The Tale of Two Kiddies…
I was born and raised in the Granite State, New Hampshire. My wife, Jayme, was born and raised in the Evergreen State, Washington. I was the oldest child of seven. My wife was the second oldest in a family of four girls. I was not raised in a home that made church a high priority. My wife was raised in a home that attended a Baptist church faithfully week after week. I was a distracted high school student. My wife was a hard-working homeschooler. I was an infrequent attendee of a Baptist church. My wife was a young leader in a Baptist church, passionately involved in reaching her community with the gospel. We lived 3,000 miles apart. We never met. We had almost nothing in common. But, God had made us for each other. We simply didn’t know that yet.
Funny Meeting You Here…
In 2001, my wife and I met at a Bible school in southern California as two freshmen. I was a transfer student from a College in Florida, and she was a first-year freshman. Only a few short months before that fall semester began, I had been transformed by the gospel. My wife’s passion for God, on the other hand, had been steadily blooming for several years.
I can remember that year like it was yesterday. The school was relatively new and growing rapidly. The campus was buzzing with excitement, new buildings, and an excited new class of freshmen that Jayme and I were now a part of. It had become a kind of a tradition for the college at the start of a new semester to organize a large outing for the students to socialize, relax, and gather in the evening for a special preaching service designed to make sure you knew you were not in Kansas anymore. It was a hot fall day in So Cal, and the student body was shuffling onto what seemed like the original old yellow school busses. Our travel arrangements’ sad condition didn’t bother me though, I was content and looking forward to meeting some new friends and enjoying some downtime.
That day seemed like every other day until a girl walked onto the bus, and I thought to myself, “Self, I hope she sits in this seat next to me.” Honestly, I had probably made that same wish every time a pretty girl walked onto a bus. But this time was different. This pretty girl sat down right across the aisle from me. I tried to play it cool, but I was definitely a long way from being a smooth talker. Lucky for me, back then, I had a great head of hair. That is how Jayme and I met. My future wife; beautiful, short, dark brown hair, tan, all smiles, confident, and outgoing. That day, I met my wife. We dated from that first fall semester until we graduated college together.
Going to the Cha-a-a-pel…
It’s now the summer of 2005, and I am working as a Youth Pastor at a Baptist church in my hometown of Nashua, NH. At that time, Jayme was my fiancee’, and we had been apart since graduation. I was “learning the ropes” as a brand new ministry leader while Jayme was prepping everything with her family in Roy, WA. It was a stressful time for her but even more stressful for her parents. I think they were fairly confident that their daughter had made the right choice, but there was one big hang up. In their minds, the problem was that this Aaron guy had plans to marry their Jayme and lead her 3,000 miles away from all of them.
In August of 2005, Jayme and I “tied the knot” on a brutally hot summer day inside a church with no air conditioning, and the auditorium was full. The doors were left open to keep the building cool, but a bird flew into the church. One of my brothers, who was a groomsman, had to sit down in the middle of the service to avoid fainting from heatstroke. There was a speech given at the wedding ceremony that got a bit out of control. An old, overly emotional family friend interrupted the bride and me as we were making our triumphal exit at the end of the ceremony. He just had to stop Jayme and give her a big hug and kiss on the cheek as I was trying to enjoy the earliest moments of my marriage.
Honestly, it was one of the happiest days of my life. I wouldn’t trade one thing away. As I write this, Jayme and I have recently celebrated our 14th wedding anniversary, and our marriage has been nothing short of a gift from God to both of us. I am so very thankful to God for my Jayme.
Houston, We Have a Problem…
As I mentioned earlier, I had plans to lead my wife to New Hampshire, where I hoped to gain experience, mentoring, and continued spiritual growth. I always believed that my time in that church would be temporary. I had plans to be faithful until a day when God would choose to give me a new assignment of planting a Baptist church in a needy city of New England.
My plans were sadly cut short. After almost six months as a new staff member, our senior Pastor had resigned. The situation was heartbreaking for us, but we had no plans to go anywhere. We were right where God put us, and He knew where to find us if He wanted to move us.
Then, after nearly six months of helping our church look for a new Pastor via pulpit-committee, I was contacted by Pastor Eldon Martens from Clovis, CA. Pastor Martens was looking for an Assistant Pastor to come to serve alongside him in Central California. Jayme and I were flattered but had no desire to go to California. However, we decided to talk with him and his wife about the prospect. As fate would have it, if you believe in that kind of thing, the Martens’ happened to be in our area on vacation. Martha, Eldon’s better half, always wanted to travel up and down the New England coast to take in the sights and visit its historic lighthouses. We immediately hit it off with this couple that could have been our grandparents. It was like magic. I left that dinner with an unshakable belief that Jayme and I were being providentially moved from NH to CA.
