Brokenness

lord i want to be wholeA church I used to attend had a women’s Bible study on Thursday nights.  At the time, they were doing Stormie Omartian’s Lord, I Want to be Whole.  Here is the back cover description of the book:

Omartian, a survivor of child abuse, brings a powerful message of hope and healing to all who seek deliverance from depression and spiritual oppression. She shows you how prayer and encouragement from Scripture can help you come to terms with the past; how to maintain emotional wholeness; and how to receive God’s gifts.

I remember coming home from the second or third week of the study and my husband Gregg asking me if I liked it.  I shrugged and said, “Eh.  I’m not broken.  I don’t understand this study or this focus on brokenness or why people can’t just move on.”

Now, before you think that I come from a “broken free” life, you should probably know a few things:

  1. I have been sexually assaulted. At 17, I was raped in the back room of a bar in Fort Benning, Georgia.
  2. I have been married to an alcoholic drug addict…
  3. …who had an extramarital affair with my best friend. And then moved her into our house the week before my apartment was ready for me to be able to move out.
  4. I have been pregnant 8 times and I have 3 living children.
  5. I have been that wife whose husband was in a war zone on the first anniversary of 9-11. And who has subsequently spent 5 years of our 15 year marriage in that same war zone.
  6. I have been that mother in the NICU waiting room waiting for the hourly 10-minute window to visit my 3-pound son, Scott.
  7. In another state, I have sat in another NICU unable to hold my newborn son Johnathan while watching him laboriously breathe around a collapsed lung.

So, I’ve been there.  And I’ve done that.  My older brother one time called me “the strongest person I’ve ever known.”  At the time that floored me.

I wasn’t strong, in my eyes, I was just getting through my life.  (Almost) always acknowledging God there.  (Almost) always relying on God.  And I didn’t see what the big deal was to focus on what HAD happened compared to what is NOW is or what COULD BE happening.

So I said to my husband, with such arrogance and pride that typing this now I feel shame, “I’m not broken. I’ve never been broken”

It was as if God looked down at me that moment and said, “Right! Of course! I haven’t broken Hallee yet. Let me rectify that!”

And then God broke me.

I didn’t even know what broken meant.  I can barely look at pictures of Johnathan’s first year, I was in such a broken place for most of it.  He broke me until I couldn’t even pray anymore. The more I prayed, the worse it all got until I just couldn’t stand to make it worse.

My marriage was in shambles. I didn’t see the out of that. People who know us as a couple now can’t picture that, but it was. It was so broken that I couldn’t see how it could be fixed, how we could be put back together as a single unit – as a one – again.

gregg afgahGregg was broken. Speaking on this subject to a group of Army wives a couple of weeks ago, I said that I knew when I said things like , “he’d wake up from a nightmare screaming in Arabic” that they probably understood the kind of brokenness of which I’m referencing and all of the — fertilizer – I’m using that word on purpose — that comes with that. But for those of you who are laymen to the military world, let me just say that there’s a reason that people say war is hell, and it’s not an understated comment. Our military has been at war for 16 years — and war is hell. It does things to the hearts and minds of the people who so valiantly serve.

I tried to leave him at one point during this broken time. About 50 miles into the trip, when I was fighting with myself over whether that was the right decision (and I promise you not a single person reading this would have vied for me to stay and fight), I heard an audible voice in my ear that said, “Turn around and go back.”

Yeah. Go back. Go back to the fertilizer. And that’s the moment when I had to decide if I truly trusted God or not. God, to whom I wasn’t even speaking at this moment. Remember, at this point I wasn’t even praying anymore. I was angry because He’d spoken to me at a time when I wasn’t speaking to Him.

But He is God. Creator of the universe. Where was I when He laid the foundation of the world? (Job 38:4) Resigned, I turned around.

Things didn’t get better, and I still wasn’t talking to God. I promise you, whatever you’re going through, shutting out that line of communication with God will never make things better.

