The Long Haul
- Matt Haviland Founder, A Father's Walk
- 2013 6 Jun
“To You, O Lord, I lift up my soul. O my God, I trust in You…Lead me in Your truth and teach me, for You are the God of my salvation; on You I wait all the day. –Psalm 25:1, 5 (NKJV)
By far, one of the greatest hardships we could ever endure as a parent is to be alienated from our children. If or when this does occur, the way we handle (and overcome) the battle will depend greatly on how grounded we are in our walk with the Lord. Parental alienation is a very real problem in our society these days, often the cause of a spiteful individual, the legal system, or our own choices. (For a very extreme example, please check out this link. Regardless of the how it was initiated, the fact is that the alienated parent is often horribly affected and the children may be caught in the middle as collateral damage. Can I say that I’ve been a victim of PAS (Parental Alienation Syndrome)? Not to the full extent, no. I have, however, been accused of false reports and had my own daughter withheld from me intentionally for short periods of time. I have also experienced several men in our single dad small group who have been separated without cause from their children for considerable lengths of time- sometimes weeks, months, or even longer. It is for this reason that I was inspired to write this article; not to bully my way into the legalities and politics of our legal system- but to give any single parent who is being alienated from their own kids right now hope that only comes in the Person of Jesus Christ.
When Trouble Arises
I can still recall the moment my door buzzer rang a few years ago. I peeked down the apartment building hallway and saw a woman standing with a police officer at the front door. I buzzed them in and invited them into my apartment. He was local law enforcement; she was from Child Protective Services. I was given information that there was a case pending against me, but they could not tell me why. All I was told was that I was not able to see my daughter the next day and that I would be contacted by a detective very soon. I was able to calmly thank them for their time and escort them out, but was literally about to explode internally. The moment they left my house I cried out loud and ran to my room where I threw myself on the floor before God and poured my heart out. After a several minute complaint filing with Him I gathered myself enough to call my mentor and tell him what had just happened.
“Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock. Everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not act on them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and it fell—and great was its fall.” –Matt 7:24-27 (NASB)
I was fortunate enough that by this point I had a firm enough foundation in my walk that I did not retaliate and sought out help immediately. Thank the Lord that I was able to speak with a detective a day or two later and the case was dropped on the spot. Although I have an extremely strong idea why this happened and who initiated it, I never even brought it up again because God had shown up and handled the problem. Also, I did not want to cause any further confusion to my daughter and there was no need for added conflict between me and the other party. The point is here that trials and tests will arise, but as followers of Christ we DO have the ability to make it through - no matter how impossible it may seem (John 16:33). Here are a couple quick, yet vital, steps that will help you persevere through tests and trials in life, no matter how difficult they may be.
1. Personal quiet time with the Lord
I emphasize this over and over with everyone I know, simply because it is true. There is no way we can grow as disciples and be prepared to handle life if we are not giving Him sufficient time through prayer and the reading of Scripture. Colossians 1:10 is a great memory verse regarding this.
2. Apply God’s Word to your trials
That is how we grow. We take our circumstances, whatever they may be, and apply them to His truth. I am very big on Scripture memorization (or at least knowing where certain verses are located) for this reason - to be armed and ready for when the battle begins.
In the Battle
Paul tells us in Romans 5:3-5 that our struggles will lead to perseverance, character, and ultimately hope. Now, I’m sure when we’re in the middle of a fire, “hope” isn’t exactly the first thing on our mind. However, as believers we also need to understand that faith and hope are two of the main foundational points in our walk with Christ. Going back to some of the guys I’ve witnessed experience parental alienation, I can tell you that although it may seem like an impossible situation at the time, the majority of the time things have worked out in the long run. I have also noticed that it is those individuals that are strong in their own personal relationship with God that were able to endure.
