It was the summer of 2014 when Christie Cox heard God’s voice telling her she would write a book. Not just any book, but one that would tell the story of Tim and Lynn Tuggle’s journey across the country on horseback. And that she would join them for their next journey.
The Tuggles knew God had told them to travel across the country asking people to pray for the nation and its leaders. They had both quit their jobs and left with the clothes on their backs, venturing out in complete dependence on God’s provision. No map, no plans, no place to stay each night.
When Christie joined Tim and Lynn for their second journey — driving across parts of the country and using the horses as a ministry tool — it was tempting to only see a quintessential redemption story. Tim was very open about his past struggles with addiction and how God met him in a prison cell. Christie described him as a man who fit many of the stereotypes that go hand-in-hand with a powerful testimony: broken, redeemed, and now a traveling missionary.
But she quickly learned some struggles don’t stay in the past.
Power Through Imperfection
When Christie heard Tim had relapsed during their time on horseback, the idealized Christian life mindset disintegrated for her. She realized people don’t simply give their lives to Jesus and have all their issues disappear forever.
“It was this ongoing struggle for him,” Christie said. “He still seeks out recovery … (from) the mindset of an addict. Right away, I learned more about him in that, that his struggle is constant. … We’re not just instantly changed sometimes from our desires and our longings.”
Soon, Christie knew her book would be about so much more than just this couple’s journey. She knew she needed to capture what it means to be used by God — even in brokenness.
“This was a man who fell on his face their very first winter (on horseback),” Christie said. “But he got back up and kept going. … God gave me the ability to distinguish the power of God and His perfection transcending above a flawed and broken person. Those two things, those two entities, interacted the whole time and sometimes warred against each other and sometimes worked in harmony with one another. Because that wasn’t his only time to stumble.”
But Tim’s struggles did not stop God from working. Christie said she saw firsthand how Tim declared his faith boldly, proclaiming Jesus without fear. There was power in that as people with addictions saw how God could use imperfect people who still struggled with addiction to do powerful things. And it brought a spark into their eyes as they learned maybe they, too, could make a difference.
Not a Happy Ending
The end of this second journey brought the Tuggles to South Dakota, working at a state park. It wasn’t long after that when Christie learned Tim’s and Lynn’s relational struggles brought an end to his and Lynn’s marriage.
“No one is perfect,” Christie said. “And just because you give your life to Jesus … doesn’t mean you never struggle with anything the rest of your life, and it doesn’t mean you’re not susceptible to a major, major fall. And at the exact same time, redemption. … The power of God is always within reach. God never leaves us; He never forsakes us in our sin. (The Tuggles) are the ones that tell that story with their lives right now.”
Christie said she doesn’t want her book to focus on the divorce, but instead she captures the fact that sometimes the story doesn’t wrap up perfectly.
“… It’s about how life is not perfect,” she explained. “Even when we proclaim the name of Jesus, and we pray against all of the horrible, evil things, sometimes things happen. Sometimes we don’t get the happy ending we think we’re going to get.”
Christie knows God hasn’t forgotten about the Tuggles. There is still hope, even in the midst of their grief. But she believes it’s important to sit with God in that grief instead of scrambling to find a happy ending.
“Sometimes we have to sit with people in their agony, and we have to let them grieve,” Christie said. “We have to let them be where they’re at. I’ve thought so many times (about how) there’s a woman out there whose husband left her, and she hasn’t had her happy ending (in a healthy marriage). And she doesn’t know if she ever will get one. And she needs to know God is with her right there. That’s the point of Tim and Lynn’s story.”
The Tuggles don’t know how their story will end. Christie believes, though, that God will do new things in their lives. He will sit with them in their agony and help them get through this time, but it isn’t the end of their story.
“This isn’t a pretty picture of a movie,” Christie said. “It’s so important to talk about how this isn’t a pretty little bow at the end because I think, (when we try to justify an unhappy ending), it gives the enemy what he wants. We’re letting him take (our ending) instead of saying, ‘No, even here you can’t win. God is here, and He’s going to work, and He’s going to do something powerful.’ And I believe He’s going to do that on (the Tuggle’s) behalf.”
You can read Christie’s full story of her journey with the Tuggles on her website.