Julie said to me:
“If I knew I had a terminal illness fatal within a year or so, I’d kill him”. Said about her estranged son-in-law who, as a fly-in-fly-out mine worker had become involved with prostitutes.
He and Julie’s youngest daughter were locked in a protracted, draining, expensive custody dispute over their 3-year-old daughter.
The adversarial system and family disputes
Far too often in this highly-charged jurisdiction one parent feels so deeply aggrieved by the behaviour of the other, that the child/children (sometimes unwittingly) become weaponised in the battle.
Family disputes are manifestly unsuited for resolution in the adversarial system, which is currently under review by the Australian Attorney-General.
Assuming the basic thrust of Julie’s story is correct (are they ever clear cut?), and given that the husband probably fears losing all meaningful contact with his infant daughter if his wife ‘wins’, the bottom line seems to be that he alone has completely destroyed all love and trust in this young marriage.
Although there are (generally) two sides to every story, due to the husband’s behaviour it seems that irreparable damage has been done to the long-term happiness of all concerned.
What is the solution?
The ‘sermon on the mount’ records God’s perfect standards in many areas of life, and the perfect solution here is repentance, full confession, acceptance, forgiveness, and reconciliation.
But this will be a huge ask on one side and probably a vain hope on the other.
Destructive selfishness and betrayal have entered in. Love has grown cold and may have turned to hate.
Incredibly, even as they were pounding rough iron nails into Jesus’ hands and feet, supernaturally (from a merely human perspective, incomprehensibly) He was able to cry out to His Heavenly Father: Father forgive them for they don’t know what they are doing. (Luke chapter 23 verse 34).
Those rough Roman soldiers certainly knew that they were savagely and uncaringly executing a man although they did not know the identity of their victim.
Degrees of grievousness?
Humanly speaking, is not forgiveness and reconciliation asking too much of this young wife? And especially so if there is no remorse, repentance and the seeking of forgiveness.
Maybe the husband’s guilt won’t enable him to ask for it. But what if there is genuine remorse, repentance and the seeking of forgiveness?
The power of forgiveness
During our 44+ years of marriage I have painfully observed that one of the most difficult things to do is for the aggrieved party to accept an apology. The hurt can be deep and painful even if short-lived. And it is at its deepest and most distressing when the wrong behaviour comes from a loved one.
Words spoken (shouted) in anger, momentarily calculated to be cutting and hurtful are often not really intended, but emotion dominates and they’ve been said.
We can apologise profusely but to achieve the intended reconciliation the aggrieved party must be able to conquer their hurt, climb their Mt Everest and graciously accept the apology.
How apt are the Master’s words that: A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. (Proverbs chapter 15 verse 1). In that flinty moment when intentions are bad, the ‘stirring up’ is palpable, visible.
What couple hasn’t experienced the raw truth of that divine utterance? But also, such is the power of words that: a gentle tongue can break a bone. (Proverbs chapter 25 verse 15).
The damage has been done…
Once it has been inflicted and is being bitterly felt by the wronged party, is an apology enough?
Suppose I have been guilty of inattentive driving, even for a split second (changing the radio station, texting, receiving a phone call), when a car accident ensues and the innocent victim is rendered an amputee, paraplegic or quadriplegic.
Can I realistically expect the victim to accept my sincerest apology thereby enabling me to move on, the victim having to endure the consequence/s of my action(s) for life?
God invented cross-examination…
God invented cross-examination…not English lawyers. This powerful statement appears in His book. The first to present his case seems right, till another comes forward and questions him. (Proverbs chapter 18 verse 17).
It’s possible, (not for us to know) that behind closed doors this young wife may also have committed misdemeanour(s): saying ‘no’ once too often. Not that such behaviour could ever justify his actions.
Jesus says: first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye (Matthew chapter 7 verse 5), although it’s very difficult to view this family tragedy as involving a mere speck in his eye and a plank in hers.
“They’re angry because they can’t forget the past or forgive it.” From the book Shantaram by Gregory Roberts, p 444.
Is there a way forward here?
Jesus says: With man this is impossible but not with God; all things are possible with God. (Mark chapter 10 verse 27).
And for the ‘disinterested bystander’ like us, the following is easier to say than to do.
Forgetting what is behind and straining [like a dog on a leash] toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus…I can do everything through Him who gives me strength. (Philippians chapter 3 verses 13/14 and ch 4 v13).
Perfection is a tall order
This is the high point in living God’s perfect way.
Eventually, but only after a long pause during which emotionally she struggled mightily, Corry Ten Boon did it…but only with God’s colossal help.
Can Julie’s daughter do it?
Gavin Lawrie is a retired Barrister and Solicitor from Tweed Heads NSW Australia and author of the book: 'THE EVIDENCE OF EVOLUTION: Uncovering The Faulty Science Of Dawkins' Attack On Creationism'. He is married to Jan with two adult children and they are grandparents.
Gavin Lawrie's previous articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/gavin-lawrie.html