Thursday, October 27, 2005

Camerin Courtney is one of my heros.  Read on - this is this week's newsletter article from the Singles Channel at Christianity Today.

Lessons from a Church Potluck
by Camerin Courtney
October 26, 2005

I'm attending a church potluck tonight. And I have to be honest, I have mixed feelings about it. For some reason it calls to mind those Trix cereal commercials from several years back-the ones with the animated bunny doing everything he can to get himself a bowl of the sugary breakfast treat.

Once the kids catch him in the act, they scold him, "Silly rabbit, Trix are for kids." I fear a similar feeling as I sit amongst the couples, casseroles, and baby carriers: Silly singleton, church potlucks are for families.

So why did I RSVP yes? Because I know two of my single friends will be there.

This potluck paranoia would be harmless if it were an isolated incident. But I fear it's part of a larger trend-in my life and in the lives of countless other singles. I often don't attend church "family functions" because I think they'd be awkward. I sometimes don't attend the company Christmas party or a weekly dinner gathering hosted by a family in my church for the same reason. I often don't sign up for things or firm up weekend plans until the 11th hour.

I know I'm not alone in my skittish tendencies. Any of you who have planned a singles social event or conference know that a lion's share of the attendees RSVP at the last minute, if they do so at all. Sometimes trying to get my single friends to call me back and make weekend plans is like trying to organize a world summit.

And as slow as we can be to say "yes, I'll be there," we can be equally fast to cry foul whenever we feel wronged in Christian circles. Some of the negative e-mails we receive here at issue with my willingness to try Internet dating or scolding us for not spending more time highlighting all the positives of singledom-are a testament to that.

Let's face it, we singles can be a demanding, elusive, noncommittal lot.

But as silly as my casserole-aphobia is, you know as well as I do that this fear isn't altogether unfounded. The last all-church function I attended solo was an awkward evening of trying to strike up conversation with married folks I'd formerly served on committees with until they all-too-quickly boomeranged back to their spouses.

During a company Christmas party several years ago, I threw off the numbers at our table of married couples and me and spent the evening sandwiched between a coworker's quiet male fiancé I'd never met before and another coworker's wife, who spent most of the meal ensconced in conversation with the other side of our round table.

I've sat through multi-week sermon series on being a good spouse; attended church women's function that speak only to being a good wife and mom; answered countless questions from relatives, friends, and strangers alike about why a "nice girl like you is still single" (or at least tried to answer these questions); and explained to leaders of national ministries that I really didn't choose career over marriage.

Because of all this, I've sometimes grown weary, wary, or altogether AWOL. And I know I'm not alone in this. And who could blame us, right? We're a tough crowd-but with good reason.

Sometimes we get tired of being pioneers of a new, growing demographic; of being overlooked or misunderstood in Christian circles; of being the lone singleton at family barbeques and work picnics. Sometimes we need to speak up and remind families, church leaders, and friends that singles are indeed a part of the larger Family of God.

But sometimes ...

Sometimes I fear we're just being selfish. Or noncommittal. Or whiny. Or consumer Christians who care only about our needs, our comfort, our rights.

When I step back and look at the big picture, I realize that if we don't show up for stuff, conferences will cease, marrieds will stop inviting, potlucks will go on being family-fied, and the Body of Christ will be missing a few parts.

I, who leave the tags in new clothes on the first wearing in case things don't work out and I want to take something back, could probably stand to practice a little commitment on occasion by saying "yes, I'll be at that retreat" well before I need to board the bus to get there. And thus practice letting my yes be yes and my no, no (Matthew 5:37).

I'm learning in ministry pursuits when to speak up about a singles issue and when to hold my tongue so that my words don't fall on deaf ears as others might simply think, There she goes beating the single drum again. I'm also striving to let my actions communicate more than my words at times-by showing up, taking part, serving alongside. I'd rather let my actions show we singles to be active, serving participants than my words to mark us as whiny and demanding.

And I'm realizing afresh that Christ doesn't call us to comfort, he calls us to character. And in showing up and being a vital part of a community-even when it's awkward or isolating or exhausting-we can learn and practice commitment, grace, discipline, forgiveness, unconditional love, and sacrifice. We get to practice being the friend who "loves at all times" (Proverbs 17:17) and to work out the fruits of the spirit of faithfulness-being committed to whatever community God's called us to and not ditching when things get tough-and patience-bearing with one another in love instead of defensive protestations. After all, the body of Christ isn't a country club but a classroom, where we learn to love, grow, and be more like Christ.

Sure, sometimes we need to cut ourselves some slack and stay home, and sometimes we need to speak the truth about we single folks ... in love. But when God calls us to, we also sometimes need to show up-or silently, lovingly listen in for what he wants to speak into a situation.

As for me, tonight I'm unashamedly taking my store-bought lemon tart (it's what's realistic for me today) and walking through the doors of my church-where I'll no doubt find lots of young families, numerous covered dishes, and a needed opportunity for God to shape my heart.

1 comment:

Mandy said...

WOW, Em. I think that was a good article. And though it speaks primarily to "singletons" I think the message is universal.
I especially like this line:
"After all, the body of Christ isn't a country club but a classroom, where we learn to love, grow, and be more like Christ."
Thanks for sharing!!