*I received a message on Instagram the other day that asked about singleness and waiting. I get these sometimes from the sweetest women who are just wondering how to wait and how to wait well. The following is my response to that message.*
In the summer of 2010, I signed a lease on a one bedroom apartment after moving out of the one I shared with my newly engaged sister. I use the word signed rather loosely because I felt like Ariel in “The Little Mermaid” when she signs her voice away to Ursula without looking at the paper.
Like, “Ughhh I don’t want to do this but I don’t see any other options.” I was 25 and most of my friends were married and buying houses and having babies. That September my best friend got married one weekend and the very next weekend I was a bridesmaid at my sister’s wedding – my younger sister, I might add, because if you’ve been in that position, you know that matters. (Isn’t the law of the universe that these kind of life events happen in birth order? Thank you.) So they were both putting together new homes with brand new wedding gifts, meanwhile my apartment was mostly empty and had mismatched furniture and hand-me-down dishes that weren’t even a complete set anymore. Devastated at my circumstances doesn’t really begin to cover it. Didn’t God know I wanted a husband? Didn’t he see me crying about this?
I grew up believing that I would be married at a young age because my mom was and my aunts were and my grandparents were and my sisters had no problem finding spouses so, duh, this was supposed to be a slam dunk. Except I turned 26 and 27 and 28 and 29 and still never had a steady boyfriend. I stood in the mirror on my 28th birthday and cried about my life, which is ridiculous now that I think about it, but at the time I felt alone. I think the holidays are especially difficult for single people or for people whose lives haven’t gone exactly as they dreamed. Christmas is a season of expectation and hope, but when your hopes have been dashed and you feel no reason to be expectant, it’s just another season to feel like God forgot about you because he’s busy blessing everyone else. Ouch.
I know of a woman and have known her for a very long time. We’ll call her Karen. And from my very limited knowledge about her, Karen was never dating anyone and she was never married (that I know of). Well, turning into Karen was my worst nightmare. God forbid I turned 30 or 40 or 50 and was still single. I mean, that would just kill me, I was certain. I had no idea about Karen’s circumstances or if she chose to be single or anything like that. I just knew she wasn’t married and reaching the upper stages of her 40s and the color drained from my face at the thought of my story following that pattern. But at 29 and single, that’s the outcome I was starting to imagine.
One of the biggest lies I told myself in that season was that I was getting “too old.” I had a timetable I was on. If I didn’t get married in the next year, I wouldn’t be able to have all my kids by the time I was 30 and then I would be an old mom and my kid’s friends would probably confuse me for being his/her grandparent! And would my kids know their great grandparents like I knew mine? Not on this schedule, God! Come on!
We live in a culture that loves everything new and fresh – people, gadgets, relationships, etc. It’s like your engagement and wedding pictures getting 1,000 likes on Facebook but then the picture you post a few months after the wedding and everyone is over you like, “How many pictures do they need of each other? Ugh, we get it.” It’s like when you announce your first baby and everyone is so excited for you but by the time you announce the fourth people are like “Are they going for a Duggar situation or what?” It’s like 17 year olds modeling for a high-end line that absolutely no real life 17 year old children could afford to buy but then the 40 year olds who actually can afford it feel like they need to look like that 17 year old. If our culture loves anything it’s youthfulness. Magazines and movies and famous people (who apparently never age) tell us this, when in actuality they’re pumped full of Botox, and meanwhile make you feel like the three lines near your eyes are screaming that you’re 1,000 years old. Oh no! I’m aging! How dare I do that!
You know who loves to step into these lies about being “too old” and drop brilliant promises? God. He always uses the old and the weak and the outcast to accomplish his mission. He walks up to the ones thinking they’re “too old” and says, “You. Let’s do this.” To how many barren wombs did he give children? How many people did he raise from the dead? How many sick did he heal? How many outcasts did he pull from the dark fringes of society? How many situations did he enter where people were believing they were too old, too sick, too dead to be redeemed? The Bible is the story of redemption from lowly, unlikely places and with each new season we enter there is new mercy to endure and flourish and grow and learn. Culture would have us look back at our younger years but God asks us to keep our eyes fixed straight ahead to see the NEW thing he is going to do. That doesn’t mean I don’t use an eyecream here and there, but I’m not making an idol out of youthfulness either. God will step into the lies and speak promise, restoration, new life. He makes NEW where we think we’re old. He brings LIFE where we think there’s only death. There is absolutely no such thing as “too” anything for God to work together all the good he has for us.
