Penny A. Bragg—

Less than two years after I walked down the aisle to marry Clint, I walked out on our marriage.

“What happened to us?” I wondered. After all, we flew through our first year together on the winds of a honeymoon high. But by the second year, irritations and differences between us—once fairly benign—evoked a steady stream of conflict.

Our prayers for a permanent solution—or at least a quick-fix—remained unanswered. Before long we couldn’t agree on anything, including the source of our discontent.

On a balmy evening in 1991, I packed a few things in a suitcase and rolled it out our front door. The last time Clint and I ever set eyes on one another was the day our divorce papers were notarized citing: “Irreconcilable differences have caused the permanent breakdown of our marriage.”

In retrospect, I now realize that we made a critical mistake when we got married. Rather than revealing painful experiences from our pasts, we hid them. Eventually, the consequences of those things crawled out from under the carpet and crept in between us.

Carefully dodging rumors about the reasons for our divorce and certain my actions had disappointed God, I hid from Him for many years. But, I could not run forever. Not until I hit bottom did I reach up my hands to God. As I surrendered to His control, He began restoring me. Still, my game of dodge and chase had thrown quite a wake. In it, I left my vows, my marriage, my morals, and my faith. Disobedience leaves you to reckon with yourself in a way nothing else can; gnawing away at your insides leaving nothing but a hollow shell.

With the guidance of a counselor, I exposed the childhood wounds I’d been carrying and the unhealthy ways I’d coped with them. I also began prayerfully reconciling the relationships that were broken when I divorced Clint.

Despite all the healing, one relationship still remained in ruins. The thought of finding Clint after eleven years frightened me to the core. However, I could no longer dismiss God’s persistent nudging. On a chilly February evening in 2002, I located his address over the Internet, surprised to discover he had moved over 3,000 miles away. That night, I composed the most honest letter I’d ever written.

“Dear Clint,
I have no idea if this letter will ever reach you. I pray that it will. God has directed me to apologize to you and ask for your forgiveness.”

I went on to explain that my intent in writing was to bring healing to our lives and to have closure about what happened between us. I also confessed my part of our breakdown. After sealing the letter, I dropped it in the mailbox. In the weeks that followed, indescribable peace rested within me, until my phone rang and that once-familiar voice asked, “Is that you?”

Our conversation—during which we exchanged words of forgiveness—lasted five hours. Unbeknownst to either of us, our lives had strangely paralleled following our divorce. We had attended the same university and had both entered the teaching profession. Neither of us had remarried after our divorce. The most profound similarity was that despite a high degree of personal success, we both bottomed-out before individually asking God’s forgiveness for taking our marriage out of His hands.

When we hung up the phone, I never expected to hear from Clint again. The closure I needed was complete. Two days later, however, I received a letter postmarked from Florida.

“Penny,
What I’m about to write comes from my heart. It seems your struggles have been my struggles, and my pain has been your pain. But…I still have love for you in my heart.”

At the end of the letter, Clint asked if I had ever considered reconciliation. I was stunned. I called Clint and we prayed together. We also agreed to gather several Christians who would diligently pray about what God was doing. Surely we were in the midst of a modern-day miracle.

Several months later, we set a date to meet face-to-face. After a decade of bitterness, fear, and pain, Clint and I finally embraced in the terminal of the Denver International Airport. God had taken an eleven-year, three thousand mile-wide hole, and stitched it up with His threads of grace and healing.

Three months after that reunion, a bright orange moving truck pulled up to the driveway of my California home. When Clint held me in his arms I knew we had received a rare gift from God; a second chance. In those moments I finally realized that reconciliation was not about following a recipe. It’s about following Jesus Christ. On August 17, 2002, we were remarried in front of our family and friends. This time, forever.

(Excerpts of this article were taken from Marriage on the Mend—Healing Your Relationship After Crisis, Separation, or Divorce, Clint and Penny Bragg, Kregel Publishing, 2015.)

 

 

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Penny BraggPenny A. Bragg spent the majority of her professional career in the California public school system as a teacher, principal, and district administrator. Through the miraculous reconciliation of her marriage after an eleven-year divorce and a distance of 3,000 coast-to-coast miles, God led Penny and her husband, Clint, into fulltime ministry in 2006. Together, they serve as marriage missionaries—sharing their testimony of marital restoration across the nation and abroad during their 40-Day Marriage Mission Trips. Through Inverse Ministries, their non-profit organization, Penny and Clint have written extensively about the ministry of reconciliation including their upcoming book, Marriage on the Mend—Healing Your Relationship After Crisis, Separation, and Divorce (Kregel, 2015). In addition, Penny ministers to those who, like her, have experienced traumatic loss. Her book, “For Those Who Weep—A Grief Response Journal,” (Redemption Press, 2014) is available at www.ForThoseWhoWeep.com.

14 Comments

  1. 3-18-2015

    Penny, you are such an excellent writer and I can’t wait to read your book!!

    • 3-18-2015

      Thank you for your kind words, my sister in Christ. I am so glad God intersected us. Thank you for reaching out toward me.

  2. 3-18-2015

    I loved your story when I first heard it many years ago. I love it still and know that God continues to use you both to bring hope for reconciliation. And the book is awesome!

    • 3-18-2015

      You and Gar are such a treasure to us. Bless you,

  3. 3-18-2015

    Beautiful Penny. You will help so many to find hope to restore broken marriages.

  4. 3-19-2015

    Could you, as one who has understood the horror of divorce, please pray for Loretta and I?

  5. 3-19-2015

    Thank you for your transparency, Penny. I believe3 your experience and your book will help countless marriages!

  6. 3-19-2015

    What a beautiful story of hope and grace. The grace and ways of God never ceases to amaze me. Thank you for sharing.

    • 3-20-2015

      He is GRACE, isn’t He? Still so amazing. Bless you, Dorothy.

  7. 3-19-2015

    Quietly standing in awe of His mercy and grace.

  8. 3-20-2015

    Amen, Sharon. Such deep mercy and grace.

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