Around the time a girl graduates college, starts her post-college life and moves on up to her mid-twenties, the conversations she is forced to partake in become less than becoming on her heart. The singleness talk. As her friends pair off, and those who are also single decrease more and more, it becomes less and less fun to be "independent and single." Those in relationships or married for any amount of time seem at a loss for how to encourage the one still waiting on the one and in due time spit off honey-coated crap - it sounds good rolling off the tongue, maybe even for half a second on the ears, but by the time it hits the heart it tastes bad and probably hurts more than it helps. So, for all my single friends out there - this one is for you. Laugh and enjoy because you know you have heard them all. It is not that we, as single girls, don't appreciate the heart behind the words, but if we were to actually take the words spoken to heart, well, we would all be eating Ben & Jerry's every night.
- "I know the Lord has someone so special for you."
You know.. This ends up sounding a lot less encouraging and a lot more like, "Bless your heart," the more times you hear it. It also usually seems to be followed by a "If you'll just wait and see" or "If you'll wait and keep running after the Lord, you'll find him right in the midst of what you're doing."
First of all, I have no intention to stop running after the Lord. Before I meet "him" nor after I meet "him." I've joined this race to win it. I said, "Yes," to a far more powerful and beautiful covenant long ago. It's not some "MRS. Degree Program" -
"Okay, so if I go to Bible study at this church on Monday, that Bible study on Tuesday, Wednesday night service here, then serve at the soup kitchen Thursday, House Church Friday, Women's Ministry on Saturday and then Church on Sunday, my husband is bound to be at one of the meetings and we'll just fall in love and he'll know how much I love Jesus through all of my activities."
Jesus isn't about my religion, and I don't want my husband to be either. It's a relationship. Being a disciple of Christ is not some game to play for a while until something better comes along. Jesus Christ is literally the WHOLE point of life. Married or single. But I'll save more on that for later.
Also, this goes without saying, but nobody likes to have their lil' heart blessed. It changes how you hear that word "special" after just a few times.
- "You're just so great; guys are just intimidated by you (or your [some quality])."
This is a twofold whammy right here. First of all, it gives men in society an excuse to not be the godly, strong men they were designed to be. It, also, in a way emasculates them, saying that they are justifiably fearful of anyone 'let alone a girl.' It belittles them to say that whoever that girl is has more to offer the world than him. It feeds into the fatherless generation we face by feeding the fear men have of failure and the lie that they are not good enough. It just isn't good. THEN, the other half of that doozy is that is leads to weak women. Well, if in my own strength and identity, I am too much (too loud, too smart, too talented, too beautiful, too confident, too much to handle), then I will lessen who I am so that I am worthy as someone that will be pursued. If this lie is believed, and too often it is, the girl settles for less than who she is which can and often does result in the girl being pursued by a man that is less than worthy to have her hand. Which then, leads to a lot more brokenness within the marriage and family if the relationship ever gets that far.
- "The Lord's just preparing both of you."
Now sometimes this statement is altered slightly to be directed towards the spouse in hiding: "The Lord is just preparing him for you." Or maybe even they will be bold enough to say right out that the Lord is preparing you...
So what you're saying is... I may be ready for marriage but my future spouse isn't, so I am enjoying the less than glamorous single life because I am waiting for him to kick it into high gear? That doesn't reallllyyy sound like a healthy start to a relationship.. "Ummm... So what took you so long? You apparently took a lot of preparation." Hahaha.. Ahh.. I can hear the wedding bells. ORRRRR.. you're saying that I'm not ready, which in some ways, I probably am not. But I don't know that I have met a married couple that would say they were perfectly ready for marriage, just like you don't meet first time parents who say that they were perfectly ready for the baby. I think part of why people often get swept off their feet is less about the romantic hoopla and much more about the lack of grace we have when we are caught off guard, we just end up off of our feet, caught up in the moment and the excitement of it all. And then we're on the ground laughing because we see the Lord's humor in it all. But, all that to say, that being told that we're not ready more or less causes us to feel like fixer-uppers, little projects of the Lord's, and that is NOT how He views us. That forms an unhealthy, religious, performance-based paradigm of the Lord. "If I only dot all my "i's" and cross all my "t's," then He will finally say that I am ready." Again, it's all about relationship, and He enjoys us. He made us, with all of our quips and jokes and quirks and amazing qualities.
