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Solitude, singleness and security3 months ago
In this week’s ReSource Blog Eleanor Jeans, one of our Trustees, reflects back on her experience of the pandemic as a single person, and on the spiritual discipline of solitude. Eleanor also introduces her new course, ‘Securely Single’, written for those living a single life, and as a resource for churches.
My final sermon before we went into lockdown last year was on the Spiritual Discipline of ‘Solitude’. I’m not joking – it really was! I remember writing the sermon and trying to be positive but being very aware of the irony. I tried to link to the way some were already isolating due to symptoms but preparing people for what was on the horizon – an opportunity to spend time with Jesus. Now, solitude is, of course, a spiritual discipline, something we do purposefully. What happened next was very much enforced!
Little did I know that, 16 months later, things would not be back to what I knew then as ‘normal’. I wasn’t aware of the phrase zoomed-out, or how many facemasks I would go on to make! I wasn’t aware that, as a single person, I would spend the next 4 to 5 months having no physical interactions, no hugs, no face-to-face conversations – everything on a screen. I wasn’t aware of the term ‘bubbling’ either – but boy was I glad of it when it came along!
Loneliness is not new
The pandemic has highlighted many things; from the fragility of some relationships to the struggle those with post-viral fatigue face and many more besides. But the whole area of loneliness, especially for those who are single and on their own (although you can be lonely in a relationship or even in community and for many other reasons) has been magnified by this time.
However, loneliness is not new. The fact that the government announced a loneliness strategy in 2018 reminds us of that. That strategy highlights that 1 in 5 people seen by GPs talk about being lonely.
For many who are single (and by single, I mean those not in a romantic relationship either because they have never married or are divorced or widowed), loneliness may well be a reality of their current situation. Yet, it’s not the only symptom. As a single person, I have found myself feeling like a third wheel at church events, or being unsure where I fit in. I have struggled to understand why a particular person has met someone and got married and I haven’t. I have looked at marriage with rose-tinted spectacles and have dreamed of meeting the right person, all the while knowing that marriage is hard work. I have sat in the ‘waiting room’ for marriage and been tempted to not get on with my life, to not bear fruit and live a fulfilled life as I am.
If you are single and reading this, does that sound familiar to you? If you’re not single, how do you react?
The secret of being content in any and every situation
Yet, being single can be (I believe) something positive, something beautiful, something fulfilling. What I long for is for single Christians to, like Paul, learn the secret of being content in any and every situation (Phil 4:12-13). Actually - not just for single Christians!
A few years ago, I was at a Christian Summer Festival. It felt as if all the speakers were directing their messages at me. The Holy Spirit was at work, showing me who I was and who I was called to be. By the end of that week, I felt more content in my singleness and had a vision to help other single Christians discover this too. ‘Securely Single’ was born.
I had written the material earlier and had been encouraged to do something about it, but now I was certain that God was calling me to do something more with it. I began to push doors to publishing. However, every door I knocked on was closed in my face. It was discouraging.
Yet here I am, a few years on with a published course, thanks to the sponsorship of Single Friendly Church. And I hope and pray it will be used to glorify God and encourage and build up single Christians.
Securely Single is a positive course. It aims to help people see that their worth is not in their marital status but as a child of God. It reminds and encourages participants to grow in their relationship with Jesus as well as develop healthy and life-giving friendships. It promotes the importance of living lives fully and fruitfully, not waiting around for the perfect partner (of course, this does not stop someone meeting one!).
As Christians, how we support and care for those who are single can bring so much more to our churches and make a massive difference for the Kingdom of God. If we care for and encourage those who are single, just think how they might in turn want to invite their friends. There are many ways we can do that: thinking about how we set out chairs in our services so that someone on their own doesn’t feel they are different; ensuring we have a mix of married and single people in areas of leadership; being aware of language and, of course, running Securely Single!
So, what about you?
If you’re single, how has this last year been for you? Are you secure in your singleness? If so, how might you encourage other single Christians to be so. If not, how might God be speaking to you today? What might you need to ask the Holy Spirit to help you with today?
If you’re not single, I’m aware this year has also been a challenge for you. None of us have been exempt! However, how might you help to encourage and support those who are single? Do you know the percentage of single people in your church or community? It is very likely that there are more single people in both groups than you realise. It is also probable that there are more single people in your community proportionately than in your congregation. Thinking about and ministering in this area has the potential to grow God’s kingdom.
Solitude is a Spiritual Discipline
Security is something we can all know as children of God
Singleness can be a positive and fruitful life.