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Posts Tagged ‘widows’

I have been pondering the relationship between singleness and widowhood (or widower-hood) for about a year and a half, maybe more.  Several friends have lost spouses and been willing to share bits of their post-marriage life with me.  My grandma has way less experience with singleness than I have, but entered it when my grandpa died over a year ago.  In some ways these people can mentor me.  They can look on single life with the wisdom of more years than I have.  In other ways I get to encourage them, with the perspective of someone who’s had plenty of time to think about the consequences of singleness.  I can point them to finding their identity in Christ rather than in their relationships.  I can share with them that I know relationships with every other single person suddenly got more complicated.  I can pray for them as they seek God for what to do with their new-found time.  I can pray for them as they wait on God for remarriage (if that is what He is leading them to do), just as I pray for my single friends waiting for God to bring them their husbands or wives. 
 
One way or another, there is more commonality between widows and single people than between those who are married and single people.  We always-been-single people have less acute grief, but, if we desire marriage, still have a sort of long-term sadness over the years we have been alone. 
 
A year ago, teacher and author RC Sproul, Jr. lost his wife to cancer.  He’s been blogging on and off about the experience since then.  Today he said this: “The wait that I have has now multiplied, because I am without her. This past year has been not just the hardest, but the slowest of my life. I wake earlier than I wish, and lie awake at night while wanting to sleep. The things I once looked forward to no longer appeal. Isn’t half the blessing of a blessing having someone with whom to share it?”  And as I read that I thought that he was well expressing something that I’m coming to understand.  Maybe he noticed it because it was a change from what he was used to, and I have not noticed it so clearly because I just gradually came into experiencing life this way. 
 
But life and waiting seem expanded because the waiting itself keeps me awake, distracts me.  Time is going slowly for me – but too fast when I look backwards.  I’m grateful my days are full.  Grateful that most of the time waiting doesn’t distract me completely from living.  I’m grateful even for the earlier mornings or the later nights when I am praying about the loneliness and the waiting. 
 
I don’t think that it is wrong to notice that some activities aren’t as appealing when you’re single.  It isn’t necessarily discontent – though it could be, and it is worth guarding against! 
 
This is the life that God has given me.  Let us rejoice and be glad in it!  Let us be honest about what it is and isn’t.  Let us present to God the desires of our hearts.  Let us not grow weary in doing good.  Let us embrace waiting, and fully grieve things that are truly sad.  Let us celebrate the things that are true blessings! 
 
Two of my bestest friends got engaged this month.  The two friends who honored me by allowing me to be a bridesmaid in their weddings have each come to Colorado to visit recently.  These circumstances are giving me opportunity to rejoice in the blessing RC Sproul, Jr. talks about: the double blessing of sharing a blessing with someone else.  I’m the voice of “awww!” when a husband holds a door open; when a fiance chooses something that her beloved prefers even though it isn’t her favorite; of celebrating the good plan of God in bringing people together and building love and unity between them.  I’m laughing and giggling and sharing with them my perspective of the value marriage has.  I know marriage is hard work, but it is a privilege.  It is a work of faith in a trustworthy God.  It is rewarding.  It is mysterious and amazing! 
 
This practice, of encouraging my almost-married and newly-wed (relatively) friends, may be rubbing off.  It may be hard for me to stop noticing love and forgiveness and cooperation and complementing gifts and servant-heartedness and fruitfulness – and pointing them out: amongst longer-married people, and between friends, and in the Church.  I’m excited!  God is revealing to me more and more that He desires His people, His image, to be recognized in our love for one another!  I pray for it and seek it and delight in it!   
 
To God be all glory,
Lisa of Longbourn

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I’m in between churches right now – between congregations. All summer and fall I’ve been casually attending the meetings of various friends. I can’t tell you how wonderful it feels to not be obligated to make an appearance at any one building on a Sunday morning. I might tell a friend I’m coming, or I might decide Saturday night. Some Sundays I sleep in. Sunday morning heathenism is rather refreshing.

Except it isn’t heathenism. A lot of what happens in those buildings on Sunday mornings is of heathen origin. But heathenism is a lot more than skipping a sermon and praise concert. It is a lifestyle of rejecting God, and that I certainly have not done.

