On a blistering August day in 2009, Julie was at a boat party with a friend on Lake Allatoona when they noticed that their little get-together didn’t seem as raging as the party across the way. They were both swimmers, so they dove into the water and took off toward the other party to see what was what.
Arriving at a platform, the girls pulled themselves up out of the water to where Brady, a hulking 6’6” Navy sailor stood with friends. When he heard the noise, he turned and got his first glimpses of Julie coming out of the water. It was a scene from a movie if there ever was one.
For Brady it was love at first sight. For Julie, it was love at second sight. But it was love nonetheless. Within a few days, Julie and Brady fell so hard for each other the outcome never seemed in question. They would get married. They were perfect for each other.
What neither of them knew was that a cliff was about to reveal itself that threatened to bottom out the best relationship either had ever known. The story of Julie and Brady is one that proves that who you put first can change the course of a life.
JULIE: We had been dating for about two years and had been talking a lot about getting married. I was madly in love with Brady and couldn’t wait to be his wife. He was in the military and scheduled to leave in two weeks on deployment. I was with him at his parent’s house in the final days before he had to leave when suddenly, I get this strong sense that I should look at his text messages. Then I get another strong feeling, that no matter what I found, everything was going to be OK.
I thought, Why would anything have to be OK?
BRADY: The military culture is extraordinarily indulgent of some pretty sordid vices. There is every manner of sexual impurity and incredibly coarse and explicit talk plus massive amounts of drinking.
I had grown up in a Christian home and had accepted Jesus as my Savior when I was small, but when I got into the military life, I took it on like everybody else. I’m not blaming them. I made my choices and it’s entirely my fault. But one night, I found myself giving in to a temptation I knew was really wrong.
JULIE: On his phone was a text conversation between him and a woman that, even though nothing was explicitly spelled out, indicated without a doubt that they had had a sexual encounter.
BRADY: I hear this CRACK. I turned and looked to see that Julie had shattered my phone by throwing it on the concrete. She looked at me like she was wanted to kill me. I knew right away what she had seen and that I had been caught.
I hear this CRACK. I turned and looked to see that Julie had shattered my phone by throwing it on the concrete.
JULIE: There was only one thing that was a deal-breaker in my book, and this was it. I didn’t care what the circumstances were, your excuses or how sorry you were. Nothing you said or did mattered. If you did that while with me, it was over. No questions asked.
BRADY: She was furious, but furious doesn’t really begin to describe it. I hadn’t just disappointed or hurt her, I had taken away her future and crushed her dreams at the same time. We were standing in my parent’s driveway and she started walking barefoot down the street and crying out of control. It was as if all the blood drained from my limbs as I watched her walk away. I was completely devastated by what I had done to her.
JULIE: I didn’t know the area, but it didn’t matter. I just kept walking in a straight line—my body was pulsing with anger. I walked for three hours. Finally Brady came running after me crying and we were both emotionally spent. All of a sudden we end up at his parents driveway. To this day I don’t know how we got there. Had I just walked in a circle?
BRADY: We went inside and I sat next to her on the couch and we just cried. To look at her was like watching someone you love dying in your arms—and you’re the one killing her. I could feel how much pain she was in and each tear she cried just deepened my guilt all the more. I told her I was sorry a million times but I didn’t believe for a second that she would somehow take me back after what I had done. I knew I didn’t deserve it. I had crushed our relationship and there was no coming back from this.
JULIE: I was sitting there furious, drained and soaked from crying and thinking how much I’d like to kill him when all of a sudden, I turned to him, hugged him and felt my mouth say, “I know how hard it must have been to carry that lie for so long. I’m so sorry you had to go through that.”
I was sitting there furious, drained and soaked from crying and thinking how much I’d like to kill him...
I just sat there with my head on his shoulder as we were hugging and I was thinking to myself, What did I just say? I was seething with anger and now I just said what? That I was sorry for his pain? That’s impossible!
And, am I really hugging him?
BRADY: I couldn’t believe what I just heard. In fact, I wasn’t sure I heard her right. Did she just say she felt bad for me?
JULIE: About three days later, we were together and it was cold and stiff and horrible between us. That’s when I looked up at him and said impossible thing #2.
BRADY: She said, “I think God can use us more powerfully together than apart and I think we should fight through this.” I thought to myself, What’s going on here? What has gotten into her? I know how hurt she is. Why is she saying this?
JULIE: Now mind you, I wasn’t walking with God at all at this point. I had received Christ as a little girl and had been baptized, but I was not living a very Christian life. And yet, it seemed like God was prompting me to say things I would normally never even consider.
BRADY: I was completely confused. I kept thinking, Who is this woman?
As I was leaving on deployment, we took each other’s hands and we both knew that neither of us was up for the roller coaster that we were about to experience as we tried to patch up our relationship from across the world. We agreed we would do it God’s way no matter what. The essential thing was that we would both pursue God first.
We agreed we would do it God’s way no matter what. The essential thing was that we would both pursue God first.
JULIE: A friend gave me a book about marriage and I devoured it. It presented marriage in a way I had never thought of before. It proved God should be the central character in our marriage. So I got this idea—which once again, I don’t know where it came from. I wrote in the book like crazy, and I put stickies all over it and sent it to Brady by mail to where he was stationed. I told him he had to comment on everything I marked up and send it back.
BRADY: I found myself growing in my relationship with God like never before. Then there was Julie sending me this book with notes and questions all over it. I was just so eager to change and I couldn’t wait for the book to come so I could comment on it and learn more about God and marriage and get into Julie’s thoughts.
JULIE: It started to become clear that we were changing as people, and I was somehow falling in love with a new person. Best of all, he was loving me in a completely different way.
BRADY: I came home six months later and it was like we were two different people—completely different. It finally felt really right because our relationship had a compass. We had achieved a new paradigm. Julie and I were the bottom two points of a pyramid, and God was firmly on top.
JULIE: We were married two months later and we’ve been married for two years now and we are so happy. We have a baby daughter and a house and a dog and just the most happy life.
BRADY: And I think it is all because when I was caught, when she had every reason to lash out and cut me down, she somehow managed to put me first. What she basically said to me was, your life is more important than mine. It’s the epitome of grace. It threw open the doors for everything else—change, growth, and the opportunity to love each other again. Had she kept up her anger—which she was entitled to, none of this would have ever happened. It was grace that brought me to my knees.
JULIE: Most would say it’s impossible to come back from something like that. Even I use to say that. But when God is first, nothing is impossible.