Loneliness, friendship and faith

Loneliness, friendship, and faith

In case you didn’t know, we recently uprooted our lives and moved to a new town. (Again.) (For the 7th time in 5 years.) (You can read more about that here.) Since we’ve moved so many times, we often find ourselves displaced from our network of friends and having to start over in a new place. With these many transitions, I’ve observed that, in my adult life, it’s much harder to start over in a new place and establish quality friendships.

Now don’t get me wrong, acquaintances are easy to come by. But, real friendships, the kind that span the years and traverse the miles between you, are difficult to grow and maintain as adults. I’ve been trying to figure out why that is. What is about adulthood that makes nurturing relationships with others so challenging?

I find this struggle all the more troubling because I’m a Christian. The church is supposed to be synonymous with community. Especially in the Southern Baptist world, we hold fellowship meals and talk about the importance of “not forsaking the fellowship of believers,” and yet church can be the loneliest place for many, myself included.

For example, since moving here last August, we’ve visited most of the churches within our denomination in town. We found ourselves gravitating to one in particular – it’s doctrine matches ours, the pastor preaches through the Bible expositionally (which is our preferred preaching method), and our daughter enjoys the children’s ministry activities on Wednesday nights. We have grown increasingly involved in the life of the church – we’ve joined the choir, and I’m playing bass for the worship team.

Yet, we can go through several Sunday and Wednesday services and nobody talks to us. This isn’t a large church, either – there are maybe 100 people there on a Sunday morning. You may think, perhaps the problem is that we haven’t connected to a small group. That isn’t the case. We’ve been regularly attending the small group class for our age/season of life since we started attending in September. People do talk to us in small group – but, if we are absent for several weeks in a row, nobody reaches out to us – not even the small group leader. 

You may also think this is an isolated incident – that this particular church might need to grow in their biblical understanding of community. However, in our many moves, we have found this situation occurring more often than not. I have often wondered if maybe there is something wrong with me/us because it happens so often. Yet,  the more I talk to other believers inside and outside of my denominational affiliation, I keep hearing this same story of loneliness and isolation among the people of God.

The weight of this problem struck me last week. I was at the gym with an old friend – someone I’ve known for over 15 years. We’ve known each other since high school, and though our lives have gone different ways at different times in adulthood, we have reconnected recently since I moved back to our hometown.

During our time at the gym (we call it “treadmill therapy”), she confided to me that she and her husband are starting marriage counseling. As she shared this deeply intimate struggle in her life, she said to me, “I’ve felt like I can’t talk to anyone about this. I can’t tell my parents, and I can’t talk to anyone at church about it.” She’s felt isolated and alone – navigating the murky waters of the sea of marital conflict on her own.

Her experience is just one of many similar to it. Bible-believing, faithful, church-going men and women who sit in pews every single week are battling unseen conflicts on their own, without a community to circle up around them and go to war with them.

Why? That’s the question I’ve not been able to answer, yet. I don’t understand why it’s been so hard for us to find a community of gospel friendships. I don’t understand why it’s easier to find camaraderie among coworkers than among co-laborers in the church. I think familiarity has something to do with it – the more you’re around someone, the more the relationship grows. Yet, if the gospel is anything, it should be the ultimate source of familiarity – our mutual need for grace in light of our shared weakness.

As you can see, I have more questions than answers. Have you had this struggle in your adult life? Have you ever had to start over and build new friendships? What was your experience like?

To the working mom at church

to the working mom at church

Dear Working Mom,

I see you waking in the early fringe hours of the morning for self care – claiming a few precious moments of solitude for bible study and prayer, or for exercising and meditation. I know how tired you feel throughout the day because of the lack of sleep, but those wee hours of the morning are the only time you feel you can spend on just you.

I see you swallow back tears when your toddler looks in your eyes over breakfast and says, “But mama, I don’t want to go to school. I want to stay home with you.” I know how hard it is to hear those words, to try to make your little one understand how you wish you could stay home with her too and why you have to work.

I see you running errands on your lunch break, so as not to consume precious evening time. I see you grabbing a quick bite to eat in your car in the midst of grocery shopping or paying bills, or munching on a snack at your desk because you used your lunch hour to get a haircut or go to the doctor.

