Ministering to the Heart
Take a moment, just a minute, and imagine this moment…..
It is a Columbus Day and per the newest court agreement you are scheduled to pick up your daughter at 2pm. In order to balance work and family, you ask your wife to pick up your child from her mother’s so that you can work until 2pm, allowing for everyone to meet at home at 2:30 for an afternoon of family time.
Around 1:30pm your wife begins packing the diaper bag and getting things in order, bundling up your 11 month old and heading out the door for 1:45 or so. She heads to pick up your child as she has done a hundred times before. When she arrives at your ex-wife’s apartment the car is missing from the driveway and it appears as if no one is home. However, knowing that this has been the case in the past, but with your daughter home with her “step-dad”, she proceeds to wake the baby and head into the apartment building. She knocks on your ex-wife’s front door, no answer, she knocks again, and still no answer. She proceeds to the back of the apartment building and knocks on that door as well….again, no answer. She finally calls you to let you know that your daughter is not at her mother’s house.
Naturally you begin texting your ex-wife inquiring about your daughter’s whereabouts, but she is evasive at best and completely unwilling to let you see your child……..yet again.
In frustration over this reoccurrence you leave work and head to the child’s grandmother’s house. After all, you are assuming that since she isn’t at her mom’s she may be at her grandmother’s celebrating the holiday with family. However, as you drive by the only sight to be held is her grandfather (your ex-wife’s dad) doing yard work. You debate about where to look for your daughter next and eventually settle on driving over to her mom’s house in case they have returned. Upon arrival you instantly notice that the car is not in the driveway, but knowing that her live in boyfriend/fiancee/husband? share the vehicle you enter the building and knock….nothing. You knock again, a little louder (rather loudly in fact), and your ex-wife opens the door…she actually opens the door! She proceeds to let you know that your daughter is there, has been there and is NOT going with you. As if this isn’t enough, she calls you a piece of @8%! and then closes the door in your face. Keep in mind, that your daughter is there to witness all of this.
You leave, angry….and I mean angry! You call home, sharing the event with your wife, decide to turn around to counter your ex-wife, change your mind because it will only hurt your daughter and head home instead. You are worn, defeated, in debt, broken, confused and angry. ………………
and MoSt ImPoRtAnTlY, you remember….no, you KNOW that God is in control. And so the question lingers, what does this mean to how I react, respond and follow-up with this dilemma?
The above story is not only accurate, but it could be told with very minor varying details over and over again because this is just one of the many problems that my husband regularly faces with regards to his ex-wife.
So, how have we responded? We know that God is in control. We know that He is Sovereign. He is faithful. He is our defender and deliverer. So in knowing this, can we question God? Can we decide to assume that He must not care about us because He has yet to deliver? Can we become bitter, negative and consistently discouraged? Of course, but where is our testimony in that? Where is God in that? Was it not Jesus himself who SUFFERED and DIED for our transgressions? How then could we expect anything less in a world filled with sin? Our hurts, trials, struggles, pain, tears…they should not pull us from God, but instead should direct us TO Him. But then the inevitable questions remain: How can we move towards God when we are CONSTANTLY battling over EVERY little thing with an ex-spouse? How can we move towards God when we are THOUSANDS of dollars in debt to only have the court orders ignored? How can we move towards God when tension and strife are lurking at our doors?…constantly.
For us those questions can be answered with a few key elements:
1. Read the Word. Daily and as often as possible throughout the day. Study it. Know it. Allow it to penetrate your heart and mind.
2. Pray. All the time. Without ceasing. While driving, while kneeling, while waking and while falling asleep…all the time seek the Lord and the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
3. Forget the facts, so to speak, and Minister to the heart of the child. Faithfully.
Simple, right? To be truthful, not always, but well worth the effort!
here’s how this particular story ended…..
Jeremy came home, hurt and angry. We emailed the attorney who is representing him (by the way, the SAME attorney that we owe over $12,000 to and who CONTINUES to represent us….there’s the hand of God right there….thank you, Lord!), explaining the situation. Since it was a holiday, we didn’t hear back from him until Tuesday. In the meantime, we met with God. We prayed for guidance, read the Word, emailed my step-daughter’s counselor for advice on how to bring everything up with her, and lastly, more than considering how we felt, we considered how Kaylee (my step-daughter) felt, because we can’t minister to her if we are consumed with us.
