As a divorced single mom, it is so easy to feel out of place in church. Yes, there are tons of us in the world. But many churches still judge. After we moved, I tried many churches, looking for the right fit. Several of them were almost all married couples. Not even many singles, just families. It’s wonderful to be around families and I really want my daughter to see Godly Christian men, but we stuck out like a sore thumb.
And I think that many American churches today are like that. You are welcomed with open arms if you look a certain way, wear the “right” clothes, say the “right” things. But that doesn’t even begin to get at a person’s heart. A lot of us could fake it if we had to. And I think a lot of people do fake it. Who wants everyone to know when things are falling apart? Who wants to admit when life isn’t rosy? We seem to think we are the only ones who struggle and if we were “better” Christians, we wouldn’t have so much trouble. So we put on a really good front.
Really wrong. Not even close to the truth.
Jesus said “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33
We don’t need to be ashamed of our trouble. Jesus knew we would have trouble. And He knew we would make mistakes. Who did He spend the most time with? Who did he heal? He didn’t come to heal the healthy, but the sick. (Matthew 9:12) He came because He knew we would need Him. He isn’t surprised that my marriage fell apart. He isn’t surprised that I am a single mom. He came for me. If I never struggled, I wouldn’t get to see His provision and mercy.
Which I saw once again at church on Sunday.
It was a sermon on marriage and divorce. The sermon every single mom dreads. Why go? Why sit through it again and be made to feel like a failure because my marriage ended. I struggle to understand why my husband left. Why he didn’t want our family anymore. I will probably never be able to come to terms with it completely. And I don’t need to be reminded of what I am not. I am not a wife. I am not the woman who gets to be married to her first love for her whole life. I am not the mom who can say “Just wait til your father gets home.”
So there I sat. Waiting for the condemnation. The condemnation that never came.
I should probably have started by telling you that our pastor loves us. I think he is one of those rare pastors who loves his congregation really well, while still telling the truth from the Bible every Sunday. He doesn’t mince words. And he gave a good strong sermon on choosing the right person to marry. On staying pure until you are married. On honoring God in that 2nd biggest decision you will ever make.
Then he talked to us singles. He told the well-meaning married people to stop trying to set us all up. That it’s okay to be single. That it’s great to be single. And great to be married. Whatever God has for us, being in the center of His will is what matters.
And he ended by telling us all that we singles are not second-class citizens. And we divorced are not second-class citizens. That we matter to the church. That we belong. And I sat there with tears streaming down my face. We belong. We are loved and accepted and wanted at my church. I know this. I see this every Sunday. But hearing it at the end of what is normally the dreaded marriage sermon blew me away.
And I wonder if he will ever know how much good that did for the hearts of so many of us sitting in the pews.