Divorce: Balancing Truth with Grace

I was asked the following questions: “Without “bashing” the other parent, how do you answer those hard questions that children ask during/after a divorce?” and “How do you break the news to your kids that divorce is imminent?” I can identify with both of these women’s concerns. When someone is seeking the Lord with all of their heart in the midst of circumstances that they have no control one of the best options is to walk through that fire balancing truth with grace. It is one of the most beautiful gifts you can give to your children in the midst of such an ugly situation.

When you seek truth and you walk in the truth and you speak truth then you will not be “bashing” the other parent. Children only ask what they want to know. However, they do need to be given direct and truthful answers. What we are called to do is to show grace.  The hard truth will need to be spoken. It is in truth that the way is made for overwhelming grace to wash over us and begin to heal us. If we sugarcoat the truth to make ourselves comfortable and to avoid the difficult conversations then we shortchange the power of grace.

How do you know know if you are “bashing” or speaking truth? What is your motive behind why you are giving the information you are giving? It is not your responsibility to prove the pain that exists in the hearts of those under your roof. They know the pain because they feel the pain. Nor is it your obligation to prove your own pain to your children as a way to win their devotion to you. You can and must walk them through the brokenness with validation of their pain and their own experiences.

The more direct you can be when breaking the news of the divorce to your children is best.  Direct does not mean there will not be emotion.  What it does mean is you are setting a standard within your own home to not ignore the elephant in the room. You are willing and available to be fully present for the tough stuff. That conversation will be very difficult, but the focus is their pain. Depending on the ages of the children the conversations will be different and the emotional responses will vary.

Ultimately, you will need to take care of your soul and guard your heart.  No one is able to balance truth with grace unless you walk in the truth of God’s Word and allow the loving-kindness of the all knowing God to bring into the light what has been hidden in the dark. To lead your children with openness and honesty, you must first and foremost be open and honest with others that are godly and trustworthy.

As you walk in truth and experience grace, your children will begin to have the confidence to do what they see you living. In the darkest times and the ugly circumstances the greatest gift you can give your children is truth and grace. The truth of the reality you all are living and the grace to allow their emotions and the pain of their heart to be validated. Then the great opportunity is to walk with joy knowing that His grace is sufficient and He has you all in His grip. Allowing for every tear to fall understanding the Lord sees each of you and your pain is not invisible. Leading your children with understanding that only God can give purpose to the pain. Give them truth. Give them grace. Give them purpose.

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all things through Christ

For years, Philippians 4:13 has been the one verse that has been universal in my life.  When I was asked recently what my favorite bible verse is, this immediately came to mind.

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”

I can’t think of one life circumstance or any situation that this verse cannot give wisdom and direction.  However, it is important that I keep this verse in context.  So often, we are tempted to use God’s Word like a fortune cookie. This is not a good luck charm. Why did Paul write this short but ever powerful sentence? Philippians 4:13 is the wrapping paper on the gift of contentment.

 “But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at last your care for me has flourished again; though you surely did care, but you lacked opportunity. Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

For years I did not understand the context that Paul wrote Philippians 4:13.  I have to admit I did use it as a motivator, my personal good luck charm. Then life was slammed by a crisis called divorce and single motherhood and I really wondered if I could do all things through Christ and if He would strengthen my very weak and wounded soul. As the days turned into months and the months into year 1 and so on; I did learn that I could do whatever the “all things” were for that day and His strength is perfect.  I did not experience Philippians 4:13 fully until I understood and began to “learn that whatever state I am, to be content”.

The verse that I discovered in my early teens became my most challenging truth. We like the motivational feel of Paul’s words but dare we really experience the depth of these words with the blood, sweat and tears of really being content in WHATEVER state we find ourselves. Can we really live everyday, “in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need”. If we only choose to quote Philippians 4:13 as a way to pump ourselves up for selfish gain and personal motivations then we cheapen the truth and we miss the perfection of His strength and the sufficiency of His grace.

We cannot have one without the other.  When I choose to be content in whatever state I am in then I fully experience that I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. I did find contentment in abandonment and rejection.  I did find contentment in my singleness and parenting alone. I learned that when one chooses contentment, Jesus is there. When Jesus is your resting place,you stop wanting and you begin to be satisfied in Him – the one who sustains you and the one who keeps you.

It is only THROUGH CHRIST that we can do whatever our “all things” are.  However it is only in choosing contentment in those “all things” that we experience a strength that cannot let go.

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A letter for our wedding

Many of you heard this letter first hand and continue to comment on what was read. There are some of you that are curious about the letter that was read at our wedding. Brody and his family were not able to attend our wedding. This letter was gentle in tone and bold with the challenge of the Gospel:

“Let me start by saying that it is a little unnerving writing to a writer, giving counsel to a counselor, and pastoral direction to a pastor. Thanks for making me loose a little sleep guys. But to be honest, I am honored to take part in this day. I remember doing a wedding of a young couple where I shared in the leading of that wedding with an older pastor. It was one of my first weddings, and I was ready to learn. He was to open up the ceremony with a few comments for the young couple, and I was eager to hear what he had to say. He had been a pastor for years, and I was excited to gain insight from such a seasoned and patriarchal man of The Faith. I had enjoyed spending a little time with him at the rehearsal, and he seemed to possess a wisdom that a younger man like me needed to learn from. As he opened up the ceremony, I was anticipating the wisdom of a half-century of ministry, marriage, and life. He began by saying, “The most important thing you can know and do as you prepare for and head in to this marriage, is communication. Marriages that last, last because of strong communication. Marriages that fail, fail because of a failure to communicate. If you can learn to communicate well, you will be successful in marriage, and will live a long and healthy marriage.” I was confused. Communication? I mean I understand that it is vitally important and that marriages often suffer because of a lack of it. But, the one most important thing to tell someone in preparing them for the most sacred of all earthly institutions? Really? Then, the real bomb:

“And if could give you any advice on solving arguments, I would tell you to always take your clothes off in order to argue. This will make things seem almost ridiculous.”

