“I’d been drinking and I was involved in an accident where a life was lost,” Edgar’s voice is somber but clear.

It’s hard to picture Edgar and his wife, Nicole, living prodigal lives, both isolated in the chaos of heavy substance abuse and feeling like the end of their marriage was in sight. Edgar currently works as the project director for Light Bearers, coordinating ARISE Intensives and other events. He and Nicole are both involved in their church.

“Our marriage is being restored,” Edgar adds. “Every day is an opportunity for growth and healing.”

Just as there are many things that impact a seed’s growth into a plant, there were many factors that impacted Edgar and Nicole’s journey towards a healthy relationship with Jesus, themselves, and each other. One of those factors has been their participation in Storyline Church.

Storyline was planted by Light Bearers in 2015. It was created to be a church where members intentionally built a culture of acceptance on the premise of the radically inclusive gospel of Christ. Every worship gathering is planned as an evangelistic outreach. Every sermon, song, and prayer is formulated with the unbeliever in mind. Storyline was made to be a church for people who don’t go to church, which fit Edgar and Nicole perfectly.

Edgar recognized that his life had become unmanageable. However, even with the desire to change, he didn’t know how.

Although both of them were raised regularly attending church, they got sucked into the party scene as young adults and spiraled into drug and alcohol addictions. The following years were a blur for Edgar and Nicole. That is, until the night of the accident, where it became clear how out of control their lives had become. Even though it was determined that Edgar was not primarily at fault for the accident, he fell into a deep depression, which soon drove him back into drinking.

Eventually, after years of the two getting blackout drunk every night, Nicole told Edgar that something needed to change. Individually spiraling, their only constant was chaos. Edgar recognized that his life had become unmanageable. However, even with the desire to change, he didn’t know how.

Then, one day, Edgar, in an ironic desire to help his father be healthier, asked his dad to start working out with him every morning. Edgar would crash between 11:30pm and 2:00am and then wake up, hungover, to go workout at 5:45am with his father. They did this for months. Eventually, his dad asked if they could have worship together. Edgar said yes. They began reading through the New Testament.

When the restaurant Edgar was working at shut down and he needed to find a new job, he was able to make a clean break from alcohol and drugs. Eventually, he started going back to church.

In 2012, Edgar discovered Light Bearers’ messages at a youth conference. He soon found Storyline sermons too. In 2017, Edgar felt God calling him to attend ARISE, Light Bearers’ discipleship program, so he could learn how to teach Scripture to others. Once the program started, though, he realized that, instead of learning to teach, he was there to heal and experience the gospel himself. He saw that his church attendance was only an effort to pay penance to God. He needed to accept grace. God was calling him to a relationship, not religion.

Meanwhile, Nicole was still battling her shame and guilt, which kept her in the vicious cycle of addiction.

“I didn’t feel I could be forgiven. I was too bad. I had done too much. There was no coming back for me.”

When Edgar returned from ARISE a different person, it took Nicole some time to adjust.

“I wasn’t used to the new Edgar. His need to control lessened. I felt loved by him like I hadn’t before. He allowed me to be who I was, even in the midst of my struggles, still loving me and leading by example. I finally felt safe!”

In January of 2018, Edgar and Nicole moved to Oregon so Edgar could participate in an ARISE internship. They also began attending Storyline Church together. In the Bible-based messages, they heard a consistent theme: God is more beautiful than you can imagine, He loves you, and there is nothing you can do to earn His favor, because you already have it. The sermons also frequently use psychology and sociology, showing how Scripture speaks to the human experience. The messages helped reframe the gospel for Edgar and Nicole and built a new foundation of relating to God and themselves based on His unfailing love.

Nicole’s entire paradigm changed, allowing her to “get to know Jesus for the first time.” 

“Storyline played a big part in helping me realize I could be forgiven,” she says.

This truth of God’s love, combined with the acceptance of fellow church members, as well as attending a Celebrate Recovery program, helped Nicole finally break free from her shame and addictions. She recently celebrated two years of sobriety from drugs and alcohol. She currently co-leads her local Celebrate Recovery group and sponsors others. (Learn more about Celebrate Recovery at celebraterecovery.com.)

…instead of learning to teach, he was there to heal and experience the gospel himself.

“Storyline consistently provided a refreshing pool of God’s love for you to sit in, and we needed that, from week to week to week to week…” Edgar says. “There are a lot of people that go through life not feeling seen or understood, and the messaging at Storyline says, ‘I see you.’ It empathizes with what I’m going through and provides hope and a beautiful picture of who God is.”

Why is it so important to feel seen and understood? What about that experience is so critical for life-transformation? In Edgar’s words, “Self-awareness is the starting point of recovery.” We’re all addicts, maybe not to substances, but to sin and selfishness, and we cannot heal if we don’t recognize our condition. We won’t have the strength to recognize our condition though if we don’t know we are fully seen and loved. Knowing we are seen and loved gives us the courage to face ourselves and start making the journey towards healing.

Storyline has grown into a global community of people who are drawn to the beauty of God’s unconditional love. Edgar and Nicole are joined in their journey by Angel in Columbia, Damaris in Argentina, Cliff in Montana, Dana in Tennessee, and so many others. Edgar and Nicole continue to listen to Storyline’s messages, attend Celebrate Recovery, and extend the safety and acceptance that has been so life-changing for them to others.

If you want to understand God’s unconditional love better and be part of a thriving community, we’d love to have you join us online for church at Storyline. Worship with us on Saturdays at 11am PDT on our website: storyline.church.

Anneliese Wahlman
Creative Writer at Light Bearers

Allie is a 2012 ARISE graduate and on-staff writer and communications assistant for Light Bearers. She is fascinated by the intersection of faith and the creative process and enjoys poetry. When she’s not watching a good movie with her friends, she enjoys narrating life with mediocre accents.