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From Co-Pilot to Flying Solo

with Jill Rigby | March 16, 2009

Jill Rigby never dreamed she’d be parenting her twin boys alone. But after her husband walked out, God was faithful to her and her sons as her status in life changed from wife to single mom.

Jill Rigby never dreamed she’d be parenting her twin boys alone. But after her husband walked out, God was faithful to her and her sons as her status in life changed from wife to single mom.

From Co-Pilot to Flying Solo

With Jill Rigby
|
March 16, 2009
| Download Transcript PDF

Bob: Jill Rigby and her husband were separated, and although she was holding onto hope, in the back of her mind she wondered what the future held.

Jill: I hated divorce right along with the Lord, and I really believed He was going to bring about a miracle, I truly did.  I really did believe.  It was just lightning bolts or something was going to happen, and somehow, some way, we were going to put it all back together.

So time passed.  A year later, he was still living away from home, and that was the moment when he came home, and sat all three of us down on the sofa to say that "I just can't do it anymore," and this is as final as it was going to get.

[musical transition]

Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Monday, March 16th.  Our host is the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine.  Where do you find hope when, all of a sudden, you're beginning a new chapter of your life as a single parent.  Stay tuned.

And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us.  One of the things I've heard you say over the years has been that you believe single parents may have, if not the toughest job, one of the toughest jobs, one of the toughest assignments anybody gets in life.

Dennis: Well, if you look at how God designed the family to work, it certainly allows for single parents to be able to do their assignment, but the job was designed by God, I think, to be done by two.

Bob: The job of parenting?

Dennis: Yeah, a mom and a dad together linking arms and battling the forces of a culture, of their own children's selfishness and together taking on the privilege and responsibility of raising the next generation.

Bob: I know Mary Ann and I have found ourselves doing a lot of tag-teaming as we raise our children, whether it's who is going to stay up late waiting for the child to come in or who is going to get up early the next morning to take them someplace.

Dennis: That sounds a little too passive for the tag team.  I immediately went to wrestle mania, you know?

Bob: There is a little bit of that, but I think to myself, if you're a single parent, and you're getting weary, and you look over to the corner to make the tag, and there's no one there.

Dennis: Yeah, really, that's the point.  And what single parent doesn't need a little encouragement along the way, and we have tons of single parents who listen to FamilyLife Today who, hopefully, receive some courage from us here on a daily basis. 

We have a guest today, Jill Rigby, who joins us, and I think – well, I think, Jill, you're going to be a great encouragement to a lot of single moms.  Welcome back to the broadcast.

Jill: Well, thank you.  Thank you for having me back.

Dennis: Jill was a single parent of a couple of twins, but she is also the founder of Manners of the Heart, which is a nonprofit ministry that has sought to bring respect to the public marketplace in schools and businesses, to parents, and she is the author of a number of books, "Raising Respectful Children in a Disrespectful World."  You raised twins in the midst of being a single parent, and you started out when they were how old – 12?

Jill: They were 12, at the beginning of sixth grade, as we were walking into middle school.

Bob: And let me take you back, because that's almost two decades ago now.  Did you see any clouds on the horizon that said, "I may have single parenting ahead of me" before that time right at the beginning of middle school?

Jill: I don't believe in divorce, so I'd have to say no.

Bob: There were challenges in your marriage.

Jill: Oh, yes.

Bob: But you never thought those challenges would come to a point where you'd be on your own.

Jill: No, no, I didn't.  I never even entertained the thought, to tell you the truth, no.

Bob: So take us to the first time that thought had to be entertained.  What happened?

Jill: Well, the first week of sixth grade is when my husband walked out the door and said that he was going to live on the other side of town, and that was the beginning.

Bob: Did he leave you a note?  Did he come at the end of dinner one – how did it happen?

Jill: No, he had shared with me a few months before that moment that he was really struggling in how he felt in our marriage and that he had some hard decisions that he was contemplating, and that he was trying to find a way to make some tough decisions.

Bob: And did you think, at that point, "He may leave me?"

Jill: I was fearful of it, but I just didn't think it would come to that, I really didn't, I didn't think it would come to that.

Dennis: Do you remember when you told your boys, I mean, as a woman, you first had to receive this information and process it yourself like a shock absorber, but you had to have a time when you met with your boys and passed onto them this information that their daddy was leaving.  Do you remember when you did that?

