Contentedly Single: Don't Be Afraid To Be Different

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When I am asked "How do you get to be so content in your singleness?" My first answer is always to suggest taking some time to be intentionally single, but my second answer is this - don't be afraid to be different.

Look around at this whole big world and try to imagine making your way in it without all of the cultural expectations. What if you didn't HAVE to mimic the typical American family? What if your main goal was to follow Jesus and raise happy kids? 

Don't be afraid to live a life that doesn't look like everyone else. 

don't be afraid to be different - being content in singleness

Don't be afraid to have little in common with other families. You can still be friends ;)

Don't feel like you've done something wrong when you have Cherrios for dinner on the floor while you watch TV. 

Don't feel like you're failing your kids if you don't have a single family dwelling, if you don't have pets, if you don't have a picket fence - if you don't have [the hundreds of unnecessary things so many of us think we HAVE to have.]

What is most important for you and your family? Being unscheduled? Spending lots of time with family? Travel? 

Answer that and prioritize it when you make decisions. With every decision, you might look more and more different from the people around you, but you will be setting yourself up to be more content. 

I don't know about you, but I choose content. Every time. 

This is a snapshot of my son's birthday. If we were trying to be like everyone else, I'd be bringing him cupcakes for his class at school today. Instead, we woke up on a boat in the middle of a two and a half week trip. A barista bought him this cinnamon roll and put a candle in it and lit it for him, which was the sweetest, and I just asked him if he is happy right now and he said "yes," which is as good as it gets really. 

Our life isn't perfect. The ways I choose to be different come with their own set of challenges. But, we're content. 

So You Heard Me Say Marriage Is Bad

It’s pretty common for readers to hear “marriage is bad” when I say “single is good.” Here’s something to clarify.

I think I know what happened because it's pretty common around here.

I SAID/WROTE something about singleness.  I said it is good or I love it or more people should consider it or it's amazing for my relationship with God.

But YOU HEARD/READ I hate marriage or I hate men or I think everyone should stay single or some other terrible thing.

So let's get this out here for the record, and for me to link toward for future misunderstandings.

I DON'T HATE MARRIAGE

Marriage was God's idea and I am super into God.  If it's His idea, then I don't hate it.  All of my closest friends are married and they have great marriages - marriages I would do anything to support.  Not wanting something is not the same as thinking it is bad.

For example, I visited a pool the other day with my son.  I did not feel like swimming, so I did not swim.  He swam, I didn't, and it was good. See? Not wanting something is not the same as thinking it is bad.

I DON'T HATE MEN

Quite the opposite actually.  I love men.  (Also, I am attracted to men - because some of you were wondering.) And as much as I love and cherish my female friendships, I prefer the company and conversation of men, generally speaking. 

I know and care about many great men.  I just don't want to be married to one.

I HAVE NOT SWORN OFF MARRIAGE

I prefer singleness right now.  The benefits are not something with which I'm willing to part.  But I won't speak for 40 year old me, or 50 year old me - how rude and presumptuous!  Plus, who knows what God has planned, and I certainly won't speak for him.  

Glad we got this cleared up.  

If you have questions, please don't hesitate to send a message or comment.  I want to hear All. Of. The. Thoughts. on this topic because I am compiling my scribbles on singleness into a fun little book.  Your engagement is fodder for my scribbles, so I appreciate every comment (even, and maybe ESPECIALLY the negative ones.)  

*This is an old picture. It's from just before I took a year to be intentionally single.  I've made some crap decisions in this life, but I look at this picture and I want to give this girl a slow clap because she's about to wise up and let God make the decisions. She's about to do something  a little differently. People are going to misunderstand her and think she's nuts and wonder what is wrong with her, but she's going to smile and lean into God and love this life He's leading. I love her.*

MORE TO LIFE THAN MATING


I Am Single And Far From Sad About It

I'm single.  I like being single.  I have no plans to change this status. This can be weird for some people.  Not sure why, but it is my aim to make it less weird.  "Happily single" doesn't HAVE to sound strange to your ear.    

Wait, how long have you been single?

7 years.

It’s gone on long enough, right?

I didn’t know it needed to end.

Shouldn’t you be dating?

No, thanks.

Shouldn’t you at least be complaining about not dating, or complaining about being single?

I can’t remember uttering a single complaint – pun intended.

Shouldn’t you be sad? 

Quite happy, thank you.

Are you just pretending to be happy?

