Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Let's do this together, single or married

I just got back from our church office, where four women had another meeting of the minds. We're working on creating a basic curriculum that helps every woman understand and live out of her true identity--made in the image of God, created to function as an ezer--a strong helper, warrior, and rescuer.

And wouldn't you know, the stuff I got stuck on writing about this last week had to do with being a single Christian in the church. I got stuck because all the old emotions came back to me in force: I was single in the church for 35 years, and some of that time, I was extremely lonely. Now that's not to say that I didn't have good relationships with people, but that I often felt I was on the outs by not being married, that people would prefer I was married, and that while single I could be in the church, but not fully integrated. Does any of this make sense?

The bottom line is, single or married, we as women are a) made in God's image b) an ezer and c) a full, card carrying member of the Blessed Alliance God created between men and women. Now that I've got that out of the way, I'd like to share with you an essay I wrote after coming home from church on a particularly lonely Sunday. Let's face it, most of the time Sunday was the loneliest day of the week.

I'm going to share this in an effort to open up a dialogue between married and single women in the church, and I'm really hoping that after I go all vulnerable on you, exposing some of my deepest struggles as a single, that you'll go to the trouble to post a comment. Let's get talking, sisters. It's about time.

Titled, "Pain of Longing," written October 10, 2004

A dullness, tiredness, and small package of sadness arrived today. In the big picture, you are a good God full of love that you lavish on me…but for this moment my desire to love and be loved seems relentless and tedious. I feel as though I shoo it away with frustration, swatting at a fly that constantly alights on my being. I am weary, annoyed.

I haven’t asked you for perfection or even an absence of physical and emotional pain. I have only asked that I might find someone to share my journey with. Someone who loves you well…someone who would be thrilled to love me well. The same person that I would desire to love well.

Why this waiting without end? I know the whole deal about how this is only a shadow of my longing for you…but I do long for you. I truly want to know you and to serve you and to love you.

My humanity cries out, What must I do to be ready for a man? At the moment, I want to curse at the well-meaning ladies who say, “You’ll find him as soon as you’re not looking.” What rubbish and conjecture we produce to try to aid another or to assuage our need to “help.” Do you laugh or cry at our blathering? Do you wish often that most of us would shut our mouths and open our arms?

When you see a single soul battered and abused, buffeted by pain that stems from broken relationship, do you wish with everything within you to change things? Do you wish I had someone to pursue and cherish me? Do you know this particular brand of anguish? Did you cry when men pursued only to walk away, unable to commit to loving me? What were your thoughts on the matter?

I feel strangely out of words to describe my heart’s place. I want desperately to give up on the idea of romantic man/woman love. But I cannot. The desire remains, wholly given by you, and I know that truthfully speaking I want it more than ever. It is nonsense to deny my true heart, the most vital part of me—that which you have chiseled, broken, mended, held.

You have been hard at work through the years, and I would not trade my darkest moments to return to a more innocent, shallow spirituality—married or not. My soul is now satisfied with only the richest of fare. I have released many of my desires. But I want my desire for you—for purity, holiness, light, joy, laughter, camaraderie, community, and for the encouragement and salvation of souls to burn. May it burn in my lonely moments. May it burn in the presence of others. May it continue to burn when the man who will be my husband makes the decision to love me. May the flame be eternal.

I cannot demand anything of you. You have stretched out your arms and poured out the most you have to give. I come to you only with honesty and tears, asking that you help me be honest with my desires, that you show me how to keep hope alive.

And asking that your body sense the unmet longing and react with a generous dose of love, affirmation, and affection. As you ask us to take care of widows in their need, so may your children grow a desire to comfort, care for, and love those who are alone with many needs. May they be sensitive to our hearts, and may we be willing to join their families, to eat together, minister together, work together, do life together.

Illuminate our equality in you—single or married—help us to sense our belonging as dear sons and daughters no matter our circumstances, heal us to give and receive love. Make us one.

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