Loving Your “Enemies” A Sunday Snippet

Jesus stunned His audience by saying, “You have heard it said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:43-45).

What if Jesus was speaking to an audience of adults with divorced parents?
Maybe He would have said something like this:
Because of your hurt from your parents’ divorce, you love those who love you and hate those who’ve hurt you. But I say to you,

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 Love your mother who left the family for a coworker,
 Bless the woman that “stole” your father from your family,
 Do good to the stepparent who never treated you as one of the               family,
 Pray for the judge that put you with Dad when you wanted to be           with Mom, 
 Do this that you may be children of your Father in heaven.
 
Love them? You don’t understand!!
I’ve heard of enough stories and talked to enough frustrated, hurt, disillusioned, and apathetic-toward-their-family adult children of divorce to understand this sentiment. Also, as one with divorced parents, I, too, have periodic struggles. But Jesus was speaking to an audience whose “enemy” was the Roman government. One that abused people, killed them at will, and regularly took advantage of them. A few years after Jesus’ crucifixion and raising from the dead, Romans were literally feeding Christ-followers to the lions to be killed. So, Jesus’ audience would also say, “Love them? You don’t understand!!”

Love covers a multitude of sins
We are often unlovable, yet God loves us. God showed his great love for us by sending Jesus to die for us while we were still sinners (Romans 5:8). With so great a love available to you and me, how can we hold back our love from those who wounded us? Here are some beginning steps?

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  1. Accept the love and forgiveness God offers you through the sacrificial death of Jesus for your sins. The Bible says, “If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.  For, ‘Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’” (Romans 10:9-10,13). Click here for more information on this wonderful gift.
  2. Forgive your ‘enemies’ for their offenses against you. Easier said than done? Listen to a radio program I recorded on forgiveness when dealing with divorced parents by clicking here.
  3. Enjoy the freedom, peace, and joy that comes with obedience to God’s word.

Loving as Jesus commanded may not change your ‘enemy’, but it will certainly change you!

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“Getting Over It” vs. Not Letting It Control Us

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While sharing about a parental-divorce-related struggle, my friend said, maybe it’s time to just get over it.  After my initial unspoken, “that’s easy for you to say,” I wondered if people who believe that are wrong, but also right. Ironically, less than a week later, another parental-divorce related incident occurred, and I was quick to point out, “this is why it’s so hard to get over it.”

These thoughts reminded me of a chapter in Leila Miller’s book, Primal Loss: The Now-Adult Children of Divorce Speak. On the title page, “Speak to Your Parents Then and Now” she writes:
For the record, one or more young divorced parents has told me that adult children of divorce only want to speak to me for this book because of ‘unconscious revenge’ against their parents, and that they simply have not ‘forgiven’ their parents, which is the only way to heal.”1

Ain’t that a blip?! …Or are they right?

One of the challenges of getting over it, is “it” keeps rearing its ugly head in different ways which can continue for years. How do you get over the stepparent who broke up your parents’ marriage with the affair? Where does getting over it fit with two parents who still lower the room temperature 40 degrees whenever they are together? At what point does one get over boyfriend after boyfriend or girlfriend after girlfriend—and explaining the parade to the kids?

I’ve come to realize that ACD may not be able to just get over it. There are too many occurrences. But ACD don’t have to be controlled by the fallout from parental divorce. Hurt doesn’t’ automatically call for unforgiveness. Anger need not produce bitterness. Betrayal can bypass hatred. Misunderstanding doesn’t require severing relationships. Reminders can circumvent depression.

Fortunately (sort of), dealing with recurring troubles is not a new problem. Two thousand years ago, the Apostle Peter asked Jesus, “’Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?’ ‘No, not seven times,’ Jesus replied, ‘but seventy times seven!’”2 Apparently there was a recurring problem and Jesus’ answer was (and is) to forgive—repeatedly, if necessary.*

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But how do we forgive the same thing over and over? Or maybe it’s a something different, but produces the same crummy result. We start by realizing how much Jesus forgives our over and overs. The Bible says, “if we confess our sins to him (Jesus), he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.”3 Consequently, if Jesus is willing to forgive all of our sins, how can we withhold forgiveness from others?

Forgiveness is an important piece when dealing with the fallout from parental divorce and not allowing it to control how we think and act. You can learn more about how adult children of divorce can forgive when you click here.

I also encourage you to read through earlier blogs to see other ways ACD can control how they respond in situations where they would like to just get over it.

 

*Biblical forgiveness never includes enduring abuse or putting oneself in harms way.

1Miller L, (2017). Primal Loss: The Now-Adult Children of Divorce Speak. Phoenix, AZ: LCB Publishing, 163.
2Matthew 18:21-22, NLT
31 John 1:9, NLT

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Honestly by Steven

Are Adult Children of Divorce Doomed to Failing Relationships?

No. However, many issues work against our success that need to be addressed if we are to avoid the negative ACD statistics column. But what are the problem areas?  And how do we handle them?

