Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Modern Day Widows

Dear Church-

I think we've got some problems that need addressing.  They're not easy problems.  They're messy and they make us feel a little icky.  They point to something being wrong, some kind of internal sickness.  They're hard things to admit and face and deal with head on, but we have to.  We have to deal with this stuff.

This year my "Christian" husband left me unceremoniously after committing adultery.  He backed up his abandonment with some ridiculous old testament verses, and went merrily on his way to a new church without any reproach or reprimand from it's pastoral staff.  Live and let live, and don't offend your brother, right?

Maybe if I was a lonely little statistic this would simply be the rantings of a wounded woman.  But you see, I'm not alone.  I've watched too many "Christian men" cheat on their wives and leave them to raise their children and shift through life alone.  Some provide financial support, some don't.  Some see their children, some don't.  I wish I could say that in my own smallish circle that I could count the number of women this has happened to on one hand, but I can't.

That's a problem.

Something is broken, church.  Something is damaged and sickness has crept in.  Somewhere along the way something has gone terribly wrong.

These are worship leaders, deacons, elders, and pastors of your church.  These are men that profess to love God, but remain unrepentant.  These are men that are still allowed to sit in the pews on Sunday morning and lead the church in worship while they remain unrepentant and in sin.  What's up, church?  Where did we go wrong?

We spend a lot of time talking about women's roles in our sermons.  What women should and shouldn't do.  That we should obey our husbands and submit to their headship.  Cool.  Biblical stuff.  Let's not stop covering it just because it's hard.  BUT, and this is a big but, let's not forget to teach it in context and hit the responsibilities also commanded to the dudes in those passages.

Husbands, love your wives as Christ loves the church.

Oh snap.  That's a lot heavier than we've made it out to be.  Without turning this into a lengthy sermon that I'm really not qualified to preach, I'm going to unpack that for you.

Christ loves the church sacrificially.  Without condition.  While they are disobedient and rebellious and spitting in his face.  Christ loves the church no matter what.  There are no conditions when it comes to his love.  It doesn't stop because we aren't meeting his expectations.  It doesn't end because we're just not doing enough to make him happy.  God help us broken sinners if that were the case.  We'd all be doomed.  Christ loves the church because the church is his bride and his inheritance and his family.  Christ loves his church despite themselves.  Despite their foolishness, selfishness, greed, and sin.  Because he promised that he would never leave us or forsake us.  Oh, how he loves us.

We don't deserve it.

The bible never tells us that it's ok to leave our wives if they stop living up to standards that have been a bit perverted over the years.  It never tells us that husbands are to love their wives only if it makes their own lives more enjoyable and happy.  It certainly never tells us to love our wives only when they are fit and happy and cooking you elaborate meals because that's what you deserve.

Where did we go wrong?

My heart is so flipping burdened by this, and even more so because it seems that the church isn't.

You're called to take care of the widows and the orphans.  Unfortunately in today's day and age, women are being "widowed" by selfish husbands who have convinced themselves that they are the only people that matter, because their wives are supposed to submit to them because they are the head of the household.  I'm the widow of our generation.  My friends who have been left by juvenile and self-serving "christian" men are the widows of our generation.

I don't say this lightly.  Believe me, I know what I am saying.  I know what I'm charging you with, church.  I know.  But the thing is, you've helped make us.  The abandoned, alone, and struggling mothers who woke up one day to a shattered reality and a disturbing feeling of shame over something we did not choose.  Your silence has helped make us.  Every time you knowingly let an unrepentant wayward husband into your fold without question or correction, you make us.  Every time you preach submission without also preaching sacrifice, you make us.  Every time you allow a newly single mom to fall through the cracks because you don't know how to approach the situation, you make us.  Our husbands may not have died, but they have left.  They have left, and you have been silent.

Can I be honest for a minute here?  I'm not totally sure what I am asking you to do about all of this.  I'm really not.  Obviously I am asking you to preach just as heavily, if not more so, on the responsibilities of the husband in a Godly marriage and what that looks like as you preach on wives submitting to their husbands.  I'm sure I lost a few of you there, but I'm going to keep going.  Because some of you are probably still reading.  Still sticking around.

