I should probably start this post by saying that I never intended to write something so heavy so soon. However, I read something today that brought back, in glaring detail, several experiences I’ve had over the past five years and this post came pouring out of my heart. I hope that it will bring insight to those who need it. So here’s my open letter to Christian leaders everywhere from a single mom:
Dear pastors, speakers, Sunday School teachers, elders, small group leaders, teachers, and Christian friends,
I need to ask you for a favor. It’s probably not a big thing to you. I don’t think it will even take much effort. I need you to stop trying to save families by rattling off frightening statistics about children raised by single mothers.
And let me tell you why. About three and a half years ago I attended a large function organized by a group of well-meaning Christians and mostly attended by beautiful Christian couples — moms and dads raising children together. I had been separated from my husband for just one year and was in the midst of the gut-wrenching legal divorce process. The speaker that evening chose to speak about the importance of the family unit and began rattling off a list of horrifying statistics about children raised without a father in the home.
- Fatherless children are twice as likely to end up in jail as those who come from two parent homes.
- Sixty-three percent of youth suicides happen in homes without a father.
- Over seventy percent of high school drop-outs come from single parent homes.
- Daughters raised in a home without a father are 711 percent (not a typo) more likely to become pregnant as a teenager.
- Children raised in a divorced home are 92 percent more likely to get divorced than those raised in a two parent home.
The list went on and on. I remember concentrating very hard on the napkin in my lap as he painted an impossibly bleak picture for children raised in a home with a single mother — my children. Every statistic, every percentage, every story made the sharp pain in my chest even worse. This man was telling everyone in the room that there was little to no hope for my kids. In that moment they had no future. I twisted the napkin, I tore it into little pieces, I fought back my tears and I really wished I hadn’t just eaten before he began to speak. Eventually I couldn’t take it anymore. I fled to the bathroom doing my best to hold my head high and smile at the people I passed along the way. I was grateful to find it empty. I shut myself in a bathroom stall and wept as silently as I could before losing my dinner. That evening is burned into my memory forever.
And it isn’t the only incident that left a blistering scar. On N’s first day of 7th Grade his teacher asked the students to introduce themselves and tell the class about their hero. N mentioned it at dinner that night and I asked him what the answers had been like. He said, “Well most people said athletes, or actors, or musicians, but I told them my hero is you.” Even now I can’t type those words without tears streaming down my face. I was so moved and encouraged by his words that I posted them in my Facebook status that evening. I had no idea that an old family friend would take it upon himself to private message me. It went something like this:
Amy, I enjoyed your post about N calling you his hero and I am sure that you deserve it. However, I hope that you will steer him toward male heroes in the future. I hope that you will find ways for a male to have some influence in his life. A boy’s masculinity is fostered by having male role models. Please try to steer him in this direction and away from having you as his hero.
My evening and my heart came crashing down in a heap around my feet. Did he think I was stupid? Did he think that I somehow missed all those statistics that float around in the Christian world as people try to shame men into staying with the wife of their youth? Was I supposed to be standing in the middle of church begging Christian men to take an interest in mentoring my son? Could he possibly believe that I don’t pray every single day for my kids to end up in that tiny percentage of kids raised by single moms who actually turn out okay? Well I do. I am well aware of the statistics and I fight a battle on my knees for the lives and hearts of my children every single day. Every. Single. Day.
So dear pastor, speaker, teacher, elder, I know that you mean well. I understand that you want to see families stay whole. But I have to tell you that this is not the way to accomplish your desire. Men who have chosen to turn from the truth and walk in their own self-centered path are not going to hear your list of scary statistics and suddenly decide to selflessly lay down their desires for the sake of their wife and children. This is a heart issue that cannot be moved by scare tactics. If you don’t believe me and you’d like to try this approach in a room full of only men, by all means, be my guest. I don’t think it’ll work, but knock yourself out.
However, please do not use these statistics with an audience that might include a single mom or a child raised in a single-parent home. When you do this, you open the door for the enemy to declare defeat in the heart of a mother or child who has already been deeply wounded.
And you know what? These numbers have no place in the Christian walk, because our God is bigger than statistics. Numbers and percentages mean nothing to the One who knit my babies together in my womb. He promises to be their father and carry them close to His heart. He promises to lead me as I stumble up the steep and rocky path of single parenthood. He provides for our every need and His grace is enough to cover over the mistakes of every member of our family. As Stitch would say, our family ” is little and broken, but still good. Ya. Still good.”
When Jesus took in that breath in the depths of the tomb, He conquered all death and divorce, and the statistics that go with them. He is making it all new. He is making it all good.
So if you need to tell them a story, tell them this story. Tell them about the grace that covers the sins and the failures and makes even the broken families, and the broken mamas, and the broken children, whole again. Tell them that if they want to make a difference, they can take my son fishing. They can make sure my daughter knows that she is loved and valued. You can be the club that Jesus uses to beat back the statistics.
Thanks for listening. And thanks for serving Jesus.
Soli Deo Gloria,