the loner at church

Years ago, the mom had given to me a toilet seat cover set to decorate my apartment’s bathroom with.  It was in a beige and white color.  There was Winnie the Pooh and his buddy Piglet next to him on the cushiony floor mat and seat cover.  And there were 2 words printed next to them that said, “Just Pooh”.  Get it?  Not sure if its makers had intentionally made it to be humorous, but it had sure cracked me up.

I just kept that set inside of its packaging, and stored it in my closet because even its floor mat was too good to be placed on my ratty apartment floor.  I could barely afford to pay for my power bill, to turn on my airconditioner during the very humid eveningtimes then.

Although I certainly still have much troubles today (don’t we all), the timing of the types of troubles I had then, had made me feel so very alone.  Not that I feel like I actually have anyone to lean on here today, besides God.  But only that I was much sadder then, with much loneliness and worry.

My biggest worry of all, had been for my junk car, which was about to go bust on me soon.  I had worried daily that I wouldn’t be able to get to work if it were to really die on me.

My apartment had been a studio one, and as usual, I had slept on the floor.  I owned just 1 chair, 1 small end table, and a bookshelf that I had dragged from the dumpster, which someone in my apartment building had thrown out.  It looked like it was supposed to have 4 shelves on it, but only had 2.  That was okay for me, because I just wanted to use the bookshelf as a sort of covering next to the doorway of my apartment.

I hoped that placing it there would prevent anyone looking in from outside, from being able to see the entire interior of my apartment.  It wasn’t because I was embarrassed about its barrenness.  I was more afraid that some of the shady characters next door, might be able to see that I lived all alone.

One evening, as I was again with a heavy heart, I walked into a church where I had begun to attend their mid-week evening services.  As usual, I sat in the back, where the very last pew was.  I can’t remember exactly how the author Anne Lamott had said it in her Traveling Mercies book, but she had said something like, it was a good day at church if someone didn’t try to talk to her, and she was able to leave when she had wanted to.  I totally concur with that.

As church attendees would walk in through its front doors, someone there would hand to them the evening’s list of prayer requests.  Because I didn’t know a soul at that church, all of the names listed on those sheets of paper each week, were strangers to me.

I would just read the names and prayer requests, and would then continue to stare down at the paper, like I always did (for the next almost-decade that I had continued to attend there), because I didn’t know where else to look, without always feeling awkward.

It was from attending that church (and other different churches later), that I had come to realize that I was a very self-conscious person.  I hated myself and my appearance.  I was embarrassed of me.

So when it was singing time, I stood up with everyone else, and held up my hymn book.  I lip-synced along to the songs (can’t sing), and always stared down hard at the hymn book.

I’m not one of those folks who can casually look up and around inside of a church.  Wish to goodness I could.  But I can’t.

From the moment when I find my sitting spot in the back pews, I always keep my head down, all the way until the entire church service is over.  Then I make my dash outside through the side doors, so that I wouldn’t have to shake hands with the pastoral staff who said their farewells at the front entrance doorways.

Yes, I am unfortunately, one of those types of church-goers.  The non-chummy ones.  The ones who come – and quickly go.  Just a brief muttered “hello” and a silent goodbye.

Unlike the sis who enjoys people-watching, I myself very much dislike making eye contact with people.  If I’m at a restaurant, a coffee shop, or anywhere, I always look for a seat in the back, the corner, or by a window.  That way, I can be staring at a wall or out a window, instead of at anybody around me.

Because whenever I do take a moment to look up (for a neck stretch), it just never fails that I’ll somehow accidentally make eye contact with someone way over on the other side of wherever I’m at, and the other person will suddenly look uncomfortable because they thought that I had been staring at them, when I had actually just then looked up for a second.

So in order to avoid having those accidental awkward eye contact moments, I always try to keep my eyes and head down, as much as possible.  It’s always safest there.  Just me, minding my own business.





25 thoughts on “the loner at church

  1. Marilyn Davis

    I feel for you, and I very much identify with this. I’m always the one by myself too. What a nicely written piece.

  2. Barbara Grace Lake

    About your being alone at church, I feel so much pain, so much loneliness in your words. It almost takes my breath away from the anguish. I won’t try to tell you to look up, look outwards because you won’t, possibly even can’t … until you, yourself, are good and ready. When you are ready, you have a host of friends here willing to ease your loneliness. You do not have to be alone except for when you want some alone time.

