Summit Couple Leverages 'Empty Nest' Years for the Gospel

May 12, 2017

The Empty Nest. Just utter these words in a room filled with parents, and you’ll be met with a host of emotions and responses. For some, this notion represents freedom. Empty schedules opening up a vast world of opportunity. A collective “We did it!” exhale after pouring years upon years into parenting.

For others, waking up to the reality of an empty nest is a season to be dreaded. Grieved. Lives once teeming with activity and noise quieted as children-turned-adults take flight. And for many, this quiet is jarring, prompting the question of, “What now?”

For Bruce and Anne Braddy, after years raising their four children—Lauren, Kyle, Brad, and Sydney—the answer was a no-brainer. Well-aware that their days are numbered and their moments matter, the Braddys’ empty nest has looked a whole lot more like surrender, sacrifice, and service than pleasure and leisure.

After all, few things will convince us of life’s brevity like coming face to face with death. And this is something that Bruce and Anne know entirely too well.

It was March of 2004. The height of March Madness. The University of Alabama had just defeated Syracuse in the Sweet 16 and would move on to the next round of the NCAA tournament, prompting a late-night celebratory phone call from their daughter, Lauren—a college senior at the time—and several of her sorority sisters. “Sweet home, Alabama,” their carefree voices sang.

A short three days later, Bruce would receive another phone call with a vastly different tone: “Mr. Braddy, this is the hospital chaplain, and we have your daughter here with us.”

Bruce and Anne would come to learn that Lauren had been involved in a tragic automobile accident en route to her much-anticipated spring break cruise. Lauren and one of her dear friends lost their lives as a result of this accident, launching the Braddys into every parent’s worst nightmare: the death of a child.

Reflecting on the days immediately following the accident, Bruce remembers a conversation he had with their pastor at the time: “He said, ‘Bruce, an event like this is going to do one of two things. It’s going to cause you to run to God, or it’s going to cause you to run away.’

“There was no question for us. You realize, after you have trauma in your life, what’s important in life. And what is important in life is standing on that rock of Jesus Christ, because everything else, as that beautiful hymn goes, is sinking sand. Good people can go through some horrible events in their lives. And we have experienced that with the loss of Lauren at 22 years old—five weeks before she would have graduated from the University of Alabama.”

Bruce and Anne are well-acquainted with the speed at which life can come crashing down. How it takes one tiny moment. A single diagnosis. An unexpected and startlingly brief phone call from a hospital chaplain. But they testify with just as much certainty that there is One who is unchangeable, fully sovereign, and wholly good.

“Getting older, and especially going through what we went through in 2004, our faith has grown,” Anne shared. “We know that God is good and God is worth it.”

To the Braddys, this bold proclamation of “God is good, and God is worth it,” seeps into every corner of their lives, as they hold out their time, talents, and finances with open hands. And, with these open hands, they stand poised to leverage all they have for the Lord.

Leveraging their finances, they are committed to giving generously through their tithes and offerings.

Leveraging their season, they refuse to squander away the newfound margin in their days and, rather, speak with fresh passion about the ministries they look forward to diving into at the Summit.

And leveraging their experiences, Bruce and Anne continue to proclaim God’s goodness and faithfulness, even in the shadow of unthinkable tragedy.

When Bruce and Anne Braddy were baptized at the end of April, they were asked two questions:
“Do you believe that Jesus has done everything necessary to save you?” and “Do you promise to go wherever God tells you to go and do whatever he tells you to do?”

And, posed with these two questions, both Bruce and Anne answered with a resounding “Yes!” Because they have known the depths of suffering and have experienced the heights of joy, and they have seen that God has never once abandoned them. They know that he is with them in every season and every circumstance and that he is indeed the solid rock. That he alone is good. And that he indeed is worth it.

by Catherine Allison