Monday, March 28, 2011

Prepare for the losing formula of divorce.

I write this entry today not to shame anyone who has gone through divorce or those considering it. I will try to tread lightly as to not offend or hurt anyone's feelings but I will speak the truth and sometimes that can be painful. If I cause anyone any grief I apologize in advance but understand that it is not I that brought you grief, just a reminder.

Unfortunately divorce happens. I learned recently that I live in the divorce epicenter. It has become part of our culture and in my opinion it has become way too easy and too acceptable. However each one has it's own set of circumstances and I acknowledge some are warranted. I also proclaim that some are not. I know a little about this subject because I have been through nine divorces. However, I have only been married once and am still happily married thank you Jesus! Yes - I have been through nine divorces through the eyes of a child. I have endured my parents divorces. My wife can say about the same. We are the poster children of dysfunction and by all logic our lives should be a mess. But they are not. Our lives aren't perfect but they are pretty darn good. We turned out pretty good but we did take our bumps and bruises along the way. I was inspired to write this after I spoke with a child whose parents were divorcing. As I looked in his eyes I could feel his pain. As I tried to think of things to say to him to give him some peace, I could only tell him this: "I totally get what you're going through because I've been there and it sucks - I'm sorry".  Anything else I say to him is hog wash and he would know it. The thoughts of what goes through a child's mind rushed through me as I too vividly remembered processing it as a child and not being able to make sense of it.  Let me tell you what happens inside a child when parents divorce.

A child generally has two parents in our traditional thinking. Generally that marriage consist of the dynamic duo of parenting we call Mom and Dad. However, I believe these two are much more than a duo. Marriage is between two people, Man and Woman. This is God's plan. Yet, marriage is designed to align with another holy relationship: The Blessed Trinity - Father , Son and the Holy Ghost(spirit). Lets consider marriage in that same context: Man, Woman and the Marriage as defined by God.

So if we consider a marriage as a trinity it takes three parts to make it whole. Take any part out and the marriage is dissolved by death. Let's consider the child here because after all that is our subject. The child has three parents in the trinity. In divorce, to a child, it means the death of a parent. Not literally of course but spiritually. To a child that is what it feels like to go through divorce, particularly the first one with primary parents.

The emotions a child goes though in divorce, although different, are not entirely unlike the death of a parent and in some ways can be worse. The biggest factor emotionally is guilt. Some kids may even feel guilt and responsibility for the divorce although that was not the case with me. However, I think ALL children of divorce will suffer unwarranted guilt and there is no means for prevention. They will feel guilt over feeling like they are choosing one parent over the other even when the choice isn't theirs to make. They will feel guilt over seeing their parents suffer through the pain of divorce. They will feel guilt seeing siblings upset. It's just  part of straying away from God's plan.

They will feel unwarranted anger. They will be mad at one parent for leaving and the other for not trying harder. They will be mad because the disruption it causes in their life. They will be mad because they are embarrassed.  They will be mad because the only thing they can understand is that what you are doing is stupid and selfish even if it isn't. These feelings will happen and again it is the result of straying away from God's plan. The age of a child can have varying effects as can multiple divorces. I will tell you this, even as an adult, when my parents divorced, it had impact on my life because I am still that child. I have had step parents that I loved that are no longer in my life. I have ex-step parents that are still in my life and I still love them today. Still- It's not God's plan.

Other emotional instabilities can be created by divorce as well, however, a happy, healthy child can be raised in a broken marriage. Just know that some degree of damage is done. The risk of a troubled life are greatly increased in a divorce. It is the equivalent of exposing your child to spiritual cigarettes hoping they don't get cancer. If you are a divorcee, I know this is hard to hear if you have children. I'm sorry if it hurts but I won't apologize for saying these things.  I will tell you this - "It sucks - I'm sorry". If there is no option but divorce, just be aware of the storm your kids will have to endure. Let them know you understand and that you agree that it sucks. It's OK to point out silver linings and anything positive but don't try to deceive them into thinking things will be better because they will not be. Most importantly make sure they know they are loved.

I thank my Mom and Dad for loving me through the storm.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Letters to Dad

Dear Dad -
It has been well over two years since we last spoke and a lot has changed since you left to go home. No matter what, I don't think I can get used to the inability to call you every other day. I don't like communicating to you this way at all.

I went fishing with Pops(Ernie), Robbie and Kameron this past weekend and they all send their regards. I think Ernie misses you as much as I do. The weather was awesome but the fish were being stubborn. We caught plenty and should be thankful for that and the time together but I think we all had bigger expectations. I still love to fish as much as ever but it isn't the same when you aren't with us.

Sidney is fifteen now and has her learners license. She gets to drive quite a bit but it still scares the hell out of me and the thought of her going solo scares me even more. She's on the MCHS golf team and seems to really enjoy playing. I wish you could help coach her. I think she can be really good. You would be so proud. I am. More importantly, when she isn't fighting with her sister or mother she's turning into a fine young lady. I don't know that I could ask for more. She does have a boyfriend and yes I keep a shotgun loaded.

Blake is eleven and she is a complex young lady and is growing WAY TOO FAST right now. She is really doing great with dance/gymnastics and I am amazed at all the new stuff she can do. She's had a few issues coping with feelings and anxieties but we are proud of her all the same. We are waiting for her to open up a bit so we can love her even more. When it comes to Blake I often feel like I fall short of loving my kids like you loved Windi and I. I know I love her no less but her actions make me feel like I don't do it enough. I don't think she KNOWS she's loved like I knew I was. Solidifying that understanding is where I feel I fall short.

