I’ve made a couple of attempts to plug in into the “Christian” community here in Colorado Springs, but it’s hard to really express why I’m having difficulty finding a good church in a way that most people could understand.
Churchians are so reared in the societal constructs of what constitutes a typical modern church today (complete with its cliques, social elements, and excessive attempts to pander to the youth) that I don’t think most are capable of recognizing the errors within, much like a fish cannot have water explained to it, since to that fish, it is everywhere.
So when I attend church, I attend as an outsider looking in. There’s always something about the atmosphere, or the preaching, or the people themselves that puts me ill at ease, to the extent that I can never comfortably stick around. People might argue that if I’m looking for the perfect church, I’m never going to find it, but I don’t agree at all that this is what I’m doing, and it just goes to show how the church bubble they continue to inhabit has blinded them from truly being able to understand where I’m coming from.
Part of it is because I’m an introvert and hearing impaired, and hence my spiritual walk is borne out of quiet reflection on spiritual things, while craving the intimacy of small, close knit groups, rather than being part of a larger, noisy congregation, especially one prone to generating cliques that further segregates the body of Christ. Everything is oriented towards the extroverted, and it takes a meticulous harnessing of social skills as an introvert to successfully plug into such a community.
Another reason is that I’ve lived an abnormal life that has made it difficult, if not impossible to relate to people. Very few can relate to one such as myself, who holds to a subset of Christian beliefs that is only held by an extreme minority, who has had to struggle with a disability that further hinders my ability to connect with others socially, and where I remain single while the vast majority of people my age are married with children. Unless Jesus is the true primary focus of a church, the yarn that binds people from all different walks of life together, there is virtually nothing left I’d have in common with Churchians that might help me to forge new relationships and achieve meaningful fellowship.
Most churches today are no longer true places of worship but an unapologetically social construct, a sanitized version of the high school caste system. I think most people who grew up with church having been regular a part of their lives are fair-weather Christians of a sort. They have little sense of what it’s like to be alienated from others, cut off from family or friends, or even abandoned by entire churches, where such alienation is compounded further by physical disabilities. I see a lot of them here, those who live the life of an affluent Christian, whose idea of suffering is when a barista gets their Starbucks order wrong. Their Christian beliefs are watered down and superficial at best, putting on appearances just enough so they remain indistinguishable from the rest of the church community and collective. As with the rest of the world, they will accept you, so long as you behave and act exactly as they do, and don’t make any waves.
I could do this myself, and in other areas of my life I do, suppressing so many aspects of my personality and beliefs in order to have better success connecting with others, even if they can never know who I really am, because if they did, I’d never be accepted. But with church it seems to be a bridge too far for me.
Others will say I chose this life, and thus any failure to fellowship and connect with others is wholly self-inflicted, an attitude that further alienates me even more because they simply cannot see what I do, having never walked a day in my shoes.
The only solution I see here has to be another miracle, just as the miracle that led me to Colorado eventually manifested, I have to trust and believe for yet another miracle that helps me find a way to serve and reconnect to the true body of Christ. And maybe in that, to finally find the love that has eluded me my whole life as well.
As I grew up and watched marriages around me implode in epic Chernobyl-like nuclear meltdowns, the eternal optimist in me refused to believe that would be my fate as well. Any future marriage I had was going to be all sunshine, rainbows and lollipops. Why? Because, LOoOOOoooOOoooOve!
Like a sappy Peter Cetera song, my future wife and I would dance and twirl to a magical land of marital bliss and happiness that would overcome all obstacles and trials, our souls forever intertwined as one. She would be my bestest ever friend, a doe eyed beauty who knew me so through and through that she could complete my very thoughts. There would be no misunderstanding, no sense of loneliness, no melancholy over having to face a cold and cruel world alone. We would overcome, together. A love so powerful it could be made… out of nothing at all.
