Single Faithful Self
Embracing the Right-Now
I was out of place. I was an unmarried woman in a room full of unmarried women, so I should have been relieved. It was the second week our little group was meeting. Week one, our leader had given a rousing talk on the biblical view of family, how in the Old Testament it was all about the biological family, but in the New Testament it’s all about the spiritual family. Maybe this group of women would be different. Maybe they wouldn’t all be obsessed with marriage. Week two rolled around, and these women were sharing their honest struggles, which didn’t look like mine. They had goals, but they were dreams of marriage and children.
I’m not opposed to marriage. It’s just women who are ravenous for a life partner make me feel like less of a woman, like there’s something wrong with me. I wouldn’t mind being married, but I don’t spend my days fretting over my relationship status. I like to live my right now life as it is, and I get more excited about my faith and work than about white dresses and floral arrangements. In my dating life I have one goal: to go on a date with a guy who isn’t a sociopath. Once we cross that bridge, we’ll see.
My therapist says this is a good goal.
My day-to-day faithfulness doesn’t involve trying to fix the problem of my singleness, because I don’t think it’s a problem. I wake up. I get coffee. I go to work. I write. I go to the gym. I do social stuff, or I go home and cook.
Sitting in that room, Week 2 of this class that I thought would be different, I tried to hide. I withdrew into myself. I stopped talking, because I was quickly getting overwhelmed by all the girliness. I just wanted it to be over. If I hadn’t paid money to be in this group, I would have walked out that day and never come back. The leader brought me back into the conversation, and I broke down. I talked about my perspective, about my life and my dreams. I was filtering the words of these women through my own experiences and insecurities.
Everyday faithfulness has meant making peace with the woman Christ has called me to be and diligently pursuing the work he has given me to do. It takes a lot of trust and patience and rest — three areas in which I am grossly deficient. But faithfulness means Christ is with me in this, and he will use my everyday moments and struggles and tedium to teach me and shape me.
I’m learning to be open and to honor the desires of women that are different from mine without taking them personally. It allows me to hear their fears and struggles with compassion and respect, to embrace their humanity and my own at the same time.
I understand the very real desire for companionship. We were created to need each other. But I get really worked up when I hear women talk about God abandoning them because they don’t have a husband. It upsets me to hear a woman speak about her life as meaningless because she hasn’t been chosen by anyone as a life partner.
These feelings are real and we need to honor them. But we also need to rebuke the lies that have been perpetuated by the parts of our world that idolize romantic love. Marriage is a good and beautiful gift, but it is not the only way to cultivate intimate connection.
Sometimes we believe we are deficient without a mate. It is what we have been told by many of the leaders we follow, the illustrations we make, the movies we watch, and the stories we tell. When we see a woman who is forty and unmarried, we don’t want to be her. We feel sorry for her. We believe that her spiritual growth has been stunted.
More than anything, when we see her, see our own vulnerability and we are terrified.
When I experience women who are so desperate for marriage, I feel the same kind of fear, the fear of being left out of the marriage club and forgotten. I’m not afraid of not being married, I’m afraid of being left behind. This fear causes me to hide, to distance myself, to reject before I am rejected. I am afraid of needing someone who could be taken away. There is nothing legally binding about friendship, and my life is largely made up of friendships.
God has been teaching me to hold my friends loosely, to treat them more gently, to love them more like he does. He’s teaching me to trust. He’s teaching me to love their humanity and weakness. He’s teaching me to honor the imprint of himself on them and on me, to opt in instead of running away. In the everyday ins and outs of interacting with his creation, God gives me the chance to experience a different side of him and the shared brokenness of being human.