Going it Alone
- Thursday, December 18, 2003
Speaking from personal experience, I know most single women break out in a cold sweat when it comes to buying tires or taking the car to the shop, largely due to the misconception that women are ignorant of such things. Men rarely need someone to go to the rest room with them, but they still prefer large groups at sporting events. Even if we choose the "safe" bet and stay home alone and watch TV, well, even there we have no respite. Popular television programs and commercials on any given night have more sexual innuendo than any one person needs to indulge in, in an entire lifetime, let alone thirty minutes.
Couples are in, and singleness is out. It's been that way since the creation of time, though, so there's no sense in trying to change the vote of the masses. Adam was blessed with Eve because our Creator knew that it was not good for man to be alone. Unfortunately, my rib-providing man appears to be nowhere on the horizon. Sadly enough, I am reminded of that fact by friends and family constantly ... as if I didn't notice the "missing party" already!
Coping with singleness is pretty much an everyday thing. We simply have to take it one day at a time. Personally, weddings are the most difficult for me. I was in college when my first "Pioneer Club" kid got married. Now keep in mind that many of my friends, significantly younger than me, had already made the trip down the aisle (as if that weren't dismal enough). But there is something especially depressing about the fact that a child to whom I taught Bible stories when she was barely out of daipers was now lapping me, a card carrying member of the "single and looking" club.
I had been actively hunting to win in the marital race for almost three-and-a-half years. I was in college, for crying out loud, with a mere three months remaining to finalize my "hunt" and obtain the most sought-after M.R.S. degree. There was pressure to perform, too! My father was (understandably) sick of providing for me. At that point he was so much more than willing to hand over the boat in the backyard for my betrothal fee. And then, of course, there is my dear, sweet mother, who means well and only wants me to be happy, but constantly chatters on about my being alone forever. Obviously, graduation from college came and went, but graduation into the ranks of the married was not a "degree" I earned.
Of course, you cope with the situation, deal with the loss of friends (they all pretty much disappear after they tie the knot), and you go on with your life, still searching for "the one." You're doing great, coping well, thankful that you don't have kids and can sleep till noon on Saturdays if you want - and then you get that wedding invitation from a "friend." You know the one. The one you knew would never get married, let alone beat you down the aisle.
There is something about that moment that causes a cold chill to run up and down your spine. Mixed with disappointment, resentment, envy, anger - and yes, even a tiny bit of joy for your friend - you trudge to the local Hallmark to find a card to represent your "elation" (muttering under your breath). The perfect card for singles to send to those who cream us in the race would go something like this:
Glad you found one
I hope he measures up
You know, of course, he is a son
And his mother will drive you nuts.
Happy Wedding Day
(I suppose there is a reason no one makes cards like that.) In our own selfish pain, we make a good showing and actually buy the mushiest card available because our prince or princess has yet to arrive on the scene, and we still have that imagery of grandeur.
We go to the ceremony (alone, mind you, because even our "backup" had a date), and deep down we really are happy for our friend. A little sad that it isn't us, but we know that once we find our mate, our match, we will be fine, we will finally be complete ... someday. We rationalize that for every Jill there is a Jack, and surely they are wandering around out there somewhere waiting to be discovered. A friend of mine often states that her "Mr. Right" is obviously lost and won't stop for directions! Figures, huh? I'm assuming mine must be with hers!
After such thoughts settle back into the "place of dredged-up emotion," we revise our "They'll never beat us down the aisle!" list of people as we go. It's only after four or five times of trudging to wedding after wedding, seeing the people we have deemed "unmarketable" find their "true love," that we decide counseling might not be such a bad idea. It's upon the realization that we are sitting in our living room (with our 20-something cats) living out the stereotypical old-maid role we never intended to play, that we slip into the depression of singleness.
There is a problem with our isolation and depression, though. While nearly all singles have bought into the idea that a spouse would complete them, no man or woman on earth can fulfill all our needs and desires. Oh, we know that in our mind, but try explaining that to us when we have a sunburn and can't quite reach our back to slather on the aloe. When we just can't get the bracelet fastened. Simply enough, we have our fantasy of marital perfection, and even though we know it won't be perfect, oh, it'd be so nice!
