Wednesday, December 23, 2015
The Hardships of Christmas
For many people who celebrate Christmas, it is not always the joyous time depicted in movies and advertising. Many struggle through the holidays instead, for a variety of reasons. Some face the holiday with grief as they approach their first Christmas without a loved one who passed away this year. Perhaps a family member has been taken to prison, or a child removed from a home, and that absence creates intense emotion at this time of year. Others see in the Christmas all the things they are no able to provide, or all the family who is ashamed of them or wants nothing to do with them. Perhaps worst of all is the suffering of those who will go to sleep Christmas Eve hungry, on the verge of starvation, sleeping not in a bed but wherever they can find to rest their heads because they have no home, some of whom are suffering as innocents from the ravages of war.
There are a lot of reasons people struggle at Christmas, and one of them is due to the aftermath of divorce. Traditions are suddenly undone or shattered as schedules have to be disrupted and adapted for children trying to celebrate Christmas with each of their parents, whom they love. Even faith can be tested as one who had hoped God would spare them the agony of divorce, instead find themselves alone and forsaken by their spouses.
All the pain, heartache, disappointment…suffering…just doesn’t seem to fit as appropriate t he celebration of Jesus’s birth. Or does it?
A thoughtful reflection on the Nativity Story leads one not only to a Baby in a manger adored by shepherds and magi.
It also contains a young couple weary from a long and inconvenient journey, forced to accept shabby housing in lieu of space in an inn.
The story includes a king filled with jealousy and hatred, who responded only in anger when he feels threatened by a newborn king.
Nativity includes the wailing of the parents in Bethlehem, whose children are slaughtered by soldiers commanded to destroy any chance of a usurper of the throne by their jealous and maniacal king.
As if the young couple had not struggled enough, they were forced to flee as refugee immigrants to the land of Egypt, lest their child be caught up in the wholesale slaughter of children in Bethlehem.
Christmas is not only about angels singing, it is also bound up with the story of human suffering.
Sadly, this same story continues to our day in many places around our world, who are under the rule of tyrants and assassins. As well as the countries whose rulers are nicely dressed and comfortably housed intent on enriching their own treasuries and indifferent to the struggles of those who live there.
In fact, the central theme of the Nativity Story is specifically the suffering of the world, the suffering humans and creation have experienced in the slavery brought on by sinful attitudes, attitudes and hearts. So maybe if Christmas is difficult for you this year, perhaps you are actually closer to the heart of Christmas than you realize.
If that is you, though I don’t normally recommend books I have not yet read, I would offer suggestion of a book I just received from a friend as a Christmas gift. It is a book he and I have discussed several times, and from which he has shared some meaningful insights: Glorious Ruin—How Suffering Sets You Free by Tullian Tchividjian. Or consider the classic (which I HAVE read) The Problem of Pain by C.S. Lewis.
In a world that seeks to escape suffering whenever possible, it is important to remember that some of the inescapable sufferings bring the most meaningful learnings. I would remind you, in whatever kind of celebration you have for Christmas, that suffering was at the core of the original Christmas: it was only through the hardships of travel that the Messiah fulfilled prophecy in his Bethlehem birth, and it was only through the intense pain and travail of labor, that the Messiah entered the world to bring salvation to all who would believe.
Don’t give up just because you are facing suffering or hardship, for you might miss something powerful just beyond the next bend.
Sunday, December 6, 2015
Holiday season is here again. Funny how so many cluster around the same time of year...Thanksgiving, New Year’s, Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa….am I missing anything? I have missed getting a few blogs up, for lots of reasons, but one of the main ones has been all the comings and goings related to the holidays. Of all the times of year, I think this holiday season is the time when the impact of divorce is most keenly felt.
It is rather ironic that individuals in troubled marriages sometimes think that if they only get a divorce, it will solve all their problems, but afterwards discover that divorce often causes more problems than it solves.
Mind if I illustrate, for those who haven’t been there and might not believe me?
Let’s use Christmas to illustrate. Let’s assume there are children involved, with grandparents still living. Let’s also assume that one of the parents is remarried. Some families celebrate on Christmas Eve, some on Christmas Day, and some do special things in both times…which is my way of doing things. Children are generally raised with one tradition or the other. I have always kind of mixed my preferences. I like to go to Christmas Eve services and do some fun things on Christmas Eve, but prefer to have a holiday dinner on Christmas Day.
