Time for another Gomer Testimony. Another life transformed by a Savior and encouraged by the music inspired by Him. (The pictures are Rachel’s)
This is Rachel’s story (Kickin Gomer):
It all started in the mid-90's, somewhere between Roanoke, Virginia and Alabama, around 2:00 am. I was traveling home to Virginia after some girlfriends and I had sung at an event. I stopped at a gas station, when I ran into this band named Third Day! I can't be positive which group member I spoke to (we were all so young then). It was either Mark or David. He wore a 3D t-shirt - upon which I struck up a conversation. I said how I loved the name and that I too was in a group. He then took the next several minutes to witness to me right there in the middle of nowhere at 2am. Even though I was already a Christian, I listened and was so impressed by his heart and willingness to share with a stranger in that situation. It would have been so easy to say hi, thank you, and to move on. From that moment on, I fell in love with Third Day... and more-so with their heart and love for the Lord.
Little did that band member know, but he gave me much hope that night. See, just days before I had been hit several times by my husband while in the car driving to Virginia. I had been in an abusive marriage for 5 years at that point—desperately trying to work things out. Over the next several years the music and lyrics of Third Day ministered to me as nothing else could do, outside of The Word.
In 2001 I divorced and spent the next 8 years as a single mom. I was left with tons of anger, resentment, bitterness, and the feeling of being completely not good enough. I discovered myself during the single mom years, and I did not like what I found. Codependent thinking had become my best friend. My self-esteem and self-worth were null and void. There were days I felt like an elephant lived on my chest, and being able to breathe was a miracle. During these dark years Third Day songs became a life-line to me. If I had to guess how many times my kids heard Rise Up and Innocent, it would have to be in the thousands...easily.
I taught 5th grade, and on the ride to school every morning I'd play and replay Rise Up all the way there. I purposefully didn't apply eye make-up until I got to work because it would have been washed away anyway. Singing/crying the words out loud was a reminder to myself that God hadn't forgotten about me and that I would be ok—someday.
The years of abuse, oppression, and my own sins buried me. They turned me into a raging inferno; it was buried but would surface often, even when I didn't want it to. Listening to Rise Up I'd visualize myself clawing upward through the dirt as if I were buried alive and was trying to come back to life again. At night the only way I could get to sleep was with my portable CD player by my side, headphones on, listening over and over again to I Am Innocent, I Will Hold My Head High, St. Angelo, Tunnel, and others. The CDs moved from the player to my car everyday—A routine that lasted for 3 years.
Mac's voice is incredible (as we all know) but more than that, the writing of the lyrics written so many times in 1st person is one reason why they are so powerful for me. I love the I's, you's, me's in the songs. It makes them personal, as if God Himself was singing to me. There was a time I found it very difficult to listen to anything besides Third Day. God truly sent the guys as a direct life-line to Himself for me.
In Aug 2007 while at home listening to music, Cry Out to Jesus came on the radio. That is literally what I did. For many reasons the song broke me: my brother-in-law died that year, my pain and on-going sufferings from my past, and my desperate desire to be married. Through the song, the Lord led me to a group at church called Celebrate Recovery. Facing my past, getting out of denial, and allowing God to break me down so that He could remake me was the most difficult thing I'd ever been through. I discovered my struggles of codependency, anger, control, and love-relationship addictions. I spent one year in a 12-step group and Third Day was with me the whole time!
It was a sweet gift from God when He brought Third Day to Decatur Baptist in Alabama of March 2008. It had to be a miracle when I was selected out of several volunteers to be the tour runner for the band. Driving Mark, Mac, a very pregnant Stephanie, David, and others to and from the hotel was a privilege. I listened as Mark and Mac discussed the song set for the evening; I talked to Stephanie about baby names, and I suggested Big Bob Gibson's BBQ for lunch. I was able to make a real connection with the people who had been my life-line through my darkest days.
I wanted so bad to hear Love Song in person, but the band wanted Zaxby's and they wanted it waiting when they came off stage. So off I ran! A friend called me and I listened to Love Song over my phone while sitting in Zaxby's drive-thru with tears streaming down my face. Funny, it was March and it started to snow. Why tears? Sad because I missed the song, but mainly blessed because I had been allowed to serve the voices and the talents that had served me for so long. I was truly humbled.
