A biography of Chuck Colson includes his transparent testimony of his deep love and commitment to his second wife, Patricia Hughes, for nearly half a century. He also testifies to the destructive nature of his divorce from his first wife, Nancy Billings, and its impact on their three children. He acknowledges that the divorce was a mistake.
My own witness of the impact of divorce on family and friends has left me with the clear conviction of the importance of covenantal marriage, i.e. a man and a woman pledging before God, “until death do us part.” This is God’s design for marriage and it is of paramount significance for the health of families, children and indeed nations. I will never forget watching my niece running out the door on Christmas Day because she had to leave her mother and rush off to her father’s house. With stress and hurt in her voice she said, “I feel like a timeshare child.”
This effect of divorce on children is mirrored in the effect on children of same-sex “marriage.” I came across this point recently when I read the testimony of Doug Mainwaring, who says “I came out as gay and left my family behind. I can’t believe how selfish I was.”
When Doug decided he was “gay” he divorced his wife and separated from his children. For ten years he sought fulfillment in homosexual relationships, finally concluding that his selfish pursuits were devastating for his two boys. He saw that “denying children parents of both genders at home is an objective evil. Kids need and yearn for both.” Remarkably, Doug and his wife got back together again, creating a home for their sons with both mother and father present.
“I don’t want to see children being engineered for same-sex couples where there is either a mom missing or a dad missing,” Doug writes. “Somebody needs to stand up for the rights and needs of children in an age when the selfishness of adults seems to be trumping those rights.”
Doug makes this point in the brief video below. (Click here to view the video in your browser.)
Mainwaring recently told his story in LifeSite News. In 2013 he participated in a conference on “genderless marriage.” At that event, a young man was arguing for homosexual “marriage.” Doug’s interaction with this young man was lucid and profoundly helpful. The rest of this post comprises an excerpt from this discussion followed by Doug’s additional reflection.
In early 2013, following my participation in a panel discussion, a young man accused me of being unfair to gays, lesbians, and their children. So I took a chance and asked him point blank: “Did your parents’ divorce when you were a child?”
He was a little stunned by the personal question, but he answered, “Yes.” The smugness left his face.
“Did you live with your mother?”
“Did you see much of your father?”
“No. I almost never saw him.”
“Did you miss him? Did you wish you could be around him more?”
“Yes. Of course,” he answered, with a bit of wistfulness.
“Did your parents’ divorce increase your happiness—or your sadness?”
“So your parents dismantled your home and set up two new structures that put their needs first, not yours. In fact, they were structures guaranteeing your continued unhappiness. You learned to live with it, because as a child you had no control whatsoever over their actions, but these new structures weren’t necessarily built with your best interest in mind.”
“Well, no. I didn’t get to vote on the matter. I was a kid.”
“Exactly. So why would it be different for children of gays and lesbians who are denied either their father or mother? Do you really think two moms or two dads is exactly the same as having both mom and dad around to love and care for you? Seriously? Would having an extra mom around the house really have satisfied you, or would you still have an unanswered yearning in your heart for your Dad?”
“Then why would you want to condemn other children to be fatherless? Or motherless?”
He got it. He didn’t like it, but he got it—and then he walked away. I have no idea if he changed his mind, but at least he had finally actually heard and listened to an opposing point of view—one that resonated with him.
As I walked away, I thought to myself, “To be intellectually honest, I can’t keep speaking publicly against the dangers of genderless marriage without also simultaneously speaking about the objective evil of divorce for kids.” Divorce is an exponentially larger, far more pervasive threat to children than the prospect of gays raising children without moms and lesbians raising children without dads. I sighed. There is a lot to undo and set straight.
The Prodigal Dad
After my wife and I had been divorced for a few years, it was not unusual for her to call and ask me to drive to her house because our youngest son was out of control. When I would arrive, I found turmoil. He had gotten angry about something, and that had triggered a rage completely disproportionate to the issue. He would yell and scream and kick, then isolate himself in his bedroom. No trespassers allowed. It was gut-wrenching to witness this. Thankfully, he would calm down after a while and return to normal.
His rage would, in turn, trigger discussions with my ex-wife. What were we going to do about his behavioral problem? Did he require medication? Did he need to be spanked? Did he need psychological help?
After this happened a few times it became abundantly clear to me exactly what he needed. Our son did not have a behavioral problem. He needed just one thing: he needed his parents to get back together and to love each other. The slicing and dicing of our family had thrust unbearable stress on this four-year-old’s tender psyche. His Dad and Mom were the culprits responsible for this, yet we were approaching this as if it were his problem.
Our little boy bore no blame, but I sure did.
It took a few more years for my ex-wife and me to fully come to our senses. In the meantime, our kids came to live with me. This was not a solution, it was simply a stopgap means of de-escalating an uncomfortable situation. While this solved some problems, it created others and remained a wholly unsatisfying answer.
To justify remaining divorced and maintaining two households, we adults were enforcing a charade, demanding everyone else around us—especially our own children—pretend that our selfish pursuits and our inability to “work things out” were just fine. In reality, we had done nothing more than slough off our problems and dysfunction on our kids. We were alleviating our own stresses by heaping them on our children.
Wonderfully, after a dozen years, we finally dropped the pretense and are once again husband and wife, married with children. There has been a lot of healing since then, some of which has been a complete surprise. And we’ll never know what additional potential difficulties our kids have been spared.
For more on this powerful story go here.
- Darrow Miller