“With gentleness correcting those who are in opposition…” -2 Timothy 2:25 (NASB)
What do you sometimes get when you combine two adults with a vast array of differences in opinions, and children in between? Answer: the never-ending, always-changing world of single and co-parenting. As if being a single parent didn’t have its stressful times to begin with, there is always the possibility of some extra drama thrown in from the other side. The danger lies in allowing our circumstances, and especially our emotions, to hinder our better judgment. Through it all, we are not to “keep score” of who did what and use it for leverage against the other parent. As ambassadors for Christ and as godly role models for our kids, we must hold to a higher standard - knowing that those little eyes are always upon us.
Correcting the Other Parent
As Christian parents, bringing our sons and daughters up in Christ is a top priority. We can accomplish this possibly through Christian schools or homeschooling, taking them to church with us, and an overall lifestyle that honors God. What happens when this is not being taught in the other parent’s home? What if mom or dad does not buy into the whole church thing? Or what if the other parent doesn't really care for God in the first place, perhaps even teaching other religions, beliefs, and activities? How do we react, and, if possible, correct the other parent, all while maintaining that higher standard we mentioned? I believe this happens more often than we think, and I’ve not only seen it - I have lived it. As with any other trial in life, we must look to God’s Word for the answers.
Romans 12 is full of verses which carry tremendous weight in dealing with this situation.
“Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil, cling to what is good...Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.” -Romans 12:9-11 (NIV)
“Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse…Live in harmony with one another…” –Romans 12:14-16 (NIV)
“Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men…Never take your own revenge…’Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord…Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” –Romans 12:17-21 (NASB)
I understand that this can be a very touchy area. I also understand that Christ living in us will outshine anything else, and when our children do face those tough times in life, our consistency and faithfulness to Him is what will hold firm. We must also understand that we cannot control others - that should never be our focus. Our focus must remain on dying daily to our flesh and trusting God to be faithful to His Word.
Correcting Our Children
Even in their innocence, kids learn at a very young age how to use, and often manipulate, their parents to advance themselves somehow. This may happen intentionally, or it may be the indirect cause of the parents. Phrases such as “Mommy says” or “Daddy does” should not be the deciding factor in how we parent when they are in our care. When times like these occur, we must be first to correct our children, and then to correct the other parent (if need be) in a very positive way. I’m not going to lie. In my own life my daughter’s mother and I do not see eye to eye in a lot of areas. However, I have noticed that my daughter can be very good at twisting things around too, even conjugating up scenarios that did not happen or not in the way she described. It has taken several of these instances and some discernment to know when she is telling the truth and when she is not. If I perceive what she is telling me does not match up with other times, stories, or what I know to be true, then I must correct her in the proper way - even if it means siding with her mom.
“...slander no one... be peaceable and considerate, and always gentle toward everyone.” –Titus 3:2 (NIV)
Parents, the above verse is one that should be on top of all of our minds when our kids come to us as I mentioned above. Sure, we could use these moments as opportunities to slam the other parent and “really show them what mom/dad is like.” It would be a great way to vent. If we do slam the other parent, it is only going to do more long-term damage to our kids as opposed to being, as Paul states, “gentle toward everyone.” Correct if need be, but do it in a way as if you will be standing before God one day and explaining what happened - because we all will be.
Single parents are not always single. We date, sometimes even get married. Despite our situation and relationship with our children’s mother or father, how we handle our own relationships in life is just as crucial for training our kids up in Christ as the other corrections we have already discussed. To be clear, I am NOT a dating doctor, so we won’t even go there, ok? I am simply using this final point to make sure that we stay keen to our own actions as well and not allow the enemy to blind us by thinking that WE are the ones who have it together always - not them. We could make a case for multiple other scenarios of how we can get knocked off track too, but I’m sticking with our personal relationships for now since they carry some big weight in our lives. Here are a few quick examples of how we can fall into the trap of self-righteousness and miss the mark in our own walk when it comes to a significant other:
- We refer to our significant other as our children’s father or mother when the biological is still in the picture.
- We make decisions based on flesh and not God’s Word when it comes to our personal lives, such as living/sleeping together when we’re not married, not stewarding our bodies for God’s purposes, and using the whole “Do as I say and not as I do” attitude.
- We slam our son's or daughter’s other parent to our current partner or kids. This not only creates bitterness and a hardened heart within us, but it may also create false beliefs in our kids and our partner as well.
Listen to Jesus’ words in Matthew 12:34 “You brood of vipers, how can you, being evil, speak what is good? For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart.” (NASB)
When we allow the pitfalls of bitterness, animosity, or hurt to cloud our better judgment, we lose focus of our responsibilities as a parent, and possibly our personal relationship with Jesus. Trust me; I am COMPLETELY aware of how sensitive a topic our children are to us, especially when it comes to the other parent or a third party. The point is, as Jesus points out, to guard our hearts and not allow the black tentacles of sin to become entangled. It is easier to judge someone else than it is to die to self through humility. Keep your heart soft through a consistent relationship with the Lord. Allow Him to correct you if need be. Then, apply your walk through God’s Word to other necessary corrections in you and your kids’ lives. Remember, the refining process isn’t always fun when we are going through it, but the end result is pure gold!
Matt Haviland is the founder of “A Father’s Walk” single dad ministry and the author of the book, A Father’s Walk: A Christian-Based Resources for Single Fathers. He currently lives in his hometown of Grand Rapids, MI and is a single dad to a beautiful little girl himself. For more information on the ministry, please visit www.afatherswalk.org.
Publication date: February 7, 2013