My wife left me for another man and is living with him. She and I share custody of our 15-year-old daughter. That means my daughter is constantly exposed to this ungodly lifestyle. My daughter attends church with me and has accepted Christ. But how do I communicate that her mothers’ living situation is wrong without sounding like an angry ex-husband criticizing his wife? I want my daughter to embrace purity, but her own mother is not setting that example.
What a tragic, painful and difficult situation. Our hearts go out to you, in the midst of your legitimate concern for your daughter, be aware of a potential trap the evil one might be setting for you. As parents, it’s easy for Satan to take our legitimate love and concern for our children, turn it into worry and then turn that worry into a preoccupation with all of the negative things that could happen. Concern is a good thing. But the time we spend in worry and preoccupation with all of the negative things that “might” happen is time wasted. It’s time that could be spent in loving, praying for, playing with our children.
In life there are three kinds of situations. Ones we can control, ones we can influence and ones we can do absolutely nothing about. In this situation what is it that you can control? What can you influence? Obviously, you can only control your behavior, your choices and your interactions. You can make sure your heart and life is where it needs to be. You can invest time in prayer. You can enlist others to pray for you, your daughter and your wife. You can talk with other parents of teenage daughters to make sure you understand this critical development stage of her life.
What can you influence? You can influence your daughter and her situation. In Matthew 5:16 Christ tells us that as we “let our light so shine” among those around us they will see the unique product of a life committed to Christ and glorifying Him. You have a unique opportunity to be salt and light to your daughter.
How can you influence her and her situation? Start by spending more time focusing on what God is doing in your life and in her life. Spend less time trying to help her see where her mother is wrong and help her see where a life lived for Christ is right. We’re not suggesting you should be silent about the adultery and blatant immorality, but the focus needs to be on what Jesus looks like and the difference He can make.
If you want your daughter to embrace purity help her see through example. The example from your own life and the lives of the people you associate with, the significant difference of a life lived in purity. You can maintain friendships with other Christian couples so that your daughter is exposed to models of healthy Christ-centered marriages.
Encourage her to spend time with Christian friends. Perhaps you can let her know that if she wants to have friends over she is welcome to do so. Are there any female youth leaders at your church that could disciple her? A godly woman closer to her own age could have a significant influence in her life. Also, if her youth group has any mission trips you might encourage her to participate. We’ve seen God use a teenager’s trip to a third-world country as a life-changing experience of who God is and what it’s like when He is in charge of our lives.
You are limited by what you can say but you aren’t limited by how you say it or by what you model for her. In Philippians 4:6 Paul exhorts us to choose not to worry about anything but to take everything to God in prayer and then begin to experience the peace that can follow. This is great counsel.