I am thirty-one years old and I have never been in love.

I’ve been in wondering. I’ve been in confusion. I’ve been in prayer. I’ve been in crush. Not love, though. Love – that kind of love – is still a marvelous, alluring mystery to me.

I’m talking about the love that’s more than distraction and infatuation, more, even, than wanting the very best for another person. I’m talking about love that develops into a deep, steady, abiding kind of thing. A thing that weathers storms and grows in spite of grievances and bothers and pain and the fact that you married someone who can occasionally be incredibly, incredibly stupid – so stupid that they married you, in fact, someone else who can be just as stupid. It’s the kind of love they write poetry about.

Sometimes it seems like people who get to experience that kind of love as an everyday habit are in an exclusive, secret club. How did they get there? Was there a magical handshake? A significant look exchanged with another in the dim light of an overcrowded room? Did little hearts come out of their eyes, meet in the space between, and explode into panoramas of tiny clouds dotted with even tinier cherubs playing (if you can believe it) even tinier harps?

I don’t know, but I sure miss it.

Is it possible to miss something you’ve never actually experienced? I believe it is. The creation story found in Genesis is dotted with God’s response to His creative work. Over and over, He looks at what He has made, and calls it good. It is only when He lingers on Adam that the creator-God pauses. Here is the first man – healthy, whole, and perfect – hanging out in a garden seeded and flowered by the mere words of God, living in pristine, unhindered fellowship with that same Being. Yet God looks at this picture and says, for the first time, ‘it is not good.’ It is not good for man to be alone (Genesis 2:18).

Even in perfection, being alone is hard.

Little wonder then that now, with our fallen world and every distraction conspiring to get between us and God, those of us who are alone truly feel it. Adam missed something he hadn’t ever known before. In just the same way, so can we.

It makes me wonder, then, why so many of us are still alone. If we’re pre-programmed, as it were, to find rest and companionship in the spiritual, relational, and physical union of marriage, why have so many of us simply…not? Why does almost everybody get the password to the secret clubhouse while a handful of us only get to linger at the windows, looking in?

I don’t know. I don’t know.

If your experience of extended singleness has been anything like mine, you’ve probably wondered what it all means. What is the deep and spiritual significance of this never-world which we’re navigating? What does it mean?

I suspect God’s got everything to do with it and He’s working something amazing in all this inexplicable singleness, but I’m not close to knowing exactly what. My conclusions have tended more in the opposite direction. I might not know what this extended singleness means, but I think I’m starting to know what it doesn’t mean.

Even though you and I may speculate otherwise, singleness doesn’t mean you’re unmarried because you are too fat or too skinny or too talkative or too quiet. It doesn’t mean you are too intimidating, reclusive, independent, or unattractive, too holy or not holy enough. It doesn’t mean you want it too bad or you don’t want it enough. It doesn’t mean you’re being punished for mistakes you’ve made or because you’re just too flawed.

Here’s a reality we all know, but often forget: flawed people get married. To make it even clearer, only flawed people get married.  Annoying people get married. Loud people get married. Quiet people get married. Fat people get married. Skinny people get married. Selfish people get married. Weird people get married. People with bad teeth and poor posture and a habit of stating their minds frankly with no thought whatsoever to the outcome – these all get married. I’ll tell you what I bet your Mum has told you twenty times already: there are people in this world who are more unique and less lovable than you, and they are married.

Marriage really isn’t an exclusive club for the flawless. This is not to say we shouldn’t care about our health or our social skills or our appearance or our personality. God gave us life and a body and people around us, and we serve Him by doing what it takes to be healthy, gracious, compassionate, loving, approachable, and brave. But we do those things because we worship Him, not because we want to get married.

Although there may be a multitude of factors contributing to a woman’s singleness, there is no blanket answer that applies to all of us. The fact that you are single – that I am single – means only two things we can know without a shadow of a doubt: it means that we are not married, and it means God is in control. That is all.

God is in control

These are truths I know, but there are days when I don’t believe them, days when I choose instead to wallow in the mire of my own failures, my perceived lack of marriageable qualities, my confusion. There are days when I cry – mostly to my mother. There are hard things about seeing your younger siblings, cousins, and friends marry and bear children. It’s tough turning up to weddings without a plus-one. It’s tough putting on a polite and awkward smile when people repeatedly say, ‘You’ll be next!’ It’s even tougher when they stop saying it altogether because, well, it’s just getting too embarrassing to keep referencing the subject.

