Terry Bradshaw: I challenge everybody that when we look in a mirror and we see ourselves and we’re by ourselves, it’s only then that we acknowledge to ourselves what we’re not so good at. We try everyday to be as good a human as we possibly can, and only through the assurance of our salvation in Christ do I truly believe that’s even possible—which for the most part it isn’t, because we’re just human beings.
Every Shadow Has a Gift: Terry Bradshaw and Toni Collier – Episode #342
Narrator: Welcome to the Jesus Calling Podcast. Our guests this week admit they’ve had disappointments, failures, and missed opportunities. But they both acknowledge that when they’ve been through painful experiences, they can look back and see how far they’ve come through prayer and connecting to God, and what they learned toward creating a better future for themselves, and others. We’re talking with Hall of Fame Pro NFL football player and co-host of The NFL on Fox, Terry Bradshaw, plus author and founder of the non-profit Broken Crayons Still Color, which helps people deal with trauma and abuse, Toni Collier.
We’ll start with Terry Bradshaw’s story.
I’m from Shreveport, Louisiana. My father was a welder, my mother was a housewife. Shreveport was where I grew up. I spent the summers, the great part of the summer, in Hall Summit on my grandfather’s farm. It’s where we were barefooted and played in the woods all day long, stayed outside all day. Nobody came out and hollered for you, looking for you. We walked up and down the dirt roads and, you know, we made our own fishing poles and we used kite string to fish with. I mean, it was just typical kids having a great time. It was a good way to grow up.
A Struggle with ADD Leads to a Better Place
I was a horrible student. I don’t know how I got out of the first grade. The first day of first grade, I got spanked, got my hand spanked because the teacher had said, “Don’t lean on your chair because you’ll slip and you’ll get hurt.” Sure enough, man—slip. I hit the floor, and she’s looking on her list: “Terry Bradshaw.”
The first day, was not a good day. I didn’t like school. I liked things like coloring. I liked that. I liked reading, I liked recess. I’ll tell you, I love to learn. Learning fascinates me. I had a hard time remembering stuff. I’d read it, read it, and read it, and I would always drift, you know? And then had to reread it. Did I read this note? Years later, I found out I had ADD [Attention Deficit Disorder].
The bad thing about ADD as a young man was that when it came to testing time, I was extremely insecure and scared, so I didn’t test well. And there was a defensive part of that which was to make fun of it. That was the cover-up for making C’s and D’s. And then when it came time to sign a football scholarship, I had to take the ACT test. I did horrible on it. I took it twice. So that was embarrassing. So I couldn’t go to a major school: Notre Dame, Yale, LSU, whatever. I had signed with LSU, but I couldn’t get in because I didn’t have the grades, so they wanted to send me to a junior college.
I didn’t want to go to a junior college, so I went to Louisiana Tech. Going to Louisiana Tech was the blessing of my life because that was where I needed to be. A small school with a small schedule, with country people and everybody building you up and not tearing you down. And if you didn’t win on Saturday, that’s okay. Not that it was “okay,” but it wasn’t the world coming to an end. And that’s where the blessing came from. The greatest experience I had as an athlete was at Louisiana Tech. No question.
My dream in life was to play in the NFL. There’s nothing wrong with that. That’s kind of a crazy thing. But it got me out of bed every morning. It was something that consumed me mentally, and emotionally. It was all about football. And so all I did was throw the football. That’s all I did in my spare time was to throw the football at anybody who would catch it, I’d throw it.
Going to Louisiana Tech, and not passing the ACT, I’ll just say was all a part of His plan for me. It all worked out—I ended up going into the Hall of Fame, ended up winning the Super Bowl. Whoo-hoo!
“Going to Louisiana Tech, not passing the ACT, I’ll just say was all a part of His plan for me. It all worked out—I ended up going into the Hall of Fame, ended up winning the Super Bowl.” – Terry Bradshaw
A Faith Woven Through the Years
I’m a member of the church I got baptized in. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get out of church. Now, I say that because I’m talking to you as a child. But Wednesday night and Sunday, the dreaded Sunday night. Are you kidding me? As a child, I didn’t want to go to church. It messed up our play day.
