In her autobiography “It's All About Him: Finding the Love of My Life,” Denise Jackson, wife of country superstar Alan Jackson, writes about the rediscovery of her faith, the struggles of her marriage, and how she and her husband managed to keep it together. Here's an excerpt:
Chapter Twenty: A Work in Progress
I even asked the Lord to try to help me: He looked down from Heaven, said to tell you please; Just be patient, I’m a work in progress. — Alan Jackson, “Work in Progress”
He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. —Philippians 1:6, the Apostle Paul
I would love to say that after Alan and I renewed our vows, we were instantly changed into perfect Christians and the perfect couple. It would be great if life was like those extreme-makeover shows on TV, where people are rejuvenated into ideal versions of themselves, what they’ve always wanted to be.
But lasting transformation takes a lot longer than an hour-long TV show, or the amount of time it takes for plastic surgery to heal. Reality can be disturbing: I’ve come to realize that life’s journey isn’t a quick transformational spin, but a long, hard trek of slow growth in an upward direction. Spiritually speaking, sanctification, or becoming more like Jesus, is a lifelong process.
Growth in human relationships is the same way. In our committed-but-not-perfect marriage, Alan and I get up every morning and take each day as it comes, with a renewed pledge to each other and to Christ. We know our progress will be slow ... but we’re moving in the right direction.
Big Hair, Big Fun
One of the unexpected benefits of this may sound superficial, but it’s not. I’ve found that as Alan and I are at ease in our relationship with each other because of God’s peace in our lives, we laugh a lot more. Our relationship is a lot more fun. We’re free!
One weekend recently, we were staying at a friend of a friend’s lake home. The owners were not there, but they had pulled out all the stops to make us comfortable in their absence.
There were fresh flower arrangements in every room. There were gift baskets full of fruit, chocolates and fine wines. The kitchen was fully stocked with just about anything we could have wanted. It was incredible. No hotel in the world could have given more care to make us feel comfortable.
The first evening we were there, we’d made reservations at a nice restaurant that our friends had recommended. I went into the luxurious master bath and took a long, hot shower, enjoying the designer soaps, shampoos and gels our hosts had left for us. I wrapped myself in an enormous, fluffy towel, put on my makeup, and then got ready to do my hair. In order for it to look full and smooth, I’d have to blow it dry with a round brush and a strong hair dryer. The bathroom was stocked with curling irons, ceramic straighteners, everything. Humming, I opened drawers, searching for what I needed. I knew it was right there somewhere.
No hair dryer.
There were about six other fully stocked bathrooms in this lovely home. Still wearing my towel, I called to Alan. He was already dressed and ready to go.
“Honey,” I said sweetly, “can you check the other bathrooms and find me a hair dryer?”
“Sure,” he said. He went down the hall, and I could hear him opening drawers and cabinets.
He came back. “There’s no hair dryer anywhere,” he said.
I was already envisioning my hair, wet and plastered to my head, drying in pathetic clumps. I clenched my teeth and smiled.
“This house has absolutely everything,” I said. “There has to be a hair dryer somewhere. And you have to find it!”
Alan knew not to mess with me when I was having hair issues. He skedaddled away to search some more.
A few minutes later I heard a triumphant shout from the direction of the garage.
“Nisey!” Alan called. “I found one!”
Thank goodness, I thought.
A moment later, the bathroom door burst open and Alan strode in, an enormous leaf blower in his arms. He flipped it on, and a tornado of air blasted through the bathroom. Tissues flew everywhere. Alan looked like someone from “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.”
But I wasn’t going to question God’s provision.
“Okay!” I shouted over the din as my hair whipped in the hurricane-force wind. “You hold it steady, and just move it up and down when I tell you!”
Needless to say, when we finally arrived at the restaurant, I had very big hair. But it was dry.
Finishing the Race
Even as Alan has supported me in hair issues, I’ve tried to affirm my love for him by entering into his interests.
Ever since I met my husband, he’s been crazy about cars. His father was a mechanic, and Alan inherited his love of vehicles and his habit of constantly buying, trading, fixing and selling cars, boats, you name it. Once when Alan was a young boy, his daddy went to a flea market and came home with a broken street sweeper. This was not on his mother’s shopping list. It had big suction vents, rotating black brushes and wide tires. Daddy Gene got it running, and Alan remembers riding up and down his driveway in Georgia, sweeping the hard dirt till it shone.
Alan hasn’t brought home any street sweepers lately, but in the interest of marital unity, I’ve tried to participate in his love of cars. A few years ago he wanted to do a big car rally, a four-day drive called the New England 1000. I joined right in. The idea was for each team to drive preplanned routes through the beautiful countryside, keeping careful track of mileage, timing, and our oil gauges. We were to check in at designated stops throughout the day and have our official time logged by the rally officials. Alan, of course, was our team driver, and I was the official navigator, which meant I had to read the map and keep us going in the right direction.
We drove a blue AC Cobra, a serious two-seater race car with no top and no windows. We had brought matching black full-body jumpsuits in case of rain, full-face helmets, a stopwatch, a notebook, directions, and pit-stop instructions. We were locked, loaded, and ready to do our 250 miles per day.
All was well until the rain began. At first it just drizzled, but then the clouds rolled in, and a heavy, cold, drenching downpour settled down on the Northeast, centered right above our car. We stopped for lunch, changed into our waterproof jumpsuits in the restroom, and came out looking like ninjas.
As the rain continued, I became less and less tolerant of my husband’s beloved hobby. The little windshield had wipers, but I had to use a chamois every other minute to wipe down the inside of the windshield so Alan could see. At first I squeezed it outside the car, but then I realized it really didn’t matter. Our little blue Cobra was filling up like a leaky rowboat.
Then my jumpsuit decided to stop being waterproof. Like the car, it began to gradually fill with rainwater. I felt like I was sitting in a wet diaper. For hours. My hair was plastered to my cold head, I could not feel my fingers, and by the time we finally pulled up to our lodging for that evening, I was so cold I could barely speak.
When we went inside, I was absolutely flabbergasted to discover that everyone else in the entire rally had given up because of the rain. They had skipped the meandering, scenic route and had come directly to the hotel many hours earlier. They were warm and dry, sitting by a roaring fire. Alan and I — who both looked like refugees from Waterworld — were the only participants who had driven the entire route for the day — without any cover!
Furious, I rushed into the hotel room, stripped off my sopping suit, and stood in the hot shower for about an hour. By the time I emerged, pink and gently wrinkled like a prune, I was actually able to be civil to my husband again.
At the end of the week, after the thousandth mile, the rally people had a big closing banquet. As awards were handed out, Alan and I were surprised when our names were called. “And to Alan and Denise Jackson,” the emcee said, “we present the Good Sport Award, for staying out in the rain and not giving up when everyone else did!”
Everyone laughed, and I stood up. “Thank you so much,” I said. “I’d just like to add that car rallies are not my usual thing; I did this for my husband. And I want you all to know that I will be receiving a very large piece of jewelry from Big Al when I get home!”
I was kidding, of course, and everyone roared with laughter. It was a light moment ... but when I thought about it later, I realized that crazy road rally was in some ways a picture of what God had allowed Alan and me to do in our marriage. It had been tough and uncomfortable, but we hadn’t bailed out. We had stuck together. We were both determined enough — or maybe I should say stubborn enough — to stay the course.
And by God’s grace, we plan to finish the race!
Excerpted from “It's All About Him,” by Denise Jackson. Copyright 2007 by Denise Jackson. Published by Thomas Nelson. No part of this excerpt can be used without permission of the publisher.