In recent months, the church I regularly attend has focused on marriage. Marriage classes, marriage gatherings, marriage challenges. With the programming focus has come many announcements, emails, signage, and conversations.
I am glad. It’s important to me that people within the church (and not within the church) focus on healthy marriages.
But it’s also hard to feel left out.
Church—specifically, this church—is where my ex and I did a lot of our life. We both served in leadership. We shared friends, groups, and commitments. We did life together and with others.
Until he didn’t.
I think marriages have always been important to my church, but there were several situations, including my ex leaving me and the church, that I think renewed a focus. For that, I’m thankful.
It’s odd how I can feel both grateful for the opportunities the church is offering alongside a slap in the face reminder of my exclusion. I get to choose whether to let discouragement claw at me or keep it in the intended context.
In my vulnerability, I recently shared my feelings with a friend and mentioned the possible need for me to visit other churches for a while so that I could focus more on God than my frustrations. Not longer after, I sat in church, and the first announcement of the worship service involved an encouragement to married couples. There were goody bags ready for them to pick up with a challenge for the following weekend to spend time together. I would not be picking up a bag. I would not be going on a date and posting a photo with the designated hashtag. I didn’t belong.
And that’s when I remembered not belonging is okay. It doesn’t feel good but there have been many times I have belonged in a group or situation when others didn’t. Sometimes we like not belonging to a group, but sometimes it hurts.
I don’t have a perfect response that always makes me feel better. I’m not always able to get outside my own stuff in order to be patient with and have compassion for others. I have some down moments and days.
But I’m also able to see purpose in the hurt. I’m able to find hope among the discouragement. I’m able to appreciate what others have even when I don’t.
I get some opportunities others don’t have. I see some perspectives others don’t see. I’m glad for some and not so much for others, but I can find at least a smidge of appreciation it every piece of it.
Not everything is intended for me, and I’m okay with that.