Broken Families: A Casualty of War
About the Guest
Army Chaplain Darren Turner and his wife, Heather, talk about the realities of deployment. Dr. David Evans and his wife, Esther, tell how they first heard about the Turners and what motivated them to turn their story into a movie.
Bob: It was the stress of war that led Darren and Heather Turner into isolation in their marriage, and it was the goodness of God that exposed for them the idols of their lives. Here’s Heather.
Heather: His identity had become his career; and really, in a way, Darren will say it was like his mistress. That’s where he was finding his hope and identity. Ironically, even though I was fighting for our marriage—that was God’s goodness for me in killing an idol—because, for me, a husband, who was taking care of us was my idol; a godly man was my idol; and a good marriage was my idol.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Friday, October 26th. Our host is Dennis Rainey, and I’m Bob Lepine. Darren and Heather Turner join us today to talk about the events in their lives that are told in a major motion picture that is opening in theaters this weekend. We’ll hear from the Turners and the people who made the movie today.
Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. We often hear, after there has been some kind of a battle or a war, about the casualties that occur in that war; but there are lots of hidden casualties that we don’t hear statistics about often. One of those high casualty rates for military service is in the area of marriage.
Dennis: Yes; Bob, you know, on our Love Like You Mean It® cruise—on three different occasions, we have invited wounded warriors to join us on that cruise, along with their spouses, and just to enjoy a week of refreshment and spiritual nourishment. One of the things I’ve had the privilege of doing, on each of those three occasions, is hosting a breakfast with the men in that group.
Usually, one of my sons is onboard—or son-in-law—and he hosts one table; I host the other—usually, 12 to 15 total servicemen there. Some of them bring their therapy dog or service dog with them that is trained to bring comfort to them.
I’ll tell you—having had those breakfasts now—and looked in the eyes of guys, who have been there and seen horrific things, and who begin to let you into their souls—even over a breakfast—of how it’s impacted them, I have the utmost respect for what PTSD—
Dennis: —is: Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder—and how it impacts a man and also a military marriage.
We have a couple with us, Darren and Heather Turner, who have served in the military for over a dozen years now—live in North Carolina, where Darren is a chaplain at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
They have three children—have been married since 1999. Also joining us on the broadcast are David and Esther Evans—actually, it’s Dr. Evans, who is an optometrist. I thought about you, Dr. Evans—you are a man who helps people with vision, but you have a vision; don’t you? [Laughter]
David: Absolutely—sometimes, too much vision. [Laughter] My wife says, “We need to trim back that vision a little bit so that we can take a vacation.” [Laughter]
Dennis: Yes; he lives in Memphis; they have three sons. They have been married since 2001.
The reason I say he’s got vision—he is the co-writer of a movie that releases today; right?
Bob: Yes; it’s a movie called Indivisible, and it’s in theaters right now—this is opening weekend. We just need to say to our listeners—if you like—
Bob: —if you like—
Bob: —if you like quality films, and you want to see more movies like this in Hollywood, opening weekend is huge. That’s how the movie companies decide whether you’ve got a winner or not.
So, clear your schedule for a couple hours this weekend and go out and see the movie, Indivisible. Some of our listeners may have seen the movie, The Grace Card, which you wrote and produced, back five/six years ago; right?
David: That’s right; yes—also, director; and Esther and I are co-producers of Indivisible as well—so filling multiple positions—but couldn’t be happier with the response we’ve seen already / the outpouring of comments we’ve had about the film already—and just the opportunity to visit with you today, and minister to your listeners and share with them this powerful story of Darren and Heather Turner.
Dennis: Yes; and I love the movie. I want to encourage our listeners to go—you will not be disappointed. Take some friends—go! You’re going to hear a very compelling story done in an excellent way.
David, I just want to find out: “How did you hear about the Turners’ experience, and what moved you to want to do a movie about an Army chaplain?”
David: Well, you know, I have a history of military in my family.
I’ve never served; but my brother has served, now, 22 years in the Air Force. Our youngest son is now in the Air Force.
Shortly after we did The Grace Card, we came across this story of Darren and Heather—and already had a passion—and God had already given me kind of a vision for telling the story of a chaplain. When I came across the story of a chaplain and his wife, whose marriage had almost come to an end, literally—and really, the continuation of the second part of that story—of how God restored their relationship; and how many of the troops that Darren had served with in Iraq kind of gather around him and help him get him back on his feet again; and just how God had restored their love for one another; and then, on top of that, having three small children; and just the struggles they faced after he came home—just really, really spoke to me.
