"Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others." Romans 12:4-5
I hate to admit it, but one of the loneliest times of my week is Sunday morning. Sitting alone in a pew amidst a sea of happy couples and families, I listen to sermons about how to be a more God-honoring spouse and parent and to announcements about church- wide family picnics I won't attend because, as a single, I'd feel too out of place. When we had communion a couple weeks ago, it was served by the deacons — and their wives. As I sat staring at the lineup of smiling couples across the front of our church, I wondered where the single leaders were. And I've stopped going to church singles groups because they're usually too meat-markety or too depressing.
I know I'm not alone in my loneliness. My friend Julie told me about the singles group at her church, which she and her single friends had to start themselves, that was constantly shuffled from room to room on Sunday mornings to make room for kids and "adult" classes. And I've received e-mails from single readers like you who have stopped volunteering in the nursery because the insensitive yet well-meaning comments from the kids' parents have become too painful.
What makes these experiences even more disturbing is the growing trend in TV, movies, and books of celebrating us single people. Ally McBeal, Bridget Jones, and their fictionalized contemporaries portray singles as strong, savvy, and independent (albeit, at times, a tad neurotic). In fact, a recent Time magazine cover story called single women TV's It Girl right now. (As a single woman, I had no idea I'm so trendy!) In a recent column in Mademoiselle magazine, the editor explained stats that the single demographic is growing exponentially by saying "there's no longer a stigma attached to being beyond your early twenties and unmarried."
Yet when I'm drawn in by the mainstream celebration of my ever- growing, ever-popular demographic, I'm left out in the cold again because these "strong" singles seek to meet their needs with casual sex, trendy drinks, and whatever other vice-of-the-moment strikes their fancy. As a single attempting to live a life that pleases and honors the God who meets my every need, I can't relate.
So what do we Christian singles do?
In my stab at an answer to that question, I'm serving on committees at my church, where I constantly remind my fellow event-planners and decision-makers that not everyone in the congregation has a spouse and children and that the word "family" leaves out a growing portion of the church body. And I write these columns in an attempt to encourage a few of you singles out there that God desperately loves single ol' you, even on days when it feels like the church doesn't.
I don't mean to bash the church, or to paint singles as the innocent victims of purposeful exclusion. In fact, I think churches, in their quest to restore "family values" to modern society, have simply overlooked those of us who aren't currently in families. And I think we singles have been guilty of segregating ourselves and not operating as fully-functioning parts of the body of Christ.
So there are no easy answers here. But that shouldn't stop us from trying. Giving up on the church would be the biggest tragedy yet. There's a huge task at hand here for us singles — to persistently and lovingly broaden the concept of the Body of Christ. No, it won't be easy. And no, it's not fair. But there are singles out there who have left the church or who don't yet know Jesus, who need us to do the hard work of making singles a valued entity in our congregations. And it's the task with which God's entrusted us. That fact alone proves he values singles because he doesn't give important jobs to second-class citizens — broken, unlikely people maybe — but not second-class citizens. How do I know this? Because he doesn't even make second-class citizens. Remember that — and pass it on.
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