In my first couple of years at the Coast Guard Academy, the athletic director was Chuck Mills. I still remember something he said at a Fellowship of Christian Athletes breakfast: “There are only two ways to stop losing: win or quit.” I quoted that on my year book page when I graduated. I was always on the verge of failing out, but I made a decision to never quit. More than two decades later, this wasn’t exactly what I was thinking about when my sister posed the question: Should we be trying harder? We share in a struggle to figure out how much our lack of meaningful friendships is our responsibility, and how much is the responsibility of others. We are never sure whether the problem is who we are or what we are. Do we not fit in at church because we were raised somewhere else, in a different socioeconomic class than the one in which we currently live? Or, is it that we are single and therefore have less in common with people and don’t fit neatly into a life-stage group? There is also the factor that we are introverts. Add a pandemic to the mix, and we are bordering on becoming hermits!
My sister and I both have been working a lot of extra hours over the past year, and I can’t remember the last time we attended our life group. We went more than a month without attending church in person. We were either visiting our parents, or watching the service from home. In the end, it doesn’t seem to matter whether we are there or not. We joke that we are invisible, which we know isn’t strictly true, but it often feels that way. Should we be trying harder to connect with people? This year, the church is excited about upcoming opportunities for parents and a new Young Marrieds’ group. I confess, it bothers me that they don’t call it a Newlyweds group. It is a clear signal that if you don’t marry by thirty, you will never fit in at church. I know that opportunities for single, childless people aren’t going to appear anytime soon. It hurts, but I don’t have any answers or suggestions.
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.Colossians 3:15-16
It took me some time mulling my sister’s question and thinking about what I heard at church before I got my fighting spirit back. I spent the week vacillating between wanting to be bold and take action, and feeling depressed and wanting to quit. I am certain that giving up would please the Devil, so far be it from me to do that! There is more to it than just feeling connected at church. I have a strong desire to write and teach for God, and after more than a decade, I can’t help but think it is a calling. Giving up on having relationships means giving up on ever being discipled. It is giving up on my passion to share with other single women all of the lessons that God has taught me through His word.
I’ve been feeling really discouraged, but I realized this week that I am not ready to give up. I have this conviction that God doesn’t want me to give up on other people, on my gifts, or on being a person that He can somehow use. I have been spending a lot of time, recently, meditating on Colossians 3:16. I want to “let the word of Christ dwell in [me] richly” because it gives me joy and peace. For a communicator, like me, this overflows into “teaching and admonishing” others, if anyone will listen. I believe that if we are letting the word dwell in us richly, there can’t help but be some overflow. And, it doesn’t need to result in formal teaching, but in sharing what we each learn, for our mutual encouragement.
Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.Philippians 3:12-14
The devil is always telling me that I don’t have anything to say that anyone wants to hear. Voices in my head remind me of the failure and rejection, when I have tried in the past. The voices seem filled with truth, as they suggest that God has nothing and no one for me, and He has no use me. When I am overflowing with excitement to share something I have learned, it often seems there is no one in my life who wants to hear about it. So, I write a blog, and a few people read it and perhaps get something out of it. There must be some people out there who relate or who want to learn with me.
One thing is clear to me: we are instructed to run so as to win the prize. This seems to preclude quitting or even strolling along. I am sure that, no matter how things seem or feel, God wants me to continue to look for ways to encourage others and be encouraged by others. I’ve failed at a lot of things in this life, and some days, I am not sure I have anything to show for my forty-four years on earth. But only Christ matters. So, “forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”