“And the two will become one flesh. So they are no longer two, but one flesh”
Today, August 23, 2016, is my twelve year wedding anniversary! TWELVE YEARS OF MARRIAGE! Take that marriage statistic keeper! As of today, my marriage is good, my family is getting stronger, and Jesus is the center of it all!…But it wasn’t always like this.
I talk about my former addiction to alcohol and the negative effects it had on my family quite often. That part of my testimonial is a huge piece of my ministry. The devil wants me to hide it, but God wants me to use it. If I was not in recovery, I would hide it, but I’ve got nothing to be ashamed of because that is the old version of myself. I’ll explain “old version” shortly.
I never thought I could break this addiction, even as a Christian. I had just succumb to the “fact” that I drank. But that was a lie from hell because Christ set me free through renewing my mind to who I really was inside: a self-controlled, sober person! What always started out as an innocent way to relax or have fun, was obliterating every part of my life–my marriage included. At the time of me writing this, I’ve now been sober over 25 months! BOO-YA! Take that devil, ya idiot!
As a result of my new freedom, I’m no longer shy to talk about how Christ helped me overcome that stronghold. He taught me that I wasn’t made to be controlled by a liquid. I got to this point by starting to care about what God thought of me, rather than what people thought of me. That wasn’t easy but it was worth it! I’m not ashamed to say that God didn’t bless me with an off-button when it comes to enjoying a couple beers like other people, and that’s okay.
I’m at peace with the fact that I can’t drink, and not just at peace, but I’ve actually let God use my painful past for my purpose! He wants to do the same for you! That deep, dark secret you’re keeping? God wants to shine a big spot-light on it, He wants to clean it up, and then He wants to have you purposefully talk about it. Why? So you can help others who are struggling with the same things!
The Bible says it’s the blood of Jesus and our testimonies that help us defeat the enemy! (See Revelation 12:11). SO SPEAK IT OUT LOUD! This is how you fight back! This is how you win! But one thing I’ve wanted to use for my ministry, but haven’t yet been able to, is my severely difficult marital problems. I’ve prayed and asked God to show me the time when it’s okay…today is that day.
My wife, Jennifer, and I met each other in 7th grade science class, she was one of the popular kids. She was–and still is–beautiful, sweet, and friendly. Me, I was the shy, poor, new kid. At this time of my life, Dad had just been awarded final sole custody of us kids, and we had settled in a little town about an hour south of St. Louis, Missouri, called Park Hills.
Let’s back up even further. My brothers, sister, and I had been wards of the state while Dad battled hard in the court system to get us back. Mom was on drugs and didn’t care about us kids at that time of her life. What’s worse than that, she didn’t want Dad to have us either, so she had accused him of some serious false allegations. The enemy tries to tick me off to this day just thinking about this time of my childhood, but it doesn’t work. The past is the past, and God has used all of that heartache for a greater purpose.
I’ve forgiven Mom. She has expressed her sincere apologies, so there’s no reason to get riled up. It’s over. But what ensued during those dark years of my childhood was Mark, Luke, John, Faith, and I, all being split up into different foster homes and children’s shelters. It was a non-stop nightmare. The tear-soaked pillows in those places, I’m sure, still remain today, but by other kids who are dealing with the same agonizing situation. It was traumatic and devastating.
I’m telling you about this because when you are in the custody of the state you go to whatever school they send you to at that time, based on whatever place, or “home,” you are staying at. So we kids were shipped around to many different schools.
This was extremely painful because once we finally got comfortable and made friends, we had to start all over again. The fear, anxiety, heart palpitations, and shaking, was near-crippling each time I was brought into a new school classroom, as the teacher said, “Class, this is our new student, Matt.”
You get picked on a lot, made fun of, and mostly rejected as the new kid. Nobody wants to be your friend. You are considered weird. And if someone does act nice to you, it’s not normal, and you almost don’t trust it. So I quickly learned to just be quiet, keep my head down, and mind my own business.
HOWEVER! In Mrs. Bates’ 7th grade science class, for some strange reason this beautiful, popular girl was genuinely very nice and respectful to me! Her name was Jennifer Meador. Come to find out, she was really like this. I had actually made a friend–a hottie–a nice hottie.
That was the only class I had with her, so each day I looked forward to sitting behind her and asking if I could borrow her pencil, or anything, just to talk to this beauty…and she talked back to me! This was huge!
Fast forward to a year after we graduated high school, Jennifer and I finally started dating. We had stayed friends all throughout our school years, but never “went out.” Since Central was the school that my brothers, sister, and I finally got to stay at permanently, I began to develop confidence in myself, I gained friends, played basketball, got good grades, and overall my schooling experience at Park Hills was a very pleasant time of my life.
