I really didn’t want to write this post. I had opened a document with my musings on the issue on December 30 of last year, but since then, the post had still not been written. Neither had I written anything else substantial since, unless you count my fun travel blurb on China, almost as if I couldn’t write about anything else until I had written about this.
Then Madi asked me to guest-post for her blog on biblical womanhood. A weekend of postponing writing later, it’s 6:55a.m. on a Monday morning and this post is happening. Hope this blesses you all.
I was wearing my alternate prom dress that night, a dark navy strapless with large floral ruffles on the bodice and a chiffon skirt that brushed the floor. It had hung in the recesses of my closet, waiting for an occasion grand enough to be worn.
And now under this cathedral ceiling carved with floral patterns, seated at a long draped table with plates of filet mignon medallions, it seemed like this was the occasion.
Eating club formals were an event to behold in Princeton and even though I was part of a grungy vegan food cooperative, two of my best friends were members at this particular eating club and had invited me to formals.
So, I had dug out the most formal dress I had and talked my roommate into applying my eyeliner for me (yeah, I was 20 and still had never applied my own for fear of poking my eye).
Now, I was sitting at a long table of strangers, across from the only two people I knew at the event, who also had just begun dating a few weeks back.
She was giggling at some inside joke he had whispered in her ear. He was probably thinking of more funny things to say to impress her, I imagine.
I stared back down at my medallion of crusty brown striped with raw pink, trying to focus on my current task of meticulously dividing it into equally sized pieces with my small, serrated knife.
He speared a baby carrot with his fork, taking a bite before feeding the rest to her.
It was as if the two of them had walked over this invisible bridge to a far-off island while I remained on the mainland, observing them through a set of binoculars.
The perfectly manicured foot of white tablecloth between us a yawning gulf of ocean.
“I’m going to the bathroom, be right back,” I excused myself from the table, holding it in long enough to make it to the powder room where I promptly collapsed in a heap of navy chiffon and heaving sobs, my eyeliner now smeared and running.
Feeling dumb for having dressed up and put on eyeliner for this. Confused as to how I ended up here on the floor in sparkly high heels and a pile of chiffon, crying.
Too tired of holding it together to even care.
On a normal, day-to-day basis, singleness is fine. I don’t think about it very much, nor do I think there’s much to gripe about. I get to decide when I wake up, how I eat, whether I should go out for a movie with my friends tonight or not.
I’ve heard many sermons on singleness (“appreciate your singleness! Jesus and Paul were single!”) and I know all the right ways to think about it, having preached many of them to myself (hence, my post in August 2017).
In fact, looking back, I think I actually despise the state of infatuation in my teenage years, when my judgment was obscured and I became some sort of obsessive fangirl, you know the ones who hold up posters plastered with pictures of celebrities they probably will never even have one conversation with. Please, never take me back there.
But, there are moments. Like me on formal night in my navy blue prom dress.
Moments when I remember that night and wonder if that’ll be me at the years of wedding receptions to come, sitting across from friends who used to hang out with me on the mainland but have since crossed over the invisible bridge.
If you’re single, and you have those moments, I want to tell you that it’s okay.
I think too often, we don’t allow ourself to feel, because we think it’s weakness.
I’m not saying we should descend into self-pity (quoting John Piper: self-pity is the response of pride to suffering), but that the Bible is a book full of emotions.
Having a certain emotional response is not ungodly, but it’s how we let those emotions that come and go with each season of life shape us as people.
Do we let the longing for a companion become the junk food we mindlessly nibble on when it should be driving us to the source of the longing – the desire to ultimately become united with Jesus as His bride?
Do we let unfulfilled longings fester bitterness in our hearts towards those who are not in this season of singleness or do we let it drive us into seeking the contentment Paul was speaking of in Philippians 4:11-12?
I think one of the greatest challenges we face, no matter what season of life we are in, is to accept our portion in life (Ecclesiastes 5:19). We think of how we want to move on to the next season, achieve the next big milestone.
But if there’s anything I’m learning from the PhD, it’s that the real joy is in the process and not the finished product.
People tell me that finishing their 6-year PhD is quite anti-climatic. The satisfaction is not in the freshly-printed thesis, but rather in the journey it took to get there.
The advice – you’re not in it for the thesis. You’re in it for this. The everyday mundane of reading papers, analyzing data, doing experiments and hoping you learn one new thing – this is the PhD.
In the same way, there is beauty in the singleness that is not to be rushed by just so that we can “get on” to the next stage.
I was reading Carolyn McCulley on the metro coming home when a phrase stopped me short:
We are single because that’s God’s will for us right now.
Not single because I’m doing something wrong, or not meeting the right people, or at the wrong church. But simply because that’s what God wants for me right now.
Elizabeth Elliot says it this way:
If you are single today, the portion assigned to you for TODAY is singleness. It is God’s gift.
Singleness ought not to be viewed as a problem, nor marriage as a right. God in His wisdom and love grants either as a gift. An unmarried person has the gift of singleness, not to be confused with the gift of celibacy.
When we speak of the ‘gift of celibacy’, we usually refer to one who is bound by vows not to marry. If you are not so bound, what may be your portion tomorrow is not your business today. Today’s business is trust in the living God who precisely measures out, day by day, each one’s portion.
So, it is to the God who holds our tomorrow that we entrust our lives, knowing that we are only responsible for today and our now.
And if it so happens, that singleness is my now, then I’m going to live it faithfully for as many moments, months, or years that I need to –
until that day when Jesus will come for His glorious bride and we will be forever with Him in the union that marriage can only dimly represent.