Tag Archive: lonely


amanda1

HIS BANNER OVER ME IS SINGLE

Last month I was supposed to get married.

There was no ring on my finger, no invitations in the mail. But there was a date on a calendar and the seed of a dream that had been planted in my heart many, many months ago. I’d had a plan—we’d had a plan—in a world where I was part of a “we,” in lifetime that doesn’t feel all that long ago. The day came and went and I wondered if it would ever come again. If there would be a day when diamond commercials wouldn’t make my heart sink.

I have been single for all but three years of my life. During those three years I struggled something fierce to figure out what it meant to be me and to be in relationship; to be independent and private, while also being inclusive and self-disclosing; to be strong-willed and passionate, but at the same time open-minded and gentle. I am still learning those things. I have made remarkable progress, but right now there is no relationship in which to test such things and sometimes it feels like wasted effort.

The word banner derives from the French “banniére” and the Latin “bandum,” a cloth out of which a flag is made. The German language developed the word to mean an official edict or proclamation, a rule under which one lives. It is where we get the word “abandon,” which means to change flags, to switch loyalties.

We live under a great many banners in our lives; banners that represent our fidelities and loyalties. There are banners of family, religion, country and corporation. The banner of Apple. The banner of Nike. The banner England. The banner of Christian. There are banners that we stand under by our own choosing, and there are banners that are spread over us, whether we want them or not. We develop certain ideas about people who are associated with particular banners. Sometimes they are true. And sometimes they are not.

I struggle to keep camp under the banner of “single.” It is not a place I really want to be right now, though I don’t really want my single friends to know that. I don’t want them to feel it is a bad place, a lacking place, a grass-is-browner woe-is-me sort of place. But often that is how I feel. I skirt to the outside of the camp. I watch the other members under the banner of single and I see all sorts of responses. I see them weeping and laughing, celebrating and suffering. I see them angry and bitter. I see them resourceful and redemptive. I see them living and loving without reservation. Sometimes I want to be one of them. I want to accept my position and see my singleness as an opportunity rather than a limitation. But most days I want to escape. I sit at the edge of the camp, just so that God knows I am ready to leave at a moment’s notice. But after two years of leaning on that fence, I’m looking for another, better, more trusting position than my post beside the exit.

Part of the reason I’m so reluctant to stay is that I did not choose to be here. I did not leave my last relationship believing that we were poorly matched or destined for destruction. I did not run under the banner of single ready to embrace new freedoms. I did not really realize what was happening when things were falling apart, and by the time it was over, I was left to trudge under the banner of single with heavy feet.

Singleness is not something I feel “called to” or excited about. It is a place I feel I was left when someone ran out from under the banner of relationship with me. When someone who had chosen to love me chose to stop, to leave, to change flags and abandon me, leaving me single.

amanda3

Sometimes the banners we live under are banners that we do not choose. And sometimes they come with messages that they should not retain. I was told a great many things following my last break up, and even more after the change of heart I had the six months later. Among them, that:
“I deserved someone better”
“I had become a better person”
“God must have something else for me”
“If it were meant to be it would happen”
“He [my last boyfriend] was an idiot, a coward, blind, stubborn, etc.”

And though sometimes these things made me feel better (at least momentarily), mostly they made me confused. They encouraged me to view life under the banner of single as a temporary holding pen. Though many have suggested that God has someone else in mind, no one has ever suggested that God might intend for me to be single. No one has suggested that I am under the banner of single on purpose, which leads me to view it as an undesirable place to be.

Here’s another, perhaps bigger problem. Regardless of what other people believe about singleness, there are a lot of judgments and assumptions that I bring into it myself. There are messages and false truths that I associate with living under the banner of single that give voice to my deepest fears about my own worthiness and belonging. These messages do not come from God or love or goodness or grace, but from all that is the opposite of these things. And some of them have been reinforced in very painful ways.

It is one thing to be single and to feel that you are unseen, unheard, and unnoticed. It is one thing to suppose that the reason you are single is because no one has really experienced all that you have to offer. (I want to pause and recognize that this is a really valid place to feel pain, frustration, and even anger. As creatures that crave in our deepest depths to be truly known, to feel unseen is to feel invisible, inconsequential.) It is quite another thing, however, to believe that you were seen, heard, noticed and appreciated, that someone began to know the deepest depths of you, loved the deepest depths of you, and then chose to stop. Of their own will and volition, another person chose to stop seeing you. Decided they’d seen enough and judged you as no longer worth the effort.

I am not sure how to recover from that. As a consequence, I have begun to believe it must be true. That this must be the reason I am single: because despite all of the things that I have been told by my friends and family, despite all of the reassurance that God has done work in my life—has broken and molded and fashioned me into something tender and compassionate and playful and kind—I see my singleness as evidence that I am too difficult to partner. That I am too quirky or damaged or intense or odd.

Just when I am ready to embrace my giftedness, my worthiness, the hard-won wisdom that has come from full nights of wrestling with God’s goodness, I hear the voice of the last man who loved me as he choses, with great effort, to stop. As he tells me there isn’t enough time. There are no more second chances. I am not as special or worthy or deserving as he thought. This, I have begun to believe, is why I am alone.

And because I have associated these judgments with being single, it has become difficult for me to see singleness as good, to see the gift in my unclaimed time and attention, the privilege of having space to freely explore. I sometimes wonder how it is that others thrive under the banner of single, a banner that still brings me such heartache, reminding me that no matter how much I learn or grow or change, it may not be enough.

amanda2

But there are other judgments to be made, truer truths to be spoken over and into my life, and they are not made by people (who are prone to err when it comes to such things), but by the being who made me in the first place, who knows my deepest depths better than I know them myself. Who does not choose to quit on me. Does not run out of time or patience. Does not believe that I am not worth the effort. His banner over me is Chosen. His banner over me is Worthy. His banner over me is Redemption. His banner over me is Love (Song of Songs 2:4).

