I’m 28 (and a half). I’ve been married six months (and one week). Prior to getting married, Ronnie and I were dating or engaged (it pretty much all ran together) for just over four months, and that was almost the longest relationship I’d had to that point. Did you catch that? Prior to Ronnie, my longest dating relationship was five months. Before that, something like three months. Then one that lasted twenty-eight ill-fated days. Then several that lasted two or three weeks at a time. What this means is: I’m really, really good at being single. Really. I’m so good at being single that I led (or co-led) three different small groups for singles in the years leading up to my marriage (and I like to think I was a pretty good singles’ leader as well). When it comes to being single, I’ve totally got this one down.
Several weeks ago in my quiet time I was praying for some of my single friends. A few of them were going through some very single-related struggles, and I was praying for peace and wisdom for them, God, please give them focus, and also please reveal to them the joy of being single–
Those words actually came out of my mouth: “the joy of being single.” I was horrified. The next thing I said to God was, “What the heck? Now I’m one of those people who talks about ‘the joy of being single’?!” I laughed. I like to think God laughed along with me, maybe shook his head at me, probably even called me a tool.
Let me be clear, for those of you married folk who have forgotten what it was like: there is no joy of being single for single’s sake. There is a very definite (and definitely bittersweet) lack of responsibility, but other than that? Nothing. Being single sucks. And anyone who says otherwise is either married, lying, or a sociopath. Or maybe even all three.
Here’s why being single sucks, from a girl’s perspective: you really want to be nurturing to someone. You want someone to protect you and provide for you and be able to make those final decisions when you’re feeling particularly indecisive, like which movie you should go see or whether you should order your usual at a restaurant or try something new. You want someone to cuddle with when you’re watching a movie or when you just wake up or sometimes just for no reason at all. You want someone to bring you medicine and 7up and crackers when you’re sick, without you having to ask for it. You want someone to tell you how beautiful you look, especially when you feel ugly but spent hours getting ready to look like someone who really is beautiful and not just someone trying to look like someone who is beautiful. And your girlfriends are great and sweet and supportive, but sometimes they just don’t cut it. Especially when they start a serious relationship and just aren’t around anymore. Then you naturally gravitate to other single friends and start using them as your substitute but somewhat inadequate partner.
Then there’s the BS about that whole dating thing. It might just be the worst idea we’ve had yet. In fact, I had a long rant here about it, but I took it out. We’ll save that one for later. In the meantime, if you want an idea of what relationships should be, check out Joshua Harris’ “Boy Meets Girl.” I firmly believe that every single person should read it. Today.
And then, the absolute worst thing about being single is (drum roll, please): time. Let’s be honest, when you’re single, you’ve got a lot of time. And that can be great when you want to watch a One Tree Hill marathon or take an overnight trip to Austin or spend hours shopping. But when you’ve got a lot of time, you’ve got a lot of time to think. And that inevitably will turn to thinking about how badly you want to be nurturing to someone. And how you want someone to protect you and make decisions and bring medicine and cuddle and tell you you’re beautiful and smart and witty and, uh, well-spoken and friendly and hilarious and fun to be around and, well, you get the picture. When you’re single, you have the time to focus on what you wish you had. Granted, there have been several times in the past six months (and one week) when I had time to think about what I wish I had, like more clothes or Criminal Minds on DVD or a car door that actually opens when I pull the handle. But the things I wish I had seem to be less in focus now than they used to be. It would be easy to say it’s because my husband has completed me and I now have everything I need in life and am just completely fulfilled as a result of our marriage. That would be a lie. Don’t get me wrong, we have a great marriage. Ronnie says we have the marriage that everyone wishes they had, and I tend to agree. Even at our worst, he’s the only person I always want around. But the truth is, he has not “completed” me, not in that way. Even in our premarital class last Spring, one of the first statements they taught us was, “Your spouse will not complete you.” It’s a lie that Jerry McGuire told us fourteen years ago, and for some reason, we all bought into it.
