A Wilderness Journey

June 3, 2024

{Pictured is Sue, in the middle, with her children (on the right) and other family members at her daughter’s graduation in 2022}

In the mid 1980’s, when I was in my twenties and a new Christian, I joined a national singles ministry, Mobilized to Serve. At one conference I attended, a seminar title caught my attention:  “Single Parenting: A Wilderness Journey.” I was struck by the word “wilderness,” and I remember thinking what a tough, burdensome experience single parenting would be. I was not to be in that category. I grew up in a single-parent family, knew the pitfalls, and couldn’t imagine trying to raise children in the Lord without having a partner to share the joys and the responsibilities of parenting.

In 1988, I married John, a deeply compassionate man with a heart for the less fortunate and a desire to lead people to Jesus, especially the older adults he served in his nursing career. We had two children together, Deanna in 1992 and Matthew in 1997. In our marriage and as parents, we worked together as a team, but I often relied on him to make decisions, big and small, to steer our family life (which came naturally, as he had a dominant “big” personality, while I am quiet and laid-back).

When John passed away in 2002, what was unthinkable in the past became reality. While riding the emotional roller coaster of grieving his loss, I had to adjust to the role of sole parent of two children, one with special needs, who were grieving as well. I had to make decisions, and take action, in areas that had been handled by John, such as finances and household maintenance. At times, I despaired of how I was going to manage it all without his direction and help.

Almost from the start, I became aware of God’s tangible presence, and I knew I wasn’t walking alone. The precious truth of 2 Corinthians 8:9, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness,” sustained me, and led to my strengthened relationship with the Lord through his Spirit. I found that when I faced decisions, I was able to get a sense of his will, either through prayer, journaling, or a prompting in my spirit. I often felt like I was able to hear from God like a football coach hears from his coordinators through his headset. It’s not that I hadn’t heard from God before, but I received clearer direction from him in response to my greater need, as Philippians 4:19 states: “My God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”

The Lord also used the church as a means of grace repeatedly during that time. My Community Group leaders, the Snyders, walked alongside me, and were Christ in the flesh to me. Gerard provided sound guidance in spiritual and practical matters, while Lori talked with me for hours when I was distraught, came to Matthew’s IEP (Individualized Education Program) meeting to support me, and helped me work with him on his behavior. The Community Group pitched in as well. One Saturday, they all helped me clean out my garage, using a rented dumpster. Pastor Marty Machowski counseled me on a regular basis, and prayerfully supported us through the hardest times. My home has been kept in good repair through the work of the saints in the Widows Ministry, which continues to this day.

While it’s true that single parenting can indeed be a wilderness journey, I know now that God doesn’t leave us to wander through the wilderness alone. He meets us where we are, stays with us, and provides for our needs through his Spirit, his power, and the people he sends to care for us.

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