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Sufficient Grace: Christopher and Aimée Rogers May 16, 2017

Sufficient Grace

In the summer of 2009, when Christopher and Aimée (pronounced ah-may) met “by chance” in a Naperville parking lot, neither had any clue about what the next seven years would bring. Chris was a guy with a past—and a dangerous present. And Aimée was a young woman with a pattern of dating bad boys, and she had the scars to show for it.

Aimée

As a young girl, Aimée had put her trust in Jesus Christ, and although she sometimes complained about going to church, she was a good student who gave her parents little trouble.

When she was sixteen, her friend Esmeralda invited her to visit Wheaton Bible Church. “I really liked it,” Aimée said. “And when I asked my parents if it was okay for me to keep going there, they said yes. I think they were happy that I was actually enjoying church and wanted to go.”

But over her high school years, the dream of a career in the entertainment industry was slowly taking root in Aimée’s heart and mind.

Getting attention from some people in the music business drew Aimée into what she calls “the ugly side of the hip-hop culture.

“I was sold more false dreams than I knew what to do with,” she said. “Enough people told me that I was a good singer that I just ran with it.” Before long, she says, “I was blinded and lost.”

Although she had started college, she soon dropped out, pulled away from her family, and got caught up in what she calls “a fast lifestyle.” She was headed down a destructive path that led to anxiety, depression, an eating disorder, and a series of damaging relationships.

As she chased her dreams, Aimée was aware that her choices didn’t reflect her faith. She continued to believe in God and tried to get to church when she could—but she was headed downhill fast.

“I went from dating a jailbird to dating a drug dealer,” she says. “I can see now that I was looking for love and success, but all I found was hurt and pain. I put my own safety in jeopardy again and again.

“Over those years, I was battered and brought to my knees,” she said. “I hit my lowest point when my drug-dealer boyfriend was murdered.”

Reeling from that crisis, Aimée turned to someone she had thought was a friend, only to end up pregnant and alone at age twenty-two. When the father of her child backed away from any responsibility, Aimée’s parents, whom she had kept at a distance for years, welcomed her with open arms.

Motherhood

Although hers was far from being a planned pregnancy, Aimée saw the child growing inside her as a gift from God. “In my unborn child I saw the most precious of all God’s creations,” she said.

“I felt as though God was giving me a second chance.”

Parenthood marked a dramatic change in Aimée’s life. Even before her son was born, she enrolled in classes at College of DuPage and very quickly saw a new career ambition begin to take root. The instructor of her first class became something of a role model for Aimée, turning her dreams toward one day becoming an educator herself.

Aimée was happy in the quiet life she was leading as she cared for her new baby, went to classes, and enjoyed a restored relationship with her mom and dad. She was also reconnecting with good friends from her growing-up years.

“My heart was completely committed to my child and his well-being,” Aimée says. “That made it easy to give up a lifestyle that wasn’t good for me.

“My circumstances forced me to settle down and just be still,” she says. “For the first time in years I had time for God and His Word, and for prayer. My trust in Him was slowly growing.

“I was still living by worldly standards— and I still wanted to love and be loved—but my ‘new mama’ status made me more cautious,” she said. So when a girlfriend invited Aimée to go out to celebrate the friend’s birthday, initially she was reluctant, but eventually she gave in. The two young women were headed for a bar in Naperville—but they never made it in the door.

Instead, as they walked across a parking lot, they ran into a good-looking guy named Christopher, who wanted to introduce himself to these attractive young women.

Soon they were all talking, learning that the brother of Aimée’s friend worked with Christopher, and before long they were continuing their conversation at a nearby hotdog stand.

It was very nearly love at first sight for Christopher and Aimée. Before long, Chris was smitten, and Aimée had never met a man so caring, so willing to listen and to put her needs above his own—the polar opposite of her former boyfriends.

Perhaps most significant of all, Aimée says, “He wanted to be my son’s father.”

As they continued to get to know each other, Aimée learned that while Christopher was the kindest, most-dependable guy she’d ever known—a loving father to his own daughter from a previous relationship, and a hard worker with a good job—he was also dealing drugs and was caught up in the kind of dangerous lifestyle that Aimée had so recently escaped.

Christopher

Christopher had started on the path to trouble early. As a small child he’d been taken to church, but as he grew, he quickly lost interest.

“I wanted to have fun,” he says, “and in my mind, church was the farthest thing from that.”

In junior high, Chris experienced vicious teasing from kids at school. Called “half breed” and other ugly racist names, the young teen learned to escape that pain by smoking marijuana—a habit he soon supported by selling to other kids.

