Thoughts on the Response to "Churchless in the Crescent City"

Last week, I published a blog post I'd been writing for a few months. It began, really, as a way for me to think through the thoughts and feelings I'd been having regarding church and relationships and, of course, singleness, because, lets just have this said: when you're single for an extended period of time, pretty much everything is about being single. Relationships, social situations, work, family, church, taking out the trash, financial decisions, grocery shopping, weekend plans, birthdays, holidays, Facebook posts, retirement plans, dieting, your period, movie choices, how to use 2-for-1 coupons...everything. But, that's another post for another day.

After posting "Churchless", I was surprised and overwhelmed by the responses. So many, married and not, young and old, introverts and extroverts shared that they were right there with me, feeling disconnected, alone, adrift...and pretty confused and conflicted about it all. As I read the comments and private messages, a picture formed in my mind of people all walking the same road, together but alone. All they could see was the long, lonely road ahead...not the people traveling it with them. What I got from that mental picture was:

1. We, none of us, are really alone, and
2. Loneliness can be isolating.

That second point might seem redundant and maybe not make a lot of sense upon first reading, but track with me for a minute on this. I think we can agree that loneliness is a relative, subjective thing. What makes one feel lonely and the degree to which one feels it and is impacted by it varies from person to person. To be sure, the way I experience loneliness as a single woman in my early 40s is different from the experience of a teenage boy or a widowed person or a Stay-at-Home mom or a business man who travels frequently. Each person "wears" loneliness differently, but one thing, I think, is certain: our response to loneliness can isolate us, even simultaneously as we make efforts to keep ourselves from being isolated. Whether it is someone who feels sad or angry about their loneliness and becomes hyper-sensitive or another who tries to vomit's a week's worth of internal dialogue on someone who dared to ask "How are you?" or the person who sits in a corner/at home waiting for someone to reach out to them, the result is that their experience or reaction to loneliness only makes it more pronounced.

The degree of difficulty in reversing the "loneliness effect" increases because, often, the lonely person is unaware of how detrimental their behavior is.

So, I say again, loneliness (no matter the cause) can be isolating.

I also say again, we, none of us, is really, truly alone.

Admittedly, that is of little comfort when your house is empty or the calls and invites and interaction on social media or in the work place is almost non-existent, but, it is nonetheless true.

So, what I've taken away from this whole experience by way of application is this: Go with the go-ers and keep reaching out.

I think if any of us really look at the people around us, there will be at least one that makes an effort, that always responds positively to opportunities to meet or chat or visit. Even if they aren't your age, even if they aren't able to be as connected as you want or need to be, invest in them anyway.

You never know what could grow and blossom if but for a little watering.

If you weren't already in the habit of reaching out to others before, or if you (like me) reach out and reach out and the response seems lukewarm at best...keep at it for the same reason I gave above. It will be hard and frustrating and sometimes hurtful, but the adage about having to kiss a few frogs first applies to friendships, too. (wink)

In my previous post, I mentioned that I'd reached out to several women in my small groups and none of them resulted in a bestie. While I still don't have that, the reaching out led to a friendship that is in the process of potentially blossoming. She is younger than me, but married with kids and at the time I first extended friendship to her, she was very much needing a friend. We enjoy the time we are able to visit in person and are both invested in keeping up with each other as much as our busy lives will allow. If I hadn't reached out to her, the friendship wouldn't have happened. While we aren't BFFs, and while having a social circle of people like me (of both sexes) is my ideal, I'm grateful for a human person who wants to spend time with me on purpose.

Finally, to round things out, I have a story about a person who actually reached out to me. Like my friend above, this person wasn't my age (though I was the younger this time) and our lives were very different, but we did have a few things in common like Jesus and our sarcastic sense of humor. Again, we aren't "attached at the hip" or anything, but she is consistent and thoughtful and honest, and for a while there recently, felt like my only friend in the world.

I'm grateful for both of these ladies, even more so now, and have determined within myself to water these friendships more instead of wishing I could find friends more like myself.

To bring it all back around now...I think, perhaps, this revelation prompted by the responses I got to my last post, might combine to be the "equation change" I said I was praying for, allowing me to venture back into church again. Maybe. Hopefully. Because, now I know that though the ages and marital statuses and dress sizes don't reflect it, there are a lot more people there like me than I originally thought.

In closing, I'd just like to add a big "THANK YOU" to everyone who read the post (almost 300 of you) and especially to those who took the time to encourage me or share their experiences. It meant so much. I think I teared up as I read each one. Please know that I am praying for "us" to find meaningful relationships and that we will find the courage to "go with the go-ers" and keep reaching out and extending friendship to others.