A Letter to the Single Mom
- Matt Haviland Founder, A Father's Walk
- 2014 3 Jul
Dear Single Moms,
I recently had the honor of participating as a breakout speaker at the Arise Ministries’ annual Survive N Thrive conference in Oklahoma City. Not surprisingly, this was my first single moms conference─ and wow! What an experience! I have to say, it really gave me a whole new perspective on what you all face on a daily basis, as well as a fresh approach when it comes to ministering to fathers.
I entitled my breakout session “A Father’s Love,” which basically focused on three key points:
- why it's important for single moms to nurture the relationship (whenever possible) between their children and the dad,
- how to be an advocate for the other parent as opposed to an adversary, and
- how other Christian men can “stand in the gap” if in fact Dad is not present.
For those of you who were not able to attend, here is a quick recap of what I covered. I pray this may bring some new light and healing into what may be a hard to reach or tough area of your own life too.
A Father’s Love
One of the first things I want to say is there is no “one size fits all” when it comes to single parent ministry. What is applicable in your life may not be in another mom’s. With that being said, I understand there will be a variety of dynamics for those of you reading this, but please stay with me. Some of this may be touchy, but I believe all of it is relevant in one form or another.
I opened the session with a brief testimony of my own. Some of you may already know my story. If not you can read it here. I was born into a single parent household and grew up without a strong father figure myself. Sure, I’ve known my dad my entire life, but he was barely ever a factor when it came to raising me or my brother up as men or in Christ. I eventually fell into a lifestyle of drinking, drugs, and sexual immorality. My daughter was born into this mess in 2006. Following a series of events that had begun years earlier, I finally surrendered my life to Jesus in 2007. Surprisingly, the first person I prayed for when I got saved was my daughter’s mother. Things were horrible between us at the time (and they still aren’t perfect by any means) and I knew if she and I were going to be able to co-parent together, there needed to be forgiveness on both sides. I forgave her, asked for her forgiveness, and laid it down for good.
I then shared with the moms one of the greatest passages in the Bible that speaks on fathers and their children.
He will restore the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers, so that I will not come and smite the land with a curse (Malachi 4:6 NASB).
Malachi 4:6 is the last verse in the Old Testament, and Church tradition tells us that God is silent for the 400 years between this verse and the New Testament. Don’t you find it interesting that the LAST THING God spoke about for 400 years had to do directly with fathers and their kids?! To say this is a topic close to his heart would be an understatement. I touched on examples of how we dads would go above and beyond for our kids, what they mean to us, and why it is so vital for single moms to be supportive of the relationship between their children’s father and the kids. In your own situation this could mean rethinking his significance in their lives, crucifying the past and forgiving him, and by all means, allowing God to take the lead. Perhaps this is tough tough to swallow, but it is so crucial if there is going to be healing in a family lineage.
Being an advocate for the other parent doesn’t mean you have to like them. Sometimes being an advocate may mean keeping quiet instead of retaliating at one of their remarks. It may be a simple “thank you” when appropriate; or perhaps it is a small moment of recognition when they do something right. Advocacy for the other parent will only benefit the kids in the long run, whereas being an adversary (by slandering, bashing, or spiteful tactics) may hinder your son or daughter and could potentially tarnish your own credibility as a parent.
Kids need a dad (or father figure), period. Without one, they are prone to some seriously negative consequences. But when Dad is involved (to whatever capacity), those numbers are reversed tremendously. I do not know where you and your children’s father stand, but I would encourage you to check out Titus 3:2 and Romans 12:17-18 when you have a minute. If he is in fact involved or available to spend time with the kids, then despite how you may feel about him (unless he is putting them in harm’s way), please make sure the bitterness isn’t causing blindness. I have seen it way too many times when one parent withholds or restricts the other parent from seeing the children due to ill-willed intentions... and guess who gets hurt in the crossfire? Yup, the kids.
You may also be thinking at this point, That’s great Matt, but how do I even begin to start addressing this, especially when he has caused so much hurt in my life? Again, we need to look at God’s Word for answers. Try Psalm 86:11-12 (undivided heart), Matthew 5:44 (praying for your enemies), and 2 Timothy 2:24 (avoiding disputes). It may not bring instant clarity, but those verses are a good place to begin the healing process.
