A church I used to attend had a women’s Bible study on Thursday nights. At the time, they were doing Stormie Omartian’s Lord, I Want to be Whole. Here is the back cover description of the book:
Omartian, a survivor of child abuse, brings a powerful message of hope and healing to all who seek deliverance from depression and spiritual oppression. She shows you how prayer and encouragement from Scripture can help you come to terms with the past; how to maintain emotional wholeness; and how to receive God’s gifts.
I remember coming home from the second or third week of the study and my husband Gregg asking me if I liked it. I shrugged and said, “Eh. I’m not broken. I don’t understand this study or this focus on brokenness or why people can’t just move on.”
Now, before you think that I come from a “broken free” life, you should probably know a few things:
- I have been sexually assaulted. At 17, I was raped in the back room of a bar in Fort Benning, Georgia.
- I have been married to an alcoholic drug addict…
- …who had an extramarital affair with my best friend. And then moved her into our house the week before my apartment was ready for me to be able to move out.
- I have been pregnant 8 times and I have 3 living children.
- I have been that wife whose husband was in a war zone on the first anniversary of 9-11. And who has subsequently spent 5 years of our 15 year marriage in that same war zone.
- I have been that mother in the NICU waiting room waiting for the hourly 10-minute window to visit my 3-pound son, Scott.
- In another state, I have sat in another NICU unable to hold my newborn son Johnathan while watching him laboriously breathe around a collapsed lung.
So, I’ve been there. And I’ve done that. My older brother one time called me “the strongest person I’ve ever known.” At the time that floored me.
I wasn’t strong, in my eyes, I was just getting through my life. (Almost) always acknowledging God there. (Almost) always relying on God. And I didn’t see what the big deal was to focus on what HAD happened compared to what is NOW is or what COULD BE happening.
So I said to my husband, with such arrogance and pride that typing this now I feel shame, “I’m not broken. I’ve never been broken”
It was as if God looked down at me that moment and said, “Right! Of course! I haven’t broken Hallee yet. Let me rectify that!”
And then God broke me.
I didn’t even know what broken meant. I can barely look at pictures of Johnathan’s first year, I was in such a broken place for most of it. He broke me until I couldn’t even pray anymore. The more I prayed, the worse it all got until I just couldn’t stand to make it worse.
My marriage was in shambles. I didn’t see the out of that. People who know us as a couple now can’t picture that, but it was. It was so broken that I couldn’t see how it could be fixed, how we could be put back together as a single unit – as a one – again.
Gregg was broken. Speaking on this subject to a group of Army wives a couple of weeks ago, I said that I knew when I said things like , “he’d wake up from a nightmare screaming in Arabic” that they probably understood the kind of brokenness of which I’m referencing and all of the — fertilizer – I’m using that word on purpose — that comes with that. But for those of you who are laymen to the military world, let me just say that there’s a reason that people say war is hell, and it’s not an understated comment. Our military has been at war for 16 years — and war is hell. It does things to the hearts and minds of the people who so valiantly serve.
I tried to leave him at one point during this broken time. About 50 miles into the trip, when I was fighting with myself over whether that was the right decision (and I promise you not a single person reading this would have vied for me to stay and fight), I heard an audible voice in my ear that said, “Turn around and go back.”
Yeah. Go back. Go back to the fertilizer. And that’s the moment when I had to decide if I truly trusted God or not. God, to whom I wasn’t even speaking at this moment. Remember, at this point I wasn’t even praying anymore. I was angry because He’d spoken to me at a time when I wasn’t speaking to Him.
But He is God. Creator of the universe. Where was I when He laid the foundation of the world? (Job 38:4) Resigned, I turned around.
Things didn’t get better, and I still wasn’t talking to God. I promise you, whatever you’re going through, shutting out that line of communication with God will never make things better.
When I broke through my own arrogance and realized that GOD had spoken out loud in my ear even though I had shut him out, I became a sobbing wreck on my face begging God – begging Him for release me from the brokenness.
