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Broken Circles

March 15, 1998

The names and some details have been changed to protect the guilty, but the events are true.

Ruth is five years old. Her mother just recently left her daddy because he drinks too much. The home life was not good, but it wasn’t all bad. It was a small circle that included a warm house, a mama and a daddy, some siblings, and a sense of security. The older siblings were doing well in school, and even though mama and daddy yelled a lot, it was still home. Now little Ruth lives in an apartment with her mommy, although she spends at least three nights a week at home with Daddy. Mommy said she didn’t want Daddy to mess them up, so she left him, but she’s lonesome and needs to go out, so she asks Daddy to keep the kids more all the time.

If someone asked little Ruth where she lives she would look confused, stare off into space, and finally answer, “With mommy at the apartment.” Now her life revolves in two part circles. She has two places to live, she has two authorities, which often disagree, but she no longer has a sense of security—that has been replaced with fear.

Mommy now has a friend. He lives at the apartment with them. He is a strange man and Ruth is uncomfortable around him. She doesn’t understand why, but in her tiny, broken circle she no longer feels at home.

Mommy had a date and a babysitter came. Mommy didn’t come home until real late and Ruth did not wake up for school. Daddy called, but older brother was afraid to tell him why they weren’t at school. The next day all the kids went to stay at Daddy’s house. The house is different now. Less furniture, messy, it smells funny, but it’s more familiar than the apartment, so it’s better. Daddy’s friends came over. Mommy doesn’t like Daddy’s friends. They drink a lot, and one friend wants to hold Ruth, and she is afraid. So much fear, so much uncertainty, so much turmoil.

Children are so flexible; they can take so much and still do just fine. That’s what I’ve always heard from parents who bend their children a lot. When Grandma called she could tell something was wrong, and she told Ruth, “Get outside on the porch with the other kids, I’m coming right now.” Ruth feels better. Grandma’s house was once a place to visit and eat candy, but now it is another partial circle, a safe partial circle, warmly secure with Grandma and Papa, the same house with the same stuff in it. And Grandma is always the same. There’s no fear there, but it is not Ruth’s house, only another partial circle in her ever widening flow of circles—now that the real circle is broken.

Ruth is learning to use her circles. If she doesn’t like doing something she can just cry and say she wants Daddy. If Daddy will not let her have something, she can just beg to go stay with Mommy. If she has to go to school when she doesn’t want to, she can be sick and ask for Grandma. Ruth has learned that where there is more than one circle there is really no circle at all. No authority, no security, the only absolute is what Ruth wants. Ruth has no one to protect her from herself, from her own lusts. Grandma can be a loving grandparent protecting her from the bad guy at Daddy’s house. Daddy can make her feel happy. Mommy can love her, but the authority has been given into her tiny hands by default.

When Ruth was a little girl Grandma's house was a place of security, but now that Ruth is thirteen years old, it is just a dull, boring, old place. Candy bars and TV no longer satisfy her appetite. Her flesh has grown, and with it has grown the habit of getting what she wants. Over the years she has learned how to cover her tracks when she wants the freedom to have some fun. She tells Dad, “I’m at Grandma's,” and tells Mom, “I’m spending the weekend at Dad’s.” She tells Grandma, “Dad said I could stay over with friend Marsha.” The tight circle that God placed her in to protect and guard her was removed by Mommy’s and Daddy’s sin. Ruth has been left uncovered.

Some parents rip that covering off their children, not by divorce, but by disagreement in policy. A mother will whisper to her daughter, “You can go, but don’t you dare tell Dad you did.” That daughter has lost her covering for all times and all occasions. Mother has taken it from Daddy as well as from herself. Some Daddy’s give it away. Daughter begs, gets angry, yells, pleads, and Daddy finally yells, “Just get out of here, I don’t care what you do, just give me some peace.” Daughter learned this from Mama. Then some daddies just pretend they don’t notice, after all Daddy’s little girl has always done real well. Daddy wants to be the sweetheart. He gives his girls complete freedom so “they’ll know I trust them.” Poor little girls grow up doing “what is right in their own eyes.”

