Sunday’s Gospel reading was from The book of Matthew, chapter 25, The Judgment of Nations. It is one of the most beautiful passages from the New Testament. Here Jesus talks about the son of man coming in glory with all the angels around him. He says he will sit on his glorious throne with all nations assembled before him. There, He will separate the sheep from the goats and give what each has earned.
Then the king will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you, who are blessed by my father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.
For I was hungry, and you gave me food,
I was thirsty, and you gave me drink,
a stranger, and you’re welcomed to me,
naked, and you clothed me,
ill, and you cared for me,
in prison, and you visited me.’
When questioned about when the righteous did this for him, Jesus simply replied, “Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of the least brothers of mine, you did for me.”
It is a beautiful, inspiring lesson in how to treat others. It is especially poignant in teaching how to treat those who cannot repay what is given them. At the same time, Jesus promises a reward that no one, no matter how wealthy, could ever repay.
How Women Serve
As a teenager, I was prey to delusions of grandeur. I had dreams of sacrifice and even martyrdom. I wanted to do something drastic for my country and what I believed in. Like many teenagers today, I wanted to live for a cause. I didn’t mind giving my life for something I believed it. I felt if I could make a difference it would be worth my sacrifice. Perhaps part of me wanted the glory found in self-sacrifice, but mostly, I wanted to know my life had meaning. I wanted to know that I made a difference and had brought good into the world. My mother had always taught me that you should leave a place better than you found it. It is a lesson I’ve internalized. That’s probably part of why I and many women get into the helping professions, whether that is in education or nursing or something else. We are created with caring hearts and want to believe we can influence the world for the better.
Life changes when you become a single mom.
As a single mom, those high school hopes of sacrifice for a cause were dashed away. We get caught in endless cycles of dirty laundry, bill juggling, and child raising. Gone are the hopes of saving the world in the face of countless hours spent cleaning up messes from tears and temper tantrums, vomit and blood, hopelessness and anger and a plethora of emotions and events that cannot be covered in a week of writing. All hope of saving the world fly out the window as you fought to keep you head above water and keep your beloved imperfect children from sliding into the abyss.
Many single moms want to move away. They want a fresh start, but are chained to a location by ex-husbands who have no such restrictions. It doesn’t matter that they desperately wanted a new beginning away from prying eyes and well meaning but gossipy neighbors. It doesn’t matter that an area is expensive to live in and jobs are few, far between, and low paying.
Women who would have given their lives for their husbands and children suddenly find themselves abandoned, but enslaved in a location far from family and friends. These women are unable to relocate to places, offering childcare, family housing, and educational and job opportunities.Women who once believed, they could make a difference, serving the lowly and downtrodden now find themselves in need of services. They have a hard time wrapping their heads around the fact that the one they loved and counted on most has chosen to make them the lowly and downtrodden. The blows to a single mom’s sense of value and purpose in these situations cannot be underestimated.
Single moms were once teenagers. They were full of passion and the belief that they could make a difference, but betrayal and disbelief crush their passion and replace their belief in themselves with a belief in hopelessness. Single moms feel unable to change their own little worlds, never mind implement the grandiose plans they once harbored. Single moms have an inability to see a bigger picture when they struggle to navigate the ground right in front of them.
Bloom Where You Are Planted through a New Way to Serve
Sunday’s beautiful reading challenges our belief in that hopelessness and inability to change the world. It gives single moms a new direction. Our younger hopes to change the world were rooted in goodness for the other but also in our own pride. There is glory in being seen as someone who gives and does for those who cannot give and do for themselves. It feels good to be recognized for sacrifice and accomplishments. It makes us happy to hear a student say we inspired them to move forward in their education. It makes us feel good to know we raise money for military and first responders killed in the line of duty. It feels good to know a woman chose life for her and her unborn child when we pray outside an abortion mill.
But there is no glory in single parenting.
No one congratulates a single mom for remembering this child likes creamy peanut butter and that one likes crunchy, this one likes extra jelly and that one likes extra peanut butter. No one congratulates a single mom when she folds the last sock from the mountain of laundry that’s been sitting on the sofa for two weeks. No one sends a single mom a thank you card when she’s remembered to pick up her children from their all their activities at various locations on time all week. No one is there when the stomach bug has ravaged a single mom’s home and she’s sat on the bathroom floor rubbing the back of a heaving child while fighting her own gag reflex every night for the last four days. No one shares the single mom’s tears when she loves her child enough to discipline him even when he hates her for it.
Yet is this not exactly what the gospel is calling us to? Does not every day in the life of a single parent offer the opportunity to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, welcome a stranger, clothe the naked, care for the sick, and visit the imprisoned?
There is no glory in single parenting, but God doesn’t call us to receive glory. He calls us to serve those who cannot serve themselves. He calls us to see those in need through his eyes. He calls us to humble ourselves and love in the places we find ourselves in.
There is no better place to humbly love and serve than behind the closed doors of our own homes! We do not have to go in search of opportunity to serve the way others do. God has gifted us with an amazing opportunity to sacrifice ourselves within the four walls of our own homes.
When we see opportunity in the struggles no one knows about, we are able to reframe what is perceived as negative to be experienced as positive. We learn to see ourselves, not as victims, but as humble and grateful servants in a plan bigger than our own. We do this, not as we once pictured. We receive no showy accolades, pats on the back, or social media boasts as our immature desire to serve once expected. We do this with the grace and hope for something far better than the admiration of our peers. Self Care
Single mom, learn to bloom where you are planted with faith and the quiet certainty, that you serve, not just your beloved children, but The King who notices and with his assurance in the reward of eternal life with Him.
Are you a single mom wondering if God has a message for you this holiday season? Join my Advent Reflections just for single moms. Sign ups beginning soon ad will be announced on facebook. Check out the links below.