Monday, March 18, 2013

Does Happy Singleness Mean Forever Singleness?


If you’re single (or not single) you’ve heard comments like these: “She’s just too independent” or “I don’t know that she really wants to get married; she just seems so happy.” Or perhaps you’ve heard my favorite: “No guy’s going to want to marry her because he won’t be able to keep up with her.” 
Give me a moment to reign in my irritation, anger, and annoyance. Maybe remaining objective will encourage a wider perspective, but I just want to speak up for the happy singles. I want to let you know that it is possible to be very happy single while having an equally strong desire to be married. One does not cancel out the other.
            Don’t believe me? Let me show you:
            Once upon a time I was having a conversation with my friend Emily where we both confessed something to one another. We confessed that we feared growing content with our singleness. Contentment might mean that we no longer desired to be married and then God would call us to singleness, so we had better remain vested with a healthy dose of discontentment or else all eligible bachelors might think we weren’t interested in marriage.
            Sound silly to you? Once voiced, it sounded silly to us, too. We didn’t know what the solution was but we were tired of pining away after marriage and determined then and there to live our lives passionately and fully—after all, singleness usually only comes around once in a lifetime.
            Before this, there was a time in my early twenties when I thought I was going to be getting married in the very near future. I remember resigning myself to my fate (even though it was an exciting fate), turning off plans for the future, realizing any further planning was fruitless since all future planning would be conducted with my future husband.
            I stopped dreaming.
            When this marriage didn’t happen, I found myself in this amazing state of ecstasy. My life wasn’t over. I could do all the things I dreamed of doing.
That was the point of my life when I started dreaming for real. As painful as it is, it sometimes takes an almost-marriage to make you appreciate the uniqueness of singlehood.
Now I have a new confession to make: I love being single. I’m not being facetious. I’m not exaggerating. I love it.
When I was a kid, there used to be a restaurant in my hometown called Darrell’s. My parents took us there for brunch on Sundays because kids under 12 ate free. I remember the day my older brother was about to turn 12. We went to Darrell’s one last time to celebrate him arriving at adulthood. And to mourn that we couldn’t go to Darrell’s anymore.
The thing about Darrell’s is it had this phenomenal buffet. It was all you could eat with any toppings you wanted for the waffles or the omelets. As a little kid, that buffet went on forever. It felt like that scene in the movie “Hook” where grown-up Peter Pan (Robin Williams) throws imaginary food at Rufio and suddenly an entire feast of any type of food you could imagine appears before him.  You’re stomach wasn’t big enough to hold all the possibilities of the endless feast at Darrell’s.
When it comes to singleness, I feel like an 11-year-old kid at Darrell’s. There are so many options and I can have any combination of the options that I want. The only problem is, my appetite can only handle so much at one time, so I have to keep returning to the buffet, each time feeling the magic of possibilities and knowing that whatever I choose, it’s going to be amazing.
However, this didn’t just happen on the day I realized my life wasn’t over. There was a lot of experimenting and planning and risk-taking and adventures that didn’t turn out so good. But each one taught me something different and I have slowly figured out the sort of things I like to do that make me come alive. God created me with a certain set of gifts and interests and I am getting better at choosing the things that I believe coincide with the life God has called me to. At this point on the journey, I’m so glad I haven’t been married. I get to make a lot of mistakes without involving a husband and kids. Also, God knows me so much better than I know myself. He knew that if I’d gotten married really young, I’d be wondering “What if?” all the time.
The result of the resolution Emily and I made—the one about not pining after marriage—produced some pretty amazing things. She got her masters degree and is preparing to buy a house. She’s been able to knock off some pretty big things on her list of desires and even though her desire to get married has only grown over the years, she hasn’t sat idle and thoroughly enjoys the life God has given her.
I had my own list of desires and one by one those desires are being fulfilled. As they get checked off the list, I’ll add a few more, just to keep things interesting. I am constantly amazed at how many of my dreams have come true. I am convinced that God loves our dreaming and puts us in situations that fuel those dreams. Today, I’m getting ready to move out of the country and I get to spend a year loving people from a different culture. It’s truly the most exciting possibility on the buffet line yet. I get to experience first-hand the “undivided devotion” Paul talks about in First Corinthians.
Now it’s time for another confession: I can’t wait to get married.
