For any single woman who looks forward to someday loving and being loved, Valentine’s Day can probably never sneak by truly unnoticed. Even here in Australia, where the holiday is seriously downgraded in comparison to the high level of cupid activity in North America, it’s hard not to see the red and white and adorable heart shapes everywhere.

Last year, I marched into Valentine’s Day kind of victoriously. All the pink and the chocolate and the flowers were less a symbol of what I didn’t have, and more a symbol of what could be. It was hopeful. I couldn’t help but be aware that a special measure of grace had been extended to me so that I could hold equally in both hands two seemingly contradictory ideas – that I could still want to be part of a beautiful marriage partnership with just about every fibre of my being, and yet somehow I could love the rare freedom of this aloneness, too.

Because it was so obviously a gift of grace and not something I was doing on my own (after all, those plans are generally doomed to go up in smoke), I had an inkling that such a gift might have an expiry date. Bliss is lovely, but it’s never a full-time thing; at least, not this side of heaven.

Well, the expiry date arrived. This year, there are no victorious marches as February 14th swiftly approaches. I might even be dragging my heels a little. I still love this season of life and I still cherish the cool things about being on my own, that’s true. But I also feel more willing than ever to tuck that all away at a moment’s notice and let it be part of my backstory. And in a culture – nay, in a creation – which is designed for marriage, being alone feels less natural, less desirable, less good. So this year I am finding the unnaturalness more, the aloneness more, than it has been at other times. I have known it to hurt, of course. But lately it hurts more.

When my sisters and I were heading out of our teen years and into adulthood, we occasionally talked about how we didn’t want to be girls who were desperate, girls who were so eager to be married that we’d chase after the slightest wisp of love, girls who’d do anything to attract the flickering attention of any male who stood remotely near the border of ‘possible’. We’d seen it happen; we saw girls become less than who they should be for the sole purpose of attracting a mate, and as kids we watched that and decided we didn’t want it for ourselves. In our personal vernacular, ‘desperate’ became a synonym for throwing everything into the chase – a chase that was self-serving and faithless, which made ‘man’ equal ‘happiness.’

That’s what ‘desperate’ meant to my sisters and I.

This year, though, I do feel desperate. But it’s a whole different kind of desperation: not a frantic clutching after what might be, but a sort of aching hollowness where the thing I’ve hoped for is missing. I am lonely, sometimes, which seems ridiculous because my world is full of people. But in a society of couples, there is not much room for the party of one. And friends are all very well – mine are the best, in fact – but I crave companionship. I’d like to do life with someone who doesn’t have to go home at the end of the day. I may shrug as I admit it, but I’d like a man to find me lovely, and I’d like to be able to pour my energies into loving him. And even while I get – in a small, inexperienced way – that as much I love him I will also drive him crazy, I still want to give it a try.

All of it – the ‘desperate’ surge of wishing, longing and hoping – makes me wonder why the timer on that dispensation of rare contentment had to suddenly run out, why the gauge is now on empty. That rare grace was good while it lasted, but I’m just not feeling it now.

And there’s the thing: I’m not feeling it. I don’t feel the grace, so it must be gone. It’s only logical, isn’t it?

Of course it’s not logical. Since when has grace been contingent on feelings? And since when have my feelings been an indicator of the presence of grace?

Since never.

grace always present - logo

It is part of the intrinsic nature of grace – a free gift, given freely – that it does not come with an expiry date, that it is not reliant on my holiness or my confidence or my good humour. Rather, the truths that were evident during my season of contentment remain true even now when they feel less evident. Though the truths feel less true, they are no less true. I am still given all that I need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3). I am still complete in Him even when I am incomplete romantically (Colossians 2:10). He will never leave me nor forsake me (Deuteronomy 31:6). He still knows the desires of my heart. His Spirit prays for me when my prayers aren’t enough (Romans 8:26). And He will complete the work that was begun in me (Philippians 1:6). And when I say ‘me’, I also mean you – you and every other woman who is clutching her hope to her chest and clinging to it with an intensity that hurts.

There is as much hope as there is hurt at Valentine’s Day.

Here is the truth for this Valentine’s Day and those that may be yet to come: my feelings and your feelings will vacillate, but grace will always, always be present. The ache will come sometimes, but when it does, consider God’s cruel kindness to the Israelites, a kindness which seemed to withhold, and yet only gave: ‘He humbled you, causing you to hunger, and then fed you with manna which neither you nor your fathers had known’ (Deuteronomy 8:3).

Sometimes even the hunger itself is God’s strange, unasked-for provision. Such sweet sadness is a mystery, but His grace offers us manna – even when we cannot see it, littering the ground about our feet.

