|y the time they turn 18 years old, about 50 percent of children who were born in 2000 in the United States to parents who were married won’t know what it means to have their parents stay together until “death do they part.”1
Many wonder why the nation’s marriage stability statistics keep eroding—why about 30 percent of U.S. marriages end within 10 years, and why there are no signs that the newest generation on the marriage scene is going to turn these numbers around.2
Blame it on the insidious influence of the entertainment industry, the trendy postmodern attitude of relative morality, or the escalation of sexual intercourse outside of marriage since the advent of truly reliable birth control. But another likely cause is a lack of proper modeling.
My parents divorced when I was 11 years old; so, unlike some children of divorced parents, I do remember a time when my mom and dad were happy together—before they went their separate ways. Although they did their very best to make a difficult situation as painless for me as possible, three problems still stemmed from the timing of their separation.
First, just when I was hitting an age when I could truly appreciate what a blessing and novelty it is in our society to have parents who are happily married, their union dissolved. As a result, rather than being able to continue to store away their “secrets” to domestic happiness to help ensure a successful future marriage of my own, suddenly all I saw around me was loss.
Second, because I didn’t fully comprehend the reasons behind my parents’ divorce, I was skeptical even of the family memories I had stored in my mind during my childhood years. After all, I no longer knew which of those experiences had been truly happy for my parents and which had been part of the reason for their marriage’s demise. So I blocked out most of these memories; I was afraid that I would imitate something that would ruin my future marriage, too.
Third, although my family always had plenty of friends, after my parents divorced they all seemed to vanish—maybe because they didn’t want somehow to make things worse or were afraid of taking sides. So, at a time when I was most doubtful of everything I had ever learned from my parents, all the other models of stable marriage around me were stripped away as well.
And all this was happening at the age when I began to like boys.
For a Time Such as This
I’m not writing this article to harp on the mistakes of my parents—they did their best, I love them both, and the past is past. I’m writing it to provide a glimpse of what went on in the mind of one child of divorce so others perhaps can understand better how divorce may affect the children in their own families.
In my situation—as in many—my parents didn’t stop caring for me just because they split up. Unfortunately, however, even though they did their best to continue to advise me and steer me in the right direction, I was so hurt, angry, and confused that I stopped listening to them.
Throughout a tragedy such as this, though, there is still hope—hope that even when children like me are closed off from being positively influenced by their own parents because of divorce, they’re still open to counsel and guidance from others. Other adults can influence and help to emotionally support these children and youth—a task God is calling some to undertake, just as surely as He is calling His people to pay tithe or carry forward the Great Commission throughout the world.
God has called Himself “a father
to the fatherless” and “a defender of widows” (Ps. 68:5). In Isaiah 1:17 one of the reasons God was angry with His people was that He wanted them to “defend the cause of the fatherless” and “plead the case of the widow” so justice would be served and the discouraged would be encouraged.
These commands remain applicable to us today, albeit, perhaps, in a slightly different form. Orphans and widows still exist in our world, but some of them today are divorced parents and children from split families whose lives, as a result, have been put into a tailspin. These are some of the people God is asking us to assist and support.
So what can people do to help? Babysit. Bake a casserole for the family or invite them over to dinner. Pray for them if they don’t seem open to other overtures.
Almost everyone knows someone whose life has been shattered as a result of divorce. But are we listening to the call for help? Can we hear God whispering, “My child, will you help Me to make a difference here? Will you help Me bless these lives and show My children that joyful, meaningful marriages still exist?”
Despite what reality television or celebrity tabloids or even the kids next door might be saying, today’s divorcees and their children want and need stability, love, and happiness as much as ever. But because of the incomplete or dysfunctional modeling they’ve received, they just don’t know how to get it.
Your Time to Shine
Although I’d heard Christ’s name mentioned thousands of times throughout my growing-up years, it wasn’t until age 17 that I allowed Him to enter my heart. My parents always did their best to break through to me before then, but I simply didn’t want to hear it. Finally, though, I was spurred on to accept Christ after a heart-to-heart talk with someone who wasn’t related by blood but who had been trying to minister to me in gentle ways for a long, long time. The night that I gave Jesus my heart, I began slowly to uproot my old worldly attitudes, planting His values in their stead.
But just as the process of sanctification doesn’t happen in the click of a remote, the efforts of the woman who finally broke through my indifference and rebellion were not isolated. She had been praying for me for several years and had tried to show me in hundreds of small ways that she cared. Five years after my conversion, on the day I got married, that woman was there, showing me in yet another way that she was willing to support me in whatever ways she could.
Sometimes Christ’s followers are called to think big. Other times we’re called to think small—about one action, one blessing, one life at a time. Don’t minister with the goal of turning the tide of our nation’s divorce rate by yourself. Instead, minister to each person because you care about their life just as Christ cares about each one of us.
Don’t try to control the other person’s actions; just try to show them that you’re there and that you care. Then slowly, gently, lovingly, graciously—almost imperceptibly through one kind, practical action at a time—demonstrate what Christ’s love and the model of a biblically based marriage are all about.
If you do this, you may not turn the world upside down; but take it from someone who knows—in the hearts of the modern-day orphans and widows whose lives you bless—what you do will be enough.
2M. D. Bramlett and W. D. Mosher, “Cohabitation, Marriage, Divorce, and Remarriage in the United States,” National Center for Health Statistics, Vital and Health Statistics ser. 23, No. 22 (July 2002), pp. 16, 17, at www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/series/sr_23/sr23_022.pdf.
Angela Baerg writes from Apison, Tennessee, where she is an aspiring magazine writer and a passionate follower of Jesus Christ. This article was published April 8, 2010.