- "Oh, he'll come just when you least expect it."
The old, "A watched pot never boils...." Just when you've stopped looking for him or when you've consented to this single life being okay or even good, then you're spouse will be there.
Man, to see the mind games that those statements have played on girls.... "Okay.. You know I am okay with being single. But I know I am just saying this in hopes that if I feel like this then that just means that marriage would come sooner because I am really not that okay with it. But I am..." I mean, really, in the scheme of things, I really am okay with it. And most people are. It's not this heavy, constant wish that dictates my daily well-being. BUT from time to time, the desire to be married flares up. The thing here is, that desire is not something bad; nor is it something that we should suppress in order to hope that that may quicken the process. It just IS a desire. Just like married women desire to have kids at a certain point. Just like little kids desire to grow up. Have you ever told a kid that that is just something they need to suppress or that they'll grow up when they aren't looking? That would be ridiculous. And at some point, they would catch on because none of their old clothes would fit. No 12 year old should be wearing 5Ts because they are trying not to look for "growing up."
You get the ridiculousness of that point. A desire is not something that we should push or manipulate. They may show up exactly when you expect it. In fact, for every story that you hear about it happening when you least expect it, I would bet on there being a story of the Lord telling somebody when to expect it, or who to expect, or where to expect that love story to begin its opening narrative. And being told that not expecting it is how we should expect our story to look puts our hearts in a weird conundrum of numbness that seeks not feeling because somehow that may bring us closer to getting to love, which is a feeling that we will have numbed..... It's just not good encouragement or advice, really.
- "Enjoy this season of singleness. You have so much freedom to just adventure and find out about who you are."
You're right! I love adventure and spontaneity, but being an adventurer is more than just something I do, it's part of who I am. My identity is not something to be sacrificed by circumstance. I realize that it may look different in different seasons, but let's be real. Right now.. I am broke poor. My adventures sometimes are an extra $20 I have to put in my gas tank and just drive around aimlessly for a few hours and enjoy seeing where I end up. I'm pretty easy to please in this way. I also hate having my life dictated by a schedule that leaves all free time and/or time to be spontaneous out of the picture. I set boundaries in my life to allow for that. Boundaries are not something that life gets to take from me. I have as much power to say, "No," to some commitments or activities today as I do tomorrow. I have time for free time.
I also probably will never find the end to finding out about myself. If I did, I would think myself pret-ty boring. I am the daughter of the Most High, the Great I AM. You know why I love His name? Because He is. He IS kind. He IS good. He IS just. He IS mercy. He IS jealous. He IS patience. He IS love. He IS truth. He IS. We cannot find an end to Him... Why would the Creator of it all make us so finite that we could find an end to ourselves? Science has not even found an end to us biologically. The matter of the heart has not yet been tackled. So HOORAY for never finding an end of myself or of God and ALWAYS living a life a discovery and adventure!!!!
- "Enjoy this season of singleness. It is such a special time with the Lord."
Let me first say that this one statement, and others just like it, could and may warrant an entire post at some point. While there are many things on this list that I am joking about and making light of, the lie that resides within this statement is not a joke, and it is actually a far bigger lie regarding married women than single women waiting to be married. But here's what I have to say on it....
If this statement were true, and this special season should be taken so advantage of because there will never be another one like it and it is just the peak and high of my relationship with Jesus, I literally would not get married and I would choose to be single the rest of my life. I mean it. I said it before, the whole point of this life is Jesus. He's not just "the reason for the season." He's the reason each of us wake up each morning; He's the reason I have breath in my lungs; He's the reason I have a song on my lips; He's the reason I have joy; He's my reason for dancing. If the only way I could have more of Him was in singleness, I would choose singleness every single time. But I know that is not the case. There are beautiful examples of radical lovers of Jesus Christ who live abandoned lives, married, WITH kids, and see the greatness and goodness of the Lord in the land of the LIVING. I also scripturally know that that is not the case. If God thought that the best relationship He could ever have with Adam was to have Adam all to Himself, He would never have made Eve. He COULD have had Adam all to Himself, BFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFs, just walking in the garden enjoying creation. But God KNEW that there was more of Him to be known and discovered through Adam having a partner - to see godliness in her and to better enjoy God with together. If you say this statement to me, I'm probably gonna turn the conversation around pretty quickly to encourage YOU to pursue Jesus more because you're living a less than life. A life less than full of the goodness of God as God intended it to be. I'm not saying that marriage and children do not circumstantially make the cost of pursuing Jesus higher, but that cost has already been counted by me, and needs to be by you, because you'll find that He's worthy of it. He's worthy of you waking up way before sunrise just to have some time alone with Him before anyone else is awake. He's worthy of you quitting your job and leaving financial stability behind simply because He told you to. He's worthy of you moving across the world to a mud hut with you and your family, all comfort behind you. You literally cannot find an end to His worthiness.
