Susan seemed to have the life many of the women in her church longed for. Married young to a husband who was well-respected in the congregation, she had five healthy children and the opportunity to stay home and homeschool them. From all outward appearances, Susan was the type of woman that people in the church might point their fingers at and say, “She is our kind of gal. We love that she is part of our congregation!”
But when the façade of her perfect Christian family fell down in the summer of 2007, all she found at the end of most fingers pointed at her was contempt. “My husband, who had secretly abused me over the years, threw me around one last time and then walked out the door, leaving me and my kids to fend for ourselves,” said Susan, unable to hold back the tears as she recalled how members of her faith community responded when they learned her coveted Christian family was in shambles. “When something like that happens, you hope your church will get behind you. Mine just piled more pain on top of me.” Aside from a couple of families in her church, most people offered condemnation rather than love. And her strange new reality stung as much as her husband’s abuse. “The provider in our home was gone. My kids and I were in desperate need of assistance. And most in our Christian community rejected us.”
Sadly, Susan is learning that this is the reality of many single moms today. She is not seeking to condemn the church’s neglect of single moms. In fact, she admits that she was one of those who turned a cold shoulder to the struggles of single mothers. “When I was married and my family was intact, I didn’t reach out to single parent families. I wanted my kids to be around happy families with two parents. I am ashamed now that I didn’t reach out to them!” But, having become all too familiar with the single mother struggle, she hopes to encourage local congregations to have more compassion and embrace the single moms and fatherless children in their midst. “I want to remind them of how Jesus treated single moms and the fatherless. He didn’t smack them around and he wasn’t mean, hateful, and judgmental. He fed them, he healed them, and he put out his hand to them.”
What does that look like in the local church? As Susan can attest to, single moms have abundant need. But she boils it down to this: Mentoring and Mowing.
Mentoring: “My children, especially my three boys, desperately need godly men to come alongside them, help them deal with the abandonment by their father, and show them how men who are following God are supposed to care for their families,” said Susan who recognizes that even if she pours all of the motherly love in the world into her sons, she cannot be a father to them. It’s impossible. “That’s why I was so excited to learn about Fathers in the Field. There is no greater thing that the local church can do for my family than to mentor my sons into godly manhood. Fathers in the Field is a perfect solution.”
Mowing: “After my husband left, I looked at my kids and wondered how I would feed them. Then, I looked at the lawn and wondered how I would mow it. I didn’t even have a lawnmower! I know it sounds strange to be worried about your lawn at a time like that. But when you’re completely overwhelmed and in need of help, even a small thing like getting the lawn mowed can bring you to your knees,” said Susan who hopes churches will begin to recognize and respond to the basic needs of single moms and fatherless children. “I’m telling you, you can’t imagine what something as simple as mowing a yard for a single mom would mean to her. If you can speak into her boys’ lives and say, ‘We’re going to take care of that yard today.’ Mow the yard, change her oil… just do something and you will lighten her burden like you can’t imagine! Again, that is why I love Fathers in the Field. It’s a ministry that gets boys invested in caring for moms and other single women in the community (widows) who really need help.”
Several years into her new reality, it is still a struggle for Susan to meet the needs of her household. But things have gotten a little better. God led her to another church body that has shown compassion and is helping her care for her family. And, through Facebook, she learned about Fathers in the Field, which she hopes will be a ministry that her local church will adopt. “When I see what Fathers in the Field is doing, I think about all the moms it is impacting I am brought to tears. They are so blessed. I know that the Lord can use this ministry to bless them.”
Meantime, she continues to place her ultimate hope in her Father in Heaven—a Father, she reminds her kids, who will never leave or forsake them. “When their dad walked out, I sat them down and we read in Exodus where the children of Israel were in the wilderness and were afraid. I told them, ‘I’m afraid. But the only thing that won’t fail you is your Heavenly Father and His Word.’ I hope that they will remember that.”
Editor’s Note: We want to thank Susan for sharing her story and opening our eyes to the struggles and needs of single moms. This Father’s Day, as we honor the guys who keep our lawns mowed, we want to encourage congregations everywhere to look around, see the fatherless homes where lawns still need mowing, and take care of it. That simple act of service, motivated out of or love for the Lord, will honor our Father in Heaven.