I live millennia from Genesis and miles from the Promised Land, but I’ve got a few unanswered questions about my life, too. I’d like to know if I’ll ever get rich and famous from this book. I’d like to know if I’ll ever be a homemaker and homeowner. I’d like to know how to sell and buy, as well as manage maintenance on, a car as a single woman. I’d like to know if I’ll ever walk down the aisle as the main attraction instead of as a member of the supporting cast. I’ve discovered, though, that I rarely have to ask questions like this. There are plenty of other people in my life asking them for me.
After wrestling repeatedly with these and other questions about singleness, I’ve resigned myself to the fact that God is the only One who knows the answers, and He’s not telling.
At a church event one evening, I was serving punch, stocking cookie trays, and cleaning up messes, when a mere acquaintance asked one. Punch ladle in hand, attention focused on stirring pink sherbet, I heard his voice. “So, isn’t it about time you got married?” Glancing left and right with the desperate hope that he was speaking to anyone else, I slowly looked up. Nope, I was the lucky target, and he hit the bull’s-eye.
“Isn’t it about time you got married?” He voiced one of those questions that lurks in the heart of every single adult who desires to be married. It resides next to half a dozen others we’ve been asked over the years — questions for which we either don’t have the answers or don’t like the answers:
If you are single, you’ve fielded most of these and countless other remarks for which any answer seems inadequate. You’ve probably mastered the courtesy laugh and polite smile, and chances are you’re an expert at shifting conversations away from your marital status.
While I laugh at both well-meaning friends and rude acquaintances for asking such bold things, they are really only voicing questions I have in my own head. I just don’t ask them because I know there aren’t answers. If I’ll marry, who I’ll marry, when I’ll marry, are some of God’s question marks in my life, unknown obstacles in my race. That’s the way God planned it. After wrestling repeatedly with these and other questions about singleness, I’ve resigned myself to the fact that God is the only One who knows the answers, and He’s not telling. Most days I can live with that. Not everybody in my life has struggled through these issues, though, and so for them, I sometimes just don’t fit into a preconceived mold.
Working the Puzzle
One of my sisters is an expert puzzler. Unlike my dad, who likes to dump all the pieces on the table, Bonnie prefers to hold the box in one hand and stir through it with the other, looking for certain pieces. When she strikes, she’s rarely wrong. Her practiced eye knows where pieces fit without even trying them. I love puzzles, too, and while I learned much of my skill from watching Bonnie, I can’t compete with her prowess. I have a knack for picking a piece that looks like it should fit, but no matter how many times I try, it doesn’t. I turn it and try again. Nope. I set it down in the corner of the board and when I come back to it, I think all over again that it must fit in that place. Like a dull-witted dog chasing parked cars, I keep putting the same right piece in the same wrong place. It makes no sense to me — how a piece with the right coloring and the right shape just doesn’t fit.
To married friends and relatives, singles are sometimes those puzzle pieces. It looks to them as if we should fit in a certain place. In attempts to make us fit, they often ask bold questions. At times they answer their own questions when our responses fall short of what they hoped to hear:
Begging the forgiveness of my friends and family, I don’t have nearly as many problems with the unanswered questions in my life as I do with their answers! I wholeheartedly recognize their good intentions. They never mean to be invasive or rude; they really want only the best for me. I love them for it, and I’ve learned to laugh at them for it, too.
Like I said, most days I can live with God’s absence of answers. But sometimes, I allow myself to listen to the well-meaning advice of bystanders, and I choose to hear their answers above the silence of God. When I filter their pieces of intended encouragement through my emotional sieve, I want to believe them. I want to take their statements as divine wisdom.
Maybe time will prove their words correct in my life, but I can’t afford to live with that expectation. If I do, chances are good I will park myself on the side of the road or hoist a heavy bag over my shoulder and squander this leg of the race.
Learning to Let Go
When I moved into my apartment, it pained me to unpack my brand-new dishes and actually use them . . . by myself. For several years, I had amassed a collection of dishes for my hope chest, and they, along with several other boxes of household items, were not intended to be used until I got married. Opening the boxes and unwrapping each piece was a solemn occasion, as I let go of some long-held dreams.
We are faced with two choices: pull over and wait for our self-scripted lives to catch up, or forget the plan and focus on the road ahead.
I recently talked to a friend in the middle of the “all my friends are getting married” phase, and she mourned her place in life. She talked of the many things she thought she’d be doing at this point — with her husband. To go ahead and do them without him seemed like an admission of defeat, admitting all of her dreams were dead.
Most of us grew up expecting to graduate from high school, go to college, get married, start a family, and then turn twenty-five. For many of us, though, we’re racing toward twenty-five with no prospects on the horizon, or we’re looking at twenty-five in the rearview mirror with no one else in the car. We are faced with two choices: pull over and wait for our self-scripted lives to catch up, or forget the plan and focus on the road ahead.
Some singles do their best to focus on the road ahead, carrying lists of adventures to have and goals to achieve. They busily check things off alone, but nagging deep inside is a disappointment with the way life has turned out. Unfulfilled expectations have planted seeds of discontent. The grass looks greener on the other side of “I do,” and being single is a phase to endure until true happiness whisks them over the fence.
For them, singles’ activities become “hunting grounds.” Side-glances intimate true love, and small conversations are laden with significant undercurrents. Sometimes we call them “desperate,” but desperate is just a symptom of a deeper issue — discontentment. You don’t have to be in the same company long to know they’re unhappy and dissatisfied. It’s heard in their cynical statements; it’s seen on their faces. God’s course isn’t what they want; singleness wasn’t their plan. The weight of discontent drains their joy.
They think what’s missing is the joy of a relationship and marriage. Ironically, what’s really missing is joy in general — joy of life, joy of singleness. I can hear the skeptical laugh of some single friends — “Joy of singleness?!” Yup. If there’s not joy in singleness, there won’t be joy in marriage either. Joy is not the fruit of “favorable” circumstances. Rather, it’s the outpouring of a contented heart.
Wendy Widder graduated from Cedarville University in Cedarville, Ohio, and has completed her Master of Divinity degree at Grand Rapids Theological Seminary. The wearer of six bridesmaid dresses, Wendy knows the single life. She also knows the church life after spending a lifetime there in both volunteer and paid positions. She is the author of Living Whole Without a Better Half and A Match Made in Heaven.
“Taken from Living Whole Without a Better Half © 2000 by Wendy L. Widder. Published by Kregel Publications, Grand Rapids, MI. Used by permission of the publisher. All rights reserved.”[schemaapprating]