By the time he reached high school, he says, he’d been arrested more than once for fighting and drugs, a pattern that would continue in the years that followed.

In eleventh grade, when Chris was again arrested for selling drugs, the judge sentenced him to two months in jail—an experience that made Chris stop and think. What am I doing with my life? he wondered. I am seventeen years old, with no plans for the future. “I felt like a failure.”

When Chris turned eighteen, a cousin helped him land a good job, and with it, Chris was ready to make a fresh start. But although the job paid fairly well, it wasn’t long, Chris says, before he realized the work wasn’t giving him the satisfaction he’d hoped for.

Yes, he could afford to buy his own marijuana now, but he missed the old friends. So while he kept his full-time job, his after-work routine soon returned to using and selling and hanging out with the dealer crowd. Even multiple arrests didn’t cause him to change.

When a girlfriend’s pregnancy resulted in the birth of his daughter, Chris says,

“I remember holding my daughter in the hospital and thinking, This is what I’ve been missing.

“I thought having a child would motivate me to change—to stop smoking and selling weed, but before long I was pulled back in.”

Soon Christopher realized that supporting a child was expensive. Knowing that he could make more selling cocaine than marijuana, he “changed his commodity,” he says, “and the money started rolling in.

“At twenty-four, I bought my first house. I had three cars and respect from my peers. I was making moves every day with drug dealers and hanging with gangbangers,” he says. “I thought I had what I was longing for, but I still felt empty.”

A Budding Relationship

Aimée, Christopher says, was not like anyone he had ever met. “At first I couldn’t put my finger on it, but as we got to know each other, she told me she was a Christian. More important, she showed me she was a Christian by her actions. She made Jesus attractive to me,” he said.

Just a short time into their relationship, Aimée invited Christopher to Wheaton Bible Church.

The invitation, Christopher says, led to an argument within himself. One voice said, God doesn’t want any drug dealers in church. The other voice said, But you want to make your girlfriend happy.

From time to time, “making his girlfriend happy” won out, and when it did, Christopher joined Aimée for Sunday-morning services.

“Coming to church was always a little weird for me,” Christopher said, “and I didn’t really want to make eye contact or talk to anybody. I just tried to come here in a bubble and get out without my bubble being popped. But I enjoyed a lot of what I was hearing, and it started me thinking.”

Christopher especially remembers a particular Easter Sunday. “It might have been in 2013,” he says, “when Pastor Rob Bugh showed an image on the screen that really got my attention.”

“He showed a picture of a tomb where some scholars think Jesus might have been buried. That tomb was probably about two thousand years old and would have fit the time period.

“Pastor Rob said he wasn’t sure whether or not that’s where Jesus had been buried,” Christopher says, “but I’m thinking, What? An actual tomb with a rock in front of it?”

Whether that picture showed the actual tomb or not, seeing that image made a light go on for Christopher. “I wasn’t ready to give my life to Christ,” he said, “but it was a real aha moment for me.”

Glimpses of Truth

In the years that followed, Chris and Aimée’s relationship grew, and they built a family with her son and his daughter, who was with them about half the time.

Aimée continued to invite Chris to church, and he would join her once or twice a month. She also prayed for Chris and initiated conversations about Jesus.

“Even though I was hearing the truth—both at church and from Aimée—” Chris says, “their truth hadn’t become my truth yet.”

A New Prayer

As her own relationship with God deepened and grew, Aimée more and more longed for Christopher also to be walking with Jesus. Yes, he went to church with her sometimes, and he listened when she talked to him about God—but it became clear to Aimée that she and Christopher were on two different paths.

“I was happy that Chris would come to church with me and that we would sometimes pray together with the kids, but then it hit me that God had so much more for Chris.”

That realization marked a change in how Aimée prayed for Christopher. “Since I first knew him, I had prayed that God would bless him. I prayed that he wouldn’t smoke weed anymore. I prayed for his safety—that God would protect him from the dangers I knew were around him.

“That day,” she says, “I began to pray that God would change Christopher’s heart. That he would want to read the Bible and treasure it like I did, recognizing that it was God’s truth—the best thing on earth.

A few weeks later, when Christopher expressed an interest in reading the Bible in depth, Aimée knew that God was answering her prayer. The next day they headed to a nearby bookstore, where they bought two Bibles, one a New International Version and the other an NIV Study Bible.

As they sat down to read and study together, Christopher knew exactly where he wanted to start.

