[Single] Parents Night

Our church youth leaders hosted a Parents Night event tonight, which was partly a meeting to discuss upcoming activities and partly getting-to-know-each-other time. We split into two smaller groups for Q&A, and I was the only single parent in attendance, which made me the odd man out. It wasn’t as terribly awkward as it could have been, but I still felt a little self-conscious. I knew one of the couples in my group already, which helped me loosen up. Some of the questions were silly, and others were more serious and/or spiritual. It was nice to get to know some other parents and youth leaders better, which was the point of the activity.

I’m really glad I went, but the whole day has brought my single-parent status to the front of my mind, as if it’s tattooed across my forehead.

A dear friend was going through a really tough situation earlier today, and as we talked about it over the phone, she made the comment that I’m stronger than her because I’m independent. (Those weren’t her exact words, but I think it captures the gist of what she said.) I appreciate where she’s coming from, and I realize she meant it as a compliment, but sometimes I think it must be more difficult to be dependent on someone. I don’t really know what that’s like, beyond my growing-up years at home.

I read in the Bible and hear pastors teach about biblical roles in a marriage, and I don’t disagree with the concept, but I have seldom witnessed it firsthand. (That’s not to say that I have no godly marriage examples in my life, but I’m talking about a situation similar to my own, where the wife works outside the home and there are more than a couple of kids in the house.) Truly, I would like to not have to make all of the decisions and pay all of the bills, in addition to other daily chores like cooking, cleaning, sorting mail, grocery shopping, driving kids hither & yon, and household repairs. It’s just that I’ve had to do those things for so long (yes, for the most part, even during my marriage) that I’m not sure what it would be like to have someone to share the load. On the other hand, I want my ideas, opinions, and intellect to be valued in the decision-making process, as well. Being submissive doesn’t mean (or shouldn’t mean, that is) being bossed around.

For example, I heard a preacher on the radio this week who, I suppose, thought he was being funny as he talked about husbands and wives, and he made the comment, “Thank you, ladies, for cleaning up after us.” I thought to myself, “Are you kidding me? Clean up after yourself!” It is not ok for my kids to leave plates & cups sitting on the dining room table. The older three have rotating chores that include loading & unloading the dishwasher. The younger two take turns wiping the table and sweeping the dining room & kitchen floor. Are they still messy? Of course — they’re kids — and I bark at them 24/7, it seems, to pick up after themselves. My house is far from pristine, and I have bad habits that I need to adjust, as well. But to pick up dirty dishes left by a grown man too lazy to take them to the sink?!? I don’t think so.

I don’t recall anywhere in the Bible where it says that a woman should clean up after a man. Some people may think that perhaps I’m too independent for my own good, but if that’s their interpretation of biblical submission, then I may as well stay single forever.

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But, what about …? (Prayer Devotional for the week of January 12, 2014)

I’ve shared before about a bully in my elementary school who ruthlessly taunted a good friend of mine because she was poor and wore hand-me-down clothes. Between that situation and my own hurtful childhood memories of being called “four-eyes,” I have developed a very low tolerance for teasing. Jesting about your own goof-ups is one thing, but boosting your ego at someone else’s expense is unnecessary and mean. I don’t put up with it from my kids, and I sure don’t appreciate grown-ups stooping to such petty behavior. *Steps off soapbox

The point is, no one likes to be made a spectacle. I can’t think of any situation where it feels good to have my shortcomings highlighted or to publicize my self-doubts. (I have plenty; I just don’t want the world to know about them.) Leave it to God, though, to turn the tables around and make our insecurities something to be valued!

Check out what Jesus said in Matthew 5. He put a spotlight on our spiritual poverty, our grief, our need to be nourished and nurtured … all of the gunk that hinders us from seeing our potential and the hurt that chips away our confidence, and he called it blessed. I don’t know about you, but I sometimes need a reminder that God can use the messy parts of my life, just as much as he can use the pieces that are (in my mind, at least) going smoothly.

But, what about this dusty piece in the corner? Yep, that piece. But, what about that broken section that I’ve tried to glue together, but it keeps breaking? Yes, that one also. But, what about that part I buried years ago, because I’m ashamed to bring to light? Yes, even that part.

God can use our messed up lives, when we turn them over to him. It doesn’t really matter if the whole world points and laughs, because where we stand before God is far more important than the approval of others (and I’ve learned as I’ve gotten older: the odds are good that the people who sneer are probably struggling with insecurities of their own).