Sunday, April 17, 2011

My Home is NOT Broken

Time for the second “truth” I came to know on New Year’s Eve 2010. 

From the time my parents divorced when I was 13, I had to live with a label: I was from a “broken home.” Words cannot express to you how much I came to hate that label.

At 14, I went to my first (and only) youth camp as a resident of the dormitory. I will grant you that I was not the easiest teenager. My favorite thing to do in any discussion, whether it was scriptural or social, was to ask, “Why?” and “On what authority do you base that?” Most of that was just my nature. I still ask those questions pretty regularly, and they have made me a better human being. To paraphrase one of my favorite plays (The Miracle Worker), “Obedience without understand is a kind of blindness, too.” For every regulation placed before me, I wanted to know WHY I was expected to obey.

One night, after we were supposed to be sleeping, I was lying there staring at the ceiling when I overheard a conversation between two of the counselors: “You really just have to excuse Alesha. She’s from a broken home, you know.” The end of my stay at that youth camp is part of family legend now and doesn’t really matter for purposes of this story, but the bottom line is that I was very deeply wounded by that conversation. They had labeled me defective, and there wasn’t much I could do to redeem myself.

When I married, I was determined that my home would NOT be broken. My family was NOT going to be defective, but as I wrote about last time, some prayers aren’t answered the way we want . . .

So, when it became clear that the traditional nuclear family was not going to be what I would have, I went looking for help at (where else?) the Christian bookstore. There were several shelves about “praying for your marriage” and “making a better marriage” and “healthy homes start with healthy marriages”… where were the books on what to do when you were on your own? I found them, though I didn’t buy them. There was one-third of a shelf (on the bottom, in the corner) dedicated to single parents. The covers depicted mostly women, looking like they were facing death, dismemberment and worse. I wanted hope. I got the message from skimming the contents: survival should be your hope. You won’t thrive. Things will be bad, terrible even. But eventually the kids will grow up and if you don’t mess it up any worse, maybe they won’t be cursed with their own broken home. That is, if they don’t follow the statistics and go to jail by age 9.

I am exaggerating, of course, but the material available WAS pretty bleak. I did finally get a good book to help (thanks Sis Mary Lynn Warren!!!!), but it was from a friend, because it had long been out of print. I didn’t want to survive. I wanted to THRIVE!!! But how to do that in a “broken home”?

I had rebuilding for a while on New Year’s Eve, and for the most part I was feeling pretty positive, but I was still wrestling with the idea of my “broken”, defective home. I HATED it. Why should my home be broken and defective? Why should my kids wear that label I had hated so much? It wasn’t fair.

And that’s when that still small voice came with the simplest answer: “Your home is NOT broken. I am there.” Wow, what a revelation! As often happens when God speaks into my spirit, I was speechless. So there came the voice again: “Go ahead. Say it, ‘My home is NOT broken.’” Again, I was dumbfounded. It couldn’t really be that simple, could it?

But yes, yes it really could. I said it quietly, sort of embarrassed. Since then, I’ve been saying a lot more loudly. Just because I’m a divorced mother does NOT MEAN MY HOME IS BROKEN. My children and I have built a very happy, loving home. We have fun. We laugh. We are very close. They aren’t statistics; they are happy, thriving children.

So why is this important? Because I think it’s time we stop accepting the lie that divorce is a death sentence for a family. It’s time to stop accepting the lie that children are doomed to failure because their parents’ marriages failed. We are not broken homes. We are families. We might look a little different, but we are NOT BROKEN.

As a child, I didn’t know what to say to those camp counselors. As an adult, I know what I might say. “I didn’t ask, ‘Why?’ because my home was broken. I asked it because I wanted to understand why I live as I do. Why I believe as I do. I needed you to give me answers, and while you didn’t, I found someone who did. And by the way, my home – the one I had with my Mom, my sister, and my grandmother – it wasn’t broken either. If you want to see the proof, look what I have become… MY HOME IS NOT BROKEN.”

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