Several questions had been kicking around in his mind since he’d been coming to church with Aimée. “I remember asking myself,” he said, “Why am I the way I am? Why is the world the way it is? And most important, How did we humans get here?

“It was that last question that literally changed my life,” Christopher said, “because it led me to dig into the first book of the Bible.”

Aimée and Christopher started reading Genesis and taking notes. “And by God’s grace,” he says, “my life began to change in dramatic ways.

“I can’t pinpoint the exact day and time when I believed in Jesus, but I know that God has changed me. I was on a dead-end road, and the morning I gave my life to Christ, I took the first exit ramp off that road.

“I just gave it up—the drug dealing and smoking weed. I didn’t want it anymore, and only Christ can do that. Instead of starting the day wanting to get high, I would wake up craving the Word of God and looking for opportunities to share it with others.

“After living a lie for thirty-two years,” he says, “I was eager to tell people the truth—that Jesus is alive. He created us and knows what gives us joy. Not money, drugs, sex, vacations, status, or even the people we love. It’s Him.

A Wedding

Christopher and Aimée had been engaged since the fall of 2014, but once Chris came to Christ, they saw their future marriage in a whole new light.

As they worked through the details for a wedding the following summer, Aimée’s parents suggested that Pastor Lon Allison might be willing to perform the ceremony. Her mom and dad had started attending Wheaton Bible Church many years before—not long after Aimée had told them about her new church—and had become friends with Lon and his wife, Marie.

Meeting with Chris and Aimée for the first time, Pastor Lon asked if they were living together. When they said yes, he encouraged them to honor God by getting married as soon as they could. In fact, he told them, he could marry them the following Sunday afternoon in his office. Then, at their big wedding in July, they could reaffirm those vows.

They’d had no idea that such a simple and quick wedding was possible, and they were thrilled with Lon’s plan. “When Pastor Lon said that,” Chris remembers, “we said, ‘Sign us up!’”

Baptism

In that same conversation, Chris asked Lon about being baptized—something he’d wanted to do to publically declare his new life in Christ. Lon said he’d look into it, and he surprised Chris with a call that evening to say that Christopher could be baptized the same day he and Aimée were going to be married.

On Sunday, January 31, in the 11:15 worship service, Chris testified that he had placed his faith in Jesus Christ as his Savior and Lord and committed himself to following Jesus, and then was baptized.

Just a couple hours later, with their family joining them in Lon’s office, Chris and Aimée were married.

Marriage Lessons

Normally the Preparation for Marriage workshop comes before the wedding, but even though they were already married when they signed up to participate, Chris and Aimée were glad to be part of the class, as Lon had requested.

While they were still participating in that workshop, they learned that Ron Deal, an expert on building healthy blended families, would be speaking at Re|Engage (the church’s marriage-care ministry), and they decided to go and hear what he had to say.

“At that point,” Chris says, “we were soaking up everything we could.

“Since coming to the knowledge that Jesus is alive and the Bible is God’s testimony to us, we have been craving truth about life and about marriage and about how to do marriage as God designed it.”

Today, Christopher and Aimée are huge fans of Re|Engage and are thankful for the spiritual growth it has fostered in each of them.

Their quest for learning also brought them to the Alpha Course, where they learned a great deal for themselves but were also thrilled at the opportunity for each to bring a friend to the class. Those friends, one of whom drives all the way from Plainfield, are also participating with Chris and Aimée in a Beyond Alpha discipleship study.

Life on a Mission

As Christopher continues his employment with the same company he joined at age eighteen and Aimée—equipped with a brand-new college degree in secondary education—works toward a full-time teaching position in a nearby high school, they share a passion to tell others about God’s power to transform lives.

One way they reach out to others is by giving away Bibles—each specially engraved with the recipient’s name. They also choose and highlight a special verse for each person.

So far, they’ve given away more than twenty-five Bibles and have no plans to stop anytime soon.

“Sharing the Good News with other people has always been hard for me,” Aimée says, “but Chris is always encouraging me. Watching him has challenged me. He is fearless when it comes to sharing Jesus!”

Because the Bible is so special to Aimée and Christopher, it’s not surprising that they often point to 2 Corinthians 12:9–10, which expresses what God has done in their lives:

"[The Lord] said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong."

For Aimée, who for so long was initiating conversations about Jesus, the tables have turned. “These days I can’t get away from talking about the Word,” she says, “because it’s what Chris wants to talk about all the time. It’s great. I prayed for it, and God is continuing to answer my prayer.”

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