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I have a serious issue and need some direction

SolEX01

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Dear friends,

I was the first among my church friends to get married (albeit at the courthouse) and had a child.  Since then, my marriage ended in divorce; my son lives an hour away from me; and a lot of my friends married and have children.  One friend is 44 and has a 12 year old and an 11 year old; another friend is 52 and has a 8 year old and a 6 year old who suffers from cerebral palsy due to premature birth;  another friend is also 52 and has an almost 7 year old.  Another friend will turn 47 and has a 5 year old and a 3 year old.  Another friend is in his early 40's and has 3 children under the age of 6 including a 1 year old.  All these people are regular church attendees.  The second 52 year old baptized the almost 47 year old's 3 year old.

To put it in perspective, my sister (29 months younger than me) has a 25 year old, a 20 year old, and a 10 year old.  She and her husband are regular church attendees in the Southern Baptist faith.

I turn 46 in a couple of weeks.  My son is 14.  Since September 2018, I attended my church only 3 times.  I thought I could blame my lack of church attendance on wanting to sleep in on Sundays; however, the reasons are possibly more sinister.  There's the issue between the EP with his ecclesiology and actions in Ukraine.  I'm a single man and perhaps on a subconscious level, I feel inferior to all those people who've had kids later in life and formed spiritual relationships.  I'm not a Godparent and my Godfather passed away in 2014.  I think seeing the spiritual relationship triggered a sinister reaction.  On a conscious level, I try not to compare myself to other people; however, I see no reason to attend church because I don't fit my church's desired demographic of a married couple with children.  My father encourages me to attend church while my mother is neutral; both parents are infrequent church attendees.  I realize that the older I get, the more separated I'll be from the church.  Has anyone experienced a similar problem and could anyone offer anything that will help me break this disturbing thought pattern?  Thank you in advance for your attention to this matter.

In Christ,

SolEX01
 

Ainnir

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Pay close attention to the people in your parish next time you're there, and count how many are really families and how many are elderly, college kids, or singles in a similar boat as you.  I think we often focus too much on what we lack (or feel we lack), and it can become a constant needling.  But in reality we're not looking at the whole picture.  I've had experiences where it's really easy for me to feel like I'm the only one in my parish with that experience, but I'm not.  There are others who are, or have, gone through something similar and those who haven't are generally caring and supportive.  I just have to remember to take in the whole picture, and learn to genuinely be happy for those who have what I don't (and I am), while learning to make the most of my own situation and reminding myself that I'm not alone.  Your parish may well be full of families with young kids, but take an honest stock before setting it down as a fact in  your mind.

Try to focus on how you can relate to the various members of your parish and how you can fit in.  What little corner of the parish can you serve?  We all have one; we just have to find it, or for the bold, make it.  Having a warm parish helps tremendously, though.  Lord, have mercy on Your servant.
 

Saxon

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I’m in a similar situation. My marriage lasted ten months - and not a good ten months, but one of daily mental and verbal abuse from my wife, and a physical assault from my priest who she’s in league with, which was the final nail in the coffin for us. Now the plus side is that, being only ten months in, there were no children or joint assets or any complications, really. But when it ended, I lost everything, including my wife, home, church, and many friends. I’m 30, most of my friends are married with children, or at least engaged, and not one other couple I know has divorced. It’s disheartening and often makes me want to give up. Now my situation is a bit more muddled than yours as the church was a direct factor in the destruction of my life, and so I harbour a bitterness and resentment towards Orthodoxy in general that will never really go away. I’ve been attending an OCA parish since then, and my dilemma is that it’s a wonderful church with fantastic and supportive parishioners and clergy. But, I’m still trapped in a cycle of enthusiasm for the faith and a feeling of recovery, followed by a return of bitterness and indifference, each cycle lasting months at a time. Admittedly, my resentment is exacerbated when I see any faces or names from my old ROCOR parish (unfortunately, in my city the OCA and ROCOR parishes are quite close and clergy regularly hold joint services - I lose all respect for anyone I see associating with my old priest or his cronies). I go to church but I feel nothing, save for a crushing emptiness. I’ve long since stopped participating in the liturgy and sacraments; I’m just a warm body in the building during services, so to speak. I only go because I have friends in the parish and because I appreciate how supportive the priest has been during this period of my life. I’ve been looking into Traditional Catholicism and infrequently attending Latin Mass, and am considering this as an alternative to Orthodoxy. I should add that my ambivalence toward the Orthodox Church isn’t simply personal, and I have some issues with Orthodox dogmatic belief and practices, the rampant ethnophyletism, etc. But to sum it up, I’m sorry to say there isn’t a clear or easy answer or solution. Recovery and survival are processes, not events. Prayer and a positive attitude are key. And I’m not so wedded to Orthodoxy as some of the other posters here who are likely to respond, so I’m not going to say definitively that you’ll find the solution in the Orthodox Church if only you pray hard enough and dedicate yourself to a life of faith. I’ll just say that you need to do what you feel is right for you. If it's not in the church, then it's not in the church.
 

Fr. George

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I can't speak from a position of "knowing what you're going through," so feel free to take the following with a grain of salt:

I will not (and should not) endeavor to engage in a "why are you drifting away from Church" argument, because I'm not sure it's relevant.  Whether our absence is 100% caused by external factors, 100% by internal factors, or some mixture of the two, temptation will always lead us to focus on the external factors to make us victims of the circumstances (and not "agents empowered to change").  I think looking around at what you see in others at the Church (age, marital status, children, etc.) is a distraction in this case (as all good things can be made into distractions).  The Church has young and old, married, celibate, divorced, and remarried.  It has families with many children, with few children, with no children; children by birth, by adoption, by spiritual adoption.  You have a place there - your status does not define you or assign value to you.

Another thing to consider viz-a-viz the thought "all my friends are married with kids" - in any case you can be a support and example, can draw strength, and can find meaning.  The kids need to see other healthy relationships besides mom + dad, you can support your friends in your strength and, if you decide to "get back in the saddle" and date, they can be good evaluation aids in measuring your potential mate & your ongoing relationship with them.  And, at least in our family (going up 2 generations), we have multiple people who had nearly no relationship with their actual godparents but instead had deep and fulfilling relationships with folks who were like "adopted godparents" (and who, eventually, were called "Nouno" and "Nouna" because of that quality relationship).

I have found for myself that my friends around me who have more stability have always provided a safe harbor for me when my/our (w/ family) life was storm-tossed.  And after taking advantage of their support, guidance, and love, I was able to reciprocate when their need arose.

The folks I know who drifted away from church and then came back generally have a similar testimonial - returning to the worshiping community was difficult at first, but if they "powered through" the discomfort (awkward questions, etc.) and were honest (but a little guarded), they found that they were able to integrate in a way that was more respectful of their current life status.
 

jewish voice

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This may kinda sound silly but have you tried making friends with singles and divorcees? Sounds like you are trying to still hang with the married folks and then brings up the past I guess in short get new friends who aren't married then you might feel better and not be comparing yourself to others and feeling like you failed
 
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