36 Comments

  1. Marian Gifty Osei Boamah says:

    Thank you very much

  2. Jessica C says:

    Dear Danielle,
    Thank you so much for your honesty and vulnerability! Forgive me for saying this, but at first when I was reading your post I thought to myself that this girl is really struggling with discontentment and depression about being single. But in fact you had a greater premise you were leading into- that of God’s grace being ever prevalent in every situation we face. I especially liked how you incorporated that verse that talks about how God caused the Israelites to hunger, and then He gave them manna. Wow. And the last part about “His grace offers us manna,” and it being littered around our feet- I loved it. Please keep writing! God Bless! -Jessica C

  3. I am teary-eyed, and my heart is rushing with emotion. Your words bring back a torrent of not-so-distant memories. I waited till I was 34 to say “I do” to the man of my dreams, and now, 2 1/2 years into marriage, I still feel the “sweet sadness” of those many Valentines Days (and the winter holidays, and my birthdays, and… 😉

    Thank you for this, dear Danielle. God has gifted your pen and graced your heart–and you have ministered to me today out of the overflow of both!

  4. WOWWW!!! FUE GRANDIOSO!!! ME LLEGÓ JUSTO AL CENTRO DEL CORAZÓN! :’) En especial la parte que dice “And there’s the thing: I’m not feeling it. I don’t feel the grace, so it must be gone. It’s only logical, isn’t it?… Since when has grace been contingent on feelings? And since when have my feelings been an indicator of the presence of grace?” ….Era justo lo que me está sucediendo! xDDD Saludos desde Perú (un país de Latinoamérica)! 🙂

  5. Samantha R says:

    I’ve often thought this myself (when I look around the world today):
    “We’d seen it happen; we saw girls become less than who they should be for the sole purpose of attracting a mate, and as kids we watched that and decided we didn’t want it for ourselves. In our personal vernacular, ‘desperate’ became a synonym for throwing everything into the chase – a chase that was self-serving and faithless, which made ‘man’ equal ‘happiness.’”

    I’m glad you brought up the part about feelings and not relying on them to gauge truth. It’s an easy trap to fall into and before we know it, we can be living by feelings alone. We must live by the Word of God and what He says and not by how we feel. I’m thankful God brought me out of that “feelings trap” a few years ago.

    Thank you for writing this; I really appreciate it! Keep up the good writing, Danielle.

  6. You’re never alone. God is always with us. Walking though the valleys right beside us. He’s even closer than beside us, He’s living inside our hearts. His love pours like a waterfall, you can’t hold it all. Our job is to pour it out. Just like this 🙂 You are loved every day, not just Valentine’s Day <333

  7. Very well thought out and written! I can’t speak for all guys here in America but there are many, particularly in the church, who feel exactly the same way!

  8. I definitely needed to see this today!

  9. i’ve never had a boyfriend on any valentine’s day…ever. and i’m 36. and since i’m not particularly fond of the whole red roses/chocolate/teddy bears/ hearts thing, i don’t really care all that much about this holiday. it comes and goes each year with barely an acknowledgement from me and i’m totally fine with that.

    however, last night i was with my pastor and his wife and they were talking about how they are going out to an early dinner tonight and then they are just going to sit on the couch at home and just “be” together for the rest of the evening. now THAT made my heart go a bit wonky! it ached – actually ACHED – when they said that! i totally agree that companionship is what i truly long for. i have wonderful family and friends, a fantastic church family/community, a great relationship with the Lord and I’m really happy in my life but dang it! that ache is still there…most of the time it’s hidden but every once in a while something triggers a response and it usually has to do with the idea of having someone just to “be” with.

    my parents celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary a few months ago and last night while on speaker phone with the two of them my dad once again relayed how “smitten” he was with my mother…she was 15, he was 17…and he just HAD to have her! and he’s just had to have her ever since. 🙂 what girl wouldn’t want a guy to desire her like that?!

    all of that to say God knows and sees all of that and He is able to bring comfort and peace to my wonky heart! 🙂 and while it may be a cliche thing to say, God’s timing really is perfect, His ways are not our ways but He knows what’s best. and i’ve learned (over my many years of waiting…and waiting…and waiting LOL) to trust Him and to love Him more deeply as a result.

    thanks for a great heart-felt and honest post (and sorry my comment is so long!) 🙂

  10. Hi, I came over from Challies. I love your phrase, ” I’d like to do life with someone who doesn’t have to go home at the end of the day.” I get that, a thousand times over. I’m currently reading a very helpful book by Lydia Brownbeck entitled, “Fine China is for Single Women, Too” on finding true contentment in God’s sovereign plan for our lives in each day, and the troubles that we ladies can get ourselves into when in our discontentment (desperation, covetousness), we wind up glorifying something other than God for the purpose of getting what we want. Lovingly, of course. Good stuff. Grace and peace to you!

    1. Thank you so much, Barbara! I’ve read another of Lydia Brownback’s books but not the one you mentioned; it sounds -excellent- and is definitely going onto my to-read list. Peace right back at you, from one walking the same path. Blessings!

