This post has lived in my heart for a while, but I always thought I’d wait to really write it when I’m older and wiser and able to be taken seriously. (which used to be my way of saying “married”)
Yesterday I decided I need to write this now, because no single person takes any married person seriously when they say this. (Don’t tell me you’ve never rolled your eyes at a well-meaning friend who’s telling the truth but also has the gift of hindsight)
And, final sidebar before I actually start saying things: if I told you how much I love pizza, you wouldn’t assume I was saying “I never want to eat ANYTHING but pizza forever”, would you? Of course not, so bear that in mind.
Singleness is really and truly a gift.
(Remember what I said about pizza. Do not hear me say I want only pizza forever. I am not writing this to declare any plan or desire to live and die eating nothing but pizza. Also this is a metaphor, if that wasn’t hilariously obvious)
I didn’t always believe this. I obviously learned it the long and hard way, partly because this is a long and hard truth for almost anyone to grasp, but mostly because I learn everything the long and hard way.
I’ve wanted to get married since I was five. I remember regularly praying out loud to God at bedtime to please not let me die until I got married, and I remember a Sunday school teacher asking me once what I wanted to be when I grew up and I said “Somebody’s wife.”
Somehow in high school I was oddly wise and knew that there was no point in dating until I was grown up and knew where my life was going, which was my totally naïve term for “in college.”
Because in my sweet and innocent mind, I fully assumed that marriage was an obvious and guaranteed step in the not-terribly-far future. Until my sophomore year of college when I transferred to CIU and was suddenly surrounded by worthwhile guys…and, none of them wanted me. I was the girl that guys talked to about sports and occasionally borrowed a 3-hole puncher from(nobody else on campus had one; word spread quickly). Majoring in youth ministry and minoring in the friend zone.
From here God would very, very slowly mold and break and rebuild me and my ideas about life and marriage and where I found my joy and identity. In three stages, because again, I learn the hard way.
#1-Singleness as a burden and marriage as the reward for carrying it
Throughout college the thing I struggled with the most was that I wanted a good thing. Never in my whole life, even when I was young and unreasonable, had I seriously liked a guy who didn’t love Jesus or who made me feel bad about myself or who my brother didn’t like. And since I was asking for inherently good things, I couldn’t fathom why God wouldn’t give them to me right this minute.
Thankfully God loves me too much to give me everything I ask for.
Looking back I know that while I was waiting for God to send me a guy so I could feel whole and right and content with life, he was protecting my well-meaning but misguided heart by not letting any of those otherwise good guys pursue me, because I would have let go of a lot of other good things for what I thought was the best thing.
#2-Singleness as the station and marriage as the train that would take me places
Then I was a bridesmaid for one of my friends…where I cried through half the ceremony and most of my drive home, because I just wanted what Kristin was getting. I got home and crawled into bed, sobbing to God that I just needed to know WHY I still had to wait. And while he didn’t give me a bulleted schedule like I’d prefer, I remember that I’d never felt so sad while also feeling so loved and full, like crying with a friend who’s listened to my pain for years and completely understands what I want and wants it for me. I’d known since I was fourteen that I wanted whoever he wanted for me, but this was the first time I started to want my dreams whenever God wanted.
I started my third semester of senior year and interviewed for the World Race, and when I was accepted, I had to commit to stay single from that day until the end of month 11. I was mostly fine with this; if I had a guy waiting for me back home I’d never survive. And also because, though I had no idea of this at the time, I believed deep down that this was my last hurdle as a single person and God would practically have my future husband waiting at the airport when I got back to the US.
Right before training camp, I was talking to one of those guy friends who’d always talked to me about sports and borrowed that 3-hole puncher once. And then we kept talking.
We talked now and then throughout the World Race, more and more as I got closer to coming home. Then one night in my eleventh and final month, he told me he liked me and I said me too, and half my heart checked out for the last two weeks of the richest year of my life.
I landed in the US, jet lagged and aimless and begging God for a plan, hoping it would involve this boy. He was supposed to take me on a date two days after I got home. Instead he canceled the night before, then passively rejected me and broke my heart.
