A friend recently sent me a link to Wongfu Productions’ newly released miniseries “Single By 30”, a glaringly millennial take on singlehood, friendships and love in the digital world. “It reminds me so much of you!” my friend said.
It is at moments like these that I feel like the only person in the world who is single. Ironically, most singles out there probably feel the same way.
We get sent the SDN (that’s Social Development Network, no longer Single-Desperate-Unwanted) magazine, Duet, to give us tips from the experts on how to transition from our extended soloing. We have well-meaning aunties at church, our own mothers included, who offer to charter buses to other churches with a better supply of single men (true story).
And – this has gotten more obvious and embittering even at my tender age of 27 – we sit alone in weddings, alongside our attached and/or married friends, and watch two more of our friends cross the holy line of never alone forever.
Wedding season for some is waiting season for the rest of us.
HOW LONG MORE, GOD?
As the saints cried out in Revelations, waiting for the Bridegroom is not exactly a walk in the park. And even if it was, the park would probably resemble the Grand Canyon, with its steep ridges, yawning valleys and endless plateaus, more than it would the Botanic Gardens.
“It’ll only get harder as you get older,” someone who was single and turning 40 had warned me a while back. “You must be prepared for that if you intend to remain the way you are.”
I don’t think most of us who are single intend to be single, to be fair. And probably neither had the one dishing out the advice. It just showed up and never left. Potential relationships didn’t work out. Interest didn’t compel action. Feelings didn’t get returned. Over and over again.
We learn to say Thy Will Be Done – even if it means I never say I Do.
And through the years it grew on us like a well-worn T-shirt, and even when our mothers told us to get rid of it (and tried to help us do so), we just couldn’t. As long as the Bridegroom wasn’t showing up, of course we couldn’t.
So we try to deal with it the God way, peppering our explanations for our solo state with Scripture as we seek secret comfort in every article on singleness. We pray for godly spouses. We train our hearts to be grateful for this Gift, telling ourselves that this is Freedom we will one day be thankful for. And, because God is sovereign, we also learn to say Thy Will Be Done – even if it means I never say I Do.
But when the low moments hit and the darkness of our humanity comes up for air, we find ourselves floundering in an ugly sea of bitterness, doubt, blame and shame. We see the storm waves. We feel the pummelling wind. Jesus is no longer enough. The road of singleness stretches far into the horizon – long, lonely, forever.
BE STILL AND KNOW THAT I AM GOD
I didn’t realise I was single until I was 21. A girlfriend, sitting across from me at our favourite sushi place, told me about an almost-relationship that had fallen through in the past year.
These conversations were common among us uni kids. We were either in a relationship, getting out of a relationship, or almost, kinda in one with one of the many acquaintances we had (or celebrities we loved, though they probably didn’t realise it). Singleness didn’t sit central to our identities like a defining marker of who we were as people.
And then my friend – young, beautiful and a lover of Jesus – put down her chopsticks and told me something that I’d somehow hear again and again in the years to come. That there was a high chance that she would be single forever because there were just more Christian girls than guys. That she didn’t know how not to be bitter with God, but the statistics were too real to deny – and how could that be a consequence of choosing to follow Him?
I never forgot her words. She would be single. I would be single.
Six years on, and the invisible label that I became aware of that day would sink its teeth deeper into my Self, both public and private, and manifest the deepest struggles of identity, worth and faith. Was I a half waiting to be whole? Did I need a man to love me to prove I was worthy of love? Had God really prepared someone specific for me to marry, or did He mean for me to be single all my life (and if so – could I still trust and love Him fully)?
There was despair. Disappointment. Debilitating self-hate. But in the darkness and desolation of this aspect of my life, the Spirit hovered. He waited for my stillness. He planned restoration. Not in a quick fix, but in a dawning revelation.
Without a romantic relationship to work on, God freed my hands to serve Him wholeheartedly in church and school. I poured myself into one creative project after another. I lavished my love on the people I discipled.
As I gave more and more of my life to Jesus through the years, I watched with wide-eyed wonder as He revealed the plans He had for me – plans so unique and perfect that they made use of even the ugliest, lowest parts of my journey for a message solidly woven into the hope of glory promised through Christ in me (Colossians 1:27).
And in my growing desire for His heart and Will for my life, He gave me my ministry.
One day, one of the young girls I was mentoring interrupted me as I lamented my singleness and said, “But it makes me feel like you really understand where I am. Like you’re still one of us. Thank you for not being married.”
So, after the many seasons of wandering and heartbreak, I saw the light. Light that would illuminate even the parts of my soul that I had kept hidden from the world.
You see, God met me along that broken, bitter road, not to lead me straight to some special man, but to lead me back to Him in all gentleness, love and truth.
Because the truth is, God is God. He can use singleness or marriage, joy or pain, gain or loss, to achieve what should be our most important goal in life – Christlikeness.
A Man loved me and died for me to prove I was worthy of His love.
The journey was (and is) never about singleness or marriage at all. They are, in themselves, simply tools in the Master’s all-knowing and all-powerful hands to surface both the most beautiful and ugly parts of our beings. And as they grow up, out of our single or married life, whichever He has chosen to do the job in that season, He nurtures and waters, prunes and removes as He purposed to all along. God is God.
And as Jesus arose to calm the storm, we can remind our souls to be still. To let faith arise in the place of very real fear, knowing that my security, validation and wholeness comes from God alone. To rally our brothers and sisters back to the mission of Christlikeness, because a Man loved me and died for me to prove I was worthy of His love – He is worthy.
And, on the narrow path of struggle, loneliness, growth and victory, to let Him take our hand as we walk through this life together.