For authors Jen Hatmaker and Tyler Merritt, finding love after 40 can be challenging.
Jen is known to many as a New York Times bestselling author and speaker along with being one of the first influential leaders to come out as a progressive Christian. Tyler is a bestselling author, actor and social media influencer who first came to public attention with his 2018 video “Before You Call the Cops.”
Now, Jen Hatmaker and Tyler Merritt have found love. And they’re going on tour together to talk about it.
In an exclusive interview with Baptist News Global, the couple discussed their intent to spread hope and encouragement this fall as they hit the road.
Their relationship started with a three-hour conversation that led to more conversations that led to a commitment.
“We came at this from such different places because when I met Tyler, I had been married for 26 years,” Jen said. I’ve got five kids, and I was recently divorced. Tyler has never been married, has no kids and he hadn’t had a serious relationship in over a decade. So, we came at this thing from wildly opposite camps.”
That has provided opportunities for growth, she said.
“Because we didn’t come with the same set of expectations, it was something for each of us entirely new. So, Tyler and Jen just got to be Tyler and Jen. We didn’t have to sort of mimic or emulate each other. We just came from what we were used to. We got to just build something from scratch. So, for me that turned out to be meaningful.
“I’ve learned so much from Tyler in terms of what his adult experience has been like versus mine. It’s just broadened out my horizon. It has really deepened my understanding and compassion and proximity to people with different experience than mine. He’s Black, I’m white, and he’s never been married. I’ve forever been married. He’s an only child. I’m the oldest of four. He’s a vegetarian. I just put down all the meat that exists on the planet. He doesn’t drink at all. I think wine is a food group.
“So, we’re just all over the place and yet here we are over a year and a half in, and it just continues to be a beautiful relationship.”
This might have made sense to others before it made sense to them, Tyler added. “In two different kinds of circles, if you were to ask people who knew Jen well and were to ask people who knew me well, they would tell you the coming together of Jen and Tyler just kind of makes sense in the world and then romantically.
“I’m attractive, and Jen saw that,” he said with a laugh, “and decided she wanted to be a part of that. But seriously though, when you tie the kind of chemistry we have and the way we see the world,” it does add up.
Jen is no stranger to touring, but this will be the first time she will share the stage. The two have done some one-off shows before but nothing on this scale. Already, Jen hopes this is the beginning of something more. “My hope is that these three cities we are doing in rapid-fire succession are a precursor to building more and getting to do more rounds of travel together.”
It helps that they like being together. They’re banking on that chemistry coming through on stage.
“We’re in a place in the world right now where voices matter,” Tyler said. “People are leaning into those individuals and those people. If Jen was coming to Nashville by herself, I would come, I would go see the show.”
What they have to offer is bigger than the two of them, he said. “It’s just people really leaning into voices that give them hope right now. And hopefully we can be that.”
After the pandemic, people realize time is precious, Tyler said. “If you give me a part of your time, I’m not going to waste it. I want to make sure I give you something that’s special and significant. So, this is my simple and honest hope with this tour that the individuals who come in the door, they leave changed. And what I mean by ‘changed’ is they leave different than they were when they came in the door.”
As Tyler speaks, Jen nods her head in assurance that she, too, wants the same thing from the tour.
Both Jen and Tyler believe they have a message people are eager to hear, even if it goes against the typical evangelical model they once were part of.
“The thought of being a progressive Christian can stem from the word ‘progressive,’ which is just progress,” she said. “And so, when I think about being progressive, it’s a label that now has taken on an outsized meaning … and you either think one real strong way over here or over here, or you want to assign a lot of additional meaning to it. But when I think of progress, … I just think of growth. And so, for me, being a progressive Christian simply means I am continuing to grow. I am continuing to grow in what I understand. I’m continuing to grow in my perspective. I am continuing to grow based on what I am learning from other voices, other people, other experiences, other spaces. Thus, it is something of an evolution.”
Tyler shuns the labels.
“When people call me a ‘progressive,’ or when people say they’re deconstructing or whatever, when it comes to that, I’ll be honest with you, those labels don’t do a whole lot for me. I feel a very specific way about this. … When I first came into this whole thing, I was taught about love and grace, and that was the thing that drew me in.
“I remember very specifically someone saying to me at one point, ‘There’s a grace here that passes all understanding.’ Now that I’m older, I’m going to be honest with you. I do not want to serve a God I understand.”
Even though the evangelical subculture has disappointed and caused harm, there’s more to God’s story of work in the world, Jen said. “There’s something just sort of mystical and spiritual about God, about Jesus that just holds for me. I don’t know how to describe that being an anchor, except it just is one.”