The other night I sat, yet again, listening to another amazing single female express her sorrows over being lonely without a mate. I heard one more expression of dread when she considering the next wedding invitation and baby shower invitation that would inevitably come her way. And, again, I saw the pain caused by the continual passing of birthday after birthday without a significant partner to celebrate with them. Though it is a common occurrence in my life, I am still surprised when I listen about this particular struggle. I think the part that keeps me surprised is that these are always friends of mine that I hold in the highest regards. These ladies are a catch by any standards- No false flattery here. I attempt to analyze the reasons why this particular heartache is so common amongst my sisters-in-Christ, particularly in the urban evangelical church culture to which I belong.
Let me be clear, I do not think being coupled is better or worse than being single. Being married is amazing, but so is being single. Any follower of Jesus who thinks otherwise is selling the Christian life way short. Not to mention, our worth and identity is never found in another human or anything of this world, but in Him alone. Each and every stage of our earthly lives is deeply known by God and in each season we get to enjoy His creation and the people in it in different ways. The unique life stages we experience allow for our own unique service to Him and others. In this way, I view these separate seasons as another form of human diversity that allows us to see Him through a richer and fuller lens.
So this is not a “hang in there” or “Mr. right is out there..blah blah…” post. I am not going to say any of that or anything about how one can prepare themselves for another. I don’t even know if that is possible, but that is a whole other topic to unpack another time.
It happened to be God’s plan for my life that I be married and also that I be married at 21, which is young by today’s standards. I have been married a decade now, so I feel like I can say with some authority that marriage has its ups and downs. I am always careful to be encouraging about marriage because I believe it is an utter holy miracle. It is a microcosm of the church. God has used my husband and my marriage to transform and sanctify me in ways that no other relationship has or ever will. I treasure my marriage. So, while I always want to communicate all of that, especially to younger couples, I also want to be very real about it. It is not some fantastical destination where one finally arrives.
Since I was a young when I got married, most of my young adult journey has been spent in partnership with another, which I consider one of the biggest blessings of my life. Do I consider what other paths would’ve looked like? Well I am a human, so yes. The same way that people who are single consider what their path would look like coupled with another. I think that everyone does this no matter what their lot. I don’t want to compare and I can’t because singleness has not been my unique experience, but I do want to remind us that we are to fight for joy in the midst of it all, whether alone or in a marriage.
The thing that bums me out is the fact that so many of my dear friends have spent many years longing for a husband. It is a big desire of their hearts to find someone to love and build a life with. These are God-fearing and God-trusting women who have it together. They are smart, beautiful, witty, resilient, successful, and brilliant. They are servant-hearted, full of strength and humility, and all kinds of fun. They are neither unapproachable nor obtrusive. It causes me to question many things about the culture of the evangelical church today.
The internet is brimming with articles about this for anyone to easily find. Theories, cultural critiques, and personal stories about singleness abound. Is it as simple as numbers? Are there simply less males than females in the church? Statistics say yes. The reasons for this are heavily speculated and I do think some of them are correct. One that makes sense to me is that males, in general, live with a stronger sense of independence, which can become contrary to the idea of living in community. It could also be explained by a simple swinging-back of the pendulum from our grandparents generation when it was seen as abnormal to be single past a certain age, thus more young marriages existed.
I would not claim to have any kind of solution (if one is even needed) and really don’t want to give trite advice or empty encouragement. The only thing I want to communicate here is the idea of truly existing in the now. Finding peace and joy the moment our eyes open in the morning and clinging to that joy throughout our waking hours. I have found that practicing living in the moment helps me to be closer to God. I do not mean a YOLO (you only live once) mentality, but more of a “birds of the air” (Matthew 6) don’t worry mentality. Learning to give thanks and trust always.
Jesus tells us not to worry about our futures and He frees us from our past. We should live in the now, reliant upon Him, being open to walk in His way at any given moment in our lives. Not only does this surrender allow us to live in the Spirit, the way in which we are called to as followers of Christ, but it eliminates discontentment and comparison (which we all know is a huge joy thief, as the old saying tells us).
Nothing new is under the sun. This is not groundbreaking, but yet because it is Truth, it is transformative. We cannot be who we are called to be and cannot do what we are chosen to do without living in the here and now. We carry our visions of the future that God has given us, free from chains of the past, and with an open-handed life full of margin where His good work can be fulfilled. We should long for heaven while following the momentary whispers living fully free in His love. In all of our waiting, when there is pain, let’s fight for joy.
When we scroll to see the engagement post on instagram, instead of feeling defeated and hopeless, make it a point to congratulate them and say a prayer for them. When we see the negative symbol on the pregnancy test for the twelfth month in a row, thank God for His faithfulness and praise Him because He actually cares about the pain of that moment. Whatever it is… a test result, a promotion, an acceptance letter, may we find a way to focus on His beauty and goodness all around us. I pray that our eyes would be open to the exact moment that we find ourselves in.
My heart breaks for some of my amazing girlfriends that feel lonely many times. When I see them “losing” friends to newlywed-dom and early motherhood, I too can begin to wonder why, God? I get disappointed when relationship after relationship doesn’t pan out. It is a sad part of our current church culture, no doubt. It is their particular pain that they deal with for now. So, while I do not want to be another voice in the giant chorus of the Singleness Musical, I do want to remind all of us to keep trying to live in the now. Unfortunately, to some being present has become too cliché, but it is powerful. My hope is that this would provide real encouragement, regardless of your relationship status. May we all know the power of the present. May our waking minutes, our prayers, and even our dreams of the future be birthed from allowing ourselves to experience God this very second.