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Child Custody: Solomon's Solution

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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.

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.

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