The other day, I was surprised when the thought ‘it is good that I am single’ came into my mind. Yet in sitting with these words, I recognized there was a truth found in them. It occurred to me while in the chapel and I found that the truth was seen primarily in how much I desire them not to be true.
Over the past few years, I’ve realized that something interesting happens when a group of people is asked to introduce themselves to the rest of the gathering. Understandably, many people introduce themselves by referring to their spouse or children or even the number or kind of pets they own. Right out of college, I could get away with listing off my siblings, but the more time passes, the more odd it seems to include them in my sixty second about me for a group.
However, what I deeply desire is to have an identity that is solidly rooted in being the wife of so-and-so or the mother of whomever. The idea of having a person I can always show up to things with or children who become the focus of the conversation rather than me sounds incredibly alluring. I’m not trying to downplay the difficulty in these ways of living, but many aspects of it fill me with great longing and deep desire. For all the hard found in that vocation, there is an abundance of beauty and grace found there, too.
It is in light of those particular desires that I was realizing my singleness is a gift from God. One I hope will not continue forever and yet is most assuredly a gift.
Because my very hope and desire to have an identity shaped by my relation to a spouse or children shows how desperately I still need to root myself in Christ. The goodness of the Lord is found here, in my current situation, and I am being given a privileged chance to become more assured of my identity in the Lord. I don’t get to hide behind attachments or people who I very much desire to be part of my life. And that ever-present ache can be a piercing reminder of my need for God, one which can’t be assuaged by cradling an infant or a date night with my husband.
It is incredibly, boldly present from the fact that my students address me as Miss (or Mrs. but I am reminded of their wrongness when they do it, even if I rarely correct them) to the fact that I’m not helping children through the serving line at family gatherings. The gaping ache can, if I permit it, become a place the Lord can fill, a place of pure desire surrendered to God, recognizing my own inability to fulfill myself. It can be become empty hands, waiting to be filled, trusting they will be filled, and yet acknowledging the goodness of still being empty.
The Lord loves me fully and completely right now sans spouse and children. And He won’t start to love me more if I gain those relationships. When I stand before the Lord, He knows exactly the opportunities and graces I’ve been given and how I have squandered or cultivated them. He is in no way waiting to begin my life. The work the Lord wants to do in my life has already begun and it is well underway.
Throughout Scripture, the Lord fulfilling promises often looks like an entire upending of the way things generally appear, with the lowly being exalted and the hungry being filled or the blessed being the one who is persecuted. In 1st Samuel, Hannah utters a prayer of thanksgiving, which includes a line which has become more and more striking over time while simultaneously posing problems for others. She says, “The barren wife bears seven sons, while the mother of many languishes.” (1 Sam. 2:5) It used to seem unkind for the one who had many children to languish. Now I find hope in the barren being fruitful, knowing that in some way God always keeps His promises, even if the way is surprising.
It is a gift to be single, even as it is a cross and a profound ache. The life I desire to pour myself into, hide within, and fully embrace is not being offered to me. It can make me bitter or it can puncture my heart with grace. It can make me blame and question God or it can cause me to sit with Him, knowing He sees me and isn’t fooled by a lovely marriage or a passel of children.
Me, just me, standing before Him is good in His eyes. And I’m gracefully trying to make it good in my eyes, too.