  11. Thank you for a transparent offering that I am certain articulates what others feel but are not sure how to express. I teach the younger singles in our church and some of them have expressed similar thoughts and feelings. I’ve also taught a class each fall semester for the past 20 years on how to make the marriage decision one of your best decisions. The reason I committed to this was partly due to the marital misery I’ve encountered in pastoral ministry. I have an old friend who has been single for 86 years. He jokingly says to me, “I’d rather want what I don’t have than have what I don’t want!” But he also tells me he’s open to finding a rich widow with a bad cold. He’s a feisty one for sure! I pray that abundant grace upholds you today and always — whether single or married. If you’re interested in some of the stuff I cover in my class, you can find it here: http://thinkpoint.wordpress.com/pre-marriage-resources/

    1. Thank you for your comment, Steve. Your feisty friend’s commentary on the single life made me grin hugely! Thanks, too, for your ministry to the younger singles — and your encouragement. Every blessing.

  12. So honest. So real. So true. Sometimes singleness makes you feel like a silent victim, but in truth God knows every ache and longing of our hearts.

    Desperate for God. oh that is the longing of my heart, but my thoughts say differently.

    Thank you for sharing.

  13. I am learning that being single is a gift from God. I struggle with it, but I am learning that the Lord has a reason for it. He has a plan for my life. I just had a hysterectomy and I am unable to have children, not understanding why? But, I am learning some things happen to us to bring us back to him, crying to him, yearning for him to heal our brokenness.

  14. Danielle! Has anyone ever told you that you seem to have a knack for this writing thing? 😉 Sheesh. I’m happy to know you. Maybe a little proud. 🙂

  15. Let me just say,this is exactly how I feel about this. I’m thankful that there are other young ladies out there who so willingly share their hearts with other young ladies. As commented on dragon slaying; I have recently knocked on a couple of possible plan B doors,until the Lord graciously brings plan A.

    1. Are these God’s Plan A’s and Plan B’s or yours?
      Pardon me for saying it, but if we believe that God is sovereign and actively directing our lives, I don’t think we can think of what occurs in our lives as Plan A or Plan B. God’s plans for us are never either/or. WE might make “just-in-case” alternate plans, but He never does. Once we begin thinking in terms of Plan A and Plan B, we can get into the mindset that God is holding out on us, that He is withholding His best and giving us “leftovers.” We need to be living out our lives with the right perspective, living where He has placed us now, doing what we can now to live for His glory and our sanctification, and not living as though we are only putting in time until we get what we want.
      Farther down in the comments, Barbara mentioned Lydia Brownback’s “Fine China is for Single Women, Too,” which I just read the other day, and she makes this very clear in her discussions of living with contentment.
      It is easy to forget that we are ultimately not in control of our paths (“The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps.” Proverbs 16:9 ESV), and live in quiet, fuming rebellion against His plans.
      I’ve struggled with this same attitude myself, and I know how easy it is to forget that He has a purpose for everything that happens in my life. I’ve been resting in the comfort of God’s providence lately, and just had to comment.
      Praying you feel His grace in this area too. 🙂

      1. Samantha R says:

        I agree with much of you said, esp. this: “We need to be living out our lives with the right perspective, living where He has placed us now, doing what we can now to live for His glory and our sanctification, and not living as though we are only putting in time until we get what we want.”

        I’ve often asked myself, “Why am I here? What is my purpose?” God answered me with, “Glorify me. Bring me Glory! Trust me in Everything and Let me Lead”. He is showing me more and more how this life is about HIM and not me. Does it matter if I don’t get what I want? No. If God doesn’t want me to have it, I should be content in that. I’m learning to be 🙂 I’m learning to just sit back and let Him take control and not chase after things that comes from my own selfishness. And truly, when I trust Him, I am content and joyful and nothing could be better! He is my All in All.

  16. Wow, I feel as though I could have written that, except my version wouldn’t be nearly as beautiful. Thank you for that so important reminder: “I am still complete in Him even when I am incomplete romantically.”

  17. Danielle-
    this is marvelous.
    And while I have a husband (and am thankful for him) many of these same emotions ride in with the inability to have children. So I get it. Even if my “it” is different.

  18. ASisterinChrist says:

    Danielle, this is incredibly moving. I have read your writings for years and have always been touched by its profundity, clarity and sheer beauty, but this has really spoken to me in particular. Thank you for being so raw and honest with us – I’m single, too, and know that the hurt you wrote about can be palpable at times. Danielle, you are such a darling, precious in His sight, and I know that God has the most amazing love story written for you. Here’s praying that until The One is finally given the “enter: stage left” by God, you’ll always feel wrapped in His arms! He thinks you’re oh.so.lovely. Blessings to you. 🙂

  19. Praise God that He in all His grace-fullness is on the throne… and not our crazy emotions!

  20. Thank you for these words Danielle, I appreciate your willingness to put it all out there into “the void” and give words to other’s feelings.

  21. Thank you for sharing this very honest post! I am this year what I call “struggling” through this Valentines season. I am grateful for your encouragement! 🙂

  22. I love you! Aching hollowness – that is exactly it. But grace with no expiry date! Thank you for sharing and helping me put things back into perspective. xox

  23. Elisabeth says:

    Oh, Danielle. So beautiful, so wistful, and so true!

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