He’s the picture of a successful man. As a working comedian, he has a hilarious, clever, self-deprecating style and a never-ending supply of gigs and opportunities to work alone and with some of the comedic greats. His family is beautiful, he has no mortgage and writes a five-digit check when he buys a new car. From the outsider’s point of view, his life looked perfect but what happened when the man returned home from a weekend of shows to discover that his wife had left him? Stunned, grieved and angry, Bob Smiley began the journey of healing his heart and raising his sons. He is now using this experience of flying solo to help others. Now, let’s meet this inspiring man – Bob Smiley.
Madeline: Welcome Bob, thank you for joining us.
Bob: Thanks for using the word ‘working’ in my introduction. I’m going to show this to my Dad, to remind him that I do actually work.
Madeline: Once you learned that your wife had left and was pursuing a divorce, did you immediately begin seeking support or did you hide? What did you learn from this and what advice would you give to others?
Bob: It was such a shock. I mean…look at me. Who would throw that away? I’m totally kidding obviously. In fact, that was my first response. When she told me the news, she also told me that she didn’t want to discuss it. So I started trying to fix anything that I thought may have been the problem. I started working out for 2 to 3 hours a day and not eating. I dropped 36 pounds in just a few months. I got to where I could use ChapStick as deodorant. I kept asking what I could change to fix this, which I now realize made me look desperate and unattractive. I also didn’t tell anyone. She didn’t want to tell the church elders and I didn’t want to tell our friends. I was embarrassed and felt like a failure. I also didn’t want our kids to know that there was a problem. We’d always been a close, fun family and I didn’t want our kids to think that we were entering a rough patch in our lives. I had no idea what lay ahead for us all. So I sort of hid, which leads to my advice. Seek counsel from your church the second you think there’s a problem. Satan loves to use isolation to wreck our lives. This goes for any problem. God made us for community and we need to lean on and help each other. So don’t hide. Don’t give Satan a foothold by hiding your shame. Bring your problems into the light and let God do His thing. And don’t spend two hours on the treadmill a day. No one needs to be so skinny that they look like they went to a blood bank and forgot to say “when”.
Madeline: I’m certain that you must have received good advice and bad advice. What were some of the wisest things said to you?
Bob: The best advice came from my friend, comedian Tim Hawkins, (You should check him out. I promise he is the second best comedian out there.) I waited about three months before reaching out to my friends. Once I knew my wife had flipped a switch, and there was no hope or desire to let God fix our marriage, I knew I had to start telling people to prepare for the new life that I was being forced into. I called Tim and told him what had been going on. He’d known my wife and me for many years, so he was shocked as well, but quickly said, “Don’t go through this on your own. Depression can generate some crazy and dangerous ideas. So be in constant contact with your friends and be as open as you can. Now, lose this number. Good luck.”
I’m kidding about the last part, but the first part of what he said was absolutely true and was what got me through the darkest part of all of this. Talking about everything with my closest friends helped me to process everything, and get a game plan together of how to move on after the floor fell out from under me.
So I cannot stress enough, that God created us for community and good friends will help you through the hard times. I seriously hope Tim reads this, or that someone will text me what his new number is, so I can tell him myself.
Madeline: What have been some of the hardest aspects of grief for you and how did you get through them?
Bob: When someone leaves you, you instantly think that you’re a failure. You think you’re a loser with no redeeming qualities. And again, that’s Satan trying to get you to give up on trying to be the person God created you to be. And I have to admit, Satan was winning that game against me for a long time. I was angry and depressed and hurt. However, the more I relied on my friends and the more I dove into the Bible, I was reminded that God can use the most messed up people in life. The Bible is full of losers that God used to do great things, therefore making them winners. I knew that I had to get up every day and face the shattered life that I had worked so hard to create, and start allowing God to shape and build a new life for me, with new adventures and opportunities. And He has. You know, God saved Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego IN the fire. He didn’t save them FROM the fire. That story really hit home. I was in the fire … but God was right there with me.
Madeline: How has humor helped you and your sons to grieve and get to where you are today?
Bob: I’ve always heard that laughter is the best medicine but after the year I’ve had, I can honestly say that it’s Vicodin. I’m kidding! Laughter has so much healing power and I went months without that power. I remember being on stage two weeks after my wife had moved out. I was telling a joke and watching a room full of people laughing uncontrollably while I was thinking in my mind, “why are you laughing – don’t you know how much pain there is in the world?” Then I thought, “maybe that’s why they’re laughing.”
