Obligatory Single Person Post on Valentine’s Day

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.

Okay, but I did find this one amusing.

Okay, but I did find this one amusing.

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.

So, basically, I'm not Charlie Brown.

So, basically, I’m not Charlie Brown.

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.

Love

Happy Valentine’s Day.

14 comments

  1. This is beautiful. I am quite happily married, but I could echo your thoughts “with different nouns and verbs and the very same sense of struggle.” Every season of life has its unique challenges – the dreams that don’t seem like they’ll ever come true, or the sense of being left behind while friends move on to the next chapter without you. And until we learn that God is greater than any dream or desire, we’ll always be unhappy. Because it’s not about this life, it’s about the next. Not about fulfilling our dreams here, but about pressing on toward the goal of the high calling of Jesus Christ. Praise God for giving us a greater purpose than just this life alone!

    1. Thanks, Elizabeth! And very well said. Contentment can’t be something we’ll reach “out there” when X happens. That’s one of the reasons I feel very sorry for those living life without Christ…what are they living for, exactly, as far as a daily sense of purpose even when life is awful?

  2. This was beautiful. I have echoedso many of these thoughts and sentiments at different times! Thanks for writing and reminding us that God WILL one day make all things new. (Also, in case I’ve never told you..I love your blog. I don’t always read it, but I love everything I read).

  3. One interesting thing that a campus minister said to me is that people shouldn’t be ready to be married until they’re ready to be single. I do agree with that for the most part, that way people are less likely to rush into a marriage that might not be good. Either that, or rush into a marriage without knowing how to take care of themselves if somehing catastrophic happened to their marriage.

    I used to not want to get married, but in college I met the guy I’m dating now and am very happy. Hopefully he and I will end up together. But I think singleness is a gift from God as much as marriage is. It’s a time to learn, grow, and enjoy life in a different way than married people tend to be able to. One way I’ve looked at it for myself was to enjoy being single, and only date/marry someone that I’m sure is worth coming out of that enjoyable singleness for. I ended up meeting my boyfriend not long after my first year college classes started. We were best friends for at least a couple years before we started dating, even though he liked me for a lot of that. I didn’t have romantic inclinations for him for quite a while. But now that I’ve known him for the last few years I think there’s a strong chance that he and I will be good for each other. And I think us knowing each other for this length of time and even waiting so long before we dated was one thing that made our relationship special. So, I guess to those who are tempted to long and to rush, the wait is worth it. And if a guy or girl isn’t willing to wait then that indicates they might not care about the person they are asking out as much as they care about dating/marriage in and of itself.

    1. Thanks for sharing your story, Autumn! Bonhoeffer said the same kind of thing as your pastor, but applied to general community in the church instead of romantic relationships: “Let him who cannot be alone beware of community… Let him who is not in community beware of being alone.” Slightly different, but same idea. Solitude and relationships are both important in our faith.

  4. Just a note to say I recently discovered your blog, and really like it. I find your perspectives funny, insightful, and wise.

    I will point out, however, that this is written from the perspective of the “currently single, looking towards maybe someday being coupled”. There is another group who feel very left out on a day celebrating romance: “once coupled, but now (unwillingly) single, with little prospect of that ever changing.”

    Of course that doesn’t alter the main thrust of your piece; we are all, in one way or another, in a broken place, and to be made whole we need to look towards the God who will not and shall not and indeed can not betray our trust, and not to another person (past, future, or even present) who is as broken as we are.

    But I thought I’d leave a gentle reminder here, because I know that it most certainly never occurred to you how this post might be (unintentionally!) hurtful to someone still raw in spirit.

  5. Thanks so much, both for stopping by and for commenting. I’m glad you’re enjoying the blog!

    When I first wrote the post, I had a footnote that I was addressing this topic from the perspective of a relatively young single woman who wants to be married but isn’t yet…not someone who has been divorce or widowed, or who is single and *doesn’t* want to be married or a single man for that matter. I eventually cut it because this post was pretty long as it was, but your comment made me wonder if I should have left it. I’m glad you felt the main point still came through.

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