Many singles (especially those of us who have been single for at least a few years) can feel overwhelmed by a flood of desires and emotions, and not all of them are good. It's all too easy to drown in a sea of loneliness, disappointment, bitterness, and despair. And submerged too long in said emotions, it's easy to ask questions like "How in the world did I end up here?" and to feel that everything has turned so hopelessly topsy turvy that your existence is just crazy crazy.
That's right, I said crazy crazy --- not just crazy, but crazy crazy. Crazy crazy is a level above crazy. Life can get crazy if you have a little too much to do. But with crazy crazy, you've got so much to do that you can’t fit it all in. You feel like you barely have time to breathe. And your head hurts so much that you want to find the nearest roll of duct tape so that you can keep it from exploding.
Look for the little moments
But you weren't put here to suffer so that God could laugh or take some twisted delight in your agony. He loves you and wants you to be happy. And while some forms of happiness take time to develop, He has provided means for you to extract happiness every day in the little moments.
Case in point: I'm crazy crazy busy right now working on a revised draft of my book in response to some comments my editor made, but I was blessed with a little moment.
My little moment
A former roommate from my college days texted me. As I thought about him, I remembered an experience that we had while we roomed together.
This former roommate is the most avid U2 fan I have met in my life. Back in those days I didn't yet own an automobile. As our apartment was some distance from campus, my roommate would give me a ride to campus every morning. I would then walk back later in the day when I was ready to return.
One morning when I was rushed, I realized just as we were leaving that I had not yet had my morning prayers. I asked my roommate if he would mind waiting just a few minutes for me to pray. He agreed, so I went back into my room and shut the door.
It didn't take me long to discover what he had decided to do to pass the time while he waited. I soon found my mind competing between prayer and listening to the music he was playing, which of course was U2. I tried praying for help, but what came out of my mouth wasn't exactly what I intended. "Heavenly Father, please help me, . . . 'cause I can't live, with or without you!"
At that point, I knew I was sunk. So I ended my prayer, allowed myself to chuckle, and then left my room. I told my roommate what had just happened. He wasn't being devious; he was just trying to pass the time and that was what he happened to feel like listening to at that moment. I still remember his laugh as I recounted my experience. I laughed with him.
Find your little moment
Now, many years later, I had a little moment in which I was reminded of that little moment. I'm still laughing at that little moment, and that laughter still brings me pleasure.
This small moment appearing in the midst of my crazy crazy day provided another reminder. I was reminded that the Lord is aware of me, that He loves me, and He wants to help me.
Don’t be so caught up in the crazy crazy of your life that you miss the little moments. Find the little moments in your life. The Lord will remind you of His awareness and love for you. You just need to look for it.
This week I decided to blog about a Conference address from the most recent Conference, April of this year. In examining the many messages given, I had a hard time choosing one for this post.
But in the end, I think that I selected Elder Amado’s address on the Savior largely because of what we share. Part of my mission I served in Guatemala. A native to that country, Elder Amado has played an instrumental role in establishing the Church in Guatemala. Hearing Elder Amado’s less-than-perfect English brought back memories of many wonderful experiences I had in his homeland.
Arriving in a new country
Elder Amado was president of the Central American Area Presidency when I served my mission. His counselor, Elder Murin, was my mission president for my first two months in the field. How do you get a member of the Area Presidency to be your mission president? I’m not sure of all the ways, but I got it when my mission president died in a horrible plane crash.
The night before I left the MTC I learned what happened but had no details. Two days later, I arrived with my companions in Guatemala City. After passing through customs, we were greeted by the assistants to the president. “We’re here to take you to your mission president’s funeral,” they declared. “Welcome to Guatemala.”
I thought to myself, It’s going to be a long two years.
After piling into the small van just outside the airport, we sped through the streets of Guatemala City like we were in a Nascar race. Welcome to driving in the Third World.
