A Strong Foundation – God with the Single MotherBy
This is not the life I imagined! While I once dreamed of living with passion and purpose, I now swim in the stagnant pools of mediocrity. I drown in “to-do” lists and meaningless tasks, forgetting to cherish the simple pleasure of taking my girls to the park. In my desperation to survive, I lose the joy and wonder of motherhood. And when I stand in the presence of a truly great woman as she speaks of her children, husband, and home, I smile in reply and hide my heart, pounding with shame and jealousy. In those moments of sober judgment, I am most small. I want to run and play with my children and feel the warmth of the sun on my face, but there is too much to do and I DON’T KNOW HOW TO DO IT ALL! Work and budget. Grocery shop, cook, and clean the house. Kill the bug. Fix the toilet. Deal with homework, bath time, and bedtime. Nurture and discipline. Play and protect. Bandage the wounds. Lock the door. Pay the bills. Oh Lord, I can’t even pay my bills. I am overwhelmed and alone. And when I contemplate all I must do, I sit motionless, unable to accomplish even the smallest task. I am tired. Too tired to take my girls to the park. LORD! WHERE ARE YOU IN THIS? Help me to build a life and home for my girls. I can’t do this by myself. Amen.
It appears we are not alone in our quest for balance. Just today, an Internet search for “balance in life” pulled up 368,000,000 results within 0.64 seconds. With millions of fail proof, ten-step plans available, it is a wonder that anyone should struggle. According to the contemporary wisdom of this world, we find balance by determining our priorities, setting goals, and purposefully distributing our time, energy, and resources into the various areas of life. If we employ these habits with consistency, while always remembering to rest, the world promises a life of peace, productivity, stability, and happiness.
Whew. Sounds easy, doesn’t it?
Now, I believe there is great wisdom found in caring for ourselves and effectively managing our time and resources. Even the smallest improvement can reap lasting rewards. For example, I felt convicted to make significant changes in my life as a single mother after completing a ten-minute exercise found in a self-help book. I simply listed my daily activities and determined if they were in alignment with my priorities and values. I was shocked to see how much time I spent in activities that were not reflective of who I was or who I wanted to become.
Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. EPHESIANS 5:15–16
While this knowledge inspired me to take a thoughtful approach to how I spend my time, it did not provide the lasting stability and peace I needed. More often than not, my self-imposed, list-making, goal-setting attempts to find balance led to a predictable cycle of frustration, failure, shame, and isolation. I just couldn’t keep up.
Can you relate, dear single mom? Perhaps your life looks similar to mine—a frantic juggling act of obligations, expectations, and distractions, poorly managed through an endless rotation of sticky notes and to-do lists. You might feel pressure to not only accomplish the tasks of everyday life, but also to provide your children with the same measure of love, attention, time, possessions, and lifestyle as a two-parent home. Or maybe you have grown so weary, you’ve long abandoned the juggling act and only have enough energy to deal with the issues immediately in front of you. And yet, there are even some who have given up completely and deliberately choose to avoid all things pertaining to responsibility. I get it. I’ve experienced each stage at one point or another.
Unlike its worldly counterpart, biblical balance has nothing to do with performance or completed checklists. Biblical balance is the stability found in having our feet and home firmly planted on the rock that is Jesus Christ. At first, I approached this truth with arms crossed, believing it was nothing more than a spiritual pacifier designed to silence the questions of struggling Christians. Because I wanted immediate, tangible, and measurable help, the concept of biblical balance quickly fell into the category of irrelevant Christianese. Nothing more.
But over time, I experienced the radical transformation that occurs when the Word of God embeds itself within the heart. And as I embraced His Word as Truth, I learned three lessons, crucial to rebuilding my single parent home.
- God lifts us and places us on high ground. We are fallible human beings. We stumble and trip. We make unwise choices and easily fall victim to circumstances beyond our control. In my inability to juggle the responsibilities and expectations of life, I cried out to God, “LORD! WHERE ARE YOU IN THIS? Please help me!” I found His answer in His Word.
I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. PSALM 40:1–2
While thankful for God’s saving hand, I quickly learned that standing on the rock did not remove the to-do lists or lessen my weight of responsibility. I woke up each morning to the same routine and pressures. But because God lifted me to a higher place, my perspective changed, enabling me to view my life differently and come up with reasonable strategies that I would have otherwise never known. Having a different vantage point also made it abundantly clear what obstructions needed to be removed from my life.
- A house built on the rock withstands storms. When we build our house on the unpredictable and uncontrollable things of this world, the smallest amount of hardship threatens our home’s structural integrity and our personal stability. Anchoring our home to the rock, however, provides an immovable foundation, allowing us to face life’s inevitable storms with courage, perseverance, and hope. Instead of feeling thrown about by every wind and gale, I felt sheltered, knowing our home was a safe refuge.
We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. 2 CORINTHIANS 4:8–9
- Jesus serves as our foundation and chief cornerstone. As our foundation, Jesus gives enduring strength and stability to our home. As the chief cornerstone, He provides the per- fect standard from which the entire structure is measured and built. Jesus not only supports us, He shows the way through His words and teaching. But each one should build with care.
For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.
1 CORINTHIANS 3:10–11
Single moms, I encourage you to lay it all down before God, right now—the to-do lists, the impossible demands, the un- realistic expectations, the broken wheelbarrow wheels, and the shame in not being able to do it all. Release it to His care, if only for a moment, and take a deep breath.
May I offer you the bit of truth and grace I desperately needed years ago? God does not require you to keep everything under perfect control. He does not keep a list of failures, and He does not judge you by the standards of the world.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” ISAIAH 55:9
Your identity and stability are not determined by your performance. You are not a juggling tightrope walker. Nor are you the juggling, tightrope walking, comedic relief. In fact, God didn’t place that tightrope in front of you. It is self-imposed, which means you have the ability to get off of it and get rid of it. And it’s time to burn the tutu, no matter how sparkly it is. If you expect yourself to be Superwoman, burn the cape.
I write in all seriousness, friend.
It’s time to abandon this false belief system about balance. Improving your life management skills shows wisdom, so go to workshops. Write your goals. Dream big dreams. Determine your priorities and take care of your body. But, do not trust, even for a moment, that your ability to achieve a high level of balance will provide you with a strong foundation. It is as stable as trying to build your home on a galvanized steel tightrope, two inches in diameter, suspended twenty feet off the ground.
God has entrusted you with an important job during this season of being a single mother. You are a co-builder with God and together you will restore your home and establish a new legacy for your children. In your longing for balance and stability, build your home on the rock that is Jesus, for a house is only as strong as the foundation upon which it stands.
Hear my cry, O God, listen to my prayer; from the end of the earth I call to you when my heart is faint.
Lead me to the rock that is higher than I . . .PSALM 61:1–2 (ESV)
Michelle Lynn Senters has a message for single moms— one forged in her own journey and deepened through her years of ministry to single mothers. “You are not alone.” She is the Founder and Director of SEEN, a ministry designed to demonstrate the love of Christ to single mothers and equip churches to meet their spiritual needs. Michelle is a sought-after speaker at women’s events, Bible studies, and writer’s conferences. She is the author of The Unseen Companion-God with the Single Mother. Learn more at www.michellelynnsenters.com and www.seenministries.com.
* Excerpt adapted from The Unseen Companion-God with the Single Mother, ©2017 by Michelle Lynn Senters. Used with permission of Moody Publishers.