When I broke through my own arrogance and realized that GOD had spoken out loud in my ear even though I had shut him out, I became a sobbing wreck on my face begging God  – begging Him for release me from the brokenness.

In my prone state on the floor after months of just absolute destruction of my heart and soul, all I could think of was David.

David of the Bible.

Why did God direct me to King David?

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I read through Samuel and Chronicles, pouring over the words. I moved to Psalms, reading each one, letting them speak to me, lift me up, pour into my heart. Then I read them mixed up, in order – stories about David coupled with the Psalms.

As a sidebar, I’ve got to tell you that if you feel like you’ve had a rough life and see no light, read a mix of David’s life with the Psalms he wrote and you will find joy for the morning.

But while I was reading 1 Chronicles and 2 Samuel in chronological order – which means that I would read one story twice, basically, because they’re kind of a repeat, this kind of stood out to me like a blinking light:

1 Chronicles 21:1

Now Satan stood up against Israel, and moved David to number Israel.

Scriptures don’t explain why David taking a census of Israel was bad. It could be because he wanted to see how mighty HIS army could be versus relying on the power of God. It could be because he felt pride at all “he” had accomplished and the mightiness of “his” kingdom. We don’t  know. All we know is that Satan stood up against Israel and moved David to number Israel.

The bible goes on to say “This command was also evil in the sight of God; so He punished Israel.”

Then David said to God, “I have sinned greatly by doing this. Now, I beg you, take away the guilt of your servant. I have done a very foolish thing.” So the Lord sent a plague on Israel, and seventy thousand men of Israel fell dead….David said to God, “Was it not I who ordered the fighting men to be counted? I, the shepherd, have sinned and done wrong. These are but sheep. What have they done? Lord my God, let your hand fall on me and my family, but do not let this plague remain on your people.”

So, David sinned, and was broken, prone, in sackcloth on his face, begging God’s forgiveness, begging God to punish him instead of Israel after 70,000 men fell dead because of David’s sin.

That’s a powerful story about how Satan was used to bring David to his face, all arrogance and pride washed away.

Satan was used? What do I mean?

2 Samuel 24:1

Again the anger of the LORD was aroused against Israel, and He moved David against them to say, “Go, number Israel and Judah.”

1 Chronicles says that SATAN moved David to number Israel; yet, 2 Samuel says GOD moved David to number Israel.

While Satan is the author of all evil, he cannot exercise his evil intentions apart from the permission of God.  God can and will use him to accomplish His own purposes of judgement or discipline or whatever He wants, as seen here with David.

As I studied these verses and the stories behind them, as I dug into the way that God allowed Satan to destroy David’s pride and arrogance (at the cost of 70,000 men), a song by Micah Stampley called “Take My Life,” went through my mind.  The third verse of that song says:

Brokenness, brokenness is what I long for
Brokenness, brokenness is what I need
Brokenness, brokenness is what You want for me

And I thought to myself, before God could use Gregg and me in the way He desired to use us, He needed to break each one of us.  We each needed to quit dealing with things on our own.  We needed to quit being “strong” and handling everything on our own then turning to God and saying, “Thank you for seeing us through that.  I’ve always trusted You’d be there.”

He needed us in the midst of brokenness to fall prone to Him and give everything, all of ourselves over to Him. We needed to no longer “play church” and completely transform our lives, offer ourselves as living sacrifices, absolutely conform ourselves to the will and word of God, loving Him with ALL of our hearts, ALL of our souls, ALL of our minds, and ALL of our strength.

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The chorus of that song says:

So take my Heart and mold it
Take my mind, transform it
Take my will, conform it
To Yours to Yours oh, Lord

Jesus gave a parable of “The Seeds” in Luke 8.  In that parable, the seeds that grew and yielded crop were grown in “good soil.”

plant

I used to have a garden. For years, an abundance of fruits and vegetables came out of my yard. In fact, I intentionally have lightened my speaking schedule load this summer so that I can have a garden this year.  I am so very ready to get my hands into the dirt warmed by the sun and work the soil. I have seeds already growing in my home, ready to transplant.