  3. melissabluefineart

    I hate it when church tries to force familiarity and friendliness. “Turn to your neighbor…”! Those words make me shudder because they disrespect those of us who are shy. We don’t need to change. There is nothing wrong with us. I do worry about your words saying you didn’t like yourself. This is hard, but I do want you to change that if you can. Try meeting your eyes in a mirror~no, really, do. Keep gazing until you can see the divine looking back at you. Also, can you let one being into your heart? A plant, a fish, a dog? I promise you, it will make a difference.

  4. delphini510

    I would just love you to take courage and look up.
    It would start chipping into a fear you shouldn’t need to carry
    and it gives a chance of shared warmth.


  5. Susan J. Anderson

    I feel your pain. I’ve attended the same church for 8 years (my father played with the Praise Team for years prior–he’s deceased now, but my point is, my family was not unknown in this congregation) and I still feel like a stranger there. We’ve tried attending events, etc., and still, people are cold. The cliques are set in stone.

    I also feel awkward in these situations but it doesn’t help when people aren’t welcoming either–right down to the pastor. We’ve recently moved and will be looking for a new church in our new home state. Praying for one that is welcoming. I’m not looking for new best friends, per se, but some Christian encouragement or even a smile is always welcome.

  6. J.D. Riso

    I doubt that God cares whether you are “chummy” or not at church. And his is the only opinion that truly matters. 🙂

  7. quirkyintrovert

    I can relate. In social situations (whether it be at church, in classes, or at work events) I sit by myself if I can help it. I always feel awkward when we’re told to greet each other with a sign of God’s peace. A part of me wants to be more social because I feel like very few people actually care about me, and I’m embarrassed about barely having any friends. At the same time, I’m comfortable like this. I know it’ll be a gradual process for me.

  8. smilecalm

    touching retrospective!
    looking at such traits, whether inherited
    or developed over time
    allows sunshine into darkness
    and has, for me
    brought about forgiveness
    & smiles 🙂

  9. indianeskitchen

    I think you are very brave to admit that in your blog. Maybe that’s why you have such a nice blog, because you don’t have to look at us but you can communicate freely. God doesn’t care that you are shy at church, you worship God and that is what matters. None of us are perfect!

  10. Renee/Heart Tokens

    I use to be this way, painfully shy, but one day I woke up and it hit me how lonely I was without friends. So, I decided to change iit a little at a time. I started looking up and smiling even if very briefly. When someone in the past had caught my eye, out of habit I would quickly look away. But little by little I have bravely changed that! I can look people in the eye and smile, passing in a store or even at church. I still have awkward moments, but Rome wasn’t built in a day! The friendships I have now are a blessing from God. Just know that you are not alone in your struggles! God Bless!

  11. murisopsis

    The world is filled with quiet people who fade to the background. I hope you find your voice (as you have here)!

  12. cupcakecache

    I understand. I am worried about attending a church of interest without my husband as he is not interested and it is a new one for me.

  13. Dawn Ivey

    Thanks for always sharing your true self! That’s why you’re one of my favorite bloggers ❤️😊

  14. hawk2017

    I am sad that you feel that way. I am a people person with a military background and love all people, so I probably would have upset you, for I tend to greet everyone. I would love to meet you in person.:)

  15. mylilplace

    Sandmoos, I hope your car is still running…that is worrisome! About being alone and being self-conscious, I know how you feel. When I am waiting for my kids, other parents would chat and socialize, while I would stand a little bit further away to just be by myself. I feel awkward and not sure what to really say, anyway, aside from meaningless small talks. Lately, though, I have been thinking to myself…what is it that I am so afraid of? Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us…love your honesty.

  16. ekurie

    Yeah. The beauty of it all is God adores you as you. He sings over you. He loves you to pieces. I think you get that though.

  17. PePa. The Sketches of Life

    Interesting bit….I used to be this person till I realised no one else cared,I was my own care and slowly I learnt to see the warmth and joy in others…not everyone has it all…but the little bits I got mattered…and with these I assured myself that I was okay,I din’t have to be perfect…that even those who looked like they had it all together had their own insecurities…so with time I have grown to love me so much I can love others.


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