There are challenges in being single for an extended period that those who marry in their early twenties will never have to experience. There is a kind of grief in knowing that, should I get married someday, my body won’t be in its prime (if indeed it ever had a prime). I used to dream of being a young mum and having lots of children. I thought seven kids would be cool, but ten would be perfect. Now I just hope to be a mum, someday; the numbers don’t matter anymore. And I have to fight against a rejection complex which wants to examine the fact that though I’ve been on this earth for thirty-one years, there hasn’t yet been a man who chose me to do life with him and then stuck around for the long haul. That can hurt. It’s gut-wrenching, sometimes.

But: in the midst of all of that, I am weirdly and miraculously content. Over the past five years, I have found unexpected joys in the freedoms of singleness. I’ve learned to love taking charge of my own schedule, cooking food I enjoy, pouring all my baby-love into my nieces and nephews, having the freedom to meet with others for coffee whenever and wherever. I like that my schedule is more fluid. I can meet a friend for breakfast. Girls, I can stay up late reading if the book is especially good. I can put on a DVD and do a workout at 11pm. I can hone my writing skills and pursue this calling with a rare sort of intention. Does this all sound like some consolation prize? Second best, for the girl who doesn’t get to be married? It’s really not. I can honestly say that I love this season. The fact that I do is only a gift of grace. God is merciful.

A friend once said to me, ‘You’re only content now because you’ve given up on getting married.’ He couldn’t be more wrong. I still want to be married. I want it more every day. If that seems impossible, think about all the other paradoxical truths that co-exist peacefully. At the top of the list is the fact that I cherish this life, but boy I want to be in heaven someday.

Love the Now

Can we love the Now while craving the Not Yet? Absolutely. Isn’t that life in general? Isn’t that being a grown-up? The good stuff and the bad stuff all comes together and we survive and we smile and when we’re not crying, we actually really enjoy it.

I’ve seen friends kick and scream and resent the Now. I’ve seen them change in order to impress boys, go to church after church and party after party in the hope of meeting someone. They’re still where I am today, but they’re sadder and they’re incomplete. Lovely unwed friends, it is more than okay to hope for love in the future. We’re wired that way. But don’t let your future consume your present. Don’t let it paint your past in bitterness. You can love being single without giving up on love.

Don’t take my word for it, though. Take His. Be strong and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the Lord (Psalm 31:24). His abundant goodness is stored up for those who fear Him and take refuge in Him (Psalm 31:19). Women who look to Him are radiant, and those who seek Him lack no good thing (Psalm 34:5, 10). If you are unwed just now, then this is the Lord’s good thing for you, today. Does this crush you? He is near to the brokenhearted, and saves the crushed in spirit (Psalm 34:18).

He cares even more about your heart than you do. This I know.

32 Comments

  1. Thank you so much for this post – I will be 30 end of Jan 2013 (very soon) I know I may shed a few tears and I can handle that but what I wish I could get rid of is the ache on the inside that never seems to leave – some times its not as strong but it’s always there. Thank you for validating the experiences/feelings/hurts etc that we go through in extended singleness. You have put most of what I have ever felt and experienced into words… I too keep looking to the Lord in HOPE for the future while trying to live to my best in the now – trusting that He is in control, knows best and has a great plan and that it will all be worth it…. this is so hard at times and I have to fight to keep my heart pure but thankfully He is a loving God and full of grace for these times and He helps me get up and continue.

    Keep strong women of God …. 🙂

    Collette

  2. Samantha R says:

    You explained it all so well! 🙂
    I especially this paragraph:
    “Although there may be a multitude of factors contributing to a woman’s singleness, there is no blanket answer that applies to all of us. The fact that you are single – that I am single – means only two things we can know without a shadow of a doubt: it means that we are not married, and it means God is in control. That is all.”

    Definitely true!

  3. I came to your post from my daughter’s facebook page and I am so glad to read your words. Finding contentment at your stage is something that spoke to me at my stage. We are always waiting….. and yet going forward…. at least we might want to make that choice or that’s when discontentment will creep in. If God is as big as we say He is then every little matter in our lives is there to achieve His purpose. I have come to realize in many waiting situations that I just don’t want to miss what He has for me now while I am waiting.

    Thank you for your words.

    1. If God is as big as we say He is then every little matter in our lives is there to achieve His purpose.

      Wow, this is so true. These seasons of waiting not only lead us to lean on Him, but also test whether we believe His promises and trust in what He has told us of His character. Thank you for sharing this lovely reminder!

  4. you are not alone my dear! God says that we are clay and He is the potter. So He has plans for our lives differently and at different times. so, when it is His time in our lives and in any area, He will show up. thanks for the way you see things.

