The “Calling” we find upon our lives at any given moment may not be the thing that we have always dreamed about doing. For instance, I find myself called to not only minister to people who are Single Again or Never Marrieds, but also to use my loquaciousness to raise awareness about what single life entails after the age of 30. I certainly never envisioned ministering to singles specifically, & I absolutely never thought that I would be a divorced woman at any age. But here I am, & here is this voice deep inside me that keeps whispering, repeatedly, that I need to communicate to others who have never walked this path what it is like.
It would take many, many blog posts to even scratch the surface of that issue, but I guess one must start somewhere, so here goes my feeble attempt to let people know that single people are still PEOPLE. Just because a man has never found the perfect woman to marry, or a man finds himself to be a widower, or a lady finds herself with the label of “Divorcee”, that does not negate the cold hard fact that we are still, each & every one of us, unique human beings with the same or similar thoughts, feelings, emotions & desires as are prevalent throughout much of the human race. Yet somehow, as if by magic, the moment one becomes “Single Again”, it is if a magic wand is waved over us, & we belong to a different realm, almost as if we are visible, yet unseen creatures, like the Homeless folks who stand on the street corners begging for a twenty dollar bill as the rest of the world sits filing their nails, adjusting the radio station, tilting the rear view mirror, fumbling for lip gloss, or phoning a friend – anything at all to keep from making eye contact, which would mean acknowledging existence of people whose hurt is messier than their own. Breathing a sigh of relief as that traffic light turns green, the world spirits away towards their next meeting, giving no thought to what the creature before them is thinking or feeling.
I will admit, God has fortunately used my years on this earth to shape, mold, & make me into the type of individual whom it is difficult to overlook. Though I am Single Again, I still manage to garner my fair share of invitations to events, & if I am not invited somewhere on an evening or weekend when I do not care to sit at home alone, I will strike out on my own. I am perfectly content to spend time with God, with myself, my camera, my IPad, my puppy, or with whatever stranger may find himself sitting beside me on a solo whitewater rafting trip. Yet I have discovered that there are numerous people who are sitting at home alone, aching with loneliness, because of invitations that never arrive, because they do not have a deep enough relationship with God to go on a solo date with Him, who are not blessed with 4 legged friends, or who are just plain fearful of going to an event or a restaurant by themselves.
When I was going through the prolonged misery of awaiting a court date in order that my divorce could be final, I remember distinctly the moment I got down on my knees, placed my face in the carpet, & with massive tears streaming down my face, I prayed to God above that if He would just get me through that divorce with provisions for my kids & not make them go into the courtroom, I would minister to other people who were in a similar position as me, which was living life in limbo, waiting for their day in court, hoping to find a place where they could dwell in peace. I was sincere. I meant every single word. However, there is absolutely nothing that could have prepared me for the avalanche that ensued. I actually had meant that maybe “one day”, when I had re-married, re-established a home, retired & had grandkids playing in my back yard, then I might teach a Singles class or something like that. Or that I would pray with women who were hurting due to divorce. Or some small thing that would help make someone feel better about themselves. Never in a millions years did I think that I would immediately have placed in my path TONS of both men & women who were hurting from divorce, death of a spouse, pending divorce, & the designation of being one of the people who had by choice or chance found themselves widowed, divorced, or they had never gotten married in the first place. But there they were – it seemed that everywhere I turned, there was someone who needed a friend due to one of these circumstances.
So they came – they still come – one by one, but in droves. A man who has a high profile in a nearby community emailed me, thanking me for my social media posts regarding faith, because he was healing from his own divorce. I found myself praying in restaurants with wait staff whom I had never met before. I encountered people in Meet-Up groups who needed a shoulder to cry on. I hugged complete strangers in Churches, as they succumbed to tears during the service. I got texts & calls from long & short term friends. All of these people had a commonality, which was that they were hurting, & they were lonely. Sometimes all of the sadness would just overwhelm me, & I would think, “God, I am also hurting & lonely, what about ME?” And that is when God would send someone else to minister to me – a stranger to give that hug at Church when it was my own tears falling like silent raindrops to the floor; a waitress to give me an exceptionally cheery smile when I ventured out to get a cup of coffee & a piece of pie by myself; someone from a Meet-Up group who would greet me & be happy to see me arrive; an email from someone letting me know that they were thinking about me – the list goes on. And I was fortunate: I had invitations to go to barbecues, to movies, to get coffee, etc.
