as that was what was on my passport, but I really knew nothing of the religion. I knew Jesus’ story through movies, Christmas, and Easter. I always thought, “What a cool story,” but I was also told that this story was not true and that Jesus was a myth or legend. I never heard the Gospel until I was in my early 20’s when I met Mary Kay.

Mary Kay I was born in Beaumont, Texas, in 1970. I grew up in East Texas with both of my parents and my older brother who were Bible-believing Christians. Our lives revolved around our church and our family. I trusted in Christ as my Savior when I was 8 yrs old at a good old-fashioned revival. My relationship with the Lord grew into a deep, mature relationship. I felt a desire from the Lord at an early age to be a missionary.

I went to Baylor University and became heavily involved in ministry with Young Life, Kanakuk, and anything else that had to do with telling others about Jesus. I was an overachiever in high school and I brought that attitude into college, thinking I would stand out and become the best of the best. I had to come to grips with the reality that everyone there had the same resume as I did. What I thought would be the best years of my life, actually were some of the loneliest. I developed an eating disorder, and began to struggle with self-worth and depression for the first time.

Markus Europe is a very dark and Godless place. It’s very common to give children a lot of freedom at an early age, and my parents did just that. I was given no responsibility without any no discipline. At a very young age, I started drinking, smoking, experimenting with drugs and having sex. In fact, when I was a teenager my parent’s would allow my girlfriends to sleep over at our house. This was the culture. I moved out of the house at 176 and lived on my own with no care in the world. I was living just for me. I lived life without purpose until I was in my early 20’s. At 21, one of my girlfriends became pregnant and she ended up having an abortion. Around that same time my dad had a heart attack and almost died. This was really hard for me and I began to have irrational fears about death, wondering about what would happen to me if I died and where I would go?

Mary Kay After college, I moved to California and went through a dark period where I was struggling with the recent divorce of my parents who had been the pillars of our community and our church growing up (who by the way were remarried 4 years ago after being apart 20 years – GO God!). Because Because I wasn’t doing well spiritually, I began to experience the world for the first time. I began to engage in behaviors that were foreign to me like drinking alcohol, smoking a lot of pot, and even having sex…something I vowed not to do until marriage. I then moved to Memphis and got involved with an amazing church and began volunteering again with Young Life. My desire to go overseas surfaced again. again. So in 1997, I moved to Vienna, Austria, where I went on staff with Young Life international and I also began teaching taught at a missionary kid’s school. While in Vienna, I briefly met Markus a few times through one of my students. No real interaction. Just a ‘kiss, kiss’ kind of thing and that was it. He didn’t speak English after all, and my German was spotty. We joke that when we met he was ‘illegal’ (because…he was! He was 16 and I was 28!) He was just ‘Andrew’s tall, Austrian, smiley friend’ to me.

Markus And she was just Andrew’s teacher ‘Miss Langston’ to me. I still call her that sometimes!

Mary Kay No, this is PG! I moved to Portugal in 2000. The next 3 years would be some of the best years of my life. I was thriving in ministry and in my relationships. But then, I was hurt deeply by some colleagues in ministry. I felt abandoned and lost. Instead of running to Jesus, I ran to my then boyfriend at the time, which led to the beginning of a spiritual, downward spiral and a very long, and dark decade for me. I eventually moved back to the States in 2003, and landed here in Dallas. It was the hardest few years of my life. I was in culture shock and my life was completely turned upside down. I began to turn to the world to fulfill me.…again. I was angry and bitter. So I wandered in the desert for a very long time. It wasn’t that I had turned my back on the Lord.; iIt was just that I didn’t know how to praise Him in the midst of my pain. Church was the last thing I wanted… but it was the very thing I needed most.

Markus I decided to visit some friends in Las Vegas in 2005, and during the three months I was overseas, my mom found out that my dad had had an affair. He left my mother for another woman. This rocked my world.

In Vegas, I lived with our mutual friend and MK came to visit him one weekend. She quickly became more than just Andrew’s teacher and I definitely wasn’t calling her ‘Miss Langston’ anymore. A lot of things had changed since we had met in Vienna just six years prior. I fell completely in love with her. I eventually moved to Texas in 2006. I didn’t have a steady job, so I thought, why not? But after three months, I either had to go back to Vienna or make my move here permanent. So, we decided to elope while in Vegas, on August 24th, 2006. Anniversary #1!

Mary Kay The wedding chapel - classy.

Markus It was not a drive-thru!

Mary Kay Yeah, we paid for the wedding! I went with a girlfriend to Vegas to celebrate my 35th birthday. Markus and I were ‘reintroduced’ that weekend and fell in love. I knew he wasn’t a believer, but I was in such a dark place and was so desperate for love and acceptance that I didn’t even care. I even overlooked the fact that he was just 23 years old! I was enamored that he was Austrian and that seemed like a sign that it was meant to be. Maybe he would be my ticket back to Europe, so I thought? We ended up eloping while we were in Vegas.…without anyone knowing.

