I know that this is a term for unintended injury or destruction after a military strike. But I want to apply it also to families after a divorce strikes. For better or worse, that often leaves us with an accumulation of “EX-relationships.”
My late husband and I would never have envisioned during the growing years of our children that divorce would ever invade our family. We were doing our best, but of course imperfectly, to raise our sons in the Christian faith with good moral values. My husband was a minister and we served together in mission work overseas and on university campuses and in “church planting.”
I have to tell it like it is—in the process of time we found ourselves with several ex-daughters-in-law, multiple ex-in-laws, and miscellaneous ex-relationships with people whom we had grown to love and whom we truly held close to our hearts.
What do we do with “leftover relationships” after divorce? Are they obsolete? Do we shut the door and leave them behind? How can we dismiss them from our mind and heart? What does God want us to do about these significant others, so to speak, many of whom are still in our daily orbit of contact? What is the Christian way to deal with this ever-increasing problem in our society? It is certainly not limited to the non-faith, secular world out there—unfortunately, it equally permeates our Christian culture.
To compound the situation, precious grandchildren are involved who are as dear to the left behind “exes” as they are to us. They, as well as we, want as minimum collateral damage as possible from our now fractured families.
To muddy the waters still further, remarriage gives all of us another new category of relationships—the blended marriages! And also the blended marriages of the exes! Sometimes it seems like trying to unscramble eggs to figure out how to introduce someone as “my son’s former wife’s mother’s sister!”
Lord have mercy! Help us, O Lord, to look to You for wisdom in our tangled relationships in this earthly life. Yes, we look forward to the glimpse that Jesus gave us when He declared that in His Father’s House there would be “no marriage or giving in marriage”—whatever that will really mean, we will leave to His wisdom and sovereign plan.
I can only share a word of how God by His Spirit, I trust, has given me sufficient grace to handle it all, especially after I became a single mom, single grandma, and single great-grandma when my husband died 19 years ago. (He has missed knowing our last 5 out of 10 grandchildren, and our current, so far, 6 great-grands and another on the way—but possibly Grandpa Ted in Heaven is more aware of our situation than we know, and is interceding with Jesus asking help for me to cope wisely with all these relationships!)
I must say that God has made the way gentler by gracing us, by and large, with “amiable” divorces—that sounds like an oxymoron. In some circumstances that may not be possible or advisable, but I truly felt it was God’s will for me to maintain discreet but warm and cordial relationships with nearly all of the exes, praying for them, and cooperating with them for shared time with grandchildren, if there are any involved.
I praise God that as the years went by I have seen some of the exes draw closer to God and re-marry to establish Christian homes where they continue to surround the grandchildren with love and Christian nurture. I’m so happy when the exes still turn to me asking prayer for their problems. I sincerely try to affirm them for the good I see in their lives, and avoid negative words toward any of the other people involved.
I’ve had to open my arms even wider to welcome and embrace whole sets of new in-laws as a result of precious new daughters-in-law. I’ve had to do a lot of stretching! Good exercise! New step-grandchildren sometimes pop into the mixing bowl and my heart hugs them all close. Because so many years go by, some of my blended grandchildren have given me blended great-grandchildren and…are we having fun yet? You betcha we are! There are more new young ones to pray for and help to guide in the ways of the Lord. And more family memories to make!
I’m far from perfect and have made my share of mistakes, but I don’t think some of those mother-in-law disparaging jokes are fair game. God can help us shape our attitude to please Him. I still have a whole lot to learn as new situations present themselves in our extended family.
Thank You, Lord, for helping me to “roll with the punches and go with the flow.” As a result, I’m rich in the relationships You have in Your own miraculous way rescued for good out of situations that could have had a lot of collateral damage and destruction.
Most of us, young and old, eventually find ourselves confronting some kind of relational disintegrations or re-integrating marriage situations. God is ready to help us. He’s there for us when we lean into Him for wisdom to cope successfully.