We aren't buffeted by thr gloomy statistics of divorce because our relationship will be different; it won't apply to us. Then we start looking around at our married friends, family members, and neighbors and pick out things we would never do to our spouses. We comprehend and oftentimes bear witness to the fact that, unfortunately, the number of unhappy marriages seemingly far outweighs the number of happy ones, but we're sure it'll be different for us.
It's during those magical moments in ministry, when I see the Lord change hearts and lives right in front of my eyes, that I so badly want to be more like Mary (Luke 10:39-42) and consciously choose the better part. I have so many opportunities to utilize this season of life that fall through my hands because, sometimes, quite honestly, my pity party gets in the way. Deep down I know that I need to be active about His work, single-minded at the task. I have the "gift" (grumble and sneer), after all, but that doesn't lessen the pain of too many lonely days and longing for someone to hold me in the quiet hours of the dark night.
Trust me, I know the scenario! Sometimes we have been alone for what seems like forever, and we are desperate for someone to love and to love us back, and when someone shows up, well ... at least they are here. I understand why people get to the proverbial "end of the singleness rope" and marry for companionship as opposed to love.
You may be able to relate to the concept of "Well, they aren't so bad." But I want more for my life. Don't you want more for yours? It comes down to the fact that we have to truly want to experience God's best for us and shoose to strive for nothing less.
I know it's not easy. But, I do know that His best for us is not you or me sitting in a house with a complete stranger, wondering what might have been. It is not us reading smutty romance novels or mindlessly watching soap operas, wishing the fantasy world that appears before us will soon be ours. I can also safely assume that God's best plan for our lives does not entail our sitting in a cold courtroom with a lawyer at our side fighting for us to get some kind of divorce settlement, because we couldn't handle the pressure of the man we had chosen to "settle for."
Nearly all of us have friends or family that find themselves single again (or you might be yourself), and they can tell us the cold, hard truth as no one else can. They have been there and done that and, sadly, if they had to do it over again, they would have made a better choice. They would have walked a different path.
Catching The Vision
I think the key is to choose this minute to avoid situations that could develop into such scenarios - because there's too much to do, too many places to go, too much riding on what God needs to accomplish. We need to catch the vision of what our purpose really is. Being single can, of course, be hard, depressing, and even unpleasant at times, but there are so many incredible blessings and opportunities as well. We have to learn to see the glass half full. I've discovered that while finding a helpmeet is important to me, it really is not the primary reason for my existence.
The biggest torment to me is that I regularly find Christian singles who occupy themselves with treasure hunts and bowling parties but rarely utilize their single status to turn the world upside down like those before us. How many Peters or Pauls or Marys and Marthas do you know? You know what I mean, the ones that really are on fire for Christ.
These days, we run from activity to activity, which is supposed to count as our reasonable act of "service." I'm guilty of it, too . . . so don't assume I am just pointing my finger without the accusation bouncing back. But when push comes to shove, I want to be about His business! The road to hell is paved with good intentions, and how often do we assume our good intensions will somehow count for rewards in the end? At what point do we recklessly abandon our lives to His call?
So for those just stepping out into adulthood, and those who have chosen singleness on purpose, as well as those who have found it without looking for it, open your hearts and your minds to embrace Christ through it all. Because what I hae learned is that the fragrance of singleness is not actually rotten sneakers. It's a bottle of perfume valued at a year's worth of wages poured out on the feet of Jesus. It's the love that surrounds us but so often gets displaced by our fast pace and overwhelming obligations. Although it appears to be a cross to bear, we all are called to pick up our cross and follow Christ daily . . . married or single.
The comfort in this is that the Lord promises that His yoke is easy, and His burden is light. So when singleness becomes too heavy to bear, reflect on the point that perhaps you are carrying a load not intended for you. Stop. Lay it down, and reach for the arms of the Lord. The pleasure in basking in the Lord's presence is indisputable. When you can do it with singleness of heart, the fragrance is sweet, and all the bitterness of life fades away.
Reprinted by permission of Thomas Nelson, Inc. from the book If Singleness is a Gift, What's the Return Policy? copyright date 2003 by Holly Virden and Michelle McKinney Hammond. All rights reserved.
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