So it’s been a little while since I’ve written here. I’ve had another little writing project on the go, to do with one of my favourite charities. I will hopefully tell you about it in due course, once everything is confirmed. For now I’m going to leave you guessing.
It’s that time of year where everyone is thinking about their relationship status. Everything in the shops becomes pink and heart shaped, and even the most content of single people start to wonder what they might be missing. I’ve been considering writing this post for a while. One of my house mates got engaged on Friday and another has just entered a relationship. So like it or not being single has been something that has been on my mind recently.
We live in a society driven by sex and relationships. Singleness is not a desirable state. Among young Christians there is perhaps an even more intense pressure to meet someone and get married. From what I’ve seen of my generation in the church, on the whole we get married young. In fact since starting the internship at CAP, three interns, my age or younger, have got engaged to their boyfriends or girlfriends. Working in a Christian charity, where plenty of people my age are either married or considering it, can be a challenging context to be single.
There are many great things about singleness. For one you have a lot of freedom. When I made the decision to move to Bradford, ultimately it was my choice to make. I didn’t have to weigh up someone else’s needs and desires. I felt like it was where God wanted me to go, so I went. I am also blessed with a lot more free time (not that it’s necessarily felt like it recently) and I can choose how I spend it. As I’m not investing all my time and energy in one person, I have time for my friends and my church. But perhaps the most significant thing is that for me, when you get beneath the surface, my family unit is me and God. At times this is can be lonely and difficult. However, most of the time it draws me much closer to God than I would otherwise be. If I have a problem He is my first point of call, the one who listens to me through the tears and comforts me. I know what it means to be physically alone, but equally in the same sense I know I’m never on my own. God is my anchor and foundation. I’ve learnt to look for my security and hope in Him, rather than in another’s arms or words.
That’s not to say that being single isn’t difficult sometimes. Since moving to Bradford the biggest thing has been loneliness. I am someone who likes to connect with people, to have deep and meaningful conversations, and those kind of friendships take time. There have been weeks when I’ve been heavily burdened and not had anyone to share it with. Another challenging part of being single can be the way people react to you once they settle down. Most of my friends have handled this transition well and have taken great care to keep up friendships and keep caring. But I have also been hurt by rejection, getting deleted from Facebook or ignored because you’re at a different life stage, and loosing those friends who no longer have time to communicate with you any more. You see when a friend settles down, I am happy for them (unless I think they’re really bad news). I’m happy to hear about that special person and to share in that excitement. I am not jealous. Yet at the same time I am wondering whether they will be another one who will drift out of my life because you’ve found ‘the one’. Friendships are precious to you when you’re single, and it hurts to watch people disregard them so freely once they meet someone.
There is one harmful message that society, and at times the church, is giving out. A message that you are not whole until you have found your spouse. People use the term ‘other half’ to refer to their partner, as if without them they are only half a person. Maybe that is how it feels when you find that person who ‘completes you’. But where does that leave those of us who are single? Can we not be whole on our own?
I would say that as humans we all have this hole within us, a feeling of incompleteness, a longing that we can never fulfil. We can try and fill it with a relationship, but ultimately another human being with their own hole and brokenness will not be able to fill our emptiness. And we cannot expect them to. If our identity depends on another person then we add a unreasonable amount of pressure to a relationship. I would argue that it’s only in God that we can be truly whole, regardless of whether you are single or married. The hole and the longing within us is a reminder that we were created to be in a relationship with Him, to know his love and grace in our lives. Our security and identity has to come from who we are in Him rather than in another man or woman. No human being can match up to God. We are His first. And we will always be His, even after everyone else has left our lives.
My identity does not revolve around whether or not I’m single. When I look at who I am, I am so many other things before I get to single. That doesn’t mean that one day soon I wouldn’t love to meet someone and settle down. But in the mean time I know that I am whole and loved just the way I am. I am God’s precious daughter who he loves. I know he has good plans for me and if those plans involve me staying single then I will keep trusting him. Because one thing I do know: there will never be anyone who knows me as well as my Father does.
” We love because he first loved us” 1 John 4:19