Lex: Being single in a world and a community where relationships are celebrated and held up in high regard can be incredibly difficult…particularly when your single status is not a conscious choice, but rather a default at this point in life! People chuckle (and relate!) when you refer to your self as having a Bridget Jones kind of moment – the moment where you want to eat yourself silly on chocolate, or drink too much wine, or sit and belt out songs re: your loneliness and cry your way through a box of tissues because you have had too much chocolate, only to realise its not about the chocolate, but actually about the fact that there was no one to share the chocolate with.
Admitting to this seems so easy and natural and yet, can be a moment of intense vulnerability. No one wants to be perceived as being desperate and yet, we do want our feelings acknowledged! Acknowledging our feelings makes our sense of being single – both the pros and the cons – more real; which also means that at times we wish there were answers to this issue – simple, straight forward answers and the reality is that everyone has a different understanding and revelation of what relationships and being single means as an individual and as a Christian.
This writing is not about saying marriage is better than singleness or vice versa; it’s simply an honest expose of the fact that being single is not easy, that there are no simple answers and that what is true for one person may not be true for all! Both Karen and I have wrestled, shouted, cried, laughed, giggled and celebrated both our single and attached status. In discussions though, despite being in different countries, common themes have emerged as a part of our discussions in dealing with our singleness….. Karen has emerged as one of my married friends who is sensitive to the single issues – mostly as she has had the same roller coaster as the rest of us!
Our worlds as women…
• Fears and frustrations: single, courting/ dating & married
Lex: Oi vey – how to voice this without sounding horribly sad!
I am writing this because I am a firm believer that regardless of whether we are single, in a relationship or married, women have all had moments of issues of where we have had to wrestle with our relationships, our spirituality, the men in our worlds as well as the women around us. We fear that our dreams may never be realised, we get frustrated that the fact that men we love never seem to love us back; competition emerges between women who see each other not as support and allies but as competition for the pool of men. Frustrations grow when for some reason the men you are most attracted to are not Christians, are seemingly oblivious to interest in them, or play the push-pull game – come closer and the moment a woman dares hope that this might be a potential relationship, they get pushed away – only to be pulled back once the woman then walks away again. Nothing is more annoying than the dating/courtship game being masked by the “brother/sister” in Christ thing throw into the mix. How on earth are you ever supposed to figure anything out? Oh – and then there are all the “myths” that get thrown at you when you dare to mention feeling lonely, sad, annoyed or confused in this!
• Single v. married – how do we support each other
Lex: Regardless of what box you tick on forms regarding your marital status, the truth is that we all actually do need each other! So as a singleton how do I support my married friends and what is it that I need from my married friends?
I know my girlfriends are still my girlfriends regardless of their marital state! However the demands on my married friends in terms of their time are different to the demands on my single friends! Do we all need a little space at times? YES! Do we all need some girly time at times? Yes…..
I believe that I need to encourage time with my girlfriends on their own, but also with their partners. I believe that I need to be praying for righteousness and protection in their marriages and relationships. I need to recognise that as much as they have something I desire in being married, that this is not always the dream state we believe it to be.
The Myths we live with….
• You need to be so in love with Jesus before you will meet THE ONE or you need to look to God to fulfil you until you meet THE ONE!
Lex: At face value there is truth in this statement – however on reflection it struck me that God looked at Adam in his single state and stated:
“It is not good that man should be alone; I will make a helper comparable to him” Genesis 2:18.
People attempting to address dating, courtship, spirituality and singleness will often say that only God can truly fulfil all your needs. Yes, God is the Alpha and Omega, but I have to say that one of the most liberating comments I have ever heard as a singleton sitting in church was when the pastor mentioned as an aside, that if you are yearning for a relationship, that is a desire that is within you and that it is a desire that another person fills. At no point did the pastor turn this around and suggest that Jesus could do this – it’s a desire for relationship with another person in the flesh! Adam shared relationship with God, the creator, the biggest being in the known and unknown universe and yet Adam had a longing to be with another. It is something that is in our make up, and God, who made us this way, knows this.
• Only once you are truly content being single will you be in the space to meet THE ONE
Lex: My gut reaction to this is: What a load of decomposed brown stuff! If you are truly content in being single, then there really isn’t space for another. I honestly believe that this needs to be rephrased as:
Another person can not be the source of you feeling ok about you. Apart from which speak to any of the fabulous singletons you know who desire to be in a relationship, and they will tell you that life is sweet, but that they do and often wonder if they will meet the person that they will get to share life with! The only people I know who are truly content in being single are people who have consciously chosen this: A woman I work with who decided she is not interested in getting married ever, my Ouma who was married, and widowed for 24 yrs (She had “admirers”) – but once told me she did not want to meet another as she had had enough love from my Oupa to last her a lifetime…and um… hmmm…..actually I can’t think of anyone else! So, then if I follow that initial thought through, then there must be a) a lot of really content people out there or b) people wrestling to be truly content in God but not quiet there yet, so they can’t meet THE ONE! Neither of this makes sense, nor does it add up when I consider that God in His amazing generosity gave us the gift of intimacy on a variety of different levels – not just that of sex. Furthermore we are all works in progress and working things out as we go and live. I sometimes think we do ourselves a disservice by assuming that we need to be in “some” place – when the reality is this: I can be content in knowing God loves me, and passionate about Jesus, secure in the fact that I am created to have worth and a future which is more than I can dream of…and still be ok saying to God that I would like to share this journey with another.