You know, Esther and I continued to pray about it and seek God’s will—over a six-year journey, now, to where we are here today with the release of the film—just miracle after miracle.
It’s been a long, long road fraught with many tears, and struggles, and countless times on our knees, just asking God: “Help us through each barrier,” that we would face along this journey.
But as you just said, the finished product is something we are super proud of and just give God all the glory. From the beginning, we said: “If we’re going to do this, let’s do as accurate a depiction as we can so that, when our troops do sit in a theater and they watch this film, that there is nothing hokey about it—that it’s done in a manner that will honor our troops and speak to our troops—there won’t be anything distracting there.”
Bob: Heather, I keep wanting to call you Sarah. [Laughter] Sarah Drew plays you—
Bob: —in the movie. Some of our listeners will know her from Moms’ Night Out or from Grey’s Anatomy.
Bob: She’s been involved as an actress for years. Your husband had been deployed for 15 months in the middle of battle. You probably didn’t have any picture, in your own mind, of what the reality he was living with was.
Bob: You hear he’s coming home. You’ve got the kids: “This is going to be great! Daddy is back home. We’ll be reunited, and we’ll get on with life the way it’s supposed to be.” When did you realize, after Darren came home: “Something has happened to my husband”?
Heather: Well, I would say it began even before that with my children. My oldest daughter was seven when he returned. In the few months leading up to his return, there was so much excitement from family members, and neighbors, and friends, and other Army families: “Dad’s coming home. How’s it going to be? Are you getting excited?” The kids didn’t really have a frame for that, so my seven-year-old plucked all of her eyelashes out. I think it was just from the uncertainty—it was a nervous habit that she’d formed, I think, because she wasn’t sure how to process all of that; but all of us had this nervous anticipation of what it was going to be like.
We were just so—I personally, was so caught up in the joy of him coming home that it never occurred to me that we were going to have a hard transition back after he’d come home. It took a few weeks after he was back—you know, there was an initial honeymoon, where he’s just—you know, getting to feed him good food, and go see our old favorite haunts, and all our favorite activities. We went on a vacation right after he got back, and all of that was very refreshing and very much what we had anticipated.
But then, once we got back home, he went back to work; the kids and I—we all went back to our routine. It didn’t take long for us to realize, “Okay; we’ve both changed dramatically”—some ways for the better / some ways not for the better.
I could see in both of us this sort of stubbornness that neither of us were really okay with this new person we were living with; but—
Dennis: Darren, I’m looking at your face as she’s telling that story. You had a profound sadness on your face. Share with our listeners what you were thinking.
Darren: Yes; so, when I came back, I knew that my heart had shifted. My faith didn’t die—it wasn’t—I never doubted God. It was just I didn’t nurture myself—I didn’t take time to take care of myself. And when I came home, I knew that compilation of a lack of care and concern for my own soul—it was almost I felt like, “Well, I can’t catch up; so I’m just going to be a jerk.”
I made some bad decisions to have attitudes and say things to Heather that just devastated her and the kids.
I would get upset easily. I wanted to control something; so, when I came back from a place, where nothing was in my control, the dishwasher became my place where I could make sure the forks were just right or the dishes—if they were flipped upside down—because our poor kids were loading the dishwasher. Then, I would get mad because: “How is the dish going to get cleaned if it’s facing up?! You’ve got to push it down!” They are looking at me like, “You are a monster.” I didn’t see that, initially, and Heather—I think that’s what you are referencing.
Heather: Yes; for me, it was more just the distance that I sensed between the two of us and me trying to reengage and reconnect. I wanted to be able to process the time that we’d had away. I wanted to be able to explore just, you know: “What is life going to look like now? Where are we now? We’ve both changed.” He just was unable to go there with me.
It’s ironic how that neglect of self turned into self-absorption.
My response, unfortunately, was very similar. I became self-protective; and really, we just became so self-absorbed with our own unmet needs that we lost each other completely.
Dennis: Heather, you ultimately reached the point in your marriage relationship—
Dennis: —where you asked him to move out.
