When I was little, my biggest fear was that something bad would happen to my parents. I had nightmares about untimely deaths, dealt with great anxiety and homesickness whenever I was away from them, and dreaded any kind of fight. I thought for sure that any disagreement brewing down the hall would ultimately be the beginning to the end for their marriage.
“Do you think they’re going to get divorced?” I would whisper fearfully to my brother.
Over time, I eventually got over my homesickness, and both of my parents lived beyond my awful nightmares, but I found myself, 15-years later, at a loss for words. That question I asked as a child was now a reality. And, the answer was not as I had hoped.
You see, our perspective of others isn’t always the reality. And, my perspective was tossed about violently, one short week after my wedding, when I received a phone call from my mom – my parents officially separated, and an eventual divorce on the horizon. As a 22-yr-old, I wasn’t blind to the fact that my parent’s marriage had struggled over the years. But, as a woman who had just entered into her own marriage, and a daughter who had witnessed 25 years of that commitment lived out, I just couldn’t understand.
I’d love to tell you that it was easy to move forward, for my parents parted on good terms. But sadly, no matter how old you are, divorce is never ever easy. This will mark the third Thanksgiving and Christmas I’ll celebrate with just one parent. And, as much as it strikes an envious chord when I see friends celebrate happily with both parents under one roof… I don’t lack joy. For, my relationship with both parents, albeit still a work in progress, is still special.
Just because my parents decided to get a divorce, doesn’t change the fact that I am and will always be their daughter.
I don’t know what you’ve experienced, but I do know the hearts of children always pine for our parent’s happiness. Whether it’s an issue of divorce, or alcohol, mental illness, or any other ailment (serious or not) that burdens families, I do know that your heart probably yearns just as much for your parents joy as you do your own. I bet you that this holiday season is going to be difficult. And, rightly so, families are not meant to be split apart. But, do not fear; we’re in this together. This holiday season, in the midst of joy or heartache, I encourage you to take to prayer these four simple things:
1. You are not alone.
This blog alone proves my point; someone else (me) knows how you feel. You are not alone, so you don’t need to process alone. Seek out a close friend who can be your ear in it all, or a sibling who’s experiencing everything right beside you. And, don’t hesitate (or be embarrassed) to seek out professional help if you need it. Sometimes we need someone with a little more experience and understanding to give us the guidance and direction we need.
2. The divorce is not your fault, nor your responsibility to repair.
Both parts of this bolded statement are equally as important. You are not the cause of your parents divorce no matter how guilty you may feel. For a long while, I thought, “If only I prayed harder for my parents marriage… If only I could just convince them they could make it work…” But, there was a point when I realized how dumb that line of thinking was. I am not my parent’s savior. Only Jesus can heal; only Jesus can repair. My responsibility now is not to pine over or question what I could’ve done, but rather act upon what I can do. And what I can do is to continue to pray for my parents and love them the best that I can. God is more than happy to take care of the rest.
3. Your relationship with your parents hasn’t ended.
It’s important to confront whatever issues you may have with your parents constructively in order to heal and move forward, but don’t forget the “move forward” part. Any time that we face a hardship in our lives, it’s easy to run away – to not even try to deal with it. But, do remember, you will always be your parent’s child. That will never change. This is the only set of parents you will ever have; cherish your relationship with each of them.
4. You don’t have to know the reason “why” in order to find joy.
God promises us peace. He doesn’t promise us the answer to every question we have about our lives. We can spend so much time agonizing over the question, “Why?” But, there is something so beautiful about picking up our individual cross and trusting that the Lord isn’t concerned so much with what it is we deal with, but rather how it is that our cross can be a bridge to Him. Our joy comes in knowing that despite what changes in our lives, God never does.
I pray these upcoming holidays are as joyful as you envision them to be, but even if they aren’t, be assured that God’s joy never fades.
He will always be your peace. And, you will have my prayers.