Then, when a divorce comes, the schedule changes. Which house will the kids be at for Christmas, which for Christmas Eve? Or will it all be at one place and the other parent need to celebrate on the weekend instead? How does that impact the schedule for new children the couple might have…do those children have to miss special holiday traditions for the sake of a divorce induced schedule? If all that works this year, what about next year…do you take turns? Do you end up focusing on one time or the other? Do you forego ever seeing your children on Christmas if you accept that Christmas Eve is the only time you have with them?
Then, factor in the grandparents, supposing the divorced parent is one of several children. Grandparents sometimes suffer much in a divorce: not only do they see their beloved child suffering due to the heartaches of divorce, but they also experience a loss of opportunities to spend time with their grandchildren. If their is to be a united family holiday then all the members, the grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins must now orient the holiday celebrations around a shared custody schedule, which may change from year to year, and accept that the traditions of the past may not be possible.
And then there are the gifts. Is it possible to coordinate those, too?
If every one knows little Johnny needs a new bike, who buys it? The parent whose house he is at the most, or the other parent? Does he take it back and forth, or have one at each place? If you bought a really nice one, are you able to handle that he takes it to the other parent’s home when he returns, and you may never get to see him enjoy it? Worse yet, what if you buy one, and the other parent decides to one up you by purchasing a fancier one, just to make Johnny think he is more loved there? (It DOES happen!) In addition, sometimes a parent will phrase things in such a way it turns the child against the other parent, which impacts relationships with grandparents as well. It is just a messy situation all the way around.
In addition, you may find Christmas difficult, because you are still paying on attorney fees, or because you are now attempting to manage a household on half the income, since your partner has left. As you decorate for the holidays, you may run across ornaments or other decorations that bring tears to your eyes as you are flooded with memories that once were sweet but now taste bitter. It may be that places you visit for the holidays create the same kind of mixed emotions.
Christmas is but one holiday. Every interaction becomes complicated.
One difficulty many single parents face is the fact that the divorced parents hold a different set of values and parenting styles. As a result, there is not the unity of discipline that is so essential for good parenting. The children of divorce are well aware of this.
How many single parents hear, “I don’t have to make my bed at dad’s house! Mom lets me stay up later than 9:00. I don’t have to put up with not being allowed to play video games, I’m going to my dad’s house!”
Or the most troubling words a parent might hear, “I want to move over to the other house.”
These are a few of the “solutions” that come with a divorce. They are the kinds of stresses many divorced individuals have to deal with on a daily basis. So, especially in this time of year, a few words of encouragement and support might be just the thing to lift the load for a struggling friend.
If you are one who is in the midst of these struggles, realize that you are not alone…many of us understand what you are going through and how difficult it is. Even in the midst of these heartaches, it is a good thing to recall the name celebrated of Jesus at this time of year: Immanuel---God is with us!
Wednesday, November 11, 2015
WHAT A DAY…
Today was a day filled with a collection of odd turns and twists…mind if I share it with you?
So I was up extremely early…about 3:30 a.m. or so…and often when I get up like that, I will read, including a little devotional I get via email. When I opened the email to read it, there was an email from a gentleman in France I have never met, but have exchanged emails a few times, asking me a question about World War II. In his country, he is involved in several fascinating projects that center around appreciation for what our soldiers did for them. Many of the projects involve our soldiers whose actions received less attention, because they were part of the invasion of Southern France, not the beaches of Normandy. His email and questions came because I had been the go between between he and dad - when he was researching the events surrounding those who landed in Southern France (and Italy and Sicily).
Anyway, I replied to his email, and he replied back, so it was for me, a nice start to the celebration of Veteran’s Day. Being somewhat of a ditz, I asked if he realized it was Veteran’s Day, and he indicated it was Armistice Day over there…which I have heard of, but know little about, because I am relatively ignorant about World War I. My wife later advised me that Armistice Day was the original recognition of November 11 - until it was changed by President Eisenhower who, in 1954, changed it to Veteran’s Day. So learning something new like that ALSO was a nice piece for Veteran’s Day.
While eating breakfast, I watched a little more of a DVD series I have been viewing about the Civil War, a fictional story around the historical facts. Later, I loaded up to go to the cemetery and took flags to put on my dad’s grave, and some mums to plant. The treat with that was that a good friend went with me, providing emotional support and we shared good conversation about mutual concerns. Again, a nice Veteran’s Day.
