Accepting a New Identity

There it went again. Somehow, the phone always managed to ring when I couldn't get to it. My hands were full as I tried to get my two preschoolers out of the bath and into bed. Running across the room, I hastily grabbed the receiver. It was Len, another single parent at my church. He quickly stated his reason for calling: "I've discussed with the deacon board the possibility of starting a single-again group in our church. They're excited about the idea and thought you might like to help get it off the ground. What do you think, Renee?"

Before I realized what I was saying, the words poured from my mouth as the tears began to fall. I said, "Len, I think that's a much-needed ministry for those people, but I don't want to be one of them."

Having just been brushed off, Len said goodbye.

Several days later I received a letter from Len, apologizing for upsetting me. Yet I knew in my heart I was the one who needed to apologize. Len had done nothing wrong. I was the one struggling with being on my own as a single parent since the day my husband committed suicide. Who am I now? Where do I fit, especially in the church? I wondered.

No longer was I the associate pastor's wife or part of the inner workings of our church. I was a 32-year-old widow, left alone to pick up the pieces and raise our two babies. I told the Lord, "It wasn't supposed to be this way."

For the next three years, I fought it. I ignored all invitations to attend singles-group functions at an area church, despite numerous requests by the singles minister, a friend of my late husband's. I stayed in my coed Bible study class at church, even though I didn't really fit there either. Somehow I couldn't seem to find my place in the world since the loss of my "Mrs." status. I was the misfit in a couples' world, desperately wishing I still belonged there.

But trying to pretend I wasn't single again didn't change the reality I faced every day. And no matter how hard our married former friends tried to include me in their activities, it gradually became apparent to all of us that things were different. The dynamics among us had changed. As a single mother, I didn't feel I could keep intruding on their weekend family time. I needed a life of my own. Trying to cling to the past and the way we were had drained us all. It took a long time, but I finally realized I might just have something in common after all with other adults who had experienced the loss of a mate and are left to raise children alone.

Out of loneliness and depression, I eventually took the plunge and made my way to the single's Christmas party at a nearby church. With great awkwardness, I entered the room. Soon I was greeted by warm, loving folks who made certain I felt welcome. Before long, I found myself opening up and sharing some of the issues I faced. To my surprise, they identified. They, too, had experienced the change in previous relationships. They, too, felt the pressure of solo parenting. Financial changes, loss of companionship, fatigue from an overload of work and responsibilities — they understood! What a relief to find I wasn't the only one. There were lots of others in the same boat.

A turning point took place for me that night. Finally, I quit holding onto my past and accepted my new situation — that of a single parent. No, it wasn't the life I had anticipated. But it is the one I found.

"Okay, Lord, I'm ready to walk down this road I've balked at for three years," I prayed. "I'm determined to make the best of my circumstances. I release my past dreams to You. I'm willing to accept this new identity because I believe You are guiding my life. I'm trusting You as we make this journey together."

It's been more than five years since I made that step of faith. Now I can see how critical it was for me to deal with the real problem: clinging to the past and refusing to face life without a mate. No longer faking it or denying reality, I deal with it head-on. A whole new world of healing began when I laid down my former identity to accept my new one. And you know what? It wasn't long until I saw "those people" — the group I didn't want to be one of — as no different than me or any of my married friends. We're all just pilgrims on our way to our heavenly home, trusting God as we encounter life's detours and bumps along the road.

Knowing I'm firmly held by a loving God's hand makes it easier to face and accept whatever life may bring, even when it isn't what I'd planned or expected.

Background Information

Journey of No Return
Sometimes as parents, we have a knee-jerk response to our kids as we're barraged by their numerous inquires and desires. Maybe it's time to stop being so negative.

When Not To Discipline
Parents should recognize when they should and shouldn't discipline their children.

When You Feel Like Calling in the SWAT Team
Are your children constantly testing you? This classic parenting advice will help you regain the upper hand.

Questions and Answers

After I spank my child, she usually wants to hug me and make up, but I continue to be cool to her for a few hours. Do you think that is right?

We'd like to be more unified in our approach, but how do we successfully move from two financial approaches to one?

How long do you think a child should be allowed to cry after being punished? Is there a limit?

I have never spanked my 3-year-old because I am afraid it will teach her to hit others and be a violent person. Do you think I am wrong?

It just seems barbaric to cause pain to a defenseless child. Is it healthy to spank him or her?

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Other Things to Consider

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RelationshipsParents and Adult Children, Blended Families