May 24, 2023

Why Can't I Find My Missing Piece?

Inside This Episode

Even as our culture grows more cynical toward monogamy and marriage, the majority of young Americans still hope to find "The One" and get hitched. Deep down, we still believe in life-altering, breathtaking, rapturous love. But what if the love we're searching for isn't the kind of love we really need? Today, we’re revisiting one of our favorite episodes from 2019 (with a BIG update!), where a young woman shares the story of how one man's love changed her life forever in the most unexpected way. Their love story left us wondering if we've lost the plot when it comes to dating and relationships. What if the love we need isn't necessarily romantic or sexual? PLUS, a very special update from Meredith Kirk, four years after recording her original interview. 

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Eric Huffman: Hello there. Thanks for tuning in. I'm Eric Huffman, host of the Maybe God podcast and I have some very exciting news to share with all of you today, especially if you are a single person living in the Houston, Texas area. This summer, the Maybe God team is producing two brand new episodes on modern dating, featuring some of the best dating experts around who we're going to share what they believe are the best practices for today's dating scene, as well as a few of their cautionary tales of what not to do if you're out and about on the dating scene.

So as the team tonight started to dig into why dating is so difficult for so many singles today, and why more and more young people are turning their backs altogether on the ideas of marriage and family, we felt some urgency to try and do something to help the singles in our community find meaningful connections and maybe even help them find the one. Who knows!

So as part of the summer dating episodes, I will actually be playing matchmaker for the first time for at least one lucky couple in the Houston area. We're calling this idea Operation Matchmaker. And if you'd like to find out more either for yourself or your single friends, please head to to read all about it and to apply online. Applicants must be single, of course, that may seem obvious, but you might be surprised, and they must be Christians who live in or around the Houston area.

Since I won't be able to matchmaker everyone who applies, applicants will also be invited to participate in two really fun events for local Christian singles that are going to be hosted by the Maybe God podcast team here in Houston later this summer. The application deadline is Friday, June 2, so please head over to to sign up today. And I hope you'll share that link with any and all of your single friends who might be interested in this kind of thing as well. And if you're not in Houston, I hope you'll stay tuned for what promises to be some really enlightening episodes on today's dating scene later this summer.

Now on today's episode, we're revisiting one of my favorite stories from 2019, one that caused us to question all of our assumptions about dating and romance, and marriage. It was the powerful story of a young woman who overcame incredible obstacles on her path toward healing and wholeness. Her story points to what I believe is the most important message that singles need to hear today. And as I look back in the archives, this is without a doubt the most beautiful love story that we've ever told.

So first we're going to replay a portion of that 2019 episode to make sure that everyone is all caught up. And then I'm going to be here in the Maybe God studio with Meredith Kirk, that special young woman for a really important update that you're not gonna want to miss. So prepare yourselves—this story is a bit of a tear-jerker, but I believe it's one that we all need to hear.

[Maybe God intro]

Eric Huffman: You're listening to Maybe God. I'm Eric Huffman. Why do some people get married while others don't? Why did the prayers of so many single people seem to go unanswered? Doesn't God care about our dreams of marriage and children? I'm faced with questions like these all the time. And it's heartbreaking.

From birth, most of us are raised to think about marriage and family as the holy grails of our lives. Most little girls grew up playing with dolls and playing house. Many little boys grow up being taught that we have to be strong and protective providers for the families will certainly have one day. But where did these domestic dreams of the nuclear family come from? Many Christians assume they come from God. Our church has taught us that the ideal Christian life is one man one woman, two or three kids, and a mortgage. Right? Or was that just the American dream.

In part one of this episode, I insisted that our adoration of the nuclear family is far from biblical. God doesn't idolize marriage the same way our culture does. In fact, the New Testament says if you can live a life of integrity without getting married, then you should. Now, that doesn't mean we have to stop searching for love and marriage. I'm only suggesting that unmarried does not equal incomplete, and being single is not the same as being alone. Trust me, you can be married and all alone, and you can be single and surrounded by love. So maybe the point of dating isn't to find your missing piece. Maybe a better strategy is to put off dating altogether until you're whole and healthy, and holy.

In planning these episodes, I was constantly reminded of one woman's story because I think it embodies the most important message that I'd like all our listeners to hear. When she was in her early 20s, Meredith was working on herself and she was healing from her traumatic past, and that's when she found the love of her life. And believe me, it's not what it sounds like.

Meredith Kirk: So it was actually a little funny to me that I was asked to speak on dating because I've been single for about five years. And I can probably count on one hand, the number of dates I've been on in that time, so I thought, "I have nothing relevant to talk about."

Eric Huffman: I'm actually really surprised to hear that because you're gainfully employed, you're bright, you're... How old are you?

Meredith Kirk: 26.

Eric Huffman: Mid-20s. You're a beautiful girl. Like, what's the story there?

Meredith Kirk: For the longest time, I thought, "There's just something wrong with me. There are things about my life that other people will never accept. And I'm just broken." And I just thought, "I'm just gonna be single forever." Like every day was a reminder of, "Oh, you're lonely because you're broken. You're lonely because you're not good enough."

Eric Huffman: Wow.

Meredith Kirk: And that plagued me for a really long time.

Eric Huffman: It never ceases to amaze me how different someone can see themselves versus how others see them. The distance between your self-image and I think others' perception of you couldn't be greater sometimes. It happens all the time with people. And when I look at you, I see all these wonderful attributes, not least of which the fact that you used to be a professional ballet dancer, but now you helped run a Krav Maga studio-

Meredith Kirk: I do, yeah.

