I wasn’t sure if or when I would write again. Sometimes the murmurings of the heart are almost impossible to put to words. A dark looming cloud has been shrouding my heart for what seems like months, making it hard to even take a deep breath. It seemed a betrayal of myself to write about something other than my current loss and a disservice to you to continue beleaguering what, for all practical intents and purposes, ought to be a normal phase of life. But with blended families, it’s a little different. Steve and I have been married nine years and feel so blessed to find ourselves here, sheltered by the love of God and each other, and even blessed with two children of our own. But our older kids have traveled a weary path.
There is always the nagging guilt that every trial and heartache is a result of the broken family—divorce wreaks havoc like a tsunami and long past the initial destruction, waves of shame and self-reproach plague its’ victims in relentless agony. The only relief I find is the profound gift of grace in God’s word and sacraments. And even then, I doubt, at times, that He can forgive us—-that He can heal us and the broken hearts of the children that were left in the wake of this storm. We are profoundly blessed to be where we are, but we know that it is only by the tender mercy of our Father that He is restoring us to Himself. We pray that somehow, someway our children will learn to forgive us for our failures.
We failed to keep our promises.
We failed to fight for them.
We failed to provide them with the one thing they needed most, parents who don’t give up.
We grieve for them today. For the lost time together. For the nurturing and teaching and loving that was cut short. We hope that somehow, in our own repentance before God, they will see in our vulnerability, a path to honesty—a path first trodden by Christ himself—that’s leads to life, even after what seems like surely has been death. We long for restoration and realize that the cross is our only hope. He is a God who redeems and restores. He atones for our sin and gives us the blessed, undeserved gift of forgiveness.
Parenting, of all relationships, must be continually shaped by this same mercy. It is in this most intimate relationship that we often commit our gravest trespasses. We are terse when we should be kind, busy when we should listen, absent when we should be present, self-righteous when we should be humble, and often forget that it is this very ‘neighbor’ that God has placed in our path to care for and nurture as a service to the Lord Himself. There is a connection we have to our children that is baffling. When they’re hurting, we feel their pain in a visceral way, even when words fail to justly tell their story.
I read this today from the book Beautiful Boy and knew it was time to write.
We are connected to our children no matter what. They are interwoven into each cell and inseparable from every neuron. They supercede our consciousness, dwell in our every hollow and cavity and recess with our most primitive instincts, deeper even than our identities, deeper even than our selves.
So, as three of our kids leave this patched up little nest in the span of a week, no wonder it’s hard to sleep. No wonder the days have been colored with a blue haze. We laugh a little less and long for brighter days. We miss them like a part of our own bodies has been severed. Now, we wonder if this is what it feels like to always be without someone you love.
God, forgive us for our selfishness.
Clothe our children in your mercy.
Bind their broken hearts.
I’m thankful the story doesn’t end there. Finally and without warning, the storm begins to recede. The sun breaks through a thick dark veil of clouds, slowly releasing the chokehold, and reminds us that though weeping may endure for a night; Joy comes in the morning. He is stronger than our doubt. He holds on when we can’t. He anchors us to Himself—He forgives us and makes us whole. In Him alone, we find meaning in the suffering and hope in the despair. He has done for us what we could never do for ourselves and we stand humbled and repentant in the light of His ‘glorious grace’. We pray that our children will all come to share in that same mercy and trust in the only One who always keeps His promises.
Note: This is our particular story and our particular pain. We are not making blanket judgements about divorce–but the children are always the ones who suffer. No amount of rationalizing takes this pain away for us and our children. We can do nothing now but throw our hands up and plead guilty. It has been the most painful and yet the most freeing confession we have ever made. And Steve and I often marvel at how God could, after all our wandering and idolatry, restore us to Himself and to the joys of Christian marriage. It is almost unfathomable. Then we remember the tremendous price that was exacted for our forgiveness and we know that this is how our Father works. He loves us, He has watched for us, planned for us to return home. And as we sit at His table, hearts full to the brim with gratitude, we know that our restoration is made possible by Christ, and Him alone.
It was months later before I could bring myself to listen to the song. I cried most of the day. I’m so thankful for Cindy, who was like an angel from heaven. It reminded me that though we move on and the days seem to pass pleasantly by, the kids live with it daily—-as they must learn to navigate two lives and always without someone they love. I am grateful that the grace of God has sheltered and sustained them in faith and mercy and that He is teaching us to live in forgiveness as the very breath we breathe. Starting at zero.