Out of nothing at all…
Out of nothing at all…
Some might say my notion of marriage could be considered a tad… idealistic. (Just a smidgen.) I would scoff at these disgustingly vicious, jaded haters. What did they know? I remained convinced I alone KNEW the ingredients that would make a GREAT marriage, my expertise largely being derived from knowing the words to virtually every love ballad that had ever been produced during the 80s. I was well schooled in TRUE love, yo.
But then, somewhere along the way, something strange and alien started to permeate my fantasies of resting my head on my beloved’s bosom while I sipped hot cocoa and watched old episodes of the X-Files on Netflix.
I asked my best friend what might be this unwelcome and perverse feeling I have intruding into my wondrous fantasies of what I knew would become my marriage someday.
“I believe that feeling you’re experiencing is a little something called reality.”
Oh, no. Not that. ANYTHING BUT THAT.
But alas, sooner or later, I was going to have to come to grips with it. The marriage in my head was not going to reflect the marriage I would actually have.
A marriage that requires hard work, dedication, sacrifices and putting her before myself. It would no longer be about me anymore: it had to be about US.
Well sure, I get that. Nothing worth having in this world comes easy after all, amirite? Regardless of the costs, I knew the benefits would be WELL worth it. Like Jacob’s fervent love for Rachel, the sacrifices of gaining my beloved’s hand in marriage would be a prize well worth pursuing. No mountain was too high to climb, no valley too low, no river too wide to swim across. SHE WOULD BE WORTH MY LIFE.
As my idealism slowly gave way to my long neglected but still persistent logical side, I started to engage in a more serious cost/benefit analysis of marriage. Was it possible that I could actually get LESS out of a marriage than what I put into it? Would the costs outweigh the benefits?
I thought it was telling when I reflected that marriage was an investment in a previous post I wrote here, and a female commenter wanted to know why I would consider a marriage an investment. That mere comment right there spoke VOLUMES. It was the unspoken assertion that marriage isn’t in fact an investment that would reap dividends, but a black hole of responsibilities and burdens.
In Helen Smith’s book, Men On Strike: Why Men Are Boycotting Marriage, Fatherhood, and the American Dream – And Why It Matters, she breaks down some of the most compelling reasons why men would be hesitant to marry. It starts with the loss of friends, space and freedoms, and concludes with the high risks of losing your kids and your money while being subjected to a hostile family court system that overwhelmingly favors women. The risks of divorce is at least mitigated if you marry a virgin (the chances are a good 80% that women who were virgins at the time they married will be in a stable marriage.) Women closer to my age though will likely not be virgins, so the probability here drops from 80% to just over 50% and gets worse the greater their sexual history. Just having one sexual partner prior to becoming my wife means the marriage has a 1 in 2 chance of failing. A flip of the coin is all that separates me from potentially losing… everything.
In her Huffington Post article, Smith concludes:
“Is this good for society? Probably not, as falling birth rates and increasing single-motherhood demonstrate. But people respond to incentives. If you want more men to marry, it needs to be a more attractive proposition.
But rather than make marriage a more attractive proposition, the trend is to shame the ever living boondoggles out of men. Shame them up, shame them down, shame them round the merry-go-round. Nonstop, 24/7 shaming. Men who are purposefully single are selfish, self-absorbed, despicable scum sucking creatures of epic suckballs of suck whose standards are ridiculous and unrealistic, and the ONLY way they can prove they’re not is to MAN UP and MARRY UP. Marriage is hard, but see, if you’re a REAL man, you won’t mind the sacrifices you have to make. So get up off your fat, lazy bagshambos and start making babies with that lonely twice divorced single mom of six who just needs someone to love her!
So, yeah, ok, I get that marriage is hard. So what are women doing for their part to make it more attractive?
Well, nothing actually.
That doe-eyed beauty I’d fantasize about who would be my bestest friend evahs?? Well, it turns out the real life version of her would probably be a bit more… neurotic. The sort who would breathe epic nuclear fires of flaming death from her nostrils if I forget to take the trash out. The kind who creates drama that could fuel a thousand soap operas because this here pencil was two inches out of place on my desk, not because she’s particularly upset about the pencil mind you, but because she just needed to FEEL something.