I think as you mature as a man and you go back—as a child—and I’m wondering, Did I truly and fully understand salvation? And I’d had so much—I’d been married, divorced three times. So much has happened to me in my life; going through a divorce, children. And it just felt like the world was crashing down on me emotionally. I was just pretty much rock bottom. And that’s when I decided, I’m going to go back down and accept Christ as my Savior and get saved and get baptized again.
It’s okay to not view yourself as perfect. The fact that we can acknowledge our imperfections is good, that we seek a love and forgiveness from God, which He promised to give us if we ask for forgiveness. That’s like the greatest message ever, knowing that I can be forgiven of my sins. The only person, the only thing that’s ever going to bring us total peace is going to be the assurance that God sent Jesus as our Savior. And if we believe in Him, we have eternal life.
“It’s okay to not view yourself as perfect. . . .That’s the greatest message ever, knowing that I can be forgiven of my sins.” – Terry Bradshaw
Facing Not Just One, But Two Cancer Diagnoses
I have had every kind of test my entire life for my health. My wife, she was in radiology at Baylor Scott & White Medical Center in Grapevine. And we know all the doctors. I’ve had every kind of nerve damage, spine injury, I’ve had at all. So she makes me stay on schedule. I don’t skip anything.
I’d always had prostate issues ever since I was twenty-seven, which is pretty young. And then I started noticing that it was a little different. That’s when I told Tammy, and she said, “Let’s get it checked.”
The first cancer was bladder cancer. They said, “Hey, you got bladder cancer, and we’ll start treatments in three weeks.” Really? So we had to go to Yale for six weeks. Back and forth, back and forth. And then we finished a six-week program. And we had a month—I believe it was about a month off—to go back and check and see how we’re doing. And the report was good.
I was getting a spasm in the right side of my neck, and it hurt like crazy. Oh, it would not let up. I told Tammy. She said we had to go back up to Yale anyway for the bladder follow up. “Let’s just go in and do an MRI on your neck, it may be a disc or something.” And I said, “Okay.”
We set up with the doctors and they did an MRI and said, “You have a tumor in your neck, your throat.” I sat in for a biopsy—went right to the lab with it and came back and said, “You’ve got a rare form of skin cancer. It’s called Merkel Cell cancer.”
They go in, cut the tumor out and the twenty-something glands around it—empty my throat, basically—and started radiation treatment. We lived in Houston for six weeks. Then we got diagnosed and, you know, the cancer was gone.
I wouldn’t have done an MRI. And then this thing would have been Stage III, Stage IV, and heaven knows what would have happened. So I’m thankful to her for that. I’d probably be a dead man, because I would not go to a doctor. No way.
The Power of Prayer
I hear people talk about miracles all the time. I’m not a big miracle guy because miracles come at God’s pace, not my pace. I don’t like to wear out God.
“I hear people talk about miracles all the time. I’m not a big miracle guy because miracles come at God’s pace, not my pace. I don’t like to wear out God.” – Terry Bradshaw
I’m a big “as I’m doing stuff” prayer guy. I’m walking around and I just think, Hey, Lord, this is a beautiful day. And then you know what I discovered the other day? It’s okay to argue with God. Man, that’s been like a relief. I’m so thankful that prayer is real, prayer is powerful. I believe in it. I’ve seen the miracles from prayer.
This is a prayer for April 2nd from Jesus Listens:
Dear Lord Jesus,
Help me to trust You and not be afraid. You have been training me to view trials as exercises designed to develop my trust-muscles. I live in the midst of fierce spiritual battles, and fear is one of Satan’s favorite weapons to use against me. Whenever I start to feel afraid, I need to affirm my trust in You—praying, “I trust You, Jesus.” If circumstances permit, I can pray this affirmation out loud.
