Feeble Knees

Thursday, June 16, 2005

This is for all the lonely people

Been reading a lot from some dear folks out there who are feeling lonely and depressed out there, and my heart goes out to them.

It doesn't help that much to say, "hey, I've been there, it'll get better". My response was always: "Oh yeah, what do you know? What if it doesn't?

Well, I have been there, not that it helps anyone else's present situation very much. I got married a few years ago to a wonderful guy and we're very happy (and pregnant) but I think I can still empathize with how tough it is to be single and alone in the church. I still remember. It wasn't all that long ago that folks used to try to "encourage" me with lovely statements like:

  • Well if that's the worst problem you have, you should be thankful
  • Maybe you should lose some weight
  • But you have Jesus as your husband!
  • Seek God first and He will give you the desires of your heart (i.e.,Maybe you should pray, attend services, read Scripture more)
  • Singleness is a gift from God; maybe it's not His will for you to marry (Please, kick me while I'm down some more!)
  • Maybe you aren't ready to meet the person God has for you yet (i.e., Maybe you're not praying, attending services, reading scripture enough.)
  • One of these days I'll take you down to XYZ Bible college with me, there are lots of nice young men down there (yep, my pastor actually said that to me and a friend once)
  • Maybe God just wants you to focus on Him right now (i.e. We really would rather you devoted your every waking minute to serving the church in upmteen million ministries right now, because the married people are all busy with their kids and we need the help.)
  • Maybe you're too picky (You're right. You know I've been having a terrible time deciding between all my zero and nil number of prospects.)
  • Are you praying about it? (You must not be praying, attending services, reading scripture enough...)

It's tough enough to live in this world, but trying to make your way alone as a young adult with all sorts of expectations and societal pressures can really drag a person down. Unfortunately the Christian community, what with all its young marrieds happily pushing out kid after kid for Christ, can make you feel like quite the fifth wheel in the family of God. We expect singles to be active in the church and busy themselves with ministries that people with families don't have time for. We assume this is a good way to put the single person's energies to good use, so they won't be tempted or led astray by longings and lust.

Marrieds generally hang out almost exclusively with other marrieds, except when a particular church function or event requires them to co-mingle with singles. They seem to be happy to have escaped singledom and don't seem particularly eager to hear about the trials and tribulations of their single brothers and sisters. Many stop being able to relate to them after a period of time, though there are always those true exceptions to the rule who are able to understand and empathize. But I never found very many of them.

For people who come to the faith in their twenties after living through some wild times and having indulged in certain indiscretions, life can be even more difficult. Everyone wants you to give witness in explicit detail how Jesus saved you from a life of sex, drugs and Rock 'N Roll, but no one of the opposite sex wants to touch you with a ten foot pole. You're the one that gets called on all the time to witness at church outreaches, but you can't buy a date.

In my former church, guys in their mid and late twenties, youth leaders, married girls from their youth groups - sometimes just mere weeks after the girls graduated from high school at age 18. While it was never said out loud, the prevailing attitude was that women who walked in the doors off the street with a questionable past were certainly saveable, but you wouldn't want to be caught dead being romantically linked to them. The hope was that some guy with a similar background would get saved and the two could then pair up. Not long after my own "rededication" and baptism, I had more church people come up to me and say "I just wish my drug addict/convict/alcoholic son/brother/cousin would get saved so he could marry you."

Yeah, it happened. More than I care to relate.

Even guys who had been previously married and divorced sought out young girls raised in the church who were more likely "pure". It became a source of twisted amusement between myself and some other girls I knew who, like me, didn't have a necessarily spotless past. A street person would wander in and "get saved" one Sunday, and we'd jokingly wonder who was going to try to set which one of us up with him first.

Totem to Temple today relates his frustration about the crazy standards that some Christians have when looking for a mate, and I laughed grimly as I read them. One of the standards that jumped out was the idea that someone isn't "anointed" enough. I saw that one come into play time and time again. The quiet ones who served week in, week out with devotion and dedication got passed over for the fireball preacher types who were always having prophecies, words of knowledge, etc. The girl who faithfully taught Sunday school got passed over for the dynamite (and practically prepubescently skinny) vocalist who sang solos every morning and evening service. The girl who had grown up in the church, fallen, but had come back with a heart on fire for God was snubbed for a much younger virgin who lacked spiritual maturity, humility and compassion.

This ended up morphing into a rant about church and Christian dating practices, which I didn't originally intend, but well, there you go. I guess my memories of my own experiences still bring back some bitterness at times.

For folks out there who are struggling with being single, or anyone who is struggling with loneliness, just want to let you know you're on my heart and in my prayers lately. Sometimes the only thing that helped me was knowing that Christ himself struggled and suffered loneliness and abandonment. Knowing that He knew just how I felt always seemed to help, if even just a little bit.

Wishing you peace, comfort and joy that no person or circumstance can take away...
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