That’s not to say that the battle isn’t uphill usually, because it is. There are often lawyers, counseling, and lonely times of despair along the way. One of the key points to remember is staying calm and not getting vengeful. In fact, this is an excellent time to draw even closer to God and exercise His Word in your life. Paul gives us later on in Romans 12:9-21 some amazing principles to not only apply when severe times arise- but for life in general. It is in our intimate time with our Father that we can lay out all of our deepest fears, concerns, and petitions at His feet; trusting the promises He has given us through His Son. It is also a time when we need to pray for our children and their physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual protection. Although parental alienation cases vary in so many ways, it is easy to envision how children and teens can find this an extremely upsetting time. The alienating parent may think they are doing what is in the best interest of their sons or daughters (or it may be pure spite and they’re not thinking at all), but if it is for any reason other than the kids are in imminent danger, the whole thing could blow up. I can tell you of several adult friends I have that were withheld intentionally by one parent to the other. All it ended up doing was creating resentment on the children’s part toward the initiating parent or guardian. If the mom or dad who is being alienated is not serving jail time (and even then there are some options), then the sooner the better to get a foundation of help and prayer in place.
1. Surround yourself with other mature believers
I cannot put enough importance regarding a strong support system for the victim parent during this time, and prayer changes everything. Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 reminds us of how we can hold each other up and Ezekiel 22:30 encourages us to “stand in the gap” on behalf of others. This is not only for the alienated parent, but especially for the children during this time too.
2. Keep your eyes on Him
David is a prime example of how our faithfulness to God in times of adversity is the only way to fight and to conquer. Whether he was standing toe to toe with Goliath, or running for his life and hiding out in the strongholds of En Gedi, David kept his heart steadfast in the gravest of situations and kept praising the Lord all along (Psalm 57:7).
The Long Haul
I titled this article the way I did for two specific reasons. First, all too often cases involving parental alienation are in fact a "long haul" - dragging out considerable lengths of time. Court systems can seem to move at a ridiculous, almost frozen pace; and the opposition isn’t always a one-time offensive. These are the times when we must hold fast to Jesus and allow Him to stay centered in our life. If we begin to give place to anything else in our heart (1 John 5:21), then we are handing ourselves, our role as a parent, and the hope we have in Him straight into the hands of the enemy. Yes, you may be in the right; and no - it more than likely is not fair. Keep in mind that if there is anyone who knows about first-hand false accusations and “not fair” trials, it’s our Lord!
The writer of Hebrews tells us that our High Priest has suffered in so many ways that we have too, which is why He understands. Still, as His followers we often do not realize the price that comes with our faith until reality hits. The problem is we are faced with an enemy that has dominion over this world and anyone who is not a true believer in Jesus Christ. The second reason for the title is because as parents, we are committed to our children FOR LIFE- not just until they reach eighteen. I can only imagine what Kevin from the article above went through every single day for fifteen years. The hurt, anger, and complete emptiness and loss of identity he must have faced are almost beyond comprehension. Now, as a free man and father restored to his children, he has the opportunity to pick up the pieces and pour back into his relationship with them the way he was always meant to as their dad. I mentioned in my book that Jesus commissions us to go and make disciples, which begins with our own children. Discipleship is a life-long process and if we are to model true Christianity to our kids, then it will only be a result of our growth, faith, and obedience from the years prior.
1. Have these foundations set in place BEFORE the attacks come
The Bible is our guide or “playbook” for life. I mean, professional athletes don’t win championships just by walking onto the field one day and never practicing, right? Or, would our military even think of planning an offensive (or defensive) without skilled and highly-trained plans first? We have to be ready BEFORE a storm hits!
Again, prayer changes everything and is the life line between us and God. Once Jesus took His last breath, we were fully restored to our original relationship with our Father as believers (Matt 27:51, Romans 5:1 . Keep the prayer lines open- always!
I do not know what the future holds in regards to not only Kevin’s life, but for any of you who have faced similar times. What I do know, though, is that our God is unchangeable and still sitting on the Throne. With that, we find the faith we need to grow; the hope we need to endure; and the love our children so desperately need from us - for life.
Matt Haviland is the founder of "A Father’s Walk” single dad ministry and the author of the book, A Father’s Walk: A Christian-Based Resources for Single Fathers. He currently lives in his hometown of Grand Rapids, MI, is the co-founder of the Grand Rapids Single Parenting Expo, and is a single dad to a beautiful little girl himself. For more information on the ministry, please visit www.afatherswalk.org.
Publication date: June 27, 2013