This last weekend I borrowed a buddies truck and went down to my parent’s town to pick up some various items from my Grandmothers house that had just sold. Things like a bookshelf, patio furniture and oddly enough Christmas dishes (some things really do change when you get married – Christmas dishes?).
At any rate, it’s about a 3 hour drive and since I didn’t have my ipod, I grabbed a few random old cds. As I slid one of them in and the music came on, I just smiled. It was a cd that a friend and I had made in a studio just over 10 years ago.
Now I wrote all kinds of songs but most fell into one of two categories. The first was worship type songs – I mean I’m a Christian right? But the second, was songs about the hurt I had in the dating world.
This cd was no different. But it was the third song that made me famous among my friends. It’s a great song. It really is. It’s so full of emotion. I wrote it in my basement at age 23, literally in under 10 minutes. I had just been told by another female that she just saw me as a friend. To be honest it wasn’t really about her, it was about the whole damn thing.
The last lines go like this:
Outside, looking in/ You’re using that excuse that you’ve used again and again and again/ It may be your loss, but it sure as hell ain’t my win/ It seems I’ve been caught, following my heart once again.
As I listened I had a range of emotions. In a way it is so long ago. That song is almost 20 years old. And yet there is so much of my story there. When it came to dating and marriage, I really was outside looking in.
There is anger in the song but anger it too simple a word to describe what I felt for really 15 years of my life. A better word is anguish.
Here’s your google definition – Anguish – Severe mental or physical pain or suffering.
Yeah, that about sums it up.
Now there were all sorts of parts to my story and why I felt that. I was not good with the ladies and I knew it. I also had come to know Jesus at the end of high school, so now I needed to date not only someone where there was attraction, but also who knew Jesus. So as I left college, I was now looking for the one.
To be honest, as I got older, the anguish got worse, not better. As I hit my late 20’s doing ministry in a college town, I was surrounded by great women who liked Jesus -none of whom I could date (or at least that is what I thought then). Toss in some religion and self righteousness and I was in trouble. To be honest, I just shut it down.
Then I moved to St. Louis and all of a sudden, there were options. But the problem was, now I was screwed up. I was a complete mess in this area of my life. It was like somehow my awkwardness had grown. All of this was exasperated by religious platitudes about how God just hadn’t sent me the person yet.
I share this because the anguish of many singles (especially in the Church) is completely underestimated and un-dealt with. There are a lot of really hurting people.
Not everyone who is single wants to or should be married. Some are called to celibacy for the kingdom. But most are not and frankly it hurts. And as you get older it raises a lot of questions.
The Church needs to deal with this by loving these people well. We need people who step into our lives for real, not just with passing judgement and advice. If we are going to face our anguish and get free of it that probably won’t happen alone.
But we as single people must actually face it. We have to because if we don’t it will grow. Anguish doesn’t get smaller. You can disguise it, funnel it into work/ministry as I mostly did, or even just try to kill it. But if we don’t deal with it and the wounds that both caused it, and come from it, we are screwed.
For me it came crashing down as I began to see that I was broken. A woman I had pursued told me that she wanted to like me but didn’t.
I knew stuff was off. All the things that I thought were holding me back, actually weren’t. I had completely lost my way in this area of my life. I remember thinking over and over again, “No!, No, No, No. This isn’t right.”
All of it kind of came to a head and instead of going home, I sat in my office all night. I literally sat on the floor and cried. The anguish was real. I told God, “just tell me what to do, and I’ll do it.”
I was 35 and I was lost in this one. I sought counsel and God provided. People stepped up, mentors fought for me and frankly I had to do some hard work. It was humbling. It was awesome. God changed me.
As I listened to “Outside Looking In” I smiled. It’s a great song! But I’m glad I’m not there now.
If you are in anguish may God step into your hurt. May you one day be free from it.
Here’s the song Outside Looking In
I know this isn’t your point, but I’m going to say that, yes, those girls missed out.
You’ve got some very poignant statements here!
For instance, you say: “I share this because the anguish of many singles (especially in the Church) is completely underestimated and un-dealt with. There are a lot of really hurting people.” Why do you think this is? Why does the church seem like just another club for a certain class of people (married & families to be specific)?
The other day my pastor mentioned from the pulpit several needs our church has, including the pressing need for a singles group targeting the 25-40 age group (well, that leaves ME out!). My first thought was “where are these folks in our church?” I simply do not see them at all in my church.
I hope you find an answer bro! When you do, please share it!
My guess is that the married people are busy with their married lives and want to socialize with similar people as them. They are either oblivious to the presence and needs of singles, or don’t know “how to handle” them, so some of them may avoid singles because it could seem easier and less awkward socially.
When they spend their time with other married people, they are more aware of and concerned with the ideas and needs of the married people. They may also assume they “understand” what being a single is like because they probably think of it as “just a phase” people go through that ends by the time they are in their early-mid twenties. They always want to offer “advice,” but usually never want to listen, because they already assume they “understand” it, and that it isn’t “as bad” as their own problems.
When married people share their concerns, the church is quick to listen because those concerns are assumed to be more legitimate, because they are likely already concerns they relate to and have themselves. When single people share concerns, it is received with less significance because they don’t share the same concerns themselves, and may believe that our concerns are less significant and not “worthy” of real time/effort/change. Maybe some of them need to see the significance of a problem themselves before they “wake-up” to the need for such time/effort/change.
When single people are ignored, they are more likely to leave a church than demand attention and change. This may be easier or “better” for them personally, but does nothing to address these issues. Married people will continue to see only their side of things.
A while ago, my church had the same situation. We had no official college group or singles group, and there were a lot of us at the time. We shared our concerns with the pastor, and nothing happened for a long, long time. The pastor eventually decided to have a singles ministry. I was excited for what it might be like. The first night of the group was flooded with 40+ year old divorced women I had never seen at church before. I never went a second time. Sadly, I decided not to share my concerns again. After a while, the singles ministry died/ended (I don’t even know what happened). Years passed, the college aged people moved away, some became married, many others didn’t, and when there was only a small handful of college-aged people left in the church, that’s when the pastor decided that a college ministry was a good idea to start.
I guess to boil it all down, people in the church are selfish and more apt to throw a temper tantrum when they don’t get their way than they are to honestly work together and do what Jesus Christ called His followers to do: serve others.
Did I understand you correctly?
I myself have a lot of friends, very close friends, who are married, and as a single adult, I find myself really feeling like, “hey, I’d love to have what they have.” right, so I try to be more around the guys, but they have almost no interest in me personally. At least, I don’t think they do. I don’t really know how to recognize whether they are interested. I’d love to date, or at least have a good friend who is a Christian step up and actually ask me at some point… lol
The marrieds know how to handle singles in the church I think, they just are like hey, you’ll meet someone in time. They are really close friends, so they want to be there for us, and it’s a group like family, it’s just not as singles focused. They are encouraging to us though.
Thanks for sharing, Justin. You are right to summize that other singles go through the same type of anguish. I’ve seen it in friends and in myself…it’s hard to feel like an outsider in any situation, and stings all the more when it seems you are an outsider in your own life.
I’m glad you came out on the other side and are willing to share your struggles.
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