Eric Huffman: in Houston. So you can basically take down anyone, guys two, three times your size. You're a force.

Meredith Kirk: Sometimes I thought that the Krav was a problem too, though.

Eric Huffman: I could see that.

Meredith Kirk: It's a little scary. It can be intimidating. So I used to just say I'm a teacher. I wouldn't tell people what I taught. They're like, "What do you teach?" I'm like, "Some stuff."

Eric Huffman: Stuff. That's hilarious.

At first glance, Meredith is not a formidable presence. She's maybe 115 pounds soaking wet. Just looking at her, you'd never expect to see her takedown multiple male attackers, handle dangerous weapons, and engage in hand-to-hand combat, the likes of which I've only experienced in video games.

To understand why this former professional ballerina got into this type of self-defense, it's important to understand her relationship with her biological father.

Meredith Kirk: He was never physically violent but he always knew what to say and how to challenge emotions in an unhealthy way. so I was already very broken and didn't really have a lot of... a sense for what love really was, at that point. A father is supposed to be his daughter's first love, and I didn't have any concept of that. I think out of everyone, he placed the most anger on my mother. We were all just kind of collateral but it was all directed towards my mom. Lots of anger. Again, never physical violence, but a lot of emotional manipulation definitely centered with her. So when he was around, the image of their relationship certainly wasn't anything that I really wanted for myself.

Eric Huffman: Siblings?

Meredith Kirk: I'm the youngest of six.


Eric Huffman: Meredith was 12 years old when her father's anger did turn physical.

Meredith Kirk: I really started to get a different sense of the kind of anger he had and was just really fearful that something terrible was going to happen, and I didn't know what it was. Eventually, he came home from work one night, my mom wasn't home yet. It was just me, my sister, and my brother. And he came home from work just in this fit of rage and screaming and saying all of these awful things about my mother, and all of the violent things that he was going to do to her. And my sister and I were really afraid we called the police. They came to the house, they waited with us until my mom got home. And they said, "You shouldn't stay here tonight. You should let him cool off. Go find somewhere to stay." So we went around the corner and we stayed at my grandmother's.

And the next morning we got up to go back to the house so my mom could get ready for work. And I just remember walking into the house and there was just this cloud, this like suffocating cloud of darkness. Like I knew, I knew something was going to happen. I positioned myself right by the phone because I thought I'm gonna have to call 911.

So my dad was still home, which was really weird. He normally left very early. It was like maybe nine or so in the morning at this point. He was in the bedroom My mom got ready for work. And as she went to leave the room, he grabbed her and pulled her back in, and started stabbing. I tried calling the police, he had done something to the phone, so we couldn't call out. And cell phones weren't really a huge thing. So my sister's running to try to find hers and I ran to the kitchen, and I got a knife out of the block and ran back into the room to try to stop him. And I just remember my grandmother interceding and she took the knife from me. And when she did that he was stabbing her. So it was just this awful, horrendous thing, really just seeing blood everywhere. And not knowing like the extent of what was happening but knowing that it was awful. It was-

Eric Huffman: Oh my gosh.

Meredith Kirk: It was terrible.

Eric Huffman: I mean, you're describing this like it's just happening right in front of you.

Meredith Kirk: Yeah.

Eric Huffman: Like within arm's reach all this is happening.

Meredith Kirk: Mm-hmm.

Eric Huffman: And you're 12.

Meredith Kirk: 12 years old. And just the helplessness that just consumes you in that moment. I mean, I carry that burden of helplessness for most of my life.

Eric Huffman: The police eventually showed up, her mom and grandma were taken by ambulance to the hospital, where her mom stayed for several weeks. Meredith's older sister moved back into the house to take care of Meredith and her siblings.

Meredith Kirk: We just went back to the house. I was just like, "I don't want to be here." All the lights were still on. It was like just this spooky thing-

Eric Huffman: Eerie.

Meredith Kirk: ...where everything was the way it was, and blood was still everywhere.

Eric Huffman: Oh my gosh. You never think about that, I think.

Meredith Kirk: No.

Eric Huffman: Nobody cleans that up for you.

Meredith Kirk: Nobody. So to stay in that house that night until I moved out, I mean, I hated it.

Eric Huffman: So what did the rest of your childhood and adolescence look like?

Meredith Kirk: Just dealing with that intense betrayal from somebody that you love so much, you know, I became such an angry person. I was a terrible person. I was jaded.

Eric Huffman: In the aftermath of that?

Meredith Kirk: Yeah. I wanted love but I also didn't trust anyone to give it to me. I thought that everyone had some kind of ulterior motive in being in my life and that pain was just going to be all I ever experienced. We were actually really heavily involved in church. I mean, we were there every Sunday morning, every Sunday night, every Wednesday, my parents taught Sunday school.

Eric Huffman: Wow.

Meredith Kirk: I think my dad was a deacon. So there was this whole other level of betrayal because all of these people that were "Christians" just abandoned my family.

Eric Huffman: Really?

Meredith Kirk: And I had friends that I literally never heard from again. Like they just stopped speaking to me.

Eric Huffman: My gosh.

Meredith Kirk: And people that knew about the struggles my parents had, they knew about the fear that my mom had, they left her. They ended up testifying as character witnesses for him later when we went to trial.

