Walking Alone After Our Loss

The Single Walk is not always an easy one. It is frequently more difficult for people who have been in long-standing relationships who now find themselves walking alone. Singles struggle to find a new way to fit into community, especially religious community, following the end of a life with a partner.

Some of us are single because the person we planned to spend all our years with has died or left us. The singleness that comes from the death of our partner can leave us in un-imagined pain and grief. A divorce, or end of a committed partnership, can do the same for many; even when we might agree with the decision to terminate the relationship. We go from two to one. We are no longer part of the “couples community” and we aren’t quite ready to function as a single person. This is especially true for the widow/widower who may remain married in their heart.

I have spoken with new singles who tell me that the challenge for them is the shift from having someone with whom to share the day-to-day business of living to talking to themselves–or the cat and dog. Its the simple things like missing a partner for a dinner out or a spontaneous trip to the movies. Old routines fade and we may be left not knowing how to ignite a new life of one.

Weekends may be the worst of these times as we fill our hours with the mundane chores of living.We work on the yard, catch up on laundry, watch old movies, and end the night alone.  For some Christians, it is just waiting for Sunday to be among people again. It is waiting to be part of a community and to be among friends who knew you when you were two. It is the hope that we will belong because that is what we have been taught should happen at church: everyone is loved and welcome.

And that’s where some of the problems of no longer being part of a twosome become glaring. Churches, for the most part, revolve around couples and families. And yet, many singles feel even more alone inside the walls of a church than they do anywhere else. We come to church expecting the brethren to embrace us, to invite us to sit with them, to talk to us at coffee hour, and to ask us to join them for lunch. I have sat in the back of many churches now and have seen singles sitting alone.  I have watched them at the end of the service look for someone to speak with. I have seen them stand around and hope that someone will ask them out for lunch or even to meet later in the week. And I have seen the look in their eyes when they walk away alone.

Now I know that there are people who are well-cared for by their church community. I know that there are special people who always reach out to the widow (not necessarily the widower) and care for them after the funeral. But even that care fades after a while. Churches are great at caring during times of crisis but once the crisis passes so too does the care. We leave people to be cared for by their families (if they have ones nearby) or to find their way themselves.

” Take care of any widow who has no one else to care for her. But if she has children or grandchildren, their first responsibility is to show godliness at home and repay their parents by taking care of them. This is something that pleases God.” 1 Timothy 5

The alone time may be even harder for a divorced person. A divorce isn’t seen as a crisis in they same way that we view the death of a spouse. In some cases, it is actually much more of a crisis than the finality of death. Men seem to be able to continue on with more ease while a divorced woman may find it harder to fit in. For some, they carry the shame of a failed relationship with heaps of guilt for not living according to God’s law. This situation can be even more painful when the church preaches on the sanctity of marriage and the sin of divorce with little regard to the hurting man or woman sitting in the audience. Again, I have looked around the church and I realize that a large part of most congregations are comprised on divorced persons–some who have remarried but still bear the mark of a ‘sinful’ divorce. It takes longer for the divorced person to reintegrate into community. They may even feel as if they are unworthy to participate in ministry, and in some churches they may be unable to be church leaders. Divorce becomes the “unforgiving sin.”

And yes, it is the responsibility of each person to be present in their community and to seek out relationships. It is the single person’s responsibility to sign up for ministry opportunities, to join small groups, and to attend church-hosted events. But many of us feel as if we are in a battle to belong. I have looked at many church’s and their announcements. When the constant emphasis is on “families,” a single person may not feel they actually belong or are invited to the event. They may come anyway and try to participate but unless another single is there or there is a warm family willing to include them in the pact, they leave feeling alienated and not really part of the community.

Churches need to find a way to embrace all of the people who enter their doors. They need to be deliberate in preaching to ALL the people not just the married persons or persons with children. Invitations to events need to be worded in a way that makes it clear that EVERYONE sitting there Sunday morning is welcome. Members need to make a concerted effort to reach out to singles –not as pity projects — but with curiosity and a desire to build authentic relationships.

It is a two-way street as singles need to force themselves to go where it isn’t clear they are invited. Singles need to volunteer for activities and become contributing members. And they need to seek out other singles and support them. Maybe that means creating a small group where they can talk and share their struggles and triumphs. When churches ignore them, they need to stand and be accounted for as active members–or move on.

The bottom line is singles have much to give and contribute. Religious communities need to become willing to embrace those contributions and when they see people struggle, come alongside them. It is time for the religious community to understand that society is more single today then ever before and to ensure that each person finds a place to worship and grow in their faith. The church family needs to be sure that it is including the singles, young and old or they may miss out on some valuable contributions.

