Close Encounters

I can’t believe it’s happened.

One week ago today, I launched my new book Surviving Singledom. Amidst the fairy lights and red balloons, amidst the strumming of acoustic guitar and vocal chatter, the book was launched.

It was a wonderful night in many ways. About 40 people attended in the end, a number which pleasantly surprised me before the night had even begun. As the hum died down and people took their seats, I listened to my endorser introduce me to the crowd gathered. I quietly admired the eloquence of this articulate speaker, a fellow author and psychologist, as she softly sang my praises. She finished by beckoning to me with the microphone.

Arising to take my place at the front of the room, I felt the swirl of adrenaline rushing through me. I had a prepared speech and excerpt from the book to share which, to my surprise and delight, seemed to engage the crowd. There were moments of laughter as well as thoughtful silence – at least, that was my interpretation of the silence – as I read from the pages before me.

A Q&A session followed and I was challenged to dig deep and think on my feet. I generally find questions easier to answer when I have space to sit down and write about them (no surprise), so talking on the fly was a bit different – in the same way that bungee-jumping is a bit different to walking.

However, I found I was quite comfortable sharing my honest experiences and opinions with those present. I think they must have been inspired by what I shared, because people lingered afterwards for quite a while, talking in little clusters and eating their desserts.

A number of people approached me and shared their experiences of singleness with me. I felt privileged to hear the stories of strangers struggling within themselves and in their churches. I became aware of similarities between their stories and my own: stories of pain, exclusion, loneliness, faith and motivation toward action.

I was struck by the great need of our single community, not just to be truly part of God’s family but also to be heard. Many single people I spoke to the night of the book launch told me of their efforts to speak up and of their renewed motivation to raise the profile of singles in their local churches.

My book and my speaking may have inspired others that night one week ago, but I think their stories have inspired me afresh. I am convinced all over again of the church’s mission: to tell everyone, in word and deed, they are accepted and equal under Christ.

After all of the fuss of the book launch has died away; after all the clean-up has been done and the book sales have been tallied; after the excitement has worn off and the adrenaline has exhausted itself; what I am left with is not pride, nor a sense of achievement, but the memories of those I met who shared their lives with me.

This is the honour and sense of urgency that continues to drive me to share this book with the world. These close encounters with real individuals, struggling through their daily singledom, trying to follow Christ, will linger with me for years to come.

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