08 Feb Man-less Mothers Part 2: The Call On All Men To Help Single Moms
Far too often we hear from single mothers about their struggle to raise godly men out of their boys. Last week, we explored a few things she can do to set the stage for her son. But the reality is she needs help and her boy needs a man. And that man is probably YOU.
At the core of Restoration Project’s vision, we state: “we envision a world where men are men as God intended – where fatherlessness ceases to exist, and the hearts of men are fully restored to God, family and community.” We believe fatherlessness breaks the heart of God, and we are called to partner with him to eradicate it.
A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling. ~Psalm 68:5
Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress… ~James 1:27
Defend the weak and the fatherless; uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed. ~Psalm 82:3
I have known a good number of single mothers in my life, but three of them stand out in my mind.
- One woman suffered through the reality of her husband’s verbal and emotional abuse, her soul battered and bruised by an unfinished man who had something to prove. He left her alone with two young boys, did not pay child support, and slandered her name in her community and church.
- Another woman suffered through the horror of losing her husband to cancer. Just as they entered the world of parenting together, the disease robbed them both of the opportunity to co-raise their children.
- The third is a woman who is still married to her husband and the father of her children, but who remains isolated and alone. He abdicates all fathering responsibility, and while he makes good money “for the family,” he self-selects out of any sort of fathering role. She is left holding the bag for three boys who are on the cusp of adolescence and she doesn’t know what to do.
The reason a mother ends up parenting alone is irrelevant. God is passionate and deeply concerned about those who are orphans and widows, and it is clear he calls his people to join him in his care for them. Now there are those who are actually widows (i.e. their husband has passed away) and those who are actually orphans (i.e. they have no parents). These are horrors beyond comprehension, for sure. But some may argue semantics with regard to the words “orphan” and “widow,” stating that she’s not really a widow because her husband is still alive or the child is not an orphan because he/she still has a parent. But I say any woman who is without the loving support of her husband is a widow, and any child who is not being fathered by a man is an orphan. Most widows and orphans exist because men opt-out.
(Sidenote: Jesus seemed to have the same approach to semantics when he talked about anger = murder and lust = adultery See Matthew 5. Shall we not do the same here?!)
Therefore, if we are to join God’s heart for the widow and orphan, where other men have opted out true men must opt-in. We must take up the mantle of manhood on behalf of those who are “in distress” and stand in the gap. When men rise to the call to “father the world,” especially in the eradication of fatherlessness, things change. Big time.
Here are five specific restorative actions men must take to turn the tide of fatherlessness for orphans and widows, especially for those valiant women who are single moms:
1. Be aware of her need.
Open your eyes and look around you. Far too often men become so myopic in our own lives that we lose sight of those around us. The sad reality of our world is that fatherlessness is pervasive – it is everywhere. Are you aware of those in your church, neighborhood, school, work or community who remain alone because some other man has opted-out? Do you even see them?
Many single mothers have learned to function “just fine.” Out of necessity, they have learned how to compensate for the difficulty of their circumstances, and are doing so quite well. Yet most of them are over-functioning, exhausted and alone, and see no way out. But for a man to “become aware” of her may be a scary notion, causing fear or anxiety because of how other men have treated her. It may come across as a judgment against her, as if she is not doing enough or managing well enough.
Rather than labeling her as a “widow” or her children as “orphans” and jumping in to meet the needs you suppose she has, begin to pray for her (and involve your wife, family and friends too!), asking God to open doors for you to begin to care for her. Rather than assume need, become aware of the needs she really has.
2. Ask for permission.
I cannot stress this enough. No one wants to feel like a charity case. No one likes being pegged as “needy” or “helpless,” even when the desire is to serve them. In fact, all good intentions aside, a man who does not ask for permission to act looks more like a bulldog than a gentleman.
The ultimate respect a man can offer a single mother is to ask her for permission to come alongside her. Most likely the wounds she has borne at the hands of men have been the result of invasion, intrusion and over-powering. As you begin to be aware of her and the potential needs of her children for fathering, gently ask for permission to collaborate with her. If you are married, be sure to involve your wife in these offers as well so there is no confusion as to your intentions. Be gentle, careful and respectful.
3. Build a relationship rather than a project.
Fathering is a relationship to be developed not a project to be completed. You know this for your own children, and the same goes for anyone else you offer to take under your wing. While there may be snippets of fathering you can offer other kids (i.e. taking them fishing, offering to help choose a college, taking a boy without a father to a father-son campout at church), the real grit is in the long-term intentional relationship. Surrogate fathering is not an event.
Both the single mother and the child (boy or girl) need care over time. The two primary aspects of developing a secure and tight bond with anyone are availability and consistency. Pop-in fathering can actually be more detrimental in the long run, as it raises hopes but does not sustain it. Children (our own and those we choose to father) need to know we are available to them — that they can get physical AND emotional access to us — when they need it. And when they are able to gain access to us, they need a consistency of response from us — they need to know they will be met with gentleness and attention. When we view children as a “project,” they get neither of these. Fathering, on the other hand, offers both…always.
4. Involve your family and others.
Throughout the Man Maker Project material, I am adamant that fathers need to involve a larger company of men. While one man’s intention toward the heart of the child is crucial, it takes the fullness of a collection of men to really do the job. And where one man has abdicated his responsibility and opted-out of caring for this woman and her children, we must intend to surround her with aides rather than take the burden fully ourselves.
Learn to do right; seek justice.
Defend the oppressed.
Take up the cause of the fatherless;
plead the case of the widow.
Reality is, she needs more than you can offer. The children need more than you have. As you join in God’s heart for the fatherless and intend to come alongside a single mother, do not do it alone. “Plead the cause of the widow” amongst your friends, family and church community. Gather other men to partner with you on behalf of those who need fathering. Rally around single-mother families and let them know you (plural) will not let them fall through the cracks. While one man may play a primary role, he needs a collective of others to stand with and behind him. Lone rangers make mistakes, burn out, and far too easily dash hopes. Involve the community.
5. Call opt-out men to the carpet.
It is not a woman’s responsibility to hold a man accountable to be a true man. Far too many men abdicate their duties as husband and father leaving her desperate and pleading with him to show up. No, it is not up to her to make him wake up. That responsibility falls on other men.
Keep watch on one another, men. Be mindful and thoughtful of each other, and support one another in this journey of life. When trouble hits, stand together. When confusion abounds, help each other find the way. When goodness flows, celebrate each other’s glory. But when you see another man start down that dark road of checking out and relinquishing his responsibilities as a man we must 1) come alongside him and remind him of the extreme importance of his role; and 2) if he refuses to wake up and listen, other men need to kick him in the ass.
Do not be afraid to call other men to the carpet. Of course, do so with the intensity of love and kindness. But true godly kindness is the intersection of strength and tenderness – where truth is upheld and spoken without reserve, and where grace offers a gentle invitation to repent. Brother to brother, man to man, we need to keep one another in line on behalf of women and children. Please do not misunderstand me. I am in no way insinuating that women are weak and helpless and need a man to rescue them. What I am saying is that men must be the ones to keep other men in line. Far too many women are married to opt-out men, making them functional widows and their children functional orphans. Men, this cannot be.
Literally one minute ago, as I bring this blog to a conclusion, I received an email from another single mother. Her husband was emotionally and verbally abusive, and has completely shipwrecked their marriage and family. He’s left her alone with a teenage boy at home, and rather than offer him fathering, he has instilled in him rage, confusion and depression. She writes out of desperation. She needs help. He needs a father.
Let us as men “take up the cause of the fatherless” and eradicate fatherlessness altogether. Stand in the gap, and do it now.