I don’t talk about my parent’s divorce very often. I don’t like to dwell on it because, while I know it affected me, I don’t think it should be a primary rudder in my life. I don’t want to push my mistakes and sin onto my parents… after all, they have sins enough of their own. But today, I was listening to a song as I shivered through my daily walk, and though I’ve heard it many times, the second half struck a nerve and flooded my eyes and brought a rush of emotion from more than a decade past. Here are the lyrics to the second half of the song “Angel’s Hands” by Rodney Atkins:
They said honey grown-ups do this all the time,
And tears welled up in their little girl’s eyes.
They said now it’s not something that you’ve done;
It’s just that mommy and daddy don’t get along.
She said do you guys mean that you need a time out?
And that daddy’s gonna move to a different house?
They said you’ll have two bedrooms you’re a lucky kid.
She said what about Checkers, where’s he gonna live?
I bet it gets so quiet in heaven sometimes;
Even God cries when an angels hands are tied.
The night before my dad left was scary. It was the only verbal argument I ever heard between my parents, though that’s not to say there weren’t many. Their voices pulled me out of slumber and frightened me, so I stole into my sister’s bedroom to find her wide awake, too. She put some music on, loud, and talked over them. Maybe that’s why she talks so loud now–always trying to drown out voices, memories of past hurts. Anyway, we talked about school and friends; we laughed a lot. After many hours, the arguing quieted. Our eyelids drooped heavily. She left the music playing and hugged me close. I had climbed into bed with her many times before, but this was the first time she let me sleep closest to the wall… the first time she held me that way.
The next morning, Dad was taking luggage out to his car with tears streaming down his face. We sat on the couch and watched. My sister said they were going to get a divorce. I didn’t really know what she meant. Some days later, her suspicions were confirmed as my mother explained how everything would happen. Dad was going to live in an apartment, and we would visit him. It wasn’t our fault; they just couldn’t get along anymore. Mom assured me that Dad loved us and would see us often.
A child’s memory is wonderful. If fattened on the good stuff, it will stretch and accommodate the bad. The bright sunshine dissipates the clouds. A cheesy sauce masks the bitter broccoli. My memory had done that, effectively erasing any previous parental arguments so that the last one was a surprise. The divorce had been a long time coming for my parents, and even my sister who says she’d known for at least a year. But the baby of the family was surprised.
The core emotion flowing through that time span was this: confusion. Both Mom and Dad said it was not our fault. Neither wanted to discolor our relationship with the other, so it was “nobody’s” fault. My young mind needed to place blame upon someone. I was nine and I knew it had to be somebody’s fault. Things don’t just happen. Families don’t just fall apart without some cause. Happy hopes for the future don’t just shroud themselves in frightening mists of uncertainty without someone turning on the fog machine!
We were taken to counseling for a little while and told the same thing: it’s “nobody’s” fault. We drew pictures of our families and were told again: it’s “nobody’s” fault. I was never satisfied. I never blamed myself, but it had to be somebody’s fault! Perhaps that is a child’s intuition–they just know when they don’t know something. I’d known practically from the cradle I wanted to be a wife and mother, but as I matured, I feared I could not escape the fate my parents’ marriage had faced. Even when I learned the cold facts regarding the divorce, my love for my parents prevented me from holding them accountable in my mind.
A few years ago, the veil of confusion was lifted when I found Christ. It was a sad moment when I finally accepted that my parents, whom I dearly love, share in the blame of their divorce. They were missing the third leg of their tripod: God. Marriage is not between a man and a woman… it is between a man and a woman and God. It is sobering to remember that my marriage would probably face the same fate were it not for the third Participant. The tears welled in my eyes as I walked, both sad and joyful: I know the confusion that some kids experience and I know the God that might keep it from our own!
Lord, let your Hand be ever upon my marriage to seal it against the attacks
of Satan and help me make You known to whatever little ones You may send to
grace our floors, so that whatever happens to them,
You will be their constant Rock.