A friend once accused me of this.  I’m single, so I couldn't be actually happy – I must be pretending!  Would you ask this of anyone else who seemed content in their life?  I have my moments or days or even weeks occasionally where I'm not content.  Sometimes I'm tired of being in this world, sometimes I'm tired of being around other people, and sometimes I'm tired of myself.  But I just read a book, or pray, or watch a show, or all of those things and I get back to the whole contented life thing.  And never in those moments do I wish I had a husband - it just doesn't cross my mind as something that would make me feel better.

Why do you really want to be single? Is it because you're hung up on some lost love? 

No.  I promise you that isn't it. 

Are you too damaged?  Crazy?

Rational minds could disagree here :) 

Too selfish? 

Maybe.  Probably.  But I don't think it's the reason.  Even if it were, it seems a little weird to get married even when you don't want to in order to become more selfless.  There is more than one way to skin that cat.

So what is wrong with you? Why don't you want to get married when everyone else seems to?

To begin with, in my 34 years on this planet surrounded by human persons I have learned human persons don't always know what they want.  They often don't think of it at all.  Sometimes humans will see everyone doing something and assume they want it, regardless of whether it makes sense to them or is something they truly desire. (cough college cough.) So maybe most people want it, or maybe they just think they want it because that is what everyone around them does.  Maybe we have so intricately organized a culture around mated pairs that it is hard for people to imagine their place in the world as a single.

I will tell you what is “wrong” with me.  It is this: I believe there is more to life than mating, and mating is pretty low on my list of priorities. 

I believe there is more to life than finding a husband and getting married. 

I believe a marriage relationship takes a lot of time and energy and I’d rather spend that time and energy on other things.  If mating moves up the priority list, I'll reevaluate.  If God speaks to me and says "Marry that guy over there!" then I will reevaluate (after an MRI). 

For now, I have no interest in mating - don't try to set me up (seriously, it's annoying.) 

If you are single and struggling to find the "more" in life, reach out - send me a message.  If you're local, let's grab coffee.  

Thoughts on Christian Singleness: From The Panel

Answering Common Questions About Being Single And Christian

Had an awesome opportunity to speak at my church in April as part of a panel of women.  I answered two questions related to singleness.  Those answers are below plus a bonus answer to a question we didn't get to on the panel.  

As always, I'm not currently fielding negative public feedback - please direct those comments to the future if I am lucky enough there to have a PR team (or at least a person).  Otherwise, go ahead and hold those comments in and try not to explode.  

QUESTION 1:

I’m waiting for God to bring me a husband.  What does that look like?

If you are waiting for God to bring you a husband, I would say to stop doing that.  Marriage is good and holy, but it is not required and it is not necessary. In Christ, you are complete just as you are.

The most important thing in my life is MY relationship with God, being fully surrendered to Him, trusting Him with my whole life – that I serve Him and love Him with my whole heart.  This doesn’t require marriage – it doesn’t require anything except God, which is handy because He is the one thing that cannot be taken away.

Paul said he knew the secret of being content in any circumstance.

I think part of learning to be content in any circumstance is finding a way to be okay with that circumstance being permanent.  So if you are struggling to be content in your singleness, a good place to start is figuring out a way to be content with the idea that you may be single permanently. 

My advice to every Single Christian person, which no one has ever taken by the way, is to take a year off of even considering dating and marriage.

Take whatever stress/fantasies/concerns you have regarding marriage and just toss it into next year.

Don’t even look at a guy and think he’s cute or wonder what your kids would look like – seriously, shut it down.

Take the year to focus on 3 things

1.  Your relationship with God.

2.  Getting to know yourself and your unique gifts.  During my year, I really examined some negative character traits I have and began working on those.  I also started a list of things I like.  As in, things I actually like outside of the influence of other people.  It’s harder than it sounds, but also incredibly revealing. 

3. Study marriage .  Read books, listen to sermons, study scripture about being married, and be around married couples who are willing to be open, honest, and vulnerable around you. 

Couple takeaways for me after studying marriage: 1. Marriage is an earthly institution and 2. It has eternal purposes - Your Holiness and God’s glory

Why study marriage?

1. Good perspective for going into marriage if that is in your future

2.  Help you be a good support for your married friends even if you remain single – if you have the perspective that marriage is for God’s glory and for our holiness, you care about your friends’ marriage in a deeper way – you care about their marriage because you care about their holiness and you care about God’s glory.   