Eric Huffman: For him?

Meredith Kirk: For him.

Eric Huffman: Wow.

Meredith Kirk: And it was like, Man, I can't trust anyone. So there was this fracturing of relationships with people, not just with my family, with my dad, but with people that I thought would support us. And then that just dominoed into relationships with my siblings and questioning, can I really trust them? What else is going to happen?


Eric Huffman: Meredith was homeschooled and she graduated at 16. And soon after, she started dancing.

Meredith Kirk: So for me, that was a really good outlet and a way to get out of the house and kind of escape all of the stifling and the fear that I felt whenever I was at home. And I just started pursuing that with everything that I possibly could. So eventually, I moved out. It was in my late teens when I moved out. I was 17, I think. And from that point on, I was just very much on my own. My whole worldview became, I'm going to do everything that I can alone, self-sovereignty all the way.

Eric Huffman: Wow, yeah,

Meredith Kirk: I don't want anybody else in my life. So I pursued that very hard.

Eric Huffman: So you clearly had that fear of abandonment, and the best way to not be abandoned is to not be known.

Meredith Kirk: Right, absolutely.

Eric Huffman: Stay on your own, right?

Meredith Kirk: Yeah.

Eric Huffman: Which we laugh about it, but that's... We'd call that hell.

Meredith Kirk: Right, it was.

Eric Huffman: Yeah. I mean, isolation and utter loneliness is the closest thing to hell we might know in this life. But sometimes we would rather risk that than risk loving and losing or getting hurt again. And man, your situation it's totally understandable.

Eric Huffman: How long did that go on, that self-isolation?

Meredith Kirk: A really, really long time. So eventually, I left the ballet world and I decided to finish my college degree. So I was working full-time for a third-party logistics company and going to school full-time. And emotionally, physically, mentally, I just started to run myself into the ground. I was working 60, 70 hours a week. I took eight classes a semester, four semesters in a row: summer, fall, spring, summer. I barely slept. I couldn't afford anything at all. I lived in Sharpstown at the time, which if anyone is familiar with Houston

Eric Huffman: It's really nice there.

Meredith Kirk:'s maybe one of the worst parts of town.

Eric Huffman: It's tough living.

Meredith Kirk: It is tough living. I mean, I just had pennies to live on. And when I finished college, I decided that I wanted to learn self-defense. And I'd heard about it as a teenager. I saw it on a television program. I saw Krav Maga on Discovery Channel or something. I remember seeing the super intense Israeli woman throwing dirt in people's eyes, and just was so inspiring. That sounds weird. She was throwing dirt in their eyes, and it was inspiring.

Eric Huffman: She was empowered, man.

Meredith Kirk: She was empowered. And seeing the things that they were addressing that it was real, they were addressing things that really happen in the world. And that resonated with me, because I thought, "I've seen those things happen and I want to know what to do with it. I don't want that helpless feeling."

Background: Stop! Stop! Never go down! Never go down!

Meredith Kirk: And I drove by the Krav Maga school on 59 and Kirby every single day, and so I thought, "Okay, I'm just gonna go do it. This is time. I'm done with school, I have a little bit more financial freedom. I certainly have time. It's not like I have anybody in my life to worry about, so I'm just gonna go right." And that changed everything.


Eric Huffman: So you spent a good portion of, you know, this part of your life pushing people away, insisting on isolation and self-preservation. But at some point, a man came into your life who refused to let you push him away.

Meredith Kirk: Yes.

Eric Huffman: What made him different?

Meredith Kirk: I think the fact that he didn't take no for an answer. He was consistent. It didn't matter what I did to push him away, he showed up anyway.

Eric Huffman: And for our listeners who are concerned, we're talking about Jesus right now. Some people are like, He's pulling a preacher trick on us. It's Jesus. No, this was a real-

Meredith Kirk: It's a real person.

Eric Huffman: Real-life man that you met who was different. What's his name?

Meredith Kirk: His name is CJ Kirk.

Eric Huffman: Hmm, CJ.

Meredith Kirk: I met him through Krav. I trained for about a year and I was invited into an advanced training program. So he was teaching this. So it was a huge deal for me to be asked into this program because he's the owner of the school, he's a third-degree black belt in Krav Maga, and he wouldn't admit this, but he is probably one of the most highly respected people in the entire Krav Maga worldwide organization.

Eric Huffman: Which is a huge deal.

Meredith Kirk: It's huge. I was excited. So being in advanced training program, the nature of what we were doing was advanced techniques. So we were taking these motor skills that you learn as a level one student and extrapolating it out across higher level techniques. And in all that time of training before, I had never had issues where I would have any kind of traumatic issue in class. Like I'd never experienced anything-

Eric Huffman: Flashbacks or anything like that?

Meredith Kirk: Yeah. Like nothing like that, until that class.

Eric Huffman: Really?

Meredith Kirk: And we started working knife defense.

Eric Huffman: Oh my!

Meredith Kirk: And I just would shut down, just shut down in class, emotionally, mentally, I would start crying, I would have to leave, I would just get filled with rage. It was becoming a huge problem. And I just didn't know how to manage my emotions, you know? And looking back, I realized, for a lot of that I was operating not just in this class in my entire life, I was operating with the emotional intelligence of a 12-year-old. I didn't know how to respond to all the anger and fear and everything that was welling up inside of me in this class, but I knew that I needed to learn it and I knew that I needed to be there.

