While sitting on stage with her fourth fiance, Tyler Johnson, on Sunday at Forest Hill Church, Emily Maynard told the audience that this relationship is different because she has a new concept of what love is.
The former star of “The Bachelorette” told the Rev. David Chadwick that before, and especially during filming of the show, she bought into the concept that love is all about feelings and circumstances.
“You’re on a helicopter and you’re going to a beach, so of course I’m in love,” Maynard said.
Maynard and Johnson talked with Chadwick as part of his sermon on sexual purity and the differences between Hollywood and Biblical views of romance.
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The couple first appeared earlier this month on Chadwick’s WBT radio program.
“I realized I don’t need to preach a sermon, I need to let them tell their story,” said Chadwick after church service ended. “It’s a great story. And it gives Emily a chance to share her redemption.”
During Sunday’s sermon, Maynard said she was overwhelmed with humiliation and embarrassment after filming - and her engagement to her third fiance, Utah entrepreneur Jef Holm, - ended
She said despite past tragedies in her life (such as the death of her first fiance, Ricky Hendrick in 2004), she “never felt lonelier” than when she returned home from the show.
“No one knows that Emily was in the fetal position for three weeks because she was so humiliated at what her life had become,” said Chadwick after the service.
It was through that pain that Maynard said she drew closer to God and the church.
“I had made that my idol: being chosen by another person, not Jesus,” Maynard told churchgoers.
And through the process of serving the church, she met current fiance Tyler Johnson. Maynard noted the irony of appearing on The Bachelor and The Bachelorette, only to “meet the person I’m going to spend the rest of my life with at the church down the street.”
The two had met years ago through an outreach program at Quail Hollow Middle School but had remained friends.
“Establishing that great foundation served us really well when we started dating,” said Johnson.
Still, Johnson, an elder at Forest Hill, said he couldn’t help but feel disappointed when he learned she was going on the Bachelorette.
“The negative of trying to be a friend first is you lost your opportunity,” he said. “I was just waiting for my shot.”
Months after she returned from filming, Johnson asked Maynard if she wouldn’t mind tweeting information on an event he was organizing, called the Justice Conference. In part because of her reality TV celebrity status, Maynard has more than 409,000 followers.
Maynard said she would on the condition that Johnson take her on a date, said Johnson. That date turned into a courtship that resulted in a marriage proposal in January.
“I prayed the Holy Spirit would lead me in a way to propose to both of the girls (Maynard and her daughter, Ricki),” said Johnson.
The elaborate morning proposal involved flowers, candles, a scrapbook, rings for both Maynard and Ricki and even a trip to the Pancake House.
“God’s timing is so perfect. Had he brought Tyler to me a couple of years ago, I would have looked at him more as a necessity,” said Maynard, adding that now she looks at him as a “blessing” because her reliance is now centered on God.
Chadwick said the couple’s love story illustrates the four different types of love mentioned in the Bible, all derived from Greek words: storge (family love), eros (physical and sexual love), philea (friendship love), agape (unconditional acceptance of another person).
He added that their story highlights the importance of placing a relationship with God over a relationship with anyone else.
After the service, those who had seen the Bachelorette and those who hadn’t seen the show said they were moved by the couple’s love story.
“It just proves that you can’t base love on a feeling or on the surface,” said south Charlotte resident Bethany Ely. “It does need to go a lot deeper than that, just like our relationship with Christ.”
Maynard acknowledged that shows like the Bachelorette give people a false sense of what real love is. She regrets being a part of that culture, she said.
To anyone still buying in to the lie, she said, “I’d want to teach them everything I’ve learned because it’s changed who I am to my core. I just want to shake them and give them a hug and a Bible.”