In the beginning, yes, middle school was difficult, but nobody messed with me in high school. We were all friends and it was fun. Central, Class of 1999, we all got along quite well. I have very fond memories of everyone from my graduating class.
Let’s fast forward even further to August 2004, the month Jennifer and I got married! So young! So dumb! So in love! But most of all, we were so excited about the life we were about to begin together! We had big plans!
When we got married we didn’t have any money. We didn’t even have enough to have an actual wedding, or even a cake. We just wanted to make it official so we went to the church privately and had our pastor at that time marry us: Mr. and Mrs. Matthew McMillen was here.
Oh what a day! It was rainy with a dreary overcast, but we were so happy! “WE JUST GOT MARRIED!” “I’M YOUR HUSBAND!” “I’M YOUR WIFE!” “WHAT?!”...So giddy. I remember that day like it was yesterday. Both of us were 23 years old.
We moved into my father-in-law’s basement for a year so we could save up money. As my home security business began to grow, we moved out into a townhouse for another year, and then I built us a nice home in a very nice neighborhood. In August 2006, we moved into the house where we currently live today.
Here’s where things began to change.
Because we had a nice, big house, and a little money now, we started to entertain at our house quite often. So, I began to drink more frequently than normal, and it snowballed. I had also developed a terrible addiction to video games. I’m talking marathon sessions of 6-8 hours per day, sometimes not even crawling into bed with Jennifer until daylight.
God was blessing us, and we were ignoring Him.
We began to argue a lot, not communicate, and it almost felt as if we were not even married. She did her own thing and I did mine. We had money now, so we pretty much did whatever we wanted to. We stopped going to church, I never read my Bible or had devotional time, and I had actually become very afraid of God. I turned into a bad husband and a bad dad. I was arrogant, selfish, and greedy. I was full of pride, excuses, blame, rage, cursing tirades, drunken episodes, and then self-pity. I was denying who I really was in my spirit, so these actions and attitudes never sat right with me. I had forgotten who I truly was as a holy saint, therefore I lived a life of denial.
In the midst of all of this personal turmoil my business was booming and my life looked like it was something to be envied. I kept hearing God say to me, “Pray.” I heard this all the time in my heart, but my choices were so darned sinful I was afraid to pray. I knew there was more to life than what it had come to, and my drinking in the midst of this had gotten out of control. I wanted to feel different, and the devil had me convinced that alcohol would do this for me just right.
I can remember actually arguing with myself, out loud, as I pulled up to the liquor store toward the end of my drinking, “NO! You are NOT going in there!” But I did it anyway. Once I got a few sips in me, that part of me, which was the Holy Spirit in me, was bound and gagged–“grieved” is what the Bible says (see Ephesians 4:30).
I was living a fake life. I was denying my heaven-ready spirit through my hellish actions and attitudes. I needed a change. I needed to start making choices that would click with my perfect spirit. Sin would never feel right–no matter how many different angles I went at it–because my spirit was sinless.
So one night I finally prayed, “God, help me,” and I went to sleep. What He did was give me a dream that I went to hell. I’m not going to talk about that, but I woke up screaming and sobbing, I slammed my face into the carpet and begged God to never show me that place again. I knew I was saved, but He was showing me where the unsaved people were going and that I needed to do what I could to make sure less people went there.
Jesus was calling me to a deeper purpose…
So I decided to just be a fun, drinking Christian. I would talk about God all the time with a beer in my hand. I’d post selfies with my Corona and barbecue on Saturday, and then on Sunday I’d check-in at church on Facebook–usually hungover.
“Jesus turned water into wine!” was one of my best excuses. That lifestyle didn’t work either, as both the devil and Jesus were fighting to take control of my thought life. Christ had made it very clear that He didn’t want me drinking, not even one drop. So what came next was a few years of trying to stop drinking. The secret was I couldn’t stop, but I could begin. Begin what? Begin being myself! The true me was not an alcoholic! In my spirit, where the Holy Spirit lived with me, I was self-controlled and sober! It was the flesh and unrenewed mindsets which kept choosing to drink!
And then one day, hungover, for what seemed like the millionth time, I began reading a Christian book by Joel Osteen called Every Day a Friday. I mean, who doesn’t love a Friday? This smiley preacher wanted to teach me how to make every day of my life feel like a Friday! Sounds good to me!