So I asked if I could talk to him after class. So I shared a little bit about my family situation with him and why specifically this was challenging for me. And that conversation, he just decided that he was going to be my dad.

Eric Huffman: Wow.

Meredith Kirk: I didn't realize it at that specific moment but he knew. That was just by far the greatest pursuit that anyone has ever made to be a part of my life.

Eric Huffman: How did he pursue you?

Meredith Kirk: So first he actually invited me to the candlelight service here at The Story.

Eric Huffman: Like the Christmas one?

Meredith Kirk: The Christmas one. He knew that I was going to be spending the holidays alone, like I normally did, and asked me to come. And I didn't want to. I thought it was weird that he asked me. So he ended up inviting the whole class. He kind of tricked me into coming. Like I very much felt obligated, because he started announcing it to the class, and he was like, "Oh, guys, everyone's invited. Don't worry, Meredith is also coming." And I was like, "What? I didn't ever agree to that. What are you talking about?" But then I was like, "Well, no, I have to show up because people are expecting me to be there, and if I don't, it's gonna be weird."

And then I ended up going to dinner with their family, the Christmas dinner. I mean, it was... And I didn't know what to do with any of that. And then after that, every Saturday he texts me and go, "Hey, we'll see you tomorrow at church at 11."

Eric Huffman: I think I remember those days because... So I knew CJ before I knew you and he is an extraordinary specimen. I don't know how else to say that. You see him and you kind of think, "That is just a large human." Then you hug him and he's like a rock. Like solid rock. Like if the guy from Game of Thrones, the mountain guy, if he died or lost his contract, CJ could play Mountain on Game of Thrones. He is a beast. And he was coming to The Story. And I remember him kind of dragging you here.

Meredith Kirk: Yes. That's probably the best way to describe it.

Eric Huffman: You did not have a look on your face that told me, "I'm glad to be here today." It was like you were being forced to be here.

Meredith Kirk: It was like these arms crossed, teen-aged angst, you know?

Eric Huffman: Yeah. I didn't really know what to do with you at that time. I was afraid of you, not for the reasons that I'm afraid of you now. You can totally manhandle me, and I know that. But then I was afraid of you just because of that look on your face. I was like, "I have no idea what to say to this person." But now it makes sense. Your prior experience in church did not end well. So I can't help but think you projected.

Meredith Kirk: Oh, absolutely.

Eric Huffman: So you were thinking, These people are just like those people.

Meredith Kirk: They're all the same. He's not gonna be any different. Why does it matter that he's a Christian? Right?

Eric Huffman: Right.

Meredith Kirk: Absolutely.

Eric Huffman: When were the breakthrough moments for you at The Story where you were like, I'm not just coming because I have to because CJ is coercing me; I'm coming because I want to be here?

Meredith Kirk: Part of it was through coercion. So he would sign me up for groups or teams on the Connect cards and just like put it in the offering plate, and then I would get emails about these things that I was committed to.

Eric Huffman: Oh, he would do it without your knowledge?

Meredith Kirk: Well, sometimes he would tell me. But then I'd be like, "Hey, I got something about joining the small group..." The relationship we have now really started to form in the sense that I wasn't so resistant, and I was accepting and I want it to be a part of his life, too, was during the father's sermon series that you were doing. I was asked to talk about my dad and what had happened in my life previously.

I spent several nights crying myself to sleep, asking why God had forgotten about me, and why I couldn't have just had a good father.

I don't think I had ever really shared with C.J. what he meant to me, and how much his presence and pursuit of me in my life had really changed. I'd never said it out loud to him, and I was afraid to, because of what that meant to me, and that vulnerability of opening myself up to all that pain again. It didn't take long for C.J. to see how broken I was or recognize that I had a huge, father-shaped void in my life.

I ended up writing him a letter telling him that I finally accepted and loved him as my dad the way that he wanted to be in my life. CJ never gave up on me. He's given me a place to belong in his family and taken on the role of a father in my life.

Eric Huffman: So had he made it known to you at that point that he wanted to be your father?

Meredith Kirk: Oh, yeah, actually for years before, he would say to me all the time, "You know I'm like your dad." And I go, "No, no, you're not. This is weird. I'm a 20-year-old woman, it's too late for that. This is weird. I don't want anything to do with this."

Eric Huffman: "I don't need that."

Meredith Kirk: Right. So I was really resist. After sharing my testimony with everyone here and then finally writing a letter to him, I remember being in tears and saying, "Can I call you dad? And he said, "I've been waiting for that for a long time."

Eric Huffman: Wow.

Meredith Kirk: God never forgot about me. He's given me someone to truly call dad, and for that I am grateful. And it was just this really beautiful moment. Things just continued to blossom, and about a month later, he called me on the phone and he says, "I have kind of a weird question to ask." And I said, "Oh, okay. It's normal. We don't really have a normal relationship so go for it." He goes, "Well, I've been thinking, and I would really like it if you changed your name, and officially became my daughter." And he's like, "And if you don't want to do it, it's fine. You're still as much of my daughter as you would be if you didn't, but I love you and I want you to be Meredith Kirk." And I just lost it on the phone. He makes me cry all the time, by the way.

Eric Huffman: I'm about to lose it right now.

Meredith Kirk: He does all the time.

Eric Huffman: Oh, my gosh.

Meredith Kirk: And I said, "I've been wanting to ask you the same question." So we started that process and went through the courts to change my name-

Eric Huffman: Wow.

