Being a single mom is tough. It means carrying the entire load on your own shoulders. There’s no one to help make decisions, no one to share the burdens of raising kids. It is non-stop activity, trying to juggle the schedules of multiple children and figuring out how to get everyone where they need to be.
But, the biggest challenge I face today is raising boys in purity in this impure world.
I am quickly learning that the teenage years are difficult. They are filled with challenges—and temptations. Magazines in the locker rooms. Surfing the internet. Carrying a smart phone with virtually no accountability.
And, my boys—while they would love to have someone to talk to about these temptations—are stuck with me. No man to confide in. No man to look to as an example of how to conduct himself. No man to ask questions. Only Mom.
My boys desperately want to be the men God created them to be. They are especially sensitive to the effects of pornography, and they want to avoid the mistakes that they have seen play out in our lives. My marriage ended after nearly 17 years following unrepentant adultery. Throughout the years of our marriage, there were multiple signs that pornography was a problem. However, I don’t think I ever fully comprehended the extent of the problem. I was often told that it was “just the way men are,” and my belief that we should avoid even a hint of sexual immorality (Ephesians 5:3) was naively unrealistic.
Following my divorce, I was introduced to the book Every Young Man’s Battle. I read it with plans to take my boys through it; however, I was struck with how my ideas of sexual purity had strayed from God’s plan. I began to realize just how much pornography and sexual immorality had impacted my life and my marriage. I began to understand how pornography causes women to become objects to fulfill lustful desires rather than gifts to be treasured. I renewed my commitment to the highest levels of purity and determined to lead my children to a healthy view of sexuality.
Knowing that my boys are now teenagers—an age where sexual innuendos are common-place and I can no longer control their environments—I have come to realize that I must find ways to be intentional in teaching them to preserve their purity. It is a battle that they must learn to fight now. By giving them the proper view of sexuality from an early age and arming them with the knowledge that purity is possible through Christ, I hope that I can prepare them for a lifetime of pleasing God with purity of mind and body.
Model purity. Married or not, we as Christian parents must take purity seriously. We must set the example for our children and for the world around us. We are not to blend into our sex-saturated society; instead, our lives should stand in stark contrast.
Therefore, be imitators of God as dearly loved children….But sexual immorality and any impurity or greed should not even be heard of among you, as is proper for saints. Coarse and foolish talking or crude joking are not suitable… Ephesians 5:1, 3
As a single parent, I find myself in a situation where I have the opportunity to model purity in dating for my children. I have determined that I will approach the single life very carefully. I have chosen not to date, but rather I am seeking God’s will, asking that He not bring any man into my life except the one He plans for my future. I am very cautious never to put myself into a position that could give the appearance of impropriety. I seek to live my life in such a way that there is not even a hint of sexual immorality. I pray that my children will choose to imitate me as I seek to imitate Christ.
My children know that Christ impacts every decision I make. We carefully read reviews of movies to determine their content before we view them. We are very limited in our television viewing. We all share a computer—and even all passwords—so there are no secrets. My life is an open book for my kids. I want to live my life in such a way that I have nothing to hide.
Talk. Talking is a tough one sometimes. Sexuality is not something that my boys want to talk about—especially with their mother. Despite the discomfort, I attempt to turn conversations that direction as much as possible.
When confronted with a situation of infidelity, I attempt to broach the subject with them. I point out men who like Facebook pages of scantily clad women and tell my children that I could never consider those men as potential dates. I want them to understand that a woman worth dating will not want to date them if they are filling their mind with inappropriate images.
Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body. 1 Corinthians 6:18
Recently, there was a story on the news of a man who kidnapped and murdered a young girl. My oldest was burning with righteous anger toward the murderer. As he struggled with his anger and tried to grasp how anyone could commit such a heinous crime, I pointed out the link between pornography and violence, especially against women. I told of the studies I have read that have linked pornography to changes in the brain that cause men to view women as objects rather than valued individuals. I talked about how viewing those images causes our conscience to be seared, and we lose any sense of right and wrong.
At this age, my boys may think that looking at pretty women is harmless. However, I want them to understand that the way they look at and view women today will impact their future relationships. I want them to treat all women the way they want men to treat their little sister.
Love. While I am a firm believer in the importance of suffering consequences for our poor choices, there are moments that call for grace, mercy, and forgiveness. As much as I long for my children to be completely pure, I am certain that the day will come when I am faced with a confession. I pray that I will be able to extend mercy, to express compassion, and to remember that I, too, fall short of God’s standards.
I think of the woman caught in adultery, shamed and humiliated before the crowd. She must have been horrified—of her own actions and of being thrust in front of a crowd with her sins out in the open. She was vulnerable and scared. Christ, in His mercy and compassion, looked deep within her soul to see what the crowd could not see. They saw her actions; Christ saw her heart.
But when they persisted in asking Him, He straightened up, and said to them, “He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” …when they heard it, they began to go out one by one…and He was left alone, and the woman… John 8:7, 9
I don’t want to be the judgmental parent, standing over my children with stones, punishing them for mistakes that have caused them tremendous anguish. I don’t want to respond with anger and frustration when they fall short of God’s standard. I know that I haven’t walked this journey perfectly, and I want to remember how God pursued me relentlessly, forgave me generously, and loved me unconditionally—even in my sin. I want to extend the same mercy and grace to my children that my Heavenly Father has extended to me.
Protect. I frequently check my boys’ phones to see if there’s anything suspicious. We don’t have paid television service in our home so we are limited in what we view. My computer is the only one in the household. But, I know that it’s not enough.
Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. Romans 12:2
I trust my children, but if there is some type of boundary I can put in place that will help them make wise decisions, it is worth the cost, whatever it may be. We have restrictions on all of our phones that prevent certain apps from being downloaded. Only websites that are approved by me are available to be viewed. Facebook is not allowed on the phones. A browser that filters and sends accountability reports to me has been installed.
While it may seem like I am going overboard, there is no price too high. I want to set my children up for a lifetime of healthy relationships and a proper view of sexuality.
Pray, pray, pray. The longer I walk this Christian life, the less I understand prayer—and the more confidence I have that God answers the prayers of His servants.
Now this is the confidence we have before Him: Whenever we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears whatever we ask, we know that we have what we have asked Him for. 1 John 5:14-15
We know that God’s will for our children is to walk in purity. Therefore, according to this scripture, if we make it a matter of prayer, He will hear and answer.
Over the past year, I have made a conscious effort to pray intently for my children. I set timers on my phone throughout the day as a reminder to pray for my kids. I keep Stormie O’Martian’s book The Power of a Praying Parent in my car and use it as a starting point for my prayers. I have seen more changes in my children—more spiritual hunger and attention to God’s voice—than at any other time in my kids’ lives. While I may not do many things right, one thing I can do is pray that God will mold the hearts of my children.
We are just entering the teenage years in my house. I have many years and tears, many days of raging hormones still to come. My daily prayer is, “Lord, parent through me. These are your children. Supernaturally flow through me to lead these children to purity.” I don’t know what the coming years hold, but I know that my Savior is faithful to teach me as I teach my children.