The papers had been prepared. As I drove away from the attorney’s office, I reflected on the events that were bringing about a change in my life in a manner I never thought would happen. My wife Myrtle2 and I signed the papers. In six months, our divorce would become final.
We retained joint custody of our two young children. Myrtle and I were going to have to look beyond our individual hurts and pain. Regardless of the past or present, we would work together in the best interest of our children.
Myrtle and I had attended the same Seventh-day Adventist college and had dated some but made no commitments. We graduated with degrees in the same area of study—religion.
Women were not allowed in pastoral ministry then, so Myrtle went into evangelism and church employment outside of parish ministry.
I needed a break in schooling and took some time off to work in a secular position before attending the seminary and working toward pastoral employment. Myrtle and I reconnected, and we got married.
We did not have a perfect marriage. We were young and somewhat immature. We were blessed with children and needed to grow, as do most young couples. But we faced an additional issue. Myrtle had been spiritually abused, in the name of the Lord, by some of her church leaders. As a Seventh-day Adventist clergyperson, I was a constant reminder of her abuse. As part of her developing awareness, Myrtle came to realize that many of her spiritual decisions had been made for her—they were not her own.
While our marriage had ended, our obligations to our children had not. Both Myrtle and I knew we would have to communicate, cooperate, and coordinate in order to serve the best interests of our children. It was not always easy, but we did it.
I moved from place to place—including living in other countries—but we cooperated and kept the commitment to our children. Passports and visas were obtained. The children were dropped off at airports and picked up on return.
After several years of this, I remarried. At that time one of my children lived with me, and my new wife immediately embraced the role of stepmother. Shortly after our wedding, we returned with that son to the United States, and the second child also moved in with us. Over the years, our family dynamic was not always easy—particularly for my second wife because the children already had a mother.
After we returned to the United States, both women worked on their roles. They spoke regularly by telephone. They sent notes to each other. As time went on, they found that they were developing a friendship. They shared experiences in raising the shared children. On birthdays and other special days, they communicated and sent gifts to each other.
Today, all of us live close together. When we have family gatherings, we all get together. In our attempt to put the needs of our children first, we have experienced a remarkable by-product. With the passage of time, our own pains from the divorce have lessened.
I cannot hold this out as a model for everyone to follow. Situations such as abuse by a marriage partner will not allow such close contact to be maintained. But my story tells what can sometimes happen when people attempt to work together in the name of what is good for another. And when circumstances bring us to a painful end, God sometimes surprises us with a beautiful beginning.
- All names have been changed.