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First, some issues—and from an unusual source.
Australian entertainment writer, Nigel Gladstone, asked a very unpopular question in the midst of the fluff and gush of the royal wedding. What are the odds Harry and Meghan will divorce?He listed the following negative factors:

  • She’s from America –which has high divorce rates
  • Both are celebrities—who, as a group, have notoriously high divorce rates
  • Both have divorced parents—which increases the odds of divorce 200% compared to those from intact families2
  • People who spend more than $20,000 on their wedding triple their chances of divorce—who would have thunk that?1,3 

Factors I’d add:

  • Interracial marriages can add significant social pressure to the marriage relationship
  • They’ve created a step family—due to her two sons—which often adds divisive internal pressure on the marriage relationship for, at least, the first five to seven years.4

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Internal and external pressures
All relationships have internal and external pressures that work against them. Internal pressures include differences of opinion, family or origin differences, emotional baggage, different life goals, spiritual differences, and other things that can create sparks and hurt feelings. ACD add a of lack of trust, anger, the fear of doom, father hunger, and other flawed paradigms to the mix.

External pressures include extended family, children, in-laws, ex’s, social mores, cultural challenges for missionaries, and privacy challenges for celebrities. Unfortunately, few are trained to deal with external and internal pressures on relationships effectively. Consequently, the relationship of the two individuals—the Bible says two sinful individuals—can break under the pressure.

Lowering the odds of divorce
The new royal couple, and every couple around the world that include an adult child of divorce, need to:

  1. Learn about and identify external and internal pressures (particularly ACD related issues) that can negatively affect their relationship. Gary Neuman’s book, The Long Way Home: The Powerful 4-Step Plan for Adult Children of Divorce is an excellent start.
  2. Stepfamilies (or stepfamilies-to-be) should read The Smart StepfaFamilyLife Blended logo (Smart Stepfamily)mily by Ron Deal and review the materials online at Family Life  blended.
  3. Couples considering marriage should pursue premarital counseling, but ACD and blended families especially need premarital counseling that includes marriage and parenting skills, blended marriage issues, and ACD issues.
  4. People who attend church regularly divorce less.3,5 One reason is God is the biggest champion for marriage and provided a textbook for a successful marriage. The Bible includes many guidelines for healthy marriages like, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her(Ephesians 5:25) and “Let the wife see that she respects her husband” (Ephesians 5:33). Followed in a humble and loving way, marriage can be the safe, nurturing, and loving bond ACD crave.

So “No” our relationships aren’t doomed. Because with God’s help, and our humble submission to His will for our lives, every obstacle can be managed, minimized, or overcome and the cycle of divorce can be broken—even for royalty.

 

1https://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/celebrity/what-are-the-odds-harry-and-meghan-will-divorce-20180519-p4zg94.html
2Wolfinger, N. H. (2005). Understanding the divorce cycle: The children of divorce in their own marriages. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.
3 Francis‐Tan, A., & Mialon, H. M. (2015). “A Diamond Is Forever” And Other Fairy Tales: The Relationship Between Wedding Expenses and Marriage Duration. Economic Inquiry, 53(4), 1919-1930.
4 Deal, R. L. (2014). The smart stepfamily: Seven steps to a healthy family. Baker Books.
5 Feldhahn, S. (2014). The Good News about Marriage: Debunking Discouraging Myths about Marriage and Divorce. Multnomah.

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Woman and Bible – Prayer a Powerful Weapon by abcdz2000

Primal Loss Through the Eyes of ACD

If you could ask adult children of divorce questions about the impact of their parents’ divorce, what would you ask? More important, how would they answer? Leila Miller found out by asking seventy ACD the same eight questions.  Her book Primal Loss: Now Adult Children of Divorce Speak not only gives their answers, but except for the introduction, the entire book is their answers—no commentary, no “expert opinions,” no “it’s not a big deal” bravado.

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As a result, for me, reading Primal Loss was like drinking orange juice concentrate without the three cups of additional water. I’m used to reading ACD stories that are liberally separated by statistics, comments, etc, so you get a break from the intensity of the parental divorce experience. Miller gives us 100% ACD dialog and it’s a tough read at times. However,  two important things occur as you read: you realize your challenges aren’t unique, and you learn you aren’t crazy because of your challenges (for the most part!).

Miller’s eight questions were:

  1. What effect has your parents’ divorce had on you (the longest chapter)?
  2. What is the difference between how you felt about the divorce as a child and how you feel about it as an adult?
  3. Has your parents’ divorce affected your own marriage or your view of marriage?
  4. What do you want to say to people who say that “children are resilient” and “kids are happy when their parents are happy” and “kids of divorce will be just fine and will go on to live successful lives”?
  5. What would you say directly to your parents about the divorce and how it affected your life than and now? Would you advise them to do things differently, and, if so, what?
  6. What do you want adults in our society to know about how divorce affects the children?
  7. What role has your faith played in your healing?
  8. What would you want to say to any children facing their parents’ divorce today? What would you want to say to those parents considering divorce (leaving out cases of danger)?


