Last week, my good friend Shari posted a guest post I’d written for her blog. I wrote 500 words about something I don’t hear a lot of conversation about. I wasn’t planning to post it on my blog, but here we are, in a more-or-less quarantine, on-line more than normal, with more free time than normal. I don’t usually ask for interaction from readers, but there again, we’re breathing different air right now.
So let’s talk.
“My church doesn’t know what to do with me.”
I’ve heard this line from singles many times. Maybe it’s the default setting in a sub-culture that greatly values marriage and family, but it always makes me sad. However, I’m deeply grateful for a church that gives me a place and lets us singles feel welcome, equal, and human.
Some things they do to give us a place:
- The ladies look for ways for us to be together—ladies’ evenings when the men have brother’s meeting, women’s retreats, extra ladies’ nights when we relax and laugh and tell stories.
- The men meet my eyes and shake my hand after church. They regularly publicly honor and praise single and married women’s contributions to the families, school, and church.
- Families invite me for meals and tuck leftover food into my bag as I leave because they know I don’t have all day to cook.
- They treat me like an individual with a life: they remember my birthday and ask about my family. They care about my dreams.
- The men generously give advice and assistance in their area of expertise: purchasing and maintaining a car, phone, house, or garden, which can include pest control, yard work, or a mechanic’s number.
- They send us reports of their brother’s meetings.
- Church treats us like people who have something valuable to contribute, and so we’re on the hostess list and the church cleaning list and the list of people for jobs on reorganization night. And no, I don’t like the job they gave me but it means they believe in me.
- They compliment my clothes. They remember I was gone last week and ask about the trip. They remember to ask about things we’ve talked about before.
- They don’t ask us singles to serve the Valentine’s banquet.
- They invite me to join their family in the fellowship dinner line.
Some time ago, in another place, I was helping to host an event and several men acted as if I wasn’t there. Were they wanting to prove their loyalty to their wives? Was I intimidating or dangerous? I got a taste of my friends’ lines: “They don’t know what to do with me,” and I felt newly thankful for the conversations, camaraderie, and support the men in our church give to me and other single women.
A key part of this is that healthy relationships are two-way streets. I aim to give more than I take. I need to contribute, not just consume. I must plug in, make effort, invest, because the good life is not about me and my comfort. I often don’t feel like going to cell group or bringing food for an event or doing my assigned job, but who does? And who will have the richest life—those who stay home and curl into a ball when they feel like it, or those who push themselves to do hard things and love their people?
It goes both ways, but if you know a single in your church, think about how you could love her well and let her feel like she matters and belongs.
Now back to you:
What would you add to this list of 10? Which ones do you feel aren’t important?
What keeps you from engaging with someone with a different marital status than you?
What do we singles do that makes us seem threatening or dangerous to marriages?
To be clear: extended singleness isn’t the worst thing that could happen to a person. It’s not a crisis situation, and there are much, much worse, harder scenarios to live in. But singleness IS a disenfranchised grief. There are no sympathy or thinking-of-you cards that address it, and singleness doesn’t keep getting better every year like a good marriage apparently does. So it’s a lonely place for most of us, and one where good role models are scarce, and it’s hard to talk well about it without sounding bitter or desperate.
Let’s hear each other, ask questions, and walk toward wholeness and mutual understanding. This isn’t a platform for bitterness or accusation. We all need each other and we’re all far more alike than we are different.
We all want to matter, to make a difference.
We all want to know we’re beautiful and loveable and not obnoxious.
We all are hungry for more connection and less isolation.
What would you add to the lists of commonalities and ways to integrate?