By Pat Bernshausen
O Lord, my heart is not proud, nor my eyes haughty; Nor do I involve myself in great matters. Or in things too difficult for me. Surely I have composed and quieted my soul; Like a weaned child rests against his mother, My soul is like a weaned child within me. O Israel, hope in the Lord from this time forth and forever. — Psalm 131
“I’m a single parent.” I remember shuddering the first time those words tumbled clumsily out of my mouth. As difficult as it was to say the words, it has been even more difficult to fill the role.
Yet, I am thankful that the circumstances in which I have struggled for the last several years have forced me to seek the Lord in a new way; perhaps the same way a drowning man grasps for a lifeline! I am indeed grateful for the lessons in faith that we have learned as a family. Single parent households often operate below the poverty threshold and mine is no exception.
I remember in the early days of 1998 when groceries were in short supply, a Christian friend stopped by one day with a car full of blessings. Her gift included some pork chops, and considering the fact that we had not eaten much meat in the last couple of weeks, it goes without saying that my children were quite excited and they celebrated with what is now affectionately known in our home as the “pork chop dance.” I praise God that He gave me the grace to respond correctly when asked where the meat had come from. I told my children that the pork chops had come from God. They had seen my friend come and go and asked if, in fact, the pork chops hadn’t come from her; so I continued, “God knew we needed them and He whispered in Miss Kathleen’s ear. Because she loves Him too, she was listening and brought us what we needed.”
Yes, being a single parent is a daunting responsibility and it definitely breeds humility. Pride is a thing of the past as I have had to ask for physical, financial, and spiritual support more times than I can count in the last four and a half years. I know I lack the strength and the wisdom to do what is required of me daily, so I have no alternative but to turn to my Father for help. In focusing daily on the Lord and reflecting on my relationship with my four diverse, yet wonderful children, I am learning so much about my relationship with my Heavenly Father.
Children are certainly a blessing, but let’s face it, there are times when their behavior is less than exemplary. Even when I am disgusted by their actions, my love for them is never in question. On these occasions I am reminded of the father’s response to his wayward son in Luke 15. When the father saw the son at a distance, he “felt compassion for him, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.” One can only imagine that as the father drew closer and closer he had to have known by the son’s haggard appearance that his worst fears had been realized. Could his steps have quickened as he recognized how much his mercy and forgiveness would be needed? It is a great comfort to know that no matter how much our thoughts, our words, our actions disappoint our Heavenly Father, He is always prepared to wrap His arms around us and welcome us home when we come into His presence with a repentant heart.
When my children were younger I developed a habit of spontaneously yelling out, “Mommy needs cuddles!” or “Cuddle time!” and within seconds I would be buried beneath a pile of little bodies all fighting for the privilege of being closest to my neck. Things do change. Now that my youngest son is six and a half years old, I find myself chasing them down in search of cuddles. I’ve found that the ones with the shortest legs are the easiest to catch since they can’t run as fast! As I hold my little prisoners close, with arms and legs flailing around me, I can’t help but wonder why things have changed so much.
Our Lord Jesus offers the same lament in Matthew 23:37. “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling.” Obviously, it grieves the heart of God when we push Him away or disregard His call. He is so ready to lavish His love on us if we are only willing to be loved.
My mind goes back to the time when my “babies” were younger and loved to be in my lap. A young child that has been weaned doesn’t need to be there against his mother’s breast, but he is there because he wants to be there. As the child is lulled to rest by his mother’s heartbeat and breathing he is reassured by this closeness to the one whom he knows provides and protects him and fills his world with peace and security. This young child is a child of few words. He is not there to pour out all that he is feeling, to ask for all the things that he thinks he needs, or to pout about what he hasn’t been given. He is there to share something that goes beyond words. In this simple act of resting in the arms of the one who loves him so much he is expressing a deep love and trust that words could never adequately express.
As holidays approach which celebrate motherhood and fatherhood, instead of being reminded of the loss of our parents or the lack of children of our own, our attention should turn, instead, to our Heavenly Father who wants so desperately to draw us up into His arms and hold us gently as we rest and are comforted by the sweet sound of His heartbeat.