I'm asking you, as a whole, to set programs and protocols in place to help single moms.  It's a terrifying reality to find yourself in.  The vast majority don't choose it for themselves.  The vast majority don't know how to ask for help or what kind of help to ask for because they are drowning in grief and worry and the new reality of their situation.  Have something in place for them.  Don't make them come to you.  Go to them.  Tell them how you are going to help.  Pay for their counseling, set them up with a career counselor, help them with education.  Set them up with childcare once or twice a month so that they can get things done or just sleep, for crying out loud.

I'm asking you to stop your silent agreement with these men who unrepentantly leave their families.  You have all too often made yourself complicit in their sins by failing to do the hard thing and address it with them head-on.  You do not want to be held responsible for that.  You really don't.

I'm asking you to make sure that you treat these modern-day-widows with love and respect, and don't put shame on them by making them somehow second-class citizens within the church.  We didn't ask for this life.  Please do not treat us like prostitutes or pariahs.  (The fact that it shouldn't matter if we had been prostitutes is another sermon for another day.)  Don't shove us to the back because it makes people uncomfortable that there are single mothers in the congregation.  God forbid.

I am, above all, asking you to get your head out of the sand and acknowledge that we have a serious problem here that seems to be hitting epidemic levels.  To call for some serious prayer and fasting and God-seeking to see how the modern church and it's culture have contributed to this incredibly serious issue.  Take responsibility where you should.  Humble yourself.  Become more like the God we all serve and sacrifice.

If your congregation doesn't have a single mom in it, good.  But it probably will.  It's probably going to happen, and pretending that it won't isn't going to help anyone.  This isn't a worldly problem, this is a christian problem.  This is happening over and over and over again in supposedly christian households within the church.  This will, unfortunately, probably be something your congregation will have to grapple with at some point.

This is such a huge issue.  There's no way I can even begin to unpack a sliver of it.  It's massive, and heartbreaking, and real.  Let's start treating it as such.  We modern-day-widows are raising the next generation, and we are often doing it alone, with very little support.  Our kids will probably pick up on that one day, and shame on the church if it causes those children to fall away because all they see is apathy and inefficacy when their families were hurting and in need.

I've posed a lot more problems and questions than I have solutions.  I know.  But I'm just one woman, one woman left by her "christian" husband, trying to make sense of this new world.  I probably sound a little angry, and you know what?  I am.  But I'm also just so stinking ashamed that we have let this become the problem that it is.  That we have raised up a generation of entitled, selfish, cowards instead of Godly men.  It's got to stop.  It has to change.  You have no idea the hearts and lives and souls at stake.

Fast.  Pray.  Fall on your face and ask the Lord to lead you to some kind of understanding.  Some way you can change this.  Some way you can help the Church do what she was meant and called to do- to take care of the widow and the orphan.  Because they are God's beloved.  And they are worth it.

What is Single Motherhood

Ten months.  Ten months I've been parenting alone, carrying 85 to 90% of the daily burdens and responsibilities surrounding my children.  Six of those months were spent doing every single overnight.  Every one.  Alone.  Ten months with a baby.  Ten months with a preschooler struggling to come to some kind of terms with her new and scarier life.  Ten months of no help when I've been sick.  Little to no help when the kids are.  Ten months of trial after trial after trial.  Ten months of dealing with all of this in the midst of trying to get a grip on some pretty severe postpartum depression.  And being emotionally manipulated, gaslit, and abused.

Ten months of being a single mom.

Yes.  My ex is supportive financially.  No, he has not completely left us alone in the world.  Yes, he now takes the kids on overnights every other weekend.  No, he will not ever hang out on my couch while our children sleep so that I can get out of the house once in a while.  Yes.  This all still makes me a single mom.  Even if he does't think I qualify.

Let's chat a little bit about some of this stuff.  Really.  Let's have a good long chat about some hard stuff.

If you leave your wife after committing adultery and refusing any kind of counseling or time to work to save your marriage, you lose the right to define her life any longer.  You lose the right to tell her that she is simply "looking for sympathy by falsely calling herself a single mom."  You lose the right to tell her that she isn't a single mom... she's a CO-PARENT.  You lose the right to speak into her reality because you have walked away without a second thought.

