Colleen Whigham-Brockington is in her 15th year serving as the administrator of Precious Life Ministries and is an advocate for children with special needs. She has over 25 years of experience working in children’s ministry and is a member of Norristown New Life Nueva Vida Mennonite Church. Colleen lives in Norristown, Pennsylvania and is the mother of two exceptional boys, Marques and Matthias.
Be imitators of God as well-beloved children. And walk in love as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us. (Ephesians 5:1)
Recently, my oldest son participated in a holiday concert which I attended with my younger son and my boys’ father. Afterward, as I was taking pictures of the boys and their father, a friend offered to take a picture of us all together. To be honest, I felt hesitant. Their dad and I have been apart for over 15 years and we do not have one picture with the four of us together. But despite my feelings of awkwardness, I stepped into the picture. As my son and I eagerly viewed the photo, I have to say I was pleasantly surprised at all of our expressions, especially my boys! They looked genuinely happy, and their faces touched my heart! Through this photo, I believe God showed me that although we are divorced, to my sons we are still a family. It was then I realized how this single moment was years in the making.
In the days that followed, I continued to view our picture and I found myself thinking, “How did we all arrive at such a place of healing?”
Divorce is one of the most intense forms of brokenness one can experience. In addition to numerous other emotions, it can create a sense of panic, becoming unanchored from all that is familiar. You come away feeling fragmented. And when you have children involved, the initial comfort of your parenting philosophy and the plan of raising your children in a two parent household folds in an instant. As my boys’ primary caregiver after the divorce, I was left whirling, attempting to regain my footing, while simultaneously assessing my situation as a single mom and quickly making plans about how I was going to raise my boys. Over the years, their dad and I have really struggled to find a way to effectively co-parent for various reasons — lack of communication, ego, resentment, selfishness, the list could go on. For many years, the idea to be gracious and walk in love with their father was not a priority for me. I was in survival mode and had to use all of my energy to focus on taking care of myself and my boys who both have exceptional needs. I was so committed to show immense love to my children in an effort to shield them from feeling broken. It took me quite some time to realize I was to extend grace and love to their father as well.
As a child, I learned to imitate Christ through observing how my parents treated those who had been hurtful to us. At the time, I did not realize they were also showing God’s love. Learning to show grace and love after experiencing divorce has helped my boys and me to heal individually and has allowed my sons to have continued access and quality time with their father. As parents, no matter what our co-parenting situation, we must make a decision daily to strive to be imitators of God and to consistently show love to others, regardless of who they may be. Not only are our children watching, but they benefit from learning how to show love to others even when the ties which bind them are broken — be it friendship, marriage or any other interpersonal relationship.
The last thing I ever thought I could do would be to share a photo with my boys and their father, but God knew it was necessary for me to see his love for us and through us, realizing God had us resting in his hands the entire time.