Preparing for Love
by Michelle Graham and Wyatt Fisher, Psy.D.
I don’t know when it happened, but sometime between my college years and now, the world around me became hostile. It took me mere moments to feel it happen, but it took years to decipher the cause. In fact, it happens to many people all around me, and none of them understand it, either. As a group we are ignored, laughed at, pitied, and altogether shoved under the rug. Churches don’t know what to do with us and our family and friends don’t know how to talk to us. Who are we? We are the singles. The unpaired, the unmarried.
My circle of friends is probably three-quarters married and one-quarter unmarried, give or take. Every unmarried person I talk to says the same thing, that they feel forgotten and looked down upon by those people who were lucky enough to get hitched right out of college, like you’re supposed to. But why do we all feel like we were “supposed” to get married at a certain time? Everything is lined up to happen in God’s order, even though it feels like purgatory while we wait for it (Ecclesiastes 8:6). Life is about God’s timing, not ours–but that doesn’t protect us from all the well-meaning church ladies who ask us why we haven’t gotten married. (Answer: Ask God, because we don’t know, either).
So here is a message to all of us, to every single who has ever felt no one understands what the life of a modern unmarried person is like: I get it. We get it. And nothing is wrong with you. I sincerely wish that “Don’t worry, everything will happen as God wills it” could be replaced with “I remember that time in my life. It was hard.” Some people might not see how one phrase is better than the other, but remember the definition of love? I Corinthians tells us that it’s kind, humble, and never boastful. Instead of reminding us of something we well know (God’s timing is God’s timing), tell us something we don’t–namely, that married couples can still sympathize with singles.
I know that churches and pastors all over the country take every opportunity to remind singles that it’s the perfect time to get close to God. I’ve heard every line, every condolence, and every concern from people who have no idea that they are actually making things worse. But I finally figured out the trick to make it all better. I know what to do. Are you ready for the secret?
Whenever I start to think that I’m inferior to my best friend who has two adorable children and a wonderful spouse, I remind myself that a few years ago, that same friend told me that if God hadn’t literally stopped her in her tracks and opened her eyes, she never would have even considered dating her husband, much less marrying him. I remind myself of all the singles I know who worry themselves to death over feeling inadequate and incomplete. At the end of the day, it’s not another person who determines how happy I am. Sure, it would be fantastic to have someone to surprise me with a romantic night on the town. Who wouldn’t like that? But if I spend all my time focusing on what I think I’m missing out on, God will never be able to change my mind.
After all, finding my match is about love, and love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Which means, dear friends, that by bearing what feels like the world on my shoulders, I’m really just practicing for a life full of love.
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What do you find most challenging about being single?