Updated: Dec 9, 2022
This year has been one full of gratitude, with so many moments to be thankful for and, at the same time, moments where I’ve had to remind myself to bring my anxieties to God “with thanksgiving (Phil. 4.6).”
We always miss that part. With thanksgiving.
A few things I’ve been most thankful for…Lots of time with family, a cross country drive, wedding celebrations, cousin visits. Becoming an aunt! More phone calls with my brother. Sweet moments with friends. Dinners and coffees. Moving on a weekend when family was away and having an abundance of church family show up. Laughter and silly churro moments. Conversations about God's Word and Jesus' sacrifice. Family prayer.
So much gratitude.
God’s really stirred in my heart this year to thank Him for these things as they happen, but I’m finding that these things are coming to mind even more frequently in moments of loneliness. When I come home to an empty apartment or wake up on Saturday morning and have no idea who or if I’ll spend the day with anyone.
It's no wonder He commanded thanksgiving in moments of anxiety. It brings praise to Him and helps remind us of what's true, who He is, and His nearness. He knows we are prone to forget and He is so good to remind us. It’s for His glory and our good that we be reminded of His faithfulness.
What Do You Want to be When You Grow Up?
If you asked me when I was younger what I wanted to be when I grew up, I would’ve said "a mom and a wife." Without hesitation. Actually, I wanted to be a grandmother first cuz I thought (still think) my grandmother was the absolute best. I wanted to be just like her. But, I’ve realized these desires and dreams are different than pursuing a major or applying for a certain job.
They require another person - one who is pursuing Jesus, one you enjoy spending time with, and one you actually meet - to name a few categories.
Please don't misunderstand me. These last several years of growing in my faith and relationship with God on my own - such a precious gift. I wouldn't trade them and trust God in the work that He needed to do and continues to need to do in my heart. I trust His timing and His process in that, which looks different for each of us.
The occasional chill Saturday - also a gift. I don’t take being able to sleep in for granted, but I would trade sleeping in in a heartbeat to have a family.
Two years ago, I was in a different place with all of this. I desired it, but was okay most of the time. All glory and credit to Him. It wasn’t of myself at all. I just happened to be fine.
The same is still true - I really am okay - but it requires daily surrendering now. It's a harder but sweeter place to be because it allows me to see His grace and sufficiency with greater clarity. And it encourages me to be a canvas of His grace, pointing to how He designed singleness in His creation and His Church as a really good thing. It isn’t a curse. It’s a gift (1 Corinthians 7). And just like marriage, it testifies to the gospel, sanctifies us, and teaches us new things about God.
“If I Have to Be Single”
About a year ago, I had a student say to me, “If I have to be single, I hope I have the kind of life you do.” It was supposed to be a compliment, and I wasn’t offended. But it was the “have to” that made me wince. Even more, it's what "have to" reflects about most people's view of singleness - that it's not something to be desired.
Real talk: How many people do you know that desire or dream about singleness when they're younger? There are some, but they are few and far between, probably because we haven't spent time discipling a biblical view of it.
Talking About Being Single
To be honest, I’ve gone back and forth between talking about singleness and wanting to share absolutely nothing about it.
A few reasons why:
People's initial reaction to the word single and the perceptions they have
People hesitating to share their life season updates with you because they think it will make you sad
Not being able to convey all the blessings of being single, the blessings of being married, and God’s good design in both through one conversation or blog post
Not wanting to feel like I’m talking about it like it’s a curse, or like I’m celebrating it and not celebrating marriage
I’ll just talk about the first two today:
As soon as you say the word "single," most people automatically assume you’re bitter because, again, it’s not thought of as a thing to be desired!
I want to be clear, I’m not bitter. I’m the first to tell you the blessings of being single. But, just as marriage is hard and lonely sometimes, the same is true of singleness. I am not at all alone, but I do feel lonely sometimes. If you're married, you probably feel the same way. No one person or group of people can satisfy us. We were made for community, and the Church is called to love one another radically, but Jesus alone satisfies the cries of our hearts. It's a great mercy when He gets us on our knees enough to realize that.
