Getting Back on Track
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Clint and Penny BraggClint and Penny A. Bragg serve as marriage missionaries through the work of Inverse Ministries, their nonprofit organization. They share their testimony with audiences, teach seminars for couples, and equip ministry leaders across the nation and beyond. Their own story of reconciliation has been featured on multiple national and international television and radio programs. The Braggs are an active part of a nationwide network to strengthen, reconcile, and restore marriages. Learn more about C...more
God can raise dead things-Clint and Penny Bragg can vouch for that. Eleven years after their divorce, God brought them back together. The Braggs tell what God had to do in each of them to get to the point of reconciliation.
Getting Back on Track
Bob: Because separation and divorce has become more common in our day, Penny Bragg says, “Most of us don’t recognize how traumatic those events ultimately are for both husbands and wives.”
Penny: A marriage that goes through separation and divorce is like a death. There’s so much grief associated with it, especially when it’s in that place of, “Maybe, it can be reconciled”; it’s not reconciled. Then the person is hopeful it will be reconciled, and then it goes to divorce—the worst thing that they ever wanted: “How could a marriage come back from divorce?” With all of those emotions and things that drive a person to that place of isolation and pain, it’s not going to be a quick fix.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Friday, January 24th. Our hosts are Dave and Ann Wilson; I’m Bob Lepine. You can find us online at FamilyLifeToday.com. If there is any hope or any chance that a marriage that has been broken can be repaired, Clint and Penny Bragg say, “The hurts from the past have got to be acknowledged and addressed.” We’ll talk more about that with them today. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. I know most of the time, when you guys are working with couples and a marriage has come to an end, most people are thinking, “Well, that’s it; it’s over”; and most of the time—
Dave: —it is.
Bob: —that is it; it is over. But if couples would keep in the back of their mind the option, “What if God were to do something to reopen a door?”—maybe, it’s just one of the two that’s keeping that option open—you’ve seen God do a work like that in couples lives, where doors get reopened, and marriages get patched up and healed, and wind up stronger than they ever were; right?
Dave: Yes; we’ve seen it. It is the struggle; because you think, when a marriage ends, it’s like a death; and two people—dead people—come to life, not very often; but when Jesus steps in, He is the God of resurrection. It’s possible; and absolutely, we’ve seen it. Again, the couple has to make some really hard choices; but God can raise dead things. It’s one of the most beautiful things He does.
Bob: What do you think is the difference between the couples who get there and the couples who never even consider it?
Ann: I think the biggest difference is where their eyes go. I think a lot of people get out of marriage and they’re divorced; and their eyes instantly go to, “How can I now find fulfillment?”—many times, they think it’s through another person.
But then I see a whole other group of people—that their eyes go to Christ, and their walk with God and becoming whole in Him/in who He says they are. I see those people go deep in their walks with God/in the Word; and He begins to heal them. Those are the ones that we see resurrected marriages happen.
Bob: We are not suggesting that it’s easy; you flip a switch.
Bob: There is a lot of hurt; there is a lot of trust—
Ann: —and there is no guarantee.
Bob: —their pain—all of that.
But we’ve seen it happen with couples, who come to the Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway—couples who came because their marriage was hurting/was in trouble; or couples who came, even after they’ve gotten a divorce, and they are open to the possibility of reconciliation. God does a work in the course of that weekend to get them back on the right track, thinking about remarriage—if they’ve been separated or divorced—or thinking about how they can fix the messes in their marriage.
I just want to encourage our listeners—you’ve heard us talking about the special offer we’re making this week for FamilyLife Today listeners—you and your spouse can attend an upcoming getaway/one of our spring getaways, and you can save 50 percent off the regular registration fee; but we need to hear from you today. Go to FamilyLifeToday.com and take advantage of this pre-season offer; save 50 percent off the regular registration fee and attend an upcoming getaway. The list of locations and dates are all available on the website at FamilyLifeToday.com. You can register online, or you can call 1-800-FL-TODAY to register over the phone.
You guys [Dave and Ann] are going to be speaking at the Weekend to Remember in Nashville in March, so if couples live there and want to come see you at the Weekend to Remember—Nashville in March. I’m going to be in Orlando in April. Again, we’ve got—we’ve got great couples who speak at these getaways all around the country. Find out how you can attend a getaway and save 50 percent by going to our website today—FamilyLifeToday.com—or call 1-800-FL-TODAY.
