Monday, September 06, 2010

Being Single in the Church

During my time in seminary, I found myself growing frustrated at something the church is pretty good at failing at: ministering to those who are single.

I think most people view a ministry to single people means creating a program where singles can gather together. Okay, that's fine I guess. I've never much cared for these kinds of"programs" and while in St. Louis I avoided my church's "singles ministry" like the plague. And then after a while I noticed how many different sermons I'd hear on marriage (this was after about a year and a half at this church). Most of these sermons were structured to talk about the difficulties of marriage and the blessings, too. That's something I simply can't relate to. While it may be interesting information, it's not relevant to me. And after I realized I'd heard 5 sermons in the last year and a half on marriage, I asked myself, "Have I heard any on being single?" No, I hadn't.

I understand it might not be that easy for a married pastor to do a sermon on being single, but I would like to know why this subject is being avoided so much.

Another thing I've noticed, especially once I passed the age of 30, is that most of the people my age - and the one I connected with - were married. Some with kids, some without. This also became frustrating at family events, where everyone my age spent the entire day talking about their kids. It's really hard for a single person to join in the conversation about the hardships of their kids teething, or getting teased at school, or about how they are developing in school subjects. Family members I once could talk to for hours and hours about things became family members with which I no longer had anything in common. It made me sad, but it also kind of made me angry, truthfully. Why did the conversation always have to be about them and nothing else?

So, back to the sermon thing. As I noticed that I'd never heard a sermon about the perils and blessings of being single (though I heard many about the perils and blessing of marriage) I looked at the people who I considered to be good friends - and almost all were married. There were a blessed handful who invited to do thing with them and their friends - whether it was dinner, art in the park, a concert, etc. But it took a long time for us to get to that point, and even then it was rare for such an invitation to happen, truthfully. It's very common to come to church on Sunday and hear some of your friends talk about what they did on the 4th of July or the dinner they had together the night before. And I don't want to come across of lamenting about "not getting invited" but I do wonder if there isn't some sense of 1.) She's single and I don't know what to do with her. or 2.) I think she will feel uncomfortable around a bunch of couples. And maybe the second is true for some single people, it just doesn't happen to be the case with me. I'm probably far more comfortable with my married couple friends than I ever am in a room full of single church members who've gathered together for Super Bowl Sunday. (The second makes me a little nauseous, actually.)

So it seems that sermons about being single could help, don't you? If married couples aren't sure what to do with us, perhaps a pastor could remind them they they are just people looking to connect - with anyone, regardless of relationships status. And by labeling us single in the first place, it's kind of like putting a large scarlet letter "A" on our chest, so that everyone knows there must be something wrong with us. There are married couples out there that remember what singlehood is like (And thankfully one of them goes to my church now and they always ask me to do things). But I would love to see this kind of attitude come from the leadership in the church - I would love to hear a sermon that reminds congregation members that being single is hard, and that single people need all the support that we can get (from married people in particular!)  just to make it through this life.



Friday, September 03, 2010

Trust


"You are going to have to decide if your unrest is the Spirit not giving you peace or your fear of following God into the unknown." - Friar Tuck

I've heard some say that it's much easier to live with a sovereign Lord because no matter your decision it is the Lord's will. "Nothing happens outside the Lord's will," I hear over and over again. And I believe, I guess. But I also must say I believe it's actually harder to live with, because your trust in him is paramount.

It's hard for me to accept that the Lord's will was for this to happen or for this to happen. Any good reformer will say that it's our sin nature that causes it. So God is responsible for only the good stuff and not the really heinous stuff?

I know where I could be headed with this isn't good. But I do feel, at time, the neccecisity of pointing out the other side of the theological tension here.To ignore it is to ignore one of the greatest gifts God gave us: our minds. But what this post is about (actually, what most of my posts are about) is the heart. The unrest of the heart that kind either be about my own fear or about the Spirit moving.

Whenever I find myself in a situation where I realize how I need to trust God, I am troubled. Troubled because I find it so much easier to not trust him and rather, trust myself. This is a very dangerous place to be as his child, and I'm realizing more and more that's it's even more dangerous when you are in the vocation of ministry.

Two weeks ago I attended our Presbytery latest meeting, where the speaking (Joan Gray) spoke about Sailboat Christianity. She asked us, "Are we rowing the boat ourselves? Or are we allowing the Holy Spirit to blow the boat in whatever direction he sees fit." These are tough question to ask ourselves, because to admit one is to admit you don't trust God. I've had to do some of that (the trusting) of late, especially as I faced a decision - to come to Arizona or choose something else. To choose something else who have been just as much of a leap of faith and choosing to go, but it doesn't always seem like that (to yourselves or maybe even to others).

What I am now looking for is some way to me to measure this. I know it sounds crazy, but i don't know that I truly recognized the depth of my lack if trust in God. Actually, I do think I trust God. I just trust myself more. And what a terrible, awful place to be - in a place where you trust the fallible more than the infallible. Yet I find it much easier to blame the unrest I sometimes feel on the Spirit, rather than just admitting I am afraid.

Father, I pray for your guidance and your guidance alone. Allow me to understand when I'm trusting myself more than you, and not trusting you enough. Stop me cold in my tracks, if need be, if I ever step outside your will. Amen.