Heather: Right; yes. That was—for me, not ever what I would recommend for folks; but for—in God’s providence, that was the point, where the Lord said, “I won’t give you any more than you can handle.” Also, for the sake of our kids, I just felt like there was a lot of disproportionate punishment for the kids. As a mom, you try to juggle—not only what’s okay in our relationship, but what’s okay for our children and protecting them—
—but also, really just a desire to protect Darren from himself.
I think the part that was difficult for me was—I was still trying to manipulate change in him. I was trying to be the one to force him to open his eyes when really it was just a matter of God’s timing to take the scales off both of our eyes to see what was really going on and understand that we were not—you know, the battle is not against flesh and blood; it’s against principalities and spirits. I had just become convinced that he was my enemy, and that our battle was against each other. When truly, the Lord had put us—he was my battle buddy, and I had turned on him instead of having his back and reinforcing him when he was too weak to see.
That was my greatest failure—
—was that feeling that I abandoned him / I kind of shoved him out there on his own in a moment of desperation—shoving him out there, to say, “If you aren’t going to engage, if you aren’t going to participate, if you aren’t going to give energy and effort to this marriage, then, I’m going to punish you for that.”
In God’s providence, that was the thing that He used to bring reconciliation, and bring repentance, and bring brokenness; but yes, that was the lowest point for me—was just that utter hopelessness and losing hope in the Lord. You know, had I made—you know, just feelings of: “I’ve made the worst decision of my life in marrying him. Who is this person now? I’m really seeing who he is,”—just the lies that Satan tells you to keep pushing you over the edge and just not being his battle buddy, which is what I’d covenanted, with the Lord, to be.
Bob: Did you think, “I don’t know if we can make it”?
Heather: I was done—in my heart, our marriage was over. I had—I had been so vulnerable and so open with him and just pleading with him to return to us and to engage with us.
Darren: —to get help.
Heather: —to get help—yes; that was really what I asked for—you know: “I can’t be this person for you, because I don’t know where you’ve been. I haven’t walked that road, but you have got to seek help.” He just truly had—was blinded to the fact that he needed help. So, yes; that was my plea with him—was: “Honey, you have got to get help, and I don’t know where to find that for you.”
He just kept—he just kept moving further and further away into his—for him—his identity had become his career; and really, in a way, Darren will say it was like his mistress. That was where he was finding his hope and identity; and ironically, even though I was fighting for our marriage—that was God’s goodness for me in killing an idol—
—because, for me, a good marriage was my idol; a husband who was taking care of us was my idol; a godly man was my idol. Thankfully, the Lord killed those idols through a very painful process; but if we tried to continue in that way—what kind of burden is that to put on a man to be only what Christ can be for me? No wonder he ran away. [Laughter] You know, who wants that?—nobody wants that job.
Darren: But ironically, that—when she asked me to leave, that was my wakeup call; because I had not been listening to her for months. She was trying to say stuff; and I would dismiss it as: “You don’t know. You’re overreacting. We’re okay”; and we weren’t okay; but when she asked me to leave, that was like: “Wow! Okay.”
Bob: So, when was the moment either of you had hope that: “Maybe, we can get this back together”?—do you remember?
Darren: Yes; so we were separated.
I was living with a couple of different buddies for four or five months. I had decided to get out of the Army by this point to try to save my marriage. I recognized: “This is not worth me staying in the military if I’m going to lose my family. My only hope is to get out and to fight for this. I can’t do both.”
Bob: It’s got to be hard to be the chaplain, who is living with his buddies while his marriage is in crisis.
Darren: Yes; all—I mean, you talk about naked and afraid. I was exposed beyond all comfort during this process. I was okay with it at that point—I knew that I was a wreck. Everyone else knew that I was a wreck, and my desire to change finally exceeded my pride of staying isolated—that is a huge shift for me. I think most men—when we finally are so sick and tired of being fake—or false or whatever adjective you want to put in there—finally, want to be real, and heal, and grow, and get help—
—that was such a liberating thing for me.
When I made that decision, we were still separated; but I knew that my only hope to do this—with the urgency that it needed to be done with—I had to get out of the military. I resigned my commission and got out. We both finally were starting to listen to each other a little bit more; and then, one morning, I showed up. It was—you tell it.