The following day (Tuesday afternoon) came and I was scheduled to pick Kaylee up from school. She was supposed to have a yearbook meeting after school, which would have altered the pick up time; however, because I wanted time to pray before I picked her up I arrived at her school at the normal time. As I was pulling into the parking lot Jeremy called me to let me know that the yearbook meeting had been cancelled and that Kaylee was ready to be picked up. Ironic, right? No, answered prayer. I also had to pick up my daughter in Smithfield so Kaylee’s cancelled yearbook meeting gave us plenty of time to talk before I had to get Hannah. Again, thank you, Lord, for working out the small details in the midst of our trials.
As Kaylee got into our van she was clearly nervous. After all, I’m sure she was wondering if I would be upset with her. She is a very tender hearted pre-teen and strives to keep the peace, which was not what she witnessed the day before and now she has no idea what we are thinking or how we will react. I began with our normal conversation and the overview of her homework, making sure that she had everything she needed, and then came the part I had been praying about….how do I bring this up? what do I say? do I talk? let her talk? ignore it? WHAT TO DO?!?! My brain was spinning when I heard the voice of Krystal, her counselor, remind me that it’s always best to address the elephant sitting in the middle of the room. With that one thought I simply stated, “Kaylee, how ’bout we get the elephant out of the mini-van?” She giggled a sweet and genuine giggle and I proceeded, “I am NOT upset with you at all, but I would like to know if you were home yesterday when I knocked on the door?” My heart broke as she hung her head low and softly stated that she was. At this moment I could have asked her a gazillion questions or stated SO many thoughts and emotions that I had, but that would not have ministered to HER heart. Instead I simply asked her something similar to, “Honey, how do you feel about all of this? Are you hurt, upset, was it weird or okay with you?” I don’t remember my exact wording, but I kept it short, which can be challenging for me, and somewhat lighthearted (yes, that is possible even in a weighty moment). Slowly the tears began falling as she stated that it is one of the weirdest things she has ever done, which made sense to me. After all, how many children hide out in their apartments with their mom knowing that they are supposed to be getting picked up in order to spend time with their dad? Not many I hope. From this point we were able to talk and share what HER thoughts were, what her feelings were, and what we can do to meet the needs that she has.
Now, did the above approach resolve the actual problem? Of course not. After all, we are not able to soften her mother’s heart to the Holy Spirit, we are not able to force her mother to obey the court’s order and we are not able to dictate that reasonable communication be practiced. However, what we are accountable for and what we are able to work through is the aftermath of it all, and based on our experiences I have learned that HOW we handle those “aftermath moments” are crucial to how our family grows, how our children see Christ, how they view us, how secure they feel in us and in their relationships with us and in how they learn to handle those moments in their own lives.
Ephesians 2:10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
For me, the above verse is a beautiful reminder that God created and prepared us for good works. And if God “prepared beforehand” for good works how much more should we? To me, this means that our hearts and minds need to be prepared for the “aftermath moments” so that we are able to fulfill God’s call on our lives as parents and step-parents. We can only be “prepared beforehand” if we are filled with the Spirit, which happens through prayer and the reading of God’s Word….no, the inundation of God’s Word in our lives while living with an attitude of prayer. After all, if we are focused on us how can adhere to the Holy Spirit and minister effectively to our children and/or step-children? We can’t. We need to be prepared. We need to stop rushing, and start praying; stop reading novels and read the Word (not that a free read is wrong or sinful…lol, but it should not take precedence over God’s Word); get off the phone, and get on our knees; turn off the tube and into the Word, etc. We need to refocus, and by we I do include me. I need to purpose to do all of the things mentioned above so that I am prepared for the countless “aftermath moments” that impact our family. Some days I fail in this, and in-turn I also fail in the ministering. In fact, the reason this story holds meaning to me is because it is a reminder of God’s faithful hand as He guides Jeremy and I in ministering to our children as we faithfully focus on Him.
From this trial, and the many that are like it, God’s hand brings us deeper bonds as we grow together, which is an answer to prayer in ways I would not have foreseen.