The Bible tells me that if I resist the devil, standing firm against him, he will flee from me. Then I can refresh myself in Your holy Presence. As I speak and sing praises to You, Your Face shines graciously upon me—blessing me with Peace.
Please keep reminding me that there is no condemnation for those who belong to You. Because You died on the cross for all my sins, I have been judged “not guilty!” for all eternity. I will trust and not be afraid because You are my Strength, my Song, and my Salvation.
Narrator: You can see Terry on The NFL on FOX during the 2023 Super Bowl game.
Stay tuned to Toni Collier’s story after a brief message.
When We’re Looking for Hope, Jesus Listens
Sometimes life can be really stressful, whether it’s personal difficulties or world issues that make us feel overwhelmed. When we’re looking for hope and connection amid struggle, God is still there, ready for us to turn to him in prayer.
That’s why Sarah Young wrote Jesus Listens: to deliver a message of peace, love and hope to her readers every day. Jesus Listens is a 365-day prayer devotional with short, heartfelt prayers based on scripture, written to deepen your relationship with God.
Learn more about Jesus Listens and download a free sample.
Narrator: Our next guest is Toni Collier, author and founder of the Broken Crayons Still Color ministry, an organization that helps women heal from all kinds of trauma they face in their lives. Toni herself faced a series of hardships—enduring verbal, physical, and sexual abuse, and then becoming the primary caretaker of her ill mother, all in her first couple decades of life. Fed up with feeling like a victim, Toni was resolute about not letting her darkest seasons define who she was. As she took steps toward healing, she describes finding restoration of broken relationships and new ways to help other people in their journey toward healing.
Toni Collier: Hey, I’m so excited to be here. My name is Toni Collier. I get the opportunity to be the founder of a women’s brand called Broken Crayons Still Color. I get to just talk to women and men about brokenness and trauma and what Jesus says about us not only being a holy people but being whole people as well.
“Parentification” Trauma & Growing Up Too Quickly
I grew up in Houston, Texas, in a blended family. I had three older brothers.
I remember when I first entered into counseling and told my counselor my story about being an eight-year-old little girl and taking my mom to doctors appointments when I was twelve and thirteen through a hardship license and filling out her little medical forms and putting the pills in the correct boxes for days.
And she introduced this phrase to me called “parentification.” So being a parentified child, it’s essentially when we miss the natural progression of your parents taking care of you as a child. Then around late forties, fifties, you kind of start to take care of your parents. Well, that happened to me at eight years old. And so a lot of the awe and the wonder of my childhood was stolen from me because of darkness, because of illness and disease—not necessarily because my mom wanted that on purpose, but because she just wasn’t capable of providing nurturing and care.
Unfortunately, my dad had to go into full overdrive when it came to work, and so he was present, but not physically present. And that left me really vulnerable to some things. I was sexually abused and manipulated by family members when I was young. I grew up way too fast, thought I was like a little adult at thirteen. And it just kind of opened up the really this unprotected state from the enemy just to come in and steal so much of my childhood and the light that God was really trying to put in it.
Finding the Way Out of Hardship
You know, what’s interesting about having a really dark childhood is that sometimes we feel like we can escape the darkness by just going into new situations, new relationships. I thought college would radically change my life because I was moving away from home, the space where darkness lived and entered into my story. But the truth is, we leak. And you take you with you. So everything that you’ve been through, when it’s not unhealed, when it is not tended to, it follows you everywhere.
“Everything that you’ve been through, when it’s not unhealed, when it is not tended to, it follows you everywhere.” – Toni Collier
I had a really verbally abusive dad growing up. But what that meant as a nineteen-year old was when I got into a relationship, I was attracted—consciously or subconsciously—to the same traits that my father had, these controlling men, these very aggressive men. I thought it was okay to be called specific names and to not be really loved and nurtured and cared for, because I was so used to harsh words. So that followed into my story.
