To watch a child learn and accept the love of a heavenly Father is an encouragement to anyone working with children. But, to watch a child who has experienced an earthly father walking out of his life accept Christ as his personal Savior and accept that there is a heavenly Father that will never leave him or forsake him is very special.
I had that happen with an eight-year old young man. In his younger years, he had what appeared to be a perfect life for a child. His parents showed him love that seemed unconditionally and they disciplined him appropriately. They brought him to church every Sunday and by all accounts were very active in his life. He was a happy joyful little boy.
Then, one day his, father decided to walk away from the marriage to this boy’s mother. From an adult perspective, he was walking away from a broken marriage and his wife, but when he walked away from the marriage, this little boy thought his daddy walked away from him too.
The divorce changed that little boy. From happy and joyous, he changed to distraught and closed off. However, over the course of nine months I watched this child, who attended the divorce recovery program for children at our church (DC4K.com), grow and mature by leaps and bounds. This child grew from a the distraught and closed off little boy he had become after the divorce into a young man that openly displayed physical affection, had joy in his very being, and shared his heart and his deepest thoughts. During the course of the program he asked some very thought provoking questions about faith, God, Christ and why his dad had walked out. At one point, I asked him if he would like to talk about Jesus walking beside him and never leaving him.
My little friend indicated he did want to talk about asking Jesus to be His personal Savior. I presented the plan of salvation, and this child accepted Christ at that time. He wanted to tell his mother but he didn’t want to tell anyone else right then. His mom and I talked about his experience. She had a strong walk with the Lord, and I had no doubt that she would be there to help her child. I let the children’s minister where he attended church know what had happened, but I cautioned him that the child wasn’t ready to talk about it yet. I asked the minister to keep a watchful eye on this child. This minister was familiar with the child’s situation and I had no doubt that when the child was ready the minister would reach out. I knew this minister WOULD keep a watchful eye on this little boy and his family.
For many children of divorce, though, that is not always the case. Many times children of divorce get left standing at the foot of the cross. Let me repeat that,
“Children of divorce get left standing at the foot of the cross.”
I have visited with a lot of adult children of divorce and many have shared with me that after the divorce, for the most part, their family quit attending church. Others have shared that, even if they did come to know Christ after the divorce, once they were “saved” the church ministers and leaders abandoned them. This was the child’s perception that they carried into their adult life. One man said to me,
“Please, please tell church leaders not to leave the child of divorce at the foot of the cross!”
His comment caught me off guard, and when I questioned him he said that for many kids of divorce they don’t have parents readily available to talk about their personal experience with Christ. Some kids won’t even tell their single parent they have had a conversion experience. They don’t have parents to encourage them.
This man said that, to him, it seemed like the church leaders got him “saved” and then expected his parents to continue the religious upbringing. In his case though, the problem was that he didn’t have parents who were capable of doing that. He only had a mom who was so distraught most of the time that she was unavailable and unable to teach him about God. She didn’t have a faith walk and rarely, if ever, attended church herself.
As an adult, this man was clueless about the Christian lifestyle. He had struggled through his teen years wandering in and out of different churches. As an adult, he knew he wanted an intimate relationship with God, but he didn’t know how to go about that. He searched on his own but it wasn’t until a loving caring Christian man had taken him under his wing that he ever learned about the Christian life.
A divorced mom told me that when her kids were growing up that she had to move around a lot. She didn’t attend church herself, but every time they moved the first thing her oldest son did was to search for a church. She said it didn’t make any difference what kind of church it was just so long as it was close enough for him to drag his two little brothers to church with him every Sunday. When this boy was a young teen he accepted Christ as his Savior and was baptized into that faith community.
When we met as young adults he shared with me that as an older teen he dropped out of church. He said that since he was the only teen that didn’t have a parent that attended church with him, he didn’t feel accepted. He did not live a Christian live, quite to the contrary actually. However, he seemed to be drawn to me as a special friend. Down through the years we stayed in touch and last year when he was dying of cancer guess who he reached out to? He reached out to one of the few Christian people in his life that he knew he could depend on to pray for him and minister to him.
At the end of his life he clung to the knowledge that at one time he had accepted Christ. He held onto the belief that even though he hadn’t lived a Christian life that God still loved him. You could say this man was one of those kids of divorce that got left standing at the foot of the cross. What a shame. What a tragedy for the Kingdom. But praise God that he did accept Christ and he now resides in heaven with our heavenly Father.
What about the children of divorce in your church? Will you leave them standing at the foot of the cross?
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” [John 3:16 NIV]
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Linda Ranson Jacobs is one of the forefront leaders in the area of children and divorce. She developed and created the DivorceCare for Kids programs. DC4K is an international program for churches to use to help children of divorced parents find healing within the arms of a loving church family. As a speaker, author, trainer, program developer and child care center owner, Linda has assisted countless families by modeling and acting on the healing love she has found in Jesus Christ. More great articles about how to successfully minister to the child of divorce in your church can be found at Linda’s website Healthy Loving Partnerships for Our Kids (HLP4) [http://www.hlp4.com]. Linda also offers support, encouragement, and suggestions to help single parents and those working with single parent children. She can be reached by e-mail at Linda@hlp4.com.