When the Prodigal is a Parent

Marriage offers many benefits, but primarily a healthy marriage provides balance. Since spenders wed savers, risk-takers bond to safety-lovers, chocoholics find physical trainers, and spastics unite with steady-rudders, balance is maintained because they keep each other in check.
But divorce severs that tether allowing natural tendencies and desires to go unleashed. So, basking in post-marriage freedom, drinkers can drink more, couch potatoes couch more, spenders spend more, and philanderers play the field. However, we get entangled in all this. 

Wanting to scream
How do you greet Mom’s 12th boyfriend? Are you responsible to keep your father from eating Cheetos and Red Bull chasers for dinner? Does Mom really think she looks good in that outfit made for women 25 years younger? Tired of explaining to your kids how “til death do us part” fits into grandpa’s fourth wedding? Frustrated because your parents don’t get why you’re upset with their life choices? Perhaps a look at prodigals may help.

Perspective on Prodigals
The word “prodigal” comes from a story Jesus told about a young man who left the blessings of his home and “wasted all his money in wild living.”1 The son eventually realizes he messed up and plans to return home groveling. But the father sees the son returning and runs to greet him. Instead of condemnation, kisses and hugs are showered on the son. Then the father throws a my-rebellious-son-who-I-dearly-love-has-returned party. Jesus’ point is we are the prodigal and God is the father. As such, we should respond to our prodigals as the father in this story—but we usually don’t.

How we deal with our prodigals
Our response to prodigal parents is often:
1)     We brood over how things should be, could have been, or how we wish our parents should act.
2)    We harbor bitterness and unforgiveness, and withhold grace because we focus on our parent’s prodigal ways (and the hurt it causes) forgetting we, too, are prodigals in God’s eyes.
3)    We dabble in their behaviors because we’ve secretly wanted to do it anyway and if a parent can do something it’s justified for us…even if we know it’s wrong.

How does God deal with prodigals?
He loves them.  And we need to follow God’s example, but how do we do that?
1) Pray for them – prayer may change them, but often changes our attitude toward them.
2) No badmouthing. “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.2  It’s tempting to talk them down, but find the positives and talk them up—particularly in front of your kids.
3) Maintain boundaries – Often their decisions impact us because we allow them to. Our desire for their love, or fear of losing it, can cause us to comingle in their dysfunction instead of maintaining healthy boundaries in love3.

While prodigal parents can challenge us, they can also stimulate spiritual and character growth. We just need to remember their actions are their choice. Our response is our choice.

1Luke 15:13, NLT
2Ephesians 4:29, NLT
3Henry Cloud, John Townsend, Boundaries, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1992.)

The Parables of Our Lord – The Prodigal Son by John Everett Millais by Birmingham Museum and Art  Gallery
Talk to the hand by Matt Foster
Bible with Cross Shadow by David Campbell


Happy Father’s Day, God!

Abba Father,
Happy Father’s Day. Thank you for making it possible through your Son Jesus Christ to be your sons and daughters.Unto Eternity, My Fairest Love by Pnk Sherbet Photography What gift can we possibly give to you, when all we have is from you? The prophet Micah gives us a clue:

“And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God”1

Lord, may we apply this to our relationships with our fathers, step-fathers, fathers-in-law, and ex-step-fathers and wish them all a very Happy Father’s Day. By doing this we offer you the greatest gift—being like your Son Jesus.

1Micah 6:7-8, ESV
Photo: Unto Eternity, My Fairest Love by Pnk Sherbet Photograph

Why Honor Your Father and Mother? – Audio

Memorial Day has passed, but I hope we will continue to honor veterans whenever it is within our power. Too often their sacrifice, and the sacrifice of their families, have been overlooked or consciously ignored.

Another group that has been dishonored or ignored are divorced parents. Divorce by Tony GuytonThe list of “good” reasons I’ve heard through the years for why they don’t deserve honor could fill a book. Some of the stories are tragic. Others are petty, but disappointment and anger are common when adults talk about their divorced parents.

I gave a presentation on this delicate issue recently.  While this talk was not given at a workshop for adult children of divorce, the implications and applications easily apply. Click below to listen.

“Honor Your Father and Mother – Kent Darcie”


Divorce by Tony Guyton

Could Our Parents’ Divorce Be a Good Thing?

A number of recent articles by adult children of divorce say “Yes,” their parents’ split was a good thing. I also received an email implying that there are adults with divorced parents who are quite happy with the break-up. This is true. But the answer to “Was the divorce a good thing?”, without sounding like a lawyer or politician, IMGP6979 by siti fatimahdepends on what the definition of “good” is.

What good means
If good is a parent separating themselves and the kids from ongoing physical or emotional abuse, then divorce is good. If good is getting kids away from the impact of an unhealthy environment of drug or alcohol abuse, then divorce is good. If a partner refuses to honor their wedding vows with repeated and unrepentant infidelity, then divorce is good. And there are other situations which would be detrimental to the physical and emotional health of the spouse and kids if they continued.

When the ‘No’ is actually a ‘Yes’
However, the problem with the “Is their divorce a good thing” question is when we answer “Yes” we automatically answer “No” to the follow-up question; “Are there still consequences when our parents break up?” “No” simply isn’t true, because parental divorce forever changes the landscape—admittedly to Divorce by Marc Hatot croppedvary degrees.