I really can’t. It’s like I’m traveling down this road and right now I’m walking—or running or skipping or dancing depending on the season—and I’m on the road by myself. But somewhere up ahead, my road is going to run into the road of some dude whose road looks a lot like mine and we’re headed in the same direction. Our roads haven’t coincided yet because there are a lot of things that we both have to do by ourselves first.
Recently, I think my view of marriage and such has taken a different turn. I used to look at singleness as an opportunity to get all my “What ifs” out of my system. Now, I think that’s a really sad way to look at singleness and a really sad way to look at marriage. It’s only been recently that I stopped looking at marriage as the end of my world and looking at it like the beginning of a whole new kind of world.
There have been times when I’m on some adventure and I think, “Wow, I’m so glad I’m not married, this would be so difficult if I had to involve a husband and kids.” Then my thinking swaps to, “Wow, it’d be so much more fun if I got to share this with someone else.” I feel like I think both of those things an equal amount of time. I think it’s a much healthier perspective.
You see, I used to look at marriage as having babies and baking lasagna. I got bored just thinking about it. Now I know it doesn’t have to be that way. Marriage is a lot like singleness. It’s not as much what it does to you as what you make of it. I know I have Picket Fence Phobia (definition: fear of living the picket fence life), so the solution is to stay away from the picket fence guys. I have a lot of friends who want the picket fence life and having babies and baking lasagna is their definition of paradise. The thought of moving across the country or to a different country doesn’t strike them as exciting. I’m okay with this because I know we need all different types of people or this world would be so humdrum and boring. And that’s not the way God designed it.
Back when I thought I was going to be getting married soon I stopped dreaming because I thought it was a waste of time since I didn’t know what my husband was going to be dreaming. Now I know what he’s going to be dreaming. I know he’s going to love Jesus like crazy and have this burning desire to grown in that love. I know he’s going to love people and even though people drive him crazy, he’s not going to be satisfied just sitting on the sidelines. He’s going to want to engage people and have them over for hotdogs and not be embarrassed when we eat off paper plates. The thought of moving to a different country or moving across the country is going to sound like an adventure and he’s going to be so glad he doesn’t have to go by himself because God gave him someone to share it with. Instead of thinking of kids as a burden and an anchor we’re both going to see them as just a couple more human beings that get to share the adventures and the memories. Raising kids is going to be its own adventure.
I am certain that you can love singleness while simultaneously having a strong desire to get married. I know, because I live this way every day. Sometimes I get tired of singleness and just want this season to be over. Then I realize there might be some days where I’m tired of marriage and wish I could go back to being single. That makes me smile and I don’t feel so tired of the season I’m in. I know once I’m married, I’ll be so glad I loved singleness while it was mine to love and it’ll just make me that much more able to love married life—if I don’t waste time now, I’ll be that much less likely to waste time in the future.
Do you know incredible it is to be alive? The feast is in front of you. God is calling you to dig in. 

3 comments:

  1. Love this! Yes, this is sooo right. I have to say the picket fence life is an adventure too!! I'm now entering a new "gift" stage of life; children moving on. I guess this will be the newlywed stage for dad and I since we went straight to the kids stage so soon after marriage! I really don't feel prepared for this one, because after all I've been in this one for 30 years, but your blog encourages me that as long as you have life and breath and a big God there is adventure and something to look forward to around every corner. I'll receive the new gift with joy when I get to it!

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  2. Dear GBS ;-) I wish this was facebook so I could "like" your comment. This is me liking it. Wow, empty nest season? That's got to be one crazy adventure! Good to know life doesn't end once you're done raising kids, either!

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  3. you are right katherine! i don't so much know it from my own experience as from the experience of my oldest daughter. she didn't meet the man she was to marry until she was 36. until then, she enjoyed being single. she too became a missionary with MTW. first as short termer, then went career. on the 6th year of being in ukraine, her future husband came on a mission trip to ukraine. they met and the rest is history! they now have 2 children and have been on a short term in ukraine. when they return, he plans to finish seminary at Covenant.

    so many people don't enjoy the benefits of being single and there are many! blessings to you as you prepare to go to mexico.

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