Dave: You know what I’m grabbing my briefcase for, Bob?
Bob: No; what?
Dave: You probably don’t know this, but I carry this in my briefcase. These little pieces of paper are from one of the last Weekend to Remembers I did.
Dave: A guy came up to me on Sunday, at the close of the weekend. I was just about ready to close up; I was just—I was on stage.
Dave: Timer is going down, and you’re going to start in 30 seconds. He goes, “Hey, I’ve got to talk to you right now.” I go: “No; I don’t have time. You see that timer; when it hits zero, I’ve got to speak.” “Yes; but I’ve got to tell you this.” He goes—he hands me these papers—he goes, “Rip these up.” I go, “What are these?” He goes, “These are my divorce papers.”
Dave: I go, “Tell me your story real quick.” I’m not kidding—it was probably more like
45 seconds—but yes; he said, “We were getting a divorce. We came here, last resort. We were going to the attorney tomorrow,”—Monday.
Ann: “And we brought the papers to have signed.”
Dave: And here they are—“Just because we’re going to finish this thing,”—this was just a gift from somebody—“This isn’t going to work.” I go—real quick, I go, “What happened?”
He goes: “Number one, we can relate to you; you guys struggled like we did. We didn’t think we’d hear from presenters who had struggles, but you guys had struggles. And here is what we couldn’t relate to—you told us, all weekend, the answer is a foundation in Jesus Christ. That, we don’t have—until yesterday morning—surrendered our lives to Christ. We’re going home, and we’re going to make this thing work. Will you rip these up?”
I jumped off the stage; and I said, “No; you rip them up.” [Laughter] So, I’ve got them right here.
Bob: That’s great.
Dave: There is the attorney’s name on there, and I’ve kept them in my thing just to remember that God does resurrect dead marriages.
Clint: He does.
Bob: We’ve got a couple of marriage missionaries joining us this week on FamilyLife Today, Clint and Penny Bragg. Welcome back, guys.
Clint: Thank you.
Penny: Thank you.
Bob: You guys have written a book called Marriage Off Course that is—it’s really not your memoir, although your story is kind of weaved through it. Your marriage got off course because you didn’t address hurt and pain from the past, because you had a superficial relationship with Christ. I think that is important to say—it was a casual relationship with Christ, not a committed relationship with Christ. You were apart for
11 years before God brought you back together again, and your marriage was reconciled.
Now, you’re travelling around to all around the country, in the spring and in the fall, going around and talking to folks about how you can get a marriage that got off course back on course. You’re dealing with people, who have been separated/who have been divorced. You’re dealing with people who are in isolation, even if they are still married. We were talking about this earlier—couples who are emotionally divorced, even though they are not physically divorced; right?
Penny: That’s right.
Bob: Where do you start with them? Do you start by saying, “Let’s get your spiritual life in line”?
Penny: You know, actually, we start with the emotional; because a marriage that is unreconciled—that is where you’ve got one spouse in, one spouse out—the emotions are a mess. There is like a roller coaster ride. We have found that, unless we validate some of those emotions—and it doesn’t/it’s not like you’re spending forever, dealing with emotions—but it’s the reason we put it as Chapter Two in the book and, then, we begin talking about some spiritual things—is because the emotions are so out of control.
Ann: Penny, what’s that look like? What do you mean by that?
Penny: Validating the emotions—
Ann: Yes; how do you do it?
Penny: —a lot of times, is listening, loving, praying: “Just talk with me. Talk with me. Let me just listen and be a good listener to you,” and “That must be really difficult for you right now,”—listening with compassion. What happens is—emotions can get in such a whirlwind when a marriage is unreconciled that things start to spin out of control. It’s like a hurricane that has gone wild, and you can’t capture it or control it.
But if we can do some validating, first, and acknowledge the fact that: “This is painful, and you know what? I’m going to walk alongside you in this. I’m going to put my arm around you, or grab your hand. I’m going to listen, and I’m going to love you, and I’m going to pray with you.”
If we can, at least, get those things done first, then some of those emotions feel validated by the person in pain; and we can move into that, anchoring spiritual relationship in Jesus.
