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red-love-heart-oldEver since starting the Single in the Sanctuary group on Facebook as well as lead a couple of speaking engagements, I’ve had people share their stories with me.  It’s been an amazing experience to learn about the roads our friends have been on over the course of their lives.

After hearing many stories, I see that there are some overlaps to many of our stories.  We share similar sentiments of loneliness.  Often, we wrestle when hope is lost.

But while a few of our stories are alike in many ways, each of our stories of being unmarried has distinct differences just like our DNA and fingerprints.  Because of these vast differences, we can’t speak for someone else.  Again, I was reminded of this – especially in light of the shooting at the Pulse Night Club in Orlando as well as what safety and sanctuary mean to LGBTQ people.

I can only speak for myself: an educated, straight white never-been-married cis-female.  Granted, I’ve gone through some tough times being single throughout my twenties and thirties.  Just by being a woman, there have been times when I’ve felt extremely unsafe.  But my issues have minimal intersectionality issues, and I am extremely privileged.  I’ve never faced what it means to be a person who is queer.  I’ve never experienced what it means to be a single woman of color.  Being a progressive Christian, I’ve also never experienced what a Jewish or Muslim woman has experienced.

As I reflect, some questions have come to mind: How would a person of color experience never being married?  What would it be like to be a person of another faith who is getting divorced?  How many more layers of difficulty in dating exist for a transgender person?  How do lesbian, gay and bisexual people navigate the healing process for abusive relationships?

Of course, no one is required to tell us their stories unless they are ready to talk and they feel safe speaking with us.  But what we as people of privilege within the unmarried spectrum need to understand is that there are friends who must deal with many additional layers of challenges.

All that any of us as people of privilege can do is allow space for all unmarried open-minded Christians to speak without interruption or trying to explain their experience for them, especially those whose stories are vastly different than ours.  And my job, in return, is to learn as much as possible from them when they are ready to share.

I will continue to tell my story.  But it is only one story in the sea of many.  My experience is only my experience, and it is one that is fairly privileged.  May the God in whose image we are all made give us the courage, strength and power to tell our stories and the patience to listen to the narratives of others.