However, I began to notice that, after my divorce was final, invitations from MARRIED friends began to dwindle until they are virtually non-existent. It seems that it is all right to be friends on Facebook, to get coffee together, or perhaps go to a Girls’ Night Out once in awhile, but there are no more invitations to group picnics, to watch the big football game on television, to go to the lake, or virtually anything else where spouses will be present. (I want to make note that I DO have two friends who are exceptions to this rule, & that they go out of their way to make myself & their other single friends feel welcome. However, they are the exception, not the rule, & not everyone is blessed with friends like them.) I am not entirely certain why that is, except that, as long as I had a “boy friend” that I was dating, it seemed that I was “safe”, but the minute that I broke it off with him, all at once most of the married ladies adopted an “at arm’s length” rule. I do realize that people are all different, but if a man or woman was moral, upright, & of good character before they became single again, they are most likely still that way – a change in their circumstances does not change who they are, & if they were not the kind of person to go after another person’s spouse before they became single again, they are more than likely still not that kind of person. (Sorry, just had to throw that in there.) It sounds a bit crazy to think that people would act that way, but they do. Case in point: I had to go to the gas station to get gas in my two plastic containers so I could cut the grass, something I had been unaccustomed to doing alone. The new gas containers can be very tricky to open – many are worse than taking off a child proof cap on a medicine bottle, & I had the misfortune of owning one of them. Try as I might, I could not get the top off in order to pump gas, so I asked the gentleman who was at the same pump as me if he could please open it. I had no idea if he had on a wedding band, if he was handsome by most standards, or even what he was wearing, only that he was in front of me, a male who might know how to open it, & that I did not want to hold up the line behind me. As he also struggled to open the cap, he explained that he actually had taken a screwdriver to his container that was identical to mine, such that the spring is gone, & he can now easily open & close it, so that even if it is not as safe as it should be, he can use it. We started to chuckle at his attempts to get the top off, & all at once a woman on the other side of the pump, who had already finished pumping gas, had sat down in the driver’s seat, & was ready to leave the station with the kids that were in her min-van, well, she got back out of her van, came across onto our side of the pump & said to him, “Aren’t you so & so’s HUSBAND?” The pointedness of her question was not lost on me. She did not ask, “Aren’t you Don? Or Jim? Or Steve?” (Or whatever the man’s name was – she made it clear to me that he was a married man, & in her opinion, he should not be laughing with me.) Now, I was a hot mess from doing yard work, in dire need of a shower, & without make-up, so there is no way I was on a “man hunt.” And if I was, I certainly would not go to a gas station to find one, ha ha. I explained to the lady that I needed help opening that container. She gave me that “Sure you did” smile, then said again, “Well, I just wanted to make sure that was you, & that you are So & So’s HUSBAND!” I will not divulge what sort of smile I sent back her way, but anyway, not all single people are constantly out looking for a spouse, & we certainly are not all looking out to steal one!
I have also been made acutely aware how awkward dining out alone can be. If you dare go to a nicer restaurant during rush hour, the host or hostess may or may not glare at you as you ask to be seated. Again, I usually smile at most people so I have not found this to be a big problem with me personally. However, I have noticed a trend, & single friends have told me that one reason they do not like to dine out by themselves is that they do not want to pay good money only to be relegated to a table beside the restroom. (So THAT is why that little table is sitting within 3 feet of the Men’s Room door?) Anyway, I have had a couple of issues like this, as well, & one of them was at a barbecue establishment in Gatlinburg, TN. It was well past rush hour, & the restaurant was nearly empty, so I felt no compunction asking the young host for his “very best table for one.” He said, “No problem!” as he started to seat me in the bar area. I told him that I did not wish to dine in the bar area, but would like a nice table in the dining room. I explained to him how many single people get seated with a view of the restrooms or the kitchen. He said, “I understand” as he proceeded to sit me in a booth facing the KITCHEN!! Since all of the tables, save one, with a view of the town, were empty, & the place would be closing in one and a half hours, I assumed that the other stations were closed, & resignedly sat down & ordered my meal. I was shocked to see that the next four parties of two who entered the dining room were each seated by the windows with the view. I was not trying to get free food, but asked for the manager – my first step towards raising awareness of the things that Single Again people encounter in the world. Well, he did not offer me any free food, but sat down at my table & proceeded to talk to me the entire time I was eating my dinner! I think that he felt sorry for me. I did not want pity. I did not want him to entertain me while I ate. (Actually, it was a tad annoying). I did not want free food. I just wanted to be treated like a person again, & not relegated to a corner, where one places people who are somehow unclean or something.
