By Mike Lamb
For The Visitor
I’ve been divorced for almost seven years. During that time my children have grown from tweens and teens to young adults. There have been struggles and challenges, disappointments and great joys as there are in any family. Sometimes symbols can express what words don’t do justice to. For me, one such symbol is a cut-out Christmas tree.
One Christmas, I was dragging my feet about buying a Christmas tree from the local Boy Scouts. Perhaps I was cheap that year or in a bah-humbug sort of mood, I don’t remember. I told my daughter I would purchase one later that evening, but then I fell ill. My bed and my bathroom were my companions for the next couple of days.
While my children were gone at a Christmas gathering with their mom, I realized that I still needed a tree. It was either out of creativity or desperation that I found a white cardboard box, some faded green highlighters and a purple marker. I cut and colored and came up with a second-grade approximation of a Christmas tree.
I removed a picture from the wall and hung the “tree” in its place. I promised my three children that next year there would be a real tree.
Each year my daughter protests as I come up with options for a replacement. “No Dad, this is the tree that I want.”
For me, this tree is coming to represent a certain sense of stability in my life amid the challenges, sufferings and joys of co-parenting.
The tree reappears each year to remind me of the brokenness of the past and the hope for the future. It is flawed and ugly, not to mention just plain silly. Yet, it is loved and won’t be replaced.
My hope as a single dad is to be able to express my love to my children despite my faults and ugliness. The Father after all accepts me with those flaws and sends his grace to help me be a better dad myself.
Mike Lamb is a social worker and chaplain and currently serves as a caregiver consultant/support planner for the Faith in Action program of the Assumption Community in Cold Spring along with doing spiritual care in the nursing home. He is currently pursuing his certificate in spiritual direction.