Midmorning I headed uptown (which in my community is only a few blocks away and only a few blocks long), because they were holding a Veteran’s Day parade. When I arrived, the streets were lined with grade school children holding little flags. The parade was classic old fashioned Americana, with a politician, small school marching bands playing patriotic songs, people throwing candy off floats, and a number of veterans from various branches of the military and various conflicts, including individuals currently serving at our local armory. In addition, one of the grade schools had their classes marching in the parade, many carrying home made flags they had drawn in art, smiling and waving (probably because they were out of school for the parade, no doubt!), with proud parents and grandparents lining the way to wave and take pictures. I thought, my dad would have been very pleased.
As I prepared to leave, I noticed another good friend a distance away, who is a vet, and took the time to thank him for his service. He introduced me to a friend of his, also a vet, and I was able to express my appreciation to that marine as well.
My dad was a veteran of World War II, involved in some of the most vicious campaigns of the European Theater. Arriving at Dachau the day after it was liberated and coming home after two and a half years in Europe. He had the privilege of hearing words of appreciation for what he did from the young man in France and an Italian woman, who had been a child when the country was freed. He had the privilege of knowing current service men in the battalion that now replaces his. Receiving respect and honor on a number of occasions as well as kindnesses beyond measure from them. I closed the day by sending my best wishes to two of those officers, whom I am privileged to call friends as well.
I don’t like war. I don’t think killing people is some glorious adventure that solves all the world’s problems. However, when I see pictures today from Syria and Iraq and all the places ruthless killers seek to dominate weaker individuals, I realize that like it or not, we live in a troubled world, so that people like my dad and my military friends play an important role for all of us who long for the world to be a better place.
Thank you, veterans and servicemen, who serve for freedom and justice, taking great risks for people like me, who have never had to do what you do.
God bless you all. I hope you have had a good Veterans Day/Armistice Day!
Sunday, November 8, 2015
A SNEAK PEEK!
You may have noticed that the next volume to come out is a collection of daily readings for caregivers. I have chosen to make it 100 days instead of an entire year, but at some point might decide to produce an expanded edition, who knows! However, since it is on the verge or publication, I thought my current connected readers might enjoy a sample as a sneak peek.
Maybe you know someone who could use this particular book, too. You will be among the first to know when it goes live, so please, share the news. I selected a sample that I thought can be useful in many of life’s situations, though it is geared toward the world of caregiving. Enjoy!
Day 5 Philippians 1:22-25
I had to make some decisions over the last few weeks, myself. Such as, do you want him transferred to a bigger hospital? If the situation turns bad, what measures do you want us to take and not to take? Should we transfer him to another kind of rehab facility now, or wait a few more weeks? I really don’t need to list for you all my questions; they are the same kind of questions as the ones you have probably had to face, or one day will.
In some cases, those decisions are less difficult to make because you have guidance from a living will or conversations you have had with your loved one long ago. But even then, I would comment that helpful as these things are when making decisions, the emotional impact of it all can still be very strong on you. I remember words of decision coming out of my mouth, voicing the guidance I had been given years before, but as I heard them out loud, it felt like signing somebody’s death warrant. It was hard to walk away.
One recent decision was apparently a real toss up, advantages and disadvantages whichever way I decided. There were family members I could consult with, but they were not on the scene with all the observations you get first hand and time was of the essence. Ultimately, it was my decision to make, so I made the best judgment I could based on the information I had or could get, and based on the reality of how things were that day.
Sometimes, the path is not so clear. Sometimes we are in situations much like Paul’s, where we could go one way or the other, and we have to choose. We know our choices may result in consequences we had not foreseen. It is the reality of life, the reality of caregiving. Gather your information, seek appropriate counsel, ask God for wisdom, then make your choice and give the consequences to God. Then walk away, knowing you did the best you know how to do in the situation with the knowledge you had at the time.
Wednesday, November 4, 2015
Probably one of the most profound changes after divorce is the extreme sense of empty space and loneliness. The chair at the dinner table that once held a loved one is now empty. The children who laughed in the hallway are now gone part of the time as they go to “visit” the other parent…(I liked my attorney’s refusal to use the term visit…she preferred shared parenting, and I agree).
