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Sunday, February 8, 2015

Thinking About Children

What About the Children?

My wife teaches.  I have pastored churches and been involved in ministries that include all ages of youngsters.  A significant shift has taken place in our culture that is pervasive, and it can be most readily illustrated in the form of assumptions:  a) you can no longer assume that children with different last names are not brother and sister living in the same household; b) nor can you assume that the children in a home all have the same father or mother; c) nor can you assume that a children you know have the same name as the parent with whom they reside, IF they reside with a parent at all.  Grandparents, aunts and uncles, step-parents, foster parents---families are very much more complicated these days than in years gone by.  Also, children are very much more confused about marriage and family, and often enter our presence with private heartaches, losses and fears.

A radio interviewer once told me the story of a family member of hers whose ex, after years of being divorced, would still drive the children to a meeting location supposedly for the purpose of letting the children go to their dad’s for the weekend, when she in fact already knew that he would not be there because had called in advance with a conflict of schedule. Why did she do that?  Because then she could tell the children that his not coming proved he didn’t love them.   Then she would turn around and drive home.  Of course, I have no way to verify the story, but sadly, I find it very believable.  Because I am sorry to say, it is only one of a multitude of similar stories I have heard down through the years.

In many ways children suffer the most through a divorce.  It is not an insignificant statistic that a high percentage of American children living in poverty are in single parent homes.  Granted, there are times a divorce actually gives children a chance at a more normal life that protects them from abuse.  But most of the time, divorce is about the adults, not due to concern for the children.  Some parents work very hard to help their children navigate the tough waters of splitting parents, doing their best to protect the children from unnecessary heartbreak.  Other parents use their children as weapons to wreak vengeance in anger at their exs.  And there are parents who are good pretenders, saying they are acting in the child’s best interest and doing it in such a way as to convince the children they are, but who in fact are manipulative and deceptive about the web they weave.  In that case, it may be a long time or perhaps never that the children learn for themselves to understand and appreciate the “enemy” parent for who he or she really is without the colored lenses provided by such a parent. 

Children should not have to hate one parent in order to be able to love the other.  Children should not have to choose which parent to be loyal to and whether they can have a loving relationship with each.  Children should not have to be pawns dealing with issues that the adults in their lives are unable or unwilling to deal with themselves.  Children should not suffer the brainwashing that a divorcing parent might try to impose.  Children already feel insecure enough as the world they call home crashes down around them, every effort should be made to provide assurance for them in as many other areas as possible.  The broken hearts of children should experience healing from their parents as agents of God loving, protecting and caring for the little ones in their charge.

I realize that even the best of parents makes mistakes, and that children even in the best of families may suffer heartbreak and wander far astray.  So when I say the things I did above, I mean we should try our best, trusting God to make up for those times we fall short.  But for parents whose actions are more self-serving than children serving, I remember with trembling the words of Jesus in Matthew 18:5-7----

And whoever receives one such child in My name receives Me; but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him to have a heavy millstone hung around his neck, and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.

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