Single Mom in Church

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Warning: this post contains sensitive material that may be a trigger to some. My intent is just to share my story in hopes that church leaders might learn to be more sensitive in their dealings with single parents in the church.

It was my very first visit to the singles group at the mega-church. As a single mom of a toddler, I wondered if I should even be going. I was still locked in a cage of shame and guilt over having a child out of wedlock, even though God used my sweet girl as the catalyst for saving my life and I adore her beyond measure.

I had been attending the single mom support group at church and I was v e r y  s l o w l y coming out of my shell. Over a matter of several months I built up the courage to dip my toes into a singles bible study.

I tentatively walked into the room that Sunday morning alone, ready to turn around the moment I felt unsafe. I saw two acquaintances from single mom group, and resolved that I would be okay. I was greeted kindly with big smiles but I didn’t say much. The pastor introduced himself and asked me my name and a few small-talk questions. He seemed laid-back and humorous. I perceived that maybe he was the class clown in high school.

The other singles mingled as if they were at a cocktail party, while I sat there, in near-panic mode with my heart thumping out of my chest.

Everyone began to take their seats as the pastor called the class to attention. He introduced me as the “newbie” in class and asked the crowd to make me feel welcome. He said a few jokes and a prayer and began his lesson. I don’t recall the scriptures his lesson was based on, but I remember the premise of his lesson was loving “those” people – people who are not seen as the “normal” church clientele. I gathered that he meant people who weren’t “good”. He shared a few scriptures and jokes (again), and proceeded to ask a question of the crowd. As soon as the question escaped his lips, I wanted to gag and run far away. He asked “What assumptions would you make of a woman who walked into this class who was a single mom who had a child out of wedlock?” Immediately I thought “Who told him about me?” “What in the world kind of question is that?”

The men in the class were more than willing to dive right into the discussion and share their assumptions about this woman:

“She’s promiscuous.”

Gulp

“She’s a slut.”

Double-gulp

“She’s filled with shame.” (yes, very true)

The pastor repeated their words after each statement.

The other women in the class seemed a bit disturbed too, but shared.

“She’s scared.”

“She’s looking for friendship.”

“She may have been raped.”

Mr. Pastor-man’s reply to that one “Well, yes, she could have been raped, but that is extremely rare.”

I briefly reflected and answered in my mind… “I was raped…not by my daughter’s father, but yes, it could happen and it’s less rare than you might think, unfortunately.”

The woman who provided that answer blushed and seemed to fill with rage but didn’t say another word. I didn’t say a word either (I could kick myself for that).

“What am I still doing here?” I thought.

The men seemed intent on continuing to share their thoughts:

“She has a shady past.”

“She is stressed out.” (Well, yes)

“She’s a party girl.”

Mr. Pastor-man continued to repeat every. single. word.

Finally, it all got to be too much and the tears started streaming down my face. I gathered up my things, shot the pastor and the rest of the class the dirtiest look ever (I felt like Carrie at the prom), ran out, slammed the door, and never went back to his class.

I shared with a few friends what had occurred. Some were outraged. Others were defensive of the pastor. They said they knew him well and he would never deliberately desire to hurt anyone. Others completely discounted my feelings and made me start to believe I was just overly-sensitive. One friend, a single mom, approached him about the lesson the following week at church. She was a member of the singles group, but had missed class that morning. We had lunch after church, and she told me he said he was very sorry and that if I had stuck around that I would have seen where he was going with it. I already knew what the people, at least the men in that class, thought of me. I wasn’t about to stick around. Besides, I would have barfed all over my table-mates.

Mr. Pastor quite possibly could have had a wonderful lesson after I left that room, but those words were branded on the chalkboard of my mind. Any shame I had walking into that room intensified beyond belief after that event.

The story doesn’t end there, thank God. For more about this, please read my post Religious Masquerade

 

I am very grateful to Pastor John Pavlovitz for this post, that gave me courage to share my story: A Pastor’s Apology to the Single Community

I am also very thankful to Elyse Fitzpatrick and Jessica Thompson who reminded me recently that I am a complete person and fiercely loved by my Creator.

My gospel friends on Twitter: I am brave enough to share because you are brave enough to share.

*Please note: Though their answers hurt me (and maybe others), the men in the class were honestly sharing their responses to the question. I know who the real enemy is. It was not the pastor or those men. So, the intent of this post was not to man-bash, but to exhibit the power of words.

A Pastor’s Apology To The Single Community

Christina:

I just had to share this…

Originally posted on john pavlovitz:

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This is a message to all those who are single or who have spent any years in the Church as a single person.

As a pastor who has served in local church ministry for the past 17 years, I wanted to apologize to you on behalf of so many of us who minister and who too often have failed you.

I am deeply sorry.

