My friend is over one hundred years old.
She lives a full life, still very independent and often engaged in social events. When I listen to her talk about the way life has been, this sort of lifestyle isn’t unusual for her. She has written books, embraced an interesting, challenging career and prioritized her relationships with family and friends. She has loved well.
When I think about the people who inspire me in life, I often think about her. She is someone I’d enjoy being like when I “grow up.”
Since we met, I’ve wanted to ask her if there was a point at which she realized that she wouldn’t marry, what she thought about that, and if it’s ever painful to her, even now. The other day, we got to have that chat.
She told me several stories of almost-marriages. Stories of relationships that didn’t work out, some for sad reasons, some for logistical ones. “I just took things as they came,” she told me.
I nodded, taking another look at the engagement ring she still wears.
That’s what I’m trying to do, too.
I asked her if it was hard, even though she enjoyed her career, her friends, and the many varied experiences God and life brought her way.
“I really felt it on Sundays,” she said. “After church when everyone went home to spend time with their families, that was when I was really lonely.”
Her words stuck with me long after we hugged goodbye. I kept thinking about Sundays, after church.
It breaks my heart that we say this: after church. I know that we only gather in the building for an hour or two on Saturdays, Sundays, or some other day. I know that we can’t camp out there and make it our home. But we don’t have to. We are the Church. It breaks my heart someone like my lovely friend would feel most lonely on the day we set apart to worship God.
I’ve been asked before what it would look like for the Church to act more like a family, making room for people of all ages, relationship status, and diversity of all kinds. I don’t have a perfect answer, but I do have some thoughts. What if there was no after church? What if we kept right on with it, realizing that we all belong to one another, not just the ones we’ve chosen, or who have been given to us by blood. Some of them have been chosen for us. They are no less family, according to Jesus.
Whether I ever marry or not, I don’t want to hole up in my own space, leaving others lonely. I can’t bring everyone in, but I am not alone, we are a Body. It might be uncomfortable. But loneliness can be heart-wrenching. I don’t want my comfort to come at the expense of someone else’s pain.
I have been the girl in the corner, the one at home alone on a Sunday afternoon, the lone single in a sea of pairs, wishing just to be chosen.
So I’m choosing people. I’m choosing married people, single people, older people, younger people, I’m choosing baristas and guys selling yoga pants and friends and strangers and bartenders and bloggers. I know what it is to be singled out, invited, asked for by name. I also know what it is to be overlooked, to feel unwanted and small.
Would you join me in this? Would you help me eradicate “after church” little by little, with stops and starts and bumps along the way?
I’d love to hear from you. What are some of the ways you’ve found to do this? Do you relate to the loneliness of “after church?”
You can read more Single Minded Mondays here.