Jill: I do remember that.  I remember the moment very well, and my former husband had been given the advice that the children needed to be included in the actual process of leaving the home, which I have to say I strongly disagreed with, and it's hard enough on children to accept that a parent is going to leave, and I'm certainly not a psychologist, but I'm a mom, and I couldn't agree to that.  I couldn't allow the boys to participate in that.

Bob: So you said, "That's off limits."

Jill: Yes.

Bob: They went away for the weekend to stay with a friend.

Jill: Yes.

Bob: Do you think they knew when they were going to a friend's house?

Jill: They did and, you know, the thing about children that we often forget is they know much more than we think they do, and they knew that Dad was very unhappy.  They knew that he had not been content for quite a season.  They knew that.  It was very evident, and they were certainly aware of that.

Dennis: Had they asked you any questions about it?

Jill: They had asked some questions, and I really felt that in some ways it wasn't my place to discuss some of the issues with my sons; that it was my husband who needed to discuss it with them and explain things to them.

And so I, you know, was there the weekend that he moved and helped with it in many ways, just because I kept trying to show love and forgiveness and an open arm and that "You're my husband."  As I said, I don't believe in divorce no matter the circumstances, and so time passed.  A year later he was still living away from home and still very unhappy and not content and felt that the reason was because it just wasn't settled, and so he needed to settle it so he could kind of move on.

That was the time, that was the moment, when he came home and sat all three of us down on the sofa to say "I'm going to divorce your mother."  And needless to say, they fell apart.

Bob: The boys did.

Jill: Yes, and this is as final as it was going to get.  And, of course, I did, too.  And so that was the beginning of the end, I suppose.

Bob: In that year between his moving out for the first time, and his announcement of the divorce, were you optimistic and hopeful, or did you see this isn't going to end well.

Jill: Oh, no, I never lost hope, no.  I didn't lose hope at all.  God hates divorce, and I had not felt any leading from the Lord at that point to give up on it, because I hated divorce right along with the Lord, and I really believed He was going to bring about a miracle, I truly did.  I really did believe there was just lightning bolts or, you know, something was going to happen, and that there was going to be that miracle and somehow, some way, we were going to put it all back together.

Bob: What did you do during that year in terms of communication with your husband?  Did you initiate communication?  Did you try to find ways to express, "Hey, I still love you.  I want this to work out."  Or did you just leave it to him to initiate?

Jill: We continued to talk during that year, and I continued to pray, and we met once a week in an official way to talk, and we talked with a counselor, but throughout the counseling, it seemed to me it was more about finding a way to end things maybe without guilt, or trying to find a way to end the marriage so that everyone was happy, kind of how we do today.

Bob: It does not sound like you were getting biblical counsel.

Jill: Unfortunately, it was not, which was not of my choosing.

Bob: Did you have any friends who were trying to help you through this time?

Jill: Oh, I had dear, dear friends.  My friends were such a blessing during this season, and, honestly, where I found the most solace was in the corner of my bedroom alone with the Lord, and during that year, about two months, maybe three months, after my husband left home, I got alone with the Lord one night, and I so remember this moment, and I said, "Lord, you know what?  Let's just take him out of this equation now, because there is nothing I can do here about his heart.  So, Lord, let's look at my heart."

And I remember asking the Lord to show me me through His eyes.  Because the only person that I knew who I was at that point was who I had been through my husband's eyes and through the eyes of my children and through the eyes of others, and the daughter and the mother, and I didn't …

Dennis: Most of you identity was wrapped up in being a wife and mother.

Jill: It was all my identity.  I'm one of those women who never had any aspirations in my life beyond being a wife and a mother.  I still believe that's the highest and greatest calling for a woman on earth, and so I just asked the Lord, "Show me me through Your eyes, because I'm having trouble seeing who I am."

And so we spent the next several months working through Jill and going back through Jill and her heart and just looking really hard at me and asking the Lord, "Where do I need to repent?  Where have I gone wrong?"  And the Psalm 139 prayer just kept flooding over me – "Where am I offensive."

Bob: "Search me."

