Going through divorce can shake you to the core, turning your life upside down and inside out. It’s no wonder that so many people report feeling lost and uncertain afterwards.
My current guest, Kyle Bradford had a Christian upbringing which he pulled away from in college. He didn’t come back to his faith until he reached a crisis point post-divorce but coming back has had a profound effect on his life. Here’s Kyle:
I grew up in the rural south—Tennessee. I say it quite often that I was raised excruciatingly secure in the fact that I lived a very insulated life. I did not have cable television until I got to college. We went to a very small rural Baptist fire and brimstone church. No matter what you do, you’re going to hell.
That’s the way it really was. Certainly, that is not the most appealing way to come into a relationship with Christ and God. When I got to college I just dismissed all of that. I didn’t renounce it. I just didn’t deal with it. I was going to live for Chopper and I did.
When I graduated from college I got my first job. I started with the dating world and one of the first mistakes that pulling away from my faith did is the person that I ended up marrying. My ex-wife was Jewish and from New Jersey. Now, a lot of people will hear that and be like, “Really? Southern Baptist, New Jersey Jew.” It’s like literally oil and water, right?
There’s a saying within the Christian faith about being equally yoked and really what that means is two people that are equally yoked view life the same, they view the world the same way, they view their faith and family and raising their children the same way and I didn’t have that. But I didn’t have that for a reason. When I graduated from college, I wanted to get absolutely far away from my upbringing as I could.
I wasn’t embarrassed by it. I was the first person in my family that graduated from college and I guess I probably had a thing for pride that was unfounded. So, I wanted to find the exact opposite of what I’d always found. I didn’t want to find a Southern girl, I didn’t want to find the Tennessee girl. Sure enough I didn’t find one. I found a girl that I would have never normally found in any place in Dixie County, Tennessee: a New Jersey Jew. So, our differences are what appealed to me so much and it was our differences that ultimately drew us apart.
The first years after my divorce my faith had nothing to do with my life and it’s really a sad situation, because I could’ve avoided so many mistakes, but it’s said that we all come to our faith. If we decide to come into a faith or we reengage our faith there’s something called “pivotal circumstances.” A pivotal circumstance can be a divorce, it can be an illness, it can be a natural disaster, it can be any type of thing that really takes your life and puts it on a completely different course.
Now, one would think that divorce would have done that. It did not do that for me. I think a lot of it was because I was financially secure. However, in 2008 I achieved and I met my pivotal circumstance and it was from that point there that my faith was reengaged.
During 2008 I was really dating by putting round pegs in square holes and my masculinity was tied to whoever I was dating. If she was good looking, I felt like a guy. I was single, I didn’t have anybody and I wasn’t dating anyone, I wasn’t out with someone, I wasn’t in some sort of physical relationship with someone, I did not feel like I was truly a man. That was the fact.
That happens to men all the time, they validate their masculinity by the woman that they’re with. Maybe it’s the car that they drive, maybe it’s the job that they have, maybe it’s the house that they live in. We all validate from a masculinity standpoint, most of us validate it from something outside of ourselves. That’s mistake number one.
I was validating with the relationship, so in the middle part of that year, two things happened. First, I was lied to and cheated on by a woman that I was dating, which brought back to me all of the things that I had gone through with my ex-wife, who had an affair.
Second thing is, I’d dated a woman for 18 months and broke up. We then got back together and in a matter of about a month or so, she decided that she wanted to see someone else. So, literally within like a two month period of time, I was dumped, cast aside by two different people.
After that happened, I was just like, “This is absolutely ridiculous. I am the lowest that I’ve ever been in my life.” I had no self confidence, I was just lost. And that was the pivotal circumstance that I just said, “You know what, God? I hear what you’re saying to me now. I’m going to start this thing all over again,” and that’s when I began the process of reconnecting with my faith and actually getting to the point where I am today.
It was through prayer and learning and connecting and reaching out to other men and people of faith that over time I was able to look at the things that have happened to me from the death of my father at the age of 26 through my divorce, through the ensuing relationships and the crises that I had since then, to where I was and through that entire faith, the hand of God was directing me to where I am today.
Now a lot of people will say, “That’s a great way of looking, and the other alternative is very depressing.” That’s not actually the case though, because I truly believe that even a positive attitude can only get you so far. At the end of the day, if you can find hope and you can find wisdom in your most difficult situations, that’s far more, in my opinion, than just simply positive thinking.
I wouldn’t change anything I’ve gone through since then because the person I am today wholly different than the man that walked down the isle with his Jewish New Jersey ex-wife in 1998.
I found a church that I’ve gone to every since. In fact, the first date that me and “the Queen” had was at church the following Sunday. And I engage my children in my faith. Me and my kids pray together all the time. And don’t get me wrong, I am not a Bible thumper, I’m not a guy who beats his breasts. I don’t quote scriptures to my friends. I still screw up everyday like most people do, but through that worldview and through my Christian faith, I look at things far differently than I did before. I look at things with a clear eye than I ever have before and it gives me the assurance to know that there’s someone watching over me, that the relationship that He has put into my life with the Queen is a providential.
When you feel that the hand of God delivered this woman to you, you’re going to treat her a little bit differently than somebody you just happened to pick up on the side of the road. And I’m not saying that stuff tongue-in-cheek. I absolutely believe that with all of my heart.
The Divorce Coach Says
I think the reason why people find themselves and their path by coming back to their faith is because it means coming back to your core values. Knowing your values means letting your decisions, big and small, be guided by your values. That builds your confidence and your self-esteem and both of these will help you in your decision-making. It has a compounding effect.
Another significant benefit to knowing your values is that relationship experts agree that when partners share core values, the likelihood of their relationship continuing increases. Shared values creates a greater emotional connection than shared interests or activities.
Going back to the faith in which you were raised is one way of identifying your core values. Going back doesn’t mean going back to the same faith community, especially if you’ve moved away or if there are significant teachings that don’t resonate with you. It means examining your religious education and identifying the tenets that you do hold true.
Start by finding a local faith community that speaks to you – ask your friends for referrals, go to the services at different churches or temples and make a critical assessment about the community. Once you’ve found your community then try joining one of their support groups to help you tease out your core values.
Reconnecting with your faith isn’t going to happen overnight … it will take time but like Kyle you may find it a stabilizing influence and one that gives you the direction, the sense of purpose you’ve been missing.
Kyle Bradford is a divorced father and founder of the website ChopperPapa, ‘High octane observations on manhood, divorce, relationships, fatherhood, and other intellectual roadkill’. He also hosts a monthly podcast, FatherhoodWideOpen, ‘Intelligent conversation on issues facing fatherhood and masculinity with the people who think and write on them.’ He lives, writes, and works in Atlanta, Georgia.
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