I’m twenty-six years old and unmarried. In Christian circles, my empty left ring finger and I stand out, and even if we’re not noticed right away, we usually make ourselves known in the first couple minutes of a conversation. I’ve mastered the question progression. It usually sounds something like this:
“What do you do?”
“Do you have kids?”
“Are you married?”
We’re working through it, my empty ring finger and I. We’re trying to let our guard down quicker, and be vulnerable even when we wish we could just stand there are talk all about where our kids go to school. Some days are easier than others. Some seasons are easier than others. But I also know that God is only good, and can use my experience in the lives of others.
And He truly has. Last fall, I wrote significantly on being single. Even just reading the words now brings tears to my eyes. I felt so hopeless that I could feel a part of community or that I would be seen as someone who had something to bring to the table. In the past year, I’ve watched God use my loneliness to comfort others. I’ve watched God use my free time to enable me to pour into the lives of others. I’ve watched God put me in places where my unique experience has been valued.
But, I still think the application points I shared last fall about living life alongside others who in other seasons of life is vital. 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.
Here are some starting points:
- Reach out to someone who is in a different stage of life than 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 non 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. Communicate your needs to people so they know how they can come alongside you. 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 be 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 being vulnerable, too. If you’re the mom or the wife, avoid making how you’re doing about someone else. I want to hear about your kids, but I asked about you. Let’s start there. It’s discouraging to a single person when they’re vulnerable on a heart level and it’s met with an anecdote about your child.
- Be unafraid of the awkwardness. I’d rather be a fifth wheel a hundred times than not be invited because of how it may make me feel. And I think my married friends would say that they’d rather be invited knowing they’d be the only married couple in the room than be excluded. Keep inviting the new parents; let them decide for themselves if they can come.
Did I miss some important stuff? Probably. So I’d love to hear where your starting points are. 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.