“Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of people in order to be noticed by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. 2 So whenever you give to the poor, don’t blow a trumpet before you like the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets so that they will be praised by people. I tell all of you with certainty, they have their full reward! 3 But when you give to the poor, don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 so that your giving may be done in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”
There's are many ways to apply to this principle to ours lives; however this post I'm going to address this as it applies to single parenting.
The truth is the life of a single parent is one with most of the hard work, giving, and sacrifices being done behind the scenes. There's not another parent in the home or even a spouse that might be away from the home to vent to or receive encouragement from. Most of the things that single parents do for their children don't really get noticed by anyone. Again, this applies to traditional household parents and so many other groups of people; however, I just wanted to specifically encourage my solo parenting friends today.
For so long, I just believed our role was one that really just helped our children. Of course, we would get fulfillment and a closeness with our kids, but overall our needs and desires would ultimately have to take a back seat to theirs. All of this applies to both custodial and non-custodial parents.
As a custodial parent, the wear and tear of emotional strain being the caretaker can be overwhelming. Day in and out, we carry the load of day to day parenting. School mornings, doctors appointments, sports practices, late night vomiting sessions, preparing meals, etc., it's all our responsibility. There is no one to tag out with. No one to jump in the ring for us, while we take a breather. At times we get so tired or emotionally/mentally/physically drained, it's hard to keep up with it all. But... we do. It's our duty and passion. No matter how hard it gets, we find a way to give our kids the best we have at all times.
On the other hand though, non-custodial parents deal with probably a harder challenge.. not being able to fulfill that day to day parenting position. Many times, their role in their children's life is restricted to only a few days a month. However, either in order to keep their children's life stable, to keep the relationship with the other parent healthy, or just because of custody arrangements, they grit their teeth and go without seeing their child. Throughout all of this, the love for their kids is there beyond measure. To me that's an enormous sacrifice. One that I personally don't know if I could bear. My hat's off to the non-custodial single parents out there. You all are the even more unseen champs. Personally, I know my kid's mother deals with this pain. She is amazingly supportive of us and extremely selfless in our desire to put the kid's well being before her own. I'm blessed to have an ex-spouse like her.
So back to the topic, as single parents we act out our love in secret. We all long to bless our children without them feeling guilty or ashamed to accept it. What I mean by this is, if you or your kid needs a new pair of shoes and you only have money to buy one pair. I can pretty much guarantee that most of the people reading this would buy their kids some nice new shoes with a smile. And if your kid ever asks "Mom/Dad, why don't you buy yourself new shoes too?" Never in a million years, would you want them to feel guilt due to the truth of the situation. Most of you would just smile and tell them our shoes are just fine and that they will last a bit longer. My point is our kids should never have to feel guilt from being cared and provided for. So since there is no one else in our homes but us and the children, these acts of love are something that's only truly understood within our own hearts.
Recently, I had been having a rough patch in regard to being a single parent, and then God hit me with a random memory from YEARS back: It was probably around 2007. I had to stay extra late one Sunday after church to setup for a skit I was doing the next week. So I finally finished all of my work and went to lock up the building. However, when I was checking all of the doors before setting the alarm, I noticed a light on in the back of the dining hall of the church. Curious, I peaked in to see what was going on. What I saw still sticks with me to this day. One of our church members (a quiet, sweet member who sat near the back & never seeking any kind of attention) had every single piece of silver we used for communion laid out on the tables. I attended a fairly large sized church, so all of the pieces took up multiple tables. I watched her slowly and carefully hand-polishing each individual piece. I could tell she had been at this for hours, just to make sure each item was as pristine as possible. I remember not saying anything in that moment. I just kind of froze up looking at her. It was the purest, most serene thing I'd ever seen. After a few minutes, I stepped away and called one of our pastors to brag on this woman. I could tell the pastor was smiling over the phone. She told me that this woman got a key to the church in order to stay late once a month to polish all of the silver. No one really knew about it, besides the pastor who she got the key from. She just saw a need and filled that need in private. No fan fare or casually mentioning, the hours and hours spent polishing. Nothing. She just did it in private with a smile.
As I said, I had been in a rough patch when God brought that story to my mind. I felt him saying that we are single parents are supposed to be like my friend from the story and our children like the silver. Then he brought up the passage from Matthew I mentioned earlier. If I performed my parenting role in a Godly, non-self serving way I would be blessed as well, along with my children. Sure people will hopefully see the fruit (love, happiness, joy) of our children, but there's a Heavenly blessing in it for us as parents. In the quiet alone moments of prayer, in the times you sacrifice personal time for them, in the love you've given when you yourself have felt unloved, etc. In all of that, there is an audience watching... It's God. He sees you polishing your silver when you think no one is watching. He knows how isolated you feel, but continue to serve. Not seeking public attention and not receiving that support from a spouse that we all so desperately desire, and Geez Louise is he proud of you.
When we realize that our blessing is more than a future spouse, friendships, prestige, or money, it's when we can finally begin to embrace/understand it. (Seth note: Geez. I'm so guilty of this to be honest). The blessing isn't something tangible or even visible to people around us. It's the noble gift getting the lay the firm foundation for our kids. Have you ever completed a project yourself instead of calling in someone else like fixing something the house, hand making a gift, building something instead of buying it, cooking a meal from scratch for a dinner, etc.? What a remarkable feeling we get to experience afterwards! That's our gift we get to experience each day! Of course, God is always in charge and nothing is possible without him. We are never saved by our works, BUT you can be obedient and finish your race with your everything you've got. God wants you to feel that joy because it's what He's feeling when He thinks of you!
So my single parent friends, yes you are tired, neglected, financially strapped, and isolated. No one sees your sacrifices or trials. However, remember this is a blessing. It's a Heavenly gift to be able to serve in private. I like to picture it like this, God looks us at the same way we look at our kids when they pour themselves out to others with no desire for anything in return. Just a beaming, sweet smile with prideful tears swelling up in His eyes.
I'm so very proud of you all,