Bryan Moffitt used to be dead.
The list of what killed him is long and dark. The 10+ years of alcohol abuse is a good place to start. He drank to unconsciousness virtually every week for a decade. More than once he drove drunk. Wide swaths of his life are buried at the bottom of a bottle, trying to drown a demon with an all-too familiar face.
Jonathan had passed himself off as Bryan’s friend, a big brother figure who convinced Bryan that he would be his protector and nurturer. Jonathan was supposed to be a safe place for Bryan’s shattered heart to heal after Bryan’s father abandoned him at age 5.
Jonathan would sexually abuse Bryan secretly for two years instead.
Jonathan’s sudden death shortly after Bryan’s 14th birthday should’ve ended the agony. Rather, it grew unchecked, crushing any semblance of self-worth or hope from Bryan’s life.
He thought Shayla was the way out of the dark. He’d met her in the early days of college, still nursing wounds he hoped she’d never see. Her love drove his pain back, made the black fist at his core unclench long enough to let him love her. He hoped that would be enough to make their marriage work.
Demons are jealous, vengeful creatures. Bryan’s hated Shayla, his happiness, and his peace, so they set out to destroy these new additions from the inside out.
They convinced him that one more drink couldn’t hurt, that the bottle’s buzz wasn’t merely a weekend exception but a necessary ritual to keep Jonathan’s sin from Shayla’s knowledge…so he became an alcoholic.
They told him that an affair would relieve the challenges that accompany marriage…so he became an adulterer.
10 years ago, Bryan was dead in his sin, in his heart, in his marriage, in his life. He’d been running in fear his entire life, and it looked like the fear would finally claim him for good.
That’s when his life really began. What came next is extraordinary.
Bryan confessed his affair to Shayla’s father Ted. Rather than responding with vengeance and anger, Ted forgave Bryan. This man had every right to turn his back on Bryan, but he didn’t. He opened his heart to Bryan, giving grace when he had every excuse to withhold it.
Ted ministered to Bryan when his should’ve-been-ex-son-in-law was at his lowest, showed him that Jesus had been running after Bryan his whole life in order to set him free.
Bryan turned his life over to Christ on October 8, 2006. He calls it his “Re-Birthday”, when he became a new man; once dead, now alive.
On January 30, 2008 he surrendered his decade-long addiction to alcohol. He hasn’t had a drop since.
And there’s more.
Shayla, in the most amazing embodiment of the vow she took on her wedding day, followed her dad’s example and forgave Bryan completely. She stayed when she had every right to leave. Her strength and her love, quite literally, helped save Bryan’s life.
Bryan and Shayla have been together ever since. His chains are gone. He’s been set free.
And that’s why he runs.
In the decade since he started running toward Jesus, Bryan also started running marathons. As of this writing, he’s completed 40 marathons in 39 states. In October 2016, after completing the Chicago Marathon in 3 hours and 11 minutes, he qualified to run in the Boston Marathon in 2018 – the most prestigious foot race in the world.
Last year, Bryan and Shayla transformed their unbelievable testimony into a marriage restoration ministry called Anguished Hearts.
They’ve spoken to thousands across the country about the hope they have in Christ, how to recover from the worst sins a marriage can suffer, and how to protect their union from destruction in the first place.
I met Bryan two years ago after speaking at a conference hosted by his company, and have been honored to watch him continually grow as a man after God’s own heart, who loves his wife and children more than his life, and who helps others find their way back to the light.
That commitment is etched into him. Literally. His tattoos bear the face of his Savior, along with a reference to Psalm 55, which was one of the first Scriptures that Bryan read when his marriage fell apart and later inspired the name of his ministry:
I captured the images in this story to honor him, to show the world what real love looks like, and to honor a family that will change the world, one broken and anguished heart at a time.
Bryan Moffitt is alive now because he is running the race of faith toward the only finish line that matters.
I hope his story helps you do the same.