I woke up a few months later and wondered, , “what have have I done?” I began to feel shame. I realized that the day I had dreamed about my whole life and waited 35 years to experience was done in secret and in shame, and with a non-believer! I also began to realize what my distance from the Lord was doing to me. I saw the reality of our lives and how hard it was going to be…; our age difference, the culture differences, being unequally yoked, and the language barrier (that’s actually a funny story, because I didn’t realize until years later that he didn’t speak English as well as he had led me to believe. I remember thinking he was such a good listener because he would just listen and laugh at my stories. It turns out that the first year of our marriage he barely understood anything I said!)

We eventually had an amazing wedding in front of our family and friends on October 27th, 2007. Anniversary #2!

I thought …if we did that have a wedding, then it would be legit and the shame would go away. 2 months later I was pregnant, and in 2008 our son, Isaiah, was born. During this time, I started to struggle again with my self-worth. I gained a lot of weight during my pregnancy and. I began to feel very insecure. I and hated hated myself. I felt that Markus was disgusted with me, too. I also didn’t take to being a mother that easily…a…and it didn’t help that we were soooo isolated. I was so depleted spiritually… that I was like a shriveled up prune. I had hid in my house for almost 10 years carrying this burden. That I, the missionary, would choose a life separated from the church. I didn’t know how to reconcile that. I didn’t know how to thrive in the Lord and not have a husband who understood that part of me that. I couldn’t merge the two. The anger built up inside of me, and I literally grew to hate Markus. I began to blame him for my unhappiness. When deep down I knew that my validation and happiness should come from the Lord.

Our marriage suffered in every way. Markus and I became like roommates. I treated him horribly. I was mean not only to him but to myself and to everyone that entered my path. Through the years I prayed for his salvation, and briefly I would see glimmers of hope that his eyes would be opened. But I would get so heavy from discussing it with him…like I felt responsible for his emotional wellbeing. It weighed me down and I would get frustrated and angry that he didn’t ‘get it’. This is really hard to admit, but I even envisioned beating him with a baseball bat at times and it actually brought me pleasure. How do I stay in a loveless marriage? How could I survive being with a man without any intimacy? Our sex life had suffered and we would go years without being intimate. I didn’t feel desired desirable which then would push him away. It was a horrible cycle. But then things took a crazy turn in our marriage in the spring of 2015. Markus came into my office and told me that he didn’t love me anymore and wanted out. He was done.

Markus Everything went really quickly after our wedding and I depended on Mary Kay a lot since it was a different country, culture, language, etc. We put our son first which I thought as a great parent that’s what you have to do. I also didn’t know how to lead. I was passive and lazy which put a lot of weight and responsibility on her shoulders. She had to take care of everything. She felt like she had to teach me about life because…let’s face it…I was a kid when we married. She even had to teach me how to drive a car! The dynamic of our relationship became more like a brother and sister. She had basically lost respect for me as I had no clue how to be a husband or what that role really meant. The pride and shame that came from that led to anger and frustration on my part. I knew I was letting her down, I could see how unhappy she was.

We started attending Watermark Church on and off around 20111. While Mary Kay was a believer and follower of Christ, I still didn’t understand it. We had many conversations about Christ but I just didn’t get it. I really liked the music here and it was very different than a traditional catholic service. But I noticed people in church and their vibe and , how fulfilled they seemed. There were some services throughout the years that I would just start crying and felt something but would ignore those feelings. I remember Mary Kay always telling me, that is GOD working in you.

In late 2014, I started a friendship with a female co-worker, which grew into a full blown affair. I felt that relationship could fix all of my anger and frustration. I told MK that I was done and that I didn’t love her anymore. Later that night I came home from work not sure what to expect from MK, but I saw an immediate change in her. I hurt her deeply, but she told me she still loved me. She asked if there was anybody else? I lied and told her no, but she found out the truth on her own.

Through that time I really started reading the Bible and began looking for answers. Mary Kay showed me grace every day. She was seeing me through God’s eyes, which I didn’t understand. How and why could she be so calm? She knew I was lying which hurt her so much, but she still showered me with grace. We went to counseling and also started going to Re|Engage. On the first night, after hearing Susan Cox’s story, I knew I needed to surrender to Jesus. A few weeks later after meeting with my counselor, I went to Watermark. I was listening to worship music and reading the Bible. For the first time I truly understood what Christ did for me. That there was a man on earth sent by our Holy Father, his only Son and his name is Jesus. He gave his life for me. He got punished, tortured, beaten, and nailed on the cross for my sins. I soaked everything in. I could not stop crying. I thought to myself, think about it, this is the most selfless thing someone could do for you. Just out of love. Jesus died on the cross. So we can live free! I had an epiphany, feeling God’s presence and praying to Him, SAVE ME LORD! I’m tired of running from you. My life is a mess. Take it all, Lord. Take my heart, Lord. It’s all yours. Forgive me for my sins. I surrendered my life to you my Lord and Savior. By grace through faith in Jesus Christ I was saved.

