“Hi, I’m Beth. Lately I’ve been feeling so empty and broken. My kids have been really challenging and if I’m honest, day in and day out, I feel like I have nothing to give. I mean how am I supposed to lead these kids when I feel like I’m barely hanging on myself. I love my boys with all of my heart but I’m just afraid I’m not going to be able to give them all they need from a parent.”
Single parents, we know many of you experience incredible emotional upheaval as you adjust to parenting alone regardless of the reason, whether divorce, death of a loved one, or a personal decision of your own. That takes courage in and of itself. But then we end up needing continued strength and resilience to raise our kids as a solo parent in the aftermath of our own pain and struggle. Facing the reality of being a single parent is daunting. We don’t want to damage our kids and the fear of our own inadequacy is real. How do we find courage to parent in our brokenness?
We talked to expert therapist, mentor, speaker, and bestselling author, Chip Dodd, to explore how to overcome these fears and move ahead with courage. Chip recently joined the Solo Parent Society team as our resident counseling expert and regular contributor to our podcast. Chip offers so much insight and wisdom in understanding healing and wholeness. Chip shares that Isaiah 61 tells us God came to heal the broken hearts of hurting people by holding together the shattered pieces of our hearts. He does this by binding and wrapping them up in His tender care but letting God have those pieces takes courage. Chip defines courage as approaching life with “full hearted participation, all in, with everything” you are made to be. As babies, ironically, we are the most courageous of all. We are born looking for connection and come into life with full-hearted participation, unable to hold back any of their needs and wants. But from day one, we begin to learn to withdraw when those needs aren’t met. We use our willpower to hide who we are and what we need. But we were created to be known and seen. Chip reminds us that God sought us out in the garden of Eden wanting to find our hearts. He was looking for connection with us from the very start. And our hearts are at the very root of courage. In fact, Chip shares that in Latin the word for heart is “cor”, and in French it is “le couer”, which is where we get our word for courage. “Having heart and having courage are identical. Courage moves us to move toward what we are made to have, which is connection with God and others and to create something wonderful from that.”
After becoming a single parent, we may feel like we have failed, we may feel damaged, we have sometimes lost confidence and we aren’t sure we have what it takes to parent well alone. It takes courage to face these feelings of fear and inadequacy but facing them is the only way through. We start from our place of need, Luke 7:36-50 is the story of the sinful woman in need who grieved deeply and reached out for hope in Christ. He met her there and her journey of restoration begin.
What experiences have you had that have shaken your confidence and gotten in the way of your courage to raise your kids as a single parent? Do you believe God can restore your heart and give you courage to live fully again? Why or why not?
Three things bring us back to courage:
Lingering is staying longer at a place even though it’s time to go because we are reluctant to go. Staying at a place even though it’s time to go because we are reluctant to leave. Chip shares that Exodus 33 is about the Israelites leaving Egypt but on the way to the Promised Land, they camped. During that time, God would talk to Moses in the Tent of Meeting as a friend face to face. Friends come alongside to share our troubles and increase our joy. Chip reiterates we are born for relationships and to find fulfillment in connection. When Moses would leave the Tent of Meeting, young Joshua, who would later lead the Israelites into the promised land, would linger at the tent after Moses left. He was reluctant to leave God’s presence. When we are in a season of transitions and gaining strength for the journey ahead, we need to go linger in that tent. We need to meet with God and sit with Him. Our neediness must reach out in desperation to Him. “Blessing comes in that lingering”, says Chip, “Lingering is an invitation to step into our pain because that’s where healing is.” Lingering with God provides opportunity for us to receive His love and this is the first step in finding courage.
Have you made time to linger with God? What does that look like for you? What could it look like in the future?
Finding courage requires lingering with God and it also requires sharing with Him. As we linger with God, we can share our hearts with Him, in joy and praise or in grief and loss. We are created to cry, to reach out and have our needs met. After we are wounded, knocked down or driven over, we are in need. We need to receive from God as we share with him our hearts so that
This sharing positions us to hear back from God and to receive from Him. Only in this sharing and receiving do we have anything to give back and particularly, as single parents, to give to our kids.
Chip shares that when we listen to the voice of our heart, we return to who we are made to be, we return to God to whom we belong and then we can do what we are made to do and have what we are meant to have. The world gets it backwards, and tells us to start by doing, rather than by understanding who we are, made to be in relationship to God, as He designed us first. This sharing our hearts with God is necessary in finding the courage to parent our kids because in sharing with Him, we receive what we need. And this is a continual process. We must continually linger with God and share with Him day after day, receiving what we need for the next step which is walking.
When you linger with God, how free are you to share your heart with Him? What have you received back from Him during those times?
The third step in finding courage to parent our kids is walking. Seems simple, right? Walking it out is where we act on the courage we’ve received from being present with ourselves and with God. After we are wounded, knocked down or driven over, we are in need. We are in need of receiving from God and when we do, our hearts become filled with what we need to walk with courage. Lingering and sharing to receive from God are important because we must have something to take with us as on our journey as parents. We need courage from Him to walk out who we are and what we need to do next as parents.
When Joshua got to the promised land, he had already been lingering and sharing with God regularly. This gave him the strength he needed to make the journey all the way there from Egypt. In the same way, we are called to rise and live every day, to linger and share time with God, receiving from Him so we can walk our own journey as single parents. Walking is giving away the love and care we have received from God ourselves, first to our kids, and to those around us.
Is God leading you to walk out your journey as a single parent in a specific way? How is he nudging your heart to find the courage to live fully, to love deeply and to lead well as a mom or dad?
Chip reiterates that lingering, sharing, and walking are all part of the process of speaking the voice of our heart. We are made to connect to our own hearts, to God’s heart, and to the hearts of others. Chip addresses this for parents toward our kids in his book, “Parenting With Heart” where he shares what it looks like to live fully, to love deeply, and to lead well, as we find courage to be the parents we need to be for our kids.
“When Solo Parents come together, we can share strength and experience to help move forward in hope. Be part of a community of parents just like you. Learn from others who have been or are still on the same path as you, and feel authentic support.
Whether by death of spouse, divorce, or by choice, Solo Parents come from a variety of backgrounds. Regardless, we trust God will bring healing in our lives through reliance on Him as we gather together in community and apply His truths to each of our unique walks, encouraging one another along the way.
We are currently meeting via Zoom on Wednesday’s at 8:30PM as we build meaningfully connected, Christ-centered community. For more information (including Zoom links to other Solo Parent Society Zoom meetings that occur throughout the week—Thursday nights at 9PM we have a friendly game night) please download our app by searching for “Solo Parent Society” or going to this web address https://get.theapp.co/dtxg or by contacting André Toman via text at 336-541-3222. Other great resources can be found at our webpage: https://soloparentsociety.com”