I recently had the distinct pleasure of participating in a school function—DURING THE DAY—with my two 2nd graders.
Distinct pleasure? For doing a regular “mom thing”? Let me explain…
There was a time in the not-so-distant past when there was no way I could have justified attending Bring Someone Special to Lunch Day at school. As a working, single mom (on and off for 12 years), I rarely had the luxury of attending school functions during the day. I was the sole breadwinner, so if I didn’t go to work, then the bills didn’t get paid and little mouths didn’t get fed. There were a few instances (graduations and special plays) that I didn’t miss out on, but there were never opportunities for me to just enjoy lunch with my kids at school. It was something I often grieved over. And I know it disappointed my son to not have his mom at school when so many other kids did. That is what probably hurt the most.
While sitting at home yesterday, looking at these pictures and feeling so thankful to have had that time with my kids, I was reminded of those years when this wasn’t my reality, and I was instantly overwhelmed with sadness for those who are still in this season of life.
You see, those years during which I was navigating divorce and surviving as a single mom were so very lonely for me—and they shouldn’t have been. God’s presence was so very real, and His provision was nothing short of miraculous, but my earthly relationships (outside of family) were almost non-existent. With divorce and single parenthood so prevalent in today’s society, it’s a wonder that ANY of us feel lonely, especially those of us who call ourselves Christians and attend church regularly. But that was me. Weekly church attender; served regularly; attended small groups. But the loneliness and general feeling of “not fitting in” didn’t go away until I was back in a loving, stable relationship. I may be ruffling some church feathers today, but THIS HAS GOT TO CHANGE!
I hated being a part of the statistic of failed marriages as a Christian, knowing full well that God’s heart is for marriages to thrive and ultimately reflect His goodness and love for us all. But sometimes things just don’t go as planned. Whether it’s our sin or bad judgment (or both) that resulted in the marriage failing – many Christians find themselves in the throes of divorce—and you know what? It sucks. Much of what I was feeling was my own shame of having to end a marriage, but there’s another aspect that contributed to my loneliness—and here’s where I expose the elephant in the room….
Many people in the church just don’t know how to care for those who are in the midst of divorce.
I said it.
It’s heartbreaking, but it’s true. As a single mom, I didn’t fit into the college and career crowd because a) I had a kid, and b) I’d already been married. Most of the folks in that group were still daydreaming about their future spouse, and had never traveled the rocky road of divorce, let alone parenthood. They just flat out couldn’t relate to my situation.
On the other side of the coin, I didn’t fit in with the couples crowd because, well—I was no longer part of a couple. Talk about feeling like a fifth wheel.
And herein lies the problem. So many people think that just because they aren’t in the same season of life or can’t relate to someone going through divorce (or being a single parent), that they can’t be a good friend.
What a lie from the pit of hell.
We can’t always relate to those afflicted with cancer—but we can pray, we can serve, we can listen, and we can love.
We can’t always relate to the affliction of the homeless—but we can pray, we can serve, we can listen, and we can love.
Divorce is no different.
Divorce is a death. Not the death of a body, but the death of a covenant. I don’t care what your circumstance is—divorce is painful. And those of us who are in the middle of it NEED TO BE LOVED. We need to feel like even though we’ve failed, we are still accepted. But how can you do that—practically speaking? Glad you asked!
Here is what I wish I’d had during those painful years.
1. Someone to listen who WASN’T a family member
I’m so thankful for my family, but they are biased in my favor and they were oftentimes grieving right along with me, because it was a death for their relationship with my spouse as well. I wish I’d had more friends who would provide a shoulder to cry on, or just offer a hug without feeling the need to give advice. I had enough advice from pastors and attorneys—I just needed someone to listen to me.
Listen—I know better than anyone that I was high maintenance during those years. I was broke financially and broken emotionally. But thankfully, those who WERE walking with me extended some grace during the times when I was a literal and figurative mess. Try to be sensitive even when it costs you. I promise, it will mean all the world to that person.
I probably watched more TV than I’d care to admit, because my schedule was always free and clear. This is especially important for the single parents, who are usually playing the roles of both mom AND dad. It’s exhausting, and very lonely. Oh how I would have given an appendage for someone to whisk me away for a mani-pedi!
When in doubt, just love ’em where they’re at. We all have love languages. If you have a friend who is going through a divorce or doing life as a single parent, just figure out their love language and speak it every now and then. Write an encouraging note, buy an inexpensive but thoughtful gift (or make one!), or have that single mom’s oil changed. Just knowing that they were a thought in your mind could change their perspective on their pain…even if just for a moment.