By Bradley Keen
In the aftermath of the destruction of my marriage after 10 years not only was my marriage over, my life was over. Every day I would wake up regretting the past and dreading the future.
I didn’t know where to go or how to function. I was one of those people who said, “I don’t believe in divorce.” I knew I was going to mess up in raising my sons in some way but it wasn’t going to because of a failed marriage. I can still remember holding my first son in the delivery room promising him that I would protect him and guard his heart forever. Divorce was the one thing I promised myself and others that I would never do, but I did. I found myself carrying around so much guilt, shame and regret that I didn’t know how to move forward. So I didn’t.
For a few months I just trudged my way through my workday, kids’ soccer practices and trips to pizza buffets with my three sons. I was a
mess, a complete wreck. Then I decided that there had to be more. At least I hoped there was more. There had to be a life on the other side of failure. I met with a man I was referred to by my church. We were sitting in a crowded restaurant and I spilled my guts to him. For the first time ever I opened up and found myself telling him everything. All the gory details and he just sits there staring at me and listening. After I’m done he continues to look at me straight in the face and says, “Do you want me to shoot straight with you?” I said told him yes, but on the inside I was already preparing myself for the legalistic, hurtful, church responses I had heard before. The “you’ve done too much” and “your passed the point of help” that I was so familiar with hearing. In the few seconds that I spent waiting for him to respond I could already hear his words of condemnation. I was bracing myself for his response, but he shocked me with what he said.
“I failed my marriage in the same way you did, I’m divorced and I too have struggled with depression.”
I was stunned, speechless, I think the only noise I made was to sigh. Before I even knew what had happened a weight lifted from my soul. I hadn’t felt this free in years. The same man that I watched walk in the door, the same man who when I saw him appeared to have it all together, tells me he has been where I am. That is where my recovery began. When I realized that I was sitting across from someone who had been where I was, had learned to overcome it and was telling me I didn’t have to live in hopelessness, or constant shame and the best news of all, I was not alone.
That conversation got me thinking. What if I could take what happened at that table, blow it up and put it on a global scale? What if I could create a way where not for one second does the divorcing man, or raped teen have to wonder if they are alone. They can immediately go to our platform and in an instant discover that others have been in their shoes and be given the opportunity to start a relationship with people who understand what it’s like.
So I did. Fast forward a few years, working with my wife and others on our team we created The Not Alone Project—a story-sharing and peer-to-peer mentoring platform. We launched in July of 2014 and since then:
- Over 130 different stories have been told on our site.
- Our website has been viewed over 12,000 times, from all 50 states and over
100 different countries.
- We have garnered close to 1,000 people following our social media feeds.
- We have launched 9 video stories and they have reached almost
- We just launched some local support groups. We have had three of these events with over 50 in attendance and 15 of those there wanted to begin a relationship with a mentor.
- Partnerships. We have partnered with churches and organizations around the nation to offer support groups for their congregations.
- We are the “13th” step. Some of the local organizations that are 12-step programs use us as a reward after their participants complete the 12 steps. After they are complete they get to share their story with us and we put that story on a global stage.
I say all this not to brag but to make a point. All of this has been done in less than a year with no full-time staff, no building, limited funding and no marketing. These numbers tell me two things:
- The message that you are not alone resonates with people. That kind of reach produced only by word of mouth is amazing. People are desperate to know that someone else has been in their shoes, that someone understands them. When they hear about us and our message they tell people.
2. We could do so much more with the right resources. We want a full time staff that we can dedicate to this work. We believe in what we do. We believe that we could be the greatest help to the local church that our generation has ever experienced. We want full time liaison’s for churches that can help them get the hurting people under their care to the right resources and the right people.
Our mission is to end isolation and shame. We do that through giving people a platform to use their past as an investment into the life of someone else. We also end the isolation that comes from believing the lie that you are alone. When we live in isolation or shame we will never be able to live to our full potential. When those people are not living to their full potential then the churches they attend, the organizations that they are involved in and the communities they live in are not operating at their full potential. With healthy, healing people your organization could achieve so much more.
God is always in the process of restoring. True and complete restoration only comes from a relationship with Jesus Christ. Everything we do points others to that horizon. We want to empower those who have a past, who feel disqualified from being used by God, to lead and invest in others.
Here’s what we are looking for:
- Stories and mentors. If you are ready to tell a story from your past then we are ready for you. If you are ready to use your painful season in life to invest in the life of someone else then we are ready for you. You can get started at www.TheNotAloneProject.org
- Partners – We are looking for 50 churches to say yes, 50 churches that are sick and tired of seeing hurting people continue to hurt because they won’t reach out or speak up. We are looking for 50 churches that will pledge to give us $100 per month so we can dedicate a full time staff, host more events and create and distribute more free material.
Will you join us? When will you say “enough is enough”? When will you decide that your pain doesn’t have to be handled alone? When will you choose to use your past for good? When will you decide that the health of your church or organization is only as healthy as the people in it and commit to giving them what they really need? If you ask me, today is the day. Don’t wait. Don’t suffer alone anymore. Don’t believe the lie that your past was wasted. Don’t just hope those under your care will succeed.
Today is the day. Now is the time. Let’s change world together – one story at a time.