I wish none of this had happened. Frodo
So do all who live to see such times, but that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us. Gandalf
I should be married by now. I had expected, by the grand old age of 27, to not only be married, but to have a kid, possibly two and looking forward to more. This is not the case. Not only is it not the case, it is entirely impossible that I will be married with kids by the age of 27. I guess it is still mathematically possible that I could be a married mum by 30, but as I am single with no obvious prospective boyfriends on the horizon, with each passing month this becomes less plausible.
It all seemed so easy when I was 14 and I made the decision that I would only go out with Christian guys. I was in a girls’ school and not really that interested in boys anyway, but I was sure that at some point I would get married. It got a little harder at 18 when I fell for a good Christian man, but even then it was OK that he didn’t reciprocate because I was just about to go to uni, and loads of people find “the One” at uni. Loads of people, but not me. I found someone, but he wasn’t a Christian, so I let him go. God would reward that kind of sacrifice, right? Anyway, there was still plenty of time. But my twenties have produced a pretty modest list of half chances with non-Christians, a couple of turn downs by Christians and the heartache of letting someone I loved go because of mismatched life visions. Gradually “When I get married” has become “If I get married”.
As I’ve wrestled over the last year with the issue of singleness in general, and my singleness in particular I’ve discovered various frustrations and false ideas present in my thinking. I am particularly indebted to the following writers for their wisdom and honesty and recommend their work to those who are single, and those who aren’t: Al Hsu The Single Issue; Elizabeth Elliott Passion and Purity; and this lovely blog from Grace for the Road called I Don’t Wait Anymore http://gracefortheroad.com/2012/02/03/idontwait/
One of the big frustrations for me is that we just don’t seem to talk about it much, especially in a church setting. I think it would be so healing for someone to acknowledge every once in a while that being single can really hurt; that it can be very hard to be alone, in a world that often feels set up for couples and families. Not that I want pity, rather the freedom to admit that sometimes this state can be gut wrenchingly painful, without feeling like I’ve failed somehow. There is a deficiency in how churches handle singleness and single people and in what we are taught about how to deal with the relationship situations we find ourselves in (more on that in my next blog).
I look around churches and I see many older women (mainly) who are beautiful, godly, friendly etc but unmarried. To my shame I still wonder “Why are they unmarried? What is wrong with them?”, which obviously by extension becomes “What is wrong with me?”. Maybe nothing at all is wrong with them. Perhaps they are living out exactly the life that God has mapped for them. Why do we not hold these people up more often as examples, for both singles and couples, of godly obedience to the life and sacrifices God has called them to?
For those who have chosen to save sex for marriage there can be additional emotional and physical frustration. If I am feeling particularly lonely, I cannot seek comfort and security in casual physical relationships. Of course, Jesus should be my comfort and security, but honestly, that sometimes just doesn’t cut it when all you really want is a hug. We are all sexual beings, even if we are not having sex, and daft though it sounds, no one ever really explained to me that your hormones and libido do not stop operating if you are not having sex. That has been an additional frustration which I just wasn’t prepared for.
In my reading and thinking I have realised that I have bought into a number of lies. Read the books and blogs I’ve mentioned for a more in depth look at these, but briefly here are some of the key falsehoods I held/hold, how they have affected my perspective and what I feel to be a more truthful understanding.
– Single people are abnormal . Therefore there must be something wrong with me. But Jesus, Paul and many others throughout church history have been single because that is how God needed them to be to do His work.
– I deserve a husband. After all I’ve made these sacrifices for God, I’ve sought His will, sought to become more like Him. But have I just been doing this as a means to an end, rather than seeing knowing God as the end itself? Anyway, am I in any position to be bargaining with God, my Creator and Sustainer?
– Getting married is inevitable. So I’ve waited to start living life, because with a husband I would have all I need, I would be able to minister better. But God has said “I will be with you. I will provide all that you need”. Now when people say “Of course you will get married” I tend to correct them. I hope that is the case, but it’s not “Of course”, it’s a case of “If” not “when”. I have been given no promise of marriage.
Recognising these frustrations and lies is all very well, but the reality is that currently I am single, no matter how much I may wish that not to be the case. So the question is, how do I handle this?
I like to think that I could “fix” it relatively easy. I think I would have a decent chance of finding someone suitable through internet dating sites. But I don’t go on them because I know that currently for me that would be demonstrating a lack of trust in God. He is encouraging me to trust Him for my security, my provision, my comfort; to trust Him with the details and the timings of my life; to leave it in His hands, not in a laissez-faire, “woe is me, I’ll never marry therefore I will make myself as frumpy as possible” way, but in submission to His will, His plan and His timings. This is not easy. It is a daily battle, and one that I quite often lose as I offer my all, and then take it back again off the altar.
My desire has got to be to know God better and to seek to do His will in the situation and place that I find myself in now. I’m not going to deny my hope for a husband, but my greater desire is to be able to one day honestly pray “Your will be done in my life, whatever that looks like, whatever that costs”.
Dear Lord, Thy ways
Are past finding out,
Thy love too high
O hold me still
Beneath Thy shadow.
It is enough that Thou
Lift up the light
Of Thy Countenance.
Because I am commanded
So to do. My mind
Is filled with wonderings.
My soul asks “Why?”
But then the quiet word,
“Wait thou only
And so, not even for the light
To show a step ahead
But for Thee, dear Lord,