Heather: He walked in—I was packing boxes; the kids and I were moving home. I had set up my own credit cards, my own checking account—I was done. He walked in during that day—what preceded that moment—I’m sitting in the rocking chair in my girl’s room, and just at the bottom of this barrel of hopelessness, and realizing—you know, I had already started planning for our future life as a divorced family and what that could look like and just the hopelessness—
—and then, looking at my life, feeling like such a failure: “How could I have…”—you know, you never imagine yourself at this place. There you go—inching forward and inching forward. You turn around; and you look and think: “How did I get here? This was not going to be my life.” I started realizing, “You know, every time I’ve made a decision, I mess it up,”—a decision apart from the Lord and His will—“It just gets worse and worse and worse.”
That morning, before he came home, I just prayed to the Lord in desperation: “Lord, I would rather be miserable and married and be in Your will than to be divorced and have this false sense of contentment and be out of Your will.” I knew that, if the Lord could be for us, who could be against us?
I prayed that morning: “Lord, I know that marriage is Your idea; and if You’ve called us to marriage, then, You will equip us for marriage. And whether that looks like what I thought it would look like or not, I’m just going to choose Your way; because my way never seems to be fruitful and never seems to be a blessing.” I was at that point of saying, “Lord, I will choose You regardless of what that means / regardless if it is going to turn out the way I want.”
Then, so, he walked in that morning. I was in the middle of boxes on the floor. He just held me; and I could tell, for the first time, that there was true brokenness in him—not just his desire to fix our marriage / not just a desire to please me or win me over—he was truly broken and had nothing to say. That was really the first time I put my fists down and allowed myself to even be okay with the idea of reconciliation.
Dennis: I’ve been wanting to ask this question for quite a while. I just wonder, Darren: “What’s the most courageous thing you’ve ever done in all your life?”
Darren: That—that morning—I show up to my house and hold my wife when everything in her was opposed to that. Everything in me was afraid of that—to go home from staying up at a buddy’s house—again, not sleeping, just wondering, “What in the world has happened to the life that I had imagined?” and going home and risking that to take hold of her and to see the kids was—it was incredible. It was divine—that was divine courage in that moment.
Dennis: Worth it?
Darren: Absolutely; yes, yes. [Laughter]
Dennis: Well, I want to encourage our listeners to get a better view of this story:
“Go to the movie—
Dennis: —“today/tonight/this weekend.” The movie is Indivisible—great story of grace—a great story of redemption, reconciliation, and of hope in the midst of despair.
Dennis: Thank you guys for sharing your story.
Darren: Thank you. Thank you so much.
Heather: Thank you for having us.
David: Thank you.
Bob: The trailer for the movie is available on our website at FamilyLifeToday.com. I hope folks will watch the trailer; and I hope they’ll make plans to go tonight, or tomorrow, or Sunday to see the movie. And if you know someone—who is active-duty, or who is in the reserves, or someone who served even years ago—invite a veteran to go with you to see the film. This might open the door for a good, spiritual conversation with them. Find out more about the movie, Indivisible, when you go to FamilyLifeToday.com; and plan to see the film this weekend in theaters.
Now, I know some of you have other plans for this weekend because, starting tonight at seven o’clock, in Augusta, Georgia; Coeur d'Alene, Idaho; Dayton, Ohio; Naples, Florida; Louisville, Kentucky; Sacramento, California; San Diego—we’ve got couples who are going to be joining us for our Weekend to Remember® marriage getaways that kick off this weekend. This is a two-and-a-half day getaway for couples to zero-in and focus on making their marriage all that God wants it to be. It’s really designed to help your marriage be able to withstand the kind of struggle and trauma that the Turners went through—that we’ve talked about today. Pray for these couples, who are going to be attending the getaway this weekend.
And let me say a word of thanks to those of you who help make all that we do, here, at FamilyLife® possible—whether it’s our getaways, or this daily radio program, our website, the resources we create. When you help support this ministry, you are joining with us in the mission of effectively developing godly marriages and families.
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We hope you have a great week. I hope you and your family are able to worship together in your local church this weekend, and I hope you can join us back on Monday when we’re going to talk about what parents need in order to be good parents. Dennis and Barbara Rainey will be here. We’ll be talking about their new book, The Art of Parenting; and if you are a mom or a dad, you’ll want to tune in and make sure that you’ve got what you need to be the right kind of parent. We’ll talk about that Monday.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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