I was sitting at our breakfast counter with our then eight-year-old daughter. We were finishing up her morning homeschooling lessons when I heard the garage door open and close. A few moments later, my husband walked in. Without a word or look in our direction, he trudged past and headed for our bedroom.
My gut knotted. I knew something was wrong.
I was right. That moment was the beginning of a stressful bout of unemployment. During that time, while scouring the Internet for jobs, my husband took over homeschooling and I sought work at a local daycare center. I went in with some pretty high parenting ideals: If you do X . . . Y will happen.
But then I met Tina, a preschool teacher and single mother of three who was overworked, overwhelmed, and underpaid. She didn’t have health care and relied heavily on the snacks and meals the daycare provided. It seemed her kids were often sick, which in turn forced her to miss work, reducing her paycheck as a result.
Tina’s oldest was close to the same age as our daughter. When our workday was done, I went home to family dinners and devotions, followed by bedtime prayers and Bible reading.
Tina went home, exhausted, to laundry but no washing machine, a sparse fridge, unpaid bills, and all the chaos that often goes with that.
That was 11 years ago, and I never forgot Tina or her struggles. Since then, I’ve met women like her, women who are living in poverty and who long to give their children a better life but face challenges that in essence tie their hands. It’s difficult to initiate spiritual training while struggling to catch a breath. It’s near impossible to monitor homework and guide children into maturity while working nights and evenings.
And every time I see a struggling, hurting, or “rebellious” child, I think, Where is the church?
But since I, as a believer, am part of the church, I’m forced to ask, Where am I? What is God calling me to do? How can I help?
This is the theme behind Restoring Love. My heroine Angela lived for many years as a single parent and, as an unbeliever, made some incredibly devastating mistakes. Having found redemption through Christ, Angela finds a fresh start in a new city where she encounters a woman struggling to survive. This woman, named Bianca, is angry. Defensive. Distrustful. Upon first glance, she appears she doesn’t want help. Maybe she doesn’t even care. She’s the type of woman many would be tempted to avoid—and judge.
But Angela sees her differently. She sees past her behavior to the frightened and hurting heart beneath.
Not only does God allow Angela to see Bianca’s pain and the pain of Bianca’s children, He stirs her to do something about it. He stirs within Angela’s heart to reach out with His persevering, initiating love, and to keep reaching out, even when her efforts are spurned and she’s treated rudely.
In many ways, I wrote Restoring Love as a reminder to myself. I’ve encountered numerous Biancas and Tinas. I’ve reached out to others, tried to help, and been hurt and attacked in the process. When that happens, my first reaction is to pull away. To give up. But God’s love goes deeper. God’s love is stronger. It always hopes and it continues to give, even when giving hurts.
For while we were still sinners, while we were ungrateful and rebellious (Romans 5:8), Christ died for us. He’s asking us to show that same kind of sacrificial, enduring love to the single moms and hurting children in our communities. Moms and children who, at this moment, are asking if God is real and if He really cares. God longs to answer both questions with a clear and resounding affirmative, and He longs to do that through us, His church.
Editor’s Note: Learn more about Jennifer Slattery and her latest release, Restoring Love by clicking here.