Meredith Kirk: officially be his daughter. And it was, I mean, the most vivid comparison that I could ever make to the love of Christ. I mean, in every possible way, right? I was just this lonely, broken person and he saw me and he loved me anyway. And he kept showing up, he met me at my level every time. When I wasn't ready to trust him, he was patient.

Eric Huffman: I bet.

Meredith Kirk: I was not always nice to him. I still had a lot of misdirected anger, and because he was trying to be a father in my life, he got a lot of it because I had a lot of anger towards my real father. And he loved me anyway. He would keep showing up. And he would just say, "I love you, and you're still my daughter. I love you you're still my daughter. I love you. I'm proud of you, you're my daughter." I mean, that's what God does. That's what Jesus does.

Eric Huffman: It does sound like Jesus.

Meredith Kirk: I mean, it's the same thing. And it's so beautiful. And then he took me and he adopted me into his family and called me his own when I didn't deserve it. I think God knew that I needed that picture of, of human love in my life to really understand His love.

Eric Huffman: So it absolutely sounds like Jesus. And there's one story that comes to mind. It's the only time Jesus ever called someone daughter in His whole life. And this woman had been sick for 12 years, and she had to be quarantined or a better word for it is just ostracized—she couldn't be around anyone else. So for 12 years, no one had touched her. She was broke and utterly alone. And Jesus came through town and she found a way to sneak up to Him in spite of the crowds that were pressing it around him. And she reached out and touched Him and he felt it.

You know, a woman was not allowed to touch a man, especially that woman, because according to the way things worked then, she had put Him at risk of being sick like her or being ritually religiously impure. And you didn't do that to a famous teacher like Jesus. So He could have had her punished heavily, like stoned to death. And knowing that she had touched Him, the story says that He turned and knelt down to her level and listened. The story says that she told Him her whole truth, which I love that line. He sat and listened while she told Him her whole truth. And then when she was done, He said, "Daughter, your faith has healed you." So He called her daughter and he proclaimed her healing 12 years after getting sick.

I'm trying to put the numbers together here, but this talk you gave at The Story was about two years ago.

Meredith Kirk: It would have been 12 years.

Eric Huffman: 12 years from the time you saw your father try to kill your mom and grandma, 12 years of isolation, 12 years of loneliness, anger, spending everything you have to try and make your own way, nothing working. And then at your most broken, broken place, a man comes in and says, "Daughter, you're healed." How has his love, practically speaking, healed you, Meredith?

Meredith Kirk: How much time do you have? I think first and foremost, he showed me what it means to love. I didn't really know what a relationship was. Now, there was a part of me that wanted it. But even if I had it, I wouldn't have known how to operate. He helped me see worth in myself, in my life. I began to have this changing relationship with Christ, which was one of the most powerful things that changed my life. I'm trying to not to cry.

Eric Huffman: It's okay. A lot of times people who are single and around your age have this ever-present feeling of void in their life. Like they're just not quite fully human as long as they're single, like they're missing something. How has the love of CJ and the love of Christ shown you that with relationship or without one, with romance or without it, with marriage or without it, that you're okay?

Meredith Kirk: The biggest thing that's been challenging me this last year is just that—is that I am a complete person, is that I have enough love. I want a relationship. I want a family. Now at this point in my life, I see the power of that love and I want to give that to someone else. And so the perspective that's really been on my heart is that if CJ, if he is the only human-to-human relationship that I get to experience on this earth, that is that powerful, transformational love, if that's the only one I get it's enough.


Eric Huffman: So Meredith, welcome back to the Maybe God podcast.

Meredith Kirk: Thank you. Thanks for having me.

Eric Huffman: Of course. Really glad you're here. It's cool to catch up. It's been too long and a lot has happened.

Meredith Kirk: A lot has happened in the last four years.

Eric Huffman: Yes, a lot has happened to you personally and to the world with the pandemic and everything. So, last time we talked, you were living the single life but as a complete person. We talked about that in our prior conversation how you were single, but you didn't feel like you were just a half waiting for your other half. You were striving to be a complete person not really desiring to jump into the dating scene if I recall.

Meredith Kirk: Yeah, I had a lot of peace about where I was in my life. I was still open-minded to the idea that it could happen. There was a part of me that desired marriage and desire to family. But I knew that if I never had it, I would be okay. So I didn't put a lot of effort into dating. I think from that podcast... maybe I went on two dates after that podcast total.

Eric Huffman: Really? Two dates total.

Meredith Kirk: Yeah.

Eric Huffman: All right. That's interesting. Because I know that you didn't stay single for long, and we'll get there in just a minute, but just two dates basically out on the dating scene. Now, tell me something about what's happened in your life. Something that's changed. How did you continue to deal with or overcome the things we talked about in our last conversation about past traumas, and you know, some of the resentments that sort of lingered at that point? How did you grow as a person over the last four years?

Meredith Kirk: Yeah, so I think at that point in my life, I was really beginning to experience what it meant to really receive and give love. But I hadn't really discovered what it meant to truly and deeply receive and give forgiveness. And I think that has been the biggest shift for me and my understanding of forgiveness. The secular world will tell you that forgiveness is a self-directed process, that it is you simply making a choice to forgive someone, and then it's done.

