Today is my 33rd birthday. It’s a day we spend celebrating the faithfulness of God. More recently, this day has become a kind of tribute to my mother who raised me, and my two older brothers, as a single woman.
Unfortunately, more and more single parents are raising their children without the intended partnership of the other parent. I don’t know about yours, but I see a fair number of single parents at our church and an increasing number of marriages failing in the face of their children… in the church.
My comments here are not intended to chart the decline of the family, but to encourage other single parents. If my mother could experience the profound grace of God in raising us, well I think you can too. In fact, mom and I talk often about this and she believes that single parents can ‘single-handedly’ shape the future of the church’s work in the coming decades. My mother is a strong, tenderhearted woman. All of her sons are productive citizens who love Jesus Christ and demonstrate some commitment to his church. We have our fair share of flaws, but the story of how we’ve made it to this point couldn’t be more miraculous. If you find yourself a single parent below are a few things that I can pass on from my story.
1) Depend on God.
That may appear trite, but you might be amazed to know that faith is taught and caught. I own my faith, but like Paul said to Timothy I am confident that the faith of my mother lives in me (1 Timothy 1:5). Living epistles make the written epistles easier to grasp. My childhood is marked with moments of my mother’s dependence on God: like the time my brother needed $5k in 4 weeks in order to register for the next semester… and it happened; countless car repairs and groceries with no money! In a real sense, I learned to trust God by watching God come through on behalf of her faith.
There is another reason to depend on God. Single parents have some intangible, legitimate needs that often get baited by illegitimate solutions. Your children will one day be adults who understand the pressure of intangible, legitimate needs. Their memory of your steadfast resolve to trust God to meet those needs will encourage their faith in their time of testing.
2) Take Your Kids to Church.
My brothers and I practically grew up in church. We developed an innate love for the work of the church, an appreciation for its ministry, an unshakeable conviction that the church is the hope of the world, and a commitment to surrender our gifts to her use. It happened while we were at church.
Notice my insistence on the ‘taking’ part. My mom drove us to church, insisted that we get involved, sat through our ministry rehearsals, and applauded our work in the Kingdom. I’m sure that my convictions about the enormous importance of Children’s ministry as a Senior Pastor developed first in my home. You have no idea how leading your family to worship will shape the work your child will one day perform.
3) Allow No Excuses.
I remember being too sleepy to do my homework one evening. My mom let me go to bed instead of making me do my work. At about 4 a.m. she came into my room, woke me, took me to the kitchen table, and made me finish my work. I will never forget it! That night she taught me the difference between fatigue and laziness. She would not allow any of us to be lazy. We couldn’t get away with anything! My work ethic to this day is attributable to several lessons like that.
4) Permit Reality and Insist on Respect.
My dad had some challenges. I’m not sure what the latest research admonished parents to do, but my mom told me what his challenges were. To this day, because his blood runs through my veins, I avoid some of the traps that got him. My mother never hid those things from us. She did, however, insist that I respect my father. To this day she asks me about my relationship with my father and will always end the conversation with something like, ‘you know, he is your father’ … implying that I should honor him. I don’t always listen, but she’s right. Children need to learn how to deal with reality without losing their self-control.
5) Teach Your Children to Pray.
So my fondest memory of childhood is not a gift, game or girl. My fondest memory is kneeling next to my mom in prayer. At our house we all prayed before eating, in the car on the way to school, and at bedtime. I got a little older and mom stopped coming into my room to tuck me in. What happened still warms my heart. I would still pray. At the end of my prayer, I’d yell out toward her room, ‘Hey mom! I said my prayers.’ I didn’t know how to articulate it then, but I was learning to talk to God for myself. That’s been a constant in my life. I pray to God my father because my mother taught me how.
This is no exhaustive list. They are just some of the musings from my upbringing. It may be tough to raise your child as a single parent, but God will help.
Published on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 @ 6:36 PM CDT