Let Me Rant
Forgive me, but I feel a RANT coming on and I just have to get it out! It’s not pretty, but maybe you can help me make sense of this? Or maybe we will find out that it makes no sense at all and we need to change our ways? I feel a change is in order. Either way, it will give us reason to pause and think, which is always a sensible thing to do.
Here goes…Why is it that we as a society, or even as individuals, feel justified in dismissing the pain and loneliness of single people today? I am not just asking married people this question. I am asking divorced people and even single people. Why is it that we turn on ourselves? It is not right. Let me explain what I mean.
If someone that we know and love is in a car accident and loses an arm, we don’t say to them, ”Well, you should be thankful that you still have one good arm. If God wanted you to have both arms you would still have them. Be thankful for what you have left and just try to get on with your life.”
NO!!! Thank God we DO NOT say things like that and even now I cringe at typing those words. Instead we say things like, “I can’t imagine your pain! You are the bravest person I know! I will be praying for you every day! If I can do ANYTHING to help, PLEASE let me know.”
Or how about this scenario: Someone that we know and love is struggling to care of their aging parents, we don’t say to them, “Well, you’re just lucky that your parents are still alive. It is your privilege and God’s plan for you to take care of them. After all, they took care of you for all those years. Isn’t it the least that you can do for them??”
Hopefully, we would NEVER say that! Even if we think those things, I pray that we would not say something that harsh out loud. On the contrary we choose to support them by seeing their struggle and responding with compassion. “I will be praying for you while you try to balance your own life and at the same time try to take care of your parents. I know this is hard on you and I care about you. You and your parents will be in my prayers. The world needs more people like you!!”
FORGIVE ME, but I must dig further. Imagine that someone that you know and love is going through a nasty divorce because his/her spouse suddenly decided to run off with someone new. Court dates are drawn out and child custody hearings are getting ugly. We don’t say to them… “Well, if you would have just taken better care of your marriage you wouldn’t be going through this right now. Honestly, I feel sorry for you, but evidently you are meant to live out the rest of your life alone.”
I hope no one is saying those kinds of things! I hope that we draw on our higher emotions of human empathy and spiritual humility and tell them things like this, “I know this has got to be killing you inside. I am so sorry you are going thru this awful time. I am praying for you and your family to make it through this. I am only a phone call away.”
Double Talk to Singles
So help me understand why is it that when someone we know and love is struggling to make peace with their singleness, we feel justified in shaming them for wrestling with those feelings? For instance, if a single person that you know and love feels like they are missing a “right arm” person in their life. They are longing for a travel companion, an equal partner, a spiritual helpmate, someone to grow old with, a spouse to raise kids and grandkids with, or someone to love and be loved by. Let’s say that they are tired of sleeping alone and done with just dreaming of passionate encounters. Tell me, why do we think it is ok to say to these people, “Well, you should be thankful that you still have family and friends. If God wanted you to have a mate you would have one. Be thankful for what you have left and just try to get on with your life.”
Or have you ever said this to a single Christian? “Well, you’re just lucky that you have a good job and friends who love you. It is your privilege and God’s plan for you to be single and devote all your time to God. After all, God has taken care of you for all these years. Isn’t it the least you can do for Him?”
Now, we are really going to get honest here. Have you ever thought things like this about a single person? “Well, if you would have just taken better care of yourself you wouldn’t be going through this right now. Honestly, I feel sorry for you, but evidently you are meant to live out the rest of your life alone.” I am ashamed to say that I have thought and said some of these things. It hurts my heart to confess such ugliness came from me. It’s sad, but true.
Things that we would NEVER think to say to anyone else going through ANY other trial just roll off our tongues like spun gold to the single person. We dip our hat to them like some twisted form of religious blessing. I am going to give us the benefit of the doubt that we don’t realize how condescending we appear. We may feel like we are helping the single person, and we may actually believe that we are encouraging them in their walk…but are we? I don’t think so. It may sound like sound advice, and in some rare cases it may be; but I will go out on a thin branch to be the first single to admit this to you…I don’t need your advice on how to suck it up and take it like a man or “It must be God’s plan” for me and “when the time is right it will all…” Blah, blah, blah.
What I do need is for you to see my struggle and not to fluff it off as silly. The last thing I need is for you to talk down to me with pat answers that have been handed down as wisdom from generation to generation and church to church without the least trace of spiritual discernment. I don’t need you to insist that I look on the bright side of life. I just need you to validate my pain. Maybe walk in my shoes for a mile. Sit on my side of the table for a few minutes and see what I have been staring at. And if you will do this, I will promise you this…
I promise: If you determine to see my pain, if you will briefly look into my eyes and you don’t try to walk on by as quick as possible with a stiff pat on my back and a goofy “the sun will come out tomorrow” grin…then I will shut up about my heartaches.
I promise: If you will pause and listen to my pain and talk gently to my hurting heart, I will quit complaining about it, because I will feel heard.
I promise: If you will walk a mile in my shoes and get blisters from the rough and lonely road, I will wash your feet and bandage them up.
And I promise: If you will sit on my side of the table for a few minutes and see what I have been staring at, my view will change. Your presence will change my view, because I won’t feel so all alone anymore. I believe that not only will my view be changed, but I will be changed just because you are beside me. Who knows, maybe we both will be changed? I feel a change is in order and it begins with me and you.
Maybe this challenge goes out further than learning to see the single person struggling with loneliness. Who else am I not seeing God? Who else am I tossing prefab answers and cheesy grins? Who else needs me to walk in their shoes or sit on their side of the table? Who do I glance right by every day and choose to avoid making eye contact with? Who am I stubbornly refusing to forgive because I know they were wrong and I was right? Who am I dismissing in my own house as not as important as the next text? Which of my neighbors could stand a little more love and a lot less lawn talk? Who else is getting tired of my religious words and needs me to roll up my sleeves and roll out the welcome mat? Who am I dismissing, ignoring, or patronizing?
On this weekend as we celebrate Martin Luther King Day may we take a few minutes to think about our own actions. Lord, make us men and women who live with eyes and hearts open. May we choose to love bravely!!! We cannot do this on our own. We are double-blind. We are blind to each other’s needs and blind to our own faults. We need You to give us eyes of grace, hearts of compassion, and hands of service. May we honor You, Jesus, with soft eyes, gentle words and humble obedience. Before Martin Luther King had a dream, You had a dream. May we all DARE TO DREAM today. For Your glory and our highest good. Through the power of the greatest dreamer that ever lived we ask these things.