Nearly a year ago, I wrote this. I wanted to establish my stance on singleness, sort out my whirling thoughts and ideas, and encourage those I knew who were really struggling with the panic or fear of remaining ‘all alone’. I was shocked (but secretly rather pleased) by how much attention it got (probably because someone in Hong Kong asked if he could share it with some of his friends).
At the time of writing, I was about to move into a flat on the other side of London, start my first paid job, and pay council tax, income tax and national insurance for the first time. I felt like a grown-up, and was desperate to try and maintain my ‘independence’. I thought I was immune to ‘the fear’, as I described it. It would hit me in three or four years time, I thought to myself, but not in the next couple of years. I was so wrong.
This year has had its ups and downs. I realised that I had set myself an unrealistic budget with my monthly income, and after seven months of living like someone on benefits (without the benefits), I decided to move back in with my parents. I also realised that I hated living with just one other person whom I barely saw, and that socialising in London is difficult, even when you already have friends. And I learnt some other life lessons too, which I will fill you in on soon.
And to be fair, I haven’t had any significant relationship drama.
Apart from receiving unexpected Facebook messages, almost pointless status comments and party invitations from Christian men I don’t know well – and having replied to nearly all of them, pondering frequently and fruitlessly about the possible motives behind them. Fruitlessly, because absolutely nothing came of them. No coffee date, no relationship progression and often no response to my response.
And many awkward conversations with men at church/Christian events – who looked through me as if I’m not there, didn’t seem to be really interested in what I’m saying, or focused more on another girl in the conversation. It now means that I cannot go up to a man in a church/Christian setting to talk to them unless I know them fairly well – I steer clear unless I am introduced to them, and they seem comfortable talking to me.
And about a month ago, when a colleague at work challenged me – why have I chosen to marry a Christian? She called me narrow-minded and misguided. It was a lively discussion, a great opportunity to talk to her and a couple of people about Jesus before I left, but for the first time in about a decade, doubt filled my mind. I doubted whether I have made the right decision to wait for another believer. It well and truly knocked me.
Additionally the steady bombardment of numerous wedding photographs and engagement announcements from my Facebook home feed. I worked out last night that at least 65 of my Facebook ‘friends’ have got married or engaged since the end of last August. (I put friends in inverted commas because only 8 of them wanted to include me in their celebrations or exciting news).
And finally the conversations I have had with men and women who are in the same situation – who are single and bemused by the wave of swift marriages and engagements over this year.
Which is why I am so glad that I felt moved to write what I wrote a year ago. Rereading it again and again has done me more good than laughing at all these situations afterwards or persuading myself that I am above all of this.
Because, though I now struggle with being single again, I know the truth.
That singleness can be hard. It’s hard to surrender dreams you’ve had about the future to the Lord. To see them crumble before your very eyes, and to know you need to confess your bitterness and self-pity to God. Sometimes I have cried out to him, asking for strength. And sometimes I have doubted Him, and feared what on earth He has in store for me, and deliberately avoided hearing from Him.
Yet singleness can be so freeing. It truly is a gift from God. If I was feeling adventurous and had the money and direction, I could go almost anywhere and do whatever I wanted, and only have my parents’ peace of mind to worry about. My diary is mine, and I can do what I want.
But ‘the fear’ is real. The fear of being overlooked, lonely and pitied by others. For me this fear is compounded by long-term vagueness – the fear of failure, rejection and pain when faced with the formless future.
If you’re reading this and feel the same, please don’t feel constrained by this fear. God has planned your situation, and is with you whatever happens. He cares deeply for you, and wants to hear you talk to Him. He has so much in store for you, and is in control of your life, even when it seems out of control. You are his beloved child, and He is the best father you will ever have.
And if you’re reading this and you’re a smug married person – the same is true for you too. Not more so, but equally as true. (N.B. Just to clarify, I am not calling all married people smug: there are married people who are unhappy and lonely in their marriages. I define smug married people as those who believe everyone must get married as soon as possible, act and talk about this, and/or make single people feel uncomfortable around them. This isn’t the same as being a happily married person – marriage is a gift from God, and a reason to be joyful and to delight in what God has blessed you with. I know people who are married who have never made me feel uncomfortable, and I have encountered married people who have).
But please don’t be like Christians who are around my parents’ age. Don’t ask single people about their love lives, don’t tell them that they should ‘try harder’, and don’t tell them that there will be someone for them. From the rate things are going, us women are less likely to get married than in previous years. (However, if you have a single male friend who clearly likes a single woman, but is too shy to do anything about it – by all means, help them out!). Don’t get so caught up in your spouse’s needs that you neglect your single friends. Make friends with single people, and invite them into your lives – don’t just hang out with other couples and do couple things. You don’t know how much it hurts to be excluded in that way.
I discovered this video during university, which I have replayed over and over again. I then discovered that there is a moving sequel. I’m not saying that everyone waiting for the right person will get married in the end. But God is good, He delights in giving us good things, and at the end of time, all who have been dependent on His grace (married or not) will be part of the best wedding ever (check out Revelation 21). I hope it encourages you.