Heart to Heart by Esther Fenty

MY HUSBAND WANTS US TO RECONCILE FOR CHRISTMAS

My Christian husband left me three years ago, when I was pregnant with our third child, to live with a former girlfriend. I was absolutely devastated, and it was only through the support of my family and church that I made it through. Through the grace of God, I’ve rebuilt my life. My children are settled, and I’ve even set up a thriving business. However, my emotions have been thrown into turmoil. My husband (I did not initiate divorce proceedings) has written me asking for my forgiveness, and if he can come back home and spend Christmas with us. I really don’t know what to do. I am happy to forgive, because I’ve moved on, but… I can’t forget my husband’s terrible behaviour. I had to go to the courts to get him to pay child maintenance and, although I left the door open for him to come and visit our children, he has never done so. You can imagine my family doesn’t want him back in my life, whilst my pastor is saying that, as a Christian, I should give him another chance. I’m a bit confused and don’t know what to do. Your thoughts on this matter would be welcomed.

Elizabeth, London

Esther Fenty says:

Maybe your husband has explained in the letter why he did not make contact with his children, nor attempt to support them voluntarily over the last three years. If that is not the case, you may want to investigate. You may also want to explore why spending Christmas with you and his children is so important, as opposed to rebuilding a relationship. What is likely to happen at the end of the festive season?

There is no doubt that the Word of God commands us to forgive those who have hurt us. It is clear that God will deal with the perpetrators of injustice, as His Word declares that ‘Vengeance is Mine’. Furthermore, there is information from the secular world about the effects of unforgiveness on our health. Therefore, the biblical mandate is to forgive. However, forgiving your husband does not mean that you have to take him back.

You could consider the following options:

You can write to your husband informing him that, while you intend to forgive him because of the biblical edict, you have not reached that stage yet. Therefore, to consider taking him back, while you are feeling the way that you do, would not be a good idea as the relationship would be doomed from the start. Therefore, returning home anytime before Christmas is out of the question. You could also explain that when you reach that stage of forgiveness, ie. meaning that you no longer hold his behaviour against him, the outcome might be that you have moved on with your life, and you do not want him back. You could make it clear that while the door is still open for him to visit his children and rebuild a relationship with them, you are also concerned about their emotional wellbeing. You will therefore need to be assured that he is serious about his intentions.

You may decide to take him back, and that is entirely up to you. You should not be forced to do so. You would need to ask yourself what is different about your husband this time. Does he want to come back because his present relationship has not worked out, or is he genuinely sorry about what he has done? Would you both benefit from marriage guidance counselling? This is a problem that only you can solve through much praying and with the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

MY MUM EXPECTS ME TO BE AS RELIGIOUS AS HER

My sibling and I (I’m 14, my sister is 16) live with our mother, who is heavily into the church. I don’t mind, as being a Christian has helped her since our father left home. However, what I don’t like is my mum’s insistence that my sibling and I go to every single church meeting with her. Sunday is fine, but weekdays are not good times for me, as it’s causing me to miss out on doing my homework, as well as spending time with friends. When I try and explain this to my mum, she starts accusing me of being ungrateful, and that I should welcome the opportunity to be in God’s house. My mum’s response is making me want to run away from home and be with my father, as I don’t know how else to deal with this problem. Your advice would greatly help.

Jennifer, Manchester

ESTHER FENTY SAYS

It is possible that your mother is enjoying her new-found faith so much that she wants you to experience it as much as she does, without realising that your needs are different from hers. It is also likely that, although she has become a Christian since your father left home, she still has unresolved issues about her need for companionship and, without realising it, she is using you and your sisters to fulfill this particular need. Having her own group of friends would take the pressure off you.

In any case, you will need to speak to your mother before ‘church night’, while you are both in a calm state of mind. Explain that, while you appreciate being in the house of God, you also need a church/life balance. Point out any deterioration in your work noticed by teachers. Show her your homework timetable, the amount of work you are expected to do, and the time it takes. Involve her in your work through discussions, research, etc.

Invite your friends home, so that she can meet them, and gain her trust by being back home at the agreed time when you go out. Encourage and support her to have friends of her own.

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