Little girls and boys need a complete, secure circle to grow up to be well adjusted. God designed that the man should be strong and wise as the head of his wife. A girl, having spent her entire youth growing up with a daddy that watched over and protected her in her day-to-day activities, will be ready to assume her role as a wife that will bring honor to God and her husband. So many little girls are growing up today without that circle of protection and authority. They grow up with fears and insecurities on top of the rebellion and fleshly indulgence. When they enter marriage they don’t know how to be submissive, confident wives because they never were submissive, confident little girls to their Daddies. The only way they can find fulfillment is by “doing what’s right in their own eyes.”

A great majority of women are depressed, discouraged, angry, and totally out of control in their flesh. They live in some kind of a silly fantasyland. To make matters worse, their husbands are selfish, defeated sissies. Soul sickness is at epidemic proportions. Divorce is a terrible crime against all. And not only divorce, but also the spirit of defiance, of “getting my rights,” is quickly destroying any hope of happiness.

Many women will read this and say, “I knew I was doomed from the start, so why try, it is my parents’ fault.” It is true your parents did fail you, but now you stand before God to give an answer for your own sin. It’s no good crying over spilled milk. It’s time to get a cloth and clean up the mess, being careful not to create any more spills. Are you content to continue passing this burden down to your children? Each person stands before God either to obey or to dishonor. Because of your up-bringing you might have a propensity to be selfish, get angry, or to manipulate your surroundings, but it is ultimately your choice to obey God or not. As you seek God and seek to obey his Word you will begin to mature in the way God meant for you to mature while you were growing up. When God says in his Word for the woman to reverence her husband it will not seem like an archaic translation. When the Scripture says, Sara called her husband lord, it will not appear sacrilegious.

So, mama, are you unhappy with that selfish, “no-good” husband of yours? God has made a way, and His way is still your only way to raise your little girls to be an honorable little mama. The way to raise obedient, serving little girls is by example. How you treat Daddy will in a great degree decide how they will respond to authority and ultimately to God. You can’t change Daddy, but you can change your side of the world.

Do you treat your husband with affection, but little honor or respect? Do you slip behind his back to go shopping, or waste your days reading romance novels? When you dishonor him, you dishonor God. He knows it, you know it, and your children know it. You limit God’s blessing in your life.

The slide is down hill. Every child is selfish and will get more selfish. As parents we need to seek to obey God against all odds; that’s what sanctification is all about. Our job as mothers starts with being good wives. Your role as mother will go no further than how you fulfill your role as wife. When parents break their own circle, they break their children’s circle as well. Neither broken marriages nor broken relationships produce whole children.

Even when all goes well our children will not be perfect. They will have their own hurts and weaknesses to overcome. But they don’t need to start life handicapped by dragging along the added burden of the sins of their parents. Life will throw enough mud at the children without them leaving home carrying a load provided by parents.

There is still an abundance of grace and love to be poured on those who will repent toward God. When you lay yourself on God’s altar, your children reap the blessings of the sacrifice. When we flush the garbage out of our own lives, our children experience the cleansing.

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8 comments on “Broken Circles”

  1. What an awful huge responsibility that has been laid upon wife of an irresponsible husband. You know the one that didn't like her husband's drinking. Its more than drinking isn't it? This was a drink that replaced the communication between partners. This was the drink that left her feeling unloved and abandoned. It was the drink he took just before coming home to be with the kids (after working all day). Its the drink he took while having dinner with the kids. Its the drink that he had after dinner while the kids played in another room quietly to not disturb their father. Oh and the drink after the kids are in bed. This was the drink that put the children in danger by a man's whose judgement was impaired. And the drink that left daddy hung over twice a week to the point he didn't go to work more than 3 days in a row. And it was even the drink that landed him in the hospital via ambulance after an anxiety attack at work. Yes, the drink that replaced his family.

    The finger is pointed at this woman who should have just stayed where she was humbly allow the abuse for the 'sake' of the children. This woman, who did all she could to help her husband to steer him towards God for healing. The woman who became an enabler. She allowed her children to feel constantly abandoned and heartbroken by a father who didn't love them enough to pay attention to them. The father that was always too sick for their activities.

