She Is Not My Child!

The last divorce case that I handled was so upsetting to me that I walked out of that courtroom and never took another one.  I represented a mother with five children ranging in age from 2 to 15 whose husband had cheated on her and filed for divorce.  My client had asked her mother to come live with her and help with her children since the husband had already moved out to be with his new partner.  I had met the older two of her children, a son aged 12 and a daughter aged 15.  The daughter told me she wanted to grow up to be a lawyer and I encouraged her to do well in school and when the time came for her to apply to law school, I told her I would write her a glowing letter of recommendation.  She smiled a mile wide smile and thanked me.

When the day came for the judge to order that the couple was legally divorced a big surprise awaited us in court.  My client stood beside me in front of the judge and her “lawyer-to-be” daughter sat on the front row about ten feet from us.  The husband’s lawyer told the judge in a loud voice that child support should be lowered since his client was not the father of the 15-year-old girl who stared incredulously at the only father she had ever known.  I turned to look at her and saw her eyes fill with tears.  Then the sobbing began.  The mom left my side and ran to hug her daughter telling her, “Sweetie, he is your father, this is a lie so he can pay less money.”

The judge declared a recess for order to be restored in the courtroom.  I asked my client, “So is there any doubt that he is the girl’s father?” to which she said, “Absolutely not!”  A DNA test was ordered, a month went by, and the results came back that, as the mother had known, her husband was indeed the father of this devastated young girl. Someone has said that there are no winners in a divorce, and I believe that is true.

When the divorce was finally concluded and proper child support payments for all five of her children were ordered, my client told me that her daughter had been so hurt by her father’s rejection of her as his child that she cried herself to sleep for months and never wanted to see him again.  I stood in the courtroom hall talking to the husband’s attorney and found myself face to face with his client.  I looked him straight in the eyes and said, “Sir, what you did to your daughter in that courtroom months ago was horrendous and in my opinion, you are a terrible father.  You need to get on your knees every night and pray that your daughter will forgive you and let you back in her life.”  He actually thanked me and then said, “You are right, I was so wrong.”

I cannot begin to imagine the pain of being “disowned” and “rejected” by one’s father.  It would take a God-sized miracle of reconciliation for this father and this daughter to have a healthy relationship.  How could one endure such pain?  Self-awareness is a hallmark of The Merton Prayer.  Indeed, the first three words of the prayer are so powerful since they establish “who I am” and “whose I am” – “My Lord God”.  The first-person possessive pronoun “my” means that I can “own” God, and the word “Lord” is a Greek word kurios which means “owner,” so that right off the bat in this prayer our identity is firmly established.  We both own, and are owned by, the almighty God who created the universe!  So for every disappointment in our earthly life we need not ever feel “disowned” or “rejected” since God “is ever with us and will never leave us to face our perils alone.”  I choose to focus on the sheer joy and love displayed by the Prodigal Son’s father who lovingly celebrated the return of his wayward son.  (Luke 15:11-32). I also choose to enjoy the joy which Mack received in the little book The Shack by Wm. Paul Young (Windblown Books, 2007), when God repeatedly tells him “I am so especially fond of you!”

Leave a comment, if you wish, as to how you found The Merton Prayer and why it is important to you.  Thanks for visiting!

3 thoughts on “She Is Not My Child!

  1. Divorce brings out the worst in people. Not only did the man insult his soon-to-be x-wife, he deeply wounded his daughter. Words are powerful. Thank you for reminding us to think of the consequences of our words before speaking.


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