In about three months from that first meeting with the Martens family, Jayme and I were pulling into Clovis, CA, with a dog named Bailey and a few possessions to begin a new life of ministry in the Golden State. You wouldn’t believe it, but after about six months of joyful ministry, my close friend Pastor Eldon Martens was retiring early. Losing another pastor broke my heart again, but I had full confidence in Pastor Martens’ decisions and trusted him completely. I was the only paid “staff man” at the time, and I served as a kind of interim pastor at the pleasure of the deacon board for nearly three months until it was obvious that God was leading Jayme and back to her home town of Roy, WA to serve as an Assistant Pastor.
I served as Assistant Pastor at Calvary Baptist Church of Roy for about two years until the senior Pastor, James Nolan, had resigned with a desire to plant a church in Southern California. In a few short months, the church had called me as their pastor in 2010. Jayme and I had found ourselves leading in the same church she joyfully attended from childhood to adulthood.
Jayme and I were thrilled with all that God had done in us and all He had done for us. We were a young family, I was a 29-year-old pastor, and we had a beautiful boy named Jake who was less than a year old when I became the Pastor. For about six and 1/2 years, Jayme and I served our church well and raised our then two children. But, there was something wrong. We didn’t think much of the symptoms because we had no point of reference. We did what any parent might do, set up an appointment with the pediatrician to get an opinion and some treatment options for our boy, who was having a few walking problems.
I Can’t See, Is Anybody There?…
In the fall of 2016, my wife brought our son to what we thought was a relatively basic pediatrician visit while I was in the wilderness hunting, Elk. What Jayme learned in that visit was devastating. The doctor was unwilling to give an actual diagnosis without Jake first seeing a specialist. Still, she was supremely confident in asserting that our beautiful six-year-old boy had been born with Muscular Dystrophy. Jayme struggled alone for a few days before I could return home. With a broken heart, she tried to wait for the right moment to tell me. The trouble is this; there simply is no right moment for heartbreak. She tried to find the right words, but what could any of us say to lessen the blow. She rehearsed the story to me about the doctor who thought Jake might have Muscular Dystrophy. I’ll never forget that day. My eyes will never stop filling with tears at the thought of it. I didn’t really know much about Muscular Dystrophy was at that moment, but I became awakened for the first time to see something that had been there all along, and I never noticed it. How could we have noticed it? We had no point of reference. We prayed and repeatedly cried for the next several weeks as we made doctor appointments and visits to confirm our fears or relieve them. When the definitive results of a blood test revealed that our son Jake had Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, I felt a kind of sadness that had never touched my soul before.
We had been praying. I had opened to James’s epistle and tried to live out pastors’ instructions to anoint the sick with oil and pray for healing. We had our entire church praying for Jake. And there was my boy, an innocent six-year-old without a care in the world. Afflicted without even knowing it. I did ask God “why?” in my prayers, but my heart wasn’t asking out of unbelief. I was broken-hearted, and I believed, and still do, that God can heal at any moment He wishes to. I was asking God, “why not now?” And I was asking, “why not Jake?” “Why not heal Jake now?” That was my question.
This World Is Not My Home…
I have not yet received an answer to my question, but what I have received is a deep-rooted assurance that God will heal my son. I pray for him to be healed now, every day. However, If God chooses to wait until the New Jerusalem to heal my boy, my heart leaps inside while my eyes fill with tears. I know, and I am assured, that Jesus will make all things new in His time. My assurance isn’t resting in my love for Jake but in God’s love for Jake. Jake is loved by my Heavenly Father, atoned for through the blood of the Son of God, and Jake is set apart by the Spirit of God. Now I wait patiently for the redemption of our bodies. I look forward to the day my son beats me in a foot race to the arms of our Saviour.
In small measure, I have now learned to say with Job, “Though He slay me yet will I trust Him.” I hope God can use me to continually show the grace and love of God to my children, my Jayme, and all my family. I desire to be used by God to help comfort His children with the Word of God and help evangelize the lost. This world is temporary, fading, and passing away. This world is not my home because I am just passing through. I am like Abraham, looking for a city whose builder and maker is God. My name is Aaron Irlbacher, and I am a Christian. I am Jayme’s husband. I am Jake, Lexy, and Ava’s daddy. I am Pastor at Calvary Baptist Church of Roy. Beyond those four identifying markers, I have little desire to be known for anything else.