A passage from God’s Word brought some sobering thoughts and started a dramatic change.
Alicia A. Neumann
Charles and Jamie Thibodeaux, members at St. Paul’s, Menomonie, Wis., regularly attend church. They have family devotions. Their son attends Lutheran elementary school.
But it wasn’t always this way; in fact, Charles says, “If you would have said to me five years ago that I’d eventually become a member of a church, especially a Lutheran church, I would’ve said no way.” At that time, he and Jamie weren’t attending church at all—and, as a result, they say their marriage started to suffer.
Then God’s Word entered their lives, and everything changed.
MEETING EACH OTHER
Charles and Jamie started dating while they were attending college in Kansas. They were both far from home on sports scholarships: Charles, originally from Alabama, was there to play football. Jamie, originally from Wisconsin, was playing softball.
After college they moved in together, then they got engaged. Looking back, Jamie said she never felt good about their living situation. “I lied to my parents about moving in with Charles; I just never felt right about it,” says Jamie, who was raised WELS. Charles, on the other hand, says at that time he didn’t think it was a big deal to live together. “I was baptized Catholic and had some exposure to church—mostly Pentecostal churches—but I wasn’t active at all,” he says. “I didn’t have any background or biblical teaching in my family to tell me that living together is not right and that’s not how a man should act. But we weren’t living right, and things weren’t working out.”
CHALLENGES IN THEIR RELATIONSHIP
They started having fights, so Jamie moved back to Wisconsin for a while. Charles moved to Wisconsin too, and they decided to get married. Although Charles was opposed to organized religion, he consented to having the wedding at the WELS church Jamie grew up in. He even went through pre-marital counseling—but after they were married, Jamie says he rarely attended church. “Charles really was just not into the organized religion thing,” she says. “He didn’t like it. He would go to appease me, but we weren’t praying together or doing devotions together in our marriage.” They had two children, Jaylyn and Layla, and both were baptized—but Charles said at that point he still was just going through the motions. “I believed in God, but I had no idea what baptism or any of that stuff meant,” he says.
Soon they were having marital issues. “We were starting to talk about divorce,” says Charles. “I wanted to go back to Alabama. I just didn’t want to be here anymore.” Jamie and Charles went to talk to the pastor who married them, and he recommended they do a special five-week class with another pastor in their area. “He said I at least need to know where Jamie is coming from with her faith and what she believes,” says Charles. “So I agreed to that, reluctantly.”
FINDING DIRECTION FROM GOD’S WORD
“All the pastor did is started preaching the Word of God to us,” says Charles. “He told us what a marriage looks like and what men and women are supposed to be doing. There were even some things Jamie didn’t know or realize, even though she went to a Lutheran school when she was little.”
During that Bible lesson, Charles says something clicked for him. “I remember the exact moment: Pastor was talking about the Bible passage where husbands should instruct their children in the way of the Lord. At that moment, I realized that I had not been doing my job as a father and a husband.”
He says it became clear that what he said and did—especially his decisions about attending church or studying God’s Word—directly impacted his kids and their spiritual well-being. “It was such a scary and humbling situation; it changed my life,” says Charles. “I knew it was God talking through the pastor, saying, ‘You need to get yourself together. Your children are going to grow up and they won’t go to church and won’t be Christians because you’re not doing your job. And your wife is suffering because you’re not doing the job I gave you.’ Literally that one passage changed my outlook.”
Soon the Thibodeauxes were going to church at St. Paul’s every Sunday, and Charles took confirmation classes. “Jamie went to the classes with me, and there were a lot of things she had forgotten!” says Charles. “We learned so much. We became members of St. Paul’s and haven’t looked back since.”
SEEING THE IMPACT OF GOD’S WORD
Charles says he’s still amazed by the huge switch in their lives. “God’s Word is just so powerful,” he says. “He tells you what you need to be doing and to get your head on straight. I was never planning on going to Bible classes or being a member. But after that day, it was completely clear to me. The direction of our marriage started going better. I’m not going to say our marriage is perfect; there are always struggles. But we keep going back to the question, ‘Is this Christ-pleasing?’ That’s the blueprint we follow.”
Studying God’s Word is also helping them as a family. Jamie says they work hard to do devotions every day. “You have to continually go back to the Word,” she says. “When we do devotions together, we’re a better, stronger family.” Charles agrees: “We’re a young family with young kids, and we’re trying to listen to what God wants us to do. I know we fail, but thankfully we’ve got God’s grace and forgiveness along the way.”
When their son was old enough to start school, Charles and Jamie were originally considering sending him to public school—but then their pastor started talking to them about St. Paul’s School. Charles says, “I think that was God’s way of saying, ‘Hey, you should put him in that school. I’ll make sure you find a way to pay for it. Put him in that school and let him learn about the Word of God.’ ”
The Thibodeauxes say these changes in their lives wouldn’t have been possible without God’s intervention. “It had nothing to do with us,” says Charles. “God moved us. He opened up his arms and said, ‘Yes I still want you.’ ”
Looking back, Jamie says it’s easy to see God working in their lives, as they went from not attending church at all to actively studying the Word together. “Before, I would catch Charles playing video games and now I catch him reading the Bible,” she says. “Where we are now as a family—it’s only because of Christ.”
Alicia Neumann is a member at Resurrection, Rochester, Minnesota.
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Author: Alicia A. Neumann
Volume 103, Number 2
Issue: February 2016
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