    For years, she stayed in the 'circle' because as you stated "a child from a broken home is a broken child". Begging and pleading with God to change him to get him to stop. And yet, she could see how heart breaking and emotionally damaging it was to have her children grow up in a marriage relationship where the father is never present emotionally or mentally. Their father simply lived at the same address as her family circle.

    It was then she realized, there is no circle. The family is not whole. The relationship is not whole. Its been eroded away by this thing called alcohol.

    What should be said about the responsibility of the father? He's one who is emotionally abusive; the one who put his own selfish desires over that of his wife and their children. He doesn't provide anything for his children in the way of love, affection or support, much less for his wife. What about the man who is commanded in the bible to love his wife as Christ loves the church; consistently and sacrificially? The christian man who attends church on Sunday but regularly checks out emotionally and physically from the family circle?

    "Neither broken marriages nor broken relationships produce whole children." Ah yes, we live in the world of broken. Our wholeness will not be felt until that day of Christ's return. So what does that Godly mother do when her irresponsible husband has taken their marriage vows and stomped all over them? What does she do when the man who fathered children with a promise to provide for them decides his needs and desires come first and the provision of the children is not priority?

    This broken woman, living in a broken world, will make a choice for herself and her children. The wise woman she press hard into her all powerful God. She will rise up and show her children the truth of God's word. She will call sin a sin. She will live an active example of strength only God can give to those with faith. Her 'broken children' will learn lessons about prayer and faith that their counterparts with two active parents will never encounter. As a result, these children from "broken homes" will grow up STRONG in the faith because in their youth they went through life storms and saw God calmed it. Storms are hardly anticipated but can be overcome.

    This storm in their life will provide them an opportunity to know the Sure Anchor. Children can find that their circle of security isn't dependent at all on faulty persons with selfish desires. These children - my children- will learn that their "circle of peace, protection and joy" comes not from me or their absent father but from Our Great Creator who engulfs our family with His loving arms in an unbroken circle of pure love.

    1. Dearest Julie,

      I am only writing in response to your comment for the benefit of others who may be influenced by what you have written, not to condemn you for being a single Mum now.

      ..."she press hard into her all powerful God"...

      The all powerful God wasn't powerful enough to save your marriage, you had to take action?

      ..."She will rise up and show her children the truth of God’s word"...

      What about the truth that to God all things are possible?

      I am full of sympathy for your situation and I have no problem with any woman taking her children out of harms way, but divorce is the issue here. That is what does the damage. I think that this is what the article is about.

    2. *"She will rise up and show her children the truth of God’s word." (Matthew 19:3-6; I Peter 3:1-2; Titus 2:4-5; Matt. 5:44-47; Luke 6:27-35) - you mean THESE truths of God's Word?

      *"She will call sin a sin." May she first call 'sin a sin' in her own life if she hopes to help any others, lest she be called a hypocrite. (Luke 6:41-42; I Peter 3:1-2, 4:8; I Corinthians 13:1-7)

      *"As a result, these children from 'broken homes' will grow up STRONG in the faith because in their youth they went through life storms and saw God calmed it." No, they saw how Mama decided that she would no longer honor the vows of her marriage covenant nor could she trust God any longer. SHE had to take action. SHE had to set things right, because God sure wasn't going to do it.

      She would be like the people of Jerusalem in Jeremiah's day. They WOULD NOT believe that God really expected them to submit to an ungodly pagan king - to turn over their sovereign rights to him/ They were destroyed because they thought they knew better and refused to listen to the Word of God as spoken through His prophet Jeremiah.

      What about Hagar who could take the abuse at Sarah's hands any longer? She fled. Into the desert. Heavy with child. Certain death. But death was better than what she had been going through! What did God tell her? Go back and submit to your abuser (Genesis 16:9).

      You can make such an approach sound noble and godly if you want, but in the end, you are only deceiving yourself and through posting this comment, trying to deceive others into believing that there is a better way than God's way.

      It's not about us. It's about God's glory.

  2. If you can read this article and think that it leaves the male off the hook... you should read it again. Mr. Pearl is taking out one single issue from a horrible situation. I quote: "You can’t change Daddy, but you can change your side of the world."

