There’s one topic in particular that I often stay away from. I usually skip articles about it or books on it. I don’t often engage in conversations about it unless with certain people. I don’t even like to refer to myself in reference to it.
What is it?
I don’t even like the word. Single. As if I must be defined by my relationship status. Except that I am, whether I like it or not. And that’s why I tend to stay away from the topic. The idea of being defined by a relationship status churns my stomach. To even write this makes me hesitate with the most extreme caution. But I know I’m not alone, and sometimes there needs to be a voice.
Trust me, I’m not about to go on some relationship-hating, secular feminist rampage. I just don’t like how we perceive each other based on whether we are in a relationship or not, as if one is superior than the other.
Someone once told me that I handle the single life with such grace. I chuckled to myself. They had no idea.
I know, I sound bitter. I’m really not. Frustrated, maybe. Tired, definitely. Tired of fighting to be included, tired of the misperceptions, tired of thinking that I’m missing something.
I work in a university, so being around young, single people brings along its wonderful tensions of college students looking toward the future and yearning for the next steps. I love it. I love them. Their searching, their asking, their learning to trust. But the downside comes when I’m lumped into their stage of life because I’m termed “single.” Of course, I must be in their shoes, still waiting for that next thing. Clearly I haven’t “arrived” yet because I’m not married and have a family. I’m still “waiting for the will of God.”
Except, I’m not.
I am in the “next step.” I have “arrived,” because I am exactly where God wants me to be, no matter what my relationship status is. I’m in the will of God, not waiting for it, and I have been the whole time. So have you.
I have to daily take on the battle of misperceptions that I must not have experienced life yet, as if my life has been on hold. I must not be able to relate to people because I haven’t had certain life experiences. It’s true that I haven’t experienced some things like a marriage or childbirth, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t experienced life. I would love to sit down with anyone over a cup of coffee and tell of the good, bad, and ugly of the journey God has brought me through. So what if I did that “alone.” Surely wasn’t alone. And God’s grace was just as evident as it is in your life. We’re on the same journey so we can all relate to being human. Though our circumstances be different, we as humans are not that different at all.
The hardest fight is that of being included. I’ve always kind of been the outsider. Never been one of the “cool kids.” I’m ok with that. But the fight comes from within the place I should be the safest. The church. I will say that for the most part I have had some wonderful pastors who have not devalued my personhood for being a single woman, but have actually supported me in that. Most of my struggle has come from others in the church. As if I’m not complete. As if I must not be happy. You know, those wonderful cliche questions and trite encouragements that are supposed to make us happy in the “waiting,” but instead breed discontent and make us question our personhood. That make us question if God is skimping out on us.
That make us feel utterly alone and incomplete.
That’s the fight I’m tired of.
And I know the husbands and wives out there who feel the same way. Moms and dads that feel the same way. Other singles. Widows.
Because in all reality, it isn’t ultimately about our relationship status. It’s really about our own personal misplaced identity, as well as the misplaced identity we place on other people.
When I wrap up my identity in something or someone else, I lose. I will be discontent. I will be waiting and left wanting.
And honestly, we don’t help each other in this. We identify people based on their relationships with other people. Sometimes that’s ok. Oftentimes it’s not. We create divides between each other. We downplay people’s value. We tell people they aren’t enough. We miss the opportunity of God’s grace in the life of another human. And we’re left lonely and leave others’ lonely.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not against relationships. We are made for relationships. It is through relationships we experience God.
But instead of identifying people by their relationship status or by their identity to another person, can we instead identify them by who they really are?
Children of God, being sanctified, worked on, worked through, image bearers, and those whose life and experience can minister grace to us and others, no matter what it is.
God has worked in my heart through many rough roads with this, but you know something? This I have learned: I am complete. I can be content, and honestly, I AM content. Right now, right here. Not because of what I have or don’t have. But because of Whose I am. My identity is a child of God and I get to do the greatest mission in life and that is to love God and love others. We can do that no matter what our relationship status is or what our circumstances are.
So, you and I? We’re really not that different at all. We’re not defined by all the superfluous stuff. It’s just icing on the cake :). Let’s rejoice in that.
And I was serious about the cup of coffee.