Originally published November 2013
I’m a single mom. My son is eleven and my daughter is four. I became a single mom by choice. I took a chance on myself and filed for divorce. I was afraid. I had the security of knowing there was at least one other person in the home. It didn’t matter what issues existed between us at least there were two people in the home. Who didn’t want an idyllic family as happy as the Huxtables on The Cosby Show? You can fill all the roles, but if you don’t have the lines you’re forced to make it up as you go. This is where you need divine direction, right?
God will show us how to love an imperfect person perfectly, right?
The only problem is you have to truly believe that and I don’t think you can until you experience it. I think unconditional love is buried underneath our shame, pain, and fear. Our whole lives are supposed to build up to the moment we find the one who holds the key to our happily ever after. We love them to a certain extent, but if we told them our truth could they accept it?
Could they tell you about the drugs they took to numb the pain of not feeling wanted? If you knew exactly how many people they had to sleep with to forget the person who crept in their bed at night would you still love them? If I showed you exactly why I work so hard to avoid ever being hungry again could you handle that? I think the problem with marriage beyond the statistics they give us on infidelity and finances, although I know those are true, is that we let someone in so close to our space that we can no longer hide our shame.
Suddenly, you can no longer cry the tears at night without someone wondering what happened. Naturally, we get frustrated. The frustration exhibits differently for everyone. Maybe finding the source of their wound becomes your obsession because it keeps you from feeling your own. Or you choose to not invest fully because you don’t want to risk needing someone and then them leaving. We create surface arguments about what’s for dinner and why the oil didn’t get changed because if I can’t trust you with the simple things how can I give you the shame.
And because life is the way it is, we collect more shame along the way. More elephants, less room.. It becomes difficult to conceive that someone could love you when you still cringe at the memory of your past. I don’t think you should be with someone just so you can feel like a prize.
For so long I thought I wanted to be Cinderella.
They trick us into believing that someone will take our rags and turn them into a breathtaking gown, but what do they do? Hand us their own rags. We cry for a fairytale that never truly existed. We need the person who understands there can be no gown, if we have no rags. Our process wasn’t beautiful, but it all worked out for our good. But first we must believe that for ourselves.
We cannot teach a lesson in love that we have not learned.
So, I became a single mom long before I filed for divorce. I was so frustrated that my marriage wasn’t getting better that I started distracting myself, with myself. I started cleaning my own rags. I stitched together the insecurities to the brains, the beauty to the pain, and the hope to the fears. For so long I tried to separate who I was from what I did until I finally accepted that I needed it all to be whole. I could no longer pretend that I didn’t feel ashamed for the many detours my life made along the way. I took on the task of washing my rags with Grace. I had to accept that I could not undo what I’d done, but I didn’t have to accept a lifetime of punishment for it either. I didn’t have to accept pain just because I hurt others. I didn’t have to settle just because I was afraid to dream. I didn’t need a project just because I was afraid to see my own rubble.
I don’t have all the answers on how you choose the person worth showing your rags to, but you can’t show them what you don’t acknowledge. You can’t keep pretending you aren’t aching. This isn’t about finding the one to show your soul to, its about searching your own soul. Most parents will tell you that they wanted to be better for their children. They’ll also tell you that they don’t always get it right, but it doesn’t mean they love their kids any less.
What if the greatest gift we can give our children isn’t a white picket fence with a perfectly manicured lawn? What if the best thing we can give them is an intimate view of our process to becoming whole? Hardly anyone will have a more diverse view of your life than your children. My children and I have shared pillows where I shed tears and lived inside walls that have many secrets to tell. I had to consider how I was teaching them to clean their own rags. Was I showing them that your rags are worthless until someone says differently? Or was I showing them that you need the rags to polish the crown?
What if the more rags we’re willing to confront, the more jewels God will give us to polish? Or better yet… what if His strength is made perfect in our weakness?
So this one is for those brave enough to embrace their past, exhale their shame, and create hope for a better tomorrow. Because I’m tired of dividing who we could have been, who we are, and who we once were...I’m one person and I can’t separate who I was from who I’ve become so I’m going to love every step of this journey. I’m going to show my children that we don’t always get it right, but we never stop trying. I’ll teach them that some tears you cry over and over until you get to the root of the problem. And I’ll strive to teach them that you have to love yourself first, because that’s the only way you can truly love another imperfect person…
And since they’re kids they won’t understand. When they’re teenagers they may not want to hear it. But in college I think they’ll come around to see if I’ll say it again. When life begins to make them doubt that truth, I’ll remind them that it was them who taught me that it’s true…
Because I became a single mom so I could fall in love with my rags.