QUESTION 2:

I have never been in a serious relationship. However, I’m not pure.  I’m worried God isn’t going to bring me someone because of my past, or that he will bring me someone pure and I will be undeserving of him.  What does a healthy relationship look in this circumstance?

God wanted to be in relationship with you.  But you were separated because you were impure, you were not righteous, you could not stand before God.

To fix that -

Jesus lowered Himself to take the form of a man, he endured the temptations we face in this skin and then he endured one of the most horrific deaths imaginable.  He allowed himself to be captured, allowed his captors to whip him - He was mocked and spat on and finally hung naked for hours and hours while he slowly suffocated.

He did this to atone for your sin.  So His righteousness could be your righteousness.  So you could stand before God.  So you could have a relationship with Him.  So you could be pure.  

He did this so you could be called redeemed, a child of God, a saint.  

So if I'm wondering if my past is going to keep me from having a relationship with a human person, or how it is going to affect that future relationship- (a single-mom who has never been married - do that impurity math) – if I'm wondering this, I think I need to ask God to help me understand why I think I'm asking these questions.  Why do I think this will be a barrier to me having a healthy marriage relationship?  And if it were me, I think I would find one of 2 things:

1)    I think I'll find some pain or sin that hasn't been fully dealt with. 

OR

2)    I think I'll find there is something I am not believing about God's promises - something I'm not believing about my redeemed self.  Something I’m not believing about what God has done for me.

So if I’m asking this type of question, I think where I would start is with reading about what Jesus did for me.  Read about the betrayal and the mocking and the crucifiction and all the way through to the resurrection. Meditate on it.  Think about why He did that.

He didn’t do it for you to remain captive to thoughts about how you’re still not good enough.

And then fill your head and your heart with truths about who you are:

You are:

A child of God: John 1:15

Justified and redeemed Romans 3:24

Not condemned Romans 8:1

and on and on . . but I would start with those.

 

BONUS QUESTION:

What does it look like to be a single woman without a man being involved?

In general, single people have more freedom/flexibility/time (this is relative to life circumstances of course).  We choose how we use the extra time.  Just like in marriage, you have to choose to use the benefits of singleness to glorify God. 

TIME:  Singleness gives me a ton of alone time, should I choose it, which I love.  Every night after bedtime there are 2-4 hours I have completely to myself.

FREEDOM & FLEXIBILITY: A few years ago, I was able to spend two weeks in Iraq.  I’m going again in the Fall of this year (if all goes as planned).  I will travel as often and to wherever God opens doors for me and being single gives me the freedom and flexibility to do this.  Not that married people couldn’t do the same thing, but it’s a little more complicated within a marriage because you have another person’s plans/schedules/desires to take into consideration.  I have a child who loves spending a couple of weeks here and there with Grandma for now, and will hopefully love to join me on trips as he gets older.

I also think being single makes my relationship with God easier.  Since a spouse is an important and close relationship, there is a lot of time and energy that goes into maintaining and improving that relationship.  So the time and energy I would have spent on a marriage relationship, I have available (still have to choose to use it!) to me to spend on my relationship with God.

This is an observation in my own life, from my experiences, but it’s also what Paul says in 1 Corinthians  7:34.

"The unmarried woman is concerned about the work of the Lord, how she can be holy in both body and spirit. But the married woman is concerned about the affairs of this world, how she can please her husband.…"

There are benefits to both marriage and singleness, both are of God, both are good, both breed holiness, both can bring God glory – this idea of having more time/energy/freedom for a relationship with God is simply a benefit of being single and I, for one,  embrace it and find joy in it.

I Used To Hate Valentine's Day

I Used To Hate Valentine’s Day

February 14th was a cursed day for me.  For nearly a decade, unfortunate events befell me on this day. Every. Single. Year.  So when I volunteered for a trip from Mosul to Baghdad during my deployment to Iraq and later realized we would be flying on February 14th, I was fully convinced it would be the day of my death.  

Call me melodramatic, but I was going to be in a helicopter, in a war zone, on the day where terrible circumstances unfolded nearly every year of my adult life.  You would have been unnerved too.  Don't lie.  

Clearly I survived, but the curse was nowhere near broken.  I spent the evening of February 14th, 2008 alternating between being frozen by the winter winds of the desert whipping through the Chinook, and standing outside during multiple landings waiting to re-board the flying freezer.  We didn't make it to Baghdad either - we ended up stranded for 14 days in Taji (which actually wasn't all bad, but more stories for another time).  The point is - the day sucked - the curse survived.  

