There was a distinct moment in my life when Jesus Christ let me down. I will never forget it. And probably I haven’t forgiven him.
The worst thing in the world was happening, my parents were getting a divorce, my world was coming apart. I was seven or so. Some how I begged my mom to take me to this movie about family values and redemption. (It must have been some kind of “special” or something, because I don’t remember this type of movie before or after.)
In my mythological retelling of the story, both my mom and dad were there. (I think it was probably just my mom who took me.) We watched the movie. The theater was freezing cold and I was shivering AND transfixed the entire time. The family in the movie was falling apart, just like mine. And some how, this family held it together, with the healing power of Jesus Christ. I was sold!
As the lights came up in the theater I was stoked and shivering. My mom pulled me to leave, but they had said something at the end of the movie, that there were people who would talk to you if you wanted to learn about Jesus. And at that very moment, at that pivotal moment, I REALLY WANTED A SAVIOR. I really wanted to learn about how Jesus could turn my family life around.
My mom (and dad?) said they’d wait for me in the lobby. I was fiercely determined to have Jesus hear me. I sat there, freezing my ass off, waiting for the missionaries, or who ever they were, to make their way to my seat and SAVE ME.
Needless to say the salvation didn’t happen. My dad was still a fkin alcoholic and my mom was still crying. And from the ages of 7 – 9 they fought over my dad’s fortunes and over my custody. And the whole thing blew apart.
I may still not have recovered my belief in Jesus.
What I cried about the very moment I figured my ex-y was serious about the divorce, was not ME. What unraveled me, was how I was going to tell my son, my little me.
What I learned as I was crying and hugging my mentor/father-figure/counselor was I was grieving not my divorce, but the destruction and betrayal I felt at my parent’s divorce. I was not crying for my son, that would come later, I was sobbing for me. The son I was when Jesus couldn’t put my family back together again.
A song came on the radio as I was driving to my counselor’s house. Lullaby by Shawn Mullins. The chorus is, “Everything is gonna be alright, rock a bye.”
The tears welled up as I was driving to my appointment. How was I going to say that to my son when I didn’t believe it myself. What I thought at that moment, falling apart, was NOTHING IS GOING TO BE ALRIGHT!
I guess on the other side of that grief was the work of getting my act together to be strong and clear for my kids, during this major upset in their lives, the shit storm that was heading their way. I had to get some of my despair out so I could be solid for them when they needed me to be a support for them.
The afternoon we told the kids, together, was one of the saddest moments in my life. But it was sad for my little boy, for the death of THAT dream. I had some hope that MY kids would be okay. I knew that I was not going to turn into an alcoholic or rage-filled bastard.
My daughter’s first question was, “Are you going to take any of the pets?”
My son was “I’m fine” about it. He channeled his energy into the idea that they were going to have two Christmases just like some of their friends who’s parents were divorced. It was a win-win for him, at first. About an hour later, he was sobbing in his bedroom. He was confused.
And the ex-y and I stayed solid. We assured him that neither of us was going anywhere.
He quickly changed the subject, “Can we all go to a movie this afternoon.”
I was tempted to say yes. But the ex-y wisely counseled that there would be plenty of time for movies, but that we were just going to hang out for a bit. “And then your dad is going to leave.”
I can still feel the lump in my throat as I recall that moment. But I’m getting better. It is getting easier to share about it. And our kids are doing really well. I have to give credit to the level head of my ex-y at that moment. There was a part of me that heard my son and was like, “SURE, one more movie as a family, what’s it gonna hurt?”
We never did another “full-family” outing again. And that’s probably for the best.
The Off Parent
- The Divorce Library (reading list)
- Songs of Divorce (free listening library – youtube sourced songs)
- Laugh It Off (building a resource library of funny videos and other diversions)
- Facebook (follow us on Facebook and keep up with all the conversations)
- The 5 Love Languages (a book on love styles by Gary Chapman)
Lullaby – Shawn Mullins “Everything’s gonna be all right, rock a bye.”