All the single ladies, put your hands up.
If your hand is raised, we both know that if we were to nominate a Single Awareness Month, there would be a few contenders. The Christmas season has come and gone but is certainly up for nomination. We made it through mistletoe and awkward family dinner questions. We even managed to restrain ourselves from kissing a stranger on New Year’s Eve. (Well that last one wasn’t really that difficult, but it may have crossed my mind!) I want to congratulate us, because we’ve made it through to another year.
Although I’m aware Valentine’s Day is just around the corner, making February a competitive contender, I can always count on my mom to send me chocolate, which I am happy to share.
And while I jest about the seasons, we both chuckle because a part of it hits home. It’s the elephant in the room when we go on family holidays, when we meet a member of the opposite gender, and sometimes when we wake up in the morning, just because. The culture we live in and the increasing number of candles on our birthday cake doesn’t make it any easier. And have you ever tried to fit an elephant in a refrigerator?
The terminology itself – single – implies that we’re alone. As someone who identifies with what it’s like to struggle with my single status – especially when bombarded with red and pink balloons, chocolate hearts, and media which suggest our definition of beauty comes from desirability, I want you to know you’re not alone.
Just over a year ago, I proclaimed this revelation: I was letting my pursuit of a relationship rob me of my joy. I recognized that I was waiting for a relationship instead of waiting on God, instead of realizing that Jesus must be my first love. Realizing that we tend to view singleness as a lump of coal, rather than seeing it for the gift it is, I made my case. And while my sentiment still holds true – I still wholeheartedly believe that Jesus is the source of my identity, self-worth, and fulfillment and that my pursuit of Him needs to be a daily thing, regardless of my relationship status – I am afraid I missed a few things. Or maybe I just got sidetracked along the way.
If you’re anything like me, you just want a reason for the season of singleness. You want an explanation as to why there isn’t anyone at the door with flowers for you. So you tell yourselves, “God just wants me to Himself right now.” Or something along those lines.
But I have a serious problem with this mentality.
How does that translate when I am dating someone? Or marry them? All of a sudden God is better at sharing? I’m not convinced. While I may not understand all the logistics, having never really been in love, God’s pursuit of my heart and mine of His doesn’t suddenly change when I enter into a romantic relationship with another human being.
I do think that God uses our singleness to teach us more about ourselves and more about Him. I think singleness is a beautiful gift, and I’m thankful for what He has done and is doing through this season of my life. But I think that He uses relationships and marriage to teach us the same. This isn’t a one is better than the other sort of gig. Both singleness and marriage have their own hardships and difficulties. Both should push us closer to Him. But sometimes I feel pressure to pick a side – or that it’s been decided for me: that I can’t be pro-singleness and pro-marriage at the same time.
We misplace our affection when we want God to fill the space of a man – instead of seeking Him to fill our deep need for Him alone. Life isn’t about working hard to be right with God so He will bless you with a spouse. The picture is so much greater than that. It’s about the steadfast love of a Father – a love that never dies. Our love for God – and His love for us is what enables us to love each other.
I’ve made the mistake of thinking that being content with singleness meant finding the fountain of happiness by eliminating the desire for a relationship. Yet, I’ve realized, this kind of attempt often lands us a self-built bullet-proof vest, an unintentional, slightly jaded attitude toward our married or dating friends, a desire to bury ourselves in our work to avoid the issue, or a tendency to let the I’m-better-off-this-way attitude rob us of our joy. Please believe me when I say this doesn’t work well – it doesn’t work at all. Sure, I had realized that I needed Jesus to be my source of identity and not treat singleness as a waiting room for a relationship. But instead of placing it all in His hands, I didn’t fully resolve the issue. I made the motion of trusting in God without fully letting go.
I just got out my pom-poms and kept reminding myself that singleness is great.
And it is. It might not appear so, but I am being sincere here. While I certainly have had my share of moments that I have taken it for granted, I honestly can say I appreciate the years I’ve spent being able to pursue my passions and my relationship with Christ and having the freedom that comes with the single status. I’ve been able to look back and reflect on the things God has – and is – teaching me in this season of my life and the opportunities I’ve been given: being able to work though living with anxiety, pouring myself into my community and serving, taking off to travel or study abroad, and learning more about who I am and who God is. I haven’t always been grateful for the gifts God has given me, but I continue to have a multitude of reasons to be thankful. God is good – a fact that doesn’t change even if my relationship status does.
However, there is an elephant stinking up my refrigerator.
A friend asked me a few weeks ago if I prayed about my future spouse – if I asked God to bring someone into my life in His timing. I told her I never had. To be honest, my desire for a relationship felt a lot like a teenager sneaking out at night – especially after the whole Single and Not Waiting name I had crafted. Asking to bring someone into my life had always felt like a five-year old asking for a pony.
I couldn’t do it. It just felt ridiculous.
For weeks God kept asking me (very politely) whether or not I was going to muster up the courage to ask. To just admit to Him that it was something I desired. And when I finally put my pom-poms down and was honest with myself, I realized that while I said that I trusted Him, I didn’t really trust that He had a plan when it came to my relationship status. I wasn’t putting my trust in Him as my Father. I was the kid at the dinner table throwing a fit, mumbling under my breath about broccoli.
It’s difficult in a generation that grows up without fathers, or without the example of a loving father, to understand what it means to see God as our Father who delights in us, and who – as Matthew 7:11 depicts – wants not only to give us good gifts, but wants us to ask for them. And if I can speak from experience, there are times when my relationship with God feels a lot like He won’t let me eat chocolate for dinner. Often, I need the reminder of this picture of God as a Father who knows what’s best for me. I forget that God delights in me as His daughter and wants me to come to Him like a kid at Christmas with hopeful expectation, and that our relationship requires that I trust Him – regardless of the answer and whether things make sense in my limited understanding or not.
A dear and beautiful friend of mine stated these wise words:
“Nothing I receive in this – no striving to be a better me, to be rid of loneliness – not one thing will come close to the ineffable promise of hope I have in the end. So this is my ability to let go. Because God delights in me, because I have the gift of Christ Himself, no, not one striving has a hold on me for I am far more fulfilled in Christ…I am not placing a man on the pedestal of my heart, (nor my other desires), but I am placing God at the heart of my heart, and I may desire and pray for a man, but that man-mold is for a man, not for God. God gets my entire heart.” – Daisy Lim
Marriage won’t end my loneliness. It won’t solve my fears, or become my fountain of unending joy. Singleness won’t either.
But Jesus might.