A mission president's funeral
At length we arrived and made our way to a pew in the very back of the chapel. We had just slept on a overnight flight covering some 2500 miles, so we weren’t exactly fully rested. We also needed new clothes, a bath, and a shave. And being greenies, none of us understood a word that was being said.
So it’s little surprise that the back row fell asleep. Though I couldn’t understand a word that was being said, I did understand falling asleep at a memorial service would be disrespectful. I did my best to stay awake. And that was where I saw Elder Amado for the first time.
Words of wisdom
Betrayed by one of His own, He was hurriedly condemned, in a manner both unjust and illegal, in a trial both manipulated and incomplete.
How many of us singles ruminate over past experiences which we consider to be unjust? It wasn’t fair that such and such happened, we tell ourselves. We may or may not be right. That doesn’t matter. What matters is that He who descended below all things experienced injustice of His own. And that experience allows Him to touch us when we need it.
Seeing and hearing Elder Amado speak in Conference was just such an experience for me. The memories brought back from my mission reminded me of how the Savior supported me through many difficult trials. I don’t have time today to share them here, but perhaps another day I will.
What I do need to share with you today is a simple message: God is aware of you, and He will bring to your mind remembrances of His love and support for you in your hour of need. I had that experience watching Elder Amado speak in General Conference. It came when I needed it. Now my hope is that I can give that experience to someone else in the moment when they need it.
Elder Amado closed his address with these words:
I plead that we may serve with joy and dedication and that we may remain faithful to Him until the end.
For me, the messages of Elders Dube and Amado are one and the same. Focus on doing the good that lies before you. By helping others to get what they need, you’ll be receiving what you need. All that then remains is to pass it forward to someone else.
But that wasn’t the worst part. Nothing he had to say was specific to us singles and the challenges we face.
Does every fireside for singles need to address the specific concerns of singles? No, but I think most should.
Generally when you advertise a “single adult fireside,” you create an expectation that the event will be tailored to a specific audience. When you then deliver to that specific audience something very general — like what we get in Sunday School — you create dissonance within your audience. Most singles want something they don’t get in church with their general membership ward.
And it’s very simple to execute on that. Most people are looking for information to help them live their lives. Singles are no different, so most single adults attending a single adult fireside are looking for information to help them with the crazy emotions that attend singles life in a family-centered church. When you don’t deliver on that expectation, you alienate your intended audience. They then don’t come in the future, denying you the opportunity to minister to them.
2. Make sure your presentation will actually do what you want it to do.
The part that really got to me with this one fireside came after the speaker’s mindless meandering. He showed a video slideshow that described life for his sister after a terrible car crash when she was a teenager. The accident left her paralyzed from the waist down.
Horrible story. No one disputes that. But after 20 minutes of this, the speaker then concluded with “So if you think you have it bad because you’re single, just think, ‘It could be worse.’”
It could be worse? OK. Sure. But how does that give me hope? How does considering how much worse my situation could be inspire me to believe that my tomorrow will be — or even just could be — better than my yesterday?
Newsflash: It doesn’t.
If you are going to talk about hope, make sure you offer something that actually kindles hope. This fireside on hope actually robbed me of hope rather than supplying it! Can you believe it?
Of course, it’s easy to forgive ignorance. Most people who present at these firesides married while they were young. They don’t understand what it is like to be single past the age when they married. So it’s little wonder that presentations from such persons usually don’t achieve the desired effect.
The answer here is really simple. And no, it isn’t focus on getting the Spirit and then the Spirit helps the singles to know what they need. That model actually blinds us in our service to singles. Here’s a more effective model:
3. If you don’t know yourself, ask someone who does.
Often the best solutions are the simplest. And this one is about as simple as it gets.
Those who married young won’t understand us singles on their own. So we have to help them! If we who do understand provide feedback ahead of time, presenters can better tailor their message to the needs of singles. This experience will also build bridges of understanding for the marrieds who present, increasing the unity we should have in the faith.
