Today, I have another story to share, one told by a pastor in a church I visited many years ago. I’ve never forgotten it.
The pastor told of an experience involving a lady from his congregation in a former church that he had led – a story of two broken hearts. It is not an unusual story. Husband breaks his marriage vows by taking on a mistress. Wife feels utterly betrayed and carries grief, anger and resentment for years, until she is finally able, with God’s help, to forgive her husband and begin to repair her life.
The thing that I never forgot was his description of how the betrayal affected the son of the family. The boy was around five years old at the time. I guess that the man had been a pretty good father up until that time, because the little boy adored his dad. He would often wait with his mother on the front steps of their home to greet his father when he returned home from work. He would greet his dad with the totally unblemished and innocent love that is often found in children who have never been deeply hurt.
As the pastor told the story, it would seem the husband may have decided to let his wife and child know that he was leaving them both, in favor of his new mistress. What he did was to drive down the street in his open convertible, with his mistress beside him in the front seat. They came down the road, approached the house where the mother and son were waiting for him, and without stopping, simply passed on by and drove on.
The mother told the pastor that when the boy first saw his dad’s car approaching, his face reflected anticipation, love and happiness. But when he saw his father driving with another person, and when he saw them speed up and pass on by, then the boy’s face became transformed. With that awful intuition sometimes possessed by a small child, the boy understood what the scene implied. He understood in a moment that his dad would not be coming back, and that his dad no longer loved him and his mother. When one wounds another who is hardened and used to betrayals, it is bad. When a parent wounds a totally innocent and unprepared child, it is far worse. The reason that the mother carried such rage and resentment for so many years was in large part due to what her husband had unwittingly done to his own son.
There are two wonderful things about the ideal of total loyalty between a husband and wife. One is that this is a universal ideal. It completely transcends any particular religious faith! It simply reflects common sense.
Another aspect of this ideal is that it should be totally free of criticism. It is not meant to make anyone feel bad or condemned. It is rather, an ideal — one worth living for. In other words, no matter what heartaches, heart breaks, or mistakes a person may have gone through in the past, this is an ideal that one can embrace at any time in his life. This is an ideal that one can start living (and even sharing with others) beginning now, today. May we all be able — with God’s help — to build thriving marriages and happy families!
From a wise man: “…the family sets the pattern for living together. The warm environment of oneness based on love and respect between parents and children, mutual fidelity and love between husband and wife, and trust and mutual reliance among siblings is the manifestation of the model, ideal family of peace.”
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