Guest Blog by Jacqueline Gardner
I don’t usually make New Year resolutions. I even saw this TED talk on how sharing your goals makes you less likely to achieve them. Apparently the act of telling someone you plan to finish the P90X workout every day gives you the same satisfaction you’d feel if you had actually worked out…except you didn’t.
Anyway, I digress. Let’s just say that even if I were a resolution-making kind of girl, writing a guest blog on being single wouldn’t have made it to the top of the list.
But here I am typing away at my favorite Starbucks. I’d say I’m cozied in and sipping a hot latte, but my coffee is long since cold and I’m actually freezing because the AC is cranked. So this is me trying to write about being single while effectively evading the topic. I feel like we’re off to a great start, don’t you?
Here’s the thing. I fully intended to pen a lovely little piece of writing complete with commentary on the number of friends who got engaged between Thanksgiving and Christmas and a pithy reminder on finding contentment outside of our circumstances. (I even did that once.) After all, this is a blog for Dannah Gresh. Feels like I should be saying something terribly profound.
In case you hadn’t noticed, we’re taking a different route. I apologize in advance if this is more stream-of-consciousness than usual.
There are already plenty of books, articles, and blogs written on the topic of singleness. Some encourage you to take advantage of your independence and travel (which is fun) or pour yourself into a fulfilling career (which is rewarding), and others advise you to work on your ‘marriageability’ (not necessarily a bad idea). Some give you permission to curl up with a carton of cookie dough, a romantic movie, and a box of tissues on a lonely Friday night (you need that every so often) while others go to great lengths to assure you that your singleness isn’t a disease (it isn’t…just in case you were worried).
Amidst all of the advice, may I suggest that maybe (just maybe) we tend to sensationalize our singleness? Stay a little bit too late at our own pity party, if you know what I mean?
I grew up reading Dannah’s books and have always been passionate about purity, but sometimes my good intentions are misguided. I find myself so committed to waiting for the right guy that I end up putting life on hold. I put living on hold.
I dream about finding a man who will share my joy, ease my loneliness, and meet all of my needs…but until then, I live a life of restriction, temporarily putting limits on what I’m allowed to consume. As if a life of purity is equivalent to that New Year resolution to go on a diet.
But the longer it lasts, the more I dwell on that big piece of chocolate cake I intend to enjoy the second it’s over. The longer I wait, the more I feel entitled to what I’ve been denied, be it chocolate cake or a husband. If I work hard I deserve it, right?
I feel that way sometimes, but I’m learning that waiting is not just about denying ourselves something now (love, sexual gratification, pleasure, etc.) so we can indulge later. We believe this great lie that a life of purity ends at marriage because we’ve suddenly “made it.” We wait with great expectation for God to gift us with a husband so we can finally let out the breath we’ve been holding for a long time. So we can stop holding back and holding out because at last we got what we wanted.
Consequently, I don’t always love extravagantly because I am waiting to love my husband. I don’t practice faithfulness now because I am waiting to be faithful when I meet the man of my dreams. I don’t exercise selflessness now because I am waiting to do that when I get married.
All of that waiting leaves me out of practice.
It’s a defense mechanism, really. Since I’m not sure how to tolerate the tension of uncertainty—not knowing if or when I’ll ever find a husband—I intentionally (albeit subconsciously) refrain from giving until I am also sure that I’ll be getting something in return. I start to think only about taking. (Speaking of taking, anybody catch that couple’s first kiss on TLC’s The Virgin Diaries?). Funny thing about taking is that it (surprisingly) doesn’t leave me feeling very filled up.
Maybe that’s just me. Or maybe some of you can relate.
