July 1, 2014
May Your unfailing love be my comfort, according to Your promise.”
Psalm 119: 76
New International Version
Loss Versus Hope: “Lost Companionship”
“Companionship” – Fellowship. The state of being together and sharing similar interests and experiences.
Fellowship of Strangers
is the permanent lack
of anyone permanent
in my life
whom I can love and touch and rest in.
Dressed in fine clothes,
no one sees
the desert of my heart
and the agony of hungers permanently unfulfilled.
And after all those years
of singing outdated
fond, familiar hymns
I still sit solo
aware of the spaces
in the pew
As in this Fellowship of Strangers
my heart once more
reaches out to You.
Single Woman’s Lament
Laughter, Silence, and Shouting
“Our lives hold meaning because God loves us and because we are His. Our lives do not depend upon someone else loving us, respecting us, noticing us or pledging their eternal devotion to us.”
William Backus and Marie Chapian
Several days ago, my college roommate and I had one of those every 6 month telephone calls where we were trying to catch up on each other’s lives in a few minutes. As we recalled some times in the past, I later reflected on the fact that there are some things for which I’m thankful everything hasn’t stayed the same. And one of those “things” relates directly to our topic today.
When Shari and I arrived at college for summer school, just two short weeks after our high school graduation, I was only seventeen years old and this was my first time away from the security of home and family for an extended period of time.
During summer school, all the female students were housed in one large dormitory and so those of us who were considered “youngsters” – freshmen – were properly indoctrinated by our older “sisters” who may have been only 18 or 19 years-of- age themselves.
One of the things we were immediately told was that we did not, at any cost, want to find ourselves ending up to be “Daphne Desperados.” I had never heard this term but was informed that it referred to girls who were seniors at college, living in the dorm called “Daphne Hall.” These girls were identified as the ones who had no boyfriends or potential “husbands” on the horizon after graduation. To think you’d leave college without a possible mate, after listening to these wise women, seemed to be a fate worse than death, and I realized quickly, I didn’t want to be a “desperado.” I didn’t want to end up being called an “old-maid” at twenty. Perish the thought!
Well, roll the clock ahead, and a few days ago, talking with my 26 year-old unmarried, unattached niece, I found out, to my great relief, that her circle of friends consider her to be too young to get married. Bethanie let me know that she still has more education ahead along with plans to travel before, as she noted, “I settle down!”
While I’m thankful the marrying age has been adjusted, I wonder if our attitudes have kept pace. When I see single friends who are 40 and listen to their tales of woe about the stereotypes that are pinned on their backs – I’m not certain we have really changed as much as it may appear on the surface.
Right now, in the United States, only about 50% of the population is married. Nearly an equal number of women are single – having never been married, divorced or widowed. For some, being “free” of marital entanglements is a relief. For others it is a choice. For individuals like my mom, who found herself a widow at a young age, being alone was not of her choosing – rather, it was the result of a painful event that forever changed her life.
While some people will simply tell you they enjoy being alone – the majority of individuals will admit that in a society which often elevates “pairing up” as the pinnacle of happiness, it’s easy to be made to feel as though something is lacking, not only in your life, but in “you” when there isn’t another half standing by your side.
And I’m going to add something here. Often in “church” settings, this feeling of being “less than” or having not fulfilled the “all that” you can be by not being married and having children, may be driven home even more as activities focus on couples and families. Thankfully, more churches and their activities today take into account a ministry to singles. But as my husband Jim observed, a lot of these events turn into “meet your mate parties.” My niece Bethanie only confirmed this fact when she told me recently about being asked out by someone in her weekly singles Bible Study Group, only later to find out that everybody else, after hearing about this one date, as Bethanie said with great unhappiness, “Had me married and with children before we went out a second time!”
So how do we, as females especially, wrap our arms around each other, whether “coupled” or not? And, I’m going to interject one other thought here. Just because a person is married doesn’t mean that at times you don’t feel alone. In fact, as author Dorothy Gilman described one character in her book, Mrs. Pollifax and the Whirling Dervish, “She had encountered one of the most devastating kinds of loneliness in existence: that of being in close contact with someone to whom she was a nonperson, and who thereby rendered her invisible and of no consequence.”
I’d like to suggest three ways, which I believe can be effective tools, in embracing each other and encouraging each other whether we are “coupled” or “single.”