Dave: And you mention in the book that this is like going into the desert—
Penny: It is.
Dave: —and it doesn’t go quickly—
Dave: —right? You don’t walk through the emotions like in a day.
Dave: You take time to allow God to work.
Penny: It’s grieving. You mentioned a marriage that goes through separation and divorce is like a death. There are so much grief associated with it, especially when it’s in that place of, “Maybe, it’s going to be reconciled”; it’s not reconciled. Then the person is hopeful that it will be reconciled; then it goes to divorce—the worst thing that they ever wanted: “How could a marriage come back from divorce?” With all of those emotions and things that drive a person to that place of isolation and pain, it’s not going to be a quick fix.
Penny: It’s going to take time; it’s going to take work; it’s going to be that journey through the desert. A lot of times, we want to get out of the hot, sticky desert as soon as we can. I don’t see that in the Bible anywhere, where anybody got out of a desert quickly. If anything, there was a long journey ahead.
Dave: I have a friend, who doesn’t like to deal with emotions. Do you get where I’m going?
Dave: Yes; if I was that guy, and you wanted to talk about my emotions, I would be quick to say: “Oh, they’re not that big a deal.
Dave: “We don’t need to talk about them.” What do you do with that person that really does not want to go there to help them get to a place where they can actually get to reconciliation?
Clint: I think what I do, with some of the guys who are like that—I say, “Give me
90 days. Give me 90 days, where we are going to meet on a regular basis; and let’s talk about different things.” Guess what? We’re going to talk about emotions, whether they know that or not. What we’re going to find out is where they are coming from and where they think they are headed, and try and get them to understand that we need to build this relationship with Christ—a relationship, maybe, they’ve never had before in their life—but you have to do it gently.
If you give them a 90-day—I’ve had several guys, if you give them 90 days—say: “90 days; I want 90 days from you. You can’t file divorce; you can’t say nasty things on social media. You’ve got to be committed to: ‘Let’s find out where you’re at. What’s hurting you? What’s going on inside?’ Let’s see if we can’t plot a new course for you and figure out how Christ can heal that part of your body.’”
Penny: I think, oftentimes, what happens, Dave, is the man who doesn’t want to deal with the emotions—he may be having them, but stuffing them down or something like that.
Penny: We’ll use something linear, like a timeline, and will start to go through: “Maybe, let’s back up a little bit; let’s back up,” and “Where did you grow up?” We start going back to go forward. We go back to go forward with them and just kind of getting to know that person a little bit more.
Clint will meet with a man, one on one, for a period of time, where he and I will meet together with a spouse. We’ll go to the timeline because that helps them sort and sift through, then the emotions end up coming up through the dialogue that we’re having as we go back in time.
Clint: So, “What’s that timeline look like?”
Penny: Yes; “What does that timeline look like?”
Ann: Well, it’s interesting—Dave and I took a trip with several couples to Israel a couple years ago. And in our time, we explored Israel, which was amazing; but in the evenings, we did a timeline. We did a personal timeline; and when you do that, people can just put down like, “Oh, this happened.” There is something that happens when you walk through it; it kind of stirs up emotions.
And then we also had them do a marriage timeline, which was even more interesting; because you go through their journey of their highs and their lows. There is something about that in a group of people that, when we were done with our trip, there was an intimacy in relationships that felt so safe and exposed—
Ann: —which doesn’t feel safe, all the time.
“Because these people know me and, yet, they love me.” Some people, even on our trip, said, “We don’t want to share it, because people will judge us based on our timeline.” They had some pretty raw, real things in their relationship; but to see others come around them, love them, pray for them, encourage them—
Ann: —those create lifelong relationships.
Ann: So, what are the next steps? You kind of go through this timeline.
Penny: We do, and we actually get pretty specific. The timeline activity is in Marriage Off Course; but we go through—first of all, we look at some of what that person would say are low—not highlights—but lowlights/things that happened that were negative in their lives. We look at spiritual things, financial things, family, logistics—we go through that. And then, we go back and say, “What were the messages that were spoken over you at this time?” If it’s a highlight, they might say, “Well, I found my sense of belonging.” If it’s something that is low and negative, they’ll say, “I was fearful.”
