Monday, February 28, 2022

Free Kanye

Divorce is hard. 

It doesn't matter how long you've been married, how hard it's been, how much abuse you've endured, if you think you can end a marriage without some sense of shame, guilt, failure, or all of the above, you're kidding yourself.

This is why God hates divorce. In chapter 2 of Malachi, the prophet compares divorce to a kind of violence. If the marriage bond creates one flesh out of two people, then what does divorce do but tear that flesh apart, create open wounds and brokenness? More than that, God intends out marriages to reflect to the world Christ's love for the church, and He does not abandon his bride. There is no separation between the savior and those He saves. 

And yet, divorce sometimes happens, and often, not always, it is necessary for one of both of the partners in the marriage. While divorce is certainly violence to the spirit and the heart, there are other, greater types of violence that make it the lesser of two evils.

The good news is that God loves the divorcee as much as He hates the divorce. He offers healing and growth, a return to love and goodness after the heartbreak of divorce.

That said, can we talk about Kanye?

There is a way to navigate the end of a marriage that brings about peace and stability, and this ain't it. And I don't really want to pick on Kanye, at all, but his public behavior, the salty social media messages, the public flaunting of relationships while verbally attacking his ex's relationships, are extremely destructive, and not only to his ex and their children together, but to himself, and, sort of, to all of us.

Seeing these antics in the news has really reminded me of my own experience soon after divorcing my first wife. There was so much hurt and anger to deal with, and so much opportunity for the wrong outlets of those emotions. One thing that saved me, if you can call it that, is a divorce group that I joined in the midst of that emotional time. I knew I needed help, but wasn't sure where to get it. Shame had closed down a lot of avenues for healing that I should have pursued, and having the kids living with me made others more difficult. But I found one group at a church far enough from home to be inconspicuous, held on the one night I could always count on the kids being at their mother's place.

The program was organized, insightful, practical, and loving, but the curriculum and the facilitators weren't what ultimately got my attention. What really helped me devote myself to healing and growth was the small group breakouts. I remember sitting in those talk sessions, hearing these men talk about their situations with so much vitriol and bitterness. It was frightening, not because I was afraid of what they might do, but because I could see that I had the seeds of that bitterness inside myself. I was angry, and even a little more time and self-indulgence might turn that into hatred. I was hurt, and just a little more time pursuing the wrong types of comfort could turn me into an addict of one type or another. It was like sending that troubled kid who can't stop stealing to Rikers Island to get a look at the future of that life. I was scared straight.

That doesn't mean I healed overnight. I was still angry and hurt for some time, but I dedicated myself to using the resources available to me, in church, therapy, and friendship, to expedite that healing, for myself and my kids.

That's why these public antics from Kanye are so disheartening, especially from someone who has recently professed faith in Christ, and was being lauded as some kind of spiritual leader. My prayer for him is that he sees something - in himself or in others - that snaps him out of this behavior, before it becomes the defining characteristic of his personality. I pray that he uses all of his money and influence to get the healing resources he needs for himself and his children.

I also pray that while his bad behavior persists, that it serves as a warning to others, those who for whatever reason have to walk this road that God hates, to avoid anger and bitterness as if their lives depended on it.

That means stop running your ex down in public. Stop running him or her down in private as well. The quicker you get to the point where you can forgive those sins of the past and accept those faults in your ex, the sooner you can be healed. The sooner you can accept your own role in the demise of the marriage, the sooner you can be healed.

That means stop creating animosity towards whoever your ex is dating. Protect your children, at all times obviously, but be sure that your suspicions are really based on their safety, and not your own sense of hurt and betrayal. Make sure that you aren't just becoming the stalker, feeding your anger and keeping your hurt alive with every social media post you see, launching investigations to uncover information that you already know and that will only cause you pain to see. Consider how hypocritical it looks for you to be dating someone and constantly obsessed with the fact that your ex is dating "so soon." Respectfully, consider the fact that neither one of you should probably be dating or otherwise drawing anybody else into your mess of a life until you have your heads on straight again.

