Caring For Families Going Through Divorce — The Ministry Of Elizabeth Oates
Welcome Elizabeth! We are so excited to welcome you as a 2018 break out leader. Break out sessions are a way for our attendees to dig deep into topics that relate specifically to them and your unique perspective and experiences will be an invaluable asset. Thanks for taking the time to virtually sit down with us and letting people get to know you a little better before our April weekend!
You’re very open about the impact that divorce has had in your life, so it’s no wonder that divorce care for children and resources for healthy marriages and parenting are a key part of your ministry.
Can you tell us about your process of being able not only to share your own story but help others navigate these issues?
When God leads you through a difficult situation, I think it’s only natural to want to help others through something similar. I wasn’t always so bold in sharing my story or my faith, but over the years I read books, went to counseling, and pursued God’s truth on how to create a healthy family and marriage. The more I saw God creating a new family tree in my life, the more I wanted to encourage and equip others that the same was possible for them.
Was there a key moment (or moments) where you realized that caring for families was part of your vocational calling?
My husband and I were involved in an engaged class and then a young married class in our church. That class and the mentor couples had a profound impact on us. It was during that time that I was attending seminary and I knew that I wanted to care for couples and families the way those mentors had cared for my husband and me.
How has your path through healing and redemption formed the way you parent and encourage others to parent?
If I’m honest, on one hand I get really frustrated with my kids (at times) because they don’t realize what a charmed life they live. They take a lot for granted, as most kids do. But my husband is quick to remind me that I wouldn’t want them to fully understand my childhood because that would mean they would have to live it.
On the other hand, I am so grateful that God has given me a chance to parent from a place of grace and gratefulness. I know that I am a sinner and that allows me to mess up and ask my children for forgiveness more times than I would like. But it also helps them know that they can mess up and ask for forgiveness. I am also so grateful for this life I get to live.
I don’t ever take for granted my house in the suburbs or family dance parties in the kitchen, or reading with my kids on the couch. We don’t take fancy trips and we don’t drive expensive cars, but my kids know we spend lots of time together and our family runs on kindness and respect.
Your ministry is centered around topics that are hard for some to talk about or even acknowledge.
Have you ever found Christian culture to be resistant to talking about divorce, specifically? If so, what are productive and loving ways you have been able to respond to this?
The churches I have encountered over the past sixteen years have been very supportive of divorced people, and have offered programs such as DivorceCare and DC4 (DivorceCare for Kids). I wrote a book for teens called Dealing with Divorce: Finding Direction When Your Parents Split Up. That has been more challenging to get into the church because a lot of youth pastors think they can handle divorce on their own or they just don’t want to add one more group activity into their already busy schedule.
I actually submitted a book proposal that dealt with the issue of divorce to a publisher and it was immediately rejected because one of their main book distributers refused to carry books centered around divorce. I think turning away from God’s people is a major disservice to this demographic who is hurting and already feel rejected.
While each situation is different, are there any words of encouragement you would have for someone wanting to leave behind unhealthy patterns in marriage or parenting?
First, you must rely on Jesus. If you try to make changes out of or your own will and strength, they will only be temporary. Second, you will have to be willing to dig deep and do the hard work. I talk about this in Mending Broken Branches. We deal with the pain in our past, so we can embrace our present situation, and grow into a healthy future.
We like to end our interviews with a fun fact about our speakers! What dessert do you never get tired of?
Peppermint ice cream. Lucky for me it’s a seasonal flavor, otherwise I’d have to up a size in my jeans - haha!