Wednesday, September 23, 2015

The ever present struggle to "Rejoice with them that do Rejoice"

           Have you ever been there?  That place, that moment, when you look around the room after a friend has announced (of course with their new significant other) that they are in a relationship, or even just the sight of seeing a new couple, you realize, while in a dazed stupor that you're the only person not jumping up and down?  You're the only one not squealing with excitement, shouting congratulations and singing praises to God, or drenching them with love?

And. It. Is. Awkward.

         It's not because you're unhappy for them, because of course you are.  It’s just that every couple announcement brings a tsunami wave of emotions that crashes over you, am I right?  And the intensity of these emotions, leave you breathless. And numb. And scared.  And…well…not yourself.  It’s within the first 60 seconds of their joyous announcement you instantly feel happiness, joy, sometimes relief for that person because you know their struggle, but also there's bitterness, anger, sadness and grief, even resentment, all at once.   Not necessarily towards them, but towards your own circumstances. Because why haven’t your prayers been answered? Are you not worthy? Don’t you deserve a mate just as much as they do?

           It’s also within that same 60 seconds you feel joy and happiness for them. And even a sense of relief and hope. Relief that they will never have to endure the pain of singleness anymore, and also a rare form of hope, hope that maybe, just maybe it might be your turn next. People dont realize these emotions that come so fast and so hard, which are hugely difficult to juggle.  Especially in a group setting…with an audience, because you're convinced everyone is staring at you and waiting.  Waiting and wondering.  Waiting for your reaction.  And wondering what you might be thinking, or feeling.

Is he happy? Will he cry? What will he say? Is he mad? I wonder if he is jealous? 
            Romans 12:15 commands the Christian to "Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep."  A Christian that has been, and may continue to have to struggle with singleness, also struggles immensely with a tsunami, hurricane, tornado, (whatever natural disaster you want to equate this too) of questions of "is something wrong with me?", "why?", "when is it my turn?" "Will I ever experience a relationship? " "How will this point me to God?".  And these same questions, and there's more (I only put a few), flood the mind of that Christian single every time they see a new couple, get invited to a wedding,  or maybe they don't even get an invite, but just know a couple is getting married, a new baby announcement,  their buying a house, going on a really cool date (well......any type of date would be great...) At times, that Christian single won’t be able to hold back the tears and give people the joyful congratulations they deserve.  I know, I've been at weddings, but couldn't talk because of the quivering lips and heart-wrenching and real pain.  Not only is this also an overwhelming feeling of guilt, but another part of the guilt we feel is that this new couple sees our waterfall of tears and quivering lips and most likely have the perception that is for them and it's just that we're so overjoyed for them, and we're speechless.  Sadly and unfortunately, it has very little to do with them and therein lies the guilt.  This should be a moment when we express our excitement and sincere happiness, but.....it's not.  Not because we aren't thinking of those things and don't want to express them.  There is just SO much in these emotions and it's too much to try to even explain....even after a few days when we're calm.  We are in immense pain. And we can’t stop the feelings we feel from the hurt of singleness, and most often the loneliness that accompanies, or the fearful thoughts we have that this joy and excitement you now have, may never come true for us. And it’s hard. It makes us feel like an awful person, because we know the right thing to do is set aside our pain for their joy, but sometimes in that moment......we can’t.  We really want to, but we just can’t.

              I realize not every Christian struggling with singleness feels or reacts this way, because while I may not always like being told in a group setting, others may prefer that.  In fact, the thought of someone else treating them differently or "tip-toeing" around them, may infuriate some.  We're all struggling in our own ways. We're all dealing with different wounds.  Different scars.  Different past experiences.  And we're all in different stages of grief.  But I believe despite the differences and despite the struggles, we're all in need of the same grace. Grace to help us rejoice to the best of our abilities. Grace to give us the strength to overcome our unpredictable emotions. Grace to see us through our painful and heart-wrenching circumstances.  And grace to help us never give up hope that maybe, just maybe, our turn will be next.

             But with that grace, I also believe there needs to be compassion. And so if you're reading this today and are either in a strong relationship or married, can I make a suggestion? A suggestion on how to share your news in a group setting that has someone you know struggling and praying every day, every minute, or every second for their own relationship? Or maybe you have shared it with everyone, but not them because your not quite sure how to and want to be sensitive. So while I know it sounds like an awesome opportunity to announce it in front of your friends or family members at the big family get together, it’s probably going to be a very uncomfortable time for your single and ever-mindful-of-their-singleness friend or family member.  Maybe even potentially reopen a wound that was just starting to scab over.  Or cause them embarrassment as they are unable to hold back the waterfall of tears that sometimes accompany the pain they are feeling.  And so in order to possibly help shield those wounds and allow them to “rejoice with those who rejoice” to the best of their ability, (and in their own unique way) can I offer you my number one tip or suggestion or piece of advice? (however you want to look at it)
If so, here it is…

              I know this may seem like more trouble than its worth, but sit them down, privately, just you two and them.  Maybe not even start the conversation with "so me and so and so are dating....." they see you two together. They get it. Talk to them as if nothing has changed and know that in the meantime, the news of another couple that they have to get used to is being processed.  They need time to process that information. Process their grief. Process all their emotions.  There may be some tears, tears of joy, but also of sorrow, for themselves.  However, know that they really do want to support you, and they really do want to be there with everyone else, but they just might need that extra time to pull themselves together in order to do so.

              A lot of people may read this and get the sense that whenever a Christian single has a break down at the mention of a relationship, that they are just being incredibly selfish and looking for attention.   Although, sadly, some Christian singles may use their circumstances to get others to pity them, there are a few who do not think that way in the least.  This is also part of the overwhelmingly guilty feelings that go through our minds and hearts.  We know that others may percieve our breakdown as an act of selfishness, but we're just trying to get through this moment.  

               These are a lot of reasons behind a single person's breakdown and struggle, but there is so much more to it, but for the reasons above, we need grace, compassion, understanding,  and sensitivity from others.  Now, you may be asking yourself, "why don't they say so?"  It's hard to talk about your own struggle and sometimes just talking about things, we can feel the emotions creeping up inside, and we just don't want to have another public breakdown, so to avoid that, they may change the subject, or even walk away. 

               I hope that’s not too hard too ask, is it?  It’s doable right?  Because telling them privately still allows you to share your awesome news in front of your friends and family......just others need time and care.  As was said earlier, some people don't like when others feel the need to "tip-toe" around them, but to some, it shows incredible care and thought for their well-being.

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