Jill: "Search me, O God, and know my heart.  Test me and know my anxious thoughts.  See if there is an offensive way in me, and then lead me in the way everlasting."  And for several months that's just what I did.  And I often tell people it was the most wonderfully difficult season of my life, and it was miserable, and it was awful, but several years later I woke up one morning and there was before me the question from the Lord.  He said, "Jill, would you go through it again if I asked you?"  And before I knew what I said, I said, "Well, yeah, Lord, if you asked me to."

And then, of course, I sat up in bed and said, "No, no, no, no, wait, wait, wait, wait, I didn't say that, I didn't say that."  And then I burst into tears and just wept at the thought that, "Well, if this is what it took in my life and my heart and my soul to clean me out and to bring me into an intimate relationship with my Heavenly Father that I know I would not have had apart from the brokenheartedness, I still can sit here and say, though it makes me tremble, "Yeah, I'd have to go through it again because it was worth it in the end."

Bob: During that year, was there ever anyone that you know who went and tried to speak truth to your husband and point him back to you?

Jill: There was.  There was one friend – a friend's husband who did.

Bob: And …

Jill: It …

Bob: … fell on deaf ears.

Jill: It did.

Bob: Yeah.

Jill: It did.

Dennis: You know, I want to ask you what happened after the divorce, but I want to fast forward – now your sons are adults?

Jill: Mm-hm.

Dennis: have you ever gone back and asked your sons, as young men, what their thoughts and emotions were about that whole scene back in your home when they were 12 years old, just to get their reflections on what was taking place back then?

Jill: I have, and, you know, one of the most frequent comments I hear about my sons and have since they were five months old, and they are now 26, is – "Do your boys ever not have a smile on their faces?"  Which just confounds me, but somehow, some way – I always say "somehow God's way" – somehow God's way, they never doubted that they were loved, and they didn't have the fullness of love they needed in many ways during those growing-up years, and yet somehow God's way, they had their hole filled up so that they didn't end up with that gaping wound.

The beautiful example of that is the relationship they now have that they have really forged themselves in the last four years particularly, and they really have.

Dennis: Speaking of their relationship with their father?

Jill: Yes, and they forged a beautiful relationship, and they are still working on it, but they were always, always able to love the sinner and hate the sin, and the boys were able to take all of that and put it in the proper place, which was not on the man, but it was to be put on the wrong choices, maybe, on the sinfulness of decisions that were being made.  And so they could still continue to love.  And it was what God blessed me with – He protected my heart from that bitterness by commanding me to pray for more love for the one who had wounded us.

Bob: Dennis, there are a lot of single parents who look at their circumstances, their situation, their environment, and they see the deficits, and they grieve for that and think, "How can I do it all?"  And I think a part of what Jill is saying is no single parent can do it all, but God can cover over those holes and, yeah, it's not going to be a perfect situation, but God's grace is there, isn't it?

Jill: You know, Bob, Scripture tells us that love covers a multitude of mistakes, and, you know, for that single parent that feels left behind – I know I've said this – but what so protected the boys is because we leaned hard on the Lord, and I'm not just saying, "Oh, pray" and, you know, I'm not making anything simple of this, I hope not at all, and for that single parent who is left behind, they have to be willing to take and bear the responsibility and seek forgiveness where forgiveness is wrought regardless of what the other spouse has done. 

You know, I mean, I ask for forgiveness for my husband.  I ask him to forgive me in areas where God brought it to light that I had been wrong, and I asked the Lord to forgive me for the areas where I had been so wrong.  And, in turn, it puts a covering over your heart that just cannot be penetrated.

Dennis: You know, as you were talking, Jill, my mind is racing at hundreds of consequences that occur because of a divorce, and one of the things that can happen is that Christians, followers of Christ, can rush in to the aid of the one who is left to raise the family, as you were, and in an attempt to put a salve on the wound, almost – and I don't want this to sound wrong, but almost aid and abet the enemy in encouraging that single parent to grow resentful and bitter as they talk about all the things that the one who left did wrong.

And what I've heard you say here, Jill, both on the air and off air before we can in to do studio, is that you really wanted God to do a work in your own soul, and that was where life was going to be found.  You realized you couldn't control anything that your former spouse did, but you could control how you responded to the circumstances.