Do you know what I have to do to soil to make it good enough to grow my crops?  I have to break the ground – to till the earth – break through it with force and sharp edges until what remains is soft, pliable dirt.  I have to remove rocks and roots and debris.  I have to work fertilizer through it (remember the euphemism for fertilizer?).  Because that – fertilizer – that has been part of the brokenness in my life is something God uses for good.

Once that soil is transformed, once my seeds and my seedlings are planted, I have to continually pull out weeds and bad plants.  I have to battle back bugs and pests and scavengers.  When I do those things, then my earth is good, good for seed to grow and for me to yield a healthy crop.

For God to be able to do His work through me, for me to be able to produce for God, my heart had to be broken like the ground gets broken.  And then He had to pull all the bad stuff out, the roots of my own pride and arrogance.  I had to work through the brokenness like fertilizer gets worked through the soil so that I can feed my seeds.  And armed with the full Armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-18) I am always ready to battle the fiery darts and arrows of the enemy – the pests and scavengers that want to destroy and consume my crops.

There is an old, beautiful hymn titled “It is Well with My Soul”

it-is-well

Horatio Spafford was an attorney in the late 19th century. In 1870, his only son died of Scarlet Fever at the age of four. In 1871, the “Great Chicago Fire” destroyed his real estate holdings, and ruined him financially. In 1873, he planned to go with Ira David Sankey and D.L. Moody on an evangelical campaign in Great Britain, and he hoped that the trip would give his wife and his four daughters some much needed rest from the life that had hit them with two such terrible blows in the last few years.

The day they were to leave for Great Britain, Spafford was delayed by some business in Chicago. He sent his family ahead of them, planning to follow in a few days.

While at sea, the ship that carried his family, the S.S. Ville du Havre, was struck by the British vessel, Lockhearn, and sank within minutes. The survivors were taken to Cardiff, Wales. There, Anna Spafford cabled her husband. Among the words she sent were: “Saved alone. What shall I do.

annaspafordtelegram

See, all four of their daughters died that day. Spafford left immediately for Europe. When he reached the spot where his beloved daughters drowned, he penned these words:

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

What amazing courage this man had. What an amazing story.

How much could we learn from his strength of faith? To be able to let spring out from your soul the amazing worship to God that is this song in the wake of the brokenness of financial ruin and the death of all of your children takes such an amazing amount of faith that it humbles me. To be in the very spot where your children perished and be able to pour out the words, just days later, “It is well with my soul,” is just awe inspiring.

I don’t know if God orchestrated the brokenness that occurred in my marriage, that broke me and broke Gregg. Or if He just took something horrible and turned it to good, as He promises to do in Romans 8:28.

And we know that God works together for good all things for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.

All I know is that out of my broken earth sprung my writing. When I came out of it, on the other side, words filled my heart – words I had to get out. Stories, parables, I had to tell. I published my first book 5 years ago last week, and in that time, I’ve published 22 books.

all books

Books that, through silly fictional romance stories and action and adventure stories, through cookbooks like FIFTY SHADES OF GRAVY and THE WALKING BREAD I very boldly and openly declare the Gospel. I tackle topics in the world that believers struggle with, and in turn give those readers hope, a way to turn to God, a renewed heart.

I receive letters all the time from people who have come to know Christ, who have returned to Christ, who have renewed marriages, new hope, new faith. Who have faced their own brokenness, embraced their brokenness, and welcomed God’s use through them all because they read one of my books.

Out of the brokenness of our marriage, Gregg and I formed Olivia Kimbrell Press, and have published dozens of Christian authors of varying genres who all write with the same mission: to offer true to life, meaningful fiction and non-fiction from a Christian worldview intended to uplift the heart and engage the mind. We work together, always prayerfully, always mission focused, desiring only to serve God with our talents and skill.