That means take all that energy and resources that you spend on finding new reasons to hate your ex, and put it all into focused, reliable methods of healing. Talk to your pastors. If they don't understand, can't help, or shun you, then join a new church and talk to those pastors. Join a reputable group. Find a therapist and do whatever he or she tells to to get closer to healing. Your heart and mind are broken, so let a professional guide you until they are fixed. Take all the love you have left, all the positivity and optimism, and shower it on yourself and your kids, because you all need it.

Set yourself free.

Thursday, February 3, 2022

Best Friends

When we talk about blended families, we normally highlight all of the challenges, the trials, or all of the negative aspects that families should look out for. It's true, starting with all the X-man and baby mama issues, down to sibling and step-sibling rivalries, there are a lot of danger zones involved with bringing two families into harmonious union. As strange as it sounds, we very rarely talk about the beautiful aspects of blending families, the moments that restore our faith in the process or each other.

My family has gone through several permutations over the years. From the OG nuclear family, which was more nuclear than necessary at times, through single parenting, and then remarriage and more kids, it's been a constant effort to create traditions and maintain relationships. When I first married my wife, we sought counseling from the start on how to navigate that new situation and how to best care for the kids. We decided to hold off on having more children for a couple of years to create some bonding, but then somehow we got pregnant on our honeymoon, and in less than a year, welcomed a new baby girl and moved into a bigger house. 

We were so worried about the impact a new baby would have on the family dynamic we were trying to create, but it turned out to be such a blessing. Our nine-year-old LaRue was an unexpected addition to the family, but she was also the only person in the home who was blood related to everyone else. There were moments that could have been so much more tense, arguments that could have gone off the rails entirely, but her presence smoothed so many of those things out. All of us, both parents and children, found ourselves watching our language in front of her, keeping peace because nobody wanted her to see the worst in us. She really was the glue that kept us together.

Then later, our family went through even more changes. My daughter got pregnant at a young age, and that situation caused us all to have to make some readjustments. I don't think we ever really told anyone, but my wife and I even discussed the possibility of adopting the new baby, so that our daughter could have a more normal life and the baby would have the best possible care. The thing is, I've heard so many painful stories about complicated family structures where mother and child are raised as siblings, and so much shame and anger is just buried beneath the floorboards of the nursery, as if that doesn't affect how that new child develops. When my wife and I discussed adoption, we agreed that everything would be out in the open.

In the end, my daughter showed every desire to raise this baby herself, and we decided it would be best to help her do that, come alongside her and provide her with resources, a stable home, and whatever wisdom we could offer. She turned out to be a good mother. Sure, she's made mistakes, and not every decision she's made was wise. But it's hard to say that she did worse as a new parent at eighteen and unmarried than I did at twenty-four and married.

The same month our granddaughter was born, we found out we were pregnant again. Oops. Our family goes through one more change, two new babies in the house, daughter and granddaughter, auntie and niece, and two moms under the same roof for a while.

But a funny thing happened, the baby girls, Janelle and Selah, didn't come up as sisters. And we don't all live together any more. They know that they're auntie and niece, even if they have a hard time explaining it to everyone else. Not only that, but our baby daughter Selah tells us all the time that Janelle is her best friend. They Facetime each other at least once a week at bedtime, and create their own little clique when they're together, imitating each other and feeding off of their own energies. Selah misses the time when they used to sleep in the same room, chatting each other to sleep. She even has a favorite book called "How Do You Sleep?" by Louise Bonnet-Rampersaud that ends with two little children falling asleep together cuddling in the same bed. Every time we read it, which is a lot, Selah asks when Janelle is coming back, and can they sleep like that. They can't, in case you're wondering. She looks at that picture at the end of the book and says, "This me, this Janelle." It's a relationship that nobody would have predicted, or even asked for, two-year-old auntie and three-year-old niece, but it's beautiful.

Blended families are difficult, but they can be beautiful as well, just like any family situation. If you're worried about how the kids will get through, my advice is this:

1) Love them. Make sure they know they're loved by everyone in the family.

2) Get help early on. Whether that's a family counselor, a church group, or a seasoned blended family which is thriving, acknowledge that it will be hard, and get ahead of the problems. If you know you're headed into uncharted land, it would be stupid not to take a map or consult a guide.

3) Look for beauty. Even in the darkest moments, there can often be streaks of light that will get you through it if you look for them.