Attending Church is another big hurdle for Single Again folks. Some join Singles Groups. I know some that just stop going altogether, because they feel uncomfortable entering & exiting the service alone. Others stay at home & watch the service online or on television, & we are blessed to have many Churches in our area that offer that service. Personally, I kept going to a Church that I had attended with a gentleman that I had dated, only to go week after week & have no one other than the Greeters speak to me, except during the “forced” greeting time. I finally decided that, although I really enjoyed the sermons & that I was finding healing there, I was going to stop going & go to one of several Churches that one of my many Single Again friends attended. That way, I would not feel like such an oddity whenever the offertory prayer was given, instructing husbands & wives to join hands. (Are we not ALL supposed to be “Brides of Christ” while we are at Church?? That one still throws me, because it “singles out” SINGLE people!) Anyway, one Sunday, I was sitting in front of a couple that I knew only in passing because our sons used to compete against each other in school sports, & I could not control my sadness during part of the worship service. This woman was so incredibly discerning, sensitive & KIND to me! She hugged me during the greeting time! She told me after the service that it was good to see me. And she invited me to come back again – so I DID! Please do not get me wrong: I do not go to Church to socialize. I love to smile & give a wave or “Good morning!” in return when one of the official Greeters acknowledges me. But I also know that there are many SINGLE AGAIN or Never Married people who are not as extroverted, not as well known, not as well connected, not as bold, or who are just afraid to go to Church alone, & who are aching for a Christian brother or sister to do what this sister did for me, & that is to make them feel like they belong, regardless as to whether or not they are married, have a significant other, etc.
I am not alone in these observations. I attended a Women’s Conference yesterday, & the speaker said that one way that Boaz showed love to Ruth was “By SEEING her.” The speaker then asked, “Who has God asked YOU to see?” Now, there are MANY hurting people in this world, & some of them are married. But please, do not overlook the elderly widow, the 50-something year old man who has never been married, or the recently divorced lady who has no relatives in town when you are deciding who you will “SEE”. The speaker’s Bio in the program mentions that she once had struggles with anxiety & depression, & that is what drives her ministry. I can tell you from personal observation & first hand experience that people who suddenly find themselves Single Again, are prone to BOTH of these, & if there is no one there to not only SEE, but to minister to them, they are at risk of spiraling downward into an abyss that is difficult to get out of alone.
As for me, I am all right with most all of the social stuff, because I am somewhat of a “Social Butterfly”, but one of my personal biggest struggles is figuring out how to do household maintenance. They do not teach a class on this, & I have no one here in town to assist me when my son is away at college. I have had more than my share of misadventures with my riding lawn mower, my lawn mower & my weed eater. Prior to my divorce I had never painted an interior room. Never even changed a battery in a smoke alarm. While I wish I had a resident Alpha Male on call, I am not the sort to take advantage of friends, so I try to do these tasks on my own, as much as possible. I am blessed that I can ask a maintenance related question on Facebook, & within an hour or so, have multiple helpful replies from caring people to enlighten & educate me on how to proceed & what to do next. But many people are not so blessed. I’ll bet if you stop & think, there is someone in your neighborhood that could use a helping hand from time to time.
Cooking at home is also a dilemma for some Single Again folks. Some still have kids at home on a full or part time basis. But for the ones that live alone, cooking a home cooked meal for one can be a daunting task, not to mention an expensive one. I applaud my friends that regularly prepare nutritious meals for themselves, & who set the table, ask a blessing, & use real dishes instead of paper plates. Single people deserve to treat themselves as well as they treated their families when their kids were at home. As for me, I have set a goal to do such a meal at least once a week. The rest of the time, it is take-out, dining out, frozen pizzas & leftovers. (An aside: Have you noticed that Supper Clubs are primarily for COUPLES?) I used to have a dream of inviting one of the service men or women serving on base in our town over for a holiday dinner. However, that dream did not materialize, & they have moved most of the soldiers elsewhere. But I have always, somewhere in my mind, been cognizant of the fact that some people are all alone – yet I never ever imagined that I would one day be one of them. I have accepted God’s decision for my life at this point, & I am at peace with it. I am determined to make the best of it. But part of that entails answering His tugs at my heart strings to make other’s aware of just how very sad & depressing it can be dining alone night after night, all the while smelling the steaks cooking on the neighbor’s grill, or hearing the laughter from the Pool Party down the street. Someone that you know needs to be included in something you are hosting! Who is it??
