The dating game; it's a tricky thing, especially in the Christian world. So add in a couple of kids, a failed marriage and most people run a mile. I've dated Christian men, non-Christian men, even a vicar and all have come up with the same conclusion - you come with too much baggage and I can't deal with that!
When I first became a single parent one of the hardest things was taking off my wedding ring. Not only did it represent a promise that was now broken but it was also a symbol of belonging. Removing it was like being naked for the whole world to see. A world that is full of judgment and people that are vocal in how they feel about your martial status and open wounds. One of the hardest places to be a single parent is the church.
When my marriage first fell apart, the church that I was going to at the time literally turned their back on me. I was an outcast. Pregnant with two toddlers and a husband who had left. Our only support system was my immediate family who were spread out around the country. God's people, our church family since I was a little girl, shut us out.
God simply asks us to love others as we love ourselves and when we can't do that we fail - plain and simple. It doesn't matter how much scripture you can quote, how many times you go to church. If you can't love others you can't love God.
This isn't just my experience. There are single parents up and down the country who have experienced the same kind of judgement from churches. Not all churches are judgemental. Some welcome the broken and begin to help them encounter God afresh, who heals their wounds and restores them whole. The church that we ended up wandering in to was so full of God's presence, healing and grace that I began to be made whole again.
Sometime at the beginning of this year I decided to give up the dating game for good. My heart had been crushed yet again and I didn't want to get all prickly. So I bought a ring. A beautiful crown shaped ring which fits perfectly on my wedding finger. It's a sign that I belong to God and He lives in me. It gave me security again and is a constant reminder of who I belong to.
Life gives us stuff and makes us who we are. We can either use those experiences to create harsh edges around us and prickle anyone who gets too close, or we can use it to build a whole wealth of experience to make us a better friend, parent, employer, employee... a better human. I thoroughly believe that no hurt that we go through is wasted. God says that He collects all our tears. David writes
"You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book." Psalms 56:8.
How amazing is that. God is with us in the very lows of our life and the very highest of highs. He knows us and best of all, He loves us - warts and all.
So can I encourage you to find your people. Find the people of God who will show you who He is afresh. Who will walk the walk with you. Who will sit and lament when you need it. Who will encourage you to stand up and carry on when the lament is finished. And don't ever give up hope. Don't get too prickly that you don't allow people to get close and don't ever feel ashamed of the journey that you have had to take. God knows and He cheers you on.