Prepared for Love

Prepared for Love

Billie Jo YoumansBy Billie Jo Youmans8 Minutes

Religion nearly let Judah die … and it locked Gabriella into a prison of anxiety and shame. Though raised in church and filled with truth, they were blind to Satan’s work in their lives. Both were active church members, religious young people whose lives looked good. But right alongside the truth sown in their lives, Satan sowed destructive weeds.

Cultivating seeds of truth is hard work … but weeds grow on their own. Thankfully, Jesus came to destroy the works of the enemy. Check out how Jesus used their devastating circumstances to prepare them for true love.

The Groom Prepared

An intelligent, handsome, well-raised young man, Judah’s life gleamed with possibilities. Being raised in church and active in a school Bible study didn’t protect him from the hurts of life. Word wounds – “You’ll never amount to anything.” And “Your parents don’t love you!” – rocked his image. Desperate for acceptance and approval, popularity with peers drove Judah’s life choices. His life looked good, and Judah built his life on that illusion. All it took was rejection from a girlfriend to collapse everything he thought he knew about himself and life. The religion he had couldn’t heal his hurt … Jesus was just a name to him.

Judah went to the world to help him rebuild his life; he turned to alcohol, drugs, and sexual activity. His life began to spin out of control, and he got scared. He almost ended up in juvie, so he decided to “get serious about this Jesus thing.” He poured every bit of his effort into doing just that – for about a month.

After that, Judah went back to partying. Living the party lifestyle and hanging out with the wrong crowd almost cost him prison time – for something he didn’t do. Terrified, he turned again to Jesus. Serendipitously asked to help at a youth camp, Judah accepted and miraculously entered into a friendship with Jesus that changed EVERYTHING!

Replacing religion with Jesus’ friendship healed every hurt and opened Judah’s eyes to his God-given identity as a beloved child of God! The joy of being loved by Jesus became the foundation of his life. Within months, he knew that sharing Jesus was his reason for living.

But consequences from choices don’t just disappear. In the midst of his new-found hope, Judah still faced troubles with the law from false accusations. Keeping his eyes on Jesus and pursuing a deeper friendship with Jesus helped him through the fear and very real danger that remained from his past. Finally, all the evidence was made known, proving Judah’s innocence. He was freed to serve God with all his life and heart!

The Bride Prepared

Meanwhile, the work of the enemy blossomed differently in Gabriella’s life. A preacher’s kid, Gabriella meticulously did the “right” things – even putting herself in timeout for sins she confessed to her mother. She served in church, organized a prayer group in high school, and went on mission trips. She used the right words and spoke truths to large crowds. But buried deep in her heart lay a tangle of emotions that sprouted shame, guilt, and anxiety.

A game of doctor turned inappropriate by a peer produced a whirlwind of emotions that frightened Gabriella. For over a decade, she went to extremes such as dowdy clothing and limited activities to control her angst. Desperate for the attention of guys, but terrified of relationships, she retreated into social media to feed her need. Gabriella’s internal conflict raged unabated.

One day while preaching to the youth on a mission trip, Gabriella talked about freedom – and quietly heard in her own heart: “You are still dealing with the things you say you are free from.” Recognizing the truth of the conviction, she began to confront the emotions that frightened her and move into the plans God prepared for her.

Soon afterward, Judah and Gabriella’s best friends (who happened to be dating each other) asked them to come along on an outing. Humoring their friends, they went along. Although the friends soon grew tired of one another, Judah and Gabriella’s friendship deepened. But Gabriella’s anxieties and fear of intimacy remained.

After nine months of dating, the couple had not shared one kiss. Even holding hands made Gabriella feel shame. Knowing this would hinder their future together, she sought and received help from a Christian freedom ministry. “It is amazing how God so easily can take away something you’ve lived with for years,” says Judah. That transformative power of God is the message the Lupisellas now live to share.

Ready for Marriage

Three years later – having honored God and each other with sexual purity – Judah and Gabriella joined their lives in marriage. Humbly excited to build a life together that reveals Christ’s love for the church, they wholeheartedly embrace their calling to ministry.

Even at Judah’s bachelor party, God had center stage. Receiving a word of knowledge about a person’s physical difficulties, Judah asked to pray. God healed that person in front of his friends – some of whom didn’t know Jesus! Soon after, one friend who witnessed the miraculous healing gave his life to the Lord, and then led his girlfriend to do the same. They also dedicated their relationship to purity for the glory of God!

The ministries God called Gabriella and Judah into gave them a platform for the same type of transformation they personally experienced. The youth program Judah pastors, with Gabriella’s help, required rebuilding and restoration. The preschool Gabriella operates needed the same.

Applying the lessons God wove into their own lives, the Lupisellas rejoice in Jesus’ power to transform programs as well as lives. Visitors to Gabriella’s day care often speak of feeling the presence of God where once discord and frustration reigned.

“Only Jesus can do that,” proclaims Gabriella.

The love of Jesus Christ that redeems and restores is the message the Lupisellas proclaim with their marriage and their lives.