Pam and I were enjoying a quiet night of reading when my phone rang. I picked it up only to hear a desperate man on the other end. “Matt, i need your help, my wife want’s a divorce, my sons are acting out and a friend gave me your phone number, can you help?”
His story was all too familiar as he delivered the dramatic details blow by blow. I was immediately emotionally taken in by his desperation as he confessed to his own guilt as to the reasons the marriage was in trouble.
What really worried me was the specifics of his two sons who were caught up in the crossfire. One of them had already screamed at mom for wanting the divorce. Even though he had a right to be angry and quite devastated, that did not justify his behavior. “Mom, I hate you for what you are doing to this family and I will NEVER forgive you!” he shouted. His father corrected him and tried to defend his estranged wife but he was at a loss as to how to help his sons.
I met with this man and his two sons just to listen and offer any comfort I could muster up. The MILLION DOLLAR QUESTION is what do you tell an angry boy who fears the demise of his parents marriage?
I prayed that God would give me the words. As I walked in to the restaurant and saw these two young men sitting with their father I felt an overwhelming sense of hurt on their behalf. Fighting back my own tears I greeted them. These two boys were exceptionally polite and very astute. I could tell they were very well groomed by their parents as their communication skills and maturity level was impressive.
After brief introductions and navigating through the waters of awkwardness, the youngest looked at me and said “Ok, when are we going to start talking about our situation?”
I was impressed. These young men were tenacious. They were fully engaged and acutely aware of the looming darkness that lay ahead. My heart was heavy.
We focused on three things.
HOPE | ENCOURAGEMENT | INSTRUCTION
HOPE – Give hope to the hopeless. Share the power of God and his ability to create a miracle where miracles seem impossible. Give hope that somehow in the upcoming months their mother may turn around and come back but if she doesn’t their future can still be bright with God’s help. Let them know to be careful and respectful with mom as though a ‘bridge’ is still in tact between her her husband that she could walk across in the event that she changes her mind. Give hope that they will find a way to forgive her and still allow their hearts to love her. Give hope that in time the pain will subside. I never make promises but I always give hope.
ENCOURAGEMENT- Make sure they know that NONE of this is their fault. Encourage them by saying “I am so proud of you for caring so much about your parent’s marriage and your family that you are fighting for it to stay in tact. I am proud of the honor and courage it takes for you to engage and try to make things better. Encourage them to hold onto God’s word. Share some scriptures that they may grasp. (don’t over do it) Often less is more with teens. I asked them if they believed in God, the bible and Jesus. They both said yes. I said “Good, we will be depending on Him to guide us in the upcoming months”. I left it at that, for now. Encourage them by letting them know you will walk with them through this valley and they are not alone.
INSTRUCTION – There will never be a more important time to give instruction to a child than during a time of crisis. Instruct them to give mercy and forgive. Instruct them to fight the urge to ‘hate’. Instruct them to NOT use certain words when talking to mom that are mean, hurtful and degrading. Instruct them to understand the power of forgiveness and the dangers of holding onto bitterness.
Instruct them to be patient and give God a chance to show himself. Instruct them to give affection even when it doesn’t seem appropriate. “WHAT, give mom affection? I won’t do that because she will interpret that as approval of her choices.” the youngest retorted. I told him that loving her and forgiving her is NOT an endorsement of her choices, it is simply fulfilling your duty to honor her as your mother. You can even tell someone that you will give your love but by no means does that mean you approve of their choices. Instruct them with a few scriptures that can correct their thinking.
Here are a few – “Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you. Exodus 20:12
Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. Colossians 3:13 NIV
When people sin, you should forgive and comfort them, so they won’t give up in despair. 2 Corinthians 2:7 (CEV)
27“But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. Luke 6:27-28
As far as that family goes, we are still hoping, still encouraging and still instructing.
Go and be different.
Please share this and help someone in your circle of influence.
Matt and Pam