Saturday, October 22, 2005


I just got back from watching Orlando Bloom and Kirsten Dunst in Elizabethtown. I liked this movie. I didn't love it, but I liked it. Living on the east coast and making more trips than I'd like to small town mid-America for family funerals, there were moments of reminiscence and familiarity for me in this movie. It had its weird moments, some of which were explained by seeing Tom Cruise’s name listed as one of the producers. His movies always seem bizarre in a you’d-understand-if-you-were-a-Scientologist kind of way, and this had those moments.

But there was a very profound moment at the end of the movie. Drew (Orlando Bloom) is searching for Claire (Kirsten Dunst). He’s running through a crowd and in the perfect movie moment, the crowds should part, birds should sing, and Claire should be standing alone with a smile on her face waiting for him. But that isn’t what happens. Instead, he runs elatedly through the crowd, having realized that he loves her. He’s looking for her red hat and as he comes to a carousel, dozens of red hats suddenly pop up everywhere. The music from the soundtrack blends discordantly with the music from the carousel. He looks too long and we begin to wonder. Is she really there? Is this movie going to have a lousy ending? Should he just give up and go back to the car? When the moment has gone on impossibly long and we’ve nearly given up hope, there among the red hats is Claire.

And here’s the profundity. I’ve talked with several single friends lately about the difference between expectations—our own and others—and reality. The married pundits who write about the sad, selfish plight of singles seem to think that everyone should have a crowd-parting, when-you-expect-it moment during college or soon thereafter. But it doesn’t always happen that way. Sometimes there are dozens of red hats and discordant music and tense moments (years?) of waiting. I think that’s what has happened to my true love. I think he’s out there, searching, trying to hear the soundtrack over the carousel, searching every face under a red hat to see if I’m there.

Those Smug Marrieds (to borrow an apt phrase from Bridget Jones) have given up. They’ve walked away and decided that this one has a lousy ending. But if you walk out of a movie too soon, sometimes you miss the great ending. Don’t walk out on our story yet; some great moments are right around the corner.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Boundless strikes again!

Seen on today:

"Some people try to argue, wishfully against the empirical evidence, that children of divorce will marry better than their parents because they know how important it is to choose well. But the deck is stacked against them. Not only are many of them frightened of marriage, in whose likely permanence they simply do not believe, but they are often maimed for love and intimacy. They have had no successful models to imitate; worse, their capacity for trust and love has been severely crippled by the betrayal of the primal trust all children naturally repose in their parents, to provide that durable, reliable, and absolutely trustworthy haven of permanent and unconditional love in an otherwise often unloving and undependable world. Countless students at the University of Chicago have told me and my wife that the divorce of their parents has been the most devastating and life-shaping event of their lives.3 They are conscious of the fact that they enter into relationships guardedly and tentatively; for good reason, they believe that they must always be looking out for number one. Accordingly, they feel little sense of devotion to another and, their own needs unmet, they are not generally eager for or partial to children. They are not good bets for promise keeping, and they haven't enough margin for generous service. And many of the fatherless men are themselves unmanned for fatherhood, except in the purely biological sense. Even where they dream of meeting a true love, these children of divorce have a hard time finding, winning, and committing themselves to the right one."

Seems pretty dire, doesn’t it? The problem is that there is absolutely no mention of God’s healing power, His majestic grace poured out on us. Yes, we’ve had some hard knocks, but that’s not the end of our story!

For many of our parents, the Church sees divorce as the unforgivable sin; for many of us, the Church sees our status as children of divorce proof positive that we’re damaged goods. I’m sad that this author has decided to perpetuate that low opinion of our Savior’s redemptive power.

I for one believe that God is bigger than my parents’ divorce. I believe He can heal the wounds of my heart. While the author above neglects to cite his “empirical evidence” for our poor marriage choices, I disagree based on what I see around me: children of divorce in good marriages, working hard to make sure they stay good; having children and turning out to be excellent moms and dads; generous with their time, imminently trustworthy, and hopeful for the future.

Jeremiah 29:11: “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.”

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Safe in His hands

Psalm 3:3, 5 "But you are a shield around me, O Lord; you bestow glory on me and lift up my head...I lie down and sleep; I wake again, because the Lord sustains me."

I was surprised to read in Elizabeth Marquardt's book that she had fears of someone breaking into her house. I've always had that fear, as long as I can remember, and it never made sense until I read her book. She asserts that many children of divorce fear for their safety because typically our fathers were absent, the fathers that we instinctively rely on to protect us from things that go bump in the night. Even as stepfathers and husbands come along later in our lives, that early experience leaves us feeling vulnerable and afraid at times.

