[Sueihn was our housemate at the Simple Way – she has been an absolute pleasure to live with and it has been incredible to watch her connect with people and especially children on the block as well as with churches and organisations in the area – i tag teamed with her on Mondays to share lemonade with the people in the food lines as well as talk to and pray with them – i am so thankful for her bravitude in sharing part of her story here with us]
I’ve been boy crazy since the age of five, when I used to daydream about riding flying unicorns together with one of my kindergarten classmates. It only progressed from there – Leonardo DiCaprio back when he was on Growing Pains, countless other celebrities, and boys at school. Once adolescence hit and my teenybopperdom reached its pinnacle, so did my severe low self-esteem and depression, which began as melancholic sprouts in childhood. I thought the only solution would be to find a boyfriend and get married. Maybe then I’d feel beautiful and good about who I am.
As God healed me of the lies attacking the core of my identity, I also began to realize that marriage is not a cure-all. It has its blessings but also its own set of serious challenges, just as singleness has both its unique gifts and difficulties. I love the freedom that I have in making choices, especially spontaneous ones, without having to take into account how it would affect a life partner. I’ve never been in a serious relationship (had a boyfriend in 10th grade whom I dumped after a month and a half), so this freedom has given me the opportunity to have some unforgettable adventures and shenanigans in my 20s and now early 30s.
Though I enjoy the perks of singleness everyday, I also wrestle with the struggles, which were exacerbated by the loss of my dad from lung cancer in 2007. I know I’m incredibly blessed to have dear friends from all the stages of my life dating back to kindergarten, despite being horrible at staying in touch. The most tangible sign of God’s grace in my life is demonstrated through my friends’ love for me. Yet, no one loves you like parents or a spouse. You will always be the center of their universe. Since my dad died, I can’t help but to feel significantly less loved. And when my mother passes on, how much more bereft will I feel if I’m still single?
My dad was also my main source of verbal and physical affection. My mom is great at loving me through sacrifice and service, but I miss having tenderness shown to me in more direct ways. I recently saw a picture of Obama watching TV with his daughters, snuggling cozily on a couch with an arm around each of them, and it was a slap in the face since I no longer have a healthy outlet to experience that kind of physical connection. My friends are very demonstrative, but ever since my dad died it feels like embraces are too few and too fleeting. The only exception is when someone leaves a hand on my shoulder while praying for me – I don’t think others realize that this comforts me as much and sometimes more than the prayers themselves. Honestly, when couples show some PDA, I often have to look away to avoid feeling a shroud of cold emptiness wrapping around me. I don’t think that people should have to censor themselves in front of me (especially not the married couple I live in community with – that would be so unfair!), but I have to fight hard to continually abide in the embodiment of Love who lives in me.
I know that God’s attention is always on me, and that He sends signs of His affection in various ways, using interesting disguises – like the 4-year-old stranger who demanded to hug me on the street today, or the random female pastor that held me for hours while I poured out my grief at a conference last year. But I wonder if that emptiness will ever be completely filled in this lifetime because of the fallenness of this world (2 Corinthians 5:4). These days, I’ve actually been more comforted by communing with Jesus in any suffering of His, so that I might also share in His glory. I think about my trip to Jerusalem, when we visited the high priest Caiaphas’ house and descended to the tiny, dank dungeon where Jesus likely spent the night in chains before He was executed. As I listened to my professor read the most depressing chapter of Psalms (88 – it ends
with “darkness is my closest friend”), I realized that Jesus truly took on my pain, brokenness, and emptiness upon Himself. Any time I feel any twinge of loneliness, I think about Jesus’ own experience of abandonment and know that I’m not alone – my pain is a drop compared to the ocean that Jesus endured, and He went through it all to be with me forever.
Married folks, if I had to give you just one suggestion on how to bless your single friends, I would encourage you to celebrate their lives well. Weddings are very extravagant celebrations of the couple’s entire lives – complete with photo slide shows, speeches and gifts. There are also bridal showers, bachelorettes and engagement parties, along with baby showers later on. Sometimes I wonder if the only milestone in my life that will warrant this much commemoration (and money) will be my funeral. So, I decided that I would be more intentional about celebrating my own landmark moments. When I turned 30 and graduated from seminary last year, I threw myself my first party since the cake-fight incident of 1995 (my 14th birthday party). I also threw a going away party before I moved to Philadelphia. It was actually really hard for me to allow myself to be celebrated – I felt a nagging sense of unworthiness and shame. Then I saw that God is exposing and breaking down the barriers that are blocking deeper intimacy with Him, preventing me from receiving more of His love and loving Him more fully. At the end of this painful process, whether He uses marriage or not to help accomplish it, God will give me the greatest gift in existence – union with Himself.