This term is usually used to describe the hope that there will be the least possible injury inflicted on innocent citizens after a military strike. However, I want to apply it to families after a divorce strikes.
For better or worse, those who are involved in such traumas are usually left with an accumulation of “EX-relationships.” Most of us, young and old, eventually find ourselves confronting some kind of relational disintegrations or re-integrating marriage situations. We hope for the best even from a worst case scenario. We know God will be there for us when we lean into Him for wisdom to cope successfully.
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, 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.
I have to tell it like it is—in 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 deeply, whom we truly held close to our hearts.
What do we do with “leftover relationships” after divorce? Do we “ex” them out, shut the door and leave them behind? How can we dismiss them from our minds and hearts? What does God want us to do about these precious significant others, so to speak, many of whom are still in our daily orbit of contact? If we want to live wholeheartedly for the Lord, what is the Christian way to deal with this ever-increasing problem in our society? The fallout is certainly not limited to the non-faith, secular world out there—unfortunately, it also permeates our Christian culture. I scarcely know a Christian family which has not experienced something similar.
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 little collateral damage as possible from our now fractured families.
To muddy the waters still further, remarriage gives all of us still another category of relationships—the blended marriages! And 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!”
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 try to handle it all; I do so imperfectly, of course. After my husband died 21 years ago, I became a single mom, single grandma, and single great-grandma. How I missed his partnership in parenting! I think often with wistful regret that he has missed knowing our last 5 out of 10 grandchildren, and our current, so far, 7 great-grands. But possibly Grandpa Ted in heaven is more aware of our circumstances than we know, still has us in his heart, and is asking Jesus to help me cope wisely with all these strained relationships.
I must say that God has made the way gentler by gracing us, by and large, with “amicable” divorces. That sounds like an oxymoron. In some circumstances that may not be possible or even 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 any are involved.
I praise God that as years have gone by I have seen some of the exes draw closer to God and re-marry to establish Christian homes where they continue to surround our mutual grandchildren with love and Christian nurture. I’m so happy when the exes still ask for my prayers for their problems. I try to affirm them for the good I see in their lives, and avoid negative words toward any of the people involved.
I’ve tried 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. It involves a lot of stretching! Good exercise! New step-grandchildren sometimes pop into the mixing bowl and I hug all of them close to my heart. 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’ve made my share of mistakes, but I don’t think some of those mother-in-law disparaging jokes are fair game. God is always ready, if we are willing, to shape our attitude to please Him. I still have a lot to learn as new situations arise in our continually expanding 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 that You, in Your miraculous way, have rescued for good out of situations that could have had a lot of collateral damage and destruction.