So I had reached a point in my life, by the time we did that podcast, where so many good things were happening. God was working through this church, through CJ, through his family, through community and I just thought, "Okay, then I'm at a place where I can just decide to forgive my biological father." And then months would go by and I would realize I was still really bitter and had a lot of coldness towards him. And I reached this point where I was so frustrated, and I would just say to myself, "I already forgave him. Why is it still coming up?" And I think that's something a lot of people deal with-

Eric Huffman: Sure.

Meredith Kirk: ...whether they've had an immense amount of trauma or they've just been hurt in relationships. That's something we all question. And I think the reason why that happens is because there is not a single person on this planet who is capable of offering forgiveness entirely from the capacity of their own will.

Eric Huffman: Wow. You just said a lot.

Meredith Kirk: I just said a lot, yeah.

Eric Huffman: Say more about the difference between giving and receiving love and giving and receiving forgiveness, and why is forgiveness so tricky.

Meredith Kirk: I think forgiveness is tricky because it's so easy to be deceived into thinking you've moved on when you haven't. Because it's poised as a choice in the world and that's not what it looks like.

Eric Huffman: A self-directed choice, you say.

Meredith Kirk: Yeah. It's not an action. Now, action flows from forgiveness. Paul says this in Ephesians, that forgiveness allows for us to be tender-hearted and to be kind to one another. But that's not how it begins. True biblical forgiveness, he says at the end of that verse is because just as in Christ God forgave us. So for me, it was understanding that although love is a choice, it's something that I can do, forgiveness is not a thing that I do, but it's a state of being that I experience.

So it is not just that I make a choice to forgive, but that I live fully in the grace of God that I am forgiven by the blood of Jesus who died on the cross for my sins. That's a state of being. I'm forgiven. That's amazing. That is what transforms you, not just choosing to try to let go of something that was really hurtful.

Eric Huffman: That's powerful. So would you say as opposed to a self-directed choice that sort of pulls from our own internal emotional resources, so forgive someone and takes me being a good person or somehow digging some grace out from within me, the source you pull from is actually God's forgiveness, God's grace toward us that we in turn extend toward those that we need to forgive?

Meredith Kirk: Absolutely. I mean, the deeper that I got into my faith and the closer that I found myself getting to Jesus, the more I understood how significant that truth is that I'm forgiven. I am a wretched person. I'm really angry, I'm a really selfish person, I don't make a lot of good decisions, but God still choose to forgive me. And when you see the depth of that and you understand the significance of your own sin, forgiveness flows through you-

Eric Huffman: Yeah, more naturally.

Meredith Kirk: ...because of Jesus.

Eric Huffman: Wow. How has that understanding of forgiveness shaped and changed your relationships?

Meredith Kirk: I think it's really allowed for emotional intimacy in relationships, where before I think there were still a lot of walls. Because heart of unforgiveness it really just wears you down. It's exhausting. Because you're either intentionally holding on to something that you don't want to let go of or you're deceiving yourself into thinking that you've already let it go. And both of those things are tiring. So to kind of protect yourself, you put up these walls, and you don't quite get fully invested in people. You kind of find a reason to check out or reason to be upset.

So I think opening myself up and really experiencing the true forgiveness of Jesus in my life and being able to live through that and other people has allowed me to enter into relationships with people more deeply, so I can have true Christian community. And whether that's in my discipleship group, whether that's in friendships that I have or even relationships at work, or with CJ and the family, it's just opened me up to a different level of connection and support and just genuine, authentic relationship.

Eric Huffman: Yeah. It really begins with that just utter vulnerability of you sitting here saying, I'm a wretched person. It arrested me even. I'm just sitting there going, "No, you're very nice." And I think that's what the world wants us to sort of say about ourselves is that I'm a good person, you know, I'm good enough I'm strong enough and all that. And that self-esteem kind of thing is very big in our culture. For you to say, "Well, I'm a wretched person," it sounds kind of despairing and depressing or like you're self-shaming, but that's... If you're not a Christian, you might not understand that's actually not what's happening.

Meredith Kirk: Mm-mm.

Eric Huffman: It's actually the path to real freedom and worth, self-worth through the grace of God as opposed to this superficial self-worth that the self-esteem culture might try to impose on us.

Meredith Kirk: Yeah, absolutely.

Eric Huffman: It's so cool to hear how God has worked in your life and to see the results just even in your eyes, Meredith. I used to be really scared of you, I'm really honest. And it's like most people, probably. But it's because you know, you carried a lot with you. And to see you be freed from that and to be fully human in the best possible sense of that word, just a daughter of God, and fully alive, it's just a beautiful thing to behold.

So there's one person in particular, who has come along since their 2019 conversation with whom you've established a relatively intimate connection and bond, let's say. His name is-

Meredith Kirk: Hunter Thompson.

Eric Huffman: Okay. So tell us about Hunter and how you met and maybe a little bit about him.

Meredith Kirk: Yes. We actually met at the launch service for Timbegrove-

Eric Huffman: Which is our second campus here at The Story.

Meredith Kirk: Mm-hmm. It's weird because we had both come to the church at the same time for several years but we had never met each other because we were always at different services. And that day we both showed up to volunteer. I saw him there, thought he was kind of cute. And we started talking. I insulted him, then I was upset he didn't ask for my number. But then he had followed me on Instagram and we ended up talking during the pandemic.

Eric Huffman: Really?

Meredith Kirk: It was the beginning of 2020 was when we met.

Eric Huffman: So tell us about what drew you to him a little bit, and what you saw in him from the get go.

