How do you salvage identity when marriage, kids or jobs fail?
Everyone has a list of “want to” identity makers: I want to be a mom or dad. I want to be a teacher, an electrician, a nurse, a business owner. But what happens when you hit roadblocks? When life doesn’t unfold as we hoped? When marriage and children don’t turn out as we hoped?
Those are the issues Lisa Preuett hits head-on as the leader of the Single Mom’s Group and the Praying for Your Prodigal Group that meet at Southeast Christian Church’s Blankenbaker Campus.
She understands the journey because she’s walked it.
Growing up, Preuett dreamed of being a wife and mom. Raised in church, she wanted to serve Jesus, too. That was the identity she wanted for herself.
But six months after getting married, Preuett realized her husband relapsed into alcohol addiction. When he was sober, life was good. When he was drinking, it was horrible. So much of her identity was wrapped up in that perfect picture of a happy marriage, that she tried hard to make life better. Embarrassment and fear kept her from confiding in anyone at church.
“Though I’d been in church all my life, there was so much I didn’t know about God,” Preuett said. “I’d given my life to Christ as a child. I knew the Gospel saved me. I didn’t know how it could sustain me. I didn’t know that my identity was more than wife or mom, teacher or daughter. That no matter what happens, God is the sustainer and redeemer of my life. My identity is in Him.”
She held on to her marriage for six years as fear kicked anxiety into high gear.
“My sense of well-being was tied to what my husband was doing. I hoped having a baby would help, but my husband was drinking when our son was just 4 months old. Then I learned he was living a double life. Add post-partum depression, and I was a mess. With everything crumbling around me, I doubted God’s goodness.”
Depression and anxiety led to a short hospital stay.
Preuett eventually left her husband and moved back home with her parents. It was humbling settling her son in her childhood bedroom. At church, Preuett found it hard to fit in with singles or married couples. She began driving across town to a divorce support group at Southeast where she found a kind, judgment-free zone.
“That’s when my faith grew by leaps and bounds,” Preuett said “Even though everything was stripped away from me—my marriage, my house and identity—my faith grew. I began to understand who God is. That things in my life that I couldn’t change didn’t define me. God defines me. My circumstances don’t change who He is.”
Good things happened. Preuett met her husband Jim in the singles’ class at Southeast, remarried and they had a daughter. Looking back, one of Preuett’s favorite memories is the day her son was baptized.
Years clicked by until he hit turbulent teen years, suddenly getting in trouble at school, starting down a path of substance abuse. The Preuetts tried everything to help him get back on track, but addiction can be a roller coaster.
“I couldn’t change what was happening with my son. I was good when he was doing well and distraught when he wasn’t. For the second time, my entire well-being was tied up with whether things were good or bad,” Preuett said
Crisis brought Preuett back to thinking about her identity.
“The only way I have peace right now is I have taken a deeper dive into understanding who God is and how the whole Bible fits together. He does not change no matter what happens in our lives. God’s plan from the beginning is to reconcile His people to himself through Jesus. He is always good.”
She walks with women through hard days.
“We walk in the trenches together,” Preuett said. “We work hard to find peace in who God is, to recognize where He’s working and what He’s teaching us. The biggest question is, ‘Do you trust God? Will you let Him carry you through this?’”
Go to www.southeastchristian.org to find details on Single Moms and Praying for Prodigal groups.