My Dallas Church Preached a Sermon on Singleness, and I Lost My Mind

It’s not very often that I hear a sermon and mentally scream, “IS THIS REAL LIFE?” but my good friend Mike Stroh preached on singleness at my Dallas church, and it IS real life.  I remember very specifically one Father’s Day sermon years ago that exalted marriage and parenthood, and I sat there biting back tears thinking, “this is not for me, this is not for me, this is not for me.”  I felt so incredibly alone in my church pew.  THIS SERMON, however, made me want to dance around screaming, “this is for me! this is for me!”

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Mike opens the sermon assuring listeners that this is not a token sermon to make singles feel better, it is instead a theology of singleness for everyone, from which everyone should learn.  Thus begins Mike’s habit of using incredibly specific terms that my single friends and I have complained about the church not using.  I’ve had many lunches where my single friends lamented the lack of a theology of singleness – we talk about the biblical basis of marriage ALL THE TIME and so it is valued.  Why don’t we talk about the biblical basis for singleness?  (For the record, Mike is married to the amazing Libby Stroh, which makes me love his sermon even more.  Being married is, in our Christian culture, the privileged position, and it is mostly from the mouths of the privileged that change can occur.)   Continue reading

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Goodbye Dallas

Today I leave Dallas.

The three years I lived here weren’t especially fancy.  I arrived a 24-year-old, and now I am 27.  I graduated from seminary with a Master’s in Biblical Counseling.  I traveled to three new states.  I got a tattoo.

But the most significant memories are subtler.  I lived with six women who taught me, laughed with me, and let me rant about gender roles in the church.  I nannied two children who adored my silliness.  I learned from professors who deepened my understanding of my identity as person made in the image of God.  I attended a church that taught me to depend upon weekly Communion and the grace of God.

I think, though, that the biggest change that has happened in Dallas has been my emotional growth due to my time spent in counseling.  I attended 20 individual sessions, and my primary goal was to learn to be vulnerable, especially when it came to showing sadness and anger.  I grew a lot during those sessions, but mostly I intellectualized myself away from really sharing how I felt.  I never cried in front of my counselor.

I attended 8 group counseling sessions, and my world broke open.  I opened up about some really hard feelings, cried (and apologized for crying) in front of my peers, and heard, “Before, I just thought you were ‘nice,’ but I didn’t really know you.  Now you’re a real person.  I like you more because you let yourself cry.”  That was the first time I cried in front of someone since high school, I think.

Yesterday, my church commissioned me for my time in Greece.  Our elders laid hands and prayed for me and several other men and women going on mission trips.  I hugged my church family goodbye, and immediately teared up.  “I didn’t want to cry!” I said.  The person I hugged happened to be a counselor.  “Why don’t you want to cry?” he asked.  “No, don’t do that!” Another friend came up and hugged me.  She’s tall, so I got to bury my face in her shoulder and sob a little.  And she’s emotionally healthy, so she cried with me.  When we made watery eye contact, she told me, “Your tears are precious.”

I cried a lot yesterday.  I said goodbye to dear friends that I consider family.  I ate, laughed, and hugged.  And now I’m leaving.  But my tears are precious, because they mean that Dallas mattered.  I had so much fun here.  I’ll miss this place, and my time here, deeply.  And I’ll be back.