My friend, and it seems friends, have been posting lately about singleness and what that looks like, not just on a macro-level, but more on the day-to-day moments of how to live with unfulfilled desires.
I have been having writer’s block when it comes to the blog, but when I read Annie’s blog yesterday, she posed a great question that I would like to take a moment and reply from my experience. Again, please note that what I would like to share is my journey, with its ups and downs, about being single and some of the circumstances surrounding my decisions. So here is Annie’s question:
How can I trust God and hope again in the midst of my heart being shattered by unfulfilled dreams and life plans?
Hi, my name is Shelly…actually Michelle, but Shelly is short for Michelle and practically no one knows me by Michelle any more except my dad and brother. Oh and yes, I’m 30 and single. When I say single, I mean that I can count on one hand how many dates I have been on in my entire life and can count on 1 finger any relationships I have had in that span of time. Yes, that is what I mean by single…in 30 years. So, I hope that whatever I share may carry some weight with it because I have always felt like “the friend” of the girls who always date and get married and I have cycled through many seasons of “what’s wrong with me” moments. There’s a great song on the Broadway musical sound track of Wicked that I (embarrassed to admit) have cried over because I have deeply resonated with the words. It’s called, “I’m Not that Girl”, where Elphaba, the green witch, has always been the odd and ridiculed girl that obviously no guy would want. Obviously, there is a “type”, we believe, as women and even as Christian women, that Christian men desire and we cannot and are not that girl. And so the cycles of confusion, heartache, defeat, hardness of heart, depression and even pride can set upon us.
I have definitely been there. And on my journey with the Lord, I am learning much. There is not enough space for me to write out my journey but I hope to shed some light on what I am doing and have learned to do, because truth be told, it is not easy.
So, how have I learned to trust God and hope again in the midst of my heart being shattered by unfulfilled dreams and life plans?
First lesson I have learned along the way is that I must always be open with God. Notice I did not say, pick-up the phone and ask your friends to tell you why you are deserving of a relationship and how men are just dumb. No. Notice I did not even say, pick-up your Bible (albeit, it is very important to do so) so you can read a passage about barren wilderness and “he who finds a wife finds a good thing”, and thus drown yourself in your woes. No. I have learned I am in relationship with Him and what He desires in our relationship is authenticity of my heart. As soon as my willingness to be open and vulnerable starts shutting down, my walls start going up. Is it any wonder then why it is harder to hear the Lord? Well, more often than not, I have shut Him out because of my hurts and I can easily believe the line of reasoning, since He is in control of my days, He is willingly inflicting singleness on me.
Instead, since Jesus already knows our thoughts before we speak them (Psalm 139), and it is what makes Him so wonderful, I start sharing, “Lord, you already know what is on my heart. You care about even this, even when I feel like we’ve talked, prayed, cried over this for the last 10 years…so I come, yet again…”
In my honesty, I let Him know just how I feel. I let Him know how a certain situation made me feel, what someone’s comment made me think, etc. I remind Him (often), “Lord, remember that I am dust!” Sometimes I am mad as a hornet and I just want to rant; other times I am a little girl crawling into His lap because it all just hurts; and still other times, there are not words and I tell Him that – but yet, I make it a point to still come and open up.
Second lesson I’m learning is to keep proper perspective, despite how I feel. Remember ladies, I am not saying this as a gal who got married at twenty and is telling you, “have proper perspective!” I would LOVE to sit down with that youngin’ and…well…give her a big ol’ hug : ) Perspective is very important, especially when well-meaning people say things that hurt rather than help. So, because I have heard quite a few of these, I would like to add proper perspective to a couple frequent sayings we hear:
- The grass is always greener on the other side – married people love being married!. Truth be told, as singles, it is easy to think it is. I believe partially what God is working out in us in as we battle with the reality and feelings that arise in singleness, is a greater contentment and peace as Jesus satisfies very real desires. As a single woman, I have to remember it is not always easier being married! My friend (who was single at the time and 39, mind you) said it to me this way and I LOVE IT: The grass may be greener on the other side, but ya gotta cut that grass too! Oh how true it is! Just like Paul says, marriage will come with its own responsibilities and cares that could easily make the married woman look back to the greener grass of being single. Some single’s may say, “well I would love to cut that grass any day over my own!” And to them I would say, “yeah, from here you would!” TRUST me, I have a lot of married friends who remind me what a gift I have to be completely focused on the Lord and have more “freedom” with my time. They too can look at my yard, longingly, and forget this yard needs constant tending just as I look over the fence at theirs longingly as well.