I’m sorry for the ways we unintentionally distanced you from community; the times that we overlooked your deep needs and your unique challenges as we planned and prepared.

I’m sorry for the times we relegated you to the segregated ghettos of Singles Ministry, making you feel that was enough to hold you over until you eventually graduated from your relational purgatory.

I’m sorry for the times you felt like an afterthought in our worship services. 

I’m sorry for the times you felt unwelcome or extraneous in our small groups.

View original 338 more words

Grief = Statement of Faith

Dad with the grandkids in 1998. One year before his death.

Dad with the grandkids in 1998. One year before he died.

This morning I woke up at 4:30 to use the facilities. After a sneeze attack and frustrating tossing and turning, I fell back to sleep about 5:30. I awoke again at 6:30. In that hour I had a dream about dad and was bawling my eyes out. I probably woke up all the neighbors. Yes, it was one of those gut-wrenching cries.

Grief is like that.

I beg you to please be gentle with those who grieve, even if it has been many years since their loved one died and you think they should be “over it” and “moved on” by now.

Dad was so vivid in my dream it was like he was sitting right beside me with his head on my shoulder. I miss him IMMENSELY!!

When I wake from something like that, I can’t help but miss him even more. I can’t turn that grief off, and I don’t think I would want to. That grief means my dad touched my life in a profound way. It means I look forward to seeing him again. It means that I know he is in Heaven. It means I trust that God has us in the palm of His hand and one day the tears will end.

But for now, while I am in this broken world, tears are good. They are a gift. I will accept the gift and take comfort that Jesus cries with me.

“Grief is a statement of faith that one day, things will not be this way.”  Tullian Tchividijian

The Disservice of Masks (Quote)

I have been working on a very long post about masks. In the meantime I’ll share this:

“When the requirement for acceptance in any particular group is to think certain thoughts, to act in certain ways, and to fit in certain molds—and we don’t think or act that way or fit the mold—we tend to fake it. We put on a mask that says, “I’m just like you. Now, will you please love me and accept me?” I can think of hardly anything that will kill your joy and freedom more than wearing a mask geared to get others to accept you because you are acting like them.

Allow me to let you in on a secret: Nobody fits the mold, and most of us wear masks to cause others to think we do. The greatest tragedy of the church is that, in many cases, the most dishonest hour of the week is the hour we spend at church.

I’m not suggesting that we let it all hang out. I grow quite uncomfortable with public and detailed confessions of sin. Some things ought to be shared with only one or two close and mature Christian friends. But when we give the impression that we have it all together and live “one hundred miles from any known sin,” when we preach and teach about sin with the implication that we are talking about others, when we seem to be anything other than what we are, sinners saved by grace—we do a great disservice to one another, and we become bound to the masks instead of free in Christ.” Steve Brown, A Scandalous Freedom

Spiritual Growth (Quote)

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Spiritual growth is not running faster, as in more meetings, more Bible studies, and more prayer meetings. Spiritual growth happens when we slow our activity down. If we want to meet Jesus, we can’t do it on the run. If we want to stay on the road of faith, we have to hit the brakes, pull over to a rest area, and stop. Christianity is not about inviting Jesus to speed through life with us; it’s about noticing Jesus sitting at the rest stop. While the church earnestly warns Christians to watch for the devil, the devil is sitting in the congregation encouraging everyone to keep busy doing “good things”.
Mike Yaconelli, Messy Spirituality

A Scandalous Freedom Excerpt

“I suspect we have all been admonished, preached to, judged, corrected, and disciplined by people who were committing the same sins that haunted us. In their efforts to make us feel guilty, they were simply diverting attention from themselves.

Some people find it very easy to manipulate others. They know that most people aren’t getting much better, and it is a short step from that knowledge to manipulation. Power and self-righteousness can be wonderfully addictive and easily acquired by accusing others. Believe me, I know; I’m an expert.

When Paul talks about the abolition of the law in the book of Romans, he gives us a powerful way to get better, because he knew that getting better wasn’t the point. Our relationship with God is the point, and that is the place where we ought to get obsessive. When I am obsessed with being better instead of being consumed with God’s love and grace, I become prideful if I can pull it off and self-centered if I can’t.

The greatest cause for our not getting better is our obsession with not getting better. There is a better way of getting better than trying harder. Sanctification becomes a reality in those believers who don’t obsess over their own sanctification. Holiness hardly ever becomes a reality until we care more about Jesus than about holiness.” Steve Brown, Scandalous Freedom

http://www.amazon.com/Scandalous-Freedom-Radical-Nature-Gospel/dp/1582293929

The Room of Good Intentions vs. The Room of Grace

Several blog posts chaotically flowing through my mind, but in the meantime, I’ll share this…

“The problem with masks is they keep you from being loved. Your mask receives love, you get nothing. You can’t even give out love.” John Lynch

Well worth the 43 minutes…