We’ll go back through, and then we’ll take the Word of God. We’ll go back and take the Word of God and—over those things that are negative/over those things that have spoken such destruction over their lives—we’ll look at what God’s Word has to say about that. Now, they are digging into the Word of God, and they are going back to that thing: “Okay; let’s take that statement that says, ‘I’m unwanted.’ What does God say?” We write the Scripture verse there—what God says.
It is a process—a long process—and you can go as deep into this timeline activity as you want. There are lots of things that you can do that we kind of outline; but all of it begins to get that person to speak, and to share, and to—there is a verse in
Proverbs 28 that talks about: “He who covers his sins will not prosper, but whoever confesses and forsakes them will have mercy.” Well, somewhere in that timeline activity, confession happens—and the confession of things that maybe they’ve done that they regret. Un-grieved losses is huge.
When we are working with a spouse, the un-grieved losses are almost unbelievable.
Penny: When we go through it, they’ll say, like, “Well, my grandfather died here; and then I lost my job,”—and they are just buzzing along the timeline. We’re like: “Whoa. Whoa. Wait just a second. All that happened in 1992?
Ann: I know, for me, when I had done my timeline, I went to a place where I was—I can’t even remember how old I was—but I’m the youngest of four. I was sharing a story at the dinner table. My dad put his hand out and said: “Hey, now is not your time. This is your brother’s time, who is the oldest; it’s not your time to speak.” Well, my thought was, “When is my time to speak?” I felt like I was unseen and didn’t and shouldn’t be heard from.
So, what happens?—you don’t deal with that; you take that, now, into your marriage.
Ann: So, when Dave is gone, or I’m not important, I’m triggered to say: “You’re not hearing me! You’re not seeing me!” He’s thinking: “Why are you reacting so strongly to this?! What is your problem?” The problem stems way back there.
Penny: That’s right; that’s right.
Ann: Do we need counselors to walk us through, or can we do this as lay people with timelines?
Penny: Well, we actually train leaders in the church how to do this with couples; because it’s so easy to take a piece of paper; you know? If we have a couple, then we’ve got a wife with a one-color pen; the husband with the other color pen. It can be a great interactive activity. If nobody’s around in the room, we use butcher paper so it can be plastered all over the walls.
Then we can go back and look at the redemption. We can take the Word; I mean, this is an interactive piece of healing that you see happen as these things are unpacked—and where the timeline—if it starts with marriage, when we get to go backwards with a couple into childhood—her childhood/his childhood—and we get to address some of those issues. Go through the marriage, and then we get to tape a big piece of paper to the—let’s see—it would be the right side of the timeline; right?—“This time is coming. This is the (blank),” “This is the clean slate we have now that God’s going to write on.” It’s an empowering moment.
This is what we see, raising some of these dead marriages, as we talked about, to life—is putting it all out there in a way that these couples realize they are not the only ones, who have ever gone through this; and God really can awaken something that is dead.
Dave: So, one of the last things you write about in your book is power—the power of God. Talk about His power in your life and how you’ve seen His power in other marriages.
Clint: I think when Penny and I first remarried, I felt like God was wanting to see if I was going to abide in what I said to Him—in other words, follow through. James says: “Faith without actions is dead. Just as the body without the spirit is dead, so is faith without deeds is dead.”
I felt like, for the first three years after Penny and I remarried, I dedicated my individual time to Him every single day. I needed to know His Word, inside/out. I needed to know His promises. Then, after that three years—I can’t tell you exactly the exact time—but it was almost like He opened the flood gates, and He started forming our ministry right before my eyes. I did nothing; He did it all.
What He was wanting me to know is His Word. He wanted me to be truthful, to be honest, to do the right things. I know that I learned an awful lot about my bride and learned about her likes and dislikes. God had me study her for three years: “Look at her. What does she like? What does she not like?” Those are the things that God wants with us; He wants us to pour out our hearts.
The bottom line is, I think, that individual alone time with God every single day—seeking His Word, underlining His Word in your Bible, and just sticking to those promises, memorizing Scriptures that mean something to you—I think those are the important things.
Penny: You asked about power. You know, we see in movies and we see in television—we see all these powerful men, and action figures, and all this and that of what power is supposed to look like; in the media, for example, we’re bombarded with all these images. But so often, in God’s Word, His power came [softening voice] in the quietest, most silent, small ways.
