Monday, February 16, 2009

To the most courageous people I know!

I think some of the most courageous people in the world today are single people. Let me explain where I'm coming from. I've been married for over half of my life, so I've not spent a lot of my adult years walking in their shoes.

In the last several months that has changed. I'm still married, but my husband has been pretty much bed-ridden for the last 5 months. This means that I go everywhere by myself or alone with my 12 year old son.

What I've found in recent days is that this world can be a very lonely place for a single mom. Do you know what the loneliest place of all is for me - the church. You have to remember, I've been in church my entire life. From the church nursery when I was just a few days old to the church parsonage just after getting married. I have always been in the center of church life.

But now, I'm walking down a different path. Do you know how much courage it takes to walk into the average church in America alone or as a single mom with a child? After being in the church for so long, I'm afraid we have forgotten how it feels to be the "visitor" or the "guest".

Since leaving our last pastorate, I have attended the same church for the past 5 months. Do you realize that there is only one person in that church who knows me by name? No one else has even bothered to ask? It's been a very humbling experience.

Three weeks ago my son spent the night with a friend and I decided I didn't want to sit in church alone. So I drove 30 minutes away to visit the church of my very dear friend. As I stood next to her in her new church I was hugged, greeted and welcomed profusely. I felt like I was finally at home again.

The next week I returned to the very same church with my son and sat one row behind my dear friend (she didn't know I was coming and her row was already full). Do you know that not one person (other than my friend) greeted me before the service started. During the greeting time in the midst of the service, only one other person shook my hand.

Do you know how awkward it was to stand there and have the friendliest church in the world being friendly all around me - with everyone but me?

I pray that my experience over the last several months will serve as a wake up call to us all. Anytime someone new comes through the doors of our church, we must treat them as an honored guest. Please introduce yourself to them by telling them your first name - make it personal.

If they are alone, invite them to sit with you. Whether they take you up on it or not they will appreciate the gesture. Let them know that you are glad that they came! When the service is over, catch them before the fly out the back door and thank them for coming. Invite them to come back again.

To all of the guests over the years that I was too busy to stop and greet - I am so sorry. May I never forget how it feels to be on the outside looking in again. May I never be too occupied to stop and tell you how glad I am that you came. May I never forget the courage it took for you even to walk through the door. May I never forget.


petrii said...

To have this happen makes me so sad. I wish I could sit down with you and welcome you with open arms. Sometimes the church falls so short of what we should be.

I'm so sorry about your husband. I don't know the situation, but I do hope that things get better for you. If there is anything specific I can pray for you right now, please don't hesitate to email me. I will so pray!!!!!

Have a Blessed evening,

Marilyn in Mississippi said...

This is something that is so needed ! If we as church people can't make a visitor feel loved and welcome, how can we expect them to pay attention to the sermon? I think about the saying that I have heard..."We're a sermon in shoe leather." Thanks for bringing this to our attention!


"Just Me - NC Beth" said...

I have always tried to be sensitive to "new" people visiting our church...but now that I'm in the choir.....well now I "lead" the choir, I don't get the chance to meet and greet the newcomers. But I too know what that is like, to have no one speak to you....


YaYa's Funhouse said...

Yes, I have experienced the same thing in different
churches. Sometimes they feel like "little clubs" or you feel like an outsider peeking in through the window. I will be praying for your family. GOD IS GOOD ALL THE TIME

Yolanda said...

This hits my heart front and center this morning. We have been participating faithfully in our church home for 20 MONTHS and I can tell you that three women have sent me a card in those 20 MONTHS. I've lost a Granny and an Uncle and received one sympathy card, remember we are faithful to be there. I told my husband last week that my heart is breaking because these women are not reaching out to me, yet I reach out to them by sending cards and inviting them to participate in events.

Sister Lisa....what are we to do, you and I? Be strong and a LIGHT to others that are hurting from a hurt received with-in the church walls.

Lord, help us to over come because of YOU, not because of us. Amen.


Letters From Midlife said...

I'm so sorry for your experience but it has served as a wake-up call for me. The next time I'm at church I will look for someone who doesn't seem to know anyone or who is alone. Thank you for the gentle reminder.

Beth.. One Blessed Nana said...

Lisa, it just amazes that me that some of the most unfriendly places can be our churches. A place where love should abound! THis is so sad.

Our churh is just so friendly - it would knock your socks off! We are a very loving congregaation of people. I wish you lived here so you could come to church with me! ( I have a great Pastor) lol ( my sweet fella....)

You just hang in there. I will be praying for you and for the church members who need to get a dose of Jesus!!

In Him,

Beautiful Grace said...

Sometimes the most lonely place is the crowded one. I have felt the same way. My pastor encouraged us several years ago to give away what we don't have, meaning that if I need encouragement, then I should encourage others. If I need fellowship, then I should fellowship with others.

Thanks for the reminder for me to keep my eyes open for those who need a hug and a word of life.

Bless you, and may the God Who heals pour Himself out upon and through your husband. In Jesus' name! AMEN!!