8 It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not fail you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.”
I don’t know if it is just me, or a common trait among single parents…but often find myself thinking that I can do it all on my own, that I only need help from others when things get really desperate; in fact I used to wear a button on my jacket that said “I’ll do it!”, and this was long before I became a parent!
It was when I got sober that this belief began to falter, as I had to accept the help of others to get and stay sober…and then when I became a single parent it really hit home…as much as I wanted to take charge and believe that I could raise my daughter by myself, the reality was that I needed the help and guidance of others!
It was called a “Trust Walk”, one of us was blindfolded and then led around by partner who could see; it was a way of learning to work together and the trust each other (a very ‘70s concept). However, when it was my turn to take the walk I did not feel a lot of trust, as I did not get along with my guide very well…and now he was going to be leading me all over the camp where we were having our youth group retreat, while I was blindfolded!
But then this may have been the point, as this was an exercise in building trust, and who better to do it with than someone I did not completely trust?
Our walk was to take us from the mess-hall down the dirt-road to the softball field. I got to go first, and once blindfolded I was spun around so that I would become somewhat disorientated…it worked, and for a few moments I felt lost, and I found myself stumbling forward unable to see or know where I was, until my partner grabbed my arm and then calmly tell me to wait, and to trust him.
In spite of his words I still did not feel that trusting, instead I felt uncertain and confused. Even though I knew the camp well everything was different when I could not see! However, my guide led me well, warning me of tree roots, potholes and other things that might cause me to fall, and before long I was actually beginning to trust him! And once I began to trust, my anxiety subsided and I began to notice things: like the smell of paint from the maintenance building, and hear the sound of kids playing in the open-air gym so I knew exactly where I was…even if I could not see!
Knowing where I was gave me more confidence, as I knew the way to the softball field, and realized that there was nothing to fear about the trip. In fact I felt so secure that I began to try to take charge and guide myself to the field, thinking “I’ll show everyone just how good I really am at this, I don’t even need a guide!” It was just then that he pulled me back, saying “Not there…you almost walked into a tree!” This ended my moment of “I’ll do it!” and I started to listen to my guide once again!
Not long after this, my guide led me onto the field; I knew I was there because I could smell the new grass. Once I was there I was finally able to take off the blindfold; only to have to turn around and walk my partner back to the mess-hall, using my own experience while blindfolded to help me be a better guide.
I learned some lessons about the importance of trusting others on my walk, even those I do not necessary get along with (while we never became close we did become friends after our walk) and how just when I think I know what I am doing I can find myself walking into trees, teaching me how important it is to have a good guide on any journey, and how crucial it is that we actually listen to these guides as they can keep us safe and on the right track!
As parents we too can sometimes find ourselves feeling lost and disoriented, and in need of a good guide…someone who has been where we are, and can lead us through the many pitfalls of parenting, to help us when we are not quite sure where we are, and to pull us away from trees when we become a little too confident and get caught up in an “I’ll do it!” attitude!
Raising children is not easy…even in a ‘traditional’ family; raising them as a single parent is even more challenging, as while we do not to try to be both mother and father, it would be disingenuous to pretend that we do not take on a greater role as we do what we can to meet the needs of our children as they grow, to make up for what (we may feel) they are missing by only having one full-time parent.
This can put even more stress on us as we want to do well, and succeed as parents, and cause us to be hard on ourselves when we inevitably fall short; however, this stress can also cause us to become sensitive to criticism, even if it is really just a kind word of advice. It can also make us reluctant to ask for, or to listen to guidance that may be offered. I remember (just two days ago) feeling hurt and resentful when someone close to me asked if I was making the right choices in regard to my daughter and the use of my car (but I am learning that when I feel the most offense is when the advice is most valuable, as it is hitting too close to home for my own comfort).
Once again, I forgot what is so important to remember: that these guides are not here to criticize, but to help and guide us through the pitfalls of being single parents…and that many are helping us out of their own hard earned experience…just as we are called to do as followers of Christ: to share our faith and the wisdom we have gained during our journey to help all those around us, our friends, strangers, family and of course our children!
And this is our good news…that we are not alone! As we are reminded in today’s reading, it is God who goes before us and walks with us, both directly and working through others…and ourselves! For as followers of Christ, we all carry the light of God’s love with us…and when shared this light can guide us through the darkness, the worry, the frustration and the trials of being a single parent to remind us of the great gift of love we have been given through our children and each other; and this light has the power to transform “I’ll do it” to “WE can do it!”
Let us Pray:
God, thank you for the guides you have put in our lives, who help us to avoid pitfalls, face the challenges, and heal from our mistakes. Please let us embrace the help they offer, even when our ego is hurt and we feel offended…help us to remember that we cannot get far on an “I’ll do it” attitude, but can accomplish (or at least survive) almost anything when WE do it together! Parenting is not easy in any circumstance, but we thank you for the gift of having children and for the light of your love as an active part of our lives…the light that can see us any trouble and bring us to the joy that is ours as parents, and as well-loved children of God!