Out of my brokenness, I was able to say to God, “So take my Heart and mold it; take my mind, transform it; take my will, conform it; to Yours to Yours oh, Lord.”  I can say that with absolute sincerity and purpose, desiring only to be completely sanctified – to be set apart – for God.  So that every part of me – of my life – will be used for God’s purposes. I can say, in the aftermath of brokenness that had me prone on the ground, weeping because no words can be uttered, that it is well with my soul.

Hallee Bridgeman

The Beauty of Submission

Titus 2:3-5:  Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.

Titus is a wonderful book to give us examples as to how we should walk a Christian life. Titus 2 3-5 deals specifically with what a Christian woman looks like – and how older women are to “train” younger women how to model this.

Most of us can sit here and read that verse and find it easy to say, “Of course I love my husband, and I love my children. I’m a kind person who makes her house a home and has self control.” But now we’re getting to the part where a lot of women tend to buck. I think the reason is two-fold: one, society has given this misguided impression that a wife’s submission is the husband’s idea; and two, we think the word ‘submission’ translates to ‘door mat’.

According to the Bible, nothing could be farther from the truth. In Genesis 1:27, we read that God created male AND female in His image. We women are as much in the image of God as men are. In a marriage, wifely submission does not mean male dominance nor does it mean male superiority.

Genesis 2:20-24 says, “I will make him a helper suitable for him…and they will become one flesh.” The term “one” used here is the same term used in Deuteronomy 6:4 describing the Holy Trinity: “Hear O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one.” I think that is a powerful message from God that puts husband and wife as one – one flesh, one in the eyes of God as much as the Trinity of God is one. Genesis 2:20 calls woman man’s helpmate, not “helpless” mate.

Hands Females Woman Women Girls Heart People

God said: Now I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God.” (1 Corinthians 11:3) The word “head” here is a military term, not a social placement term. A book I once read (and I’d cite it if I could remember the source) worded it as “first among equals.”

I’m going to put my military wife hat on for just a sec: In the military, someone must be head, there must be order and ultimate authority and responsibility.

militaryIn a biblical marriage as defined by God, that ultimate authority and responsibility is the husband, even though the wife is his equal in the eyes of God.

A lot of modern marriages suffer because couples want to shed this “archaic” concept of “head” and “submission”, and the end result is that husbands and wives try to make themselves the same – treat each other the same – rather than revel in their differences as different sexes. For instance, God commanded men to unconditionally love their wives as Christ loved the church (in that Christ died for her).

We all know that and can recite it by rote. Unconditionally love – so that even when a man’s wife is unlovable, he’s still to love her with the same vigor and passion that Christ gave the church while He was being beaten to the point of not even being recognizable as a human, and then killed in a heinous fashion.

But what we don’t also hear is that women are NOT only commanded to love their husbands, we are primarily commanded to unconditionally respect our husbands. Whether our husband “deserves” respect in our eyes or not, we’re to respect him, to show respect, to freely give it. And submit to him.

Within establishing these commandments, God gave women, deep in their hearts and souls, a yearning to be loved and also gave men, deep in their hearts and souls, a yearning to be respected. I believe that it goes further that men actually yearn to be respected as the head of the household, submitted to as the leader by their wives – by their “one”.

Elisabeth Elliot, an accomplished speaker, writer, and missionary, once made this comment about Ephesians 5:22:

Many are the discussions I’ve heard on this one, almost all of them directed to what it “can’t possibly mean,” rather than to the plain word of the Lord. The statement is simple. Not easy for women like me, but simple, that is, I understand it only too well. (As Mark Twain said, “I have far more trouble with the things I do understand in the Bible than things I don’t understand.”)

The biggest problem women have in submitting to their husbands is a consequence of the Fall. Genesis 3:16 explains, “their [wives] desire shall be for [their] husband[s].” The word desire here actually means an urge to manipulate, control, or have mastery over.

A result of the fall is a desire to rule over our husbands. Isn’t that insane? To submit to our husbands actually goes against our natural sinful nature.