  5. Thank you or writing this, it made me get quite tearful! I’m 31 and also not married… the other day I *googled* “what does it feel like to be in love?” – how sad is that?!?
    So many of the things you talk about here I’ve grappled with (especially variants of the idea that I need to be a better person in some or other respect).

    At the end of the day I can only remind myself that God is good, and he has good stuff in store for me (and us!), and his goodness is really more that I can even imagine 🙂

    1. Aw, HUGS. I know how you feel, I know how we can be lonely for someone we haven’t even met yet. Your conclusion is right — we must remind ourselves of the truth of God’s goodness and the fact that He is working out a plan for us that’s even better than the story we’d write for ourselves.

  6. Thank you so much for writing this! A friend of my mother’s who is younger posted it on her Facebook and my mother emailed it to me. You say it so eloquently and perfectly. I’m not even 25 yet and I still have people asking why I’m not married or in love yet, and it’s very frustrating, this reminder helped so much. And THANK YOU for saying that being happy being single doesn’t mean giving up on love and being married! I have a hard time explaining that to friends. You have touched my heart and warmed my spirit. Thank you!

    1. Oh dear. It’s hard to know what to say when people ask why you’re not married, isn’t it? There are few stranger questions, I’m sure! I’m glad we can laugh about things like this together. Knowing that a bunch of great women are walking the same road makes the whole journey a lot more fun :).

  7. I’m so glad I stopped by today to read this! Beautifully captured, Danielle! I love your balance of humor and seriousness. Thank you for reminding me that flawed people do get married.

    1. It’s an encouraging thought, isn’t it? I’m so glad God knows that we’re only human, remembers that we’re made from dust. His grace and good gifts are not dependent on our perfection. SO good to know.

  8. thanks so much. I’m only 21, but still at this time my sisters and mother had married.

    I go to a tiny Bible school where half of the student body is relationships. I looked at one of my single friend’s one night after a frustrating day of watching the couples and told her that if all the days were like this it would be a long semester. Her reply? “and God’s Grace will be enough”. Oh and it has been I found so much joy in this holiday even as I saw construction hearts carefully cut by eager boyfriends to put in their beloved’s mail box.

    I am in this season because it is is the will of God and that is all I need to know.

    1. I am in this season because it is is the will of God and that is all I need to know.

      Beautifully said.

  9. This is incredibly wonderful, Danielle…thank you for sharing so beautifully with us what the Lord has taught and is teaching you. I’m going to link to this post. 🙂

  10. Hi Danielle,

    Thank you for posting this. I was strucked by your message, I’m 28 and single and although I am not 30 yet but I’m nearly going 30. And it is true.. when it comes of age and timeframe, I always wonder on the not yet and not the now. Really thankful of you on reminding us to concentrate on the present while waiting for God’s timing on marriage. I was blessed am really is! jood job for writing this article :))

    1. Thank you, May Anne! There are rich blessings no matter what the season. It’s a privilege and a mystery that we can enjoy the current ones while looking forward in hope to others. Bless you!

  11. love this! thanks Danielle, what a great article!

  12. Danielle, I don’t know how to say what I’m feeling right now, but I just want to say that I totally get it. And I could have written this article. I’m 30 and single. Thank you so much for doing such a good job expressing this. Blessings to you!!!!!!!!!!!!

    1. You look so youthful, Rebecca, that I had no idea you were (almost) my age! I’m foolishly happy to know we’re similar ages :). Thank you for your encouragement. It really means a lot. I’m glad to be walking this journey with you!

  13. you know… I’ve noticed.. we always want what we don’t have. And this isn’t meant to be negative.. just me cogitating! lol

    when we’re children.. we want to grow up. When we’re in our mid-to late teens.. we want to marry.. when we marry.. for those of us who don’t fall pregnant easily.. we ache to be able to carry our own infants and birth them. then we want them to hurry up and grow up as the toddler years are so hard (so i’ve heard!) then we want…

    I’m starting to really believe that everyone of us needs to learn to embrace the ‘now’ of our life. Sorry for the rambling!

    1. A friend of mine once shared a similar idea. There is always *something* we could be looking forward to. On this earth, whatever we have will likely never be the crowning glory. You’re so right. We really do need to learn to embrace the now. I’m thankful for God’s grace, enabling us to do just that!

  14. Just so beautiful. You’ve really caught the reality of singleness in words. Especially the paradox of loving the now, but longing for the not yet too.

    1. Thank you, Elisabeth. It is a paradox indeed — thankfully, a mostly beautiful one. God is good. I can’t imagine navigating singleness or marriage without Him!

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