what I've learned through a season of singleness
The slow, sacred work of unearthing hearts happened on winding interstate roads, as lazy windshield wipers smoothed the sky’s tears off the glass. Space, care, and questions, only those three were needed. We were on our way to see the flower fields, a sea of proof that the watering and waiting, they give life to beauty.
I finished catching her up on the lives of our friends back home: jobs, families, ministry…boys. She then turned to me with eyes knowing and asked, “How about you?”
The last time I road tripped with Marlene, things were a lot different. It was October then, and at the time her belly was round, soon to give birth to the sleepy 4-month-old who now lay sound in the back of the Corolla, nestled in her car seat.
Beautiful baby Riley was still in the womb then and I, like her, was in a different place six months ago. God was beginning a work in me then, one He has since begun to birth.
I recently read a piece by author Hannah Brencher, who is, as of not too long ago, in a relationship. In the post, she discussed what it’d been like to be 26 and single, dealing with her yearning not to be. She also admitted wishing she’d written about that season while she was still in it.
Reading her words, my heart was stirred. I knew how much God was showing me in my own season of singleness, and I knew I still had the opportunity Hannah wished she’d taken.
I wasn’t sure I wanted to write on this topic, but the stirring felt familiar enough that I silently offered my willingness up to God in that moment, should He want me to. He just needed to make it clear.
Because the truth is, writing about singleness would be vulnerable.
It’s vulnerable to acknowledge a desire that has yet to be fulfilled.
Clarity came not too long ago as I was having lunch with a friend struggling through her own season of singleness. As she spoke, I saw the tangled web of lies she was believing, a web I was able to recognize only because I too, was acquainted with it’s spirals. I knew right then, in my bones, that I needed to write about singleness. When you get to a point where you can see all the moments of freedom and fullness the Thief has stolen with his lies, you become determined not to let him have any more. Not of your moments, nor anyone else’s.
On my last road trip with Marlene back in October, it wasn’t the windshield needing its tears wiped away.
I was mostly content being single in college, but now that the rhythms of “adulting” had set in, with its long work days, the pursuing of passions, and the precious free moments in between, I wanted someone to share it with. I yearned for companionship, for the messy beauty of learning someone, and loving them.
All around me this beauty seemed to be blossoming, but the ground at my feet, fallow.
To wait is to be without something you desire deeply, and it felt like I’d been waiting for so long.
There’d been a couple relationships in high school but none since then, and I’m 23. There’d been a good amount of dates; some simply didn’t work out while others, I knew in my heart weren’t right for me. The one I thought might be left my heart hurting, and though the Faithful One brought healing, and hindsight brought perspective, then thankfulness, I was still left waiting.
Sure, there were moments I hardly noticed, so immersed in the purpose and passions God had given me, savoring the freedom and flexibility offered to me in this season of life. But there were other moments, like when the two friends shared stories about their husbands and I sat there with nothing to say, where it was all I saw. I yearned for relationship itself, but I also yearned to share in the experience along with those around me, and I feared that by the time I got there, I’d be left to experience the newness of it alone.
That day in the car the pain of unmet desire spilled from me, and I wondered aloud what I had missed or where I had gone wrong.
Why is God withholding this from me?
There it was, a question exposed.
Yes, God is good, but is He good…to me?
This question revealed a heart in need of a fundamental shift.
Truth is, I don’t know why some people are made to wait longer than others. I will say, I don’t think it’s for the reasons people often say: “You just need to find your fulfillment in God,” or “You need to work on yourself.” While I think these things are true, I think they’re true for everyone at every stage of life, regardless of relationship status.
Though I fully advocate a decision to choose singleness for a season to focus on these things, I don’t think they’re the reason for singleness in many scenarios where it’s not the person’s desire, simply because I know many married people who are still learning them in marriage, and many others who are doing a better job at them than anyone I know, yet remain single. These are areas we learn and grow in our entire lives, not boxes that need to be checked as a prerequisite to getting to the altar.
I don’t know the reason for waiting but I DO know that it is NEVER wasted. God always has a purpose in it.
There are a million ways God has used this season in my life, a million reasons why I wouldn’t change His timing if I could, but I’ll just share one.
God needed to expose the faulty inclination of my human heart, the one shifted by whispered lies of the Serpent in Eden, telling me to doubt God’s goodness, to wonder if He is truly for me.
Where God’s intentions have always been, and will always be for our good, the crafty one sowed doubt and distrust, suggesting that the Tree banned for our protection was actually something good being withheld from us. And we the deceived reaped discontent, hearts robbed of the freedom of BELIEVING God is for us, and working all things for our highest good.
The waiting exposes lies of the heart, so God can water them with the truth of His goodness, faithfulness, and steadfast love. The watering and waiting give life to beauty— a heart that holds the peace and freedom of knowing God is good, and that He can be trusted.
Time and time again, God has shown me His character and His heart towards me, and those continual streams have given shape to a heart that rests in the peace of KNOWING He is FOR me always, and unequivocally good—even if my circumstances don't feel good. There’s obviously days I yearn for the relationship He will one day bring into my life, and the yearning hurts, but even in the yearning there is an underlying steadiness and sense of peace in knowing I can trust Him. There is freedom. Knowing who God is means I can know that His ways are higher than my ways and even if His timelines are not my own, they are for my ultimate good. It means knowing that even if His plans aren’t my own, they are to prosper me.
It means knowing that He will always tend to my heart’s deepest need, even when it isn't the need I perceive.
God LONGS to bring us to this place of ultimate peace and trust in understanding His character, and oftentimes He uses life's waiting rooms to do it.
As we learn to trust God in the waiting, here also are two practices that I’ve found help:
Connect deeply in community and celebrate other’s joys: We are more prone to comparison when we only engage on the surface level with others, and see nothing but their highlight reel on Instagram. On the other hand, it’s impossible to feel anything but joy for someone you’ve deeply journeyed with, even if they’re experiencing what you’ve desired most. Obviously you can’t connect deeply with everyone, and it may not come as naturally for someone you’re not close with, but we can still practice celebrating their joys. Anything less than this will rob our own.
Redirect your yearning towards empathy rather than self-pity: Focusing on our own struggles can be falsely isolating, as we start to believe we’re the only one facing it. That lie is reinforced each time a sparkly new ring photo pops up on our Facebook feed (or whatever the equivalent of that may be in your situation). I’ve found that praying for others in my situation, whether that be a close friend, or girls from church I don’t even talk to much but know have the same desire, it gets me outside of myself. Not only that, it allows me to plead for them with a passion I understand because of my own yearning.
What has God used seasons of waiting to teach you?
P.S. Visiting the Carlsbad Flower Fields has been a dream of mine for a few years now, and it was worth every bit of the wait! 😉 If you ever have an opportunity to visit this place, do it! I tried not to include so many photos in this post, but I physically could not help myself...I love flowers and this was my happy place!
What a blessed baby girl Ry is to have a mama like Mar!
Nothing more delightful than that precious little giggle! 😍
Munchin' on those cheekies! 😘
Reliving our high school glory days when Lecrae's "Joyful Noise" was our anthem. SO incredibly thankful for this sweet friendship.