Meals for one are not as fun as family dinners, when one is in the midst of the wake of divorce. Movies and popcorn can be fun, but the empty seat next to you literally shouts of loss. Even the trip to the doctor can remind you that there won’t be that special someone in the waiting room should you require surgery. The silence in a home late at night is deafening. Loneliness can be overwhelming.
One of my favorite reminders that I received during my divorce was the one a friend who had also been divorced offered. He simply stated that no matter how lonely I felt, I should not forget that I am never truly alone. The God who said that he would never fail or forsake us, the Savior who promised he would be with us always, all the way to the end of this age, the Spirit of God promised to live within us and show us God’s ways do not suddenly depart or abandon us just because of a divorce. God’s presence is much bigger than that.
If you are feeling the pangs of loneliness because of divorce, I would encourage you to find a way to make room for God’s presence to be real in this time. You could have a second chair and place setting at a meal that represents the presence of God. You could place a special verse about God’s love in a prominent place you will see each morning. Even hanging a painting of Christ can be a token to remind you he is always there. Whatever will help you remember the lesson my friend offered me so long ago: you may be lonely, but you never, ever, ever are truly alone. God simply doesn’t give up on us that easily.
Sunday, November 1, 2015
YOU ARE STUPENDOUS!!!
(you believe that, right?)
I’ve noticed some things about all the different video games that are out there, especially the ones with multiple levels. Have you even observed how often they love to tell you how great you are? You complete a simple puzzle, and fireworks appear on the screen, stars start exploding, playing cards dance all over the screen and you are told time and again that you were incredible, fanstastic, super, STUPENDOUS! I’ve noticed that in a certain card game I play, even when I have the worst set of turns I’ve ever had and the game quickly comes to an end, I’m still told “good game!” I keep waiting for a computer geek to come running down the center of my yard to high five me as he or she passes by me.
Every time I am around one of these games, I always wonder if anybody every really believes those things. I mean, it’s like the principle of positive reinforcement run amuck! It makes me wonder if there are people out there really that desperate for approval.
Sadly, I have known individuals who in their lives get little or no positive support. When that is true of a marriage, it often ends in adultery or divorce, or both.
While it is hard to believe that anyone takes any of those comments seriously, I do think the fact that those comments are so pervasively included, reminds us that people need love support, affirmation and encouragement. People everywhere long for those things. If that is true, as I believe it is, let me ask, where do you get those positive supports in your life? How are you doing at investing them into the lives of those you love?
Those questions are especially poignant for individuals in the midst of divorce, because they have generally just experienced a very traumatic form of rejection and hurt. In the midst of the experience, the traumatized individual has suddenly lost what may be their main support of affirmation and support in their lives. It is important that the individual find sources of support and encouragement to help fill the vacuum left behind. Those of you who know individuals in this state may not have the slightest clue how important even the simplest gesture of kindness can be to someone struggling in divorce.
Yet, I would suggest that we must not be individuals who are so focused on receiving the love and affirmation we need, that we neglect the importance of providing that same love and affirmation to those we care about most. As well as others who happen to be around us who also could benefit from our encouragement. For some of them, they may need the unique affirmation that only you can provide. Neglecting to provide it for them is a tragic mistake and missed opportunity.
Of course, the greatest affirmation any of us could ever know is to be found in the recognition and experience of the love of God for us, demonstrated most profoundly at the cross of Jesus. Passages like Romans 5:6-8, John 3:16-17, Ephesians 3:16-18, Matthew 10:29-31 and Romans 8:31-39 are but a sampling of a Bible filled with demonstration of God’s love for us and the incredible value he places on each and every one of our lives.
Don’t get your affirmation from gimmicky compliments in video games or other such shallow experiences. And don’t let you the ones you love have to resort to that either. God wants us all to move to a higher level as well, in something more than just a game, and he wants us to be participants in the wonderful work of the giving and receiving of meaningful affirmation and love….even if those you thought would be there have decided to walk away.
Wednesday, October 28, 2015
Have you noticed in the news how often there are stories about individuals who apologize for having offended this group or that group? If you are like me, there comes a point when you see another headline and think, “Really? Somebody had to apologize for that?
Let me be the first to acknowledge that there has been a lot of abuse, hostility and legitimate concerns over the years, and more respect for others is a good thing.
Nevertheless, I grew up with the notion that wearing a chip on your shoulder and daring someone to knock it off was looked down upon. In our current culture there appear to be multitudes of people walking around with their feelings on their sleeves - and seeking a reason to be offended. Encouraging this behavior are legal vultures - encouraging and nurturing those hurt feelings - seeking a way to drag the offenders into court in an effort to get rich quick.