Now, here is how you can encourage that single friend of yours....
Seriously, encourage them. Support their dreams. Tell them they are beautiful. Encourage them in their talents and just who they are. Give them wisdom. Give them boldness. Pour out so much love that they are fearless. Help them create solutions, even if the idea will only last a day. Be a sounding board.
You and your spouse, or even perhaps significant other, have each other. You are, within marriage, supposed to be one, supposed to be sharpening one another, supposed to be running this great race together, side by side, supporting and encouraging one another.
Well, single people don't have that. We don't have someone on a daily basis to encourage us in who we are. I mean, we have Holy Spirit, and Jesus, and Father, but not a person sitting in a room with us there to encourage us. So, we're just running that race on our own, doing the best we can. If I get real honest, when I feel weakest is when I go to take any sort of leap (a job, a dream, this blog post, serving somewhere, reaching out to different people, going on an adventure), or when I am looking to dream big for my life, it's when I need that encouragement the most. That person to tell me that I've got it, but because as it is in this moment that I am single, I know that when it comes down to taking that leap, I am taking it by myself. It is the scariest time; the most vulnerable time; the time when every single person aches most to not be single. And, we probably will not tell anybody about how scared we are or how much we really, really wish that we weren't taking the leap by ourselves. THEN, if we do share that that part of it hurts and scares us, that is when we are most often met and coddled with the empty words above. THAT is when our hearts' cry is, "I don't want to 'enjoy this special season;' I want somebody to be doing this crazy thing called life with me right now." And "community" is not the same. It fulfills so much of our needs in life. I am not at all belittling it, but every married person got married for a reason. You did not choose to stay single for your whole life and depend on general community; nor did you choose to join some hippy compound where everybody is for each other. You chose marriage because it is how God designed us - He made Eve for Adam. Jesus sent people out in twos. They (Father, Son, Holy Spirit) are communal and understand the necessity of having a covenant relationship to live life by.
I will also say this - there are healthy boundaries to have with the people you are encouraging. At no time should you feel the burden of being the only person there to comfort them or encourage them. Hopefully, as the Body lives healthily in good relationships, other people will be coming alongside them as well and further encouraging them. But if there is someone you are pouring into on a regular basis, OR you just happen to find yourself in the midst of a conversation with a single person in your church and they actually open up to you about it, encourage them. NOT the situation, but the individual. Support their dreams. Prophesy over them. Share what you like in them or admirable qualities in them.
PRAY WITH THEM.
If you can (or you are not totally sure how to transition from a girl who needs more than just a pint of ice cream and a spoon handed to her as she may or may not be snotting on your living room couch to just talking about her dreams), pray with them.
- Lift up their burden with them to Daddy God. It's okay when praying to be real with and before them and God. You can say from personal experience that singleness is hard or it sucked or whatever... even if your experience was awesome, recognize that in that moment for them, it is not. Meet them there before God.
- Seek His heart for them in THAT moment. Like the sons of Issachar, know the seasons, and ask what He has for them in that specific season apart from the desire of marriage.
- Bless their future marriage. No timelines. But bless their future marriage with the BEST quality or part of your own marriage. If that is your ability to talk about anything, bless them with that and even more. You get the picture. Set them up beforehand for a healthy and beautiful marriage.
- Ask Daddy God what HE thinks about THEM. Real simple.
- Worship Jesus. There is no more difficult time for anyone to worship Jesus than when things are rough - both in tangible life circumstances or in matters of the heart. Lead them into that place of worship before the King of kings because He is ALWAYS worthy. And they know it, but they may need more help seeing around their ache. Plus, Psalm 16:11 promises that there is the FULLNESS OF JOY in His presence. What better cure for the blues than HIS Presence and JOY!