    I personally, tend to give Mr. Pearl the benefit of the doubt because if he's being hard on one gender in this article, he's been hard on the other gender in two other articles. I think he's made it quite clear how he and God feels about men who don't do the job that God gave them.

  3. I find it sad and intriguing that women will get so defensive when required to submit to a selfish jerk (although I know it's hard). As Christians we know we are to serve God, maybe become missionary's, suffer for his name, maybe even martyrdom. We hold those people in awe, such selflessness for the winning of souls.. we hear about them in church. But servitude to God in marriage, too far!! No short term glory I guess. Oh how this Christians could change this world if we thought less about ourselves.

    **Being passive is not the same as being submissive**.

  4. Thank you for a well thought out and well written article. My parents were married for 28 years, I am the 9th of 10 children. My Mom fell for a man that perused her at her job (for years) and she left my Dad... I was 13. There were 5 of us children still in the home. She thought “the kids are old enough, now.” It ruined me for many years. Looking back, I was in major depression for all of my teen years. I had been betrayed by my own mother! On many levels! What mattered anymore if the base of all truths were taken out? Is marriage really a Godly vow? Do I matter to even my own mother? In my teen years, I made bad decisions out of pain and a feeling of worthlessness. I have had major trust issues and a cynical mind and heart. The Lord, however, has been merciful and gracious to me. I gave my life and will to Him when I was 22. Love and forgiveness has come. Healing has come. ... but it took DECADES. I have been married to a loyal, patient, God-fearing man for 26 years. We have 4 children. I give to my teenage, and now young adult, girls (and son) the best I know how.. as I did not have mama in those years. I told my husband before our marriage that I would never separate from him-even if things were rough or bad between us- as I would never wish upon another person the deep wounds that divorce caused on me, my father, and my 9 siblings. It has not been easy, but by seeking God’s will in my life, He has allowed the marriage relationship to sanctify and grow me as a person. He has put other women (Debbie Pearl is one of them) in my life to help me. I do have a relationship with both of my parents, and it is good. God is good.
    Be a wife for life. Not just your own life... but for children’s life. Husband and Daddy’s life, and even community’s life.

  5. I have been in the same boat with an immoral husband with a problem drinking. He cheated on me too when our two kids were toddlers. It wasn't anything I did that caused this, it was the environment he was raised, in a broken home himself with alchohol and no Jesus. I was sinful in even considering him to be marriage worthy in the first place. The only way through this is looking to Christ not to the husband. I chose to stay and even beg him back from the mistress- because I realized that I had more power in the relationship than outside of it- over the children anyways. If I had divorced, even though I had a biblical right to, he would of hooked up with that mistress or some other floozy and I would of had 20+ years of fighting over their authority over my children and competing with another woman's mothering. Life is hard either way, but I kept the home intact for the glory of Christ and the children. And you know what? No earthly person really recognizes what I had to do. The only response I learned is quit trying to save people. You can't save them from themselves. You have to let it go mentally and let them fall on their own. Only Christ saves. I realized that I wasn't my husband's keeper or god. That took a huge burden off my shoulders and I then walked forward in life. The moment you truly mentally hand it over to God, the faster He will deal with the situation. I focused on my own behavior and then joined a church and went even by myself with the kids. I ignored my husband's behavior and got a hobby (I picked up piano and violin) and started to share that with other church people and the children. I homeschooled the kids and kept a good home. Our kids are late teenagers now and have turned out awesome. I don't know my personal future, and my marriage is still broken, but I know that whether my husband turns to Jesus or not, I will be ok and I have peace.

  6. My husband's youngest sister (12 years younger than him) was homeschooled and grew up in a Christian home. While we were married with young children she would often come up and visit, attending church campouts and get togethers with us. It is at a campout that she met a wonderful young man from another homeschool family we knew. They got married and now, 15 years later, after his long struggle with pornography and them finding out he couldn't physically father children because of a birth defect, she is divorcing him. She is bitter and I'm sure the children thing is somewhere in her rationale. Can you write an article addressing marriage expectations and no children? Somehow divorce in her mind isn't as big a deal because there are no children involved, but 30 nieces and nephews that will profoundly be affected! Thank you for your ministry!