I don’t want to be a single mom, but I am one. I am in good standing with my elders, and if anyone has a concern about that, my elders welcome questions on my behalf. But the fact that I have to add that last sentence highlights why we don’t see many orthodox Christian writers addressing the subject of single moms in the church.
Single motherhood simply isn’t the Christian ideal.
1. a person or thing regarded as perfect.
a standard of perfection; a principle to be aimed at.
In a nation in which sex and childbirth outside of marriage are the growing norm, churches and Christian leaders rightly want to emphasize the wisdom of the institution of marriage that God designed and ordained as a picture of His relationship with the Church. Yet, many women like me find themselves fully valuing that institution, and still left, nonetheless, without it as they raise their children.
It is less than ideal.
But that, friends, is the very reason the gospel, the story of Jesus’s life, death, and resurrection, is such GOOD NEWS for single moms. It is the very fact that few single moms actually want to be single moms that highlights why the gospel is so sweet and necessary.
What does the gospel bring to single moms?
It brings comfort that Christ paid the penalty for our sins and clothes us with His righteousness so that the health of our family doesn’t depend on our perfection.
Single parenting is HARD. And if it depends on me to navigate it correctly, I am sunk. But when Christ tore the veil at His crucifixion, we received access to God. In our weakness, we can come to God boldly and receive grace and mercy in our time of need, not because of our righteousness, but because of Christ’s. I have not been left as an orphan to navigate this on my own, and neither have you. That brings me great comfort.
It brings confidence that we and our children can flourish despite less than ideal circumstances.
The result of the Fall of Man is that we all live in less than ideal circumstances. The great deception that Paul addresses in Galatians in particular is that we are tempted to start our Christian walk in dependence on God but try to continue it through out own ability to maintain ideal circumstances. Paul levels the playing field when he claims to be the “chief of sinners.” Paul was pretty good at keeping the Jewish ideals of his day. Yet, the belief that keeping the ideals would earn your righteousness actually caused folks to fall away from the very gospel on which they depended. The ideal of Christian marriage is worth valuing, but Paul is adamant that such ideals won’t save us or our children. We instead fall on the righteousness of the only One who can justify us, whether our earthly lives meet ideal norms or not.
It brings hope that every less than ideal circumstance in this world will be put right in God’s kingdom.
When Jesus rose from the dead, He demonstrated that He has completely defeated Satan. But Hebrews 2:8 helpfully catches the tension in which we live now.
and subjected everything under his feet. For in subjecting everything to him, He left nothing not subject to him. As it is, we do not yet see everything subjected to him.
Because Jesus rose from the dead, we know the war has been won even though earthly skirmishes remain. All will be made right – all tears dried, all relationships restored, all injustice corrected. As we endure faithfully in less than ideal circumstances, we find hope and confidence in the last images of the Bible, the most ideal marriage of all, in which we are guaranteed participants – the marriage supper of the Lamb.
Back here on earth as I wait for all things to be made right, I find great encouragement to raise my children as a single mom from a little vignette in Acts 16:1.
Paul went on to Derbe and Lystra, where there was a disciple named Timothy, the son of a believing Jewish woman, but his father was a Greek.
This believing, Jewish woman was named Eunice. The language used in Acts makes it sound like Timothy’s father was not a a believer, and in terms of Timothy’s upbringing in the faith, his father does not seem to make a contribution. Instead, Paul adopts Timothy as his son in the faith (I Timothy 1:2).
In I Timothy 1:6, Paul notes that Timothy’s faith “first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and now, I am convinced, is in you also.” What a legacy we see that these women passed down to their son and grandson. It was clearly less than ideal for a believing Jewish woman to have a son with an unbelieving Greek. Had Lois been devastated with this turn in Eunice’s life? We don’t know what the exact underlying circumstances were. The path to single parenthood then and now is quite varied. But regardless of how any of us ended up in this circumstance, the good news of Jesus gives us a lens for understanding how to think about the pressures we face, not with condemnation, but with great hope for the future.