As Carolyn Mahaney says in the book Feminine Appeal, Seven Virtues of a Godly Wife and Mother:

So we see that the submissive wife – far from being the weak-willed woman our culture portrays – is actually a model of inner strength. By God’s grace, she has conquered this opposition within her own heart. It is actually weakness on display when a wife is not submissive; she is only caving in to her natural inclination to usurp authority and demand her own way. That doesn’t take any effort at all.

We can use the Apostle Peter’s words as a good outline of submission:

Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives.  Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes.  Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.  For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to make themselves beautiful. They were submissive to their own husbands, like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him her master. You are her daughters if you do what is right and do not give way to fear. (1 Peter 3:1-6)

Verse 1 parrots the same words as in Titus 2: wives, submit to your OWN husbands. This is a very clear distinction. This does not say all women submit to all men. It says, wife, submit to YOUR husband.

No one else’s husband, nor any other man for that matter. We should not seek leadership from men other than our own husbands. Wives are subject only to their own husbands.

Peter goes on to say in verse 2 that our attitude should be “respectful and pure.” The Greek word here for “respect” means, “to be in awe of, to revere, or to treat as someone special.” Is this how we treat our husbands? Do our actions, tone, countenance, body language all express respect? Do our husbands feel like they’re treated as someone special?

To be clear, the Bible doesn’t say, “Wives submit if your husband is worthy of respect.” Again, we are commanded by God to respect our husbands and submit to them. Period.

Unless there is a Biblical moral issue at stake (in which God’s authority will supersede our husband’s) then we are to submit to them whether they’ve “earned” it or are “worthy” of it or not.

wedding-ring-bible

Verse 3 tells us that being submissive to our husbands makes us beautiful. This is not an outward beauty. 2 Corinthians 4:16 says that outwardly we are perishing. Looking in the mirror, I can see the years slipping away, gray hairs, wrinkles, places not as firm as they once were. But that is merely outward appearance.

God looks at our hearts, and when He looks at a wife who submits to her husband, He sees beauty. I believe that our husbands will see us as beautiful, too.

While we are to respect and submit to our husbands, verse 5 makes it clear that we aren’t to make them gods. They are humans — fallible sinners. They are not designed to bear the full weight of our dependence. We are still to put our hope in God, to depend fully and completely on Him.

In verse 6, we see a wonderful, beautiful, example of a flawed human being in Sarah – just like us. A woman we can read about, whose life took twists and turns – some of them when she stepped out away from faith and tried to take matters into her own hands, some tested her faith, others tested her resolve, and in the end she came through full of faith, trusting in God, respecting and submitting to her husband. Hebrews 11:11 commended her faithfulness. And it’s through her example and her struggles that we can bolster our own efforts as we grow in our own marriages.

Ultimately, we need to put our faith and trust in God, trust that He will lead our husbands so that our husbands can lead us. In doing so, we will be pure and beautiful in God’s eyes and in our husbands’ eyes. And, importantly, we will provide an example to younger wives, teaching them how God’s word should apply to their own lives.

In Christ,
Hallee

 

5 Ways to Help Your Marriage Survive

couple

This summer, my husband Gregg and I will celebrate 15 years of marriage. Our marriage has faced a lot of unique challenges that are a direct result of being a military family living in a country that has been at war for over 15 years.

Gregg deployed with the 20th Special Forces Group (Airborne) less than three months after our wedding day. He’s spent many years of our marriage at army schools or in combat zones.

The times the military didn’t have him, he worked as a contractor and most years worked out of town about 48 weeks a year.

gregg-scott

When our son Scott was born, unexpectedly, via emergency C-section at 30 weeks, Gregg was 350 miles away at a military school. The emergency was so imminent that the doctors were unable to wait for him to arrive at the hospital before performing the surgery.

During a good portion of our youngest son Johnathan’s first year, he was in a military school 600 miles away, then spent his first birthday calling him from Afghanistan. Johnathan was 3 when Gregg came home for good.

Recently, we celebrated his 5-year anniversary of being home, with a local 9-5 job. After about a month of him being home, it occurred to us that – due to the nature of both his military and civilian jobs- it was the longest we’d ever spent in the same timezone.

