Updated: Nov 13, 2018
I am incredibly blessed to have an amazing church home. A church family that takes into consideration every single member no matter his or her circumstances.
I have been a member of my church since I was seven years old and had very good attendance... until I met my husband.
Soon after we were married, he suddenly claimed he was never really a Christian and called me an idiot for believing in God. He berated me and insisted the Bible was a fake book written by a bunch of crazy men and couldn't possibly be true. That my God was imperfect.
I was no longer allowed to go to church service. He would rage at me if I went behind his back. He would call me names, swear at me and would become physically aggressive. Over time, I became too afraid to attend. Attendance wasn't worth the consequences I would face at home.
My husband's sudden veer from Christianity was part of his calculated plan to isolate me from everyone and everything that gave me comfort and support. He couldn't handle not being in control of me. He was petrified that I would remove his mask in public and out him for his wretched behavior.
But everyone in my small town already knew what my husband was doing to me behind closed doors. They knew what he was doing every night when he wasn't home with his family. It was blatantly obvious.
I was ashamed and felt I would never be accepted back into my church family.
After the divorce was finalized and anxiety and depression took over my life, I developed social anxiety and couldn't function outside my home. I had PTSD and the smallest thing would set me off into a tailspin of self-doubt and panic. Certain songs, smells, places and sounds were my worst enemies. Nightmares would awaken me two or three times a night. I was constantly fighting him in my head; fighting for my life. Even in my sleep. I was exhausted.
I wanted to reach out. I wanted to find support and love. I wanted to go back to church and to be embraced by my church family, but I was so ashamed of my situation. I convinced myself that no one would understand. Members of my own family were quick to dismiss my feelings and say I was over exaggerating, to say I had asked for this. I assumed everyone else would as well.
I wanted so desperately for my children to be involved in Sunday school. To learn about the Lord and His love because they had been told over and over by their father that God didn't exist. I just couldn't find the courage to go alone.
Then my pastor's wife reached out to me. She knew I was struggling. She asked me to go to the next Sunday service with her and invited me to sit with her. She offered to meet me in the parking lot and to walk into the church building with me so I didn't feel uncomfortable looking around for her.
I agreed. I did this for a few months. No one was staring or judging as I had imagined they would. I went to a Sunday school group for older women led by my pastor's wife and I even attended a few services on my own. I was starting to feel less afraid.
Then, my church family did an amazing thing. Unbeknownst to me, my pastor's wife requested the church create a Sunday group for single moms. So they did. I was so grateful. So grateful!
On the first day, the class was filled with women just like me. Women who were too afraid to attend church for being ashamed of their situations. Women from all walks of life. Women who were struggling with the same feelings and anxieties as I was. Women who love the Lord with all their hearts and who just needed to be shown some support and love. Most of all, to be shown understanding.
I am so incredibly blessed to have these ladies in my life. They are amazing! I am just as blessed to have such a supportive church family behind me. At this point, I am no longer afraid to attend church and look forward to going every Sunday. I feel accepted. Just as I am.
My church has individuals in place to help the women in our group if things get hard. They have a handy man service to help us with home repairs. They have mechanics lined up for car repairs. They have gift cards to our local grocery store to give us if funds run short and groceries are needed for our families. They have a fund source available to help with utilities and other expenses. We have been instructed to ask for help in confidence; without fear of judgement.
Today, another Sunday class blessed us with frozen meals to help make our busy lives easier.
Having a supportive church family has been such a crucial part of my continued recovery from abuse and to my success as a single parent. I am thankful for the camaraderie I have found within my Sunday single mom's group and am so appreciative to my church family for being so willing to meet the needs of single moms within the congregation. The hospitality, love and acceptance I have been shown have been a breath of fresh air.
I think it is important for churches to see and reach out to single parents. If your church doesn't have a group like this you should request one to be formed. If you're comfortable creating one on your own, then do it. There are so many people in similar situations who are just looking for a place to belong; a place where they feel comfortable asking for help if needed.
I was one of them.