I am serious. This was his “great” counsel. Ridiculous? I think that word better describes this man’s advice on marriage. As men and women of God, the most important thing we can learn about marriage comes from Christ, and the way he loved the church. He loves the church sacrificially, and gave himself to die and suffer for his bride. If I have learned, and continue to learn, anything about marriage, it is that marriage is a call to die. It is a call to be crucified with Christ, and not to crucify my wife on the altar of my on selfish wants or my own petty needs. If marriage is to be successful in the eyes of God, then it needs to reflect the Gospel. This is what scripture teaches, and scripture is THE authority under which our marriages must live. This is what moves a marriage from surviving, to thriving. The question I would continually challenge you guys with is, “How does our marriage reflect the Gospel-saturated love of Christ?”
Pursue that end. Strive for that kind of marriage. This is our great calling in marriage.

Jeff, I want to challenge you personally, as a man, to realize that you are not Joy, Meighan, and Caid’s personal savior. That job is taken. We are to live, in rebellion against Adam’s rebellion, as men who imitate Christ. Work and keep the garden of your own marriage. This is where the first man failed, and where Christ gives us hope. HE, is the savior of your family. Adam was unable to be or do what Christ did. In fact, it was Adam’s failure as a man and husband that led to Christ’s mission of saving a bride for himself. Live as God’s man for this family. As he leads you, submit daily to his word, and live under that authority. This will enable you and empower you to love Joy and the kids, like Christ. We do not stand in authority over God’s Word, but we live under it. We do not master it, but are mastered by it. Live as a man wrecked by the Gospel, and the Word of God, and you will not wreck you marriage, and family. This family was wounded, and Christ is healing them, and you are a massive part of that. Your submission to The Lord is vital to the completion of that healing. I am excited for you, and so confident that God has called you to this.

Joy, I would say to you that you can unclench your fists. You can stop living in a tense, braced, state. You have had to defend, protect, shelter, and guard your family. You have been both a mother and a father. You have been a pastor and a soldier. You have filled the roles God calls husbands and fathers to, while remaining the caregiver and mother and woman who honors her family by honoring Christ. You have done well. It has been a blessing to take part, in the healing process God has taken you through.
But now you are also a wife. This means you are not only Meighan and Caid’s mom, but you are Jeff’s wife. You have seen God’s faithfulness to your kids. This marriage, I believe, is your picture of God’s faithfulness to you, AND your kids. With Jeff, you will have to let your guard down, and learn to trust in areas of your life where you watched trust murdered and abandoned. But Jesus has taught you what trust really looks like, and, as he has been your true husband, so he must continue to be. Jeff is part of that plan, but he is not THE plan. Christ still is. So surrender yourself daily to Christ, and love your husband and kids, as Christ loves them through you.

And to Meighan and Caid, I want to tell you guys that what you are watching unfold, here, is an answer to a prayer that I have heard you pray and watched you long for, for the last three years. God is healing your family. But it is God who is doing that, not Jeff. He is a gift from the Lord, but he is not THE gift. Jesus is. You have learned, as hard as it has been, that Jesus is enough. And he still is. Long before you met Jeff, you had already seen what marriage is supposed to look like. You saw it in the way Christ loved your mom, and the way He loved both of you. If you continue to put all of your trust in The Lord, then you will enjoy the life he has now led the four of you into. If you do not, you will be disappointed. Because Jeff, your mom, and each of you will make mistakes, but Jesus won’t. He said he would never leave you or forsake you and he won’t. You have watched that become a reality in your life over the last few years.

Lastly, to those of you who are here today, you have a job. You are not here as spectators, or to enjoy a meal at Jeff’s expense, or to compliment or gossip about the choice of colors or dresses. You are here today because as a community of believers, we are saying to Jeff, Joy, Meighan, and Caid, “We agree with this marriage.” With that agreement comes the responsibility to pray for them, support them, and be here for them. Don’t come, watch, leave, and ignore. But rather, let’s love these guys well. They deserve and need it. Anyone who is married knows this.

One day Meighan and her husband, and Caid and his wife will walk down this isle, or one just like it. What they see today, and what they see between now and then will redeem much for them, and show them the way. That is part of our jobs as parents, anyway. We are to show the way. This day is not the beginning of that. From day one Jeff expressed the desire to example godly pursuit and courtship of a woman, by a man. I can give testimony to the faithfulness of that commitment, as so many who are gathered here today can as well.

So from Uganda, Africa, the Holloway family (Planet Holloway) rejoices with you this day. All seven of us. We love you and look forward to the years of sharing ministry and life together.”