by Jodi Detrick
It felt so good to be curled up on the couch after spending most of the day on the go. I had just put the teakettle on and was relaxing while watching the Boston Pops Orchestra on television. Jana, our eleven-year-old music-loving daughter sat in the big blue chair nearby, while across the room Don lounged in the recliner, a book in his hands as usual.
Anne Murray was the guest soloist with the orchestra, and it was easy to reminisce as she sang songs popular in my youth. When one particular love ballad came on, “Could I Have This Dance” (for the rest of my life), my eyes met Don’s and we smiled at each other. The song had once been a favorite of ours.
Spontaneously, I rose from the couch and with a grand bow toward Don said, “Would you care to dance, sir?” With a gleam in his eye, he met me in the middle of the living room. The funny thing is that dancing had never been part of our courtship. Neither of us had ever really danced in our lives.
I giggled as we tried to assume a waltzing position and started swaying to the music.
“I think you’re supposed to do something with your feet,” Don said, and he began to shuffle his steps this way and that. I laughed even harder as we stepped in a pattern that would cause Arthur Murray to roll over (gracefully) in his grave. Jana watched quietly from her chair as we continued our clumsy dance and even stole a kiss or two between our bouts of laughter.
Just then the teakettle, with no invitation from the conductor, brashly added its off-key whistle to the music, signaling an abrupt end to our fun. Breathless, I pushed myself away from Don’s arms to go rescue the teakettle.
“No…stay!” Instantly, Jana was off her chair and scurrying into the kitchen.
“It’s okay, Jana. I’ll get it,” I started to protest. But I was too late; Jana pulled the kettle off the burner and turned off the heat.
Once again her words came, and the intensity of command in her young voice caught me off guard.
“No…stay!” This time I could see her arm go up and toward us like a miniature traffic cop hailing an oncoming truck. So we again swayed and stumbled to music that ended all too soon.
Later, as everyone prepared for bed, I wondered about the seriousness on Jana’s sweet little face and her strange, earnest command. As she climbed between her sheets, I sat on her bed for “tucking in” time. We talked for a few minutes, as we always do, about special needs we could pray about together. Our prayer list ranged from school issues to the war in Bosnia and many things in between. Then she added one more item.
“Mom,” she said softly, “my friend’s parents still aren’t sleeping in the same room anymore, and now they aren’t even talking.”
This close schoolmate had recently confided in Jana about her parents’ marital struggles. Jana carried her friend’s heavy burden seriously, bringing it only to me to take to Jesus in prayer. Together we asked God to please heal this marriage and end the deep sadness in this girl’s heart.
“Jana, is she worried that her parents will split up?” I asked.
“I guess. She really doesn’t like to talk about it much.”
“I understand,” I said.
And now I did. So many of Jana’s friends were from homes that had been ripped apart by divorce. She had seen, through the young eyes of her peers, the painful aftermath. Now, once again, a friend’s happiness and security—this time, a very close friend—were being threatened by the potential divorce of her parents.
I understood. “No…stay!” was a plea to us. It really said, “Please stay in love…stay committed to each other and to our home…keep laughing together…stay partners even when you step on each other’s toes in the crazy dance of marriage.” It said, “No, don’t let the busyness of your lives, the whistling lure of other teakettles, of pleasure in other places, separate your embrace…no, don’t be too tired and too preoccupied to hear the music of young love…keep lighting up when you look into the other’s eyes across a room. Just…stay.”
By this time, everyone was asleep in my home except for me and the One who never sleeps. We talked quietly for a while, and then before I crawled into bed beside my slumbering dance partner, I promised Him again that I would stay.
Our world is changing, and not always for the better. Today’s kids must contend with dangers that were virtually unheard-of during my childhood: school shootings, gang wars, illegal drugs, sexual molesters, kidnappers, and terrorists. Yet the greatest threat to a child’s sense of security and well-being has nothing to do with these outside forces. It is, instead, the fear that Mom and Dad might one day break up the family.
Kids desperately want and need a stable, secure environment in which to grow. It’s what God wants for your family, too. We’ll offer several suggestions this week about how you can provide an atmosphere of safety and stability for your children. It all starts with a commitment between you and your partner to nurture your relationship—that wonderful and challenging “dance of marriage.”
If you are reading this tonight as a single mom or dad, I especially want to offer you a word of encouragement. Children who have suffered the loss of a parent through divorce or death are particularly vulnerable to uncertainty about the future and fears of abandonment. Your kids need extra reassurance that you will always be there for them. Kind words and gentle hugs, as well as consistent application of boundaries, express your love and commitment to provide a stable environment for your children.
You and your kids can also draw comfort from passages in Scripture written especially for you: “A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling” (Psalm 68:5). Perhaps the best news for you and your family is simply knowing that you are never alone: “Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). Jesus is standing right beside us every moment.
- James C. Dobson
“Stay!” by Jodi Detrick. © 2001. Jodi, a pastor’s wife, author, and speaker, lives with her husband of twenty-eight years in their newly emptied nest. Jana, their youngest, is a freshman at Northwest College in Kirkland, Washington. Used by permission of the author.