Today’s blog is the last of a couple about singleness. You may want to start with the first and work your way here. Today’s words feel the most important to me, but there would be no way to get to the hope and the practical without walking through the painful and cynical words that I’ve already written.
Sometimes I wonder if it would be easier to be single outside the church. I can’t give you an answer because I love the church too much to ever leave. But, I do think there’s a lot we can all learn from each other. Marrieds from singles and singles from marrieds, and the church is a great place to learn.
Here’s also what I want you to know: just like I’m glad to celebrate your milestones – marriage, babies, new jobs – I long to have people celebrate mine. I don’t have a spouse to treat me when I’ve achieved something or the constant encouragement when the hits just keep coming. I have a longing deep within my heart to feel celebrated and known on the deepest level. (See first post about what not to tell single people if your response to this last sentence is, “Well, you’ll be single until you can learn to be content without the desire to be celebrated and known.”)
Singles as a whole are not always good for asking for things. The very same things that I’m thankful that singleness has cultivated in me – self-reliance, values and making my own decisions – also make it harder to reach out when I feel in over my head or the wrestling is taking it out of me.
It’s hard to be in an environment dominated by married couples and families, but I think it’s even harder when I share about the struggles and people want to fix me. Truly, it feeds into the lies that Satan says everyday.
“If only you were quieter, you’d be married.”
“If only you were 10 pounds skinnier, someone would want to marry you.”
“Maybe you need to have less opinions, then you wouldn’t scare guys off.”
But, sometimes it’s hard to know what to say when someone is walking through something you haven’t experienced. I know that in my own life with friends who are in seasons ahead of me, or because that’s not been a battle I’ve had to fight.
I can’t speak for every single person, but most I’ve talked to would love to hear these words:
You have value.
You’re doing better than you think you are.
There’s nothing wrong with you that Jesus hasn’t already paid in full.
God has good things in store for your life.
You have so much to offer the world.
The way you’re creating a life you love is so very brave.
God is doing good things with your life right now.
Your life has already started; keep living it.
If you can lift our chins, wipe the tears and look us in the eyes when you say it, even better. Just like Satan attacks you in motherhood and dares to tell you that you’re not a good mom or that your husband doesn’t want to be bothered by your insecurities, he attacks me too, in my deepest most vulnerable places.
Can we speak truth to one another? Can we go to war for one another? I need friends from all seasons of life fighting along with me, and if I had to guess, so do you.
I think we can get better at this, friends, but we can’t do it without one another.
I need to hear about the difficulties in your marriage, not just that it’s hard, but why, and how it’s worth fighting for. And I think that you need to see the ways that God is moving in my life day in and day out. We need to break past the surface level crap and Facebook versions of our lives that allow us to covet the lives of others because we don’t know the everyday struggles and the unfulfilled longings deep in each other’s hearts. Yes, I went to Africa on a less than a week’s notice, but the pictures you keep posting of your kids sometimes lead me to fear that that motherhood will be a season I never experience.
When Jesus called us to live in community with one another and when we look at how the Early Church lived, it’s clear they didn’t segregate themselves by season of life.
So where do we start?
- Reach out to someone who is in a different season of life as you. Maybe before you reach out to them, say a prayer and ask God to share with you some truth about them that you can pass on. Maybe it sounds like this, “God put you on my heart this morning, and whatever you’re walking through, remember, He hasn’t forgotten you. He sees you, knows you and loves you.”
- Enter into the celebration and the mourning. It feels like a no brainer that when a spouse is out of town the other spouse needs help with the kids and may need help with meals. But traveling is hard on singles, too. So is loss. Remember birthdays and anniversaries, if you can remember to send a card, even better. Celebrate promotions and steps of faith.Keep showing up.
- When you ask questions of someone, ask about them as an individual. Don’t ask first about their kids or their spouse, begin with them. How are they doing? What are they feeling? How can you being praying for them?
- Start by being vulnerable in your own responses. If the real answer to the question of how you’re doing is lonely, say it. I think you’ll find that your vulnerability, however painful, gives someone else the gift of being vulnerable. And STOP apologizing for your emotions.
- Be unafraid of the awkwardness. I’d rather be a fifth wheel a hundred times that not be invited because of how it may make me feel. And I think my married friends would say that they’d rather be the only married couple in the room than be excluded because they’re married. Keep inviting the new parents; let them decide for themselves if they can come.
I’d love to hear your suggestions. Maybe you’re not single, but you’re the first married couple in your friend group, how do you feel cared for and included? Maybe you have been well cared for by friends in a different season of life. What has that looked like?
The stakes are too high for us to keep getting this wrong. Let’s lean in, friends. Let’s shoulder this kingdom responsibility side by side regardless of if there’s a ring on your left hand.