I admit, I am lonely
The statement seems odd when I have more people in my life than at any time other than at college.
But it is true.
There was a time in my life when I substituted friendships with regular intimacy with God.
This was true in “quiet times” and it was sometimes true on Sunday.
It wasn’t that I stopped following Christ, or that I stopped being a Christian…it is just that I had never had friendships before and they kind of took over my life.
After college, I have not had a peer friend (save for my wife, Candice) that I trust like I did my crowd back in Mobile.
Part of it was moving back to Athens and going through a time of isolation; God wanted me to focus on leaning on him.
It was hard, but I see the necessity of correcting the imbalance in my life.
Afterwards, I started online dating, trying to replace my lack of friendship with romance and in some cases lust.
Through the online matchmaking process (thanks E-Harmony!) I was able to meet Candice and leave Athens; I am thankful to God for the next stage of my journey.
Candice has been, and will continue to be my best friend, but it is incredibly unfair of me to unload on her the burden of all my friendship needs.
Also, I am finding she does not fulfill my need for other friendships; friendships I miss greatly from college.
I have never been one to be friends with a “group of guys.”
I had guy friends in college, but they were part of a mix-gendered group of friends.
Those guys: James, Adam, Thomas, the Copelands, and others were probably my closest friends.
But we also hung out with an awesome group of females: Amanda, Natalie, and Danyelle who balanced us out.
That did not include my own personal friends like Neesha, Angelique, Callie, and Jenna…you guessed it, all females.
My female relationships have had the closest relational bonds.
But guys have always been a struggle.
I did not roam with a “pack” at school, and I have always felt awkward at the “alpha dog” gatherings of testosterone.
Like when someone lights fires, kills meat, and starts grunting and howling at the moon.
It is a slight exaggeration for sure, but still you get the idea.
I have thought long and hard about what this means about me and I have come to the following conclusion…
I don’t like all male groups.
I particularly have difficulty with Southern, Christian male groups.
I am not as complementarian as some would wish; due to my interaction and work with female friends and leaders, I see the value of their intelligence and creativity.
I do not believe a woman’s place is scrubbing pots, doing errands, and taking care of the children…alone.
I know it sounds somewhat stereotypical, and many Southern, Christian males do not embrace that mentality, but our church culture does embrace that mentality, even we do not realize it.
If I hear one more joke about women shopping, needing to be “kept happy”, or having “that time of the month”…I think I might explode.
Our women are much more valuable, and it is beneath us to belittle them with our insecurity and stubborn foolishness.
But there are more things to make me uncomfortable in all-male groups.
When men get together they talk about one of three things (at least in church): food, sports, or their jobs (okay, four…sometimes they gripe about their wives and/or brag on their children).
Let’s go down the list.
Food is good, but there is a serious over preoccupation with food that plagues my gender.
There are sometimes that I ate a meal and immediately wonder what the next one is going to be!
So I need to talk about and think about food as little as I can.
I like sports: I watch mostly college football (ROLL TIDE), but I will occasionally watch a Saints game and keep track of baseball (GO YANKEES!).
But I do not have ESPN on 24/7; I do not keep up with stats and players for the most part (except during a good football season).
I can only talk about sports so much before I want to play a sport called, “escape this conversation, now!”
I have always had difficulty talking about work.
Right now, I work as a volunteer at the Ministry Center; before that I was a sales associate at LifeWay.
The men in my church work at great companies, started their own business, and are generally successful; it is hard not to feel like a child when that part of the conversation comes up.
I always dread that horrible question, “So, Will…what do you do?”
I always take a deep breath and try to make role at the Ministry Center as important and significant as possible but what always ends up being said is…
“So, you don’t make any money?”
As if God told us to only work to make money, as if laziness is defined by whether or not you have extra money in the bank.
I can brag, not gripe about Candice.
She works as an English teacher at a local junior high school; she teaches 8th – 9th grade.
She is finishing up her Masters in Distance Learning and Instructional Technology this year.
And I could not be more proud of her, and awed by her abilities (and she puts up with me!)
I could not have asked for a better woman to be my wife.
And yes, she makes A LOT more than I do.
And no, her being the “provider” does NOT threaten my masculinity or make me feel like I am not providing.
Our current course is something we decided together and for now, we will follow this path.
I do not have any children, and that is a subject of another post.
This does not include the fact that I am a gamer; like hard-core rpg gamer in my free time.
I like and watch Gilmore Girls and other “chick flicks.”
I do not like manual labor (this is more from my chronic fatigue though).
I am not dominant, but I am assertive.
I do not believe in having a firearm in my house.
I like art and poetry; I appreciate aesthetics including colors, furniture, and pictures.
And many other things that are considered “feminine” in my Southern Christian culture.
This causes me some relational difficulties, if only because of my own insecurities.
What I have encountered, whether at church or elsewhere, is that especially older men have very little understanding or appreciation for alternate definitions of manliness.
There are a lot of jokes (and absolutely wrongly so) about “limp wrists” and “pussies” (yes, that word is used); common stereotypes that assume you are effeminate at best, gay at worst.
When men do gather, it is often an expression of their cultural definition of manliness; this makes it difficult for me to join because I do not identify with that at all.
I do not enjoy such gatherings; being a man as I have come to see is often at odds or at least alien to being a man as they would see it (at least in some ways, I think we have the right ideas just differ in how those ideas are applied and their implications).
So, while I want a mentor/father figure, I do not know how to have one considering I want autonomy and the ability to think for myself.
I want someone who accepts me for who I am, will challenge me when they think I am wrong, and will walk with me no matter what.
Someone who acts and lives like an imperfect version of Jesus.
I want friends, guys or not, who do the same.
I want to hang out with people all the time.
Not every night.
But more than once a week.
Because community is important.
I am okay with differing viewpoints and disagreement, but I want to be accepted and respected nonetheless.
When I wrote my blog about turning down a church, I expressed my fear of never being accepted.
Too liberal here.
Too conservative there.
It leaves me little choice but to do my own thing, which by the way, I do not want to do at all.
I have learned the value of great teams, good friends, and taking on the work of the kingdom together.
I do not want to have to start a church alone, separated from the rest because I do not “fit in” with one Christian group or another.
I am afraid of peer friendships, one of the reasons I am more comfortable with college students.
I do not ever feel like I fit in, or that I matter.
I feel like the person that people put up with for a few hours.
So, I am lonely.
I miss the ability to confide and trust in people; I miss being able to go to someone with my issues (other than Candice, but again she cannot bear that burden alone).
Now that I am married, I cannot confide with female friends because it is not wise.
But I do not know how to have all-male relationships.
I especially do not know how to have all-male relationships with someone alien to me.
And maybe those alien to me do not know how to approach guys like myself.
So, I will continue to struggle and to move forward until God allows something to change.
Nevertheless, it is something I yearn and hope for.
Pray for me in this.
Grace and Peace