At least, that’s my take on the matter a lot of the time. Especially when it involves apologies for trivial matters.
There’s an good book that has been out for several years now that I think is a must read for every Christian in the United States. It would benefit any christian in any country as well. The book is by John Bevere titled, The Bait of Satan.
His theme is that there are certain issues in our churches that create the most problems and the greatest division in our congregations. His primary point is the issue of being offended, and choosing to take that offence to heart, rather than forgive, let it go and move on. Choosing to be offended happens time and again in many churches, wreaking a superabundance of havoc and dissension.
I also believe that this happens in marriage - and divorce - as well.
I would suggest that this same “bait” of being offended and choosing to take on the offense, and then nurturing the grudge is a prelude to divorce. I wonder how many marriages would be much happier if the spouses were intentional about choosing to not take on an offense, choosing the path of Biblical love, with Peter's word, that “covers a multitude of sins.” This is significantly different from saying that serious issues should be ignored, things like abuse or infidelity.
The many marriage relationships that suffer the strain from accumulated minor offenses such as a forgotten milestone, an unkind word stated in duress, failure to notice a new hairstyle, or even squeezing the toothpaste tube instead of rolling it are on a path to further difficulties. Jesus’ teaching included a statement that it is an inevitability in life that offenses will come our way. It is the wise person who decides that life is too short to welcome them into their hearts and minds.
Well, probably this article will offend somebody, because they will assume it trivializes suffering they have experienced.
On the other hand, hopefully, those people will have the wisdom to simply choose to let it go. Letting go of offense is a good habit to develop in life saving one from heartache and brokenness.
Sunday, October 11, 2015
WHO’S IN CHARGE HERE?
That question is one that might be a contributing factor to a lot of divorces, I suspect, as couples haggle over which one is in charge in their marriage. Maybe that is an issue you deal with in life in lots of ways. However, I’d like to approach this topic from a different angle today.
Over the years I have observed a lot of people dealing with issue of control. Some are what we would call “control freaks” who insist that everything be their way and nothing be done without their input and approval. Sometimes taking control can be helpful, when in the midst of chaos an individual takes the lead to direct the situation into appropriate resolution. Other times, individuals come off as little dictators, issuing their orders and making their demands with no consideration for people who might have a different point of view. Most of us like to have control over some areas of our lives, everything from the clothing we wear to our choice of food to use of our time. The feeling of powerlessness is a very threatening experience for most of us, and being at the mercy of the whims of others is an uncomfortable place to be, and so we take time or order our lives and make our plans so that things will work in our lives in a way that suits us.
But divorce is one of those life experiences that shatters our illusion that we are in control, because suddenly we are at the mercy of courts and attorneys and an adversarial ex, and our emotions go into almost incomprehensible upheaval. Other life experiences can have the same effect, such as an accident that leaves you physically impaired, a disease that suddenly ravages your body, a storm that somehow destroys your home, the death of a loved one…the list could go on and on. Generally, however, we don’t focus on that list, but on the efforts we make to deny the reality that we really are NOT in control of as much as we think we are.
Many Californians these days would recognize their lack of control over wildfires that suddenly spread and water supplies that run dangerously low, all because they live in a high population area in a time of drought over which they have no control. Really, though, we control much less than most of us want to admit. Events like divorce or a drought just bring the reality to the surface.
It can be a very hard thing to suffer the loss of control, especially when you thought you had life pretty well figured out and things seemed to be on track. The scriptures, however, make pretty plain that the only one who really is in control is God. There are images in the Bible that describe the greatest nation as nothing more than a speck of sand or drop in a bucket, and how God smiles at the things we think we have planned that he knows will not come to fruition. It kind of makes me think of the child who is attempting to accomplish a task under the watchful eye of the parent, while refusing to listen to guidance to do it properly. How many parents have heard their children say, “I’ll do it myself,” only to know the child will be back soon asking for help in the task that is more difficult than they know? God probably thinks the same thing about us, sometimes.
In a time when life is spinning out of control, we have the opportunity to recognize that we never really had it in control anyway…we just THOUGHT we did! That, actually is a good thing, because, most of the time, people who think they should be in control of their own lives or the lives of others, generally don’t know as much as they think they do, especially the ones who are convinced that they know more than anybody else and think THEY know what is best for everybody! Only God knows what really is best, and only fools put themselves in the place of God!