Alternatively, you could settle for having those who don’t understand preaching to those who do. It’s little wonder why many singles don’t attend firesides. They think the events won’t meet their needs. And if your firesides are missing the Big Three I’ve presented here, they’re probably right to think that.
Enough with checking a box off a to-do list or “doing your duty” by going through the motions. Enough with Sunday School take 2. Let’s work to meet the needs of the people and change lives.
That’s part of my book and this blog are about. If enough of us start to think in new and different ways, we can help more people to improve their lives and make the world better for everyone.
And isn’t that what we should be striving to do in every aspect of our service?
How do we get there? We must change our thinking to match our desired result. Because our language reflects how we think and perceive our world, we need to choose with care the words we use to describe our world. In short, we need to watch our mouths.
Perhaps the most important language change involves how we describe singles groups. By using singles program to describe singles groups, we reinforce the less effective idea that all singles need are activities, thus making singles in leadership little more than activity planners. By using support network, we reinforce the more effective idea of ministering to “the one.”
The traditional idea behind singles groups has been that simply mixing singles together produces couples. Pressed by a religious subculture that extols marriage as a rite of passage, many singles attend activities with exactly that view. But the ever-increasing average age at which LDS singles marry indicates that model doesn’t work very well.
The underlying idea behind support networks is different. Singles congregate specifically to strengthen and uplift one another. Participants follow the example of the Savior in ministering to individuals one by one. Loads of personal experience tells me this model works very well.
But replacing less effective ideas with more effective ones won’t happen if we don’t look to our language. In short, we need to watch our mouths.
Why "programs" don't work
What comes to mind when you hear someone say "Watch your mouth"? I think about Grandma with a bar of soap. I knew she would make good on her promise if I ever crossed the line. So I made sure never to cross the line. I watched my mouth.
Likewise we need to watch our mouths with respect to singles groups. Singles program reinforces the less effective model that glorifies activities and defines success by how many people participate in the program. That usually leaves people to their own devices.
That means most people won’t get the help they need. Unfulfilled, they will revert to making decisions based on cultural influences. Because LDS subculture views marriage as a rite of passage, people easily view singles activities as a dating forum. And when everyone is looking out for Number One, “the one” gets lost and forgotten.
What singles really need
Singles don’t really need activities. They need friends who understand what they experience and feel. They need support when those experiences and feelings seem overwhelming. They need to be part of something bigger than themselves. And they need their confidence and self-worth reinforced with positive influences when the hurricanes of life come crashing.
Ultimately, that’s what all people want — help navigating their road in life. Activities programs will never do that more effectively than support networks.
We need to replace singles program with support network.
This one simple change can have a powerful effect.
With it, we exchange programing activities with meeting individual needs. Programs don’t minister to individuals, but groups can. Programs don’t provide a sense of belonging, but groups can. Programs don’t support lost souls, but groups can.
Activities are tools, not destinations
I’m not advocating an abandonment of activities. We just need to see activities for what they really are --- tools by which individuals can minister to singles. Activities are a means to an end and not the end itself. By viewing activities more appropriately, we help them to become more effective.
I’ve been single now for almost two decades. In that time, I’ve attended literally hundreds of activities. Not a one makes my life better today. But my life is better because others reached out to me, shared goodness with me, and touched my heart.
That’s the difference between a program and a support network. Fifty years from now no one will care that they participated in a program. But fifty years from now people will care they were part of a group that reached out to individuals and changed their lives.
So watch your mouth. By adopting more effective language, we help everyone minister more effectively to the singles in our midst.
Howdy! I'm Lance, host of Joy in the Journey Radio. I've been blogging about LDS singles life since 2012, and now I produce a weekly radio show to help LDS singles have more joy in their journey and bring all Latter-day Saints together. Let's engage a conversation that will increase the faith of LDS singles and bring singles and marrieds together in a true unity of the faith.
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