I believe the Bible teaches Christians to gather regularly with each other. That isn’t something I have abandoned either. My recent experience is filled with times of fellowship and encouragement with other believers. We do ministry together, hold each other accountable for our walks with God, philosophically tackle the dilemmas we’re facing, study the Bible, and pray. During these times we also tend to eat, to play games, to laugh and tease, sometimes to work. Kids running around get swept up by disciples of Jesus, who – like Him – love children.

About a month ago some friends invited me to their church. I went that weekend. This week they asked me what I thought, and didn’t I like it (since I hadn’t been back). And I froze, because, well, I did like it. The people were friendly and the teachings were biblical and stimulating. But I don’t think I’ll join. This Sunday I did go back there, though. And my friends’ thirteen-year-old son confronted me, “I thought you said our church was just ‘ok’.”

Hard to explain. This particular church is on the good end of mainstream churches. They have good doctrine. A lot of their money goes to missions. Kids are with parents in church for most of the time, and youth aren’t separated from their families. The music isn’t too loud or too self-centered. With a congregation of about 50, the pastor and teachers can know everyone.

After pondering for a day or so, here is my answer to the thirteen-year-old friend: (it’s alliterative so I can remember!)
1) Plurality. There is only one pastor at the church. He’s the head man. I believe Jesus is the head of the Church, and that leadership beneath Him must be shared among more than one equal. Whenever real life cases are discussed in the New Testament, the word is used in the plural. (Elders) In this way they can model cooperation and problem solving. Congregations and pastors are kept mindful that Christ is the true head, and that the Church is His project. Also, when one is weak, there is another to be strong, the proverbial man to pick you up when you fall. Two are better than one and a cord of three strands is not easily broken. Pastoring is a lonely job, being at the top instead of a part of your congregation as friends and brothers. My Bible describes a different sort of dynamic, where pastors are respected for being respectable and where everyone is exercising his gifts for the good of all: pastors, prophets, discerners, helpers, administrators, on and on.
2) Property. This was quite confusing to my friend, who expects people to scorn his church for meeting in the club house of a condominium complex. Whether you own a building, rent it, or have borrowed money from a bank to claim that you own it, all represent instances where the Church of God has used resources God entrusted to them not to do what He has instructed: caring for the poor, widows, orphans, and missionaries – but to have a separate place to meet. I believe churches are meant to be gathered in homes. Limited in size, surrounded by hospitality and everyday life, the atmosphere of house church encourages the participation of everyone, the familial fellowship of believers, and the synthesis of sacred and secular.
3) Preaching. The New Testament describes and even commends preaching. Except almost always the lecture style sermon was delivered to an unsaved audience. It is a tool of evangelism. And evangelism is not the purpose of the regular gathering of believers. In fact, the church meetings described in 1 Corinthians are much more open and unstructured than what we usually think of as church. No one was scheduled to speak. Anyone (any man?) was allowed to bring a word, be it a prophecy, a teaching, a tongue – as long as he spoke it for the edification of the group. He may share a testimony of God’s work or an instruction or challenge the Spirit laid on his heart to give to his friends. A teaching might be towards an identified deficiency of understanding or may flow out of the studies individuals are making during the week on their own. Prophecy may correct the direction the congregation is going, may identify weaknesses and strengths among them, may warn them, or may give them hope and vision for the future. Some verses indicate that individuals may also bring songs of their choosing to the meetings of believers, with which to encourage each other.

Now that I’ve said those things, I do believe that there is a place for the lecture-style teaching we call sermons. I really enjoy Bible conferences, and am not opposed to worship concerts where the band has practiced and is intending to honor God. When I visit my friends’ churches, I usually view those services as conferences, and I look for the Spirit-driven gatherings elsewhere. At this stage of my life I’m not content with the small groups and Bible studies that have been getting me by. So I’m still looking, reading books and searching websites from people who are practicing what the Bible teaches about Church. I’m excited to see where that leads.

Some questions remain, stronger tensions between the familiar and the ideal: how is authority supposed to work in the church? Is it important? Is it a matter of exercising authority or of submitting to authority? How much should we submit? What shall Christians do for evangelism? Wouldn’t it be better to team up? But is it wrong to invite people in to hear the gospel, or should we go out to them? Are women to speak in the church meetings? If not, why on earth did Paul say so? – Just to prove I don’t think I know everything!

To God be all glory,
Lisa of Longbourn

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