Choosing which parent sees you early Thanksgiving Day and who wins the coveted prime time slot might still earn a “yes, the divorce was a good thing” answer. However, I doubt anguishing over the decision whether to include your mother on the family picture board at your father’s funeral would elicit the same response.

The gap between “yes” and heal
Too often I’ve found we hide behind the “Yes” answer to avoid the pain. Partly because the path to healing usually leads through pain, but also because we don’t know where to turn with our pain. “I’m hurting. Now what?” That’s why this ministry is here.

Adult Children of Divorce Ministries isn’t here to blame or dishonor parents. The Bible is very clear we are to “honor our father and mother1 We exist to come along side adults with divorced parents and help them deal with the ongoing and perpetual fallout of parental divorce.

This includes internal fallout like anger, fear, and feelings of unworthiness. Your Word by abcdz2000It also includes external fallout like having to use boundaries in situations where parents, exes, steps, and assorted others show up for your child’s birthday party.

But most of all we’re here to help people crush the lies they’ve accepted with God’s truth. For example, it’s tough to believe the lie that we’re worthless when the Bible says we are God’s workmanship (individually created by Him) in Christ Jesus, (who is perfect.)

So, could our parents’ divorce be a good thing? I believe a better question is,  “Am I doing everything I can to prevent my kids from having to ask that question someday?”

1Ephesians 6:2
2Ephesians 2:10, ESV

IMGP6979 by siti fatimah
Divorce by Marc Hatot cropped
Your Word by abcdz2000





Happy Mother’s Day to the Four Mothers in my Life

Happy Mother's Day~Fuzzy Flwrs [A, =] Art4TheGlryOfGpd bu Sharon 8729536732_5822eb30bb_bTo my Mom, thank you for being a mom who loved me in spite of the grief I put you through because of the divorce. I miss you. Please say hi to Jesus for me!

To my step-mother, thank you for loving me and praying for me and my family–even after the divorce from my dad. You are a lady of class and grace.

To my current step-mother? (sorry, Emily Post doesn’t have guidance on this title),  thank you for your sweet spirit of love and reconciliation. You are a wonderful person and a blessing to my family as well as your own.

To my incredible wife and mother of our three children, words can’t describe my thankfulness for your patience as God brought healing to various areas of my life that were affected by my parents’ divorce. You are the Proverbs 31 woman. I’m incredibly blessed to be the man you chose to spend your life with.

Happy Mother’s Day ladies! I love you all! May God bless you all with His loving touch today.


image: Happy Mother’s Day~Fuzzy Flwrs,  byArt4TheGlryOfGod by Sharon’s photostream.

Ten Ways to Minimize the Effects of Divorce on the Kids – Audio

Adultchildrenofdivorce.net - couple fighting in front of child

I recently covered Ten Ways to Minimize the Effects of Divorce on the Kids on the New Beginnings Program with Rick VanBriggles.  In this challenging talk, I discussed the necessity of looking at the divorce realistically in order to truly help the kids . Click below to hear this important program.

Honor Your Father and Mother? The Sunday Snippet

Tucked in the middle of the Ten Commandments is a command that has proved troubling for adults with divorced parents. Honor your father and mother. Having heard and read a variety of parental horror stories, it’s easy to see why this can be such a challenge.  How do you a honor a parent who beat your mom, or left the family to run off with another man? Does God really expect you to honor parents who used you as a weapon against the other? Surely this doesn’t apply to parents that you hold responsible for the mess your brother or sister is in today?

What does honor mean anyway?
Webster’s definition of honor is to respect greatly, regard highly, or esteem, and/or to treat with deference and courtesy. The Biblical definition implies to give weight or value to something—to revere.1

Today we live in a culture of dishonor. Everywhere you turn and in virtually every TV show or movie parents are dishonored. With this, combined with the behavior of their parents during and after the divorce many ACD believe they have totally justifiable reasons why they shouldn’t honor their parent(s). God’s perspective, however, is totally different.

How does God feel about us honoring our parents?
It made the ten commandments so that makes it very important to God. Its importance is also mentioned conversely in the following list of bad traits.

And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful.”2

When is the last time you saw envy, murder, haters of God, and disobedient to parents in the same sentence? God is serious about honoring parents. In fact, He says it is the only commandment with a promise,  “that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.”3

So how do we do this?Divorced Parents arguing ACD

The first step is to confess that you aren’t honoring your parent(s) and ask for God’s forgiveness. The next step is to realize that there is a difference between honoring actions and honoring the person. You can honor the person without giving honor to their actions.

For example, there are those who didn’t vote for President Obama and disagree with some of his positions. That is acceptable though should he walk into our office or classroom tomorrow, we would all stand and give him the honor that is due his position as President of the United States. Likewise, our mom or dad may have done things that are dishonorable, but God is very specific that they, as our parents, are to be honored.

I need help with this
Heeding God’s command to honor your parents is not a choice. If you are a follower of Jesus Christ, it is a command. But as a Christ-follower you have God’s word, the power of His Holy Spirit, and resources that can heal your heart from the damage that is standing in the way of obeying God by honoring your parents. We have to trust that God’s ways are best even if they aren’t always easy.  Pray today for God to bring healing to your heart and mind in this area. And check out the resources that are available to help you.

1Vincent’s Word Studies in the New Testament, Electronic Database. Copyright (c) 1997 by Biblesoft
2Romans 1:28-31 [NKJV]
3Ephesians 6:3 [NIV]

Kent Darcie – Adult Children of Divorce Ministries Sept 2013