As a teenager, I had my future figured out… or so I thought. I would be married at age twenty-two. I was counting down the years! My plan was “confirmed” when I enrolled at a small, Christian university in the South, where the unofficial campus slogan rang, “A ring by spring or your money back.” Let’s just say that I never got my ring nor my money back…
For the most part, I have always been officially single. I went on dates in college and on more since. They just never transformed into committed relationships. My singleness has mostly been met with contentment. I have never really been desperate for a relationship. However, I can say that sometimes I was desperate to “earn” love and validation from others, which drove me toward some unhealthy prospective relationships. I went out with men who were often more successful, more stable, and more established… and I wanted to win or earn their affection and approval.
Twenty-two came. My year to settle down and marry the right guy! At the time, I was seeing a man who seemed like everything I thought I wanted, except he was not crazy about me. In hind sight, he typically put in the least amount of effort necessary in order to keep me at arm’s length for whenever he was bored or lonely and needed some female attention. After each date, I prepared to move on in case he never contacted me again. However, I could never truly move on, because he always came back around eventually. It ended for good in the fall of my senior year. I was crushed and relieved all at the same time.
This situation, along with some others, forced me to look back at my life, only to realize that I often sought after men, and people in general, with whom I felt the need to impress. I knew somewhere deep inside me that these people did not really love me for who I was, so I was going to win them over! They were not going to selflessly pursue me and invest in caring for me, so I was going to show them that I was worth it!
If I had married during that time, I would have been a terribly unhealthy partner- always looking to that person for validation, creating an idol out of his approval, and putting on a 24/7 performance to win his love. Throughout these past few years of singleness, my drive for self-sufficiency and perfectionism has often been shattered, and it has made me more raw, real, and open to share my true, imperfect self with others and with somebody, should I ever marry. If I do marry, it will be because…
1) He is a best friend, with whom my true self is valued and respected.
2) God makes it clear that we can do more for Him, for others, and for the church together than we could do apart.
On another note, some of my more challenging moments as a single person actually have nothing to do with dating. Rather, they include some painful church experiences. I have sometimes felt like there was no place for me in churches as a single person. I sat alone in congregations observing happy couples, cute families, and college friend groups. There were ministries established for all of these people, people who really already had connections and close relationships. Meanwhile, there was nothing for me, the single person completely on her own. I have felt lonely, ignored, excluded, and even rejected in the church as a single person. I was shut down multiple times while attempting to get involved, and no one ever really followed up to help me get connected in some other ways. Sadly, some of my church experiences actually mimicked my dating experiences: I felt ignored, like I was not really worth their time or investment.
I am not okay with this because I LOVE THE CHURCH! I want the church to be a true reflection of God’s love and passion for people. The reason I did not leave the church altogether is because my heart is 100% committed to the family of God! My eyes were opened to see that, if most single adults went through half of my unfortunate church experiences, they would probably kiss church goodbye! Sadly, many are. This is happening more than you think. I am not okay with it, and we should do something about it.
So not only was I single after 22 against my will, but then I actually felt convicted to embrace this status I did not even ask for and to let God use it as an instrument through which He would extend His love to other singles and lovingly instruct some churches, communities, and families on how to embrace and love singles well. Ironically, I am not kicking and screaming about this assignment at all! It is amazing how my desires have changed to align with the purposes of my life, right here and now.
I am convinced that I am not single because something is wrong with me. It is not because I am unworthy, lacking, unbecoming, or undeserving of love. Rather, I believe that God has kept me single for such a time as this. Here are just a few things I have learned in my singleness, lessons I hope to impart to others as well:
1) The Bible endorses singleness as a gift, not a problem to be fixed or a curse to be cured. See 1st Corinthians 7 and Matthew 19:10-12.
2) Singleness has forced me to go deep with God regarding my grief and anxiety. Sometimes there just isn’t anyone else to whom I can run for comfort and reassurance. What a blessing in disguise! As hard as it can be, this time has trained me to approach God first, to press in, pray hard, and believe hard for His peace which surpasses all understanding.
3) I have a forever love relationship to which I can look forward, whether I marry or not. I have a Bridegroom who is coming for me either way. Therefore, my preparation and work toward becoming a pure, devoted, and loving bride is not wasted if I do not marry some guy while I’m young or still living. I have a Love to celebrate, a relationship in which to invest, and a wedding in my future- either way!
Let us rejoice and be glad and give Him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and His bride has made herself ready. Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear. Rev. 7:7-8a
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