So I started looking for humor and laughter more in my personal life. I remember one of the first things that I laughed at. I was in the shower and I thought how nice it was that now, I don’t have to read 18 different bottles of stuff so that I don’t accidentally wash my hair with Shea Butter Foot Scrub … which is something that I’ve done in the past. In fact, I’ve washed my hair with so much foot scrub, I’m surprised I don’t have a toe growing out of my head. But now I have one bottle in the shower. It says Holiday Inn on it.
My kids and I then started playing more silly games together like Tele-strations or charades and watching funny videos together. We tried to make each other laugh more and more and really started seeing some healing happening. It got to a point where we realized that we were going to be ok. It wasn’t the life we chose, but it was going to be ok. You see, God can use joy to remind us that no matter what tragedy you’re facing at the time, there is still good times ahead of you, if you will continue to rely on Him.
Madeline: How can church leadership and people in the Church be an effective help to someone going through an unwanted divorce?
Bob: Reach out to them. Especially in the beginning, a daily or weekly phone call from the leaders in the church can make a huge difference. An unwanted divorce is a terrible thing. You are suddenly forced to sit back and watch everything that you’ve worked so hard to build just crumble away and you can’t do anything about it. It usually involves lies and justification from the other side, which angers you even more. So a simple phone call, just to let you know that you have friends on your side can make all the difference in the world. And prayer is obviously a huge tool to get through any pain. Going back to what Hawkins said about not going through this alone, I would tell the church not to let their wounded go through anything alone.
Madeline: Will you use your comedy act as a platform to talk about divorce? If so, how?
Bob: I’m so surprised by this answer, but yes. One of my biggest fears was that the divorce was going to also end my career. I didn’t know if churches would even allow a divorced Christian onto their stages. I wasn’t going to hide my divorce if people asked me directly but I definitely wasn’t planning on talking about it. However, I was going back to Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas for a second time to do their marriage date night event. It had been a huge success the year before and I had, as always, talked a lot on stage about how amazing my wife was and how great marriage could be. I was now returning a year later, a broken wounded warrior. So I called them and explained my situation expecting them to find another comic. I’ll never forget what the guy said. He said, “Do you have Tim Hawkins’ cell number?”
Ok. That’s not true but this is the longest I’ve gone without making a joke. What he said was, “There’s an attack on marriages so, if you feel comfortable, you should talk about it on stage. I think it could really help people.” So I started thinking about what to say on stage that would be positive and uplifting, and I realized that God had given me an amazing platform to remind people of two things. If your marriage isn’t good, don’t just walk away. Satan would love nothing more than to rip apart your marriage. Satan has so much to gain by ending your marriage. It causes so much pain. It will damage your kids and most likely lay the ground work for them to have failed marriages. It will make you feel like giving up and not feeling worthy enough for God to use you. It’s no wonder Satan is attacking marriages.
So stay and fight. Let God create a new marriage for the two of you. That’s the first message that I gave that night. The second one is: if someone that has pledged to be committed to you for the rest of your life, just up and walks out of your life … you have to know that God will never do that. Back to the Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego story. God will walk you through the fire. He will get you through the hurt, the pain, the anger and He will continue to use you, if you will let Him.
I walked off the stage that night not really knowing what to expect. The crowd had laughed at several of my stories about how my kids and I had adapted to our new lives. However, I had no idea how the serious part of my show had been received … until I got to my merchandise table.
There was a huge line of people waiting, not for my autograph and unfortunately not to buy anything (I have a lot of debt now so merch sales are all of a sudden very important) … people were lining up to tell me what they were going through. I was surprised at the brutal honesty of couples coming up saying that their marriage wasn’t good, but that they just weren’t doing anything about it. They didn’t see it as an attack from Satan, they just thought they’d grown tired of each other.
So after that night, I decided to start talking about it on stage. I was starting to realize that God was continuing to use me…just in a different way now.
The fourth time I talked about it on stage was in Michigan. As I walked off the stage, I was met by a guy who told me that his wife had left him yesterday. He said that he didn’t want to come to the show but his buddy had dragged him to it (again, community and friendship is key to getting through tragedy!). He and I talked for a while and he was reminded that God wasn’t through with him. He just had to get through the fire. So, I know you asked a simple question and I’m giving you a lot but the answer is yes. I’m using comedy to remind the broken that God is the ultimate healer.
Madeline: Incredible. How else has God brought good out of your experience?
Bob: I have a lot more room in my closet now.
Madeline: What is the most significant thing that God has taught you so far?
