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The Black Sheep of Gods Family - Camerin Courtney
Everything about being Single
The Black Sheep of Gods Family - Camerin Courtney
April 27, 2005

I had a bad feeling from the name of the event: Gods Design for Womanhood. But a cool new friend invited me to this Saturday afternoon tea and talk at her church, so I ignored my reservations and agreed to go. Surely it wouldnt be as wife- and mom-centric as I feared. As I crafted an e-mail back to my friend telling her Id be delighted to join her, I scolded myself: Youre just too cynical and jaded. Well, turns out I wasnt this time. The talk went just about as I expected. While trying to redeem the purpose of womanhood from the worlds I-am-woman-see-me-take-over-the-planet ideal, the speaker—a pastors wife—spoke highly and at length about a womans prize roles as wife and mother. Great things, to be sure, but not exactly the entire picture. Wheres my value as one who isnt a wife or mom? I wondered. Whats Gods design for me, then?

To her credit, the speaker did make a couple passing comments about singles, something about there being a lot of hurting children in the world we could love on. Yeah, great.

Throughout the talk I carried on a silent conversation with Jesus, telling him I was sorry for my bad attitude and for secretly wanting to stand up on my table and bellow, "You dont get it, lady." I even prayed that Id be open to any lessons I needed to learn from the message. Occasionally I stole glances at the rest of the 200-some-odd women in attendance, many nodding their heads in silent agreement. Most of them sported wedding rings and earlier had exchanged war stories about their little darlings at home. Once again, I found myself feeling like the black sheep in Gods family.
Fearful that I was being too sensitive, I held my tongue when the talk was through. If my friend was blessed by the speakers words, I didnt want to rain on her inspiration. But I was curious to hear what this 60something newish widow thought. I didnt have to wait long. The first words out of her mouth were, "I kept waiting for her to get to us singles, to talk about how we fit into the equation." Amen, sister.

The one bright spot is that the troubling talk inspired some lively conversation during our dinner at a nearby restaurant afterward. We talked about the challenge of being the minority at church gatherings and of wanting to feel like a vital, valued part of the Body of Christ. We talked about churches weve attended that include singles well, and those that seem unaware we exist.

Of all the places I occasionally feel like a freak for being unmarried, the church is the one that bothers me the most. Mainly because the God I worship there loves unconditionally and commands us to do likewise. Surely his house should be a safe haven for all of us, a place where we all feel welcomed and valued. Obviously many churches do this well. Its those that still dont that make Sunday mornings uncomfortable at times.
Mind you, I dont like saying negative things about the church. Im part of it. I know its never going to be perfect since its comprised of us fallen human beings. And it gets a bad enough rap from outsiders–does it need to be taking hits from one on the inside as well? But when such anecdotes are commonplace in churches today (I hear about them from my friends and from you guys all the time), even when we singles currently make up 48 percent of the U.S. adult population, I find it hard to hold my tongue. And to not get a little jaded about the church—and a little tempted to give up believing that theyll ever fully recognize and respect those of us who venture into sanctuaries solo.

It was with this waning hope and increasing skepticism that I met Pastor Rick. He was seated next to me during an evening session at a recent Christian conference I attended. When the session was over and the crowd of 300 people transitioned from rapt attention to the low buzz of casual banter, we joined the fray and introduced ourselves to each other. During our chit-chat, I discovered hes a pastor of a smallish rural church. And hes working on a book for Christian men.
Bolstered by the recent talk about Christian womanhood, I was curious about his definition of Christian manhood. I asked if he was going to address single Christian men in his book and mentioned the single guy friends of mine who have attended Promise Keepers conventions and the like and been disappointed to find the presenters discussing only good husbandhood and fatherhood. What of good manhood? Surely being a good husband and father–and single guy–flow from being a good godly man first.

As we were both asking about and sharing our ministry passions, I didnt want to get on a soapbox. But when I mentioned some of the left-out feelings we singles can feel on Sunday mornings, Pastor Rick was surprised. He, whod married young and had two small kids at home, hadnt given much thought to the singles in his congregation. Given his background, and the fact that there probably arent many singles in his small rural congregation, that made sense. When I mentioned how much of the population we represent, he was astonished. "I had no idea," he responded, and then asked more questions about the single dynamic.

At the end of our conversation, I sheepishly thanked him for listening to me go on and on about singles and our sometimes-precarious place in Christian circles. His gracious reply moved me, "No, thank you for sharing your perspective. I needed to hear this. I think this conversation was God-ordained." A week later when I was back in my office wading through backed-up correspondence, I was delighted to find a note from Pastor Rick tucked amidst the memos and press releases. He once again thanked me for sharing my thoughts with him, and mentioned that hed talked with his church staff just that morning about better serving the singles in their congregation.

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