Here we are—just one marriage that was so devastated—and watching God take those pieces and put together each of the pieces—even the pieces we thought were the ugliest or “How could that piece fit anywhere?”—piecing that together for us. If He could do that for us/if His power could take something that was—not only dead and buried in 11 years in a casket, with nails on top, and all the dirt thrown over it—if He could resurrect that/if He has the power to do that for us, He’ll do that for anybody. There’s no limit to it.
I think, you know, Clint talked about that individual relationship with God. That’s the part we were missing the first time around.
Ann: We live in a society that is such a quick-fix society—
Ann: —that we’re such consumers that want everything the next day. Clint, you said, for three years,—
Penny: —for three years.
Ann: —every single day, you were in God’s Word.
Ann: And God changes us through that time. We think, “What will reading the Bible…”—yes!
Ann: Reading the Bible/talking to God—that changes—
Penny: That’s right.
Penny: And we forget that the power of a changed heart—you know, we’re looking, like I said, for the power to come in this—in the big car and that and somebody’s going to invent it. The power came—Jesus Christ—and He has given us the—
Ann: He is the big power.
Penny: —the Holy Spirit. He is; He is, and that—to watch a heart change; to know how God’s power can change a heart—I can think of nothing greater than that.
Bob: Well, and to see you guys today sharing what you’ve learned from your journey and helping other couples, who are in the ditch get out of the ditch, and how this book keeps pointing people back to where the power comes from and how you process all of that. I mean, that’s where I get excited. I get excited with those stories of folks, who say, “We made ashes out of everything, and God made beauty from ashes.” That’s your story.
I appreciate you guys being with us today and sharing the story. Thanks for being on FamilyLife Today.
Clint: Thank you so much.
Bob: And thanks for the book, too; we should say that. The book, Marriage Off Course, I think is going to help a lot of couples, who are in a difficult spot in their marriage. It’s a book we’ve got in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. You can go online at FamilyLifeToday.com to order a copy of Clint and Penny’s book, Marriage Off Course: Trusting God in the Desert of Unwanted Separation or Divorce. Again, go to FamilyLifeToday.com to get a copy; or call to order: 1-800-FL-TODAY is our number—that’s 1-800-358-6329—1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”
You know, I’m thinking about marriages that are in the kind of shape that we’ve been talking about this week. To get away and spend a weekend together at a Weekend to Remember—this can be revolutionary for your marriage. We’ve been offering, over the last couple of weeks, a special offer to FamilyLife Today listeners. You and your spouse can attend an upcoming getaway and save 50 percent off the regular registration fee; but if you want to take advantage of that, we have to hear from you this weekend.
We’ve got the president of FamilyLife,® David Robbins, here with us today. This is important for couples to spend this time/to take this time and make this a priority.
David: Yes; not only is there an urgency to this opportunity—by the end of this weekend to take advantage of it—it’s beyond the urgency; it’s just too important not to do it.
David: We love getting to participate with couples and joining God in helping drawing couples together toward oneness in a world that, so often, drifts them apart.
Bob: So, I’ll just borrow a phrase and: “This is one of those decisions that you just do it”; alright? [Laughter] I don’t know who came up with that slogan; but we’re going to rip it off right here: “Just do it.” Go to one of our Weekend to Remember marriage getaways and experience what hundreds of thousands of couples/actually, millions of couples have experienced over the last 40 years—a fun, romantic getaway for couples.
Of course, you sign up today; you save 50 percent off the regular registration fee. Now is the time to sign up and make plans to be at a spring Weekend to Remember marriage getaway. There is information, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com—you can register online—or you can call if you have any questions or if you’d like to register by phone. Our number is 1-800-FL-TODAY. Let’s make this a priority—to build into your marriage this spring at a Weekend to Remember marriage getaway.
With that, we hope you have a great weekend. 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. We’re going to talk about a cultural phenomenon that is having an impact on a lot of marriages and, some of them, even before the marriage even gets started. Deepak Reju is going to join us to talk about fighting for purity in your marriage and dealing with pornography. I hope you can tune in Monday for that conversation.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our hosts, Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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