I’m writing this post to those of you who are currently single when you thought maybe you’d be closer to putting a ring on it by now.
I’ll be honest: I am 22 years old, and my relationship history is basically a vast, desolate wasteland with no signs of life and a few of those weird mirages that people are said to experience in the desert. Probably there are also some tumbleweeds.
In other words, I’ve never dated, and I imagined I’d reached a point where I could discuss being single with a sense of contentment and a dose of wisdom to pass along, but instead, I find myself writing this from a place that remains disappointed and a little weary. (Also, a place—more literally—with red wine and The Lumineers’ latest album on repeat, so who knows where this post is headed. You’ve been warned.) In conversations with others about my single status, I tend to try to save face and bury vulnerability, jumping between mentalities of “Meh, I-don’t-need-no-man,” and “Oh, it’ll happen eventually, no worries.” Maybe you’ve been there too, not wanting to admit that part of you is actually hurting, or that you feel like you must be doing something wrong. I don’t want to imply that I’m not happy and even grateful to be single, because I am. But when all is said and done, I really want marriage to be part of my story.
Unfortunately, I simply don’t know how to give any perfect answers to why we are still single, or erase self-doubt, or cure loneliness once and for all. I wish I could. And actually, I really tried—this post is way past deadline because I was hoping that some epiphany would hit and I’d write the most encouraging words that any single woman has ever written. But something I can do, at least, is come alongside you and pray that God will give me some words. Because I understand you, and I have hope for us.
I studied English in college, and I was often instructed to place my strongest claim at the end of my essay. I’m not going to do that now. Instead, here is the claim that I want to reign over every other word I’ll ever write on the topic of singleness: No human relationship will ever provide the complete love, acceptance, and fulfillment that is already offered by Jesus. This concept is the beginning and the end of it all. It’s probably not even news to most of you reading this, but it is easy to believe it in our minds without letting it affect our hearts. Loneliness, fear, a wounded self-esteem, the desire to be fully known and fully loved . . . I don’t think these disappear once there is a ring on your finger, and I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve either read or heard this idea expressed by married individuals. Your spouse is not meant to carry this weight, and nor are you for him. We’re humans. We’re flawed. Our own inability to achieve perfection means an inability to be the perfect spouse for someone, and vice versa. Whatever inward struggles I’m dealing with as a single person will likely still be present, in some form, even if I marry the most amazing, Jesus-loving, dreamboat guy. My hope, then, cannot rest in marriage.
This might sound negative and depressing, and it would be, except for Jesus. Because he is perfect. I’m not sure we can fully comprehend such a massive truth, but we can accept that Jesus represents perfection and absolution, and we can respond properly to the words spoken by such a person. Remarking on our tendency to worry about what we don’t have, Jesus calls us to pursue God instead, saying “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:33, NIV).
Seek first his kingdom. That must be our song, in singleness and in marriage. My mind is far too often hinged on my own desires, and my fears cause me to become fixed on what I lack. But over the past few years, I have felt God challenging me with this question: “If you remain single for the rest of your life, will you still put your life into my hands? Will you continue to trust me, praise me, and devote yourself to my will without bitterness? Will your love for me prove true?”
I don’t believe these questions are meant to be scary or guilt-inducing but, rather, to draw my focus back to my only legitimate source of fulfillment and peace. And yet, most days, I don’t think I could honestly answer with the resounding “yes” that I ought to give because, in my self-centered mind, I want God’s love for me to prove true, and this means he needs to give me a husband. My desire for marriage is great. And yet, the more I seek hard after God—and I mean this—the more I am convinced that the only answer to these questions is, indeed, yes. Yes, I will put my life in your beyond-capable hands. Yes, I will trust you, praise you, and devote myself to you, regardless of circumstance. Nothing else allows my distractions, fears, and worries to be stripped away. Nothing else in my heart feels right and true like this does.
I want to be a person who pursues our deeply and constantly loving God above all else, and I want us to be people who understand that this is not a burden but a gift. What a relief it is to give precedence in our lives to the only one who is capable of love without end. What an incredibly suitable place to rest our hope.
“The Lord is gracious and righteous; our God is full of compassion. The Lord protects the simple-hearted; when I was in great need, he saved me. Be at rest once more, O my soul, for the Lord has been good to you” (Psalm 116:5-7, NIV).