So I began to read this book and I couldn’t put it down. He wasn’t like other preachers, he was kind, and extremely humble–gentle even. I’d never experienced that from a preacher before. I usually cringed and waited for them to beat me down. I know--without a doubt–God led me to that book! It was just what I needed! Christ through Joel, ignited new desires inside me!
At that time of my life the last thing I wanted to hear was how bad of a person I was acting like–I ALREADY KNEW THAT! Joel began to tell me how good of a person I was, and that no matter how many times I failed, I could always start again, today, because of Jesus’ great love for me. He taught me how much God loved me, not how disappointed He was in me.
I realized what I wanted more than ever before! I wanted to change everything in my life into what God planned it to be! I finally understood that I wanted to know Jesus on a deeper level because He was in me and would never go away! That was January 2011.
So here’s the part about killing my wife’s husband, from the title of this devotional. Old Matt’s incorrect mindsets–based on 2 Corinthians 5:17 which states the old has gone and the new has come–was starting to die off. My old spirit had died when I was saved as a boy, and I got a new perfect spirit that very moment (see Romans 6:6-7, Galatians 2:20). But I had never allowed God to begin renewing my mind to match up with who I was in Him. So as I got to know Jesus more each day, I was learning who I really was inside and receiving new life skills from His Holy Spirit!
Jennifer didn’t understand this new version of me–this person with the renewed mind–who I call, New Matt. But little by little, day by day, month by month, I was allowing Jesus to renew my thinking. I had been New Matt most of my life, but now I was thinking like him! I say this humbly, but I really like this guy!
He handles his problems so much differently! He has a good attitude in unfair situations! He stopped blaming everything on everyone else! HE FEELS HIS FEELINGS AND BRINGS THEM TO GOD FOR HOW TO HANDLE THEM! He takes responsibility for his own actions! He forgives! He shows mercy!
He has love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, and most of all self-control! Unbeknownst to me, I was beginning to organically grow fruit of the Spirit! (See Galatians 5:22-23). The problem was, Jennifer didn’t know this person–yet. This was not the man she married. This was not the Matt McMillen she had known since 1993. I had killed that guy. He was dead. Those attitudes and actions were now buried.
Further, and I say this respectfully, Jennifer had some serious changes to make as well. Old Matt was extremely codependent, an enabler in the fullest. He allowed things to go on and on that he shouldn’t have, just to keep his marriage and fake reputation intact. Also, because of the blatantly sinful life he lived, he allowed a lot of totally unacceptable behavior to happen. After all, who is he to correct someone else?
New Matt, however, would not allow things to stay as they were. He actually began to establish healthy boundaries that others must respect in his relationships, business practices, parenting, and in his marriage. I know it’s strange to talk about myself in the third-person, but this is the best way I can describe these changes.
Frankly, it just wasn’t in me any longer to overlook certain things. I tried. I even attempted to make excuses for Jennifer, giving it my best effort to cover up her actions with the love of Christ. But Jesus soon taught me that He was not an enabler, so I’m not either.
“God, I love Jennifer so much! But I can’t live like this any longer!”…It got bad. We decided that we should divorce and just move on with our lives separately. We were just too different. She didn’t know me any longer.
Because of me learning about my value in Christ–that I’m so loved He would actually die for me–I, in turn, developed a backbone to be able to stand up to certain behaviors which were not okay. Only now, I was attempting to enforce these needed changes with love and respect. I didn’t throw fits any longer or drink to cover up my frustrated feelings.
I had become humble and confident. This is possible through Christ! I stopped putting my identity in my marriage–which was something I could lose–and I started to put it solely in my relationship with Jesus! He was now the center of my life and He no longer allowed me to sit idle when it came to how I was being treated.
And just in the nick of time, God saved my marriage! Not when I wanted Him to–despite my constant pleading–but when He was ready! HE SAVED IT! JENNIFER AND I ARE CURRENTLY CLOSER THAN EVER!
My wife is going to be reading this, so I want to say something to her directly:
Happy anniversary, baby. Look how far we’ve come! We were just kids trying to play house in the beginning, but God has molded both of us into our true image. I know that He will continue to do so until we both go Home. I thank God for you every day and for the protection He’s had on our family. I love you more than I can possibly express in typed words. Even though this is my gift, my most finely-crafted sentences would fall short in attempting to explain just how much you mean to me. I’m so glad we never gave up! I’m so glad we pushed through! I’m so glad God taught us both how to forgive as Christ has forgiven us! We are going to do amazing things together! I love you so much! Not just today, but always and forever!
This devotional is from 60 Days for Jesus, Volume 2. Get your copy here!