The best day of my life was the day our daughter was born. Among the worst days of my life was the day her parents separated, and the day, 12 months later, when a dispassionate judge signed their divorce decree.
This question plagued me: how would circumstances so cruelly thrust upon her by the imperfect decisions of so many others affect such a precious and innocent child? The decisions her parents were unable to reach consensus on—about custody, schedules, and finances—were made by a judge. Court order in hand, the work of raising her together, apart, began.
From the outset I determined to do the best I knew how to shield our daughter from conflict. This meant giving her my permission to love her other parent; and to provide an environment in which she felt safe to share her feelings and make decisions without being afraid of uncomfortable repercussions or adverse reactions, rather than limit, restrict, or interfere with her equal access to her mother. It’s the determination not to use her as a medium of communication between parents; not to impose on her a sense of duty or obligation to feel responsible for my happiness or sadness; not to allow disagreements between her parents to change the tender, loving way I relate to her.
It also means reaffirming my decisions to: never neglect or abandon her; change my career from one that required a fair amount of extended travel to one that required almost none; be present and engaged in her academic and extracurricular activities; involve her in wholesome activities that foster growth, awareness, and development, including teaching her to begin, spend, and end every day with Jesus; attend Sabbath School, church, Pathfinders, camp meeting, evangelistic meetings, and junior camp; travel (we’ve visited San Diego, Orlando, New York, San Antonio, and Cancun); see theatrical productions (Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, The King and I, The Miracle of Christmas, and The Lion King) and concerts (on the steps of the United States Capitol, and the Evensong series at Spencerville Seventh-day Adventist Church).
It requires intentional management of my intense workload to schedule time to go for walks, build puzzles, read books, do homework, and participate in age-appropriate chores; shop for groceries, clothes, and school supplies; go to the bank to learn about saving money; and practice the piano—which develops perseverance, problem-solving, and other skills. It also means allowing the Bible to speak and to minimize conflict by bringing its own unbiased standard into any discussion—considering the opinions of pastors, teachers, friends, and parents on decision-making in context of the counsel found in God’s Word.
After all, what a better world it would be if we would all live at peace with everyone (Rom. 12:18); act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly (Micah 6:8); treat others as we would want to be treated (Matt. 7:12); be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger (James 1:19); and speak words that are like apples of gold in settings of silver (Prov. 25:11).
Eugene Korff is General Conference controller. His 12-year-old daughter attends Atholton Adventist Academy in Columbia, Maryland.