Life spinning out of control offers us the the opportunity to acknowledge the only one who knows the number of our days and the hairs on our head. In times like that I have been most struck by the prayer of Jesus in the
in which he deliberately relinquished control with the phrase he expressed to
the Father, “not my will, but yours be what is done.” Garden of Gethsemane
Around the world, every day, people are experiencing that life is not really in their control. Earthquakes strike. Countries are torn by war. Refugees are displaced. People lose their jobs. Economies slump or collapse. Cars and planes wreck. Marriages fall apart. When things in life feel so out of control, that is a perfect time to quit trying to grasp on to the unholdable and simply choose to let God make the calls by taking on the role of a servant who is willing to accept whatever God may bring our way. The resurrection, of your own life, that God leads you to, may surprise you in the end.
Sunday, September 27, 2015
STUPIDITY AND DIVORCE
In a recent day’s reading out of the little devotional book “Our Daily Bread,” there was a quote attributed to Albert Einstein that said,
“Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I am not sure about the former.”
I must admit, I am rather taken by that thought. I have done plenty of stupid things in my life and have observed others doing pretty stupid things as well. In addition, how often have you observed arguments between individuals and just thought how stupid it was to be arguing about whatever it was?
The classic example, of course, is the children who argue over who rides shotgun and who is crossing the invisible boundary line in the back seat. But alas and alack, it isn’t only children who act stupidly. Personally, I might be wrong, but I categorize all the hooplah about the “Blood Moon” and the end of the world talk as an example of stupid (with the exception of course of those who found a way to convince people to buy their materials on the topic and made a fortune from it)!
I always think the most important verse about the second coming is found in the words of Jesus in Acts 1:7. In regards to the timing of the end of the world, Jesus says, in my paraphrase: “It isn’t any of your business.”
Everything else we reflect on should be guided by that simple instruction.l
Do stupidity and divorce have anything to do with one another? Sure, lots of times. Like people who are 50 and divorce their life partner to run off with somebody in their 20’s in the hopes of being young again. Or individuals who divorce not because of a truly tragic marriage, but simply because they think the grass is greener next door. Sometimes people get divorced because they don’t appreciate what kind of person their partner really is, and instead choose only to focus on their shortcomings and ignore the strengths that they loved in the first place. And individuals who throw away decades of investment into a marriage relationship, thinking that it won’t make any difference in their lives, but instead find themselves starting from scratch again in so many ways.
However, I think the place to find the most stupidity is during the divorce process itself and the aftermath. Stupidity is present when couples go to the mat fighting over who gets a toaster, or eking out revenge in nasty little ways, such as throwing possessions out into the street.
I have known individuals who have gotten their divorce, and then suddenly turned into a completely different person, tossing aside the values they held for a lifetime and living a life of reckless abandon. That reckless abandon usually catches up to them pretty quickly!
The stupidest thing, in my opinion, is when someone enters into another relationship (or sometimes even another marriage) before the ink has even dried on the divorce decree. No time for healing, no time for reflection to gain stability or perspective, just jumping into a need based relationship to avoid being alone. Granted, sometimes those marriages work out, but the successful ones in those circumstances are few and far between.
Divorce is hard enough with adding additional stupidity to it…believe me, there is enough stupidity in it already!
If you are freshly divorced or in the process, I encourage you to realize you are at risk of making stupid choices because of the emotional upheaval you are in. Making the time to get some wise advice from Godly people - who can provide an objective perspective - can save you a ton of heartache down the road.
Don’t let Einstein’s quote apply to the choices you make during and after your divorce!
By the way, if those folks are right and the world does end, you can send me an email saying you told me so…but you’ll have to use my new heavenly address, though!
Sunday, September 13, 2015
WEALTH IN TRAGEDY
Probably the phrase that best describes the experience of divorce would be that it feels like your whole world is falling apart and you have no control over it at all.
So many things are at risk: your future, your finances, your friendships, your living space…the list is very long.
With so much at risk, though, one discovers an important fact that so many of us take for granted when things are going well in our lives.