In my prone state on the floor after months of just absolute destruction of my heart and soul, all I could think of was David.
David of the Bible.
Why did God direct me to King David?
I read through Samuel and Chronicles, pouring over the words. I moved to Psalms, reading each one, letting them speak to me, lift me up, pour into my heart. Then I read them mixed up, in order – stories about David coupled with the Psalms.
As a sidebar, I’ve got to tell you that if you feel like you’ve had a rough life and see no light, read a mix of David’s life with the Psalms he wrote and you will find joy for the morning.
But while I was reading 1 Chronicles and 2 Samuel in chronological order – which means that I would read one story twice, basically, because they’re kind of a repeat, this kind of stood out to me like a blinking light:
1 Chronicles 21:1
Now Satan stood up against Israel, and moved David to number Israel.
Scriptures don’t explain why David taking a census of Israel was bad. It could be because he wanted to see how mighty HIS army could be versus relying on the power of God. It could be because he felt pride at all “he” had accomplished and the mightiness of “his” kingdom. We don’t know. All we know is that Satan stood up against Israel and moved David to number Israel.
The bible goes on to say “This command was also evil in the sight of God; so He punished Israel.”
Then David said to God, “I have sinned greatly by doing this. Now, I beg you, take away the guilt of your servant. I have done a very foolish thing.” So the Lord sent a plague on Israel, and seventy thousand men of Israel fell dead….David said to God, “Was it not I who ordered the fighting men to be counted? I, the shepherd, have sinned and done wrong. These are but sheep. What have they done? Lord my God, let your hand fall on me and my family, but do not let this plague remain on your people.”
So, David sinned, and was broken, prone, in sackcloth on his face, begging God’s forgiveness, begging God to punish him instead of Israel after 70,000 men fell dead because of David’s sin.
That’s a powerful story about how Satan was used to bring David to his face, all arrogance and pride washed away.
Satan was used? What do I mean?
2 Samuel 24:1
Again the anger of the LORD was aroused against Israel, and He moved David against them to say, “Go, number Israel and Judah.”
1 Chronicles says that SATAN moved David to number Israel; yet, 2 Samuel says GOD moved David to number Israel.
While Satan is the author of all evil, he cannot exercise his evil intentions apart from the permission of God. God can and will use him to accomplish His own purposes of judgement or discipline or whatever He wants, as seen here with David.
As I studied these verses and the stories behind them, as I dug into the way that God allowed Satan to destroy David’s pride and arrogance (at the cost of 70,000 men), a song by Micah Stampley called “Take My Life,” went through my mind. The third verse of that song says:
Brokenness, brokenness is what I long for
Brokenness, brokenness is what I need
Brokenness, brokenness is what You want for me
And I thought to myself, before God could use Gregg and me in the way He desired to use us, He needed to break each one of us. We each needed to quit dealing with things on our own. We needed to quit being “strong” and handling everything on our own then turning to God and saying, “Thank you for seeing us through that. I’ve always trusted You’d be there.”
He needed us in the midst of brokenness to fall prone to Him and give everything, all of ourselves over to Him. We needed to no longer “play church” and completely transform our lives, offer ourselves as living sacrifices, absolutely conform ourselves to the will and word of God, loving Him with ALL of our hearts, ALL of our souls, ALL of our minds, and ALL of our strength.
The chorus of that song says:
So take my Heart and mold it
Take my mind, transform it
Take my will, conform it
To Yours to Yours oh, Lord
Jesus gave a parable of “The Seeds” in Luke 8. In that parable, the seeds that grew and yielded crop were grown in “good soil.”
I used to have a garden. For years, an abundance of fruits and vegetables came out of my yard. In fact, I intentionally have lightened my speaking schedule load this summer so that I can have a garden this year. I am so very ready to get my hands into the dirt warmed by the sun and work the soil. I have seeds already growing in my home, ready to transplant.
