Shortly before I went on my work trip to the Prairies, I tuned into FamilyLife's daily Radio broadcast and stumbled upon an interview with author Jen Abbas. She was talking about her experience as a child of divorce. It was part of a week long series on the effects of divorce in adult children of divorce. Because I too am a child of divorce, this definitely caught my attention! I made a point of listening to the entire week's broadcast. After the broadcasts, I asked Karen whether she could look into buying the audio version of the book for me as I felt I could benefit from reading the book. I felt God had some more things he wanted to work on my life through this. I also knew that in my upcoming trip there would have many hours of driving where I would be able to spend one on one time with my Father in heaven.
Well God certainly did not disappoint. Karen obtained the materials for me (thank you Karen!) and I brought them with me on my trip. Upon listening to the book, I felt an overwhelming sense of encouragement: I was not alone in my struggle to reconcile our culture's often "brave faced" approach to the effects of divorce with the reality that I face every day. Listening to her story and her research on the topic confirmed my deepest yet often cleverly masked feelings of inadequacy and ill-preparedness as I enter into new roles in my life as a husband and father. Children of divorce experience, as she describes, a "sleeper effect" where the effects of one's parents' divorce does not fully exhibit themselves until the child is involved in a relationship himself. Children of divorce also experience an interesting identity struggle as much of what defines who they are becomes tied to the experience of their parents divorcing.
Her articulation of this effect not only brought confirmation but caused me to acknowledge that I too was affected. This acknowledgment brought acceptance; it caused me to wake up. For the first time in a long time, I allowed God to begin healing me in this area.
Part of me is trembling for fear I have awoken a giant. Do I really want God to work on this part of my life? For one thing I am not on speaking terms with my own father, and all truth being told, I feel my relationship with my mother is strained. Working on either or both of these will just aggravate already tense emotions. Yet another part of me feels an overwhelming need to deal with this particularly as I grow to become a better father myself. After all, if all of us children of divorce really experience this sleeper effect what good then would it be if we were to remain asleep for the rest of our lives?
I did some thinking about this over my trip. Early on in my marriage, although I would have never recognized it before reading this book, I had really only one goal in mind for my marriage: I had resolved to make my marriage work, and do everything in my power to stay clear away from divorce. I probably would have never articulated it quite like that, but deep down, divorce and its effects was my greatest fear. I knew the dangers and set my "marriage" compass to steer as far away from it as possible.
Upon listening to the book, I realize that this unspoken goal, although stunning in today's culture is really far from noble. To simply marry and not be divorced isn't fulfilling! So, one of the things God taught me was that I ought to think about what I really desire my marriage to be about. Here are some of the things I came up with:
- I desire for my marriage and family to be one. I desire not only that we not separate but that we purpose to be one, to be whole, to be together.
- I desire for my marriage and family to be godly witnesses in our community just by virtue of who we are. I believe that if we allow it, God can work through us to have an impact on others just by virtue of living open, and transparent lives through the power of the Holy Spirit.
- I desire to leave a legacy for my children such that they will develop a personal relationship with Jesus and that they will have a heart after God's heart.
- Perseverance: Pray that I will continue to allow God to heal me in this area. Much of this healing involves dealing with issues that bring about emotional pain. Reconciling with people that have hurt you so deeply is a bit like taking the scab off a freshly sealed wound. I imagine that many issues may surface, some of which I may have consciously or subconsciously buried.
- Joy: Pray that I would experience joy as I discover each new thing and I offer the burden up to God. (Matt 11:30)
- Renewal: Pray that as God begins to heal me that he would strengthen my marriage through the experience.