I grew up in a single parent family (my father died in an accident when I was four and my Mum was six-months pregnant) so I am never very encouraged by lists of statistics like the one given on page 155 of this chapter. However, I have seen the grace of God at work in one such situation (I cried my way through page 145), have experienced that being a single mother is not the end of the world, and I feel like I’d have some idea of how to go about it. All that said, I have never ever seriously considered adopting children on my own, never known a single woman who has and I was really quite surprised to read that section in this chapter (so I went and read the legalities on this and it doesn’t appear that it would be an easily accomplished thing in this country!). I’d have to pray long and hard about that option and work through the list of questions Carolyn offers before going anywhere on that idea. I’ve seen single parenting turn out OK, but I wouldn’t plan it that way. However, for those of us with biological clocks that are increasing in decibels, or maybe acting like evacuation fire alarms ("leave singleness immediately" sort of thing), the option of adoption should we marry too late in life for biological children is a wonderful one (which can serve to slow down and silence that clock a little), and in her later book Radical Womanhood Carolyn discusses what a very Christian notion adoption is.
Aside from the adoption surprise, once again I appreciated that this chapter was practical and exhortative. I was a little hesitant over the section on buzzing biological clocks, with the stories of miraculous births to aged women in the bible, given to “strengthen your faith as you trustingly wait on the Lord for children”. While I do believe (of course!) that nothing is impossible with God, I wondered whether holding on to hope for children beyond the age that this usually naturally occurs could potentially become more of a stumbling block to our faith than cultivating a peaceful acceptance that not bearing children may be what God has for us. It was clear from the rest of the chapter that Carolyn doesn’t claim a guarantee of biological children to all those who desire and trust God for them, so I wasn’t quite sure how to integrate this particular section. I think that what I would “take home” is a trust that should God have children in mind for us absolutely nothing will stop that coming to pass, but also that if he doesn’t then we need to keep trusting to the goodness of his plans for us.
I was encouraged by the reminder that the ultimate goal of parenting is impressing upon children the authority and authenticity of the gospel, which is something we can invest in as single women. And I liked that we were given examples that weren’t just the obvious, like teaching Sunday School. (I think teaching Sunday School is a fantastic thing to do!—but it was good to be shown that there are many other, and some less structured, ways to be investing in the lives of children that we can, and should, take up.) In doing so we can imitate the Apostle Paul, who considered himself a spiritual father to many, when he writes "We were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children" (I Thessalonians 2:7). I was challenged to think through how I am contributing to the lives of the children that I do know, and particularly my nieces and nephew (and I picked up that idea of an "Aunt’s Journal").
And let’s not forget prayer. In her beautiful book The Life of Prayer, Edith Schaeffer, in her chapters on the continuity of prayer through the centuries, reminds us of the way that Jesus received children in Matthew 19:13-15, that he welcomed them and prayed for them, and writes of the importance of praying for the next generation. This is by no means limited to single women, but is certainly a part of nurturing children in the gospel which we can be involved in, and perhaps when our hearts are aching for own our children we can take the ache to our heavenly Father in prayer, then bless the children we do know through our prayers for them.
The absence of children is a legitimate grief, to be processed, and perhaps felt all the more keenly by women, but I'll close with a portion of this chapter's final paragraph:
We, too, can be blessed when we pour our lives into the children around us instead of bemoaning the lack of our own. There are so many children already in this world who need the tender, feminine affection that we have to give. Let's humble ourselves before our Maker and trust His wisdom and timing for our lives. Numerous children are already waiting to be blessed by the single woman who has put her faith and trust in the Lord.Here are Carolyn McCulley's discussion questions for this chapter:
Femininity Expressed: Nurturing Others' Children, by Carolyn McCulley.
Disciplines of a Godly Woman by Barbara Hughes. This book contains a chapter on the Discipline of Nurturing. It also contains a chapter on the Discipline of Singleness, which I haven’t previously mentioned. And this list of What I Do with the Hard Things in My Life, is worth hanging up somewhere.
This Momentary Marriage, by John Piper, Chapter 9, Single in Christ: A Name Better Than Sons and Daughters. You will be encouraged by this chapter.
Adopted for Life: The Priority of Adoption for Christian Families & Churches, by Russell Moore. I have reservations about adoption for single women, but I include this here in reference to the point above on screaming biological clocks, to highlight that adoption is an immensely important and Christian thing to do, and not just a consolation prize if you can't have your own children.
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