Do you know what I have to do to soil to make it good enough to grow my crops? I have to break the ground – to till the earth – break through it with force and sharp edges until what remains is soft, pliable dirt. I have to remove rocks and roots and debris. I have to work fertilizer through it (remember the euphemism for fertilizer?). Because that – fertilizer – that has been part of the brokenness in my life is something God uses for good.
Once that soil is transformed, once my seeds and my seedlings are planted, I have to continually pull out weeds and bad plants. I have to battle back bugs and pests and scavengers. When I do those things, then my earth is good, good for seed to grow and for me to yield a healthy crop.
For God to be able to do His work through me, for me to be able to produce for God, my heart had to be broken like the ground gets broken. And then He had to pull all the bad stuff out, the roots of my own pride and arrogance. I had to work through the brokenness like fertilizer gets worked through the soil so that I can feed my seeds. And armed with the full Armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-18) I am always ready to battle the fiery darts and arrows of the enemy – the pests and scavengers that want to destroy and consume my crops.
There is an old, beautiful hymn titled “It is Well with My Soul”
Horatio Spafford was an attorney in the late 19th century. In 1870, his only son died of Scarlet Fever at the age of four. In 1871, the “Great Chicago Fire” destroyed his real estate holdings, and ruined him financially. In 1873, he planned to go with Ira David Sankey and D.L. Moody on an evangelical campaign in Great Britain, and he hoped that the trip would give his wife and his four daughters some much needed rest from the life that had hit them with two such terrible blows in the last few years.
The day they were to leave for Great Britain, Spafford was delayed by some business in Chicago. He sent his family ahead of them, planning to follow in a few days.
While at sea, the ship that carried his family, the S.S. Ville du Havre, was struck by the British vessel, Lockhearn, and sank within minutes. The survivors were taken to Cardiff, Wales. There, Anna Spafford cabled her husband. Among the words she sent were: “Saved alone. What shall I do.”
See, all four of their daughters died that day. Spafford left immediately for Europe. When he reached the spot where his beloved daughters drowned, he penned these words:
When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.
What amazing courage this man had. What an amazing story.
How much could we learn from his strength of faith? To be able to let spring out from your soul the amazing worship to God that is this song in the wake of the brokenness of financial ruin and the death of all of your children takes such an amazing amount of faith that it humbles me. To be in the very spot where your children perished and be able to pour out the words, just days later, “It is well with my soul,” is just awe inspiring.
I don’t know if God orchestrated the brokenness that occurred in my marriage, that broke me and broke Gregg. Or if He just took something horrible and turned it to good, as He promises to do in Romans 8:28.
And we know that God works together for good all things for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.
All I know is that out of my broken earth sprung my writing. When I came out of it, on the other side, words filled my heart – words I had to get out. Stories, parables, I had to tell. I published my first book 5 years ago last week, and in that time, I’ve published 22 books.
Books that, through silly fictional romance stories and action and adventure stories, through cookbooks like FIFTY SHADES OF GRAVY and THE WALKING BREAD I very boldly and openly declare the Gospel. I tackle topics in the world that believers struggle with, and in turn give those readers hope, a way to turn to God, a renewed heart.
I receive letters all the time from people who have come to know Christ, who have returned to Christ, who have renewed marriages, new hope, new faith. Who have faced their own brokenness, embraced their brokenness, and welcomed God’s use through them all because they read one of my books.
Out of the brokenness of our marriage, Gregg and I formed Olivia Kimbrell Press, and have published dozens of Christian authors of varying genres who all write with the same mission: to offer true to life, meaningful fiction and non-fiction from a Christian worldview intended to uplift the heart and engage the mind. We work together, always prayerfully, always mission focused, desiring only to serve God with our talents and skill.
Out of my brokenness, I was able to say to God, “So take my Heart and mold it; take my mind, transform it; take my will, conform it; to Yours to Yours oh, Lord.” I can say that with absolute sincerity and purpose, desiring only to be completely sanctified – to be set apart – for God. So that every part of me – of my life – will be used for God’s purposes. I can say, in the aftermath of brokenness that had me prone on the ground, weeping because no words can be uttered, that it is well with my soul.