DTS Magazine

Mending Broken Branches: When God Reclaims Your Dysfunctional Family Tree

The television blared in the background of an otherwise quiet home. I was only nine years old and not yet a Christ-follower. My hardworking, single mother sat on her bed paying bills, her anxious sighs slipping beneath her door and into the living room with each check she wrote. My older brother, distant from me in both years and emotional connection, was out with his friends, and I sat alone on the couch. 

I longed to watch Kids Incorporated on Disney Channel, but cable television was one of many luxuries we could not afford. Bored with the news, I made my way up the stairs to my bedroom, but I stopped after just a few steps. The news anchor was reporting on children and divorce. Immediately my ears perked up.

The reporter is talking about me, I thought.

I realized I was broken . . . flawed . . . second-class . . . insignificant.

He churned out the latest research and some dismal statistics on the high school dropout rate of children from “broken homes.” His words struck my heart with a chill. That was the moment I realized I was broken . . . flawed . . . second-class . . . insignificant.

I stood paralyzed on the steps, seething at the bleak future this news anchor had just assigned to me. My fighting spirit refused to accept his prophecy. (Being a strong-willed child does have its advantages, so hang in there mamas of tenacious two-year-olds.) That won’t happen to me, I remember thinking, my anger boiling within. I will not be a statistic! 

With that resolution, I stomped up the stairs to my room. I’ve heard and read these kinds of statistics all my life; maybe you have too. If not, let me summarize the popular view for you. Children from divorced families are more likely to do the following:

  Develop health problems

  Have trouble getting along with their peers

  Be more aggressive toward their peers

  Drop out of high school

  End up in prison as adults

  Engage in sexual activity at a young age

  Use drugs and alcohol at a young age

  Grow up to fear conflict

  Commit suicide during their teen years

  Experience teen pregnancy

  Suffer from depression (in childhood and adulthood)

Fortunately, my feisty spirit—and God’s grace—served me well in life. I avoided those grisly statistics and graduated from high school, college, and seminary. I made plenty of mistakes in my life, but I did not fall into the temptations of alcohol, drugs, or sex as the news anchor had predicted.

Our God defies statistics so that the world may see us the way he sees us—as the child he adopted into his family.

God protected me from a grim future and opened doors for me that, according to the statistics, had already been shut, thanks to my family history.

Most importantly, when the world told me I was second-string, God told me I was significant. 

No matter how many times we fail, no matter how many times our past disappoints us or points a finger at us, our God defies statistics so that the world may see us the way he sees us—as the child he adopted into his family. Nothing could give us more significance than knowing God chose us and loves us with an unchanging love.

Elizabeth M. Oates
Elizabeth Oates earned her undergraduate degree from Baylor University and her MACE with a focus in marriage and family studies from DTS in 2005. She has authored several books, including Dealing with Divorce: Finding Direction When Your Parents Split Up (Zondervan). Elizabeth lives in the suburbs of Waco, Texas with her husband, Brandon, and their four children.
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