I have been solo-parenting for four years now. I know many people who have wonderful co-parenting relationships with their former spouses, but that has simply not been my experience. While I am blessed with tremendous support from my parents and extended family, the day-to-day burden of raising my children has fallen solely on me.
My kids and I have gotten along well in the wake of my divorce. They are well-behaved, respectful, and responsible. They are all honor students and well-respected by teachers and peers. I am so blessed to be the mother of these children.
Over recent months, however, I have struggled with knowing exactly how to get my children to a place in their lives where they hunger and thirst for God, where their relationship with God is central to every area of their lives. I try to bring God into everyday life. We go to church as a family. I pray faithfully for my children. Despite all my best efforts, I have felt as if I was spinning my wheels, making no progress.
Until this summer…
One day as I lamented to God about my predicament, I was overcome with the realization that I was doing everything right. I brought God into their lives. I ensured their behavior was appropriate. However, I couldn’t get them into the word and prayer. I couldn’t get them to surrender to God, to seek Him, to love Him the way I think they should.
The reality was obvious: I was solo-parenting, and that is never what God intended for me. I may not have an ideal co-parenting relationship with their earthly father, but my children have a Heavenly Father who longs to co-parent with me. In reality, my children have a Heavenly Father who wants to solo-parent through me, their earthly mother.
Father to the fatherless, defender of widows—this is God, whose dwelling is holy. God places the lonely in families; he sets the prisoners free and gives them joy. Psalm 68:5-6a
In that moment, I made a conscious decision to quit parenting! I reminded God that I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live. This life that I have is His to live (Galatians 2:20). Every morning since then, I have prayed that God would parent through me, that it would not be me leading my children, but that it would be Him through me. Recently, I ran into a situation where His revelation has proven the power of His superior parenting.
My middle child is a precious young man who has a heart of gold—and a very emotional temperament. Everything he does, he does with gusto! This summer, his temper has been flaring in unusual ways. One evening as I attempted to referee yet another argument, I began to sense the anger that was boiling deep inside of him. As I lovingly questioned him about what was going on, I could tell that there was something deeper—but I couldn’t figure out what it was. We talked for a while about his anger, and we resolved together that we would pray until God revealed the answer.
A couple of days later as I prayed that God would give me wisdom in the situation, I suddenly had an understanding of the problem: he was struggling with his relationship with his father. His dad has been out of state all summer, and they have not seen him since before summer break began. This poor child was struggling with missing his dad—and a mix of other emotions evoked by the thoughts of his father.
I sat down later with my son and I began to ask him questions. I simply started with, “Tell me what you think about when you think about your dad.” Immediately, the tears began to well up in his eyes as he struggled to find the words. The word “dad” simply invokes a multitude of emotions in this child. He struggles with a less-than-perfect relationship with his earthly father. As he enters the early years of puberty, I have suddenly become aware of the hurt and pain that it is causing him. That revelation had never occurred to me; it was only through God’s revelation that I began to understand the problem.
In the days since our discussion, my sweet child has begun to open up to me about his feelings. We have committed to praying every day for God to make his relationship with his dad what God intended it to be. God is allowing him to understand his own emotions, and I find myself much more willing to take a few minutes to listen to him. I am seeking out resources that will help me help him with the father wound that he has. I want to make sure that he fills the void in his heart with the one thing that can make him content—Jesus Christ.
Learning to co-parent with Christ—or allowing Him to parent through me—is a journey that I am just beginning. I am learning to turn to Him in every circumstance, to seek His wisdom to handle even minor situations. I am begging Him to open my eyes to struggles that my children are facing, struggles previously unknown to me.
How do I let Him parent through me? That is a question that I am only beginning to answer. But, let me tell you what I see happening in my home.
Each morning, I pray Galatians 2:20 back to God:
My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
I remind God that this life is not mine and that I don’t want to live it on my own any longer. I want Him to take my life and live it through me. I want Him to parent through me, to spend my money through me, to write through me. I want Him to take every area of my life and be in complete control. It’s a reminder to me that my life is not my own and I am not capable of producing the results I desire on my own. It’s a statement of surrender, of complete dependence upon God.
And, my statement of dependence opens the door for Christ’s power to flow through me.
Although the changes might be small, I am beginning to see how God is directing my every step. Sometimes it’s through God opening my eyes to see the source of problem, a revelation like the one I mentioned before. Other times, it’s a gentle prompting that makes me see I am doing something right. Last night, I went for a walk. When I got home, I was sitting outside in the driveway with my kids and their friends. As I sat there, I felt a gentle nudge telling me that I was doing the most important thing at that moment—sitting with my children. As a single mom, there are so many tasks calling for my attention—dinners to be cooked, bills to be paid, groceries to be purchased, a job to be completed. However, God seemed to say in that moment that I need to take more time to simply be an active part of my children’s lives, to involve myself in what is important to them.
I’ve also found that I’m more firm in my discipline—and my children can tell. I am blessed with kids who are well-behaved, and I rarely have big problems with them. But, it’s the little things that can irritate me. Since I turned parenting responsibilities over to God, I’ve discovered that I’m far better at following through on my threats. There seems to be more authority to my words, and my kids are recognizing the difference. I’m not the push-over that I used to be.
God has also taken my ears and made me more attuned to my children’s words. Yesterday, one of my kids said something—and it stopped me in my tracks. A few months ago, I would have gone on without even sensing the emotion behind the words. But, for some reason, I heard pain behind the words. I immediately stopped what I was doing and took my child in my arms. We began to talk about the pain—a tender moment I would have missed if God hadn’t quickened my spirit to hear beyond the words.
I don’t know what other changes God will make in our lives, but I trust God completely. He’s the best parent any of us could ever have! My greatest desire for my children is that they will live a life that matters in the kingdom of God, that they will love God with every ounce of their being. I have discovered that no matter how good of a parent I am, I am not capable of producing that result in my kids. That’s why I quit parenting.
Lord Jesus, I am not able to parent the way my kids deserve. I beg you to take my feeble attempts and produce the fruit that you desire in their lives. Quicken my heart and my mind to see behind the words. Impart your wisdom through me. Make me a supernatural parent—one who has your supernatural powers flowing through me.