If you’re a dad in a broken marriage and marital reconciliation looks more and more remote, my interview today with my friend Tez Brooks will be especially meaningful and, perhaps, a life-changer. In his award-winning book, The Single Dad Detour, Tez Brooks provides wise guidance laced with humor to help divorced and separated dads navigate through difficult circumstances in parenting. I’m hoping Tez’s experience and insights will offer answers to many of the questions men commonly ask in their emails to me. A review of the book by author Rick James says, “If I were a single parent on this journey, I’d want Tez’s comforting voice on my GPS. It’s a warm and understanding voice that’s traveled the back roads and knows where it’s going.”
Linda: Tez, tell our readers a little about yourself and your journey.
Tez: Sure. Well, I made a decision to follow Christ when I was 6, felt a call to ministry at 18 and went to Bible College. I was a 22-year-old youth pastor when I married a girl from my hometown. During our 10-year marriage we had two children who are now adults.
But there were a lot of hidden issues we were dealing with as a couple. I had abuse in my background and was a bit of a control freak. I could be a real jerk sometimes. My wife had undiagnosed bi-polar disorder and some other mental health issues that we didn’t know were affecting our marriage. I thought that’s just what marriage was supposed to be—a roller coaster.
On top of that, she was chronically unfaithful and although I saw evidence of this while we were dating, I figured a wedding ring would solve this. I was young and naïve and didn’t have any older men speaking into my life who might have warned me. I took her back several times but eventually, her unfaithfulness led to a divorce.
That’s not what I wanted for us. I continued to make attempts to salvage our marriage. Counseling, marriage conferences, books, prayer, fasting—everything. Even after the divorce I was open to reconciliation. I believed with the Lord we could work through anything. But at the time, only one of us was walking with God. And honestly, you can’t force someone to love you.
We shared custody of our son and daughter. Sometimes they lived with me, other times they were with my ex. It was a lonely depressing time for me. The kids experienced a lot of loss too. In all, the kids lived with me full-time for about 3 years. As you’ve heard, no one wins. Divorce is a lose/lose situation.
After being divorced 7 years, I met and married my lovely wife Christine and we’ve had 2 more girls. It’s such a joy to raise children with a godly woman who loves me and shares the same values as a parent.
Linda: Your book, The Single Dad Detour was recently a winner for the 2016 Royal Palm Literary Award. Although your book has a Christian worldview, this was a secular competition. Obviously they saw your book contained some unique insight and encouragement for any audience. How is that?
Tez: Maybe it’s because I didn’t try to get too deep or theological? I’m not sure. I talk a lot about the importance of having a personal relationship with God in order to effectively parent your child through a broken family situation. But if you know me, I just don’t get in people’s faces as a bible-thumper. Sharing my faith is a more natural, relational thing with me. Perhaps the judges sensed this? I’m just thankful they acknowledged a religious book. I’m chalking it up to God’s grace.
It was certainly an honor to receive such a prestigious award. I’m blown away by how God is using it to minister to single parents around the world. I currently have 2 single dads I’m mentoring solely because they heard about the book and contacted me.
A counselor I know gives copies to parents who are having marriage trouble. In Singapore, Teen Challenge uses it as a resource for single dads coming through their addiction recovery program to help them learn how to be better fathers. But actually more women buy the book than men. Mothers get it for their divorced sons. Women give copies to their boyfriends who have kids. I’m humbled by every story I hear.
Linda: You’ve said it was difficult to write it because of the memories that surfaced. What led you to write it anyways?
Tez: I really struggled. I’d been re-married several years and had moved so far past that season of darkness. I didn’t want to re-visit some memories.
But the Lord started giving me compassion for single dads and I remembered how there just wasn’t anything out there for me when I was going through it. Especially books with a Christian worldview. What was available was too preachy for me. So I wrote something that would encourage guys with a little humor and offer some practical advice and action points.
Linda: Many men build their lives on the idea that a wife, kids and a house equals success. When that crumbles down, where can they find their identity?
Tez: That’s a great question because our identity needs to be grounded in Christ to begin with. If that’s not there when tragedy strikes, we’re in trouble. That’s where I found myself. I was a Christian but I didn’t really understand my identity as a child of God. I thought the American dream was where my self worth was. When that disappeared I was suddenly a man in my 30s with no real value to anyone. At least that’s what I believed.
I embraced the world’s view of who and what I was. In essence I allowed the world to place a price tag on my forehead. Suddenly that tag was marked down 95% and I was thrown in the bargain bin.
It can take a long time for the message of Christ to get from our heads down to our hearts. That’s what needed to happen with me. Thankfully the Holy Spirit began a work to reveal the value God placed on me. It was vital to my healing.
Linda: You’ve been happily married to Christine for 15 years now. But what about the single dad reading your book who is believing for a marital reconciliation? Do you support that?
Tez: Absolutely. God hates divorce and he desires for us to honor and keep those wedding vows of “…till death do us part.” I commend and respect couples like you and Marv who are able to work through some very heart-wrenching issues and preserve a marriage after long periods of painful separation. Some of these couples even re-marry one another…so even a divorce is not necessarily final. That’s what I want readers to hear.
In chapter 3 of The Single Dad Detour I mention the importance of attempting to restore your marriage. Divorce should always be a last resort. But I also know every couple has different situations. Not all marriages are in trouble because of unfaithfulness or desertion. And even for those marriages that are, the spouse who desires a reconciliation might be the very one who sinned but is now repentant.
Whatever the story, some folks don’t get the luxury of having a spouse who agrees that the marriage must be saved. So you may be all alone in hoping for marital restoration. But God is still there. He was for me.
When it became obvious my marriage was irreconcilable, I was swallowed up by an even darker shadow. Because I thought scripture wouldn’t allow me to marry again. I prepared to spend the rest of my life single.
While I was embracing some very cool opportunities to serve the Lord in ways only a single could, I still struggled as a man in my 30s, knowing loneliness and sexual temptation would always be part of my life.
It took a brave pastor to walk me through some scripture passages and show me I was free to remarry. Even after that, I was suspicious and didn’t trust women in general. I watched Christine for a year before I decided to court her.
It was scary for me but I’ve never dreamed marriage could be so fulfilling. Does this make me pro-divorce/remarriage? No. But life is messy. You don’t always get what you expected or planned for. And watching God redeem your life in spite of bad decisions is an amazing thing to experience.
Linda: What is one thing you want men to get from reading The Single Dad Detour?
Tez: I want readers to walk away encouraged to keep going. Whether God restores your marriage or not, he is coming alongside you in that journey. I want to challenge dads to step up to the plate in their parenting, while still trying to save the marriage if they can.
But outcomes are not always under our control. Yet there is hope for an abundant life if the marriage dissolves permanently. If men can celebrate what they’re doing right, while still leaning desperately on the Savior for hope, it will make the road they’re navigating much easier.
Linda: Where can people learn more about you and your book, The Single Dad Detour?