Lonely at Church


kelly christian -lonely at church3By Kelly Christian |  Instagram

I sat in my seat at church and began to write a prayer that said, “I thought I was okay. But I’m not. I really need your people, Lord.”

For the last nine months we have been attending a new church and until recently I have joked that this is the first time in my whole life that I am watching my husband make friends left and right and I know no one. Think invisible cloak. At first it was funny to me and I enjoyed it, sending him off after the service was dismissed with a joking, “Okay you go talk to your friends and I’ll just, you know, stand around and stuff. But I’m good! Go!”

And I was good. I was happy for him to have guys because a lot of times guys are not awesome at being welcoming and friendly. I figured my time was coming. Around the next bend. Nope. The next one. Nope. Hm. While I waited, I wandered around. I stood. I watched. I made eye contact. I mouthed, “Hi.” I smiled. I looked approachable most weeks (I think). I walked around. I sat in a seat alone instead of booking it out the door. But none of it led to anything much.

I think the fact that I’ve visited dozens of churches and gone to five churches at each of the places we’ve lived, I know what’s coming, I know it takes a while to get involved, and I also know that no one is perfect. Everybody in the room is in a different state. A lot of people are just in church mode: enjoying the service, saying hi to their friends, and taking off for lunch. Some people really don’t want to be there. Some people are there and hurting immensely. All of this is happening in one service.

I have a rational side that is very pulled together when I’ve admitted I’m lonely at church. “Rational Me” is very understanding that the church is a mess, you’re a mess, and I’m a mess, so there’s a ton of grace and I’m not bitter or going to give up. Rational Me says what lots of Christians would say to me: “If you want to meet people, maybe you should pursue them the way you wish they would pursue you.” I’ve probably said that to countless people who’ve either mentioned feeling lonely or outright complained about people being uncaring. Hey it’s valid. Great point. Yes. Amen. I’ll get right on that.

But I also have a Just a Girl side. And not just a girl who would like to feel included in church. I happen to be a girl who is also hurting. A lot. Who is duking it out in relationships and in life and in her identity. And if you could see the bruises on my spirit, you would think I’ve mostly been losing. I’m fighting for a comeback. The Lord is surprisingly kind and exceedingly gracious. But. I could really use the ministry of the church. This is why it’s not an easy fix it when someone says, “Why don’t you just go up to people?”

Even as I write this essay, I am waiting for what I hope. This essay doesn’t end with someone walking up to me and me rejoicing right after that prayer I wrote about needing God’s people. Sometimes that happens. I love a quickly answered prayer. But it isn’t this time and that’s a real story for lots of us. In fact, right after I wrote the prayer, during a break in the service, a girl in my row smiled at me, passed by me and sat down with a girl right behind me. She asked her some things and then invited her to lunch after church that day. And it nearly felt cruel that I had just in tears asked God to send his people to me because I did in fact need them. But that prayer was not answered. Divine graces are encouraging, but that’s not always how it goes.

As for my ongoing story, I am the girl in the eighth-ish row on the right side of church for the ninth month straight who is mostly always crying and is not yet being met there by her sisters in Christ. In the waiting, Just a Girl Me has some choices to make.

One choice is to respond in unbelief and be swarmed by lies. This week I wanted to do that. I was just done. I began to agree with isolating thoughts like, “Why are you still sitting here? You’re not waiting for someone are you?” These thoughts can stay on this level or they can begin to attack your very worth with, “No one cares about you. You aren’t approachable. You’re not the kind of person anyone wants to know.” These thoughts will lead to debilitating views of yourself, of the people in the room, and eventually will probably lead to a depression and/or isolation. I know because I have been there.

But the other choice that rises up when I am lonely and wish I weren’t is to believe in who God says I am, to be held by truth, and to keep hope close. It’s okay to want friends and to want to connect with sisters and to want to be encouraged. I am not idolizing people because I want to experience the fullness of the body of Christ. (Do not let anyone tell you that). I can want friends and still be okay. I must recognize my true identity, because that’s where my head rises up. I am God’s beloved daughter. He really, really loves me. And he’s right there with me. I am not less. I am not nobody. I am worth knowing and worth befriending, and he has given me a heart to recognize that worth and dignity in his other lovely daughters as well.

In this mindset, I can sit in my church, without a friend, not knowing when that will change and feel completely well. That is no joke. That is not some kind of Christian feel good garbage. I am seriously believing with all kinds of okay-ness, and even irrational confidence, that things will not remain as they are.

As I sit and stand and wander this life in the cloak of my daughterhood, no matter what happens in this story next, I am not alone in the body of Christ. God has invited me.

I have a place here. And I’ll find it.

About Kelly:

KellyKelly Christian is ever reckoning life through wonder and conversations, always wishful for the next chance to put everything that means anything into type. Her heart is riveted by faith, questions, beauty, creation, identity, and sparks in conversations with strangers and friends alike. Kelly resides in Charlotte, North Carolina where she writes nonfiction, teaches English as a second language, and enjoys loving on her four little dignified souls alongside her husband. Find snippets of her life and writing on Facebook and Instagram @kellychristianwrites.