i am not the good news

“This might feel a little junior high, but could you all just… join hands right now?”

YES SIR, I think, thrilled at what he is saying, I’ve been waiting so long for a worship leader to ask me to acknowledge the others in the room, he’s saying how we are the body of Christ and if this were an amen-saying church I’d be shouting amen. But a half-second later I realize the only people on this row, near the door, behind a pillar, are me and the only other single girl I’ve ever seen come here alone. I don’t know her, but it seems this is our station. I meet her eyes, take her hand. Turn back toward the stage.

“Can I hold your hand?”

Here is a woman I don’t know in the row ahead, ignoring her husband’s outstretched hand to sweep the two of us into her family as the congregation strings itself like beads down the rows and I wonder at her noticing us and I sing to God with these strangers, my sisters. Thank him for a church whose leaders love the Bible and whose people love each other. Remember why I keep coming back, alone – because I’m not.

We line up for Communion in families, here, and for once I am not the stray; Katie is behind me (her name is Katie) and I can’t wait to invite her, her face is glad, and we feast together and no one’s a stray. I nearly beg her to join us for lunch, me and my older friends, mentors, the parents of my friends who are not here. In the back of my mind, I’m only here for two months, and Katie will stay for a long time in Cumming, land of the nuclear family, hardly a twentysomething in sight; but there is little so agonizingly awkward as church alone. I see her eager to connect. It won’t be better elsewhere.

She comes and we all feast again, we get acquainted, and these dear families commence the usual uproarious conversation. Stories. Opinions. Laughter, always so much laughter, and the subject changes quick as the conversations of lightning bugs but Katie holds her own. I’m inexplicably proud of her, my brand-new friend, and bowled over with the blessing of these extra aunts and uncles folding her in without a blink. After a minute two hours are gone.

All along I’m struck with how strange it is, that I’ve been thinking over and over how there’s no one my age in this city, almost convinced that’s the literal truth, just itching to get out and move on. And suddenly here’s another, newly arrived to town and she’s got a couple roommates but there must be a lonely ache sometimes. So while I rail against the constriction and the loneliness of this Target-brand suburb I’ve already got an escape plan; but she’s just making do. At least at church she is.

So where’d I get the idea that any of this is about my happiness? When did I decide that God owed me a life free of lonely summers? If in this season all he gives is a couple old friends and a stranger-lady’s hand, heaven help me understand the astonishing grace in it. And if in this season all I accomplish is to watch God set the lonely in families, heaven help me overcome my selfish soul and rejoice.

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  1. Jacqueline in Atlanta

     /  June 25, 2012

    I don’t think we learn much while we are deliriously happy. We learn while we are aching, striving, angry, questioning, uncertain, lonely, struggling. When we move under the opium effect of our own satisfaction with our ability to order our own little Universe, we don’t absorb many life-changing lessons. In my life I learned about who I am and about God is through break-ups with guys, through money struggles, through my husband’s layoffs (two now!), through bosses who seem determined to run me off, through my company closing my office, through the betrayal of a close friend, on and on. That’s why now, when my life is in an easy place to live, I can’t help but think, “Enjoy it while it lasts!”

    I also think those who have never suffered and conquered have little to share with others. Not many can relate to Pollyanna.

  2. Caleb

     /  June 26, 2012

    Actually, I would say that while it seems that those who haven’t experienced or conquered suffering seems off.
    I take that everything I have comes from a better understanding. It’s after going through the hard things that you learn to enjoy life. Experience can give greater meaning to happiness.
    Because since you realize you have so much to lose, or have lost, that there is so much more you can gain. So whatever your situation, realizing that achieving happiness is found by saying “Yes, I don’t have everything. But I do know is that God is the one who gives everything. The Lord gives when I can’t hold anymore; and the Lord takes when I think I’ve lost everything. But I have never lost him. And God is Happiness.” That is all I need to know.


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