This has been the summer I fully embraced the community of my church family. The one where I attend services and the one that has connected me with some life-long friends and acquaintances. It has been a summer of gathering together socially and spiritually. Mostly, it has been the best time I have had in years and I am beyond grateful.
I’ve been reading a lot more during this time home alone. Mostly I have been reading about the way God can completely change who we are, if we are willing to open that door. I know he has changed my heart, my thinking, and my desires in many unexpected ways. I know God has forgiven me in ways people never have. I know I have found peace in that forgiveness and a greater willingness to offer that same mercy and grace to others. It all started with God moving in my life when I opened myself to his ways over my ways.
It has taken me a long time to have a friendship with God. We were more the ‘casual acquaintance’ type for many years. Oh sure, we had our moments of closeness when I cried out in despair for help, not fully expecting to receive any help. And there were those ‘ah ha’ moments on spiritual retreats when I got all caught up in emotions of the worship and the message.
Real friendship was another thing. I still remember walking to communion one Sunday as the band played a song about Jesus being my friend and I realized that I didn’t feel that way. It broke my heart that others could know him that way but I didn’t. I mean I have been a Christian all my life so how could I not feel Jesus was my friend? Friendship implies a close relationship, a sharing of secrets, a deliberate presence in each other’s lives, and time spent together through all the good and bad times.
Wasn’t that Jesus?
Living single is not always easy. Single, no matter if you are there because you never married, divorced, or lost a spouse, has challenges that most marrieds don’t appreciate. Sure, we have freedom to do what we want to do when we want to do it, but we live in a world that focuses on married or coupled people and often we can feel excluded.
Single means making our own decisions. It means not having that spouse to turn to and discuss an upcoming surgery. Single means asking all our friends for their advice and then making a decision. It often means nursing ourselves when we are ill and suffering alone because we don’t want to burden our friends.
Living single has its challenges and it has its blessings.
We have so much to offer. We have so many opportunities to live a life of giving and community. We have the ability to step out of our homes and develop new relationships with other singles just for the purpose of being friends linked through a passion. We are not a sorry bunch but a blessed bunch and we need to start living the lives that God has given us.
Singles need each other. We need to hear each other’s stories and to encourage one another during those dark days. We need to speak strength into our circumstances and embrace all that we can do because of our situation. We need to look for opportunities to meet other singles and forge new uplifting relationships.
So get out their friends. Look for ministries in your religious organizations where you heart leads you to serve. Look for sporting events where you can meet other singles. Look around you and when you see another single sitting alone, go sit with them. When you hear of a sick single, call and offer help. When someone goes through a divorce or the loss of a spouse, walk with them until they are stronger.
We all have purpose no matter our circumstances. God can use us if we are willing to get over the notion that we are of less value than coupled people because we live alone. Be willing friends, be willing.
Faith without Good Deeds Is Dead (James 2)
What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone? 1Suppose you see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing, and you say, “Good-bye and have a good day; stay warm and eat well”—but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do? So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless
Up with the sun
New clothes lay out
Nervous stomach flipping
Ready to go
Watching the clock
Another year begun
Buses to catch
Carpools head out
Morning rush back in place
Classes to find
Subjects to hate
New friendships to be made
Lunch box packed
Searching for friends
Wanting to belong here
Finished the day
To repeat tomorrow
Each one of us has a different version of the “perfect day” and some days simply turn out to be “perfect” without even trying. For me that day usually means I have spent time with people. As an extrovert on the Myers Briggs, I need a dose of people to feel energized. I’m not a strong “E,” so the introvert in me also loves a day spent home recharging. I have found that I need people in my life and I need to reach out and touch someone daily. Thank goodness for social media and texting which makes it easier to feel as if I am connected, even on those days I stay home.
August is drawing to a close and many of my readers are sending their children back to school and thinking that the lovely perfect days of summer are coming to a close. Some of you have sent your young adults off to college. Still others have helped their older adults move into new homes as they take off on their own journey of life. We may become nostalgic and a bit sad as our children move on and away from us, especially if we are single parents. But isn’t this what we planned for all their lives?
This past week I witnessed an amazing outpouring of love and generosity toward a young woman and her children, who without warning, lost their husband and father. I don’t know anything about them or their family other than that they are close friends of someone I know. What I do know is that this broken-hearted family was, and is, surrounded by friends from all over the globe. Not only have they raised an enormous amount of money to help them rethink their futures, this incredible group of friends has loved them in the way a family should—never leaving them and ensuring them that they will not be walking forward alone. I have been blessed and inspired as this story continues to unfold.
As someone living as a single with virtually no family ties, I worry about my own adult daughter and how she will do when my time comes. She has no family to fall back on. I know I am not the only single parent who thinks about these things. We boomers think about it even more, especially if we have children who haven’t quite made it on their own yet and may still be living at home with us. The 2011 US Census reports that 27 percent of American children under 18 live with one parent of which 87 percent live with their mother. Another four percent do not live with parents of which 57 percent live with a grandparent. Additionally, the number of adults from 25 to 34 living at home has risen, and continues to rise.
Holding on to our resentments does less to the person we are angry with and more to hurt ourselves. Learning to release the person who offended us from our hate list may take real effort on our part, especially if they have been on the list for some time. Did you know that resentment is just another word for jealous? Did you know that mercy is the greatest gift you can offer another and yourself at the same time?
Offering mercy may take a deliberate effort on your part. It means offering forgiveness and meaning it. It means treating the other person with God’s love when your love isn’t there. It means being kind and treating the other person with understanding that we too are not perfect and we may have some responsibility for the situation. It means being compassionate when they hurt instead of laughing. And it does mean celebrating when good things come their way, even when we would like to think the good fortune should be ours. Mercy is sincere—it can’t be faked because above all, mercy means that we pray for all things God would have in their lives. We especially pray that they know the Lord and are transformed by his love and mercy. We ask that we too are transformed as we pray for them.
My daughter is one the greatest examples of a mercy-giver that I know. Even as a teenager she could find a way to forgive or overlook a person’s misdeeds toward her. She always seems to take the high road in relationships and give it one—or seven times seven— more chances. I have seen her rekindle relationships that I would never have gone back to and I have seen her grow more as she let go of her resentment. I have seen the freedom that comes from her mercy. She is the kid whose friends turned away from her when she wouldn’t go down the path they were heading, and still she managed to re-establish friendships with some of those people years later because she was willing to let the past be in the past. Like many young women, she has been hurt in relationships, and yet she has found a way to forgive and accept rich friendships on new terms. She has even shown her old mom mercy from time to time, understanding that I make mistakes and sometimes my problems have caused rather uncomfortable circumstances for us. She keeps moving forward and she inspires me to be all those things Jesus told us to be. She is one of the best examples I have of living a life in the image of Jesus.
As we ask for God’s mercy when we are in distress or have acted in a way that does not honor him, let us ask that he show us to whom we need to extend the same kind of mercy. We ask that he change our hearts and save us from carrying a burning coal that eats through our own heart. We ask for all things good for those we resent or envy and that we can be happy for their success. We ask to see them as God does, knowing he loves them. We ask that he inspire us to get on a path that takes us forward and frees us of the burden of disdain we carry.
Do you have a way you approach others with mercy? Do you have a success story of a time you gave or received mercy? I would love to hear your story. Please share it in the comments below.
“Turn to me and have mercy on me, for I am alone and in deep distress.” Psalm 25:16