In 2000, my son and I found ourselves with a father and husband who wanted to leave home. Unfortunately, this would be the first time but not the last. I was a 32-year-old mom of our only child, who was age two, when my husband left the first time. I remember my granddaddy telling my mom, “Divorce is like death.” That painful five-letter word. And in so many ways, it was for both of us. My son, first at age six, and again at age fourteen, experienced this all too well.
It takes great perseverance, significant tears, and an amazing network of believers to realize that though divorce is the end of life as we know it, it is the beginning of life as only God can orchestrate it. He did not design divorce, but He rescues and protects us from our fallen state and allows us to experience a desperate state of dependence and closeness with Him, even for our children. How I wish from my experience I felt equipped to write a book on grief recovery, doing divorce well, or rising above the pain. I can only write of one thing—God’s grace and the amazing, small tidbits and counsel I received along the way.
- PRAY. Take this time to fervently say prayers of protection and love over your child. If prayers are hard for you right now, find a book to guide you through; one book I found helpful was “The Power of a Praying Parent” by Stormie Omartian. Place Scriptures of encouragement in the bathroom, on the fridge, or wherever you and your child might pause to remember that there is a future and a hope. “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11)
- SEEK. Seek counsel from fellow Christian friends and counselors—ones who understand that divorce is a reality and will speak authentic truth. Seek other adult mentors for your child, as outside mentors may be easier to hear than mom and dad who, despite their best efforts, can cause confusion.
- FACE THE FACTS. Your child will always, according to my best counsel, until they meet Jesus themselves, imagine a day when mom and dad are back together again. Be sensitive and respectful to that dream. Do not give hope for that miracle, but do not feel a reason to constantly stomp on that dream, either. Sometimes, reason and reality is best learned over time.
- DISCIPLINE. It is easy to feel sorry for our children and want to keep them from further pain to the point that we do not correct them. As a single mom with a 14-year-old boy to rear, I remember Pastor Roy calling me into his office one day. Roy said, “Boys at this age don’t understand their moms, and he is going to challenge you. When he challenges you, tell him to get down and give you 20 (push-ups).” I had no idea what he was talking about until, within a few short weeks, my son was down giving push-ups in disbelief that I could ask that of him. He did not challenge me on that point again.
- UNIFY. This one takes God, strength, time, and healthy boundaries, but once the divorce dust settles, unify with your ex-spouse as much as possible in all things that pertain to your child. When your child feels happy and loved despite splitting time between two houses, that shows unity at its best and creates the healthiest possible result of divorce. And if you can come to the place where grace and your child can be put higher than your pain, try sitting on the bleachers together to cheer on your child!
- AFFIRM. Shame enters in through divorce, so affirm your children by reminding them that they are loved. Tell them that our Heavenly Father will never leave us or forsake us. Point them to the One who can rescue and protect them always! Do not let them believe the enemy’s lie that there is blame or condemnation. Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1).
- ENTRUST. I will be very authentic here. The second time around, I was not strong at all. I could not get my feet off the ground to realize I was worthy to be loved, let alone tell my son he was. So, entrust yourself and your children to God and other spiritually sound individuals. Allow others to pour truth into your lives so that your children hear that they can be who God designed them to be, including the faithful parent that they never knew. By following Christ, they can choose to be the very thing that was not modeled in their home.
- LOVE. Love well. Look for opportunities for quality time, and allow room to breathe and time to process. Never discount feelings, and always point your child to the One who never disappoints, is always faithful, and gave His life so that all of this can be washed away and made new!
And lastly, mom and dad, forgive the other. Stand firm in the faith, and pray for each another. (Even today I prayed for my ex-husband’s new family.) It will take time, maybe years, but you will find freedom and recovery, and you will bless your children with it, too, by your example.
We are so blessed by the dedicated people who love Jesus and are willing to write and share about their journey with Him on ParentingPathway.org. Debi is a gift, and her authenticity a treasure. With that, I extend a massive “thank you” to her for being willing to share her heart with all of us. I know you are all blessed by her words and wisdom. —Gabbie
Debi Gibson is a single mom of her 18-year-old graduating senior, and on Sunday nights, she is “mom” for more than 450 Awana children and students when she serves as Stonebriar’s Awana Ministry Leader. She loves that God called her into ministry through His redemptive work in her loneliness and heartache. She and her son love to travel, and they spend most evenings hanging out with their two pups, Mahali and Chance. Debi also loves to use her gift of hospitality in serving others and teaching it creatively in her little store, The Guest House.
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