Filling the Gap
In our upcoming book, The Daddy Gap, my coauthor and friend Dawn Walker lays it out like this:
"There are things that God intended a father to provide that a mother at her best simply cannot. She was not designed to. God distinctly designed a man to be the leader of his home, the protector and provider for his family...Unfortunately, we have an enemy who knows that if he can take out the leader, he can weaken, cripple and scatter those in his wake...When this happens, instead of the example above, the father’s legacy can be devastating to generations of sons and daughters who feel abandoned, unprotected, unworthy."
Today, in greater numbers than ever, we are seeing the devastation of what this “daddy gap” does to the family structure. However, as I pointed out in my class, a child growing up in a fatherless home is not automatically condemned to doom either. There are plenty of stories out there of children who grew up with disadvantaged backgrounds (like NBA superstar and MVP Kevin Durant) yet still overcame the greatest of odds. And we have seen on numerous occasions when children from well-off two-parent homes end up in disarray. The enemy simply has no prejudice when it comes to steal, kill, and destroy.
Still, the odds are stacked against our sons and daughters growing up without a father or father-figure in their lives. In such a case, I would encourage those of you to whom this may apply to seek out other strong male role models for your kids, such as a family friend, a grandpa, or maybe an uncle. Naturally for safety reasons, I would urge wisdom and discernment on your part before allowing just anyone to be around your kids on a regular basis. There may also be other options such as mentoring programs (both local and national) in your area. Find out what local chapters of programs such as Big Brothers and Big Sisters have available where you live, or what the churches or schools have to offer. I personally mentor a 16 year old young man through the public school system and I can tell you that from spending just one hour a week with him for a few months he has made huge strides in schoolwork, attitude, and demeanor. Mentoring works and we know it. The National Center for Fathering has an initiative called “Championship Fathering.”
In short, we dads are called to love, coach, and model properly for our own kids; but to also encourage kids who don’t have a dad of their own and to enlist other dads into the initiative. If it’s our desire to turn the course of this world around, then tomorrow’s fathers need today’s strong Christian men to lead them in the right direction.
Moms, I want you to all to know that ultimately God is the one who holds and keeps us together when we feel as if we are tearing at the seams in every possible way. The Bible tells us in Psalm 68:5, “A father of the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy habitation.” Please understand that the word “widow” here may also refer to a woman who is bereaved of a husband, and that he doesn’t necessarily have to have passed away for someone to biblically be considered a widow.
Believe me, this was A LOT of information to cover in 45 minutes! After I finished with the presentation, I left the moms with several take-aways, as well as some words of encouragement. The same of which I leave for you:
God’s Word tells us that we are created in his image, that we are fearfully and wonderfully made, and that we are his workmanship, created to do the good works that he predestined for us beforehand. Well guess what?! God doesn’t make mistakes! Circumstances may be far from ideal right now, but never forget just how invaluable you are in his plan, and that even if you were the only person on the face of the planet, I’m sure Jesus would die all over again ─ just for you. Still, there is work that needs to be done on our end too. So to whatever capacity all of this looks like in your own life, please remember when parents work together for the overall good, everyone is better off ─ especially the kids. I will leave you with the following take-aways for you to study and ponder, as well as a prayer to close us out.
1. Children need a father (or father-figure)
2. Take a self-examination of your own heart (See Psalm 139:23-24)
3. Pray for your children’s father
4. Leave it at the altar- daily
Father, I thank you for every single one of these moms. Lord, you know where their struggles are, and what they face on a daily basis. I pray Lord that you would meet them where they’re at, comfort them, and strengthen them. God I pray for open opportunities of forgiveness between them and the dads, for wounds to be healed, and for generations to be restored. I pray you would bless and protect their children, pour out a double portion of your Spirit over their households, and above all, that you alone would be glorified in their lives. Lord we love you and thank you for all you have done and will continue to do in these moms’ lives. It’s in the wonderful and matchless name of Jesus that we pray. Amen.
God bless you, moms!
Matt Haviland is the founder and director of A Father’s Walk single dad ministry. He lives in his hometown of Grand Rapids, MI and is a single father to an amazing daughter of his own. More importantly, he is an ordinary guy who serves an extraordinary God. For more information, please visit www.afatherswalk.org.
Publication date: July 3, 2014