A shame as dirty as the floor washed over me as I pulled the number from the dispenser. Babies wailed and mommas fidgeted. Numbers were called one-by-one. Brokenness filled the room. I couldn’t help but wonder about the circumstances that had left each person applying for government assistance. Abandoned families. Laid-off employees. Cancer patients. I prayed and reminded myself that God was in control over circumstances. Mine and theirs.
I fought the tears and resolved to maintain control. The moment would finally come when my number was called and she ushered us to her office. Right away, I could see that this social worker was not having a good day. She never looked up. Her tone was condescending and her heart cold. She fired questions at me, as if she was hoping to trap me. My situation was bleak and I needed the money, so I endured.
She had no patience, no understanding, and no tact.
On the form, I had checked married, but stated that he left. “That means you are separated, honey,” she jeered. I couldn’t find the voice to respond, so she continued. “You might as well face it. You are a single mom now.” It was the first time I would hear those words and it burned deep. The urge to choke her flooded over me, but I resolved not to come unglued. My heart withered in fear. I had no control over my life and the future was terrifying. I didn’t like it, but she was right. I was now a single mom.
For me, those words have always come with a wave of negativity.
I picture her living in a trailer, eating cans of beans from the church’s food bank and working while her babes sleep at night. She’s tired, mistreated, misunderstood, and often cries herself to sleep at night. Her heart is bitter and lonely and her responsibilites pile much higher than that sink of dirty dishes.
I grew up with this reality and I knew that it was the one thing that I never wanted to be. It was the one thing I feared the most. The one thing I worked the hardest to prevent. But it turns out that it’s not something I can control. Sweet friend…did you hear that? It’s not something you can control. Godly men fall off the deep end in an instant. Even pastors, deacons and missionary men. Families shatter and you find yourself sitting in the piles of destruction.
I’ve lived in that destruction for 2 years, 8 months and 2 days. Up until this very moment, I have never used the phrase “single mom.” Even when it was a matter of getting food for my children, I refused to allow it to define me. Yet, the reality is…I am a single mom. I care for 4 small children by myself. It doesn’t matter that I didn’t want this. It doesn’t matter that I begged him to stay. It doesn’t matter that I pray daily for God to restore our family. The reality is…he isn’t here and I do this thing alone.
I’m a single mom.
Declaring this “status” makes it hard to breathe. The fear of the unknown, the lack of financial resources, the emotional trauma and the judging eyes all carry great heartache. But for me, my greatest fear is the lack of acceptance. I fear that this will be the one thing that will keep me from being loved.
So often, people assume that single moms brought their depravity upon themselves. I know they do, because I’ve been one of those people. I’ve judged and pointed fingers. I’ve believed the lie that she could have been a better wife. I’ve watched her car pull into McDonald’s and passed judgement, never wondering how I could help with the mountain of responsibility that she never asked for. I’ve avoided friendships with single moms and I’ve offered “suggestions” as to their working status. I’ve even held the same critical views of myself.
Oh, how I wish I had known the pain, the utter depravity that a mom feels that can’t be comforted with piles of bills, laundry, and toys. Oh, how I wish that I had just once stopped to think about how badly she needed a friend or how desperate she was for a hug. Oh, how I wish that I had just stopped judging and tried to understand. But honestly, there is no way to understand or fathom what a single mom experiences. Until you’ve been there.
As it turns out, being a single mom is not a label, it’s a situation. And situations are what you make of them.
Single mom, it’s time we stop believing the lie that what other people think matters. NO ONE else can define us, but our Father. Right now, we can choose to believe what God says about us. There is no mold or stereotype to threaten us. EVEN if it was entirely your fault that he left, God’s love for you (and me) is scandalous. It’s never-ending. All-consuming. Merciful and powerful. He chose us and adopted us as treasured daughters (Eph 1:4-8).
Perhaps you didn’t choose to be a single mom, but you can chose to bask in the love of our Savior, not allowing negativity to invade. We can claim the promise that He is in control and that His plan works all things for our good, even when others intend harm (Gen. 50:20). We can choose to believe that even in this circumstance God is working, refining our own depravity into a crown of beauty (Is. 63)