But Michael also offers this hope for parents caught up in wilderness experiences, "Times in the wilderness can teach us to trust in God. The origin of the word 'worship' is worth-ship.  So, people who go through those experiences in the wilderness come to learn His worth and therefore they learn to truly worship and trust Him even more."

I find that so true. Though most of us don't voluntarily choose wilderness experiences (like being a single parent), they can be times of great growth both in our relationship with God and with our children.  Are you looking to God to give you strength, or are you trying to go it alone?

Caught in a Tug of War

I talked recently to a single mom named Sheri.  She faces the very common dilemma of having established a set of rules and boundaries for her kids, but her former husband's parenting style is very different.  Instead of being an authority for their children, he tries to be a friend to them.  I'm sure it won't come as any shock to you that their teenage son prefers to avoid responsibility and accountability if he can.

I asked Sheri how that played out in her parenting.  She said, "It's very tough. He [their son] chooses to spend most of his time with his dad because he would rather be without the rules. I feel like our son is like the rope in a tug of war.  That's the thing that I never wanted to happen—but he is caught between two parents who love him but parent differently.  I keep trying to let go so he is not torn between two directions."

Sheri wants to do what is best for her son, yet in some ways she is being penalized for trying to do things right.  That's not an easy thing to deal with.  You never want to back off from doing right in order to have a better relationship with your child.  (By the way, most of the time this is the pattern that we see in divorce situations—the mom is trying to hold the line firm while the dad lets the kids get away with murder so they will "like him.")  

Don't Give Up

Though it's very hard advice, I encouraged Sheri to never give up; trust in the Lord and keep praying.  There are times when you can't fix things and you have to hunker down and deal with them.  Remember, even though you don't see the results right away, God will honor your stand for what's right.

You may be familiar with the story of Eric Liddell which was told in the move Chariots of Fire.  Liddell, the son of Scottish missionaries, was one of the premier track runners in the world.  He refused to run the 100 meter dash in the 1924 Olympics because the qualifying race was held on a Sunday.  Though the 100 was his best event, a few days later Liddell won the gold medal in the 400 meter dash--a race he hadn't prepared to run.  Clutched in his hand he had a note given him by an American runner with the words "Them that honor Me I will honor" (1 Samuel 2:30) written on it.

Whatever you do, don't give up!  The effort is worth the cost, and your children will be far better off because you loved them enough to do what was right and best for them.

Feb. 11, 2011

Mark Gregston is an author, speaker, radio host, and the founder and director of Heartlight, a residential program for struggling adolescents located in East Texas. Call 903-668-2173.