People always tell me how strong I am, like it’s a compliment. And I get it, really. It’s meant as one.
After all, being strong is a good thing in this life. Something we all strive toward. We all want to be seen as capable, and confident, and someone others can depend on. As Christians, we know that our true strength comes from God. We want to be the one people turn to when they struggle so we can gently turn them toward Him as well.
We look at what we’ve been through in our past and hope beyond hope that the tough roads we’ve walked will be used to help others along that same path someday. That God will redeem our hurt by allowing us to help heal that same hurt in someone else.
But sometimes, being strong can be misunderstood.
Can I tell you a little secret about single parents? They’re tired of being the strong ones. They’re tired of holding this massive load above the water. Mostly, they’re tired of people holding them at a distance and telling them how great they’re doing.
They’ve built these muscles over months and years of pulling the load on their own. Standing in the gap left by others for their children. Sacrificing everything they’ve ever had, ever wanted, ever dreamed of, just to make sure that their kids are okay. Their strength has come from too many trials, and not enough support.
And truthfully? They’ve come face-to-face with the realization that they really aren’t that strong at all. They’ve been shown their strength and have understood deep down that when no one’s looking, they are incredibly weak. That it’s only with God’s help that they can even take the next tiniest step forward.
Unfortunately, walking alongside them is something many turn away from. Single parents regularly face heartbreaking situations and turn around to find no one there. They’ve sat in court, and restaurants, and playgrounds, and church — alone. They’ve dealt with illness and financial stress and holidays — alone.
If there’s one thing that single parents know to their core, it’s this: They need others on their journey.
They want more from you. They are praying you’ll see that they need more from you.
It’s better to have a partner than go it alone.
Share the work, share the wealth.
And if one falls down, the other helps,
But if there’s no one to help, tough!
— Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 (The Message)
So. A favor? The next time you see a single parent you think is doing an amazing job; can you do something in lieu of a compliment?
Offer your friendship instead.
Invite them to coffee. Ask them to simply come hang out. Sit with them in church. If you have kids, invite them and theirs to the park. Show them that you see beyond the circumstances they are in. That you see the person behind the struggle.
Treat them like the friend you see they have the potential to be. That you value a strong person as a friend, but that you see that they are so much more.