My baby said the word “uncle” today. That’s pretty good for a 10-month old tyke, if I do say so myself. But, ironically, she didn’t say it to my brother, and my husband only has one sister. The momentous words were directed specifically toward my ex-husband, now known as ”Uncle Bert.” Welcome to our dysfunctional family.
If “sin” is missing the mark, than ”divorce” is a rupture of the spirit. No one gets married anticipating an excruciating de-domiciling, but life happens, choices are made, and sometimes the best couples separate. Our sin nature permeates what God intended to be a beautiful symbol of the relationship between Christ and the church. The only problem with this lovely metaphor is that people, in all their flaws and selfishness, are part of the equation.
And so we screw up that which was meant to be Holy. Families are ripped apart. Children blow out and bitterness sets in. The lovely bride of Christ is alone, scared and forced to forge ahead into a wilderness of singled exile.
But after the drama recedes, the settlements are fought over, and the custody battle reasonably determined…the fragments of a family must be reassembled. Two roads can be taken – either the road to more disparateness or the less-traveled road to what I like to call “functional dysfunction.”
Right before I remarried, my the- fiance and I were urged to attend blended family counseling. So, off we trotted to hear words that didn’t settle so well in our self-righteous little paradigm. Because I was the abandoned spouse, my demeanor toward my ex was patronizing at best. I had anger buried deep in my heart and my hostility was only fueled with every poor decision my ex-husband made.
But the counsel we received forced us to reconsider, reflect and move in a counter-cultural direction. We were told that our relationship with my ex-husband would determine our relationship with the children. Our love for their father would be an indirect method of communicating love to them. And that every natural tendency to push him away would only end up shooting us and our children in the foot.
Thus followed a year of moving toward the very thing I wanted to run from. I stopped arguing, stopped sniping, and moved at my ex-husband with brotherly love. When he lost his car, my husband and I made a committment to help drive him to our kids' games and practices so he could continue coaching our son in football. Leaving work early three days a week to pick up my ex-husband did not come naturally. Every trip was laced with prayer and surrender, but God was moving and my heart slowly softened. As my husband drove him home some nights after practice, their relationship grew stronger as well.
Later that year, my ex-husband remarried and his wife invited us for a shared Father’s Day celebration. It was a sweet acknowledgement that the war had ceased and two broken pieces were fusing into one reconstructed family, albeit … larger and messier than before.
Now, almost three years later, we have established what I like to call a good working relationship in the parenting realm. We think of my ex-husband as our brother, and care for him like he is a part of the family. Accepting the good and bad as we would any sibling ,and loving the way Christ loves us, without restrictions for our frailties.
I can honestly say my heart has changed, slowly and unwillingly at times, but the process has allowed me to walk free of the burden that so heavily weighed me down for years. And so our new baby, the child of my second marriage, has a new “Uncle” and a big confusing family that someday we will have to explain.
“Sweetheart, your sister’s daddy is your uncle.” Yeah, I can’t wait for that conversation.
But, in God’s economy it seems to make perfect sense!