He’s currently in a unit that “probably won’t” deploy, and his civilian job – while on Fort Knox and working for the Army – is in a non-combat zone that doesn’t require travel and comes with weekends and holidays off.

In order for any marriage to survive under these kinds of stressors, there has had to be some very intentional actions taken by both of us. We had to purposefully build our marriage from a distance.

Doing that taught us such amazing communication skills that by the time Gregg was home for good, we had many coping skills built in to handle situations that would have ripped a weaker marriage apart. Even though we sleep in the same bed and breathe the same time zone’s air these days, we’ve carried a lot of the lessons we learned during our years of separation into our current daily life:

  1. Abiding in each other. I recently had a couple of friends over for coffee. Our conversations went like this:
    “I was telling Sean the other day…”
    “Mark and I discussed it and…”
    “When Gregg and I joked about it…”

    Because this blog post was on my mind, my radar was kind of up about abiding in spouses. Abide means “to remain.” Mark 10:8 tells us that in marriage, “the two will become one flesh.”We are one – a single unit. Even when we’re operating away from each other, our thoughts and minds and heart remained centered on one another. As my friends and I spoke, I watched them actively, though subconsciously, abide in their spouses and loved observing it.

  2. Daily prayers. Gregg and I used to have to email prayers to each other. When he was in Afghanistan, he was 8.5 hours ahead of me. As I went to bed at night, he woke up. His evenings began as I was waking up. During this time, I would wake up to a prayer in my email box. As my day went on, I prayed for my husband, and before going to bed at night, I would type it out and email it to him. It became a beautiful way to wake each morning and a time I treasure. Now we’re able to pray together, holding hands, touching, often arms around each other. We pray before every meal, holding hands as a family — in private or in public. We pray over our children, touching them and touching each other. We keep our marriage constantly rooted in prayer and supplication to God, always putting Him first. As each of us grow closer to God, we in turn grow closer together.marriage-triangle-300x269
  3. Mission minded service. Gregg and I do not live for each other or for our children. We live to obey, love, and serve Jehovah God. As such, everything in our home points in that direction. My audience with my writing is my mission field. My books celebrate faith and triumph with the Holy Spirit. My royalties support missions all over the world. Gregg donates his time and talents to help other Christian authors. I blog about God’s hand in my life and in my work. I encourage other families and marriages through my time spent on this blog.Gregg and I have gone into our marriage with the intent of growing our ministries. Everything we do begins with prayer and an open heart to listen to the direction from the Holy Spirit. Our marriage is a partnership in servitude to God. As parents, we are teaching our children to be mission-minded, to serve our fellow man as we honor our risen Savior, to give to the poor and feed the hungry, to handle our fellow man with grace and love.Knowing we’re on mission together binds us with a strength that even the most trying circumstances hasn’t broken. At times when our human selves are at their worst and we hurt each other as husbands and wives tend to do, our focus on missions and mission-related work has kept us together while we restructure our foundation, in the end making it stronger.wedding-ring-bible
  4. Love and respect.That means respecting my husband even when I don’t think he’s “earned” my respect.  And it means being loved by my husband even when I’m not being overly lovable. Respecting my husband means I elevate him up as the spiritual head of our family, responsible to God for the decisions he makes for our home. Loving me as his wife means that he would step in between me and death.Knowing the true nature of love and respect makes the little persnickety things like socks on the floor or beds not made properly seem to be so trivial that they don’t get in the way of true feelings for each other.It has never mattered whether Gregg and I were in the same zip code or not – the love and respect we have for each other has never been weakened by distance or circumstance.
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  5. Communication. I’m a writer. My husband is a writer. The two of us together, with long stretches of distance between us, have WRITTEN. And written. And communicated via writing. And written some more. Because of this — because so much of our communication was in writing, it taught us the true value of communication. It taught us how to word what we wanted to say without relying on tone or inflection. It taught us to share our feelings, think on what we wanted to say, express our affection in the written word. It also has taught us to let the other spouse have the complete floor without interjecting.I believe that having to communicate so much in writing has taught us to value each others words in a way that could not have been obtained without intent had we spent all of that time apart actually together. As Gregg has been home, we’ve shifted the communication to speaking, but the quality of our communication has not diminished at all.