For some the banner of single is a temporary fidelity, but for others it is not. God has not promised me that I will marry. I wish that He had. I wish I knew that in the end there would be a mate with whom I could share all of my everything, a partner with whom I could envision and build and act a life of restorative grace. But for many that is never the case. God has not promised that I will be married, but God has promised that I will never be alone. God has promised that I will never be abandoned. God has promised that I will never be unworthy. And right now those are the promises that must become the banners I claim. And in time they may even make me bold in living under the banner of single, knowing I am foremost under the banner of Love.

[You can follow more of Amanda’s writing on a variety of topics over at her blog by clicking here]

[For some other epic stories on Singleness, click here]

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Alexa O S Russell

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?

No.

Do I believe that it is always helpful to do this?

No.

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]

[For the Intro page with the rest of the stories on Singleness, click here]

[For an inspirational post titled ‘I don’t wait anymore’ click here]

me, me, me, me, me, me, me, me, Israel… that is how psalm 25 reads to me – starts off really good and positive and kind of like the sunday picture of a christian – look at me God, everything is together, You are good, i can sing all the words in all the worship songs and even believe that i believe them and You’re great and thanks for all You’ve done and You’re control and You’ve done some great stuff in the past and everything you do is amazing and i’m done at church and i’m driving home and i reach verse 16 and my mask comes off and i have a fight with my wife and i can’t believe the weekend is finished and i have to go to work on monday and look at all these problems i have God and HELP ME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

or something like that:

‘Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted. Relieve the troubles of my heart and free me from my anguish. Look on my affliction and my distress and take away all my sins. See how numerous are my enemies and how fiercely they hate me! Guard my life and rescue me; do not let me be put to shame, for I take refuge in you.’ [vs. 16-20]

and then he slips into his ‘pre-useless-sinner’ mode of hoping his ‘integrity and uprightness’ will rescue him and then quickly finishes off with a quick p.s. of ‘oh and please be nice to Israel, amen’

i really dig this psalm though cos as you read it, it is as if the layers are being peeled away and you get closer and closer to the real man and the heart of the issue and everything is not so rosy and happy and together… and YET he STILL continues to pray and cry out to God, because he knows…

and also maybe cos i can strongly relate many days here in the ‘hood… [and more days than not it’s not the ‘hood stuff that is causing the problem] – feeling lonely and afflicted but yet continuing to trust in God, because i know!

this is a long psalm, so may just do it in two parts…

starts off with a very familiar statement: ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ [verse 1]
Jesus groaning from the cross… or me, sitting and chatting with my wife on my bed last nite…

i seem to be able to relate to a lot of the groany [whiny?] stuff of this psalm which i appreciate for its raw and rough realness’ity:

‘Why are you so far from saving me, so far from my cries of anguish?’ [verse 1]

‘My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer, by night, but I find no rest.’ [verse 2]


‘All who see me mock me; they hurl insults, shaking their heads. “He trusts in the LORD,” they say, “let the LORD rescue him. let Him deliver him, since He delights in him.” [verse 7-8]

followed by this desperate cry: ‘Do not be far from me, for trouble is near and there is no one to help. Many bulls surround me; strong bulls of Bashan encircle me. Roaring lions that tear their prey open their mouths wide against me. I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint. My heart has turned to wax; it has melted within me. My mouth is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth; You lay me in the dust of death.’ [verse 11-15]

i mean, that’s pretty dramatic – you lay me in the dust of death? and yet when everything around you starts looking bleak, that can be how you feel. a sneak peek into tomorrow’s well known psalm reminds us where God is, when we hit the ‘dust of death’ [or even the ‘valley of the shadow of death’] and i guess this psalm does a bit of that as well – God, it feels like you are nowhere near at the moment, but i am going to trust on the experience of the past and my faith in You and who i believe You to be and that will be enough to get me through.

i have been feeling very distant from God [well the feeling always manifests as ‘God is distant from me’, you know] for a long time now and last nite in particular just a whole bunch of stuff hit and i had a really good chat with my wife, tbV, and was able to b’lurgh a lot of it out, and then this morning i received an email from a very random source completely encouraging me for something i had been a part of in her life years ago at some camp i spoke at, and was just completely encouraged by that. huge coincidence, for sure, excepting that those kinds of coincidences just seem to happen every single time i get to that point of just wanting to throw in the towel and run far away [or more honestly probably slap someone in the head with the towel] and it’s like God swooping in to remind me that, “I’m here. I haven’t forgotten you. I certainly haven’t forsaken you.”

and so the reminder of the writer’s past connection to God: ‘Yet you brought me out of the womb; you made me trust in you, even at my mother’s breast. From birth I was cast on you; from my mother’s womb you have been my God.’ [verse 9-10]

and a reminder of the writer’s national connection to God: ‘Yet You are enthroned as the Holy One; You are the one Israel praises. In You our ancestors put their trust; they trusted and You delivered them. To You they cried out and were saved; in You they trusted and were not put to shame.’ [verse 3-5]

and lastly, the reminder that the last time that first verse was groaned, well proclaimed, from the cross, in the midst of apparent hopelessness, chaos and confusion, it didn’t turn out so badly…

we serve a faithful God. one who allows us to ask the difficult questions and be hurt and scared and confused when we need to be.

to continue to part ii…

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