David's sense of security and protection was in the Lord. He was fleeing from his son Absalom, probably sleeping in caves with a handful of men who had remained faithful to him. His shield was not his own proven fighting acumen, the swords and courage of the loyal men with him, and certainly not the high walls of a protected city or castle. David realized that his only real protection came from the Lord.

Every moment of every day (and night), the Lord is your shield--watching over you, protecting you, sheltering you. Nestled in the hollow of His hand, you can rest assured that He will sustain you and protect you until the day He calls you home to an eternity of peace and gladness.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

2"Honor your father and mother"—which is the first commandment with a promise— 3"that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth."

Hopefully you recognize that phrase—“honor your father and mother”—as one of the Ten Commandments. It’s a tough one, sometimes for children of divorce, this notion of honor. What does it mean? What does it look like? Are we really bound by it?

The last question is the easiest. The answer is, yes. They’re called the “Ten Commandments,” not the “Ten Suggestions,” or the “Ten Things You Should Think About Doing If Everyone Else Lives Up to Their End of the Bargain.” Commandments. Period. No wiggle room.

Okay, fine, so we have to honor our parents. Um, who is that again? That’s kind of a tricky question for us children of divorce. I mean, the word “parents” isn’t so simple for us to define, is it? How do you answer when someone asks you, “Where do your parents live?” If you’re like most children of divorce, you go through a split second evaluation before answering: Who do they really want to know about? Mom or Dad? Or both? So, a simple question suddenly becomes a lot more complicated. Just who are our parents? You might have to wrestle with this question a little as it applies to your family, but I’m going to suggest that “parents” includes your biological mother and father, as well as any stepfathers or stepmothers who have had an active role in your upbringing.

Now that we know who they are, what does it mean to honor them? Merriam-Webster Online defines honor (the verb) as regarding or treating someone with honor or respect, or conferring honor on. We have an obligation before God to treat our parents with honor and respect. You know, most of us can manage this and do so quite nicely. We have learned, through long years of practice how to be diplomatic and not rock the boat. We can treat our parents with respect. But can you regard them with honor or respect? Ugh, that’s a little harder. But it matters. Proverbs 11:16 says, "A kindhearted woman gains respect." How you treat others is only part of the equation; how you think and feel about them is every bit as important in God's eyes, the eyes that see your heart.

So what does this look like? Obviously the answers will be as varied as the individuals and situations that they involve, but here are a couple of suggestions.

1. Make the extra effort. I know, you've been doing this your whole life, and it's tempting sometimes to want to sit back and let your relationship with your parents thrive or die based on the amount of effort they put forth. But that's an attitude of resentment and retaliation, not one of honor.
2. Be honest with them. Wow, that's a hard one! We grew up feeling protective of our parents, shielding them from outside judgment and often from our own feelings of stress or sadness. But part of being in close relationship with someone is trusting them enough to be open and honest.
3. Find their good qualities and celebrate them. Everyone has at least one. Maybe your dad has a great sense of humor, or your mom has a taste for adventure. Our parents aren't perfect. They have quirks and sometimes serious shortcomings. But, hey, they made you, and you're pretty terrific, so there must be something good there to celebrate. Find it and remember it.
4. Tell your parents you love them. Say it everytime you talk to them on the phone, everytime you say goodbye when you're leaving after a visit. Even if no one in your family ever says it--especially if no one in your family ever says it! Be a trendsetter...maybe it will catch on!

The best part about this is that this "is the first commandment with a promise." Do this, and God promises that it will go well with you. It's quite a deal.

May we all live long and prosper!
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Thursday, October 13, 2005

Last night, my copy of Between Two Worlds arrived. I'll be reading that this weekend and should have a review ready sometime next week.

For now, here's a word of encouragement from Scripture: “But now, this is what the Lord says – he who created you…he who formed you…Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine…you are precious and honored in my sight.” (Isaiah 43:1,4)

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

“Are you scared to get married? Honestly?”

This question came from a male friend who read my newly-minted blog this morning. His folks divorced just a few years ago and rocked his world. Yet another reminder that there isn’t a good time, as far as kids are concerned, for mom and dad to split up.

But back to the question. Am I scared to get married? Honestly? And the answer is, yeah, a little. But I think it’s a healthy fear. Let me explain. I think an analogy will help.

I grew up around water. If there was a place to swim within 100 miles of wherever we lived, we found it. We lived in an apartment complex for two summers and had a pool right outside our back door, but usually our swimming holes were of the old-fashioned variety. The kind that are murky and full of fish. I love to swim and learned to do so at a young age. My brothers learned even younger. By the time they were born, we lived in New Jersey, near my grandparents who owned a small summer cottage on a lake. My kid brothers were bobbing on the waves with the rest of us when they could barely walk.

