Holly Dyer’s story as told by Randi Peck
Broken Hearts and Broken Vows
As Holly lay in her hospital bed, staring into the face of her eight pound, one ounce son, fierce love consumed her. And it changed everything.
Suddenly, the restraining order that kept her husband from witnessing the birth of their child- and the fear and threats that hovered even in his absence- it was all worth the pain… If only she could provide her son with a whole and happy home. If only he could experience a father’s love and protection. If only she could fix everything…. And so, she vowed she would.
They warned her not to marry him. Family and friends fruitlessly attempted to point out the red flags that eighteen-year-old Holly was blinded to in her infatuation. But then she got pregnant. And in an attempt to right a wrong, she committed herself to this man.
Unfortunately, almost as soon as she slipped that ring on her finger, the blinders slipped off her eyes and the reality of her situation became all too clear. For the next two years, Holly’s energy was poured almost entirely into avoiding the backlash of her alcoholic, abusive husband.
Largely due to the birth of her son, Holly desperately strove to save her marriage. Her desperation led her to acknowledge her powerlessness over the situation; it led her to lean on Jesus.
She remembers, “I wanted to submit. I wanted God to change my marriage, to redeem it.” But even their marriage counselor from church told her he could no longer help the couple, recognizing that Holly couldn’t even share openly during their sessions: “I couldn’t say anything for fear of repercussion.”
After much consultation and attempts to mend what was broken, Holly made the tumultuous decision to get a divorce out of this frightening marriage. Even in the dire circumstances that led up to her choice, she testifies of her scar-laden experience, “I understand why God hates divorce. And I hate it too.”
“Just the Three of Us”
The next five years, Holly would taste of the bittersweet world of single-parenting.
She would experience the shame of being redirected from the church foyer (“Sorry, no children are allowed”) to the Family Room, where the rows of affectionate couples assured her she didn’t belong. She would know the loneliness of rocking her baby in the parking lot, waiting for the sermon to end so her ride could take her home. She would walk in the pride of refusing to ask for help; as well as the embarrassment of handing the cashier her Oregon Trail card. She would become familiar with the twenty-minute pumping breaks in the bathroom of her workplace. And she would learn the ache of leaving her child with the sitter, always too soon.
But Holly would also discover a strength and love in Christ that was capable to carry her through those trying years. She would feel the support of family and church gathering around her. She found herself continually stunned by the miracle of God’s provision, as her bank account never ceased to cover (if barely) their needs. Even her pumping breaks at work became a hidden treasure, where she would spread her Bible and commentaries across the bathroom counter and encounter God’s presence.
Ultimately, it would take many years for Holly to truly believe that her shame was removed and to accept, “I don’t have to find my identity in what I’ve walked through, but in who held my hand through that time.”
However, during these single years, she did become so satisfied in the Lord, so convinced that he was enough for her and her son, that she recalls announcing her decision to God: “It will just be the three of us.” Two weeks later, she met Sid.
Holly was introduced to Sid Dyer by a friend, and they began to attend the same Bible study. Sid loved Jesus. He genuinely cared about Holly’s little boy. And he was too heartbroken from his own divorce to notice Holly as more than a friend.
But as Sid and Holly developed a strong friendship, and as the Lord continued to work healing in both of their hearts, it became inevitable that they would spend their lives together. After a one-and-a-half year relationship and a two-month engagement, Pastor Jeff- their Bible study leader at the time- pronounced them man and wife.
To Holly, this marriage was an unexpected, precious gift from the Lord. But it also became a source of cautious hope, that her broken family might be pieced back together. For now her son would know family, as it should be. Her struggles, she perceived, were mostly a thing of the past.
But as life’s battles continued to wage full-fledge around her, God gently walked Holly through the growing realization that suffering would not disappear in the wake of a “healed and whole family”. In fact, Sid and Holly’s marriage would bring to light many unhealed pieces of their past. This, on top of the adjustments and sanctification every Christian marriage requires, no matter a couple’s history.
But as Holly entered into the process of forsaking her own selfish purposes for her marriage, she witnessed God’s superior and eternal purposes. Where they had brought insecurity into their union, Christ worked intimacy. Hurt was traded in for healing. And the baggage that seemed too burdensome to bear, began to be forgiven and turned to glorify their Savior. God’s plan was to form the Dyer’s marriage into a Christ-exalting team, sourced by his love- and there was no painless way to get there. Through the trials, though, Holly says that their marriage has been one of the primary ways God has revealed himself to her.
As the Dyers welcomed two more sons into their family, their journey continued to lead them through great joys… and deep sorrows. Physical ailments, depression, financial woes, colicky babies, the difficulties of parenting… These, and many other trials, continued to reveal to Holly her own inadequacy.
The Only “Fix”
Happily-ever-after would seem laughable, on a good day, if Holly’s hope rested in everything falling into place around her. But suffering no longer symbolizes failure to her. For struggle is not something Jesus-followers grow “out of”, but the very soil they grow in. Only through the Lord’s grace, she has come to see that, “Brokenness is the gift.”
Brokenness is the gift that causes her to bleed compassion toward those around her. Brokenness is what causes her to fight, by God’s strength, for what is lovely and true. Brokenness is what has enabled her to sincerely say, “The more I know who God is, the more his glory is all I want… I’ll stand before the glory of God for rest of eternity and cry ‘Glory, glory, glory’ because it’s true!”
But this gift isn’t always one she’s eager to unwrap, Holly confesses. On those days when Holly’s heart is grieved and the enemy seems to be having his way, there’s a part of her that wants to give up, because, she says, “I feel like I’m in a fight. But isn’t that the truth? We are in a fight. We are in a battle.”
Holly is much quicker now to recognize when “principalities and powers” are warring against her soul and her family. She tries to turn around these moments of depression and discouragement by tuning her heart to what is true- sometimes, by simply turning on a sermon or worship song. She testifies that, “God’s truth has the power to penetrate.”
Psalm 30:5 encourages the believer that, “Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning.” Holly has come to hope in this verse, as she understands that, ultimately, her “morning” is not on earth- but in her eternal home.
As she continues to take up the daily battle, she recognizes, “Hard things don’t get any less hard. But their effect on me has changed. Where now, I can see them through the light of “someday”- and maybe not on this earth- but someday, maybe in eternity, with God’s wisdom I’m going to know, Why did I walk through that?… And I’ll be able to see the fruit from that.”
As she waits for that day when her eyes will be opened to the full beauty of how God uses brokenness, and as she continues to wrestle with hardship, she glories in the gifts granted to her this day.
“Physically, I have always struggled. Emotionally, I have always struggled. I have tons of insecurities,” she shares. And yet, she is humbly aware that “every brokenness” that she has ever walked through has, at some point, become a gift- a gift to deepen her own faith, a gift to strengthen those around her, and a gift causing worship toward her Lord and King.
Sixteen years ago, Holly committed herself to fixing everything: her family, her life, her heart.. But she has since “given up” this fight, in the best sense, and taken up a greater fight: fixing her eyes upon Jesus.