So, if being married or having less me-time isn’t what gave me focus and fulfillment, what did? It was a learning process. Focus and fulfillment were gradual lessons I’ve learned, and not just lessons I started six months (and one week) ago, or even since Ronnie and I started dating last January. It was a process I started learning several years ago when I committed my life to Christ and actually meant it.
I didn’t realize it at the time, but something had shifted in me. I gradually stopped thinking of my time as my time and started thinking it more along the lines of time God had given me to accomplish his work. Being single has a significant lack of responsibility and more “free” time, and we–whether we’re aware of it or not–make a choice on how to use that responsibility and that time. Not long after I’d begun working for the church, one of our pastors made the comment to me, “Now I know what Paul meant when he said people shouldn’t get married.” At the time, I was constantly going somewhere or doing something for God. I was working way more hours than I was supposed to, volunteering with the youth, volunteering as a small group leader, volunteering with the children on the weekends, attending our prayer gathering, and, in my spare time, was working on various projects for other people. Truthfully, it was a lot, probably way more than what God actually wanted me doing. It took its toll on me and, over the next couple months, God destroyed my world and built it back up again. If I ever finish my book one of these days, you’ll know what I mean.
But what I had begun to realize was: if I stopped looking at myself and my wants and my needs and my time, I had so much time to do God’s work.
I don’t believe there is a joy in being single. I do, however, believe there is a joy in doing God’s work. There is a joy in having less familial responsibilities so you can focus on God’s will for your life. There is a joy in having less in-depth earthly relationships so you can focus on building up your relationship with God. I don’t believe God wants people to be single just for the heck of it. It’s because he needs them to do a work for him that they need to be single for. Or because he wants them to focus on their relationship with him before introducing them to more relationships with others.
I would not have married Ronnie if I didn’t believe 100% that God has a plan for us to serve him as a couple that will bring more glory to him than if we were serving him separately. For whatever reason, God can use us together in some specific way that we wouldn’t be usable apart from one another. And that thought excites me more than I can put into words. But he didn’t say, “Okay, Rebecca just committed her life to me, so now she can get married.” He said, “Okay, great, now Rebecca’s working for me, and when she’s done working for me by herself, I’ll have Ronnie ready as well and they’ll get married and accomplish these great works for me.” It’s in his plan, and Ronnie and I have both known it going into this.
So. As a side note, I wouldn’t recommend anyone following exactly the way I did things. I don’t recommend anyone getting engaged within three days of dating someone or getting married in four months. Because if I wasn’t me, I would think me was crazy getting married so quickly. But I had been trained over the past few years in how to hear God and how to recognize his moving and his timing, and we both knew what God’s intentions were (and are) for us. And I wouldn’t recommend anyone filling up all of their waking hours with work and volunteering. I do know now, after God has forced me to see it, the importance of rest and a Sabbath.
I told one of my best friends this week that I have the spiritual gift of unsolicited advice. And, to be frank, that’s pretty much what all the spiritual gifts tests have told me. So here’s my recommendation, to all my single brothers and sisters:
First, if you don’t have a daily quiet time with God, you have to make that happen. Start now. Start with five minutes a day, work up to ten, and thirty, and an hour. You won’t ever know what God’s best is for your life (whether in relationships or otherwise), if you’re not listening to him.
Second: get involved. Get involved in a church, get involved in a small group of like-minded singles. What I mean by “like-minded” is a group that isn’t just a dating game. Like-minded people are the people who are going to church and small groups to actually learn more about God and develop godly relationships. There are some groups like that out there. Not a lot, but some. Get accountability. Find people who will support you without encouraging selfish behavior.
Third: serve. Serve in your church, serve outside of your church. Pray daily about who you can serve that day. Look for ways every day to inconvenience yourself to show love to others.
No, I’m not an expert on being married and relationships and blah, blah, blah. But if there ever was any kind of joy of being single, I think I’m an expert on it. Or at least on redefining it. I don’t know a lot in this world, but I do know the power of a relationship with God. I do know his blessings. And I do know that if you’re single, he wants you that way for now. Maybe not next week, maybe not next month, maybe not in five years. But now, in this moment, he wants to use you more where you’re at as a single girl or guy than as a married person.