• THE ONE needs to be quantified in a list in order for him to be realised
Lex: So on paper this makes sense – and I have friends who will tell you that their partner matched a list that they presented to God. Do I believe that it is wrong to do this?
Do I believe that it is always helpful to do this?
I have met guys who meet the criteria on my so called list and apparently the stuff that you can’t put on paper, like the sense of connection that happens in person was missing – and then I have met guys who mostly matched the list, who I connected with who never connected with me, or who matched the list, connected with me but I never connected with….or any of the above confused examples! Yes, God says we need to be specific in our prayers, but I think that part of the adventure of discovering others is going in with a clear idea of who God is in my life & who I am, and seeing if we fit from there. I have also realised that what I think I need is sometimes not really what I need….and who better to trust than the one who came up with the whole concept of relationship? So, a coffee needs to be a coffee….not an opportunity to cross-check a list! I do know that there need to be certain non-negotiable things before hand, like are you both serving God – the same one I mean? But there may be other things that are more optional than we think. The key here after lots of conversation with my married friends and friends in healthy long term relationships is that we need to learn to be open, without being desperate.
• THE ONE will only be available/ seen to you when you have it altogether
Lex: Get real! Show me one person who has it all together!!?! And if we have to have it altogether, why are relationships and marriage a described as a more than a little work then. I love that God is a God who surprises us and works through others to help heal our hearts
• Think about all the amazing things you get to do without having to consider another aka THE ONE
• THE ONE is one whom will share your identical passion and ministry
• THE ONE will know sexually what you want, need and desire…..
• There is a THE ONE out there and you will meet him
• Looks won’t matter to THE ONE
• Evaluating each man you meet – is he THE ONE?
• Your wedding day will be the happiest day of your life
So – in the MEANTIME…the challenges remain…
• Keeping your heart open to meeting someone , but living your life fully and in the confidence that you are loved, attractive and worthy
• Loving and supporting your single friends/ your married friends: Truth is that women need women…..so what does this mean?
Why put more thoughts on singleness or relationships down when the market is flooded?
Alexa: if I have to listen to any more of how singleness is a gift, or that there is a 3 point plan to deal with the yearnings of wanting someone in my space I will not be held liable for my reactions! Not true, I know people mean well, love me and what to see me happy….or perhaps are thinking – poor girl! She is way past it – at 34 in some communities I probably am. And yes at times I do lie in the bath with Vaya Con Dios, lots of bubbles and an accompanying beverage wondering about whether I will ever get to tick the box that says married. I wonder if I will ever get to put a MR “the one” down in the next of kin, or in case of emergency box….I have cried my eyes out in loneliness, and at other times celebrated the freedom I have in wearing bad clothes, not brushing my hair and eating cereal for supper for the 3rd night in a row!
Ultimately though I believe that I am created to be a wife and a mother – whether to biological children of my own or to children who enter my world so I can love them -but motherhood and a mother heart is not to be confused with the heart of a woman longing to love and be loved by the heart of a man, to be a princess and make someone a king, to have someone to yell at about his socks and the laundry basket never seeming to find each other. A friend who is not at all spiritual once said to me he does not know how or why it is, but he knows for a fact that people function best when we are in relationship; when we are with another. I have seen it before my eyes….have seen the truth in this statement.
I want to be the one who invests and believes and rejoices in bringing out the best in another and who can be softened and strengthened and grown by the presence of another.
Are there any guarantees that this is going to happen? No….
Do I believe that God knows, sees and hears the desires of my heart and has a plan for me? Yes…
Have I been angry and mad and disappointed in myself and in the men and women around me in the waiting for this to happen? Hell YES!
So what has and does help bring freedom in this?
Ironically a little common sense!
Knowing that I can trust God in this; knowing that once I am able to see the promises of God for what they are and trust that even though I can’t see the bigger picture and put limits on things, God can, does and will release things as and when He chooses; knowing that God also knows the people in my world, and I am guessing looks down and prompts people, but also know that people have free will…knowing that we choose potential partners for stuff that is unseen (and at times about us) more so than simply what is seen.
Freedom in a big way has come from allowing the wisdom of my women friends to be heard loud and clear. The single and the married ones – my mother, my heart sisters and sometimes those younger than me too…..
SO my freedom has come from figuring out who people are, opening and closing my walls so that good, safe people in my world stay and I learn to keep the others in a safer space….. ultimately, my freedom has come from saying to God and my friends, this is me, this is who I am – prepare my heart and life for the person I am meant to be, so that I can be the person who is able, open and wanting to love the people you put in my world.
Until then….i will have Bridget Jones’ moments….and that’s ok!
[you can read more of Alexa O S Russell's writing on her 'the outrageous introvert' blog here]