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80 || Beginning Again

Chester and Laura Holyfield are the kind of couple who magnetically attract people. Quite simply, they radiate a happy contentment with life, a sweet intimacy with their Savior, and a burning passion to share Jesus Christ with others. The two serve their Lord faithfully as a powerhouse team for God, both in their local church and throughout their community.

But the Holyfield’s journey is a bumpy one, a trek through a failed marriage, a lengthy divorce, and by God’s grace, a surprising re-marriage.

The Best of Intentions

In 1992, after nearly a year of dating, Chester and Laura got married. Their marriage started off with an abundance of love and the excitement of starting life together. They bought their first home, and within a few years, they were blessed with two daughters just 21 months apart. It was a certainly a life paved with good intentions.

Chester worked long hours, and when he finally got home at night, he craved the undivided attention of his wife. But Laura had spent the day mothering young children alone and was often left emotionally and physically exhausted by days end. Both Chester and Laura began to feel neglected and unappreciated.

Chester was raised in the church, but he never experienced a true relationship with God. “I knew about the baby Jesus, but I never knew Jesus as Savior,” he said. Laura didn’t grow up with any formal church background.

Together they did the best they knew how — juggling finances, the demands of children and married life. But at the core, their relationship was daily disintegrating. Chester and Laura failed to communicate, and resentment became an ever-growing wedge dividing their hearts. Chester said he “felt like he was nothing more than a paycheck.”

Secrets

One day, while on a business trip, Chester was unfaithful to Laura. When he returned home, the guilt and self-condemnation from the secret he was hiding only aggravated the issues they were already facing in their marriage. Laura recalled asking him one evening, after the distance between them had become unbearable, “Do you love me?”

His response hurt her tremendously. He said he loved her but was not in love with her. It was far easier to give up and end the marriage than it was to fight for their love, so they divorced in 1998.

Chester and Laura were in agreement about putting their children first and determined they would not harbor ill feelings toward each other. Their divorce was quick and amicable. Laura had custody of their daughters and moved to Florida to take a job. Chester visited frequently on the weekends and remained an active part of all of their lives.

A Piece of Paper

Chester remained connected in church, but having never understood the Gospel, he was merely performing religious duty. But one evening in 2001, at a Promise Keepers rally for men, that all changed.

After seeing a demonstration of Jesus’ sacrificial death on the cross, they invited the men in attendance to write on a piece of paper all the things they were still carrying around with them — mistakes, regrets, things for which they needed to be forgiven, things for which they needed to forgive themselves.

When Chester took his list and placed it at the foot of the cross, he realized the cross offered grace; the cross meant those with a past had an opportunity for a new beginning and a life change. It was at that moment he knew he needed to surrender his life so he could know Jesus personally.

And that’s what Chester did.

Driving Force

Chester’s life began to change radically as he grew in his relationship with God. He had always enjoyed riding motorcycles and soon found himself involved with the Christian Motorcycles Association (CMA). God led, grew, challenged and stretched his faith at a rate that at times seemed premature.

As a new Christian, Chester joined with other men to form a new local chapter of the CMA in McMinville, Tennessee. His faith became such an important part of his life that he began to live with purpose. He didn’t care if he was ever in a romantic relationship again. Serving God with the CMA and reaching others were now his passion and driving force.

Emptiness

Chester continued to visit the kids and interact with Laura. She noticed the change and watched hesitantly, carefully protecting her heart, never even considering their involvement together beyond the commonality they shared with their kids.

In 2002, Laura’s mom was unexpectedly diagnosed with a brain tumor and passed away. The death of her mother left Laura with heart-wrenching grief and emptiness. Church became a vital part of her life, and she busied herself with every church volunteer job imaginable. She served faithfully and enjoyed the nurturing of deep friendships and family bonds she had formed with her church family.

But something was missing, though at the time she could not pinpoint what it was.

A Walk to Redemption

In 2003, Laura went on a spiritual retreat with her church. For the first time in her life, the busy pace at which she ran suddenly halted. And there in the quiet, she had the opportunity to allow God to deal with her heart. All of the bitterness, anger, resentment and offenses that were so fresh in her mind came to the surface. Her entire life she had carried the baggage of her past, each experience adding to an unbearable load.

That weekend, Laura accepted the forgiveness Jesus offered and chose to extend it as well to those who had hurt her. She exchanged the awful burden she had so stubbornly carried for the welcome freedom Christ offered.

As the years passed, Chester and Laura continued to grow in their individual relationships with Jesus. Chester became a spiritual leader for his family — advising, counseling and being a great support for both Laura and their daughters.

When he visited on the weekends, they attended church as a family. Friends often commented about how surprising it was to see how well the Holyfield family got along.

The Announcement

In 2005, Laura realized something. The man she had been praying for — the man who would lead her spiritually, raise their daughters and love her unconditionally — was already involved in her life. Chester and Laura decided to re-marry.

When they announced the news, their friends, daughters and church members were thrilled. They re-married that spring — on the same Saturday before Easter as their original wedding.

The first year as husband and wife — again — was a tremendously difficult adjustment. They had each grown so accustomed to living life independently and had to be very intentional to establish a new normal with their daughters and each other. But they were both rooted in their faith, and they were equipped with the tools they needed for a successful marriage.

Together they learned to communicate, grow together through difficulties, and speak each other’s love languages effectively. Chester said the key to their great marriage now is that God is their first priority.

Hard Lessons

The Holyfields admit they learned many lessons the hard way. Laura shared that their divorce could have probably been avoided if during those turbulent years, they had learned to authentically communicate. She encourages couples struggling to share what’s on their hearts, choose to be vulnerable with each other, and most importantly, listen — really listen — to one another.

Ephesians 3:20 reminds us that God often works in ways that are beyond our human comprehension and that He is able to do “immeasurably more than we ask or imagine.” There is no family too broken, no situation too complicated, no story too hopeless for the redemptive and healing touch of our great God.

By God’s grace alone, the Holyfields’ story of brokenness is now a living testimony to God’s ability to redeem. They now enjoy a healthy, thriving marriage, God-fearing children who both have authentic relationships with Christ, and a life repurposed and God-focused. Together they serve God faithfully as officers in the CMA, leaders in their church, and blazing torches with the light of Jesus in their community.

When they finished sharing this story, Laura grabbed her husband’s hand and exclaimed, “I’ve never seen anyone have a marriage as good as ours. And that’s all God.”

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