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Until it didn't.

I don't know when it happened (which is unfortunate because I'm trying to craft an essay here and I could use a better segue), it just happened.  The day of hearts came and went, came and went, came and went without a single unlucky event.

And when I realized the day of love embraced me, I embraced it back.  

After all, I'm pretty into love.  Love saved me.  Love sustains me.  Love knows me wholly and embraces me fully.  Love lifts me up where I belong (sorry not sorry.) So this day I once thought would be the day I died is now a day to celebrate the reason I live.  Love is awesome, and I'm cool with a day set aside to celebrate awesome things.  I'm also cool with an excuse to eat cupcakes.    


 

 

Q & A: Answering Questions About Christian Singleness

Answering Questions About Christian Singleness

IF: GATHERING was this weekend and I participate every year, alone from my couch in my pajamas, which is basically the only way to participate.  There was a segment of the conference where a panel of single, Christian women answered three questions about being single.  

It was a good segment, with a group of ladies who gave great answers.  BUT, I would have answered differently.  

1 What are the highs and lows of being single?

HIGHS

Most of the panel talked along the lines of freedom being the best part of singleness.  I tend to agree on this one. I love sleeping alone (until The B crawls in with me). I am thankful for my evenings when I am alone and can doodle and watch Netflix, or stare at a wall in silence, or sing to myself until a song comes out - pretty much whatever I want to do.  I get a big chunk of alone time almost every single night and it's awesome - this is probably my highest high.  

A close second is a lack of drama.  When you share your life with a person, you are going to clash.  There are going to be bunches of little conflicts, days where emotions run high, days where you're a jerk, days where he's a jerk, and days where you have to work through the days where one or both of you were jerks.  I enjoy this little lack in my life.

LOWS

I think for me, the low is the lack of male friendship.  Most of my adult life I have had men around me who felt like brothers.  My actual brothers are adults now, so that's fun.  And I keep in loose, over-the-internet, contact with some of my old friends, but not having brothers in my close circle of friends is a pretty big bummer for me.  

Christian Singleness Quote

In our culture, and I would say especially in the American church culture, there is an assumption that everyone wants to be married.  I have found this leads to a lot of misunderstanding in an opposite-sex friendship, even when intentions of singleness are explicitly stated.  It's something I decided wasn't worth the potential drama. But it does make me sad on occasion, so I'd call it a low.

2. What would you say to other single women who have put themselves in neutral, waiting to be married?

The panelists were so kind and full of grace as they answered this question.  I love how they gently pointed out a couple of key truths:  You might not ever get married and your current problems and insecurities are coming with you if you do.

My answer is a bit more blunt:

1. Stop it.  Take marriage off the to-do list.  Take marriage off of your list of goals.  If you hold, in any measure, the false idea of the purpose of woman being to mate and reproduce - stop it.  

Your purpose is to serve God. Period.  There is a message, as subtle as it is destructive, in our culture and it tells us marriage is what we do, marriage is for everyone but weirdos and shut-ins, marriage is where everyone is bound, you are incomplete without a mate, you won't fit in anywhere without a mate, blah blah blah - none of this is truth. Marriage is good AND singleness is good.

(A little caveat for the person who doesn't know me very well, or at all, and thinks I am being negative about marriage here - this is not what is happening.  Marriage is good, but there is a difference between "good" and "required," and a difference between "good" and "necessary.")

2. Set aside an entire year where you will not even entertain the idea of dating.  Don't flirt, don't fantasize, don't pray for a husband.  

Be committed to a solid year of being single.  Intentionally take time to study what God says about marriage.  Read books about marriage, listen to sermons about marriage, and be friends with married couples who will be real and vulnerable around you about how stupid hard it is to be married.  

At the very least, you will learn contentedness as a single and, if marriage is in your future, you will be ready to enter it with more realistic expectations.

 

3. What can the church do better?

The American church, while it may throw the occasional bone in recognition of the value and acceptableness of a life of singleness, has (in general) perpetuated beliefs about marriage which are more cultural than scriptural.

"You need a mate"  is not something most people would outright affirm as truth, but they WOULD and DO affirm this as truth through a multitude of other words and actions.  

So what can the church do better for me as a single person? Pray and read the scriptures.  Ask for and seek an understanding of singleness based not on culture, tradition, or your own experience.  Find and read the stories of single Christ followers, historically and in the scriptures. I believe this is the appropriate and necessary place to start, so this is what I would ask of the church (if they were asking :) )