We fast and pray asking for the Lord to bring healing in our times: for men to be bold and to walk in to relationships with women, for women to be soft and willing to be molded by God’s gracious plan in their lives, and for God to give the good gift of marriage to those who desire it.
I was recently asked to share my testimony, including some of the bits about my singleness journey, with a ministry group. As I was jotting down some thoughts, it seemed to me that the best way to share it was in the sense of advice to myself – just a decade ago. I’d graduated from college and was preparing for a year abroad, unsure of what my life would look like beyond that year. But I was 99% certain it would include marriage, and obviously in my 20s. I gave very little thought to this since I assumed it would happen in due course. That wasn’t what happened. Instead, a lot of other things happened…but here are some highlights of what I’d tell Younger Me!
Both the church and the culture will give you false narratives about singleness.
You grew up being taught that secular culture’s approaches to sexuality were deeply flawed, and Future Me still broadly agrees with that premise. What no one told you (yet) was that the church was (is?) highly influenced by the culture and was often feeding you dressed-up Christianized lies about sexuality. Culture said sex was the best thing ever. Christians said married sex was the best thing ever. (#smh) Bottom line – what does it say if your behavior is incrementally different from the culture but you’re still fundamentally worshipping the same idols? God’s grace calls us to radical obedience that destroys the old idols, including in how we honor Him with our sexuality. You’ll learn the rest later!
Secondly, the culture says that singleness is amazing time of finding yourself, dating as many people as possible, and generally having an awesome time. The church said singleness is a “season” that is designed to prepare you for your life goal of marriage. They’re both mostly wrong. Singleness is a unique call of often unforeseeable-length in a Christian’s life – one that includes learning to love and mature in adulthood, spiritual parenthood, and beyond. As a believer, it has particular gifts and particular sorrows. Secular friends won’t understand that you actually might want to get married, and Christian friends won’t understand that you might actually be content in your current state. Contentment and desire are not mutually exclusive. In fact, singleness can be a crystal clear picture of how they co-exist and reinforce one another in a believer’s life.
There is a third way. Unfortunately, there aren’t really any maps. Most of your friends, younger siblings (sorry – you’ll be single at all of their weddings!!), and family haven’t walked the road you’ll be walking. It’s you and Jesus, and His body the church. Embrace it. It’s the only way to walk. All I can say is grab some dear friends, start praying, and wait for Jesus to show up!
Intimacy is scary. It’s a risk worth taking.
I know. Intimacy seems like a big word. One that you “save” for marriage or something. Well, it’s not because it’s much broader than sexual intimacy. The human heart is wired for relational intimacy from day one – wanting to be known and loved, and wanting to know and to love the other. This is how God designed us, and you can’t “wait for marriage” to get started on this. You need to take appropriate risks in being known with friends, with coworkers, with spiritual mentors. You aren’t wired to do life alone, and God is placing all sorts of people in your life to practice loving and being loved.
The thing is that sometimes you’re going to share your heart and the friendship or relationship is going to transition, and sometimes it’s going to vanish entirely. It’s going to hurt, and sometimes it’s going to hurt for a long time. That doesn’t mean the risk of intimacy wasn’t worth it.
It might seem easier to hide. To craft a little space and internal world where no one else can intrude, and you can control most of the variables. It doesn’t work and it often ends in some sort of addiction. (Trust me on this one.) Our hearts are seeking love – we can try to crush them, but they’re very hard to extinguish. Instead let your heart’s desire point you to Life itself, Jesus Christ. He’s the one who can bring our hearts to spiritual life and vibrancy. And life is much better when your heart is vibrantly alive. Hint: you don’t need marriage to be vibrantly alive. Also here’s another hint: a lot of married people want vibrantly alive hearts too, and marriage didn’t deliver the goods. Befriend them and their spouse and their children. You’ll all be better off.
God does see you, and He can actually meet your needs.
If you remember nothing else, remember this. God does see you. He hasn’t forgotten. He hasn’t turned away. He hasn’t left you alone. He knows, better than any human, what it means to be single. What it means to be alone, feel marginalized, and not included in the community. He knows the depth of temptation. We don’t have a high priest who doesn’t get it – Jesus gets it. He knows how loud the voice of shame can sound in our ears. He knows the brave price of obedience in the secret places of the heart that no other human might ever see.
His word is full of promises that are absolutely trustworthy. I’m serious. Lean on them and find out that they can hold you in the grief, the disappointment, the hope, the glimpses of eternity. This road is paved with the legacies of so many other saints who also never knew the temporal joys of marriage – read their stories too. Open your heart to the love of Christ, and then open your eyes to those around you who need His love. You are not anything less than a beloved child of God, a vessel for His love, and one who has had good works prepared in advance for you to do. Bravely embrace the tiny corner of creation you are given today. Tomorrow is a question mark – but Jesus says it already has enough worries to keep itself occupied.
There’s a lot more I could write, but the honest truth is that the story is still going. I don’t know how it ends (I know, I know…you thought Future Me would have all the answers. Again, sorry.) but I do know that the presence and love of Jesus Christ is the only thing that can carry us to the other end of the map.
By His Grace,
PS: In other news, our former writer Anna is getting married to James, a lovely and godly Christian man. We couldn’t be happier and many of the fp writers (past and present) will be celebrating with them on Saturday! We know this is God’s good grace in the form of answered prayer – and we are grateful together!