I ended up getting engaged at nineteen and moving from Texas with a guy that I had been dating for like three months, which was even worse. And I mean, we’re talking doors ripped off the hinges and holes punched in the walls and just a really hard and aggressive situation. I ended up coming to Georgia. I had a daughter in that marriage, and she was the real catalyst to me seeking safety and more tenderness. I saw fear in her eyes for the first time, and so I ended up getting a divorce.
I talk about this moment I had at the bottom of the stairs. I’m curled up in a ball, and I’m just shaking and crying. I’m just like, “Please, God, take the pain away.” And this is like at the beginning of my healing journey. I’m like diving in, and I’m like, “Lord, please, why does it have to be so hard? Why does my life have to be so hard?” And I joke now all the time, I’m like, “Lord, I don’t need any more testimonies. Okay? Like, let it go. I don’t need any more testimonies. Just let me live a normal life here, okay?” But it was in those moments when my prayer life outside of the darkness was cultivated in my pleading, I got so close to God because it was all that I had.And when I had everything, when I had the house and the new marriage and the brand-new baby and all the happiness, I was still wonderfully tainted by the pleading seasons. I remember them.
What I love so much about this redemption part of my story with my dad is I remember sitting him down at IHOP, and I was going through my divorce. He was so angry, and he kept yelling, “You need to move back to Texas, get out of Georgia, come get your daughter.”
I’m like, “I just don’t feel like God’s calling me there.” I mean, and I remember the moment where it kind of clicked to me as my dad is yelling and screaming. I’m like, I have been accepting this my entire life. This is where it started. It was almost like God illuminated the origin of my acceptance of toxicity and abuse.
I remember telling my dad, “I just want you to know that I think that the way you treat me and talk to me is the reason why I ended up in this really toxic marriage thinking that I deserved this, that I wasn’t worthy of kind words and love.”
And it’s like it clicked for him. He was like, I don’t want this for my daughter anymore, and I don’t want to be the reason that she continues to be with men that are really aggressive and abusive in ways.
I remember my dad hugging me in our living room for the first time, saying that he loved me and praying over me for the first time. That started this really beautiful journey. The first half of our relationship in our life may not have been the best, but if we really do believe that God is a Redeemer, then we also believe that He can redeem relationships. He can redeem the time that was lost in relationships.
“If we really do believe that God is a Redeemer, then we also believe that He can redeem relationships. He can redeem the time that was lost in relationships.” – Toni Collier
I know that’s not everyone’s story. And it wasn’t my story for the first twenty-five years of my life. But I’m really grateful and indebted to God that in this lifetime, while I’m on this earth, I get to have a dad who admires me, who’s proud of me. I longed for that, those words for twenty-five years. And to hear them now, it makes me so grateful. So grateful.
I ended up getting out. I became a single mom. Gosh, it was probably one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do—not necessarily being a single mom, but raising a child while healing my own childhood wounds. It was hard. I had some help from my parents, thankfully, and rebuilt my entire life by just believing that my brokenness and everything I had gone through didn’t discount me, that God still had a real great plan and a purpose for me.
“[I] rebuilt my entire life by just believing that my brokenness and everything I had gone through didn’t discount me, that God still had a real great plan and a purpose for me.” – Toni Collier
I’ve always just had this drive in me for other people: to care for other people, to save other people, to make sure that they’re okay, and partner hand in hand with God to really get them to their fullest potential. And I think that same thing in me sent me into overdrive with my daughter. I was like, “Absolutely not. She will not have the same story as me.”
Every Shadow Has a Gift
In really, really dark seasons, I don’t think I was praying. I think I was pleading, which is okay too. I think God accepts all of it. We look in the Psalms and David, that poor sweet man. I mean, he was pleading a lot like, “Lord, turn Your face. I am flooding my bed with tears. I’m soaking my couch,” like, it was crazy. He was pleading. And I think that in my moments of pleading is when I felt the presence of God the most.