Timeline moves on....if you need a stretch break, feel free.
I built a house and moved in the summer of 2008, just after the release of Revelation. The very first song played in my new house was This Is Who I Am, and I blasted it as loud as it could go. I wanted to properly anoint the house, and wanted the whole world to know that this is who I am—broken but rebuilt, struck down but not destroyed, pressed on all sides but determined to live on!
I can't adequately explain what that CD meant to me. Even though I had graduated from the Celebrate Recovery ministry and was serving as their worship leader, I still had a deep desire to be married, a sickening feeling of loneliness and of not being worth anything to anyone. While driving to a friend's house one night for a Bible study, the CD landed on track #7, Let Me Love You (there are those awesome pronouns again...) I have NO doubt God was courting me that night, to allow Him to "love me like no one else could." Through tears, and a completely broken heart, I gave in—I surrendered myself, all of me, to Him that night. It was my final step to completely dying to myself, and it was painful. Again, it was raining, and Third Day was ministering to me!
And what did John and I talk about the most? Third Day and Revelation. I told him how powerful the new CD was and that he had to buy it ASAP. I told him he had to listen to #5 and #9, those were my favorites.
Talking to him over the next several weeks, he revealed to me that as he listened to Born Again he cried (something he wasn't sure a song had ever brought him to.) He saw himself, his mistakes, and his future in that song. By the way, it quickly became our song, and still is. Just as important in the timeline was the song Revelation. John and I dated for only a few months when we both began to feel deeply for one another. I wore out Revelation on my CD! It came at the perfect time for me. I had messed up so much on my own, my whole life, I was determined to now do nothing outside of God's will for me—I so needed Him to Reveal His plan for me. I had always done things my way and on my time table. But this time I wanted His revelation so badly.
I would cry and sing out the words to that song, asking God to tell me what to do. We were contemplating marriage and for 2 divorced people, we wanted to be sure this was the Lord's will and not ours. That song, coupled with Born Again showed me beyond a doubt what God's will for me and my children was, and how He could turn my ashes into something beautiful.
On May 30, 2009 John and I walked down the aisle together to All the Heavens. (I always knew that'd be the song if I ever got married again.) Our first dance was to our song, Born Again. It's now been 2 years since we married. God has blessed us by allowing us to start and lead a Celebrate Recovery ministry at our church in Huntsville, Alabama, where we also get to serve as worship leaders.
Sitting in my car CD player at this moment is (in this order) Offerings, Offerings 2, Wire, Wherever You Are, Revelation, and Make Your Move. It's only a 6 disc player, what will I do when the next CD comes out? Those CDs hold the most important spots to me. I can turn to any song at any time for reassurance and guidance. They still bring tears to my eyes. And now God is allowing me to share my hurts with others so they can also find healing and hope. What an awesome God He is!! And what an awesome anointing He has placed on Third Day!!
Thank you for letting me share! (originally posted 10.5.2011)
Join LBOC on Tuesday, June 19th, for a music devotional inspired by one of Rachel’s favorite songs—Rise Up!
Rachel and John Rutledge just celebrated their three year wedding anniversary by attending Third Day’s 20 year anniversary celebration—A Gomer Gathering Gala. Rachel has 2 children (a daughter, age 13 and a son, age 11) and two stepsons (21 and 19). She’s worked as a teacher for ten years, but has been able to stay home since her remarriage. She and her husband are Ministry Leaders for Celebrate Recovery in Huntsville, AL. Both musicians (her husband, an awesome guitarist, and Rachel, a singer) they lead in worship ministry. Music is their passion. They travel to see Third Day as well as other favorite bands such as Tenth Avenue North and Sidewalk Prophets. If you look on the credits of the new Tenth Ave. North CD (due out August 21st) you’ll see their names as members of the choir. Beyond music, they stay busy with the kids—sports, band, color guard, music lessons, etc. They love to travel.
The Gomer Testimonies—An introduction to this series
Consuming Fire—A Third Day music devotional