We didn’t just learn to swim though. We learned to respect the water. We were lectured on the necessity of checking out unfamiliar areas carefully before jumping or diving into the water. We heard
Joni Eareckson’s story repeatedly. We were lectured on the dangers of drinking alcohol around water long before any of us had our first drink. During the few winters that were cold enough to freeze the lake, we got to ice skate and ice fish—and we heard lectures about not walking on cracked ice or ice bubbles, and what to do if someone fell through the ice.

We loved the water. We spent hours swimming, floating, and boating. We dove with abandon off my grandparents’ dock, having long ago located all the below surface dangers. But even next door, we would only dive off the neighbors’ dock when cousins or siblings were standing on the rocks to clearly mark them. We were well aware of the serious danger that water could be to anyone who didn’t respect it and treated it cavalierly, or who were so afraid of it that they never learned to swim.

And that’s how I feel about marriage. I would love to experience it, to swim and float in the pure delight of a husband’s love, to discover what lies beneath the murky depths of a man’s mind, even sometimes to wrinkle my nose in surprised disgust at the toe-grabbing seaweed of a man’s less refined habits.

But I know marriage is not a thing to be entered into lightly. It is, after all, a solemn vow and commitment before God, something never to be entered into lightly. It is also something that requires work. I didn’t learn to swim in a day, and even after I learned, there was a process of becoming more proficient and then of learning new strokes. And there were times of stretching—feeling confident enough to swim out to the float; being in awe of grandpa who swam across the whole lake; taking aquatic aerobics in college, which turned out to be a grueling class of swimming laps.

A friend of mine got some concerned looks when she was seen with a copy of a book subtitled "Building an Affair-Proof Marriage." Was her marriage in trouble? No, but she knows that danger always lurks (1 Peter 5:8) and she was taking no chance of it catching her unaware. I think she's a wise woman.

I’m sure I still carry around some dreamy illusions of marriage, but I also feel that I have a pretty healthy respect for the amount of vigilance, hard work, perseverance, and sheer determination that make possible those times when you can spread your arms wide, float gently on the waves, and soak up the sun.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Boundless, a web site affiliated with Focus on the Family, ran an article by Deborah Crittenden about the cost of delaying marriage. They got a lot of flak, but are standing by the article. That's fine, but I wish they'd been a little more gracious in their defense of an article that clearly offended a lot of people. Ms. Crittenden's world is very different than mine. None of my friends sit around and proclaim our "fierce independence." We'd all welcome marriage. As one friend said, "If singleness is a sin, I'd be happy to repent!"

In defense of Ms. Crittenden, her article contains a stark fact. The percentage of women in their 20s who are married dropped significantly between 1965 and 1995. The problem is that Ms. Crittenden makes an assumption about why this happened. Her own life experience leads her to conclude that today's single women consciously delayed marriage in favor of a lifestyle that includes higher education, independence, and a successful career track. It's nice anecdotal evidence, perhaps, but let's consider the societal shifts that occured in that same 30 year time frame.

The single 20-something women of 1995 are the offspring of those married 20-something gals of 1965. They are also members of Generation X, or as some have started calling it, GenerationEx; statistically, 50% of those 1965 marriages ended in divorce. This trend has had profound effects on today's young men and women. Elizabeth Marquardt and Judith Wallerstein have each thoroughly studied and extensively written on these effects.

Another social shift worth noting is the extreme mobility of today's culture. Both sets of my natural grandparents grew up in the same town. Their families knew each other. On my dad's side, my grandparents met in grade school and had years of interaction before wedding vows were exchanged. On my mom's side, my grandpa's sister was a good friend of my grandma; that's how they met. But things have changed. We're on the go. Suitors today are rarely lifelong family friends or gradeschool companions.

So what does this mean? I think for starters it means that we need to have more compassion and less judgment. I think it's also time for the Church to welcome singles. Few churches really do that, you know. We need to reach out to the singles in our midst and embrace them as friends. You might be surprised at the insight some of them have into contentment, obedience, and even marriage. And, of course, I think we all need to understand better how the culture of divorce has affected today's young adults.
Last week, Elizabeth Marquardt's new book came out. I've ordered my copy and, as soon as it arrives and I've had a chance to read it, I'll post a review. In the meantime, here's some basic info. Elizabeth is a scholar with the Institute for American Values in NYC. She's also a child of divorce. The book, Between Two Worlds, is the result of a study detailing the "inner lives" of children of divorce, including moral and spiritual development. Elizabeth is giving a voice to Generation Ex. She spoke last week at the Family Research Council. Although I couldn't attend, I watched the live videocast and have to give kudos to Elizabeth for the way she handled the Q&A time, particularly the two gentlemen who badgered her about divorce law and fathers' rights.