Monday, June 21, 2010

Acutely Aware of My Church?

Author: Susan L. Prince

To those of you who have followed the Sisters' Weblog since it's inception in 2002, you are well aware of the fact that my friend Katie and I shared a home.  In this house, she raised her two children and I was blessed to have been a part of that for almost ten years.  For those of you new to this blog, you may want to read more about my story from the homepage, Sisters in Christ. 

When we moved into this house in July 2001, her daughter was eight years old, and her son was 11.  (I think)  Needless to say, it was rarely a dull moment in this household for many years.  Good times and bad times came and went.  We called ourselves a framily, or friends + family.  The phrase has caught on and some in our church have been known to use the term of endearment when describing a very close knit church family and any gathering of good friends.  

For those many years, almost an entire decade, we attended Northbrook Church as a framily.  Eventually, the kids would be off sitting with the youth at another area of the church, but my friend Katie and I sat together as friends, worshiping God.  Third row, right side, the two chairs closest to the center aisle.  My seat was the second chair into the row, and Katie's was the chair on the aisle.  Katie is a demonstrative worshiper so she needed the extra space.  I miss that.

Times are different now.  The kids are off living their own lives.  Katie married a wonderful man and they are happily building a marriage in Alabama.

And, here I sit.  Alone in this house. 

For the most part I enjoy my aloneness.  Honestly, I did want it at times, but in my ignorance, I didn't realize the permanence of the situation, or what it would really feel like to live totally alone.  It takes some adjusting for sure.

I'm not posting this to complain about my current state of being, but rather just put it out there and say what I'm feeling as I work through this new time in my life. 

I've pinpointed the two times that I most feel most alone.  The first is anytime I come home after a long trip when I've been away for a few days.  I used to be greeted at the door to hugs and happy faces.  Now, nothing.  The second time I feel most alone is when I go to church.

This is not something I expected.  I never expected to be made aware of my singleness at church and feel so alone there. I want to reassure my church family, that I do NOT feel unloved I know I am loved.  I hope to explain this in a way that is easily understood, but, still, may only be understood by those who have walked in similar shoes.

All those years I sat next to my friend.  Now I sit next to no one.  Again, this is not a plea for people to come sit next to me.  Far from it.  You see, I have gone many places by myself.  I go to restaurants and eat by myself.  I go to the movies by myself.  I go to the park and sit by the lake by myself.  I have gone to concerts by myself.  I like doing things by myself.  Sure, I like to share experience with friends, but I really don't mind doing many things by myself.  That is just what single people do. I even did church by myself for a good year before I moved to TN.  I didn't feel alone then, though, like I do now at church.

I've been perplexed by this reality of wanting so bad to get to worship with my church family, and then when I am there, I become acutely aware that I am alone.  I become aware of my singleness.  I become aware of how different my life is today from ten years ago, five years ago, two years ago, and even from last year.  Everything is different and being at Northbrook just seems to highlight the difference.  This is not a bad thing, it is just what is.  

I still leave the aisle seat available when I seat myself.  I look around and see so many new faces, and miss the faces I no longer see.  Faces of the kids, Justin front and center almost every week sitting with his youth friends, and Tiff usually off on the other side of the church, or possibly in the back helping with the children or nursery.  I just miss them being here.  I miss Katie sitting to my left, worshiping, and the both of us taking notes on the message, usually to discuss it later in the day in more depth.

I do rejoice that the framily is all moving on with life and living for the Lord, albeit all separately, but at church I am reminded of what is no longer my existence.  Everything is so different and it is the one place that brings that into the light. 

I notice families.  And I notice the empty chair to my left.

I notice couples.  And I notice the empty chairs to my left and right.

I notice children scrambling to get to Kingdom Kids.  And I notice that I never have to move out of the way of a child on a mission.  (Of course, that may be due to other reasons!  They smell the fear in me!  LOL)

Again, this isn't a bad thing, it is just what is. 

And it is what God is bringing me through right now.  :)  I choose to put my hope in God.  I can feel Him working in me.


  1. "I have not experienced..." above-not that I recall anyway. It sounds like you helped raise those kids and you are going through "empty nest syndrome."....")

  2. I usually have plenty of people asking me to join them for meals and whatnot. Northbrook is pretty good about doing life together. Also, Chuck, the pastor, has said to the gathering at times that he doesn't want to see people sitting alone and encourages us to intentionally involve ourselves with others', especially those who appear by themselves.

    I wonder sometimes if our personal situation just makes us hypersensitive to noticing something.

    I have a friend who desperately wants to be married, so all she notices is happy couples pictured in Christian advertising in magazines, CD covers, etc. I said, "really? I've often noticed how unhappy and dark some Christian CD covers are!" So, I guess it is all about what we tune into? I don't know.

    I know that it is my singleness that God was able to use in the situation of helping my friend and her kids, and I know that it is my singleness that He can use to affect the Kingdom in other ways if I let Him. :)

  3. Wow, I feel the same way after becoming widowed. We were in a Sunday School class with all couples when he died...small church-only Sunday School class available to our age group. About a year later, we (my daughter and I) changed churches. Again, it's a small church. I've been wondering and praying lately if it would feel better to go to a large church where maybe I wouldn't feel like I stick out in the crowd.

    Also, not only what you described but we see the families with both parents there asking the other familes with both parents to go do stuff right after church and at other times but not us.

  4. I don't know where my former comment ended up so here it is again...

    i had tears as I read this. It blesses me so much that you recognize my place beside you when you are at church. I love when I come visit and I get to sit there. It is such an honor. I have no idea what I wrote the last time but I do know that God has special plans for both of us as we enter into this new season in life.

    I am excited to see what He is going to do!

  5. Thanks for "reposting" your lost comment. I really have no clue what happened to it. I never saw it. :(

    Well, the framily is a big part of my life! Just because we aren't sharing a roof anymore, doesn't mean we can't share a bit of each other's lives when God allows it. :)