So what, exactly, does it mean to be a single mom?

It means something different to every woman slogging through it.  But here's what it means to me.

Being a single mom means that I don't get sick days.  Even when I beg for them.  It means that the response I get when asking my children's father to cancel his plans and be a father is "is it an emergency?"  Being a single mom means that, unless I am bleeding out, I am on my own.

Being a single mom means that I never sleep.  Not really.  Not deeply.  Not ever.  It means that your body is always on alert, listening for the sounds of your children needing help.  Listening for the sounds of potential threats and dangers to your family in the night.  It means never feeling that you can stop living in a state of half-wakefulness because it is all. on. you.

Being a single mom means that I am the disciplinarian.  Not the fun parent.  I'm the consistent voice.  The one that bears the burden of raising children better than the example they've been given.  It means that your kids always hear your voice teaching, disciplining, correcting, and sometimes it means that they tell you they want their "fun" parent.  And you have to suck it up.  Like everything else in life, you have to suck it up alone and keep parenting through the stinging tears fighting to escape your eyes.

It means that you are the safe zone.  You're the one that didn't leave.  You're the only constant in a life that has turned scary and shaky.  You are the one that has to hold it together, and apologize profusely when you can't.  You are the one that they will come to with their anger and their fears and their nightmares and their tears.  The burden of their hurting hearts will weigh your own down further but you must. keep. going.  You must continue to be the safe zone.  The constant.  The brave.

It means that you really don't get time to grieve the incredible loss you've suffered because you've got to hold it together for your children.  There's no one there anymore to take them into the backyard when you are struggling to breathe under the weight of this scary  new world and let you sob in an empty house.  It means you scream into pillows in the middle of the night and do your bargaining and crying and why-asking with God in the darkness of your room while you should be sleeping.

Being a single mom means that I no longer have an ally in the man I believed would love me and hold true to his vows until we were so old that life slipped away.  It means trying to be nice to a man who tells me to lose 150 pounds, or that I was never worth fighting for, or that he's going to call child protective services because my house is a mess and our kids eat processed foods.  It means having to treat as an adversary someone that should have always been your champion.

My single motherhood looks like scrambling to figure out a career because my ex "doesn't want to support my lazy ass for the rest of his life." when I quit my job to be a stay at home mom at his urging and after we'd agreed upon that reality from day one.

My single motherhood looks like loneliness and long days and longer nights.  It looks like being constantly belittled for hurting.  It looks like being told to "get over it because we're done."  It looks like unfaithfulness and affairs and deep chasms where trust used to be.

My single motherhood looks like something I never signed up for.  Something forced upon me.  Something heavy and brutal and violently unjust.  It looks like a life filled with "I don't know if I can do this"es and "I'm simply not strong enough"s.  It is the rough-handed shaping of a new reality that I don't want.

I don't call myself a single mom to garner sympathy.  I don't call myself a single mom because I think it's fun.  I don't call myself a single mom because it is a reality I chose.

I call myself a single mom because it is what I am.  A woman who carries the weight of the world on her shoulders alone.  Without a partner.  Without relief.  I am a single woman now.  Who is also a mom.  Don't get me started on how that will affect me in such a harsher way than it will affect my ex.  I call myself a single mom because I have nothing to be ashamed of.  I tried.  I really really tried.  I fought and begged and cried and I did what was left in my broken shell to save a marriage that probably wasn't even worth saving outside of the enormity and the sacredness of the vows I had spoken.  The vows I meant.  I don't need to assuage the guilt of the guilty by declaring myself to be a watered-down version of my reality.

My single motherhood may look different that the single motherhood of too many women I know who's "christian" husbands left them high and dry and broken.  But we don't need to make our realities more palatable for those who have understandably guilty consciences.  We don't need to consider them above ourselves or our children any longer.  We are the widows of our generation.  The struggling and grieving and alone.  To be denied acknowledgement of that fact simply because it causes someone else to feel badly about themselves is just further injuring  the broken and injured and bereaved.

If you don't like it, chances are it's because it makes you keenly aware of the injustice of your actions.  And frankly, that's no longer a burden we single mothers need to bear.  We have enough, thank you.