In Grecian history there is a celebrated, though unverifiable story, which contains a profound lesson. In 1822, when Greece was fighting for its independence against the Ottoman Empire (1821-1830), Greek soldiers laid siege to the Turkish garrison on the Acropolis in Athens. As the battle raged on the defending Turkish soldiers ran out of musket balls for their guns. In desperation, they began to break up the remaining walls of the cella. They did this to extract the lead coating from the iron braces which held the walls and columns together.
Horrified that their national treasure was being broken up to provide bullets, the attacking Greek soldiers made an amazing decision. They sent their enemies a message. They would gladly give the Turks lead balls for their muskets if they would cease damaging the Acropolis and Parthenon. The fact that both structures are still with us is indicative that the Turks accepted the offer—though they lost the war.
When I read this story it reminded me of something that many loving parents do for their children’s sake. When couples divorce a bitter custody battle can ensue. Sadly, many custody battles are not fought for the benefit of the children. Instead, the children are used as weapons by each of the estranged spouses against the other. And even when the terms of child custody are settled, the angry ex-spouses will belittle each other to their children—as a means of getting the children “on their side.”
But this is almost always harmful to the children. For instance, a mother may berate her son’s father, failing to realize that her son may be the spitting image of his dad. She will unwittingly, but effectively, succeed in berating her own son and destroying his self-esteem. An angry father is teaching his children to disrespect both their parents when he criticizes their mother to them. Like the Turks destroying what was beloved, the hostile parents destroy their children’s lives by using them as weapons.
To prevent bringing such harm to their children, sometimes one of the parents will make a difficult choice. They will actually give into the other parent’s demands for custody. They do this not because they do not care for their children, though it may be misinterpreted as such. No, they do it for the very opposite reason. They make the sacrifice to avoid exposing their children to a lot of hostility. And then, even after giving into their hostile spouse’s wishes, they refrain from berating their child’s parent—though they are deeply hurt by them. Only selfless love can make such a sacrifice.
Have you ever seen the 2005 episode of Monk, entitled Mr. Monk and the Kid? In this episode Mr. Monk becomes involved in the life of a two-year-old boy while investigating a crime-scene. Even at his young age, this little boy, Tommy Grazer, exhibits many of the quirky characteristics that define Mr. Monk.
For a man as painfully lonely as Mr. Monk, little Tommy comes as a welcome companion. Mr. Monk even volunteers to care for Tommy until his scheduled adoption—two weeks away. In that time Monk becomes so emotionally attached to Tommy that he feels he cannot give him up. But, in the end, he must let go. Monk realizes that a child cannot be used to meet his own emotional and psychological needs. He must do what’s best for the child.
Perhaps you recall the story of King Solomon, when two prostitutes came before him, each claiming that a baby was her own (1 Kings 3:16–28). The two women lived together and each had a baby boy. One of the mothers accidentally rolled on top of her son while she slept and suffocated him. Overcome by grief and guilt, she placed her dead son alongside the other woman while she slept and took the other woman’s son as her own. When the other woman awoke, she realized the dead baby was not her own.
Now both women stood before King Solomon, each contradicting the other’s story. How could King Solomon possibly discern which mother was telling the truth? How could he know who the living child’s true mother was?
By the wisdom God gave him, Solomon knew what to do. He ordered that the living child be cut in half and that each women be given one of the halves. The lying woman callously agreed to the decision. But the child’s true mother, who loved the child, agreed to give up her child in order to save his life. By this Solomon knew who the true mother was and he gave custody to her.
Are you the wounded parent who has acted selflessly, choosing not to hurt your children and refusing to use them as weapons? Then please know that God’s heart goes out to you and He will reward you for your sacrificial love. Also understand that the parent who uses his children as weapons and berates their other parent is defeating himself. In the end, the children will turn away from the critical parent and gravitate to the respectful one. I’ve seen it happen many times.
And if you are the parent who is tempted to act selfishly, please think before you act. Do not destroy your own flesh and blood, and alienate yourself from them by your anger. Find healing in the loving embrace of your heavenly Father. He alone has the power to bind up your broken heart and breathe new life into your soul.
Dear Father in heaven, please help me to love my children selflessly. Expose to me, O God, any abusiveness I display in caring for them. May I do all that I do for my children, not for my own good and satisfaction but for the good of my children. Amen.
If you are dealing with this issue, you do not need to face the challenge alone. Jesus has conquered every challenge so you can move from your present situation to a life of overcoming hope. Invite him to lead you in your journey. He will forgive, comfort, and heal you.
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