Meredith Kirk: So our first date, I think, was when a lot of that was evident to me. So it was in May of 2020. So a lot of stuff was still locked down. And our date was to grocery store. So we went to Whole Foods and sat outside and talked for a while, and I was really amazed with his intentionality. I think that is what stuck out to me the most. We sat on that bench and he asked me three kind of general questions, but that was what directed our conversation. He wanted to know about my faith, my political values, and my five-year plan.

Eric Huffman: Wow.

Meredith Kirk: And I thought, "Oh, well, I think you're my five-year plan."

Eric Huffman: Let's cut right to the chase.

Meredith Kirk: Yeah. But I was really impressed with how forward he was, that he had clearly thought about the things that he wanted, that his faith was important to him. There were so many amazing things that happened in that conversation that just really stood out to me and were different.

Eric Huffman: May of 2020. What's it like to fall in love during a pandemic?

Meredith Kirk: Actually, I kind of liked it because it took away all of the flashiness of dating. You couldn't just go do something super exciting and distract someone from maybe you having an awful personality. Truly you had to genuinely want to know that person and be invested in them. There was no source of distraction. So I appreciated that actually.

Eric Huffman: Yeah. And just a lot of conversations, a lot of long walks six feet apart. It's a weird time to fall in love. But I totally get what you're saying. I mean, especially for you coming out of what you were coming out of personally and healing, building that trust from early on was key, I would think.

Meredith Kirk: Absolutely. 100% it was. And so to have that happen right away with that first conversation and then to build so quickly, I think was really valuable for us.

Eric Huffman: So the main question, most important question is, does CJ approve of Hunter?

Meredith Kirk: He does, yes.

Eric Huffman: Did he immediately or did it take time?

Meredith Kirk: I think he did immediately.

Eric Huffman: Really?

Meredith Kirk: I mean, I think he had his cautionary and spent time with him, got to know him. But he's been a fan.

Eric Huffman: If anybody doesn't know CJ, probably doesn't know what a big deal that is. CJ is pretty scary dude sometimes, and you don't always really know what he thinks of you, you know, especially if you're just getting to know him. So the fact that he immediately or almost immediately approved, it says something about Hunter.

Meredith Kirk: Yes.

Eric Huffman: So what particularly about Hunter has helped you to heal and grow as much as you have?

Meredith Kirk: I think what he has helped me see is the value of patience and grace. There are times when I... those times when I forget that I'm forgiven and my reaction is to be frustrated, is to be angry. And he is a very patient, a very calm person, he always has grace to extend, and that has meant so much to me.

Eric Huffman: Yeah. At what point in the dating or getting-to-know-you stuff did you just bear it all in terms of your past and what happened with your parents when you were a kid and all that stuff?

Meredith Kirk: He actually heard the podcast.

Eric Huffman: Hey. What?

Meredith Kirk: Yeah.

Eric Huffman: We did the hard work for you, Meredith.

Meredith Kirk: Yeah. So I think it was our third or maybe fourth time going out and he was like, "By the way, I should let you know I listened to that and I know about it." So it was pretty early on we got to talk about our families and backgrounds. So it came out pretty soon.

Eric Huffman: Wow, what did that tell you that he heard the episode and showed up for the day?

Meredith Kirk: I would think I was a little bit surprised. But it showed me that the things in my life that I once thought made me kind of undesirable, actually work. So that was really cool and really powerful.

Eric Huffman: Wow. He's such a stud.

Meredith Kirk: They don't make them like that anymore, man. He's a throwback in a way.

Meredith Kirk: He is.

Eric Huffman: You know?

Meredith Kirk: He's a true, proper gentleman.

Eric Huffman: It's great. When was the wedding, by the way?

Meredith Kirk: November.

Eric Huffman: Of?

Meredith Kirk: Last year, 2022.

Eric Huffman: 2022. So newlywed, kind of getting started there. How have you been able to keep Jesus sort of front and center and keep growing as you were before Hunter came in the picture?

Meredith Kirk: So I think last time I talked about kind of big things for... being in the life of singleness was being in the word, growing relationship with Jesus, and serving in the church. And honestly, for us, that hasn't changed at all. I think in large part that has to do with the fact that his faith is also important to him and is a priority. But I mean, our mission as a couple is to be radically obedient to the word of God so we can serve Him and our families and our community, and the love of Christ.

Eric Huffman: Wait, is that a state admission?

Meredith Kirk: We have a state admission.

Eric Huffman: Say it again.

Meredith Kirk: That we would hold each other accountable to a radical commitment to the word of God, so that we could serve Him, our families, and communities in the love of Christ.

Eric Huffman: That's serious business.

Meredith Kirk: I mean, that was what we talked about last time. So, for me, it is now just doing that in partnership with someone. And I'm very blessed and grateful to have someone who wants to prioritize that.

Eric Huffman: And I kind of know the answer to this question. But for our listeners, just talk about how involved you guys have chosen to be in sort of God's Kingdom generally and The Story church, specifically. What have you been doing?

Meredith Kirk: We both go to the Timbergrove campus now. So we're both really involved with serving on Sundays. Every now and then I'll have an opportunity to preach which has been really special. We lead small groups together. He does prison ministry outside of this. So he's really active and really involved. And it's just something that we've kind of melded together in our pursuit of God together.

Eric Huffman: Wow. How many times have you preached now?

