Solo parent

Week 13 – Living Courageously

“For what it’s worth: it’s never too late or, in my case, too early to be whoever you want to be. There’s no time limit, stop whenever you want. You can change or stay the same, there are no rules to this thing. We can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. And I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you never felt before. I hope you meet people with a different point of view. I hope you live a life you’re proud of. If you find that you’re not, I hope you have the courage to start all over again.”

At Solo Parent, we borrow a lot of inspiration from all kinds of people across time, sharing quotes from a thirteenth century poet born in modern-day Afghanistan, Japan’s most celebrated novelist today, and many people of all different kinds in between. We’ve shared from To Kill A Mockingbird, biblical passages, and Twitter hashtags like “touch grass.” Some sources we’ve mined are creative artists and some experts in their fields. Today, we found the monologue of screenwriter Eric Roth, as read above, and it speaks to our wishes for you and for each other.

We have all felt broken, wounded, and defeated. Some of us sought help and brought our pain to church or to a friend as a refuge—only to feel turned away, antagonized, or judged from the very place we had sought compassion and support. Everyone’s human. Everyone has their own baggage, no matter how wise or how holy their affiliation. Sometimes, we respond clumsily to each other. And you may be left wondering: I know I need to be brave and keep trying, chin up, but how can I do that when the only person who is reliably compassionate and supportive is myself?

Redefining Your Belovedness

Churches—and friends or loved ones—want to be good and faithful. They want to help others reach goodness and faithfulness. The question is how, and never more than when what’s happened in our lives goes against what that church or friend believes is best for us (an intact marriage and family).

When we’re suffering with the sudden state of solo parenthood, not only are we struggling to look after everything that needs looking after, but we’re struggling with our value within our community. We know we’ve fallen outside the ideal. It may feel like someone else’s evaluation of our worth, whether it’s personal or institutional, is based on our performance. And we’re devastated by what’s gone wrong, whether we’re at fault or not.

In that dark place, you may forget the simple truth: you are loved simply because you exist. Your value and place in the family of God and among your friends is not dependent on how much you can produce or offer, but on you continuing to show up.
Shake off the personal slight of what may feel like judgment. Do not waste time wondering who considers you out of favor and who does not. You are already beloved. God already is well pleased and finds delight in you, as he did in Jesus.

John Shedd wrote, “A ship is safe in harbor, but that’s not what ships are for.” Courage begins when we stop constantly scanning our environment for danger and disapproval. What’s done is done. People will think what they
think. They need not change you, and you need not change them. The more important question is, what’s next?

In the face of insurmountable odds and losses that shaped our world, Winston Churchill said, “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”

Maya Angelou agrees: “Courage is the most important of all the virtues because, without courage, you can’t practice any other virtue consistently.”

Share Time:

How has your experience with your church community or friendships been as a solo parent?

Courage: The Starting Point of All Other Virtues

In trauma-informed licensed professional counselor and author K.J. Ramsey’s book, The Lord Is My Courage: Stepping Through the Shadows of Fear Toward the Voice of Love, she suggests courage is, “…seeking the Shepherd even when you’re afraid.”

When we’re so clouded with negativity and fear we can’t see much of anything at all, God’s presence is a new lens on life. You are not alone in your pain and struggle. Being attuned to God changes the pathways in your body and nervous system. Past fears and hurts can be rewired dispassionately as things that once happened to you, and not things that *are what you are.* Once we can make this humble distinction, we can start to feel trust and security with God.

In her book, Ramsey references Psalm 23, in which God joins us in green pastures and beside quiet waters to refresh our soul, guiding us along the right paths for His name’s sake. At some point, we’ll all have our trust and faith tested and broken, and we’ll need to claw our way back to it. Try again, God says. Trust again—the more you choose trust, the stronger you become. By doing so even when you’re afraid, you enlarge your view of God, yourself, and even your circumstances, bringing you to congruence.

Living With Congruence

Congruence is when your insides match your outsides, and your outsides match your insides. When the truth of your experience on the inside matches what you express, and what you express matches who you are.

Congruence is wholeness, harmony, agreement, and connectedness. It’s being the same person all the way through. It’s having the freedom to be honest about your experience and your part in it, and what you’ve learned since. Forcing a smile or clenching yourself into silence is incongruence. We feel overly needy, reactive, and inconvenient or a let down to other people. We may overcompensate, pretending we have it all together. Incongruence perpetuates stress in your body that can lead to illness and sap you of the energy you need to be present and effective in your life. When you’re feeling uncourageous, say it quietly to yourself: congruence. Congruence. Congruence. This is your distant shore. Swim to it, setting up rest buoys where you need them.

Share Time:

Are you in a state of congruence or incongruence? On a scale of 1-10, how much does your inner reality match your outer expression, with one being a total mismatch (where you hide what’s really going on, and nobody knows your reality) to ten being authentic, honest living (where people know and understand who you are through and through)?

Seeking Connection with God and Others

First, pay attention to your feelings and how those impact you physically and emotionally. Be kind, and be gentle. Honor the instinct behind them as well as their reactive nature, trying, however misguided, to protect you. Your nervous system needs avenues to return to calmness. Those are roadways you’ll have to map out and build, with help.

Meanwhile, darkness never sleeps. It is trying to distract you. It whispers You are alone and You will always live in scarcity. And when you believe the whispers of darkness you may pretend more than ever, because if people think things are okay, they may be less likely to judge or abandon you. And there you are, right where darkness wants you: in denial of yourself, incapable of getting your needs met or your voice heard, because you’ve agreed to perpetuate the lie that you don’t matter.

William Faulkner wrote, “You cannot swim for new horizons until you have courage to lose sight of the shore.”

With that distant shore in sight, you need to trust you’re okay. You’re strong and buoyant. You’ve set up platforms along the way for rest, and to make sure your needs are met so you can stay strong and buoyant.

Psalm 23:1 reads, “The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.”

The sound of another human being’s voice and the sight of kind eyes can bring you back to feeling safe and comforted. You will be heard, and you can risk trusting again even when you feel broken, wounded, or defeated.
God loves you just as you are. He values you simply because you are His— His beloved.

Further Action Step:

Take some time to be honest and journal about your fears and hurts. Not only will this help you find congruence, but it can also lead you to a deeper relationship with God.
Acknowledge your need for that connection with Him and, if you’re willing, open up to a safe person about those needs.