Mary Kay That's my favorite part! It was in those moments after he told me he didn’t love me that changed the course of my life forever. I had a choice to make. Thankfully, I chose wisely. I chose to get on my knees in forgiveness, brokenness, and surrender my life back to the Lord. I began to pray for hours for forgiveness and for the Lord to show me my part in the breakdown of our marriage. I began to be broken over my sin and how I had treated Markus. In those precious moments, the feelings for him came flooding back. It was somewhat supernatural what happened to me that day. The anger, resentment, shame was gone. It was replaced with joy, peace, and love. I reached out to him and told him I wasn’t giving up and that I was going to fight for our marriage. It was incredibly sweet what was happening with my relationship with the Lord during this time.

It wasn’t until a few weeks later that I found out he was actually having an affair with a beautiful young girl. It was my worst nightmare. That she was young and full of life and basically everything that I wasn’t. Again, I had a choice to make. Do I let anger once again control me or do I show grace to this man? So… I chose grace. I prayed, loved, served, and transformed in front of his very eyes. He did not stop his relationship with her for a while, but I continued to serve him. The Lord showed me early on that this was a spiritual battle and it wasn’t about me or Markus. This was about bringing glory to Him. By the grace of God, over time, the Lord revealed Himself to Markus and the scales fell from his eyes. I prayed for Markus’ salvation diligently. I knew that THAT was the answer.

Markus My relationship with God and Mary Kay moved in the right direction. I loved God and I fell in love with my wife all over again, which I did NOT think was possible. I am amazed by His grace and Mary Kay’s grace towards me.

After our reconciliation, we were doing so well, but little did we know we were about to walk through some of the hardest days of our lives. In the fall of 2015, just a few months after our reconciliation, I got really sick and almost died. I had a severe reaction to an antibiotic and got Stevens Johnson Syndrome. I was on life support. It was during this time, that my faith was strengthened. The Lord protected me and now I am standing here today.

Mary Kay Those were some scary days. I remember thinking, “Lord, why would we go through the last year and come out of it back together… for him to just die?” It was touch and go, but I prayed over him and I gave him to the Lord. As he was coming off life support and waking up, he began to witness to the nurses. It was incredible that just six months prior he was running away from God and wanted to leave his family.

But the dark days continued. After Markus got well he was laid off from his job…two different times. Then last that next year at age 45, I took a pregnancy test and it was positive. I was pregnant! We thought…this is the big red bow to wrap up this hard season of life! We have avoided divorce, death, job loss…this must be our happy ending! See, I had wanted another child so desperately. But…Markus didn’t and I HATED him for that. I grieved for a child that I did not have for years. But sadly, I lost the baby at 12 weeks and we were absolutely devastated. I personally walked through a really dark time and watched Markus support me, cry with me, and even come to his own revelations regarding having more children… which was another step in our healing as a couple.

Markus Yes, I realized that I had manipulated her because I am selfish and didn’t think our marriage would last, so the last thing I wanted was another baby. But once Christ transformed my life, I was broken over the pain I had caused her. I had to ask for forgiveness and also forgive myself because I had to grieve that we may not have another child because of me.

Proverbs 3:5-6 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him and he will make our paths straight.” That’s why filling our minds with the perfect Word of God is so important. By grounding our common sense in Gods’’s Word, we rely on him and not ourselves.

Mary Kay Isaiah 43:18-19 is our family verse, “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.”

This has basically been our my life verse and the reason we named our son Isaiah. So, I clung to it again. It was a promise that He was going to do a new thing in our family and He did. He brought death to life and ashes to beauty. Our marriage is far from perfect. But now we have hope, we have direction, and now know that we have to focus on ourselves first. Fix what is in our circle, which I'm sure you all have heard but it works. I cannot believe the transformation in this man. He is leading our home. He prays over his family. He studies the Word daily. It is truly amazing what the Lord has done in his life and in our marriage. Only Jesus Christ could take our mess and make it beautiful.

Markus Just one little thing I want y'all to know: no matter how deep we are in our sin, no matter what your struggle is in your marriage, whatever hinders us…know that God has the power to pull you out of this. And HE can give the power, strength and courage to do so. Don’t reject him. Let him into your marriage. Why is marriage so important? Because it’s important to God.

Mary Kay I just want to encourage you all no matter where you are in your journey…that the Lord can restore your marriage! If you are just…willing. He is for you and He wants reconciliation…so please keep coming back. He will meet you here.

Markus Thank you all for listening to our story of redemption.

About 're|engage Testimonies'

This series contains teachings and testimonies of God's transforming power in marriages at re|engage. re|engage is designed specifically to address needs in marriage by helping couples move towards oneness in their marriage through stories of grace, teaching and small groups. Whether your marriage needs to be reignited, or is in need of a complete resurrection, re|engage is a safe place for couples to reconnect. It is a 16-week experience which includes a time of praise and worship, a teaching or a testimony by a couple who has experienced victory in the midst of hard times, and small group time which follows a specified curriculum. We meet every Wednesday night, 6:30-8:15 p.m. in The Loft (7540 LBJ Freeway @ Park Central, Dallas). Kids Ministry is available with advance registration.

About re|engage

Re|engage is a weekly ministry for married couples to find help, learn, and grow in their marriage through a small-group setting.