A few weeks ago, I received a letter from Emily, a sweet friend of mine who recently got married. She shared a few reflections and this paragraph in particular stuck with my heart:
I am learning a lot being married, of course—number one being that it is both terrifying and humbling to be loved so deeply, known so thoroughly. Number two would be that it is still as human a relationship as any other—i.e. tremendously satisfying if I choose to pour myself out, and deeply unsatisfying if I try to draw in instead—to gain instead of give (life, comfort, security, whatever). Only God is my source of these things—my infinite, unfailing source. He sometimes uses Eric to give them to me, but Eric does not satisfy me or make me happy in himself. Just God.
Never thought a married woman would give me the greatest advice on being single.
But that’s comforting to know isn’t it? To hear from someone who ‘made it to the other side’ that the nagging desire to be loved and comforted doesn’t suddenly vanish when a man enters the picture? I know, it sounds dumb to say we believe that. But I think we believe that. In the hidden recess of our heart we really do think that getting married will meet that deep, distressing need.
And it won’t.
See ultimately, this holding my breath thing isn’t characteristic of my singleness; it is characteristic of my humanness. My tendency to think only about myself, what I lack, and what I’m not getting.
And I think the Enemy would like nothing less than to see us wasting all of our time passively waiting for what we don’t have, be it a husband, a dream job, a child, a raise, a new house, etc. He would love for us to leave our resources untapped, our gifts unwrapped, and our talents uninvested.
My friend Stephanie wrote about how we tend to place our identity in adjectives instead of nouns. For example, Isaiah 54:1 says Sing, O barren woman, you who never bore a child; burst into song, shout for joy, you who were never in labor; because more are the children of the desolate woman than of her who has a husband,’ says the Lord. The word that tends to stand out (to both me and Stephanie) is “barren.” Not “woman,” which in its nature speaks to the potential to give birth. Or “sing,” which is the action word in the sentence. We let the adjective define us.
Time to learn some new grammar.
I am a woman. The list of adjectives is numerous, but the noun is singular.
I do lack. But Christ invites me to run to Him and be filled.
My Father gives me everything (that really means everything) I need.
What has He ever withheld from me? He has given me Christ, how will He not also?
He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Romans 8:32
How will He not also.
When I need to be filled, I run to the Source. (1 Corinthians 8:6)
When I need to be comforted, I run to the Comforter. (John 14:26)
When I need to be affirmed, I run to the Lover of my Soul. (Song of Solomon 2:8-3:5)
When I need to be held, I run to my Father’s right hand. (Psalm 139:10)
When I need to be secure, I run to my Security. (2 Samuel 22:31)
When I need to be loved, I run to my Husband. (Isaiah 54)
When I lack, I run to the Infinite. (Ephesians 1:7-8; Psalm 23:1)
When I need to get, He will give. Indefinitely. Unconditionally. Incessantly.
And then when I am filled up, comforted, affirmed, held, secure, loved, and complete, I cannot help but spill over and pour out! When I can stop thinking about how to get, I can start thinking about how to give.
This month, I spent extra time thinking about practical ways I could give without holding back. For example, I channeled my hopeless romantic side into the Christmas gift I gave my mom and dad: twelve completely pre-planned date nights, one for each month of the year! (since I’m not going on dates, I figured at least someone should be…).
Since I spent the holidays back home, I’ve been making my dad’s lunch and writing him a little note every night before I go to bed (may not be a husband, but it’s a man nonetheless!).
The relationship with my brothers is shaky, but I’ve been trying to rein in my critical spirit and listen to them instead (by the way, the whole ‘a man’s stomach is the way to his heart’ thing…totally true; if you want your brothers to love you, make them food).
My singleness is not the issue. It is simply the catalyst that reveals my needy heart. Oh how good it is to have a compassionate Father, ready and eager to fill each place I lack. Like the widow in Elisha’s story, I find that when I pour out—even when there’s nothing left to give–He pours in and my little jar of oil overflows.
Let’s take a breath.
Breathe in. And breathe out.
Stop holding back.
My prayer for us this year is simply that we find frustration in the taking, contentment in the receiving, and supreme satisfaction in the giving.
You might even call it my resolution.