That being said, singleness is a gift - but not in that people are gifted with never desiring marriage and being magically content all the time. If that were true, the same would be true of the gift of marriage. I'm pretty sure my married friends would confirm that marriage is not magical contentment all the time.
I also hesitate to share because I don’t want people to think I’m not thrilled for those who are in these seasons of life that I desire. That’s simply not true. I’ll be the first to celebrate with you, and I’ll be there to help with whatever you need in the celebration! God’s given me that time and it’s truly one of my greatest joys in life to get to show up for friends in this way.
Not My Life
As a follower of His, my life is not my own anymore, which means that what God's doing in my heart is to be used for His glory. If I don’t share the joys and struggles of being single, I can’t point to Christ’s sufficiency. The fact that He alone is our source of contentment and He is enough.
There's also huge value inside the Church in sharing with people who are in a different place than you. It reminds you that the grass isn't always greener, it reminds you of the gift of your season, and it reminds them of the gift of their season.
Ultimately, it reminds us that we need one another and we need the Holy Spirit to live in a world that is broken by sin and in need of the gospel that we all, married and single, have been sent out to share.
It's not our stories that change lives. It's His. His transforms hearts. For all eternity.
But there are also moments like two Sundays ago, when I came in from church after several days of struggling toward God in loneliness. I dropped my bags and fell to the floor of my apartment and just sobbed. On my knees, I cried, “God help me. I feel so alone. Help me trust You whether this ever comes or not. I really do trust You. If it’s not from You I don’t want it. Help me be content. Help me have joy no matter what.”
Can we just take a second? Cuz it still blows my mind that we can ask God for help in this way.
He is the most patient and gracious with us.
He helps us return to Him, love Him, and trust Him even though He's proven His faithfulness and trustworthiness time and again.
The next morning I woke up, and for the first time in several days, I felt at peace. No circumstances had changed, but I was okay.
Sitting on the floor of my apartment, I read from the book of the prophet Isaiah and took a few moments to thank God for all the things this season of being on my own has brought. Specifically - all the time to serve God in unique ways and all the time with people who have been such a gift in my life. Relationships that will last a lifetime and ones that have impacted me for a lifetime. Family and church family that He has used to remind me, in addition to Himself, that I am not alone. It's impossible to overstate my gratitude for those people.
However, in that moment, I was really convicted. I’d been thanking God for lots of time with others and for Jesus and His work on the cross.
But what about time with Him? Uninterrupted, extended time with Him. Short prayers whispered often, and now more often in moments of desperation and need.
Time with Him, being with Him, is the greatest prize. It looks different for all of us in different seasons, but I haven’t been thanking Him for the gift that it is in my life right now.
Time with the Holy One of Israel, He who inhabits eternity, who is high and lifted up but has a heart for the lowly and contrite. Who heals and restores us when we wander away from Him. Who shows us great mercy (Isaiah 57).
Who gave His Son to take our place.
Who gives us an eternal identity - not as married or single - but as sons and daughters.
Who we’ll meet face to face at a feast greater than any wedding we’ll partake in on this earth.
We only have this time with Him, this great prize of relationship with Him, because of Jesus' finished work on the cross. The Lamb of God who died in our place.
May we spend our time here, married or single, with the marriage supper of the Lamb in mind. May my life and the time He’s given me be used up for His kingdom.
P.S. If you’re still here, let me rephrase my statement from earlier about being okay:
I am more than okay. I don't share the Sunday story to prompt feelings of sympathy or anything like that. I share it to point to He who was with me in that moment and every other moment.
God doesn’t say that we aren’t someone until we're with someone. He says we aren't someone until we're with Him. That's where abundant life is.
Intimacy with Him. Community in the family of God. A life full of purpose, with the set mission of sharing the good news that Jesus came to seek and save the lost. There is SO much joy found in life with Him.
I am more than okay, but not because of anything I’ve done. Because of what Christ has done in me and for me. King Jesus, He is faithful. He is THE blessed hope.