If the month is more than 28 days, stop by here for the bonus devotionals for Hopelessly Hopeful During Separation to get you to day 31!
Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.
She was so carefree. She didn’t wear makeup, didn’t seem to sweat in public, and had that easy-going smile that said “life is peaches and nothing more.” She was direct, and everyone thought it was wisdom, not criticism. And, to top it off, her family pictures were always relaxed (even though there had to be some posing to get that kind of angelic picture).
Then I saw her two years later. Still the same carefree woman with a happy attitude, but the angelic pictures were no more. She had been divorced, now living in a one-bedroom rental instead of the 7,000 square foot home. She still said, “life is peaches and nothing more” and could still give direct wisdom. I couldn’t understand what was consistent in her world that made her so carefree while she was separated from her family.
This verse applies to many of life’s situations. While this particular woman lost the love of her life, she maintained her attitude by guarding her heart. She still did the things she loved (or kept up not putting on makeup—something she didn’t love!). She didn’t lose her identity in the middle of identity-altering situations.
Wisdom, indeed! Don’t let someone unplug your proverbial life support—whatever makes you feel alive is what you should do. Don’t give in to the anger you may feel, especially when it is legit. Feel it, deal with it, and heal from it, because it will be one more way for you to protect your heart (O’Brien, 1996).
In all of life’s situations, and especially when separated from a spouse (or even working in a nonprofit), attitude counts.
Wandering around wondering if someone will change into what you want them to be or wishing that your life could be angelic may not benefit you. The grass is not greener on the other side.
Perhaps it’s one of the reasons God recommends reconciliation before a divorce. Divorce is permanent and should be taken seriously—it isn’t a threat you can whip out when you need to one-up in an argument. Leaving is serious business, and divorce is as final as marriage.
To think clearly, get rid of anger, malice, bitterness. Bind your heart with the Lord, gain life, and then proceed to realign yourself with God’s will. Don’t let anger plug up your wellspring.
O’Brien, Welby. Formerly a Wife: A Survival Guide for Women Facing the Pain and Disruption of Divorce. Camp Sherman, OR: Trusted Books, 1996.
So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.
1 Peter 4:19
For those that do have children, additional layers complicate the separation. The perspectives get muddled even more. What do you do when you disagree with how the other is raising your child? Do you disagree in front of the children, or do you work things out in private?
I heard a story from another believer that although the divorce between him and his former wife had been finalized five years earlier, the children still unknowingly put a spin on the words of the other parent. For example, the seven-year-old daughter, Carol, would be on the way to the grocery store. Carol would say, “Mom would let us pick out special cookies when we go shopping.” Or, Jason, the twelve-year-old got braver with his comments, “Mom lets us go to the mall with Kevin all the time!” The manipulation continued, “Mom says you need to let us go on vacation during the holidays. It’s not fair that you’re making us stay here in this boring town with you!” How do you respond to that? I have great respect for the self-control this father had.
His reply was to reinforce his love for his children. With each retort from his daughter, he would remind himself that his loyalty lies with the Lord. With each pout from his son, he remembered to center himself on what God had spoken to him that morning. He would commit himself briefly to the Creator, the one who ordered the world and all that is in it.
Then after a breath, he would respond with a loving statement. “I know you would like to buy cookies now. We have special snacks we can eat at home.” Or, “Even though your mom is okay with you at the mall, we have different rules at this house, and for now, I’d like to spend time with you. How about we walk around the lake instead?” Or, “Vacation sounds like fun, and the holidays are important to me. You are important and special to me and I’d like to spend them with you.” Does he get the kind response he hopes for? Not always. However, he has committed himself to do good, for himself and his children.
Triangulation, when a parent uses the child to hurt the other, is extremely unhealthy, and often a tactic former spouses use regularly. If children are involved, it is best to keep your focus on doing well. Continue to do good while focusing on the Creator.
Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.
1 Peter 4:8-9
While sharing about this book, a few people asked me what surprises me the most about the journey of a published book. Since the book’s subject is separation due to marital strife, what surprised me the most was the number of parents who shared deep heartache with me, because their children were experiencing a separation.
In other words, it’s not people who experience separation who want to share their story—it’s parents who reach out to me to share their own story of heartache. “What can I do as a parent of a grown adult who is separated? How can I not be involved, stay supportive, and still be in this much pain?”
While I can’t imagine what that is like as a parent, and while I’m not a professional counselor, a few things come to mind on some next steps for parents. And it’s best to start with what the Bible says. In 1 Peter, we receive instructions that are flat-out just good to hear and attempt to do. Loving others deeply is a great way to live a holy life.
What I find so fascinating is that shortly after that, Peter mentions to offer hospitality. While some kids may stay longer at home than intended these days, there’s something to be said about having a place to land when the unthinkable happens.
Parents, while I wouldn’t want to be pressured to come home, I would want to know the option is available. When a deep connection is (temporarily) severed, it’s the love that covers a multitude of sins. It’s being in a place of love that becomes a catalyst for health and healing.
Make the offer. Once, maybe twice. Your kids won’t forget it. Pray for them, and their separated spouse. Love them, deeply. You may not hurt less, but your hospitality will be a place of refuge.