“In my moments of pleading is when I felt the presence of God the most.” – Toni Collier
What’s interesting is every shadow has a gift and every gift has a shadow. And while it’s really sad and I’ve had to go through a lot of counseling—hello, somebody—for those years, I look back now and the nurturer and the person I am to my friends and my husband and my children was cultivated in those early years. I deeply love to care for people. I like to anticipate needs. I want to make sure they’re okay and in a healthy, more consistent way of living. It’s a beautiful thing that I get to do, to be for the people that I love around me.
Healing Isn’t Linear
Healing is not linear and it’s extremely painful. It’s interesting because my rock bottom almost wasn’t the culmination of everything I’d been through, all the trauma and pain from childhood and the divorce, being a single mom. My rock bottom moment was when I started the healing journey, when I had to really look at it and accept that all that had happened, that it wasn’t fair that I had to take care of my mom, and it was okay to ask the question, “Where were all the adults? Why was I alone as a kid so often taking care of my mom?” That was my real rock bottom.
The North Star I think we should all be reaching toward when it comes to feeling unworthy, feeling unqualified is hope. Hope isn’t this weak facade. Hope says things can get better. Hope does not say that things will get better tomorrow. Hope does not say it’s going to be easy. Hope says it can get better. And I think when we sit down in our mess, we sit down in our counseling sessions, we sit down in the hard conversations that we have, we sit down and look in the mirror and say, “Oh my gosh, pain was done to me, but I also caused pain.” When we can sit down and say, “I am here in the darkest of dark valleys, but I have hope that mountains will come. I have hope that light still serves its purpose in darkness,” I think the presence of hope helps us when we’re in the lowest of areas.
I think what’s been the most helpful for me in this season is just accepting, believing in the good moments and the bad moments that He is Emmanuel, God with us. The with-ness of God, I think, spares us from despair. It’s the with-ness. It’s always been Jesus with us, not against us, but completely for us. Standing next to us, kneeling next to us, laying next to us when we need Him the most.
I think what someone needs to hear today is maybe it’s not the grief and the pain and the betrayal and the abandonment that takes you out, but the belief that you would have to feel it all alone. And you do not. We do not, because we have a God that’s with us.
“You do not [have to do it all alone], because we have a God who’s with us.” – Toni Collier
I have not forgotten the pain that I’ve walked through. I have not forgotten how hard it has been to heal. I have not forgotten what it looks like to look your daughter in the eye, and she represents some of the hardest parts of your story and still having to love her through it. I don’t forget those things. And so what happens is it carries over now into my now-prayer life, and my now-prayer life looks like gratitude. It looks like I get to meet with a God who didn’t leave me, who did not forget in the darkest moments.
Jesus Listens, June 19th:
You are the Champion who perfects my faith. You’ve been teaching me that the more problem-filled my life becomes, the more important it is for me to keep my eyes on You. If I gaze too long at my problems or at world events that trouble me, I’m likely to become discouraged. Whenever I’m feeling weighed down or disheartened, please remind me to turn to You. I’m grateful that You are continually with me and You always hear my prayers. Instead of just letting my thoughts run freely, I want to keep directing them to You. This gives traction to my thinking and draws me nearer to You.
Lord, I praise You for Your unfailing Love that surrounds those who trust in You. I trust You, Jesus!
In Your invincible Name,
Narrator: You can find Toni’s new book, Brave Enough to Be Broken, at your favorite retailer.
Next week: Jimmy and Irene Rollins
Narrator: Next time on the Jesus Calling Podcast, we’ll hear from husband and wife pastor duo Jimmy and Irene Rollins, who spend their life bringing communities together in unity, and breaking down barriers where division exists.
Jimmy Rollins: I believe that unity is the culture of heaven. And I believe that as we look towards something as powerful as unity, where that scripture says it produces an anointing that enables the body of Christ to command the blessing of togetherness, to command a blessing of love, to command a blessing that our land be healed of division. And when we acknowledge this unity that the Word speaks about, unity defines itself in diversity, it defines itself in difference.