Bob: He is faithful and He is freeing. I now know that anyone is capable of disappointing you. I’m capable of disappointing you. We are flawed. We are sinful. We can be persuaded by Satan into thinking that the grass is greener somewhere else. However, God’s love is never ending. He will never walk away. His vow is unbreakable. So as I continue to see His love, it sets me free to forgive easier, to love easier, to seek opportunities to spread God’s love. It gives me purpose and the armor to fight any battle.
John 8:36 “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”
Madeline: Grieving can take a toll on your physical health. How did all of this affect your strength and vitality?
Bob: At first, it crippled me. I wasn’t eating and if I did, it wasn’t healthy. And after she moved out, I just didn’t care about myself. I was very destructive. I didn’t care what happened to me because I felt like no one cared what happened to me. Again, Satan loves to use divorce to wreck people’s lives … and it does. It wrecked mine for a while. What pulled me out of that, was the realization that I had 3 amazing kids that needed me. I knew that I had to pull myself out of the pity party that I had created, and just go on with life. My kids’ worlds were crashing in as well and they needed me more than ever.
Now I’m eating healthy and working out properly. In fact, this month I’m training for a 1K!
Madeline: What advice would you give about dating when children are still in the home?
Bob: That’s a tough question that I think needs to be answered on an individual basis. I didn’t want to be lonely but I also didn’t want to expose my kids to anything that might be confusing or frustrating to them. They were already being taught through example that divorce is completely ok. I didn’t want to do anything else that would damage them even more. However, each of them brought the subject up to me over our Thanksgiving holiday. They all had different questions for me but all 3 of them were of the opinion that I should start dating again. So I did and it has gone well and by that I mean, “AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!”
I say this as nicely as possible but there are some crazy people out there. So my advice on dating, especially when kids are involved, is proceed with caution. I wouldn’t let your kids meet anyone until you’ve dated them for a year. I have gone out with a few women that have seemed amazing at first, but after a few months I have been so grateful that I hadn’t allowed them to meet my kids. I won’t name names on here, because I don’t know if the restraining order includes getting 50 feet from any of my online interviews, but proceed with caution. Take the time to truly get to know who you are inviting into your life and more importantly into your kid’s lives. Keep your kids first in your life which includes your dating life. That being said…Ladies, I’m single and can be reached at 555….. 🙂
Madeline: What would you like to say to the person who is struggling in their marriage or even considering divorce?
Bob: First, tell your spouse how you’re feeling. Make sure your spouse knows that there is a problem at the beginning and keep a constant line of communication open. Don’t wait until you’ve decided that it’s over before you say anything. Again, Satan loves using isolation to wreck lives. Communication is key. If that doesn’t fix things, go to the church right away. Seek counsel. Each of you should find an older person and submit to them for mentoring. Seeking wise advice and mentoring can sometimes help break bad habits or cycles and start the renewing process. And lastly, be willing to fight for the vow you made to God. Divorce sometimes looks like an easy out but it’s a horrible tough road full of pain and suffering. Creating a Godly marriage is worth the fight.
Madeline: Bob, I have no doubts that there is someone who is reading this interview and is going through a very similar event in their own life. If you could sit with them, is there anything else that you would you say to them?
Bob: Would you please buy my DVD? I have a lot of stuff to replace. 🙂
Actually, I would say everything that they’ve just read. God won’t leave you, so don’t give up on Him.
Let’s lighten up with lightening round.
Madeline: Kombucha or sweet tea?
Bob: Sweet Tea mostly because kombucha sounds like a foot disease.
Madeline: Exercise or napping?
Bob: Napping on the treadmill.
Madeline: Hunting or playing sports?
Bob: Hunting. Kids got to eat!
Madeline: Flying or road-trip?
Bob: Road trip…because then I’m in control. American Airlines won’t sit me in my truck next to a stranger that smells like if a foot could fart, all while delaying me pulling out of the driveway for no reason at all. Not that I’m bitter about flying.
Madeline: Sleek sports car or crew cab pick-up?
Bob: I’m a huge hunter from Texas…so…..
Madeline: Please tell the readers where they can follow you.
Madeline: Bob, thank you for joining us and sharing your story. I’m very sure that you will reach someone out there that needs to hear your message of hope. My best wishes to you and your sons.
Bob: Thanks Madeline! Hey … you aren’t single are you? 🙂 Actually, I’ll throw in one last thing about dating after divorce. I understand why a divorced person would think that any relationship is better than nothing at all. What I don’t understand, is that person thinking that they have nothing at all. You’re God’s child and really, that’s all that matters.
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