The kind who fitness tests me despite the fact that I’m already her husband, just to make sure I’m still man enough to make her tingle.
The kind who gets on my heiny-ho every day to emotionally open up to her, and then when I finally do, she reacts with revulsion and disgust.
The kind who has been reared by a culture that has beaten into her brain that women are morally, mentally, spiritually and even physically(???) superior to men in every shape, form and way. The kind who absolutely will not take responsibility for anything she says or does because she is never, ever, EVER wrong.
The kind who doesn’t bring anything to the table because she feels just her very mere existence should be more than enough for me.
The kind who, after I’ve had a long day of work dealing with all kinds of grief with crazy coworkers, appalling incompetence, belligerent bosses, tremendous workloads, finds me unwinding on the couch with my iPad… and thinks that’s the only thing I did all day.
The kind who thinks the highlight of our marriage was our wedding day.
The kind who throws an absolute fit when I play a video game for 30 minutes, but expects me to understand she needs time to herself when she goes out with the girls for an 8 hour long shopping spree (complete with a lovely evening at the local spa.)
The kind who thinks my dog that I’ve loved and cared for since it was a pup is too big and too hairy and that I need to get rid of it, and then lay guilt trips on me by forcing me to choose between her and the dog, (and if I TRULY loved her it would be an easy decision.)
And the worst part of it? She won’t do anything to change her behavior. Her church will take her side. Her family will take her side. Even that homeless guy down the corner who’s homeless because his ex-wife took him for everything will take her side. She won’t change because again, the problem isn’t her, it’s me. It’s ALL me.
This is the kind of woman our society churns out like homemade butter. What man in his right mind would sign up for this?
Really? Just… really?
See, the doe eyed girl of my fantasies would be worth fighting for. She’s worth making 20 babies with and handing all my credit cards to (because my heart doth safely trust in her.) A mere smile from her would inspire me to do things I’d never think I could do otherwise. Nothing is impossible, no dream beyond reach. I’d run faster, work harder, leap higher than I’ve ever leapt before, all for her. I would give her the world. I would give her my life. She’s worth all that, and more.
But the doe eyed girl of reality? Yawn. She’ll be inspiring alright, inspire me to check out the latest video game deals on Steam that is. Besides, such a girl would hardly need me to fight for her. She’s like all strong and independent, yo.
There’s a saying, “A bachelor looks before he leaps – and then does not leap.” More and more men are taking the time to look before they leap into marriage, and deciding that the institution of marriage today offers very little incentive and a whole LOTTA disincentive. Aside from sexual access (LOL, excuse me, I meant occasional sexual access) there just isn’t that much there. And as a result men are checking out en masse and going Galt, so to speak.
So where does that leave me?
I think for one thing, I’ve gained a new sense of appreciation for my life as a single. I don’t see it now as a punishment but as a blessing from God. My singlehood has the benefit of giving me space to learn how to be a man at my own pace, enjoying the kind of life I’d NEVER be able to enjoy as a married man, and sparing me the grave and literally life ending consequences that arise from marrying poorly.
To whom much is given, much is required, but because I have not been given a wife, I’ve not been required of either. My burdens are light, my life is free of drama, and my home perpetually quiet and free of strife. I have an ample income that permits me to dote on myself and scores of free time to spend as I please. And I thought God was punishing me? I’m an idiot.
Does this mean I’ve sworn off marriage? Despite everything I wrote: NO. I’m just not going to go bat crazy trying to find a wife. Instead I’m accepting that the Lord has seen fit to give me this time to myself, to grow in Him and enjoy the fruits of my labors, and when the time comes that He DOES put someone in my path, I’ll be ready for it, walking in faith that any marriage He ordains for me will not be a marriage made in vain.
Till then, I shall party like a single righteous dude drunk on the whiskey of freedom. *thumbs up*