 

 

 

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2 thoughts on “Walking Alone After Our Loss

  1. “Religious communities need to become willing to embrace those contributions and when they see people struggle, come alongside them. It is time for the religious community to understand that society is more single today then ever before and to ensure that each person finds a place to worship and grow in their faith. The church family needs to be sure that it is including the singles, young and old or they may miss out on some valuable contributions.”

    The grief of loneliness and “singleness” is palpable in this post…I could not stop thinking about it and how I might be an encouragement. Here are some thoughts, dear friend. They are, by no means, intended to be an instant fix, and we could hold a continuing dialog in the matter. However, my hope is that in some way they will help to re-focus your readers’ lenses, and I pray will be some blessing and kindling to re-ignite joy–even mingled with tears–for such a time as this :

    Although the family unit formed from the union of marriage is recognized to be the basic social unit from which we learn interpersonal relationships and government structure, Christians must never devalue relationships with unmarried people: whether those unmarried people desire marriage partners or desire godly interpersonal relationships and service in an unmarried, celibate life…

    There is only one relationship which surpasses the intimacy and companionship of married life: a person’s relationship with God Himself in Messiah Jesus (Deuteronomy 6.5; John 14.20-21; Acts 17.28). Only God can fill the lonely places of a heart unfulfilled even in healthy human relationships. A person’s “complete-ness,” whether married or unmarried, comes only through his personal relationship with God in Messiah Jesus. Genesis 2.18 is God’s acknowledgement of His image-bearers’ need for interpersonal relationships, companionship, and emotional intimacy. Therefore, while marriage is an ordinance of the Body of Christ, because it is an ordinance given by God, it does not take precedence over a person’s relationship with God…I said all that to say this: there will be times in the life of a Christian when God ordains a holy loneliness…and you may be married or unmarried, but that status is not who you are…

    As a married woman who is walking through a season of loss of former things, I have found God’s direction for the blessing and gift He has provided for the present season—great gain, joy even with tears. Therefore, I encourage—indeed, exhort—all my brothers and sisters in Christ to bring your grief to God; do not deny your grief; do not suppress your grief or pretend it does not exist; but do not grieve as one without hope. That is to say, do not forget who you are and who God has made you to be. Don’t abandon your faith and vision of God’s sovereign “thumbprint” on your life for His glory. And I would emphasize this: be at peace with God’s sovereign “thumbprint” on your life for His glory. Seek how God desires to use the gifting and the new opening He has given you to be “about the Father’s business.” When you re-focus your lens on what is true, one thing is certain: you were not created to spend endless days crying in your cappuccino while gnashing your teeth against the weaknesses and inadequacies and failures of your family in Christ to make your feelings of loss go away…

    A word of caution: Christians who are unmarried must resist all envy and comparison thinking which would cause themselves to devalue their gifting and their place in the Body of Christ–being self-conscious–and/or having expectations of the Body of Christ to fulfill needs only Christ can meet. In the loneliness of loss and unrealized hopes of marriage, Christians must resist the inclination to lapse into a pattern of judging the performance of their brothers and sisters in Christ in the matter of filling their needs for comfort, consolation and purpose. When our own feelings become the lens through which we view everything, and when our posture becomes critical at every turn, we are building a stronghold between ourselves and our family in Christ… I say this as one who must confess her own experience. When I was feeling “marginalized,” I looked through God’s lens at myself and realized I had allowed my own attitude in response to my grief to “marginalize” me… I say: Beloved, BE CAREFUL…

    The apostle Peter reminds the Christian—both married and unmarried—” But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy” (1 Peter 2.9-10). Joseph, Ruth, Elijah, Elisha, and Daniel served God selflessly while they were unmarried. Just as each married believer is to live his life for God while he is married, so is each unmarried believer called to live his life for God even while he remains unmarried. Whether married or unmarried, God’s command is the same: “Be fruitful and multiply.” Whether married or unmarried, the object of God’s command for fruitfulness is the same: the increase of HIS NAME and HIS KINGDOM upon the earth.

    …”Feed on Him in your hearts by faith with thanksgiving.” Much ❤

    • Thank you for your thoughtful comments. I too agree that the most important relationship first is with Jesus Christ. The reality is that we are made to be in relationships and many who have lost the gift of partnership yearn for companions in life. Authentic friendships where they can share their life change and receive encouragement. To feel as if they still belong. When the church family doesn’t understand or really make them part of the community they may retreat from faith communities. The loss becomes even greater as isolation sets in. Singles can be as guilty of judging marrieds and envy relationships as marrieds fear the future as they look at the newly single. In the end, we need to remember we are called to love one another and that needs to extend beyond Sunday. And we need to be deliberate in ensuring all gifts are acknowledged and given a chance to shine and grow in community. With that, hurt will heal and all will benefit. Thanks again dear one for taking the time to write . God love ya!

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