Child Custody: Solomon's Solution

AT one time, I was close to a man who was figuring out his responsibilities to an infant. Thinking the outcome directly affected me, I became distressed when months went by and no decisions were made. Our patience with each other wore thin.

Sitting in church one day, I heard a valuable account of a child custody dispute. First Kings in the Bible tells the story. Two mothers approached King Solomon. One woman's infant had died. Each claimed that the remaining child was her own. Apparently unmoved by their desperate arguing, the king said, ``Bring me a sword.'' His command to divide the living child in two caused the real mother to cry out, ``Give her the living child, and in no wise slay it'' (3:24, 26). Unselfish concern for the child proved her motherhood, and the baby was restored to her unharmed.

That decision may seem easy compared to a custody battle between parents. But Solomon's solution wasn't about dollars and days of the week. It was about unselfishness--about having the strength to do what is best for a child.

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Today, attempts are still made to divide living children--so much time to one parent, so much to the other. Even division by legal document can be devastating, unless parental rights and responsibilities are shaped by pure, unselfish love. When such love motivates the decisions, a child's time may be divided between two homes, but the child need not feel divided or insecure. We can prayerfully support a harmonious adjustment and secure self-concept by recognizing that God is the indivisible Parent of each of us. Our child's home in God never changes. Access to His loving embrace is never cut off. Lives become more stable and secure as these spiritual truths are lived.

As I sat in church praying this way, I realized I'd been dividing the infant into his part, her part, their part, our part. Now I stopped. I prayed to understand that my happiness was determined by my relation to God, and that my relation to God was what tenderly defined my relationship to my friend and the child. My distress ended. I grew increasingly willing to support whatever resolution would enable the child to feel loved and whole. I no longer felt I had to make something happen. And as it turned out, the child was well cared for.

There is no set answer regarding child support or custody. But there is a right starting point. Even if only one parent turns humbly to God for direction, this spiritual starting point blesses a child in ways that human efforts alone cannot do.

As God's children, we find strength in God-derived qualities of gentleness, patience, and honesty. Self-sacrificing love is rewarded. God doesn't make us loving and then provide nothing for us to love. It's important, however, to let God's plan develop in His way and not to outline what the solution should be. God is infinite intelligence. His plan is wiser and blesses us more deeply than any human strategy.

Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer of Christian Science, was severely challenged when she lost custody of her only child due to her own poor health. But she didn't lose her trust in God. And her health was fully restored when she discovered the ever-operative law of God underlying Jesus' healing works. There followed many opportunities to relieve the suffering of children and adults, opportunities that she wouldn't have had if she had been steeped in bitterness or despair. Among those she helped, Robert Peel tells us in his biography, Mary Baker Eddy: The Years of Trial, was her own granddaughter, who was healed of crossed eyes (see p. 71).

Mrs. Eddy founded Christian Science to help heal humanity's sorrows. As the result of Bible study, prayer, and proof, she wrote in her book Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, ``Whatever holds human thought in line with unselfed love, receives directly the divine power'' (p. 192). The experience of the woman standing before Solomon illustrates this. As we turn humbly to God and ask to see His will for our children, our lives will confirm it, too.

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