So, all the single people are posting that one Beyoncé song and memes about how tomorrow is the holiday when all the chocolate goes on sale, which is my cue for: let’s have a serious and difficult discussion.
My logic is stunning, I know.
So here’s the question of the hour: how do you approach Valentine’s Day or any other day as a single Christian woman in a community that values marriage? What do you do?
When the pastor announces a sermon series on marriage you either groan or sink down in the pew or take fervent notes in your prayer journal, so anyone—especially any single guy—who might be watching will notice that you basically define Titus 2/Proverbs 31 womanhood.
Your dreams change a little, because it’s better to have something you can actively work toward. Sure, you could “actively work toward” marriage, but that sounds like those desperate, flirts-with-any-guy-with-a-pulse sort of women, and you don’t want to be associated with that brand of crazy. So you build a career, a bucket list, a future that has the flexibility to include another person but will stand alone if he doesn’t show up. They’re good dreams, and you’re proud of them, and most of the time you don’t feel like you’re trying to compensate for something.
Most of the time.
You keep a strict budget, paying off loans and buying your clothes at thrift stores and saving every penny so that someday, you could be in a financial position to stay home with your (hypothetical future) kids. Or you don’t, spending money on movies or trips your married friends can’t afford or an entire pizza that you eat by yourself on Valentine’s Day because why not—there have to be some perks to being single.
Of course, you pray. About…something. What exactly is acceptable to ask for? Patience, for sure. Wisdom. Throw in some phrases like “waiting on God” or “guarding my heart.” If you’re feeling particularly brave, you ask others for prayer, usually in the form of a vague request for “struggling with contentment” because you don’t want to look needy.
“If” has worked its way into your talk of marriage and family, casually, subtly, so no one will notice and the tips of your ears won’t turn red. You’ll be just fine either way. Really.
When a friend or acquaintance announces an engagement, you add three exclamation points to “SO excited for you” because you actually are…and because you want people to know you’re not driven to the freezer for a pint of Chunky Monkey every time someone you care about finds love.
Certain things hit you the wrong way, sometimes. You feel strangely left out, even though you know it’s not intentional, and you remind yourself that the people around you do care about you, even without a plus one. You will not be that single person who is overly sensitive and easily offended. You will not be. (You sometimes are.)
Depending on the day, you might be resentful, or wistful, or perfectly content. When you’re not, instead of wondering if God is good, you wonder if that one guy will ever notice you, or if there’s something wrong with you, or if you should give up and get an entire mansion full of cats…because those questions seem safer somehow.
You give online dating a try or scoff at it, avoid well-intentioned church members with a matchmaking gleam in their eyes, genuinely enjoy or secretly resent babysitting other people’s kids so they can go on dates, and love the people around you as best you can, but feel, every now and then, that it’s not enough.
Most of all, you never write about your singleness, never talk about it, because this is self-pity and you hate self-pity. And if you say anything, married people will probably tell you that it’s not all chocolates and roses and you should be grateful for your freedom and your eight hours of sleep every night, and you are and you know they’re right and you binge-watch something on Netflix to remind yourself of it. And pastors will tell you that you can serve where you are and that God is faithful and his timing is always perfect and you believe this, most days, down to the very bottom of your soul…and it still hurts sometimes.
I almost didn’t write this post, and the main reason was because I didn’t want my motives to be misunderstood. For one thing, not all of the experiences above are mine. Most days I’m actually pretty content in my singleness, not because I can be independent or eat cereal three nights in a row and call that “dinner,” but because this is where God has me right now.
But, more importantly, I didn’t want all my married friends to read this and feel guilty for celebrating Valentine’s Day with their husband or wife instead of dropping off cheesecake and flowers to all the unmarried people they know. (Although, you know, if you want to do that, I can text you my address…)
I love Valentine’s Day. Seriously. Celebrating romance, especially within marriage, is a great thing. I have learned so much as a single person from the relationships around me (shoutout to my parents in particular).
Probably, married people, most of the Christian singles you care about are genuinely happy for you. We want to support you in any way we can. We want you to talk about the things that are important to you and live life with us and not be constantly worried that we’re secretly jealous of what you have that we don’t.
But sometimes, because we are human, we will be jealous of what you have that we don’t.
Do you feel that tension? Whoever you are, whatever your stage in life, do you hear something painfully human here, in all of the experiences I related in this post?
I didn’t want to write a whiny rant about singleness, because that is annoying and also incredibly unhelpful—and I think it diminishes the genuine happiness we should feel for those who have committed to love and serve each other for life.
I also didn’t want to write a happy, preachy devotional about purity and the faithfulness of God to give us the desires of our heart. Because God is faithful—but his goal is to make us holy, not married. The world we live in is broken. There are good things we want and don’t get and good things we worship and shouldn’t, things we know and things we feel or don’t feel and are we even supposed to care about feelings as Christians?
Here’s the thing: years from now, if I am married, if I have children, I could write this same post again, with different nouns and verbs and the very same sense of struggle, of recognizing that not everything is the way it should be, and it won’t be until heaven.
(There’s a kind of beauty in that “if,” after all, isn’t there? The way it forces me to remember that I can’t control everything. Maybe I shouldn’t be so ashamed of it.)
Are you frustrated by this? By all of these conflicting statements and emotions? I’m not. I love it. I love that all of these things are true at the same time, and that we have to hold them in tension, because it’s something I couldn’t make up, a God I wouldn’t have created. It has the ring of a true and beautiful story.
We are here, friends. We are living in the in-between. Married or single, there will be emotions we can’t explain, theology that doesn’t fit what we’re experiencing at the moment, prayers that seem unanswered. Here, we are sometimes lonely and never able to love perfectly and often very sure that this is not our home.
Do you feel it?
Do you believe me when I say it’s beautiful?
I say I love these broken, difficult experiences and emotions because they point us back to Jesus and show us the emptiness of the things we try to replace him with.
I’ll tell you what I do, as a single Christian woman.
No, I’ll tell you what I do, as a Christian with no other labels at all.
I collect paradoxes.
I worship the God who makes them, who is bigger than me and my plans and my fears and my (very small) idea of what he can do, and I ask for grace to be faithful in the waiting.
Not waiting for a husband, or any other life event. Waiting for the day when all the broken things will be made whole and new. Waiting for the God who has always kept his promises to keep this one too.
Happy Valentine’s Day.