If you’re reading this I sincerely hope that you are not single. Not because I hate it and wouldn’t wish it on anyone – not at all. I hope that you are not single because I want you to understand me just a little bit more, and maybe remember what it was like for you. To know what it is like now. And if your’e single, I’m glad you’re here, too. I don’t know if my experience will fully resonate with yours, but I hope you can find comfort or challenge in these reflections. And fullest of disclosures – I’m mostly talking about singleness in the church 😉
So singleness. Singleness is coming home to my apartment and finding every single thing exactly where I left it – for better or worse. It is deciding to do things on a whim and being able to drop everything (if you want) to hang out with a friend or help out with a church event/ministry. It is staying up all night on Friday night on your couch with a pizza and wine and going to bed when you fall asleep because no one told you it was 1am. Singleness is also walking into a work Christmas party and losing count of the numerous confused faces when the answer to “where is your boyfriend” is “I don’t have one”. It is awkwardly smiling and shiftily looking side to side when they talk about marriage or children at church, or trying to steady yourself in your car before you walk through Ikea alone, again, or even better, preparing yourself mentally for you next large family gathering where everyone wants to know (with the absolute best intentions, I might add) if you’re seeing anyone now. It is talking to yourself in the grocery store as you try to decide if you can really COMMIT to eating an entire cucumber and a whole container of ripe peaches this week.
Singleness is great. And it is hard. Just like any other relationship status. And I feel like we definitely have it figured out with how to relate to single people…until they don’t fit into our box of what it looks like. Or until they reach their mid-to-late twenties and we realize they don’t want to only hang out with all the other young singles, they want to still be with their peers. Particularly in the church in general. What do you do with us? What do you think of when you see us? I confess I wonder this sometimes as I sit in my seat – especially when marriage or children come up. Do you look at me standing by myself and pity me? Do you wonder what is wrong with me? Sometimes I wonder what is wrong with me – if I’m statistically supposed to get married then why am I not?
Singleness is hard. Singleness is also great. I can pull an all nighter to get the church newsletter out on time if I want. I can say yes to more time commitments and ministries purely because the only time I have to schedule is my own – so I can choose to eat takeout for dinner and volunteer after work instead of cooking a meal. Or last minute say I’ll go away all weekend on a youth retreat because I don’t have kids to worry about or a significant-other to reconcile calendars with. I can unabashedly say yes! Yes I will watch your kids tonight I’ll be there in 5! Yes, I will help you clean the sanctuary after work tomorrow. Yes, I will wait until the last minute to step in and take a new responsibility when you cannot find anyone else who has the time to fill that role. Yes.
But it is lonely out here trying to be in your community. I want to get together with you. I want to be your friend. In fact, I want to be friends with your 8-year-old daughter, the 53 year old couple who just became new grandparents, the 70 year old woman who still organizes the Sunday morning coffee. I want to be invited into the messiness of raising toddlers, the craziness of pre-teen hormones, and the loneliness of empty nesting. I want to share with you my baking and crafting adventures, my career highs and lows, and have coffee or tea or dinner together – in our homes or out. Literally whatever you want.
One thing I did during lent this year was try to invite more people over to my home. And it was terrifying. I’ve always wanted to have an open home where people feel comfortable and where I can have hosting opportunities. But then I got here and suddenly I didn’t know if it was ok for me to invite a couple over if I didn’t have a partner to entertain my girlfriend’s husband. Is it ok for me to invite over the parent’s of my young adult friends because I want to know them, too? Is it ok for me to invite a family over? I don’t want to invite myself into other people’s lives, but I also want to offer this different way of existing among you. This idea that hey – maybe I can be a valid part of your family. And maybe it’s scary because it’s all in my head – but I don’t see too many of “me” out there.
Singleness is supposed to be a gift – Paul tells us so. But it’s a really hard gift to use sometimes. I feel like an unwrapped present sometimes. We are all so busy – we blame our kids, our spouses, our commitments to (too many?) things for our busyness. But we are so busy. But maybe we can find a way to un-busi-fy ourselves and make time for each other instead. Because isn’t that what we are? Single, married, dating, way too young to be thinking about that? (I’m looking at you, 18 year old looking for love).
We believe that we are all in different stages to be able to learn from each other and grow with each other, and that we are all able to serve and give differently as we grow through those stages. So maybe, instead of segregating ourselves all the time based on our marital and offspring status, we instead viewed ourselves as all part of a huge family where we are able to interact and grow deep relationships? We can be in relationship with those that are our peers, but I also want to be in a church where I am in relationship with other people too. Where a single woman feels free and comfortable to invite an older couple over, and where a family with babies feels free to spend time with a couple with teens and doesn’t worry about the state of their house (I genuinely would rather you have a bit of a messy house when I show up than you be exhausted from cleaning everything before I walk over the threshold – REALLY). Where we truly allow our self-imposed barriers to break free and embrace the differences that make us who we are. Because we are all people who are loved by God and trying to become more like him. And, arguably, you have as much to learn from me as I do from you. And I can’t wait.