Allow me to share this story that I think will help you understand how hard it is sometimes to move forward in life.
One spring day I was walking in my neighborhood. As I rounded the curve I noticed a little girl that looked to be about 5 years of age, playing outside while her mom was working in the yard. When I came back around the next time the little girl was dragging out a large tub. As I passed by her house she began to pull out the garden hose.
The third time around the block, the hose was in the bucket, water was spilling out over the sides and the little girl was nowhere to be seen. In just a moment she came running out of the house and had on what appeared to be last year’s swimsuit. Evidently she had grown quite a lot over the winter.
- She gleefully jumped in the tub of water.
- She tried to sit down in the tub.
- She stood, got out of the tub and walked around looking at it.
- With a look of determination she took a running jump and headed for the water again.
- No matter how hard she tried, she no longer fit in that small tub.
The little girl with her too little swim suit and the tub she could no longer fit into reminded me of a lot of single parents that have experienced a change in their lives. Some continue to try and go back and fit into their old life. Perhaps you are one of those people or maybe you have some single parents like that in your church.
They have experienced a divorce and they just can’t quite accept how their life has turned out. They continue to try and fit into a life that no longer fits.
Single parents that hold onto the old life
There are many things that keep a single parent from moving on.
- Continuing to talk about the divorce to anyone who will listen.
- Staying mad all the time.
- Because of stress, everything is seen as being “all about me.” It’s natural to feel like this.
- The are often late. When people are extremely stressed, they can’t maintain enough focus to keep track of time.
- Their children are often out of control. Kids take cues from the parent.
- They continue to try and have a relationship with the departed spouse even though the other person has moved on and is in a new relationship.
- Many without realizing it, use their children as pawns in order to have continued conversations with the other parent (or to “spy” on the activities of that parent).
Church leaders and children’s ministers
Even though many of you work with the children, make no mistake, you also work with the parent – the single parent.
What can you do?
- Encourage the single parent to find one or two confidantes with which to talk. The more people they talk to the more confusing situations can become.
- Very carefully and gently point out how their anger is affecting their life. If possible and if they will accept it provide comforting scriptures for them.
- Forgive them when they seem selfish and self-centered. If you can be supportive and accepting, it will help them to move forward.
- When their children are out of control, deal with it in the class. Do not call in the parent. Most of the time the parent is stressed and clueless as to how to help.
- If you have a policy where you send the child to the parent or you don’t allow the child to attend the next week because of their behavior, please think through this consequence because this will only serve as an excuse not to attend church.
- Keep in mind the person that brings them on Sunday may only get to be with their child a few times a month. They may not be able to address excessive discipline problems.
- Encourage the newly divorced parent to register for a DivorceCare group if they are still trying to heal from the divorce.
- If they are making progress in healing from the divorce then encourage them to get into a Single & Parenting group. This curriculum does wonders to help the single parent learn how to parent their children alone. And it is a learned process after having been married several years.
- Pray over them and with them.
- Be patient with them.
- Above all love these single parents in the Lord.
In Matthew 9:17 it says, “Neither do men pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the skins will burst, the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved.”
Jesus brings “newness” to life. He doesn’t want single parents to try and fit into their old life. He wants single parents to accept Him and He wants them to fit into a new and better life with Him.
Teach single parents that each experience they have in life grows and matures them and their life with Christ. People they meet become part of their living history.
Attitudes change, trust levels change. Friends come and go. Hopefully their faith walk grows to the point they can’t fit into old wineskins.