On Mondays, we pray and fast for lunch for three reasons. First, we pray that we would allow God to soften our hearts as women—being open to everything He’s doing in our lives. Second, we pray for men—that God would raise them up, confirm for them who they are in Christ, and embolden them to lead in relationships and in the church. Third, we pray that God would give the gift of marriage to those who desire it.
Four years ago this summer, I made the day-long journey from East Asia to the United States. I’d lived in a city teeming with people and bicycles for three years; a city filled with the aroma of dumplings and roasted sweet potatoes—among other unpleasant smells that I’m choosing to forget. I left my teaching position with a heavy heart, and I don’t always know that it was for the right reasons. One of the underlying reasons, was that I realized in those three years that I was lonely and desperately wanted to be married, and I didn’t see how God could provide a husband for me where I was. I’d had a few relational dust-ups along the way, and my heart was having trouble healing. So, I came home—unable to put my worries and fears about singleness into words.
Even though I’m still not married, God has taken care of me. I have avenues for talking about singleness and my unexpected life. As is often the case with longings that haven’t been realized, it’s not always easy to explain your story and fears to family, friends, or well-meaning pastors. I just want to be intuitively understood. (Welcome to Pipe Dreaming 101.)
God has been good to me, but I more often than not, I still have a grumbling attitude about being single.
I don’t want to have to continually wave the singles flag in the corner of the sanctuary when people ask if you’ve ever heard of online dating or a married pastor spits out another cliché about single folks just needing to try just a little bit harder or wait a little bit longer.
I just don’t have the words or enough godliness or sheer patience to push back (or push forward?) with better thinking on singleness in the church or with biblical perspectives of living as a woman who wants to make babies but who is choosing to obey the call to chastity. (I may be single, but I don’t have some Holy Spirit-infused, ZapNTrap device that kills off hormones like mosquitoes, leaving me with a blue glow and a magical “gift of celibacy.” If you can find one, let me know.)
On Saturday morning, I was reading from Exodus 14, which is the story of the Israelites being chased by Pharaoh’s army, and God parting the Red Sea. In the previous chapters, Israel had been in a pretty terrible spot. Slavery. 400 years. Bricks without straw. No home. Dirt poor. And, in the middle of all of that, God rescued them in pretty spectacular fashion.
In the middle of chapter 14, the Israelites are on the edge of the Red Sea, and they see the army coming, and they start freaking out big time. Why did you bring us here? You have abandoned us here to die. We could have just made better graves in Egypt. Who gives a rat’s hindquarters if God has taken care of us in the past? We’re still in a terrible place with no way out. Moses, you suck for bringing us here. In that moment, Moses says in verse 14:
The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.
When I read that, I laughed. God cares enough to fight for me, regardless of my whining. He hasn’t left me with my bad attitude to somehow muddle through on my own—shouting from the church basement to be heard. Don’t forget about singles! Why am I here? I should have stayed in East Asia. There’s no way out of here.
He says… shhh… I’m fighting for you.
I’m not advocating for total silence, but the Lord reminded my heart this weekend He is the one who fights for me, for you, for bristly singles with unmet longing, for cynical married people with heartbreak, for His broken people.
The blog posts on singleness, FastPray Mondays asking for the gift of marriage, emails to sensitive elders in the church who want to hear the hearts of single women, informal discussions with co-workers and friends about the single life, none of those are wrong, but it’s so important for me to remember that the Lord is the one fighting for me and for you. And, because He’s carrying the burden, I can walk in freedom and joy in the day that He’s made and given.
As I was writing, a line from a song called, The Art of Celebration, came to mind:
Oh, praise the One who fights for me,
And, shields my soul eternally.
Enjoy it as you pray and fast this week.