There’s something ironic to me about writing an article on singleness for a holiday literally about love and togetherness.
While I do my best to ignore the holiday altogether, there is always that pang of loneliness that comes with it. The desire to have a person, to not be alone. To not have to ignore it.
My favorite game growing up was “house.” I’d make my friends at school be my children, I’d find some unsuspecting guy to be the husband, and I was always the mom. I thought the goal of life was to find a husband, have my 2.5 kids, buy a house with a white picket fence and a wrap-around porch, and spend my days sitting on a rocking chair yelling at my kids as they play in the yard.
I believed that was what it looked like to have a blessed life – that when I got to that point, my purpose for living would be achieved, and it would mean God was happy with me. He “blessed” me.
High school came and went.
College came and went.
I’d tell myself, “I just haven’t met him yet. God will send him my way soon! I know it!” So I waited … and kept waiting.
Putting Life on Hold
I felt like without my “other half,” I wasn’t able to really do anything. I was afraid to live. I wondered if I would ever be blessed, or if the Lord was angry with me because I wasn’t getting what I thought I was due and desired so badly.
I celebrated friends getting married, two of my siblings getting married, becoming an aunt twice (with the third due in March!) While I love every minute of celebrating with my people and I wouldn’t trade being a part of these times for anything, loneliness still lingers, and with it, thoughts like:
“Will I ever get to have this?”
“Is something wrong with me?”
“Maybe I don’t deserve it.”
It doesn’t go away – not really. At times it grows quieter, less noticeable, but the reality is, singleness can be incredibly painful and there’s no bypassing the pain.
Understanding the Felt Experience of Singleness
If you’re not single, let me give you a glimpse into the felt experience of singleness from my perspective:
Singleness is going to a Christmas party, glancing around at the tables set for eight, and thinking, “I should find a table with another person who’s alone so there isn’t one empty seat next to me. That way I won’t disrupt the table flow and leave a couple with nowhere to sit. It won’t be so obvious I’m alone.”
It’s when you’re at a wedding and the bride and groom invite all their friends to come on the dance floor and slow dance with them, and you go back to your table and find your seat. Watching from the outside.
It’s when you finally go to that new restaurant in town, and the host asks how many are in your party and you have to say, “one please” and they give a knowing, pity-look and show you to a table set for two, then take away the place setting for the second person.
It’s wanting to travel and see the world, but being afraid to go and live because living is hard as just one person. “What if I get married and I’ve done all these things without him?!” “What if he wanted to go to this place too and I experienced it for the first time without him?”
It’s wanting to buy a house, but feeling like that means giving up hope that “he” will ever come. It’s putting your life on hold because you want to experience major milestones like that with someone else – you want to decorate a first house together, argue about the location, fight over a registry, build a life.
The Downward Spiral … and One Key Truth
I understand the grass is not always greener on the other side. I am in no way saying that marriage is easy and if I get married, I will never feel lonely or sad again. I’ve seen how hard marriage can be and if that’s your experience right now, I’m so incredibly sorry.
Maybe you can relate to the sense that life isn’t turning out the way you thought it was “supposed” to. Me too. This is what the progression looked like for me, and how I’m coming to terms with the things in my life I don’t like:
I spent my early twenties with high hopes that my future husband was right around the corner, or at that one event, and if I didn’t go I’d miss him.
After a few years of that, I began to shift my focus, trying not to be angry with God as I grew more and more tired of hearing, “You’ll find him one day!” and “Don’t worry, he’s out there,” and “Be lucky you’re single! You can do so many more things!” (PSA: Please stop saying those things to single people. Most of us don’t like it even though you mean well).
Finally, after many tears (over the span of a lot of years) my counselor said to me one day, “You know, marriage isn’t in God’s plan for everyone, and that’s okay.”
I spent the next several weeks processing what she said. I hated that she even said it, honestly. But I started realizing that if she was right, then my entire idea of blessing from God was wrong. Being single wasn’t evidence that God didn’t love me, any more than marriage was a blessing I could earn.
I started to notice how much I was listening to the world, not God. And man was the world tearing me down and wearing me out. The world’s timeline says: go to school, graduate, get married, have kids. This is how to live a successful, fulfilling, blessed life. Simple enough, and something I was sure I could do. So, I took this timeline to God and said, “Okay, here is how I am to be blessed! Let’s do this.” Instead of asking God what true blessing looks like, I showed Him what I thought it was, and never gave Him the chance to respond.
What He was trying to tell me is, I can’t “do” anything to earn blessing. I am blessed simply by being His.
I was so focused on creating what I thought was the perfect life God had for me, that I forgot to consider Him and what He wanted for me. What He wanted me to understand is that I can only find sanctuary, joy, fulfillment, and blessing in Him. And beautifully, He’s already given all of that to me; I need only rest in Him.
Do I still desire a husband and children? Of course.
Am I still lonely? Every day.
But you know what? I’m not putting my life on hold anymore. And I’m not listening to the lie that God’s not good, or I’m not blessed and whole, just being me. An individual.
Maybe I’ll get married one day. Maybe not. Either way, this season is temporary. Whether on this side of heaven or the other, I won’t feel the sting of singleness forever. The God who is my sanctuary now – who has declared me complete, whole, and blessed in Him – will continue to be my sanctuary for eternity. And one day, there will be no more pain whatsoever. Not even a twinge.