By Wendy Brown
I'm not really a resentful person. I've coped with a lot of challenges with a good attitude. But as a Christian parent living in a complicated world, I've had some resentments along the way. I started off full of ideals of how to raise well balanced, Christian kids. This included a stable Christian family unit, and a nurturing church community for the kids to grow up in....just like I had growing up. My faith was deep and strong by the time I left home at 18, and I wanted to provide the same benefits to my sons. However, during their primary school years, divorce happened. And then a short time later, the church community we had invested into fell apart in spectacular fashion. So there goes plan A. Life was very messy.
Navigating family life after divorce is tricky. My child-raising partner was no longer on the same page as me. We did the best we could, putting the kids first, but I was sad that my kids had to grow up as part of a split family. I now had the sole responsibility of instilling faith into their lives. And to make that job harder, my kids had missed out on the joy of growing up in a church where they felt like they belonged naturally. It was a double blow. We eventually found a lovely church, but by then the kids were at an age where they didn't adjust to change as easily. Plus most kids at church these days attend Christian schools. We had chosen to send our kids to the local public school for a variety of reasons, but the popularity of Christian schooling has left very few Christian families or teachers in the public school system. Overall, it seemed the odds were stacked against my kids and it felt so unfair.
But God started to change my attitude. Resentment is not a Godly attitude. It's a choice and there is a better way. A growth way. A way that accepts the disappointments and resentments, and lets them drive me to prayer and, when needed, to action. Many things were outside my control, but they were not outside His control. The impossible is possible with God. I knew that, but it took some time for me to grab hold of it.
So I formed a small prayer group for parents of kids in public schools. We meet monthly and prayed from every angle we could think of for God to intervene on behalf of the kids and teachers at the local schools, for favour upon Christian programs in schools and for the truth of Jesus to be everpresent with our kids. We prayed for Christian friendships to develop and boldness within the peer groups. The parents in this group prayed for over 5 years for our own kids and the kids in the local schools. I remember praying specifically for my boys in yr 7 that God would provide at least one Christian friend for them in high school. It seemed like a miracle would be required because at the time I didn't know of any other Christian families at their school. But God is good! Both my boys naturally developed friends that were Christians. I don't know the full extent of the fruit that has come from this prayer group, but I do know that little group helped focus my thoughts in the right direction and that we were fighting spiritual battles of eternal value every time we met.
Meanwhile I continued praying for greater connectedness at church for my kids, and a hunger for things of faith. Many family members, friends and people in the church family have invested into this over the years and it requires a good deal of persistence. The story isn't finished yet. One son is not especially close to God, although has certainly not rejected Him. But my younger son, having been through a few years of showing only casual interest in church life, has now connected strongly with the youth of the church, attending weekly bible studies and youth group, and has a circle of Christian mates at school. They are even talking about starting a Christian band at school at lunch times! As a parent, I am rejoicing in the progress and passionately hopeful for the future, both at the same time.
The point is, if we bring our disappointments and resentments to God, He can show us a new way forward. He will work despite the messiness of life. The key is to not look back resentfully at what could have been. Accept the new normal and trust God will bring about His purposes in unexpected ways. He just needs us to trust Him in all circumstances and to remain faithfully prayerful. He knows what lies ahead and what is needed.
I don't resent those things any more. I accept them as part of my journey. I embrace them as ways God has revealed himself to me. I see my kids having Christian friends as a wonderful gift from God in a way I wouldn't have appreciated if they'd gone to a Christian school or if we'd had the church stability I'd wanted when the kids were younger. I have more wisdom, compassion and insight having been through divorce and a church meltdown. Those things were hard, but by the grace of God, they have shaped me.