Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Singleness, Shame, and Misunderstood Promises

I’ve been single now for six years.  When it comes to singleness and marriage I have struggled with what  I think I should feel about my singleness, what I actually feel, why I often have shame over what I actually feel, and what I’m comfortable letting others know about my feelings.  To be honest, most of the time I’m not even truthful with myself about what I really feel.

One day I’m perfectly delighted being single because I have personal and career opportunities that I wouldn't have as a married woman, I can spend money without consulting someone else, and I can not shave serve God.  Then the next day I am paralyzed with fears of being alone.  The next I feel completely self-absorbed and in need of someone else to love who will call me out on my selfishness.  Other days I think of stealing babies (see Raising Arizona "I need a baby, Hi"). Then I feel certain that there are no single men left in all of Chicago-land (maybe the US, maybe the western hemisphere).  Then I encounter a slew of infantile and/or character-devoid single men (who are baby-making ready), and I’m back to being a (grudgingly) happy single.

And then there’s the shoulds…  You should be content being single.  You should trust God to bring the right man along.  You should be fulfilled in Christ. You shouldn’t need a man to make you happy.  You should be able to find someone if you’re ____ (fill in the blank: pretty enough, smart enough, cool enough, faithful enough, good enough, godly enough, patient enough, social enough).  I’ve been shoulding all over myself.

And that leads to shame.  Because the truth is, I want to be married.  I want to have a family.  I want to be a mom.  I want to answer to someone else.  I want to have conflict and struggle and chaos.  I want to have to think of someone else besides me all the time.  I want to be loved.  I want to be cherished.  I want to have someone to shave for.  But I don’t have any of this.  And I may not ever.  And that’s hard to accept.

See, it’s not a promise from God that He will pair us up.  I don’t believe He’s our Divine Matchmaker.  I want Him to be.  I really want Him to be.  I want to believe in fate or destiny or divine intervention or whatever provides hope that there’s some force out there in the cosmos at work to bring me together with this (bearded, tattooed, theologian, outdoorsy, artist) man who I was made for. But I'm increasingly convinced that’s just a romantic ideal that we've attached to God (a romantic ideal that Dr. Dobson and Christian culture perpetuated in my formative years, and that I've had a hard time letting go of).

I want to be wrong about this… I mean, there’s Ruth & Boaz, Isaac & Rebekah, Hosea & Gomer.  Right? So God can put people together? Right?  God designed marriage and cares about it.  Right?  Marriage is good.  I pray for it (when I'm being honest). And yet, it’s not a promise. 

Because it’s not a promise, I’ve been ashamed to admit that I want it—because I might not get it.  And the only way I know to deal with that is like any good human being would… I deny my desire.  I play it cool. I distract myself so I don’t feel it—so I don’t have to think about how it seems God has left me on my own to figure out my love life, so I don’t have to think about how I’m getting older and the family ship may have sailed, so I don’t think about the resentment I still have at having my hope in all of this stolen away, so everyone will think my life is just as I want it and won’t see me as defective. 

I’m pretty sure I’m not alone.  Married, single, parents—we all desire something that isn't promised by God, maybe something we wish He would just work out for us without all the pain or hard work or waiting.  But He doesn't promise to give us all we want or make our path easy. As humans, aware or not, we live with unfulfilled desires, longings and disappointed hopes.  And often our response is to hope in a false promise or try to fill our life with achievements or addictions or something else so we don’t feel it.  

I, for one, need to stop filling and start feeling.  I want to get rid of the distractions I fill my life with and get honest with myself and God. Because out of our honesty, healing comes. True hope comes. I want to focus on His real promises.

What are the promises of God?  That He’ll never leave us or forsake us.  That we have a final and lasting hope in Him.  That He is making all things new.  That He has come to set us free, to comfort our mourning, to bind our wounds, to make something beautiful of our brokenness.  Let us give Him our desires.  Let us feel them.  And let Him heal them and be our Hope.

Here's a couple of good articles I ran across on singleness and such this Valentine's Day:
The Myth of 'You Complete Me'
Your Womanhood is not on Hold
I Don't think God has a Plan for my Love Life

And this is a must-listen for Christian singles (in my opinion):
Podcast on The Sacredness of Singleness & Sex (week 4)

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