Review – Left: The struggle to make sense of life when a parent leaves

Left pulls back the curtain on what it's like to be a child of divorce.

Left is also a very honest book. Jonathan does not sugarcoat his struggles of resentment and anger. In the end, he realized that he had to make the first move to reach out to his dad. There was no happy ending and no response. But he was brought to the place of clinging to the truth that God the Father is the only father who never leaves. And he was brought to the place of wanting reconciliation between God and his father more than the reconciliation between father and son.

 

Left: The struggle to make sense of life when a parent leaves, Jonathan C. Edwards, Rainer Publishing, July 2016, 198 pages.

When my ex-husband moved out and made it clear that he intended to pursue a divorce, I met another Christian woman who had been in my situation. She told me that the awful stories about children growing up with divorced parents don’t have to come true. In fact, she believed that they could come through relatively unscathed. She meant to encourage me, but this was idealistic. If the obvious rebellion and acting out one usually thinks of is absent, then it would be easy to think that kids came through with nary a scratch. But given that divorce is such a traumatic event, how can children not be affected by it? How can there not be wounds when the foundation of their security has crumbled beneath them? What is really going on beneath the surface?

Left pulls back the curtain on what it’s like to be a child of divorce. Jonathan Edwards (not the Puritan) gives a raw and at times heartbreaking account of what it was like to be abandoned by a parent. The author writes of good and bad memories and the grief, pain, and anger. He describes being woken up in the middle of the night and taken to a neighbor’s house because his father was coming home so angry that his mother feared for their safety. His family’s struggle to make ends meet because of the divorce are even more poignant because this is from a child’s point of view. Peanut butter and jelly in a brown bag were his lot when all the other kids had cool lunch boxes. But in those brown bags, his mother wrote notes every day of how she loved him and was praying for him. At age 19, there was a second abandonment, though. His dad told him that since he was an adult, he didn’t a father in his life anymore. This was another devastation and the last time he saw his father.

Left is also a very honest book. Jonathan does not sugarcoat his struggles of resentment and anger. In the end, he realized that he had to make the first move to reach out to his dad. There was no happy ending and no response. But he was brought to the place of clinging to the truth that God the Father is the only father who never leaves. And he was brought to the place of wanting reconciliation between God and his father more than the reconciliation between father and son.

Divorce is a painful subject and even more painful when you are one of the parties involved. I am so glad Jonathan wrote this book because we need books like this to help us acknowledge the pain but face it in the light of the gospel and the character of God. So who would benefit from Left?

– Adult children of divorce. Even though Jonathan’s story is unique, Left may be very helpful in processing the hurt. The author does warn the reader that it will get messy when you begin to dig deeper and unearth memories that have long been buried.

– For the parent who was abandoned. If your child is doing well on the outside, it may be easy to think that everything is fine inside. Perhaps not. This book will give you an idea of the wounds that may lurk beneath the surface.

– For the parent who left. If you have been convicted and desire to make things right with your children, reading this may give you an idea of the pain you left behind. But I hope this would ultimately drive you to God. Confess your sin and seek forgiveness through Jesus Christ, for no sin is too great.

– For those who want to help. As I said above, Left gives a glimpse of the trauma of divorce. This book may give you an idea of how to help those how are hurting. However, I would be cautious in one respect. It may be easy to think that all we need to do is keep a parent from leaving and all will be well. Please be aware that the heart attitude that caused a parent to abandon spouse and children was present before the actual abandonment occurred. This is not cured by proximity alone. Emotional neglect can occur when a parent is present, too, not to mention physical harm.

I will leave you with this quote:

We are constantly deceived to believe that He is, in fact, like all other things in this world that fail us. We are fooled to believe He is someone who will lure us into a scheme, only to take what He needs and leave. We fall prey to the lie that He is someone who says one thing only to do another; someone who says He will stick around but leaves the next morning before we wake up.

Friend, never believe that God is unable to take our negative misconceptions of Him and infuse us with clarity from His Spirit that dispels those lies. We must not let human ailments be ascribed to One who is far beyond us. Neither our faults or those of our parents will transfer over to Him.

Never.

He is the only Father incapable of leaving.” (pg. 169)

(Of note: This book is descriptive, not prescriptive. Boundaries are healthy and sometimes necessary. I would encourage readers to seek counseling from a qualified counselor if there was any form of domestic violence in the home and especially in the case of child sexual abuse. )

Persis Lorenti is an ordinary Christian. You can find her at Tried With Fire and Out of the Ordinary. This article appeared at her blog and is used with permission.