It took a long time for me to understand all of this but God got a stranglehold on my heart one day when I was sitting on the floor in my very own kitchen. I wrote about the conversation one time. God came to me and asked why I was striving - why I wanted more than him. He offered me himself, pure, unconditional love and I was essentially saying no. I was saying it wasn’t enough. You’re not enough, God. I don’t want only you. I believed that having a husband meant my life would really start. I believed that having that prayer answered meant I would never long for anything again. The deepest longing in my soul was marriage, but in all that space of singleness God was teaching me that my desire should be for him above all else.
I realized after that conversation with God that even if I ended up to be Karen, if Karen loved Jesus with her whole heart and poured out her life to him alone, then I should be grateful for that opportunity. Even if I was 50 and alone, God would sustain me. He would be enough. He was writing my story. I finally believed that. A husband would not satisfy that longing in my soul. A house or a baby or any of my dreams fulfilled would not satisfy that place in my heart. I think it’s Jim Carrey who said one time, “I think everybody should get rich and famous and do everything they ever dreamed of so they can see that it's not the answer.” There’s only one who can fill that space.
I know that being single is hard when you have dreams of being married and starting a family. I know that it is. I’ve been there. I’m not going to give you a list of things to do or say or feel. Your singleness is entirely your own and feeling grateful will come in waves and lulls like it does for all of us, no matter what we’re waiting on. So I can’t tell you how to spend this season of singleness except that you might hold fast to God. Be as near to him as you possibly can, even when you don’t feel like it, even when you don’t feel it in your heart and you don’t feel him speaking or moving. Put him first. We always say, “Put those you love first,” well make him first! Spend time with him, get close to his heart, abide in him. That’s the best thing any of us can really do no matter our season of life. It’s the only place to find true rest, comfort, healing, hope. Stick close to the heart of Jesus and he will fill you, hold you, sustain you and continue to shape you into the woman he wants you to be.
In the meantime, you will feel every single range of emotions - thankful for your singleness and anger about it, maybe even in the same day! You will probably feel sadness and you will feel a sense of freedom. You will feel hope and you will feel deep doubt. And you’re allowed to feel every single one of those things. But remember to dwell in the truth, not the doubt. Drink from the well of life, not the one of striving and hopelessness. Rest in his promises. He is faithful.
I signed the lease on my single-life apartment seven more times before God moved me on to a new season. And you know what I did when I had to turn in my notice? I CRIED. I cried about leaving that apartment. I was so sad to end the season that, when it started, I cried about starting! How fickle is my heart! We don’t even really know what it is we want because when we get it, we move on to the next thing we want! And we can always, at any point in our lives, get sucked into the lie that we are “too old” or “too” something. I fight against it even now as I think about wanting to be a mom. At this point, at my age, a pregnancy is nearly considered geriatric - and that’s not my word, that’s medical terminology. Translation: I’m going to be an “old mom”. Ah! My worst fear! But you know what? I know my Jesus well enough now to know that he has this all worked out. I’m not behind. I am not late to the party. I am perfectly where he has placed me in this moment. And I can rest! I can rest.
I want you to rest, too. You are not behind. You are not late. God did not forget about you. He has not missed that all your friends are now married and you feel like you’re the only single one left. Each time I felt like I was in that position, he swooped in and gave me sweet friends in my same season. And I mean every single time. Be grateful for those people. Be grateful for what he has given you rather than upset about the one thing he has not. God’s will for all of us, regardless of where we’re at in life, is just one thing, “REJOICE always, PRAY without ceasing, GIVE thanks in ALL circumstances, for THIS is the will of God in Christ Jesus for YOU.”
I know that right now he is positioning you and placing you and preparing you for exactly what he has for you. You are his. Stick close to him. He’ll lead you to a spacious place and grant you far more than you could ever ask or imagine. I believe it for you. I believe it for all of us.