- When you work on (fill in the blank with whatever you’ve been told), then you are ready for marriage. Ok, this one gets my goat. I’m just being honest. And I wish I could sit down with every single woman and hold her precious face and say this, “God is no respecter of persons”. The lie that women easily believe is a lie of legalism. If I learn to cook, then I can get married. If I learn to keep a reign on my tongue, then I’m ready for marriage. If I lose weight, then my prince will see me! If I start a ministry or if I become more godly or sing like Brooke Fraser or dress like so and so….then I will be ready for marriage!! Aha! So we work so hard at fixing ourselves and when we’ve “been perfected” and have a pretty bow around our size 4 waist, singing with our best Brooke Fraser voice, “Love is Waiting! Now COME!”, and it doesn’t, we are left shattered by the broken formula, trying to figure out why A + B didn’t equal C and then trying to find the perfect “B” for the equation, or A or maybe it was a C that we never thought about… This inevitably leaves us feeling even more at loss and more of a hot-mess then when we began!!! Can I just say something really true…and I think my married friends would willingly AMEN me…
Hot-messes get married ALL THE TIME. Just because your friend gets married or starts dating, does not necessarily mean they have “arrived” to some secret place and until we as a single woman find that secret place, then we’re ready for marriage. How do I know this? My dating/engaged/married friends still struggle with everything that I as a single woman struggle with. The fact of the matter, we are still on a journey of sanctification until we are with the Lord and your dating status DOES not say “I’ve arrived!”.
Please hear me here too, I am not saying not to allow God to work on you, your heart, your character, etc. If you are staying near the Lord, this should be happening as He exposes areas of your life that need realigning, pruning, and cleansing. But it is for more than just meeting “the one”; it is so much more about being more like the Holy One.
Third lesson I am (continually) learning is the true character and nature of God. If being single has taught me one thing, it is that I do not see and believe God for who He really is. In the midst of my heartache, fears, insecurities and doubts I am more likely to believe in a heartless, selfish, vindictive and a masochistic god. Yes. Don’t believe me? Next time those feelings rise up, take inventory of how you see God and what is gushing out of your heart. We may think we believe/see God a certain way, but out of the overflow of our hearts we convey what we actually believe. That is why we put up walls between our hearts and His Words. He has not changed, but our hearts have.
How do I combat this? As I stay open to Him and share what is really on my heart, keep proper perspective of what is really true (more than just the 2 perspective statements I made), then lesson 3 is really the gem in it all. I begin to see God for who He is – the same God who did not spare His own Son but gave Him up for me; the same God who pursued me in the bondages of sin with a steadfast love and wonderfully to this day has not relented His passionate pursuit; the same God who has been so involved in every detail of my life as it is woven into the tapestry of redemptive History; the same God who still “comforts all who mourn and provides for those who grieve”, bestowing beauty for ashes, praise for our heaviness; who rises up off His throne and comes down to us…holds our tears in a bowl…pulls us out of the pit…bestows new mercies and grace for this day…and His track record of having not failed me is still flawless.
No, I may not be dating or have even a prospect on the horizon. But the hope I have in the midst of hopes deferred and every vile lie that Satan loves to capitalize on is that, in turn, I am falling more in love with the realness of Jesus and a greater realization of how He longs for me to see Him is taking place. When something is not met in us or when something is taken from us, we – just like children – can take it very personally. Whether single or married, widowed or not able to have kids, our faith – which is more precious than gold – is being refined in these very moments. And what makes our faith more precious than gold? That very word ‘faith’ means, “firm persuasion regarding the trustworthiness of one’s character”. I believe God, in His goodness allows these seemingly unanswered prayers to get to the root of and lovingly expose what in our hearts we say/believe God to be. When I am confronted with His faithful character towards me this far in my life, my heart is filled with HOPE and peace to confidently hold onto the promises as I journey another day with Him~