I cannot begin to describe the value of the various relationships of my life to offer encouragement, comfort and support during that terribly trying time. Family members offered refuge, love, a listening ear, and even financial assistance - without which I would have had a much harder time. Good friends encouraged me and stood with me, helping me to see God’s hand at work even in those difficult times. Knowing that fellow Christians were praying for me helped me keep my focus and priorities. In it all, I discovered the people I could count on in my time of need, and those, as the saying goes, who were fair weather friends. The incredible thing is that I ended up amazed at how many great people God had placed in my life. Family members offered support time and time again. My mailbox filled with greeting cards of encouragement. Friends invited me to spent time with them in various venues, such as playing games or eating out together. Sometimes, when it was just what I needed, it was the willingness of these friends allowing me simply to unload my heavy heart over the phone.
As my world fell apart - I learned through those experiences that no matter what else was going on that I was truly wealthy.
I had a great treasure in the form of wonderful family and friends, people who truly cared about me and my children.
Whatever your situation in life, I encourage you to realize the treasure you have in the friends and family members who care for you, however few or many they may be. If you are in a time where you need that love and support, don’t be afraid to reach out and ask, because you will learn that most of them do want to help you, but simply don’t know how. Odds are God has placed those people into your lives for a purpose, much as the biblical Queen Esther found that she was in the palace “for such a time as this.” God provides for His people, but never forget He often works through the people He brings into your life. If you get to feeling guilty about always seeming to be on the receiving end, remember you can always “pay it forward” as the saying goes, to someone you will know in need, at a future date.
For those of you who served as my treasures 17 years ago, thank you once again. I don’t know what I would have done without you. Your support and help has never been forgotten.
Wednesday, September 9, 2015
It may just be me, but have you ever watched a good movie or television show involving relationships, and find yourself amazed at how the individuals know exactly what to say and how to say it to make everything work out before the end of the show? Sometimes I wish I had a team of writers who would know what is going to happen in my life and my relationships and could simply hand me a script with all the right things to say and do to make all my relationships perfect so that everything is happily ever after.
Real life, though…
Well, real life is messy. Personal relationships do not follow a script. People don’t always respond in the ways we might think they are supposed to, and odds are, we don’t always either! Plans go awry. People change and can be unpredictable. Disappointments come. Sometimes things just don’t work out. And one of the results is divorce.
That is also why no parenting or marriage book is the last word…because children and spouses don’t always follow a script as easily as the books sometimes imply. It is better to see them as resources filled with good ideas to try and to adapt as you develop your own personal relationships. Some ideas will fit and work, some will be dismally useless in your situation.
I see this mentality elsewhere in our society. I see lots of people, mainly young people, who love to play computer and other video games…I’m sure you know the names of a multitude of them. What I have noticed is that, very often when they come to a part that is complicated that they cannot figure out, they resort to surfing the internet to find something called “cheat codes” that tells them how to jump ahead without having to figure it out or struggle through it on their own. People just want answers to the hard challenges we face in life, and we want somebody to just give them to us. “Give me a script. Let me look up the codes. It is all just too complicated!”
The truth is, life is rarely what we anticipate it is going to be. Becoming an adult is far different from the imaginations of childhood. Raising children doesn’t always end up with the results we hope for. Career tracks sometimes get stalled. Marriages fall apart. But let us not forget also, that some things turn out much better than expected. Whether things go well or poorly is not the point, rather, it is that the twists and turns of life rarely follow the scripts we write, and there aren’t often simple codes we can automatically plug in and make everything work.
I have been in plenty of situations that have left me confused or uncertain, and had many times it would have been nice to have a play book I could refer to that would lay out all the options with the best choice highlighted and underlined. Instead, like everybody else, I have to make the best choices I can with the knowledge that I have, and sometimes those choices might even be mistakes. Then, after I have made my choice, others will make their choices as well, not following a clear script either, and sometimes that all gets messy and jumbled up. This is why forgiveness and understanding are so important. It is also why we need second chances sometimes.
Let me add though, that there is a script, and overall script that is the plan of God, and a “code book” we can turn to for some overall guidance in life.
You see, God is always moving things into our lives and working in ways we can’t always see in our limited understanding. Unlike the actors who have the entire detailed script in hand, with all the props and staging neatly described, we have the outline, and know the end story. The chapters that make up our lives, we experience much like the individual who watches the move…one scene at a time. The scriptures provide some structure within which we can operate best if we take the time to search them and follow the directions provided.
Most of the time, though, we simply must trust the One who is the stage designer and director, to guide us through life’s winding pathways to the ultimate outcome of eternity with Him.