Carter is growing fast and will soon be four. He's smart, witty and just as much a handful as you last saw him. He has no lack of energy. Only time will tell where his interest lie in the future. For now it's superheros and dinosaurs and I'm OK with that. He also shares my love for video games. I'm OK with that too. It tears me up that he doesn't know you like I do. I can only try to show him the love you would  - same as the other two.

Alisha is doing great and you were right when you said I "picked a fine one". She's been a great wife and mother as always. We are both stressing a bit over the buying a car deal right now. Never really did this without your input and involvement and in most every case your help through wholesale. This time we are on our own. We plan on paying cash for Sidney a car and although I suspect you may object we are considering KIA's and Hundai's because the reviews have been so good. Also against what I've been taught in buying a vehicle, I'm considering a new truck rather than buying it used. It's hard not to consider the option with zero % interest hanging over your head. Nevertheless, I grew up in the car business and a salesman has a bad day trying to run me through the gauntlet.

Mom reminds me that I forgot to tell you how much she misses and loves you. She just had hand surgery that's keeping her out of work and all over the rest of us. She didn't make any cake for our fishing trip, probably because of her hand. Since I'm still in weight loss mode, I was thankful for that. She drove to a woman's conference this past weekend which is a sign she is feeling much better. Pops says that means she can start doing the cooking again. We'll just have to see how that goes. I suspect Pops will be wearing an apron for a few more weeks.

My walk with Christ has never been stronger. Yea, I may say an unsavory word or statement every now and then but there is no denying I'm serving the Lord and hard at it. I'm also loving every minute of it. So I guess you could say everything is going well aside from the fact you aren't here. I love you and miss you and really wish we could just go fishing. That will likely be a while however. Cancer sucks and I feel like I've waited long enough now to talk to you. What a bunch of horse shit that I cannot!

Until then keep the boat gassed up and the bait bucket full.

Love you Dad -

Monday, March 7, 2011

Pushing the Christian buttons - The Adjustment Bureau

Ah....... Saturday night........ even better, date night with the wife! After a nice meal, my wife and I set out to take in a movie. It isn't often we get to have "alone" time with three kids. I'm sure anyone with kids knows what a treasure date night is.

Nevertheless, with the time of arrival and desired movie choices, the obvious pick for us was The Adjustment Bureau. From the previews it looked like a nice thriller and appropriate for what the wife and I enjoy for a date movie. Also from the previews one is given the impression that it is about some government agency that intervenes in the happenings of an individuals life. In particular, the life of the character played by Matt Damon in the movie. The impression you're given is partially right. Someone is certainly intervening into our lives but it isn't the Government. As a Christian, I struggled with the magnitude of the movie at its core for nearly the entire movie. Before I get into why, let me give you a SPOILER ALERT now. I simply cannot write what I need to say here otherwise.

Damon plays the title character David Norris, a playboy US Congressman from New York who loses his bid for Senate as the movie opens. On this election night as he prepares his speech to concede in what he thinks is an unoccupied men's room, he meets the character Elise and almost immediately falls in love. It was a short introduction as they are interrupted from a kiss by Norris's campaign manager. In the interuption, Elise scurries away as David is pulled away for his speech. Although they exchanged a kiss, David never caught her name.

By chance, a few weeks later they meet again on a bus. This is where the "adjustment bureau" comes in as this meeting was never meant to take place. At this time I have to identify what the  "adjustment bureau" is. They are the minions of God. Some might refer to them as angels but they don't call themselves that and God is referred to as "the chairman". They are "agents" if you will. Their purpose is to ensure the chairman's plan is carried out and if the plan is interrupted or gets off course, the agents interfere to make "adjustments".

The second meeting of David and Elise was never supposed to happen but it did because an agent fell asleep and missed his cue to interfere by spilling coffee on David, sending him to the dry cleaners rather than the bus. With that, David not only met Elise and obtained a phone number but also arrived to work on time as agents had frozen time and were making head adjustments to Davids campaign manager/law firm partner.  This is where the agents came clean and revealed the truth to David only to threaten wiping his mind clean of everything if he uttered a work or tried to pursue Elise, who he never should have met.

By chance, a few years later the couple meet again by astronomical odds. The chemistry between the two is undeniable and the tormented love story begins. The viewer is led to pull for the couple to get together. The villain keeping them apart is none other than the chairman. None other than God! As a Christian and as a sinner we are always tempted through sin to stray from Gods plan, yet I struggled with the magnitude of God being the kingpin bad guy here. In addition, I know that when God reveals himself to you it never leaves you in misery. When the Agent's revealed the truth to David, he was in misery. and eventually despite the adjustment bureau's warning, he continued to pursue the woman he loved. In turn, he is pursued in a "The Matrix" like fashion against hopeless odds.

I was also upset that the movie suggested God's plan could be upset. A timeless God, my God, doesn't need an adjustment bureau. His plan is unbreakable and if it can be changed, it can only be done so by his will. I was very uncomfortable about the position the Christian viewer is put in here. As the end of the movie  was wrapped up nicely to make me feel better about it, I still was left struggling with my thoughts. When God is revealed to you, he doesn't leave you to suffer and his plan IS the only plan and he has already won.

Overall the movie was pretty good. I simply don't have a vast imagination for how God operates. I also don't have much tolerance for how my maker is portrayed in any form of media. That's because the plan of God and his means of operation is layed out pretty darn clearly in scripture. So, if you're going to make a movie where God plays a part, at least do your homework.