Tool #1 – Inquire. If you have friends who are alone – call them just to say “Hi!” Drop them a card or note to let them know you are thinking of them (in this age of emails, handwritten notes and cards arriving in the mail are real treasures.). And speaking of email, my dearest friend Cathy sends me cards and messages that are one of the highlights of my day. She always sends something beautiful and inspirational that lifts my heart. Here’s another thought, on occasion – send flowers. You’ll be thanked forever with a gift of flowers! And last but certainly not least, do what my dear mom does, even though she’s alone, she find others who like herself, live by themselves and then she makes a favorite meal and drops it by their house! You can only begin to imagine how her friends appreciate her.
Tool #2 – Include. After my dad died, my mom found that she began to get left out of a lot of things that my parents had done as a “couple” with other “couples.” I’m certain at first, her friends felt it might make mother feel bad to be around other happy twosomes. But don’t leave someone out because you are uncomfortable with their pain. This type of situation was even worse for my sister after her divorce. Friends began to take sides and soon there were his friends and her friends. When some activity took place, even at her church, she found herself on the outside looking in with certain individuals who didn’t invite her to anything, anymore. Personally, I’ve found there are many wonderful ways to involve my friends who are by themselves. If my husband doesn’t want to go to something, I’ll call a single friend and take her along. I’ve noticed how many of my single friends enjoy having a girlfriend to do something with. I must add, I’ve never seen a dinner table that couldn’t make room for one more chair and plate.
Tool #3 – Inspire. Many years ago, I was a member of a Women’s Bible Study Group. The women were all in their early 30’s and had children. I was the only person who could not and did not have children. One day, a girl in the class, who was faced with a great deal of trouble from her young son stated, “It is impossible to understand and appreciate the love of God if you don’t have children.” I must tell you, that remark pierced my heart like a dagger. I was just beginning to accept the fact I could not bear children and now I felt as though, because of a physical problem beyond my control, I would never fully understand God’s love, either! Looking back, I realize this remark came from a mother in pain and that there was no meanness directed at me – maybe just thoughtlessness.
This is why our words to each other should seek to inspire. Don’t judge a person who is going through a divorce. I’ve realized over and over again that I didn’t have to live in their home – so who am I to judge harshly or comment on a situation I may never know the real “truth” about. Sometimes the person doing the most to smear another individual has the most to hide in their own closet. Loving words and kind acceptance is how Jesus embraced the hurting in His circle of care – can we do any less? When someone is alone, whether single, widowed or divorced, don’t take it upon yourself to think your job is to be God’s match-maker. I can’t tell you how many times well-meaning friends have tried to pair my mother up and it has put her in more than one uncomfortable position. While she isn’t thrilled to have been alone without her husband for nearly 25 years, she has never desired to marry again. She and my dad were soul-mates in the truest sense of the word – and mother never wanted any other man in her life. That’s her choice and I respect it. No need for anyone to come along and say to her, “Still single? Why haven’t you remarried?” These words don’t inspire! They upset – and furthermore, it’s nobody’s business but my mom’s.
After seeing the treatment that single folk endure, I think it does us all well to remember that our personal happiness should not and does not depend on a human relationship but on a Heavenly one – a relationship with our Father who tells all of us that, “I, even I, am He that comforteth you.” Isaiah 51: 12. May we take the advice that the disciple Peter gave and put it into practice in all our relationships each day: “Summing up, be agreeable, be sympathetic, be loving, be compassionate, be humble. That goes for all of you!” 1 Peter 3: 8-10, The Message.
“There is never a place in the Bible where it says that marriage makes you happy. It says over and over again God makes you happy.”
Our affirmation today is taken from a treasure of a book entitled, As I Struggle To Walk With God, written by J.J. Caldwell. Her honesty throughout her poetry of praise and prayers is not only refreshing but uplifting as you will see in this special poem.
Loving Myself as a Single Woman
“As a single woman, I will continue to:
breed bitterness due to broken relationships
feel lonely, unwanted, desperate and depressed
harbor hurt feelings and envy towards others
remember the rejections from men in the past
and allow them to hinder my current happiness…
if I remain focused on my circumstances and not on the
One who controls my circumstances.
Loving myself means trusting God, who loves me perfectly
focusing on what He wants me to do for Him
today, in this present moment
and not focusing on what I don’t have right now
or what has happened to me in the past.
Dorothy Valcárcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus
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