by Annie Rim
In my mid-twenties, after having gone on only a couple dates, I decided to come to terms with the fact that I would most likely be single the rest of my life. I started making plans and dreaming dreams that included only me – no imaginary partner.
My mid-thirties self gives an enormous eye-roll.
I was married in my late twenties and am now living the stereotypical life of a stay-at-home mom to my two daughters. Add being a middle-class, educated white woman to the mix, and I’ll easily find a place at any church, regardless of beliefs or denomination.
Recently I spent a morning texting with a single friend who has decided to leave our church. This friend was highly involved in church life and its weekly clockwork. My friend was also part of the small group my husband and I host at our house. Yes, he was in the minority among couples but I didn’t think anything of it.
Until, partway through our conversation he said this: “I feel loved there, but not totally a part since I cannot join in couples talk and that was a big part of conversation.”
Frank and I were talking about being single. How hard and lonely it iand how neither of us will ever understand what our friends deal with. Even though I wanted to be in a relationship and was often lonely while I was single, I got married at the exact average age for my demographic.
Stories of loneliness, of feeling forgotten, of not having a place have been shared about singles and the church. More and more stories are coming out – that the “singles ministry” isn’t what is needed. How do we embody the family of God for those who so desperately wish to start their own families?
It’s easy to say, We’re here for you! I’ll give you a hug on Sunday! But that doesn’t fill the day-to-day gap our single friends face. On the other side are people giving the advice of Try harder! Join more groups! You’ll feel loved if you put in more of an effort.
This has made me aware of so many groups who feel abandoned by The Church. Who feel lost or on the outside. Who feel that, no matter how hard they try, needs aren’t being met.
It reminds me of the imperfectness of The Church. The thing is, no one’s needs will ever be met by an institution. Loneliness will still be waiting at home. And yet… If we are The Church; If The Church goes beyond the institution, I wonder how I can stretch outside of my own comfort zone to help make small changes?
Perhaps it’s taking time out of our busy week to invite someone for dinner – mess and grumpy kids and all – because they need a family. Perhaps it’s seeking out someone from a different demographic, who may be different from all my other friends. Perhaps it’s something big like committing to volunteer or something small like sitting in a different section of the sanctuary so that I can meet new people.
What I’m hearing more and more is that The Church simply cannot meet all the needs of all the people. And I don’t think that’s what Jesus had in mind when he came to reframe and restore the covenant God gave his people.
When he calls us to love our neighbor, to care for the least of these, to remember those around us are Jesus personified, I think he’s asking us to be The Church, to step in where institutions simply aren’t capable of going.
I’m sad that our friend left the institution of The Church. But I know that, as long as we’re friends, it’s impossible to actually leave The Church.
Annie Rim lives in Colorado where she values asking questions, community, raising strong kids, and grappling with faith. She finds snippets of time to blog at annierim You can also follow her on Twitter and Instagram.