Singleness wasn’t just the quiet moments of loneliness. It wasn’t just the loss of dear friends to the marriage bandwagon and knowing those friendships would never look the same. More than any struggle, it was the tension of living in between feeling like I shouldn’t want anyone outside of God, but desiring to share my life with another person. It was the tug-of-war of singleness, played out like a tennis match in my life. I wanted the relationship of a spouse; someone to share my joys and pains of life with, yet at the same time I felt guilty for wanting it. However, I confidently portrayed that I was content with my singleness because as someone in ministry, I felt like I had to. I had to be an example that being single shouldn’t be a struggle.
Being a 25-year old single Christian in the Midwest wasn’t easy. For a while my vibrant social life with other early-twenty singles masked my struggle because my life was active and busy. However, as my friends married off I began to feel my loneliness in greater ways. It was challenging to be one of the only adult women in the church who didn’t have a “man.” I eventually began getting the typical comments and questions older single women get, like “when are you getting married?” or “one day you’ll find the right guy.”
My favorite: married girls kept telling me that when they finally decided to focus on God, then God brought the right man to them, so I should do the same. As if I wasn’t somehow seeking the Lord as fully as I could and that’s why I was single. That really hurt and confused me. I fully believe Jesus should be central, but that’s true for everything, not just marriage. Telling single girls this hurts more than it helps; it made me doubt my relationship with God when in reality I was focused on Him. I was just wrestling with this tension, and wrestling is ok.
I often wondered what was wrong with me. Was I not good enough? Perhaps unattractive, boring or have some odd feature I was unaware of? But then again, I knew half the answer; I saw it often in my interaction with men. The overwhelming sense of fear I would get when a guy showed even a little interest in me. I had a startling fear of intimacy; the kind that made me shut down and pull back. My reaction in these situations was to withdraw and act uninterested in order to maintain a safe emotional distance.
Growing up in a large family of all boys with working parents, I learned to depend on myself. I was an introvert by nature and had only a few close friends along the way. My parents did the best they could, having their own tragic backgrounds to deal with. However, anger and distance ran deep in our family, so feelings were never discussed. As a result, for a long time I perceived feelings as a weakness and didn’t know how to adequately express them.
This fear of getting close to someone kept me from dating in high school. When I made the decision to follow Christ at sixteen years old, I pursued God wholeheartedly and chalked up my singleness to that devotion. Around this time, I was introduced to “The List.” You know, those checklist items you write down that describes what you want in a spouse. Well, I pointed my singleness all throughout my early twenties to that list.
There were three main reasons I never entered a relationship until I was twenty-five. Fear of intimacy played a huge role, another I’ll get to briefly, but the third was that list. As a young Christian woman, I was encouraged to do two things: remain pure and wait for the “perfect” guy. This sounds great, and I bought into it. However, I was ill-equipped for the reality that purity is easier said than done, and that the “perfect” Christian guy doesn’t exist. I’ve witnessed too many women wait for the guy who is a world-class preacher, comes from the squeaky clean family, and who has never had a drop of alcohol.
Reality is, the perfect Christian guy doesn’t exist, and if you think you’ve found him, RUN! Life is messy, filled with baggage and poor decisions. Holding a man to an impossible standard will leave him bitter and resentful and you disappointed and heartbroken. The same goes for guys. I’ve heard Christian men say they only want to marry a woman whose mom still looks youthful, dolls up for dinner in, and has a toned yoga body after kids.
It’s not bad having a list; in fact, it has some great benefits. Having a list allows you to see red flags that arise so you can avoid a bad relationship. Having a list is beneficial, but it can also be dangerous if we allow it to hold us to unrealistic and fanciful expectations.
Going back to the reference I made earlier, there is another factor I lived by that secured my singleness: I simply never had a peace to enter into a relationship. While the other pieces of the puzzle were unhealthy, the third was pure and kept me from dating the wrong men. In fact, it led me to find dependence on God through the trying season of singleness. Because I never felt “right” about entering a relationship with someone, I was constantly turning to God for direction, which strengthened my relationship with Him.
Now you may be wondering what this “peace” I speak of looks like exactly? I’d love to share that with you…next time. In part two of my journey, I’ll share with you something I’ve never shared publicly, talk about my first relationship, and what that peace looked like for me.
For now, take heart with this: you are not alone. I know what the loneliness and inadequacy that comes with singleness looks like…better than most. But more importantly, so does God. He has felt the pain of rejection by His creation a billion times over. Jesus was utterly alone in the garden before his death. Getting through your current season victoriously is possible! It might not be easy, but it can be done.
The beginning of finding peace in the tug-of-war known as singleness is this,
“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love.”
John 15.9 (ESV)