And, you know, a single parent can have a profound impact in a boy's life growing up who doesn't have a dad, or a little girl who lost her mommy, perhaps who abandoned the family, and it's the father who is left to raise the children.  Your life can be a conduit of redemption, to tell the story, the greatest story of all, that, with God, all things are possible and, with God, there is hope, and, yes, He does work in broken situations powerfully to accomplish His purposes.

Bob: I think one of the questions a lot of single parents have to answer when they find themselves in whatever circumstance or situation is – now what?

Dennis: And the question is, is part of the "now what" is – how are you going to respond to this?

Bob: Yeah, are you going to stay focused on the pain and the hurt, which is very real, but are you going to stay locked up in that, or are you going to find a way to press on?  And if you're going to be what your children need for you to be, and ultimately if you're going to live in a way that honors the Lord, you have to not ignore the pain that you're going through, but you have to press into it, and you have to keep moving forward.

We have recommended to a lot of people, the DivorceCare program that takes place in a lot of churches.  This is not something you just casually dance past.  This is something you need to engage and understand and find out what God is trying to do in your own life as you go through the challenge of a divorce.

And we've got a link on our website at FamilyLifeToday.com that will let you know more about DivorceCare and where you can find churches that are hosting these DivorceCare workshops in your area.  Again, go to our website, FamilyLifeToday.com, and the link for DivorceCare is right there.

There is also information on our website about the books that Jill has written including "Raising Unselfish Children in a Self-Absorbed World," and "Raising Respectful Children in a Disrespectful World."  We have both of those books in our FamilyLife Resource Center as well, along with Gary Richmond's helpful book, "Successful Single Parenting."

Again, all the information about the resources we have available for parents and for single parents can be found at FamilyLifeToday.com, or if it's easier for you to call and get more information, 1-800-FLTODAY is the toll-free number – 1-800-358-6329, 1-800-F-as-in-family, L-as-in-life, and then the word TODAY.  When you contact us, someone on our team can answer any questions you have about the resources that are available and let you know how you can get ahold of these, if you like.

You know, I was having a conversation recently with a friend of this ministry, a friend that has also been a financial supporter of FamilyLife Today, and the friend had recently made a contribution and said, "I just want you to know I wish we could do more than we are able to do right now."  And I assured my friend, "We understand completely these are challenging economic times, and a lot of folks wish that they could do more in terms of giving than they are able to do." 

I just want to say thank you to those of you who are doing whatever it is you are able to do – those of you who have called us or have gone online at FamilyLifeToday.com and made an online donation.  I know in many cases you may wish that you could give more than you are able to, but just the very fact that you are giving something, what you are able to do, makes all the difference in the world.

This month, if you make a donation of any amount to support the ministry of FamilyLife Today, we would like to say thank you by sending you a copy of "The Jesus Film" on DVD.  This is the most-seen motion picture of all time.  More people around the world have seen "The Jesus Film" than any other movie ever made, and the DVD has a couple of special features with it. 

One, it has a variety of different audio tracks so that you can view the movie and listen to it in Spanish or in German or in Arabic, Vietnamese, Tagalog – so those who are not native English speakers can watch this film and hear it in their own language.  In addition, there is a special feature on the DVD called "The Story of Jesus for Children."  It tells the life of Jesus through the eyes of a child.  Once again, the DVD is our thank you gift to you this month when you support the ministry of FamilyLife Today with a donation of any amount.

You can make your donation online at FamilyLifeToday.com, and if you do, and if you'd like the DVD, then just type "JesusDVD" in the keycode box on the donation form, or call 1-800-FLTODAY, 1-800-358-6329, that's 1-800-F-as-in-family, L-as-in-life, and then the word TODAY, and, again, when you make a donation of any amount just ask for a copy of "The Jesus Film" on DVD, and let me say thanks very much for your financial support of this ministry.  We appreciate your partnership with us.

Now, tomorrow we're going to talk more about the pain and about the depression that comes when a marriage dies.  Jill Rigby is going to be back with us tomorrow.  I hope you'll be back as well. 

I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team.  On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine.  We'll see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.

FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas – help for today; hope for tomorrow.  

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Fun, engaging conversations about what it takes to build stronger, healthier marriage and family relationships. Join hosts Dave and Ann Wilson with FamilyLife Today® veteran cohost Bob Lepine for new episodes every weekday.

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