By Lucas Sander
I grew up in a family of 10 kids. We were all homeschooled and grew up in a farmhouse in the country outside of Newton, Iowa, but moved to a house that we had built when I was 16. One day while I was working with Dad on unfinished parts of the house, he took a phone call over our lunch break. When he got back from talking, he told me that our pastor had been unfaithful to his wife and was in denial to the elders of the church about his habitual sin. There were a lot of spiritual issues tied up with how he was living, and his betrayal had a deep impact on the church, but it didn’t stop there.
Mom would be at the church in town a lot as Dad was building the house, and since Pastor Jim was often there, too, she had become pretty close with him. She took Jim’s side on the divide in the church, and separated from my Dad – who had been the one to find out Jim’s unfaithfulness and bring it to the elders in the first place. They got a divorce a few months later.
There were still eight kids still living at home at that point, so a schedule was set up for the younger children to go between Dad’s house and Mom’s, where she now lives with Jim. I was old enough to choose to live with Dad permanently, but even when I visited Mom’s house it never felt right, it never became normal – if divorce can ever be normal. I was torn because I believed that my own mother was living in sin, that she had willfully left the church and broken our family. I was never told how I was supposed to deal with that.
The hardest part of this process was when I graduated high school in 2015. We had a graduation ceremony at our church for homeschool families in the area, families that we had been friends with since our parents were in college. The parents who put the event together had been with my Dad throughout the entire divorce process, and together made a decision to send a letter to my Mom telling her that they wouldn’t let her come onto the stage to present my diploma because she had broken our family and abandoned the education of her children. I agreed with them that my Mom was living unrepentantly and agreed to sending the letter, but it put me in an extremely tough spot. There were two different times when my Mom asked me what I thought about the letter, and I avoided giving a direct answer. I didn’t know how I was supposed to tell my Mom that I didn’t believe she was a Christian anymore. Eventually, I avoided going to her house altogether.
Last spring, I began to realize that I had not been reflective of Christ in my relationship with my Mom. Instead of pouring out the unconditional love that saved my soul, I was hiding it because it seemed too awkward and hard to talk about. God spoke to me, and told me that I needed to make things right, so I braced myself to do one of the hardest things I’ve ever done: apologize to my Mom.
There was one week between when I went home and when I left for my summer job, so during that week, I texted Mom and asked her if I could come over. It took me several tries to get it out, but right before I needed to leave I asked her if we could step out on the porch. We sat down, and I told her that I had done an awful job of being a follower of Christ, and I asked her to forgive me for letting my feelings and my view of her get in the way of showing the love that Jesus poured into me.
We were silent for a long time, and finally Mom began to tell me how proud she was of me. Perhaps it was a smaller moment than I anticipated, but in that small moment, the truth came out and even if my Mom and I were at very different places, I had stopped letting that get in the way of love.