Identity Theft

Getting to know ourselves and God in times of crisis.

by Joyce Hoey

Through the icy pane of my kitchen window, I gazed. The poplars stood rigid, their bare, brittle limbs thrust against the chill winter air. Within my weary soul the ice was slowly melting. I began to come alive again.

My sorrow at the loss of my husband – emotionally, then physically – debilitated me. I had struggled to accept that he no longer wanted my companionship. As he lay dying several years later, it was his mother’s presence he asked for, not mine.

Young love

Our lives were knit together in the seventies. We met in high school, corresponded as he attended Bible school, and soon married. Too young, perhaps; too inexperienced certainly.

Rob had a zeal for the Lord’s work. He had been youth leader in his small church and had a gift for visitation. Whether praying at a hospital bedside, drinking tea from dainty china with an elderly shut-in, or unstopping her kitchen sink, Rob gave his all. With his mother’s old blue Dodge, he shuttled many frail neighbors to doctor’s appointments and shopping.

Ministry struggles

I felt uncertain in my attraction to Rob. He seemed so confident in his approach to his Christian commitment. He knew where he was going and swept me along. I became the wife of a student immersed in sermon-building, then a struggling pastor’s wife. There was no Pastor’s Wife 101 course for my benefit. I clung to Rob, trying to absorb just a bit of his assurance.

Our first little Bible school was quickly pushed out by a larger, aggressive organization. Our church authorities immediately planted us in another young pastor’s troubled flock, moving him on to something bigger. We were given a dying church that had been resuscitated for one last gasp. All the former dissention was still there but none of the spirituality and support that we needed. Time and again, Rob endured knocks and blows from strong-willed members until he could no longer stand. Embittered, he stumbled away from the ministry, disillusioned and questioning his calling.


After several career changes and many moves, Rob was still unable to heal from the wounds. He abandoned his faith and, eventually, our lives together.

His rejection of me was staggering. What was I to do? Who was I without him? I had been robbed of the identity I’d known since we were married.

Through all my turmoil and questions, God gently held me and reminded me, “My grace is sufficient for you . . .” (2 Corinthians 12:9). In time, He would reveal Himself and who I was.

Trials and tears

As a single mom, I faced many trials and tears and fell short many times. Fatigue, loneliness, and a shortage of funds drained me. My checkbook took a beating. Often I cried, “I can’t do this. I am just too tired!” My sons, at six and ten, didn’t understand the full implication of an absent dad.

My elder son, Luke, reacted with hostility to me, to his absent father, to the world. Several church members tried to befriend him and met only recoil and hatred. “Who do they think they are?” Luke fumed. “I don’t need them! I don’t need anyone!”

What little communicating Luke engaged in was at full volume. I often saw myself as a cartoon character, a frazzled individual facing a blast of hot air with long tresses streaming out behind me.

The school called often with yet more complaints of Luke’s behavior. All my best efforts to help him were not enough. Yet God reassured me of this truth: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13).

Give and take

A compassionate friend told me how to visualize a large wicker basket. “Put all your troubles in the basket,” she said. “Name them aloud as you place them there. Give that basket to Jesus.”

That was a refreshing exercise I quickly practiced. “Lord, I give You my frustration; I receive Your peace. I give You my finances; I receive Your sustenance. I give You my lack of parenting skills; I receive Your guidance.” Laughing, I mentally placed Luke, at nearly six feet by then, in that wicker hamper (a basket wasn’t big enough).

New lessons

When I learned to focus on God and His strength, and not on myself and the present, I felt Him uplifting me and working out the challenges. Another friend reminded me that my role was not to be Luke’s father but be the best mother God would enable me to be. What a relief!

I learned a new confidence. I trusted my son to the loving Father’s care, as He was so much wiser than I. Over time, Luke’s hurt and rebellion toward his entire world eased as he learned to trust again. Realizing that his relationship with me had not been taken from him, he gradually accepted my love and support.

Peace and stability

Our home once again became a peaceful retreat. Through frequent financial assistance from family, we found more stability. God used each harsh moment to mold me and assure me that He was in control. My journey’s lessons now help me embrace others’ burdens and be a listening ear to the hurting.

Who am I? I am a much-loved child of God more than a rejected wife. I am one who is not left to struggle against life’s difficulties alone and unsupported. I know who I am and, more important, who He is: my solid foundation.

Scripture quotations were taken from the New King James Version.