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Single Parenting: The Ugly Green Stripe

My son wasn't the only one who struggled with envy

Bang! The door to Nik's room slammed shut. Knowing he needed some space, I walked back to the kitchen to fix dinner. An hour later his door creaked open.

"Mom, why can't I have those Nike air pump running shoes? All the guys have them, and my shoes are so dorky!"

"Nik, we've gone over this already. I can't afford $80 shoes. I really wish I could."

That wasn't what a 10-year-old wanted to hear. I was frustrated too. No, I was more than frustrated; I was envious of parents who could afford to grant their children's desires. Envy was consuming me, even in my job at church.

Randy, the church's media director, was one target of my envy. He was raised in a Christian family with an incredible grandfather who believed in his musical ability and gave him his first guitar. Randy attended a Christian college and then married Sharon, a godly woman. Now they have two awesome kids.

The ugly green stripe of envy spread down my back for all to see, and unfortunately it was getting wider. My response to Randy's spiritual journey was, "God, could we spread this around a little? What would it be like to grow up in a Christian home and then marry and raise your own children in a safe, godly environment?"

I thought about the broken pieces of my heart strewn along life's highway. And what about my kids? Why do they have to experience such pain? Yet what was I actually saying to God? "You made mistakes with my life. I know I could do better."

In a quiet moment, the Lord whispered, Barbara, give me the broken pieces. Let me restore you. I long to set you free.

Society says just the opposite. It shouts that we must drive the right car, wear the best clothes, land the perfect job. In other words, appearance is everything.

But not so with God. He sees my heart, and he's not frightened by what he sees. I was humbled that God truly values my broken pieces.

He accepts my children and me right where we are, not where I think we ought to be.

I contemplated Nik's request for running shoes. I wanted to help him control his envy of others (and my envy too) while honoring his desire. I prayed late into the evening, and the next day I shared an idea with him.

"Nik, I'll make you a deal. If you'll do odd jobs to earn half the cost of the shoes, I'll pay the rest. We'll both have to save, okay?"

My son's industrious mind went to work.

At church he talked with friends we both knew, telling them of his plan. As a result, several gave him odd jobs to do. What started off on my part as envy toward others developed instead into a community effort of love.

The big day arrived. Nik and I went to the shoe store, where he meticulously tried on several pairs. After all, he now had a personal investment in this purchase. With new shoes in hand, he could barely contain his sense of pride. I was unprepared, though, for the wonderful side benefit of his involvement in this purchase.

It was the next day. Nik's door slammed loudly. Uh, oh. Now what? I wondered. I called from the kitchen, "Nik, is everything all right?" From behind the door he shouted, "Everything's fine, Mom. I just wanted to change my shoes. These are too special. I don't want to get them dirty when I go outside to play."

I was dumbfounded. Nik was learning the delicate balance of weighing desires, working to achieve a goal, and trusting God. And for me, well, my ugly green stripe was narrowing.

Barbara Schiller is the executive director of Single Parent Family Resources www.singleparentfamilyresources.com.

Read more articles that highlight writing by Christian women at ChristianityToday.com/Women

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