This is obviously not an exhaustive list of ways to obtain a successful marriage. What these tips are, however, are tools to put into your marriage toolbox to help you survive the toughest of storms. Gregg and I believe that Satan does not like strong, Biblically grounded marriages. We believe that he attacks them at every point he can and with everything he can. It’s with these tools in our arsenal that we’re able to withstand attacks.

When the foundation of your marriage is firm — centered on God, bathed in prayer, mission-minded, and Holy Spirit driven — then you have strength to defeat even the worst onslaught.

Hallee Bridgeman

The Pain of Divorce

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For Thanksgiving weekend, our daughter, Kaylee, was home from her sophomore year of college. While we all worked to prepare our meal, she told us about a paper she has to write for her communications class. It has to be a personal subject with a unique perspective, and she considered writing about the negative affects of divorce on young children versus older children.

I was interested in her perspective, mainly because we have a fully integrated home. She calls my husband “Daddy”, we are her first point-of-contact for anything, and she rarely talks to her real father anymore.

None of us think in terms of “step” or “not mine” — ever. So, to have her consider writing a paper about the negative affects of divorce gave me a bit of pause. She was four when her father and I divorced, and five when I remarried. She has no actual solid memories of life before my divorce – just flashes and ideas. I asked her what she meant.

She explained that of course there’s a negative side to it. She has family in two states – 600 miles away. She has three brothers by two of her dad’s ex-girlfriends whom she rarely sees, and never together.

She worries about them — about their well being, about their emotional state, about what their futures will be like. Everything in her life is here or there. There is no mingled, integrated family life for her.

And while she has never been treated different because she’s a “step daughter” versus how our other children are treated, going through the teen angst period taught her how bad she COULD be made to feel if my husband Gregg had been any less of an intentional father.

Even though her personal experience was good, so many of her friends didn’t share that same experience and have different stories to tell.

kaylee-fallShe is also incredibly leery of any relationship. She is super picky, and at nineteen has only had two real boyfriends. Not that that’s a bad thing, it’s just that she is so afraid of a commitment that will crumble.

She worries that what she will put an effort into building will ultimately be chipped away until nothing remains. What she decided to counter that is with the idea that if a man doesn’t turn her on to God with a passion, and if he doesn’t love Jesus more than he loves her, he’s not the man for her. As her parents, we’re fully on board with that plan.

On the other hand, she told us about her friend whose parents told her right before school started this year that they are getting a divorce.

She’s nineteen, works a job, pays her own rent, goes to school full time — yet the news of her parents’ divorce has sent her into a depression spiral where she is self-medicating with drinking.

Kaylee is worried about her but knows that she’s not the one who can take her pain away. Even though she’s on her own, her life — her entire life — has disappeared in a single decision.

Whether that decision is justified or not, it doesn’t change the fact that everything that is normal in her life no longer exists.

Kaylee’s paper will be a comparison of the two. Which is better? To grow up in a divorced environment or to deal with it as an adult? She can’t know the answer. In her observation, they’re both bad in different ways.

divorce-child

She knows our situation is really good. She knows that her life was better because of my divorce. However, that doesn’t take away her pain in struggling with the ramifications of it.

It’s possible that I should have noticed more as she grew up, realized that there were times she still struggled with a divided family and absent father.

I have no words of wisdom out there for you parents whose children have suffered from divorce other than to say this: don’t assume they’re not hurting. Even when they’re in the fold of the home that loves them unconditionally, don’t assume they’re not hurting.

Like Kaylee knows with her friend, she can’t take away her pain. But she can love her through it and knows a specific way in which she can pray for her. That alone may make all the difference in her friend’s world.

Hallee Bridgeman