How would YOU answer these questions? Does it even matter now with their divorce so long ago? YES! Because your answers (and the emotions surrounding them) are inside you and probably leaking out in various ways (anger, fears, troubled relationships). Also because, as the individuals in the book found, thinking through it helps.

Important recommendations
For those of you who are ACD, before you start reading Primal Loss, I encourage you to let your loved ones know what you’re reading. This is to prepare them for the up and down and all around moods you’ll experience.

I also recommend reading it with a friend or two. The Bible says, “A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.1 As you read through the chapters, get together weekly and debrief. This will help keep you focused on the healing process God desires you to complete.

Lastly, please leave a comment about how the book affected you. I’m very interested in your thoughts!

 

1Ecclesiastes 4:12, NLT.

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Thinking RFID by Jacob Botter
Girl talk by Nathan Rupert

Will You Roll the Stone Away? – A Sunday Snippet

On that first Easter morning when the women found the stone rolled away, the tomb of Jesus was empty. He had risen as He said, and crushed the sin which separates us from God.

Many adult children of divorce have a stone in front of a tomb filled with unforgiveness, anger, bitterness, frustration, hopelessness and fears.

Parental divorce can produce all that and much more. One can easily add regret, sorrow, disillusionment, depression, anxiety, and more divorce to the list. The stone is lodged tightly so nothing can get in or out. Many of us like it that way. Keep all that ugly stuff behind the stone.

The smell of hurt
Why we do this was explained at another tomb. Earlier Jesus went to raise his friend Lazarus from the grave. Martha, the deceased’s sister, protested because it had been four days and “by this time he stinketh.1 Love the King James version here, but Martha was correct. Stuff buried for four days, four months, four years, or four decades stinks.

We know this because, occasionally we (or a loved one) get a waft of the stench when we react poorly to a stray comment a parent makes, or our spouse doesn’t meet a need, or a friend “betrays” us, or our fears are triggered by something and we lash out, or we’re anxious with no tangible reason to be so. Our tombs leak.

It’s time to roll away the stone
When Jesus rose from the grave He overcame man’s greatest enemy—death. But if He could beat death, isn’t it reasonable that Jesus can help us overcome our hurts and all the stuff behind our stone? The Bible encourages us to “Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.”2

But that’s a big step for many of us. God knows that, and He is not going to force you to do anything you’re not ready to do. But He does want you to know He loves you enough to want healing in your life—true healing, not Band-Aid healing.  He wants to take away your anger, hurt, and fear. The question is, will you let Him?

In our time
Maybe because I’m a guy it took years before I allowed God to help me. Guess it’s like asking for directions. But to my surprise, He didn’t move the stone all at once. He’d pull it back a little and we’d deal with whatever smell came out—maybe the smell of bitterness. Then back it went. Eventually, we moved it away from the tomb door, but it took quite a while.

To be honest, my tomb still has a pretty strong residual stink to it, but it is so much better than it used to be. Thank God!!! This Easter season, I encourage you to talk to God about cleaning up the stuff behind your stone. And remember that with God all things are possible

 

1John 11:39
21 Peter 5:7
3Matthew 19:26

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Bible with Cross Shadow by David Campbell

When Mothers Leave – A Survey for Some of You

After completing a workshop on Father Hunger, which explains the long-term impact of the father’s absence after a divorce, I was asked, “What about when mothers leave?” I couldn’t answer. All the research I’d seen dealt with the impact on the kids after the fathers left. But I assured them I’d return with a wealth of helpful information.

That’s when I learned how little data was available on this topic. Even though authors like Jen Abbas (Generation EX: Adult Children of Divorce and the Healing of Our Pain) and Stephanie Staal (The Love They Lost) experienced their mother’s departure, neither addressed it directly–and the issue has gone largely unnoticed in the world of research. So, my Masters thesis explores the impact of a mother’s departure on the children at the time, and after they grow up.

This is where you come in. The survey link below is for those whose mother left after the divorce—she was the non-custodial parent. If this is you, please complete this survey. If it is someone you know (sibling, friend, relative, coworker), please share this and encourage them to complete it.

I will summarize the findings of my thesis and the survey here when it’s complete.

Thanks for your help.

Survey – ACOD Whose Mother Left After Divorce

Billy Graham and Overcoming the Impact of Parental Divorce

With Billy Graham’s passing at 99 years old, we have lost the Moses of our era. It’s difficult to name someone who has had a broader and more positive worldwide impact than Billy Graham. However, he would be the first to say it is not about him, nor has it ever been.

For nearly 60 years Billy Graham taught true healing starts with a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Adult Children of Divorce Ministries is committed to helping those who struggle with the residue of parental divorce, and we agree. The video below shares how anyone can be freed from the fears, anger, unforgiveness, father hunger, and other issues common to adults with divorced parents.

Please grab a cup of coffee and watch this. These few minutes could change your life in a wonderful and eternal way.