Searching for Hope in the Great Divide

My church just finished a series of messages focused on marriage. I did not attend.

Throughout my decades of work in churches, I have heard multiple sermons about marriage. Tips for how to love your spouse. Using the five love languages. Submission, submission, submission.

Gag!

While there was a time in my life when those sermons were a bit helpful, for the last twenty years I’ve wondered about the great divide.

You know, that nice little label that many of us don’t fit anymore: Mommy, Daddy and 2.5 kids. 

Where are the messages that focus on the beauty and strength of being single? Are we still so enamored with the idea that to be a true believer, we have to find that perfect mate, set up house in the right neighborhood and raise our kids to do the same?

Churches often satisfy the inclusion of singles by setting up a Singles Group. In my experience, said group often becomes a place to search for that perfect mate — the one who already goes to church so s/he must be safe.

I can line up hundreds of women who found out that principle does not work.

So who are the people who might appreciate a sermon about the significance of being single?

  • Those who never married yet continue to attend church and volunteer weekly. One of the ladies in my Bible class fits this category. She helps on the communion team, preps the elements we take together once/month. She is also a praying woman who stays updated with the needs of people and reports answers to prayer. I respect her and appreciate her service.
  • The widows and widowers. These are the folks who once fit the nice little label. Now they are alone and searching for how to find their significance. They still have multiple gifts to be used. Many of them continue to serve in the background, but a sermon series affirming their contributions might bring them hope.
  • Single moms are the group that most keenly feel rejection. In fact, 67% of single moms leave the church and never return. They no longer fit anywhere, and they are overwhelmed with the responsibilities of raising kids alone. Sunday becomes the loneliest day of the week.

In all the years I have been associated with churches, only once did I hear a sermon about the value of being single. It was presented by a woman minister, a single woman, who underscored the work singles did in her church and community.

I sent her a thank you card.

We have no record of the dating life of Jesus. In spite of the plotline of The Da Vinci Code, we assume he stayed single so that he could focus on his goal of winning for us salvation. What would he think about the emphasis on marriage at the exclusion of singles?

The Apostle Paul encouraged the Corinthians to consider singleness as a positive. “God gives some the gift of a husband or wife, and others he gives the gift of being able to stay happily unmarried. So I say to those who aren’t married, better to stay unmarried if you can, just as I am” (1 Corinthians 7:7-8 TLB).

Has anybody out there ever heard a sermon preached on this passage? Or is Paul considered an aberration because he stayed single to complete his mission?

Perhaps my ramblings in this post are because 2020 did an isolation number on me. To my surprise, I missed church. I was so glad when we opened again.

Then, just as I was feeling like part of the “family,” here came the sermon series on marriage. So I drove to Target and tried to comfort myself with something frivolous I did not need.

You know: chocolate, another tank top, the newest flavor of Ben & Jerry’s, another journal, gluten free blueberry muffins, more chocolate.

I guess some of us singles need to know if the institution of the church is ever going to get a clue about what being single means.

About how we know specifically that our Husband and Maker (Isaiah 54:4-5) totally accepts us even if the rest of his kids don’t.

About how we find our fulfillment focused on loving God and loving others, not seeking a mate.

About how we search for hope each day and find it in the solitude of being alone.

About how we love the church but can’t stand how it treats us.

Maybe the search for hope finds it own fulfillment within the search itself. Trusting that God appreciates us even if our ring finger is bare.

Believing that in our singleness — even without the affirmation of the church — we know we are loved.

©2021 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved

Pastor Tanner is single and dealing with a tragedy in his church. He takes a sabbatical to straighten out his head and finds hope in his heart. The Year of my Redemption.

How to Find Hope in Dandelions

dandelions on handThey raise their little heads above the sprigs of grass. At first, I am cheered by the bright yellow dots in my yard. “It will soon be time for the garden,” I tell the cat. Yes, I talk to my cat.

But by the time they lose their sunshiny tops and begin to climb higher, then sprout white seeds that blow all over creation, I am no longer thrilled to see them.

However, I am always amazed how dandelions persevere through every winter and reappear in my yard. Even though I dig them out each spring, they ride the wings of the wind and once again mess up my plans for a weedless garden.

Weeds are plants out of place. Dandelions are out of place among my peas, green beans and clematis.


But these same weeds have caused me to reflect on the spiritual lessons God sends through creation.


Perseverance: No matter how many times I dig them out and throw away their roots, dandelions reappear. They have conquered my garden space in spite of toxic chemicals, sharp mower blades and a shovel full of dirt. No amount of mulch deters their upward journey as they poke through the cypress sticks or pop up next to the hyacinth.

“Howdy!” they scream. “Here we are again!”

I would like to have that same character trait so that no matter who hurts me or what weapon is used against me, I continue my journey toward the Light.

Location:  Dandelions sprout anywhere and everywhere – between sidewalk cracks, in the middle of rocky landscapes and cuddled next to strawberry blossoms.

My hope is to be an encouragement no matter where I am – seated on the church pew, waiting in the long line for meds in Wal-Mart or sweating out stress in the workplace.

Dandelions teach that location is not as important as vocation. A consistent life of character is my goal – no matter where I sprout.

Effectiveness: Although we kill dandelions, some cultures nurture them for the greens and the tea. When these weeds live in the right place, they prove to be useful plants.

I begin every day with the desire to serve God and others. While it IS important to rest and observe the Sabbath, I pray God will use my work days to help someone else. Within the words I write, the gifts God has given me and my very existence, I want to make a difference.

In Colossians 3:23-24, the Apostle Paul reminds us, “Work hard and cheerfully at all you do, just as though you were working for the Lord and not merely for your masters, remembering that it is the Lord Christ who is going to pay you, giving you your full portion of all he owns. He is the one you are really working for” (TLB).

In spite of the spiritual lessons, dandelions are still not welcome in my garden. But as I dig them out and rid the landscape of their threat, they continue to remind me of a higher goal.

Even a weed praises the Creator who does all things well.

©2016 RJ Thesman – Author of the Reverend G books http://amzn.to/1rXlCyh