Dear reader, if you have made it this far, have you thought about inviting that single man that lives down the block over to join you & your family for a home cooked meal one night? Or the single lady who works with you over to your Super Bowl party? Or any of the other single people that you know to do something “normal”, like going to one of your kids’ ballgames, attending a dinner party, or one of the other mundane & ordinary everyday things that they may now be missing from their lives? They are Single Again – they have lost their spouses; many of them have moved residences; some have changed jobs; some are adjusting to a loss of income, thus a different lifestyle; some are economically challenged as they struggle to re-gain their footing – but they are not dead. They still desire friendship & companionship. While they enjoy spending time with other singles, they miss the friendships that they had while they were still married. They need your smiles, cards, invitations & encouragement. They need you to do more than just SEE them. They need you to HEAR them, HUG them, & extend the hand of friendship to them. Yes, Single Again people have had a life-changing circumstance, but so have people who become ill, people who go off to fight for our country, people who get married, or people that have kids, Just because their circumstances may not line up exactly with yours, that does not make them any less God’s children. Being Single Again does not mean that people are Lepers!
Please do not misunderstand: I have some single friends who are very well-adjusted, who are not anxious, depressed, or down about their lives. I have been blessed with some very optimistic people in my life who make the best, regardless of their situation. As the speaker said yesterday, you can “let your hardship DEFINE you, or you can let it REFINE you.” I am so very thankful for my single friends that have chosen the latter – they are not going to let their singleness define them! They go to Church, walking, on vacations, shopping, dining, etc. with friends, family members, or by themselves. I even have a Single Again friend that will even take herself to a concert, or go out dancing by herself. I am pretty brave, but I am not quite there yet. But I am so very proud of her, that she is not going to let the fact that she is Single Again keep her from enjoying her life! That is each of our right: enjoy the abundance that God has blessed us with, & to sing, dance, & praise Him even when our coffers are not as full as they were when we were not single. Yet fear, like the Pastor said this morning, “Debilitates & paralyzes” people. While he was not specifically referring to these situations, it does apply when they become Single Again. If you are married, & know a Single Again person who seems stuck in a rut, please prayerfully consider helping them get out of it. If you are Single Again, please take care of yourself: cook yourself a meal that is not frozen & does not come in a cardboard box; insist on a good table with a view when you dine out alone; if you do not have an invitation to watch the Iron Bowl, throw your own party; & if you want to go out & dance, then DANCE! Being Single Again does not have to mean that you silence the music in your soul, rather it gives you a new song to sing – do not be afraid to sing it!!
The speaker yesterday – her name was Kelly Minter – she asked each of us to write down a personal response regarding something we got out of that seminar. And this was mine: “Yes, I am a ‘Divorcee’. But I will not give up my calling by allowing my circumstances to define me – I will persist. I will move forward with the ministry that God has placed on my heart, which is to write, speak, & teach. That has been my calling for as long as I can remember. My song may be different, & the audience may have changed, but I will do what God has placed on my heart to do.” And I am beginning today, right now, with this blog. There are Church groups that will no longer desire me to speak to them, because I am now a divorced person. That is certainly their right. But that is not what I perceive that Jesus would do, & I feel pity for them. Some people are divorced due to Biblical reasons. Others are not – perhaps it was their own sin that caused the divorce. Regardless, the Bible says, in the book of Romans, that “ALL have sinned & fallen short of the Glory of God.” No matter what YOUR personal circumstance may be, please do not let fear paralyze YOU – please do not let YOUR circumstances DEFINE you – rather turn to the One who is never afraid, & let what you are going through REFINE you, so you can move forward with your own calling, whatever it may be!!!
“Sing to the LORD a new song; sing to the LORD, all the earth …” ~ Psalm 96:1