Many of you recognize the intelligence of so many of our commenters, an illustration of which is the exceptional comment from Lise last week on the post about singles. So good was it that it deserves a post by itself:
DeGroat wrote about the importance of safety. I think that is all any of us want from a ministry – that and authenticity. The problem with singles’ ministries is that they do tend to feel like a pick up joint or a place where people who don’t really have a life congregate. I personally don’t feel safe when I know I’m being sized up, and I very much have a life. The latter isn’t my problem.
Then if there is no singles’ ministry, basically one’s options are the women’s ministries or men’s ministries (depending on gender). While there can be great benefit to same sex groups, I find women’s activities in churches can be quite tedious – i.e. teas and quilting groups. I’d rather go to the men’s watch the ball game event. Or to something where both men and women come together for I don’t have a lot of male energy in my life and I miss that.
At one church I belonged to I was in the prayer ministry that happened to have a bunch of older couples on the team. I loved this because I was treated as a sister and as a person by the married men and women. While I didn’t meet any singles in the ministry, I felt safe and seen. This was the best ministry experience I’ve had. I also greatly benefited from watching loving couples relate to one another for my parents divorced when I was quite little. However, when it came to holidays, etc. people typically spent these with their blood kin. My parents are deceased so I have spent holidays with friends for years (Christian and non-Christian).
I think it would be really neat if instead of married people always mentoring a younger married couple, they instead picked a single person to mentor. But as this doesn’t happen often, some of my closest friends in the church are with women who are widows. Even though there is about a twenty/thirty year age difference between us, I find we relate well.
DeGroat also mentions desire and longing and this is a very important topic. Within desire are seeds of the divine so whenever I find myself in touch with these feelings, I ask the Lord to reveal to me the higher intention behind them. Instead of pushing the feelings away, I invite them to teach me something in the service of my spiritual formation. Likewise, we live in bodies and the sensual aspect of our earthly experience can’t be negated. For instance, why do the elderly yearn so much to be touched and why is my cat sitting on my lap right now as I type? We are embodied creatures and must learn healthy ways to live into this phenomenon.
I wonder if there is much distinction between the single woman’s experience and the single man’s. One thing I’ve noticed is if you’re a single older woman, your sexuality can be viewed as a great threat. It seems a single guy can chum more with a married couple but somehow if a female chums with a couple, there is more fear of seduction. I find this really sad. In fact, I even had someone in a church express concern when I joined FB because somehow by being engaged in social media, something bad was going to happen. I simply want to belong. I’m not looking to upset any apple carts. I’ve lived long enough on my own that I’ve actually become quite content.
Finally, I think people can grow in their sensitivity to those who have never married or had kids. Sometimes there is an outpouring of support for the young single mom – as there should be. But this support gets all tied into the cuteness of the child and Christian idolatry of babies. But what about the woman who attends baby shower after baby shower with a smile on her face of support for the other but who can’t conceive and/or has no partner to conceive with?
In my entire life experience, few have asked me what it is like to have all my friends marry and have children and me not. And although I’ve made peace with this I think, I still tear up at baptisms. I don’t think people intentionally miss the mark on empathy. They simply don’t think. If it’s not part of their life experience, they don’t imagine themselves there.