By Simon Presland
I sat on my second-hand couch in the tiny apartment I had rented, trying to make sense of my new world, the sound of the ticking clock on the mantle my only company. “Funny,” I said aloud. “There was a time when all I wanted was a little peace and quiet.” Looking up at the ceiling, I thought I’d give anything to hear the voices of my girls saying, “Daddy, can you come help me with my homework? Dad, I need a ride to practice. Daddy, come watch the movie with me.”
More than 14 years ago this scene was my reality. My ex-wife and I were in the throes of a divorce, and my two daughters, then ages 16 and 11, remained with her. My world shattered, and I felt no hope—from God or within myself. As a Christian, it was devastating enough to think of myself as divorced. But to lose contact and connection with my daughters? I wasn’t sure I would survive.
I’ve now been remarried for 10 years, and my girls are part of my life again. Maybe you, or someone you know, are going through a divorce and you fear that your relationship with your kids will never recover. I can tell you that God never gives up, and, as “the repairer of the breach” (Isaiah 58:12, English Standard Version), he delights in restoring relationships.
Give Them Time
My daughters blamed me for the breakup of our family, for the stigma of having divorced parents, and for their new life of hardship. They did not call or make any attempt to see me. I went to work each day and came home to an empty apartment. When I started attending a new church, God began his restorative work between my daughters and me.
After getting to know my situation, a kind man at church befriended me and invited me to his house for dinner. Gary’s warm smile, coupled with the words, “You’ve gotta taste my wife’s cooking,” won me over.
After I thanked his wife for the scrumptious meal, Gary and I slipped into the living room. “You’ve got a great family,” I told him.
“Thanks. My life hasn’t always been this good. Like you, I’ve been divorced; I’ve been where you are and know what you’re going through. I’d like to pass on some advice that helped me with my kids. I’m sure it’ll help you.”
I nodded. “I’ll take any help I can get.”
“I said the same thing when I sat in another man’s house many years ago. He told me what I’m about to tell you.” Gary settled back on the couch. “The consequences and effects of divorce are devastating to adults, but even more so to kids. We get caught up in our own feelings and tend to forget that our children are truly the victims. The man who talked to me helped me understand that my kids were hurting, angry, and feeling helpless. Parents need to give kids time to work through their feelings and to find their new sense of what’s normal. We need to give them time to adjust, mourn the loss of their family, and come to a place of acceptance.
“The book of Ecclesiastes reminds us that there’s a time to weep and mourn and a time to heal, and parents need to give their kids that time (Ecclesiastes 3:3, 4). Too often parents try to force their way into their kids’ lives to soothe their own ravaged emotions. The man I talked to encouraged me to ‘give them space.’ He told me it would take time, but my kids needed me, and they would eventually want to come back into my life.”
“That makes sense,” I said, “but how long does that take?”
Gary smiled. “Depends on the kids. Remember God is gracious, and he woos us with his love. You can do the same thing with your girls.”
“Do you have any suggestions?”
“Yep, the same ones I was given,” replied Gary.
Show You Care
“First, pray for your girls every day, and I do mean every day. But don’t just ask God to bring them back to you. Pray for their schoolwork, for godly friends, for their sports teams, or whatever else matters to them. Ask God to bless them in every way possible. And be sure to forgive their anger and bitterness toward you. When you forgive, God can work miracles.
“Next, if your girls don’t want you in their lives right now, you can still stay connected. Never miss a birthday, Christmas, or important occasion to send them a card or gift. Chances are they won’t reply to a text or email. But if you send them something tangible, they’ll know you’re thinking of them. It doesn’t matter whether they thank you. What matters is that you’re showing you care.”
“That’s good advice,” I said. “Any other pearls of wisdom?”
“Here’s a big one: Don’t badmouth your ex-wife in public or in front of your kids. Don’t allow your hurt feelings to dictate your actions, as you’ll only further isolate your daughters. Instead, treat your ex-wife with respect. As the apostle Paul said, ‘If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone’ (Romans 12:18).”
I contemplated Gary’s words. “I have to admit, that’s a hard one. But it’s a choice I can make.” I drew in a deep breath, then let it out slowly. “Anything else?”
“Just a couple more points I think are valuable. Most likely you have spousal or child support payments. When you send money, don’t do so grudgingly. Your ex-wife is God’s daughter just as you are his son. And your kids need your financial help. Everyone suffers financially when divorce occurs. But if you want to see God do miraculous things in your life—and theirs—ask him to bless your financial obligations. Doing so will keep your heart clean, and a clean heart allows God to move in your life.”
God Wants You to Heal
Gary paused before continuing. “People will offer you all kinds of opinionated viewpoints. But the one you really need to hear from is your heavenly Father. Don’t neglect your time with him. Learn to take all of your feelings and every situation to him. He knows what you’re going through and he really does want to heal you and bring you to a place where you can move on. The most important thing to remember is to listen to what he is saying and do what he is telling you.
“While going through my divorce, my lawyer wanted me to do one thing, but I felt God directing me to do something else. When I look at my life today, one reason I feel so blessed is because I chose to do things God’s way.”
I told Gary he certainly had given me a lot to think about.
“I’m glad. While there are no guarantees, I firmly believe that my kids are part of my life today because I followed this sage advice,” he told me.
In the years after my conversation with Gary, I did my best to implement his advice. A few months after that discussion, my younger daughter contacted me, and since then we’ve rebuilt our relationship. In 2016 my older daughter began to reach out to me. We are slowly reconnecting, and with God’s help, time, and patience, we are drawing closer together.
I hope Gary’s words find room in your heart as they did mine. You can always trust godly advice, and you can confidently trust God to be “the repairer of the breach.”
Simon Presland is a freelance writer in Clinton Township, Michigan.