“Why aren’t you married?”
There are 100 creative ways I could answer this question, and if you are reading this, I am sure you have had to answer it as well.
This question is often posed at the most wonderful time such as family reunions, holidays and most often by my great aunt. #blessher #blessme
I have thought about saying the following:
“I am secretly a man.” (I am not.)
“I am a lesbian.” (I am not.)
“I am waiting until I am 62 when I can marry someone who has been divorced 8 times and has lots of children so I can keep my figure.” (um……)
The options are endless. The question is one many, not all, wrestle with, whether you are single at 15 or 50.
Dr. James Houston is a man I greatly admire. He is a 92 year old Scottish Professor at Regent College in Vancouver. He was a student of C.S. Lewis. When I listen to Dr. Houston, I am locked in to every word. My friend Beth said she thinks of him when thinking of what the Father God might be like.
I have heard Dr. Houston compare singleness in the Church to the suffering Christians endured in the 3rd and 4th century. On another occasion, a single writer I enjoy, Connally Gilliam described an interaction she had with Dr. Houston re: singleness. He said to her, “You have suffered much.” Connally was moved and she got out of the car and cried.
Why on earth did Dr. Houston’s words deeply resonate in me?
He saw and he understood the pain and the often suffering in silence.
He did not shame those who are single, with questions or comments like, “I know why he’s single.” or “She has daddy issues” as if everyone who is married was issue free pre-marriage, but he loved in the mystery and the question
He saw a bigger picture than just an answer to the longing we live with. He realizes that bringing a spouse into a single persons life is not difficult for God, so it must mean that He is doing something different for today
He didn’t assume that a family was “better”
He loved us by not offering explanations, pat answers, or suggestions to try eHarmony
I love my married friends. I love my family. They are so incredibly kind and understanding, yet there are many things we cannot understand about one another’s lives if we do not ask. I remember assuming after my friends got married that they had no need for me to initiate with them anymore and it was hurtful to them. In a weeks time, I was lovingly confronted by Jill and AC about the need for them to still be pursued. Marriage didn’t change that core desire.
I can only speak for myself and the repeated conversations I have had over the years regarding being single in the Church, when I say, it is messy and hard, but worth it. At one point I quit initiating any women’s nights out because I was the only non-mom and we would spend most of the time talking about parenting. It’s not that I didn’t want to know or be a part, but there was a cluelessness and an invisibility that came with a cost and I didn’t want to pay it anymore. Luckily, a couple of those friends realized and asked if it was hard for me. Whew….that was vulnerable. I think it is ok to take a breather when you need it. So we grow and we are honest and we learn and friends learn how to walk you through the pain of not being a mom or wife just as you learn how to walk with them through motherhood and marriage. Have you seen Inside Out? We always hold both joy and sadness. I’ve said that for years so I really think Pixar should toss me some dollars. You’re welcome.
My prayer for you and me is that we would trust God for today. We would grieve as needed without feeling shame or worried about protecting an image. We can be thrilled today that we don’t have to wipe a 3 year olds bottom all day long or drive a mini van that you try and not breathe when riding in without letting your friend know because you don’t want to hurt her feelings. We can invest in relationships and trust God for today, but the main thing I pray is that we never become bitter. We can hurt, we can struggle, we can be honest, but pray we never become bitter. So much beauty comes as we lean into the longing. The longing – that sacred place where desire isn’t numbed and where it isn’t an idol. What a dance!