Letter To A Stranger

womanAn email I received recently, (quoted with permission):

Dear Emma,

It’s 5am and I am writing to a complete stranger. .. I apologise for taking this liberty but I have been reading your blog and I think you will understand.

I will not be ruled by lies any more, but they shout loudly tonight. Alone, unprotected, unloved. Single women, particularly single women with a history of mental health problems aren’t taken seriously in evangelical churches. Or perhaps I am immature and callow and proud and deserve to be ignored.

I know the truth and try to preach it to myself:

‘ I am loved, desired, protected, he proved it with blood and pain and shame. Christ has my honour, it’s bound up in his. The Jesus who allowed Lazarus to die for his glory weeps all the more for our pain, Mary, Martha and me. And some day, I’ll be with him and it will not only be over but redeemed and beautified. ‘

So I rarely hear those nagging voices anymore, but sometimes the world’s mis-truth enters like a clanging cymbal, meaningless, but un-ignorable. So I speak them out and preach truth at them.

Just because they feel the pain and fear of aloneness doesn’t mean a single person idolises marriage. Our society tells us that intimacy belongs in the nuclear family; our church teaches that married couples have to prioritise one another and make space to invest in their marriage. I am alone – I have to go to Christ, and I will, but please, don’t slap me on the other side of the face by calling me an idolater for feeling the pain of it.

How can someone who has never experienced the monster voices in their brain trying to kill them possibly understand my fear that there is no one in the world to whom I can say “protect me”, no one in the world who does not have a higher priority or call on them? I will go to Christ, my shield, my fortress, but please, don’t call me an idolater for being afraid.

I long for a baby too, I see them given all around me to people who do not really want them, but as a single woman it’s an unacceptable longing. Why is that? For a married woman to be unable to have a child is a tragedy, for a single woman it is an idolatry. I will dwell in Christ and bear fruit for the kingdom, but I feel the pain of childlessness too and I have no husband to comfort me. The God of all comfort will be my comfort.

Precious are the friends who wait, and wait and wait expectantly until I can find the words to speak my pain. They are few and my bitter thought says that God seems to delight in taking them away. But the truth remains that the steadfast love of the Lord never ceases. His patience never comes to an end.

I feel so tired I can’t keep going and I give up… I’m fat and ugly inside and out and I’m starting to be old. I can’t compete with beautiful, thin lovely Christian girls at church who didn’t have my experiences and  can cover over their ugly bits so much better than I can. And I never get like this. I try to encourage others, bear their burdens and hear their complaints when mine are heavy –  but I don’t complain. I do it because I love them and I feel my blessings in Christ. But just sometimes in the night…

I’ll wait for Christ, my husband who delights in me and covers my shame with his righteousness. But sometimes it hurts.

So I’ll email a total stranger and say what’s on my mind.

8 thoughts on “Letter To A Stranger

  1. I know this isn’t the point but just to say I adopted twin boys as a single parent, with a history of mental health problems……it is possible……

  2. It’s so incredibly humbling to hear the pain and see the wonderful beauty of your heart. And hear the pain. Thank you for your courage to reveal your heart to me, I see Him there.

  3. Dear “stranger”, I can so relate to everything you say. Thank you for allowing Emma to share it here and indeed for having the courage to write to her in the first place. It is often much easier and safer to open up to a stranger than it is to friends or family.
    I too am in an evangelical church full of families and couples. The focus is very much on family and the children’s work.
    I too have a history of mental health problems and am still struggling (in secret). I have been badly hurt in church before, not intentionally, but because people did not understand or appreciate how I was feeling after having 2 major bereavements close together. I left for several years and went back about a year ago. I had a lovely warm welcome as I knew I would, but something in me has changed. I don’t feel safe. I cannot allow myself to be or to show any vulnerability there, which is fine when I’m feeling strong, but what about when I’m not? I hide behind a mask of “I’m fine”, or I stay away and make an excuse.
    I admire your faith because mine is so weak. I struggle to believe God can love me when I struggle to love and follow Him and when I don’t even like myself. I so often feel more lonely and inadequate when I come home from church than when I arrived because everyone else seems to be so full of His spirit, where I feel dead inside.
    I feel ugly inside and out and it’s so hard to keep acting the part of the Christian I long to be. I’m too ashamed to admit that I’m struggling. I’ve been a Christian for years and I should be better than this.
    I feel most alive and of value and confident when I’m at work. (I’m a community OT) I know my role, I can do that and I love seeing patients, because I am a caring person. So why do I feel so lost and alone and inadequate in church? Surely this is where we should feel safe and loved and accepted and able to be the people God created us to be.
    So I feel your pain, you are not alone. Now I feel I should conclude with a word of encouragement, a promise of God, but instead am wondering if I should post this at all.
    Bless you and Emma too. I admire your honesty and openness. Thank you x x

  4. But just sometimes in the night…
    Emma I’m so grateful you’ve shared this. I feel as though a burden’s been lifted somewhat. I do know Jesus is always with me but I never knew it might be ok to sometimes feel pain because I’m alone. And the bit about being afraid! You mean I could be afraid sometimes without being an idolater? It sounds to good to be true

  5. Lauren: Although maybe far from the norm, i thought it to be the case that it is more than acceptable not to like oneself. Indeed, unlike what seems the norm, this is a perfect qualification as a Christian , as in oursleves, from a self-centred point of view we are vile, completely unacceptable, whereas from the Christ perspective…..

  6. thank you Lauren. It takes courage to share; and I’m very grateful to you for posting. I’m so sorry for your losses; and the pain you’ve been carrying on your own.

    Like you, I’m weak and my faith is small – and like you, I’m scared that I can’t be myself. For many years I also hid behind ‘I’m fine’ and I also felt disconnected from my church. It’s hard to put down the mask – but I’ve found that as I do, I’ve been met with grace and love – in a way I could never have imagined. My experience of church changed when I stopped acting like the Christian I thought I should be. We’re human and we sometimes get it wrong; but we’re family too. And you and I can be ourselves.

  7. A – all throughout the Bible we see people who are scared and lonely and despairing and grieving and full of sadness. They’re not condemned – instead they are comforted by the Lord who shares in our sorrows and gives us a better hope. It’s okay to feel frightened sometimes; but thank God we can take (and keep taking!) those fears to someone who can carry their weight.

  8. Hello lauren,
    I Got your story from a letter to a stranger And I read its from the Begining to the End.as a resuits of your story,I decided to write you If its can be possible for us to know each other as Friends And Build
    a christian Friendqship?I am also Alone christian,trying to find someone that share my christrian faith.
    so,this is my email contact,you can contact me if you want.if you are not interested,in case you found
    qsomeone,Give my contact please.

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