Meredith Kirk: Oh, I don't know.

Eric Huffman: Five?

Meredith Kirk: Maybe five or six?

Eric Huffman: I was thinking five or six.

Meredith Kirk: Yeah.

Eric Huffman: You're enjoying it?

Meredith Kirk: Oh, it's a lot of fun.

Eric Huffman: Yeah. The process is fun. I think preparing is more fun than delivering.

Meredith Kirk: I agree with that. I like nerding out on it all more than trying to make sure that I say it all right and I don't stumble on my words and sound like a buffoon. But yeah, it's been great.

Eric Huffman: For people that haven't been around to hear you preach or to see you preach, and have just heard your story from 2019, it might come as a surprise to them that you're regularly preaching and things like that now. But it's not just that you're preaching, you've also sort of entered into a whole new life in terms of education, right?

Meredith Kirk: Absolutely. So right after the podcast, I started seminary, and I'm still in it. Been in it for the long haul, it's gonna be a while. My first seminary experience was really challenging in that there seemed to be this desire to really shake up the faith of students in maybe a way that wasn't very helpful. And that was really oriented around breaking down the traditional Christian idea that the scriptures have authority. So there was a lot of attack against the Old Testament, how it was this thing that's just racist and prejudiced, and any kind of bad label you could put on it.

So as I found myself in that context, I just didn't know enough at that point to be able to defend any of it. Like I knew in my heart those things weren't true but I didn't know how to stand up in my class and say, "Hey, I don't know if I agree with you on that, because I didn't have a lot to back it up." So that just really put me into this drive to know the Bible better to know Jesus better and to be able to defend my faith in that way. So the more that I dove into the Old Testament, the more that I prayed through it, the more love I found for it. So I ended up finding a school where I could do my masters in Old Testament. So that's my focus now.

Eric Huffman: Well, what a story, Meredith! What a story that God is living and writing in you! And it's just getting started. I can't wait to see four years from now where you're at then? Are there any plans that we need to know about in the next four years, what to expect for Meredith and Hunter?

Meredith Kirk: Oh, well, I'm sure in the next four years we'll have started a family probably.

Eric Huffman: Really?

Meredith Kirk: Yeah. We're both on that path. So that will play a role. Whatever or wherever the journey of seminary takes me.

Eric Huffman: Could I ask just about the starting of family? Given the stuff you overcame, was there any hesitation about whether or not you wanted to ever try and be a mom?

Meredith Kirk: You know, I think, prior to our marriage, there was because I was so worried about being a parent that I didn't want to be and allowing all of that trauma to influence how I raised a child. But the longer that I've been married to Hunter and the more involved we get in the church, the less I really worry about that. Because I know that I have a good partner by my side, I know that I have a wonderful family by my side, and I know I have a great church by my side to help me through that. So yes, there were, but a lot less so now.

Eric Huffman: Wow. Amen. One more question.

Meredith Kirk: Mm-hmm.

Eric Huffman: When it comes to people in your life who are on the dating scene, whether they've gotten married and didn't work out and they're single again, whether they're single and have never been married, when you talk to them, what would your advice be?

Meredith Kirk: When I hear that question, I think of John 17, which is the chapter of Jesus's prayer for Himself, for the disciples, and for future believers. In that prayer, He opens it by saying that He just wants people to know eternal life by knowing His son. So that is the first thing is just like knowing Jesus is first. And then through that, in His prayer for future believers, is finding complete unity together. I think that really starts with finding community in the church and being discipled, discipling others, and living missionally in your faith. I think that's really how you find that wholeness as a person in your faith, whether you're single or not, but especially if you're single.

Eric Huffman: Well, and then you're more prepared for whatever relationships God has in store for you, whatever comes your way. But without taking that step further, sometimes we've tried to put the cart before the horse, and in a way we look for that romantic connection that one and only person, before we've done those things you're talking about, grounding ourselves in community, being vulnerable and accountable and community and growing in our faith and trusting the Lord, we try to do the other thing first, and then fit that other stuff in later. And that's not exactly...

Meredith Kirk: Yeah. That's backwards.

Eric Huffman: Yeah. I mean, people do it and often pay a price for it or have to work through some of the things that come up. But what has happened with you and with Hunter is just such a miracle, such a beautiful picture of what God can do. I'm just really grateful that not only that you've had the courage to make the time to talk with us and all of our listeners today, but that you did so four years ago when it was probably even harder than it is now to share everything going on and that you had been through and all of that. I can't say thank you to God enough for instilling you with that courage to step forward and testify.

I encourage people all the time, if you have overcome something or if you're up against something that you're overcoming, tell the story. Tell people about it. And you've done that and somehow we've been able to document it to help people see all at once what God can do in the trajectory of someone's life and the story He can tell through them. So really grateful for that.

Meredith Kirk: Thank you.

Eric Huffman: Yes, absolutely for the story that he's telling through you. And thanks for joining us again today, Meredith.

Meredith Kirk: Thanks. I appreciate it.

Eric Huffman: Proud of you, sister.


Julie Mirlicourtois: This episode of Maybe God was produced by Julie Mirlicourtois and Eric and Geovanna Huffman. Our editor was Justin Mayer and our technical director for this episode was Donald Kilgore. Our social media team is Kat Brough and Justin Keller. For more information about Maybe God and to sign up for exclusive updates and content, head to today. And don't forget to follow and engage with us on Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube. Thanks for listening, everyone.