Am I the only one who has difficulty making friends at church? Is it because I’m single, or is it because of who I am? Over time, you join groups which eventually dissolve as people marry off. Some friends “disappear” after getting married, forsaking the friendships they had with single people. In the back of my mind, though, I always thought that perhaps the real problem was me. This week, I had an informative conversation with another “veteran” of single life in the church. She confirmed that it isn’t about who you are or where you live. Close, lasting friendships are few and far between because making friends in the church is difficult if you’re single.
It is all at once comforting and disheartening to have this confirmation. As an introvert, developing meaningful friendships doesn’t come naturally for me, as it is. Then, time after time, I edge myself out onto limbs only to end up taking a fall. It will seem as though someone wants to be my friend, but when it comes down to actually spending time together, it will never work out for her. I have to calculate how many unreturned emails or texts to allow before I stop trying. I don’t want to be that crazy person who can’t take a hint.
Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.
One of the most painful experiences, was approaching a woman about mentoring me. This was when I first felt God calling me to teach. The woman had taught and led groups, and I thought I could learn from her. But she told me she didn’t have the time. Not long after that, she began mentoring a couple of other women. Was it because those women were married and have children or does she simply get along with them better? I have to believe that this was God’s will, but it still hurts. For anyone who is worried that I am afraid of relationships with men, it is women who I have become relationship-shy to. But God has been good to me. At a time in my life when I was actively praying that God would bring someone to mentor me, He instead brought a couple of younger women into my life as friends whom I could mentor.
The words of Titus 2:3-5 can pierce the heart of a single woman. A strict interpretation of these verses infers that there is no call to mentor single women. But the Apostle Paul wrote this, and he also wrote, “To the unmarried and widows I say that it is good for them to remain single as I am.” (1 Corinthians 7:8) Could he then have meant to exclude those same women from teaching and being taught? I don’t think so, though I have heard the Titus passage taught as though single women don’t exist. I feel strongly that Paul was addressing the majority of women in that culture, not trying to exclude single women.
Apart from accepting Christ as your Savior and choosing to follow Him, I cannot think of a decision that will have a greater impact on a person’s life than deciding whom to marry. For this reason, I feel strongly that young, unmarried women need mentoring more than their already-married counterparts. They need guidance to not accept a man who lacks godly character, and they need encouragement to be “self-controlled and pure.” No one should think that they can only mentor someone whose life seems to be following the same pattern as their own. I am sure there are many married women who have experiences to draw on, and who can help single women follow Christ and avoid some of the common pitfalls of life.
Now concerning brotherly love you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another, for that indeed is what you are doing to all the brothers throughout Macedonia. But we urge you, brothers, to do this more and more. . .”
1 Thessalonians 4:9-10
Of course, we all need more than just a mentor, we need friends. Surely, common ground can be found between married women and single women of similar ages. In my experience, larger churches tend to group people demographically, so that they can manage their population and attract people to groups that are just for them. But it isn’t always good for a body of believers to be segmented. A mentor I had during my college years said that married and single women needed to be in fellowship together, so that they wouldn’t envy one another’s circumstances. The idea is that neither life is easy; everyone has her own challenges. When we separate ourselves by marital status, we miss out on the wisdom found from diverse experiences. Single women are left to think that marriage will solve all of their problems, and married women think that having a family is the source of all of their difficulties. But life isn’t easy for anyone! It isn’t healthy to think that either gaining or losing a husband will solve our problems.
So, for each of you who reads this, man or woman, I want to challenge you to keep an open mind to making new friendships. We shouldn’t always look for people that we easily identify with. And, if you aren’t investing time in any relationships at church, maybe it’s time to start. I am certain I need to do this. Being an introvert, it is tempting to just sit around and lament my loneliness, but I know that is not what God desires of me. I need to climb back up the tree and try out another limb.