I see you missing group bible studies and/or moms groups, because they’re all in the mornings and you have to work. Or, when there is an evening option, the guilt you feel from sacrificing more time with your kids prohibits you from feeling the freedom to join. I know you wish there was another way, because you miss the fellowship with other women, and you know you need it.

I see you talking with other moms before and after service on Sunday, feeling out of place as they talk about homeschool curriculum or play dates. I know you feel like it’s hard for you to have friends. Most of the other church women are SAHMs, which is fine but you live in an opposite world. I know it’s lonely there.

I see you downcast during Mother’s Day sermons, when your well-meaning pastor extols the virtuous wife and mother who keeps the tidy home, raises the well-mannered children and serves her family joyfully. I know you feel less than. I know you feel like your brothers and sisters around you turn their nose up at you because you choose to work, as if your decision was made without regard for your children’s well-being or the good of your marriage.

I see all of these things because I’m a working mom, too. I know how hard it is to find a kindred spirit, to feel out of place among the family of God, to wish there were more bible studies or blogs written from the working mom’s perspective or to us.

I pray you can find friendships with fellow Christian sisters who encourage you, edify you, and empower you.

I pray you can find church family who support you and love you.

I pray your husband appreciates you and strengthens you.

I pray you know that your sacrifice is not in vain. I pray that you can have confidence that, though you work outside the home, you are motivated by what’s best for your children and family at this time.

I pray you can find rest for your weariness in Jesus. I pray you can believe him when he says, “Come to me, all who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”

I pray you know that, no matter who cares for your child during the day, there is no replacement or substitute for you. There is no one like you in your child’s life.

I know you’re lonely, but you’re not alone. I know you’re weary, and though you can’t see it, I know you’re strong, because Jesus has you. Jesus is with you. He is with your children when you can’t be with them.

With you in Him,

Rachel

Friday Five: 5 Fictional Characters I Wish I Knew in Real Life

fictional characters in real life

5 Fictional Characters I wish I Knew in Real Life

For the first installment of Friday Five, I’ve been inspired by Hilary over at Writings and Worship to share 5 fiction characters I wish I knew in real life. I’ll admit, this list was hard to choose. I kept debating between choosing solely characters from books or TV/movies. In the end, I came up with a mixture of both. However, this list was so difficult to narrow, I might have to do a second one sometime. Anyway, here are 5 fiction characters I wish I knew in real life, in no particular order:

1. Ove – A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

If you’ve never read this book, drop everything and go get a copy right now. This book is a heartwarming tale of the profound impact one life can have on others, and the relationships that hold us together when everything seems to be falling apart. Without revealing too much about the plot, Ove is a curmudgeon – he sees the world in black and white, he lives by rigid principles and he doesn’t fit neatly into the world around him. However, there’s more to Ove than his brusque exterior. Ove is such a lovable character, and my life would be better if it had an Ove in it.

2. Rory from Gilmore Girls

First, let me just saw how over the moon excited I am for the reunion season! I grew up with Rory. She and I were about the same age when the show first aired, so I’ve always felt a kinship with her. Her love for books, her nerdy tendencies, her love for writing, her upright, girl-next-door persona — we had much in common. I would love to have her as a friend. I can easily imagine grabbing coffee and discussing politics or the latest book club read with her.

3. Dowager Countess from Downton Abbey

I love some good snark. And who can deny that the Dowager Countess, Lady Violet, has the sharpest wit in all of the English upper class? Her ability to deliver a biting barb is unrivaled, and this video published by Slate Magazine recently of the Dowager Countess’ finest burns is worth your time. How great would it be to have her around to offer regular commentary on my everyday life?

4. Luna Lovegood from Harry Potter 

When I decided to make this list, I knew I had to include someone from HP. After all, there aren’t many books I’ll re-read, but the entire Harry Potter series are some that I return to regularly. It was difficult to choose just one character, but in the end I settled on Luna. When it comes to real life, Luna would be such a fun person to know. Her eccentric personality and unique perspective would make the mundane moments of daily life much more enjoyable.

5. Anne Shirley from Anne of Green Gables

Last, I would love to know Anne Shirley. Her free spirit and wide imagination would be a fun addition to my friend circle. Her gregarious nature and forthright honesty are rare qualities. Also, her passionate love for the written word would make us “kindred spirits,” as she would say.

What about you? Do you have any favorite characters from books or movies that you would love to know in real life?