Apparently, I thought I was strong and independent and only needed Jesus to approve of me…but I was wrong, because this flawed human boy still had the power to crush me. Which painfully proved that I still saw a relationship as the goal and Jesus as a temporary comfort.
#3-Singleness as a gift and marriage as a gift and Jesus as everything*
After five dark months and so much wrestling with God, I was somehow able to get connected to Midtown and got placed in a Lifegroup with all married people. Which at first I thought was a cruel joke on God’s part but I quickly found out that married friends are actually the best.(more on that here)
Fast forward another year and five months, to March of this year, on Midtown’s family vacation. I’d expected to feel out of place all weekend and spend most of the time wishing I had what all my friends had. But I never once felt different or weird, just loved and at home and more like myself than I’d felt in two years, and I decided that I’m in my favorite season.
As much as I love making more married friends, I always thank God for the rare and delightful opportunity to make a single friend(it’s like driving past a Lambo), so I’d ridden up that weekend with our Lifegroup’s babysitter who I’d had exactly one conversation with before. (This is important because new people normally terrify me; God needed me to meet her) On the drive home we were talking about not having families and how that gives us really unique ways to serve a church full of couples and kids, and how we get to learn so much from all of them, and Stephanie said she’s thankful to be single and I said “ME TOO”, so excited to have found someone else who felt that way…and then I laughed at myself because I hadn’t noticed when I started believing that. But I knew as I said it that I really, truly, finally had landed in that beautiful place of pure joy and contentment, and I knew I’d been sitting there for a while without even realizing it.
The best part is knowing what a good thing this is while I actually still have it. I’m not saying that singleness is better than marriage; I think they’re both equally awesome, but also really different, and most people(hopefully including me) get to experience both. I don’t want to waste one season wishing for the other because this is what Jesus has given me today and I’m going to thank him for it and squeeze every bit of joy out of it that I can. And I’ll do the same with whatever he gives me tomorrow because he only gives me good things.
For now I get all this extra time to watch all these good marriages around me and learn from them, and I get to spontaneously do things on weeknights because I have no one to rush home for, and I get to give date nights to my friends because I don’t have my own kids to hang out with so I’m always glad to borrow theirs, and I can serve in Kidtown all the time because I never need a break from kids…I could go on. Marriage will come with its own set of blessings, if it comes.
I still want the same things I’ve always wanted…but more than anything I want Jesus and I want to say yes to him, and I never want to slip back into believing that I need anything else to complete me because I’ve already wasted enough years on that ugly white lie.
If I end up married, I’ll thank him and praise him, and if I stay where I am forever, I’ll thank him and praise him. Because I still get HIM.
He’s enough for you too and he’s bigger than anything else you’ve wanted before. Don’t waste all your joy right now because you think marriage will give you even more. And even if you do get married eventually, it’ll still be Jesus who completes you; you never outgrow needing him, and until you stop running from that truth and start resting in it, you’ll never be fully content even if every other desire you have is fulfilled.
He is infinitely enough.
And in case you forgot…this is coming from a single person.
*I debated on saying “singleness as chips and queso, and marriage as the meal,” because at Mexican restaurants I never notice how long it takes for my order to come as long as they don’t stop bringing me chips, and then I love my tacos just as much as the chips…different but equally great.
If you want more, because there are a lot of not even slightly helpful articles about singleness out there, here are a few great things that other people wrote over the years that helped me arrive at this point.
~My squad mentor from the World Race on being single in your late 20s; this one is at 29, but in there you’ll find links to 26, 27 and 28. She’s the dang best(and she is ENGAGED!)
~On never using the phrase “at least”
~On not waiting for marriage to make your life complete
~The Sacred Search by Gary Thomas is my favorite and most practical book I’ve ever read for single people.
~The Meaning of Marriage by Tim Keller
~And, as much as I joke about this book now, I have to credit I Kissed Dating Goodbye by Josh Harris for starting this ball rolling when I was fourteen. It’s a mildly extreme view, but it has very solid roots.