Several years ago, God called us into full-time vocational ministry. As most fans of Seasons of Life Ministries already know, His call was a touch vague: “be available”. Most fans will also tell you this has allowed me a lot of room to get into trouble – overextended, wiped out, overcommitted trouble. However, last quarter – 4th quarter of 2011, it seems like (and I hope, this is in humility) both Cristine and I were in full agreement with what God wanted us to do, more importantly what He wanted us to not do. We did our best to stay out of His way.
In 2011, God used us to reach hundreds of people through one on one discipleship, couples discipleship, DivorceCare, DivorceCare 4 Kids, through existing environments like ONE TH1NG and Men Step Up, our Speak Life programming, and That Day production. This is pretty mind blowing to me as I type it, because while I know I’m a pretty high capacity guy, to see all of this done despite going through what we went through personally is clearly an act of God. Me? Not capable of all of that in one year. Him? Able to do abundantly more than all we could ever ask or imagine.
For Q4, our goal was God sent – “only do what I tell you to do”. We were able to train two leaders for ONE TH1NG and several more for service at FreeChapel for their DivorceCare and DC4K program. But, again, only by God’s grace and not because we’re anything special. Totally “a God thing”. Goal met. As we’ve heeded God’s call to do less stuff for greater impact, He’s seen to this kind of impact:
More important than the numbers is the depth of effect – to have a guy call me on the phone or text me to say “we need to get together” or “thanks, for your prayers” is a humbling honor.
To see a man who’s been in the word, active in his church, and obedient in the marketplace finally break through the wall of “prays regularly with his wife” is a milestone. To watch a woman respect her husband when he’s not being respectable so that he may be “won over
As we look at God’s mission for Seasons of Life “Realigning lives with the Way, the Truth, and the Life of Jesus Christ”, we saw a great ROM (Return on Mission) in last year – God repositioned Cristine to speak into the lives of women who’ve undergone emotional and physical abuse, struggled with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and now is able to speak out boldly about how God has redeemed the abortion she had over a decade ago. God has widened her ability to minister to the broken because He’s God and “in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. (Rom. 8.28)”
God has called me to begin the process of duplicating myself – in a few unique ways, He’s begun to bring that process to fruition as we’ve released a few leaders to shepherd others in pastoral care and men’s ministry. Where that may lead through the use of technology and improvements in our Social Media strategy is entirely up to Him, but we stand just past the threshold of 2012 with our ears open and feet “fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of Peace”. What does that mean? We’re awaiting His next orders and you’ll hear about it both online and offline.
The Problem(s) As children of divorce, we don’t need a book full of statistics to tell us about the impact it has on kids. We’ve lived it. As Divorce Care leaders, we’ve already come to the understanding that God a) hates divorce, b) loves us, and c) has plenty to say about abandoning our covenant to our spouse, not to mention the children involved. Furthermore, God has made one point abundantly clear to me about myself and those around me “train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old, he will not depart from it”.
As a child of divorce, my default position has been carved into my heart – “fear abandonment”. [Not the definitive lesson that everyone takes away from their parents’ divorce, but a loud, resonant one.] As a child of God, adopted through Christ, I’m learning to bathe in my new default: “perfect love casts out fear”. I also bought the lie that my parents’ divorce was somehow my fault in part. “If I had only x a little bit more…” That can easily grow a kid up into a fixer. Graciously, God has taught me that I’m not in charge of fixing, rather delivering the only Truth that can set men free. But, it took the mentorship and direct counseling of men and women who’ve discipled both of us to really begin to internalize these truths.
It doesn’t happen by accident, it happens by reinforcement. Discipleship is criticalcare.
What gets learned by a child through their parents’ divorce (you know, the “he will not depart from it” stuff) can range from impulsive/impatient behavior, anger or distrust toward the entire gender of the “offending” parent, anger or even destructive behavior toward self as a consequence of misplaced blame, overall confusion (often directed at self) as a result of dueling loyalties, isolation or withdrawal, even depression, drug use, and/or suicidal behaviors.
What Are We Doing About It? – Two Things… First, we’re raising support and prayer for some of the marriages and couples around us to help them in the process of “simplifying their lives” (see post on Donald Miller’s article). We’d love to proactively send them out on a “date night” once a quarter (which would be once more per quarter than they’re currently doing): nourish their bodies and their marriages simultaneously. Also, there are about a dozen marriage conferences within 3 hours of the metro-Atlanta area this year. We’d like to take a few of these couples along with us, where God can “speak life” into their relationships before they ever consider divorce.
Second, God has led us to run a DC4K (DivorceCare 4 Kids) group for Free Chapel, in Gainesville. One night a week and with several hours of prep, we are leading a group of about 10 kids (age 6 to 10) through this trusted curriculum and what seems to be a terrible season of their lives. The obvious end here is this: what’s the difference between a kid who walks through this season of life alone versus the kid surrounded by loving adults who’ve been through childhood divorce and other kids weathering the same storm?
From kids: “The thing I learned the most is to control my temper.” “I remembered when I got angry that I could stop, take a breath, “ask God” and relax.”
From parents: “My kids are happy to know they’re not the only ones going through this.” “As I tucked my son in bed, he said, ‘Mommy, I know it’s not my fault.’”
What kid is going to learn that kind of truth from a grieving, recovering parent and no outside intervention? Where is a kid going to go in the midst of being shuffled back and forth from parent to parent to find a group of “Kids Like Me” that can shatter the enemy’s myth that they’re all alone in this catastrophe? DC4K works. Praise God for that.
What Can I Do? We’re grateful for the opportunity to take on this mammoth work. We encourage you to help support this effort in prayer.
Pray that the parents participating in DivorceCare can make DC and their own healing a priority. We also encourage you to help us financially.
Pray that the fact that their kids are in DC4K gives these parents the peace of mind to focus on Christ and what He can do to lead them to the other side of this storm.
Pray that we as leaders keep our hearts clean and abide heavily in our Savior, that we may speak His ways, His truth, and His life into theirs.
Pray that God prepares the hearts of these children to receive the message that a) their parents’ divorce is not their fault, b) they’re not the only ones going through this and c) hope exists and He has a Name above all names.
Consider getting involved with a church that is offering DC4K and sign up to lead a group.
Help support this work financially. The program materials and snacks are covered by tuition, but our availability and transportation are not. We don’t anticipate this costing much more than $40 per week for the ministry. Would you help us equip and pastor these children? We currently have a little over $1,000 in matching funds to help us complete and continue this work for 2011. Would you consider this in your one time giving or regular support? Go to www.speaklifenow.org.