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.