Being single at 25 can be hard. Being single at 30 can be a little harder. Being single at 35…yeah. I know. I’m not even going to touch 40 or 45, because I never got there. But you get the idea. And if you are single and over 35, I would love to send you a bottle of really good wine.
Age aside, if you’re a churchgoing Christian gal, being single can be downright insufferable. People, if I had a dollar for every time someone told me, “Maybe you’re called to be single, like Paul, and you need to work on accepting that…”
Bunk, I say.
As much as I love the church, it can be an uncomfortable place for a single woman. It tends to feel like everyone is dating, getting engaged, getting married, and having babies. And if you’ve graduated from college already, that can be a very, very lonely place. It can feel like everyone is wondering why you’re still single, why God hasn’t seen fit to “send you the one.” It can feel like everyone is on the lookout for “your” husband, and while the intentions therein might be good, it can still feel yucky. You might feel pathetic. You might believe some lies about yourself and your life – that you’re incomplete, that you’re broken in some really bad way (we’re all broken, married or not), that God has abandoned you.
I was single for nine years, from 25 to 34, without ever a boyfriend to my name. And for most of those years, I hated it. Absolutely hated it.
I felt like a screw-up. I felt undesirable. I felt not-enough. I felt like God was refusing to hear what I wanted most in my life. I felt like He was holding out on me. And I didn’t know why.
I cried. A lot.
I tried taking things into my own hands a few times – and I had a lot of bad dates as a result. I even tried dating some non-Christian guys. (Let me just say – no. Not worth it. There’s a reason the Bible tells us not to be unequally yoked. We can talk more about that later if you like.)
I know you’re wondering when things changed. And the answer is going to sound trite. It’s going to sound like a lame singles group sermon. But it’s the truth.
Things changed when I surrendered. When I said, “I give up.” When I sank back into God’s embrace and let Him show me the life He had planned for me.
That life? It included a husband and a family. But I couldn’t see it until I let go and began to trust.
I couldn’t see it until I said to God, “Okay. I will let go of my expectations and put my dreams back in Your hands. I will stop putting those dreams ahead of You. You can be first for a change.”
Basically, I wore myself out trying to make my life go a certain way. I wore myself out trying to find the thing I [wrongly] thought was going to fulfill me.
When I finally surrendered my worn-out self, beaten up and heartsick and so very lonely, I began to see that I was already fulfilled. I began to see that my life had the potential for more joy than I could possibly hold, just as it was. And once I was there, the deepest desires of my heart began to materialize.
But here’s the thing, friends: It wasn’t an overnight change, like flipping a switch. It was a process that took time. I didn’t surrender one day and meet my husband the next.
First, I had to become satisfied with my single, solitary, just-me-and-my-shadow life. I had to stop making my own decisions and start listening for God’s leading, looking for His direction.
It was slow going. But a day at a time, it happened. My trust grew, and apace with it, my joy.
For me, there were some rather drastic changes, like quitting my solid, dependable teaching career without a job in sight, and then leaving the city I adored for a much smaller one in my home state, a place I wouldn’t have moved to of my own accord. But those actions, they felt like the grandest adventures, because I was following the ultimate guide.
You might not experience such drastic changes. You may simply be opening the door to more peace, more rest, less striving to be who you think you need to be in order to have the life you want. But I promise you, when you truly surrender, the urge to strive will gradually let go of you. And it will feel. so. good.
Getting back to that idea the church seems to harbor about people who are “called to singleness,” I just want to say this: if you are meant to be single, if that is really God’s plan for your life, I really believe you will not keep on desiring marriage and children. Psalm 37:4 says, “Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.” Friends, I believe this, deeply and fully. I believe God, who shapes us from the moment of conception, is the One who plants the desires of our hearts, so that He can fulfill them at the right time. Marriage and children are good, wonderful, God-created miracles. Even Paul, who was satisfied with his single life, said that those of us who “burn with desire” should get married, not reconcile ourselves to a single life we don’t really want.
God is not cruel. He loves us “the most,” as my daughter likes to say.
There are a couple of other things worth mentioning here.
One, marriage and children are not the ultimate goal. Jesus is the ultimate goal. And a woman who is fulfilled in Christ is a better, happier, more satisfied wife and mother than one who is not. Keep that in mind. Looking back, I can see that I am a much better wife and mama than I would have been at 25 or 30. Every day of following God was getting me ready for the life I have now – even though I didn’t know it at the time – and I am so thankful for that.
Two, surrender is not a magic bullet, and it’s not something you can strive for. Surrender is the opposite of striving. You can’t make yourself do it. You can, however, ask God to help you do it. He will know when you are truly ready.
Three, God’s plans for you are probably not on your timetable. The sooner you embrace this idea, the sooner you will find peace with your singleness, and joy in the waiting.
Finally, I want to tell you that this season you’re in really, truly is a great season of life that not everyone gets to experience. I sort of pity the girls who were married at 19 (sorry, ladies). Looking back, I wish I’d had the presence of mind to see my single years as the gift they were while I was living them. Because once the single season is gone, you will never get it back. Someday, when you are nursing a colicky 4-month old or wiping ketchup off your arm, you will have brief moments of longing for all the free time you had when you were single. For clean clothes. For weekend afternoons spent lounging on the couch. So live it up, lovelies. Travel, enjoy your friends, enjoy your family before they become your husband’s in-laws (that is a whole thing), read a lot, watch all your favorite chick flicks a hundred times, eat at expensive restaurants when you can, buy very impractical shoes, go sit in empty fields or in the middle of the woods and listen to the silence for hours, go to the beach and lie on the sand while the sounds of the children playing are not your own. These are the things you will miss when you are an overtired, overworked wife and mama.
Godspeed to you, dear ones. You are whole. You are beautiful. You are enough. Your life is NOW.
Photo credit: Fernando Sanchez. License: Creative Commons 2.0.