I never thought of myself as one of those girls obsessed with having a plus one. When I was 20 the mere thought of settling down made me so nervous I left the country for 3 months. I could scoff easily at people who asked me at the ripe young age of 23 when I was going to get married, and as the numbers next to the 2 crept up, I scoffed still. But it definitely stopped being funny at some point.
Somehow, somewhere, I became bristly and defensive. It is the hardest possible thing for me to admit, because I resent it hugely in myself. I want to be the calm cool girl who genuinely doesn’t care about this stuff. And, most of the time, I don’t care about being by myself. But the cares of others who care about it? These I take on board like sticking plasters. I can’t remove them fast enough not to cause a mark. Somehow, somewhere, I started listening to the rhetoric, and I started hating it.
Instead of shrugging it off, I question the throwaway “why hasn’t she been snapped up when she bakes cupcakes like THIS” line. The implication for everyone else is too much for me to be silent, it would seem. If all the cupcake-bakers have been paired off for their marketable skills, then what of me? Is it because of my cupcakes that I’m not married? Or is it, perhaps, because this is where God has me at the moment. His plan, his timing, his wisdom. It is obviously the latter – my mind never doubts it – but my heart? My heart has started papering over what I am told is my lack with your Band-Aid remarks. The skin underneath is crinkly from lack of sunlight. It leaves a mark.
Instead of shaking my head I bite at the throwaway comment about a woman for whom it has finally ‘all worked out’, where ‘all worked out’ = procuring a husband and children. The implication for everyone else is too much for me to be silent, it would seem. If that’s the only definition of ‘all worked out’ then what am I? A work in progress? Eurgh. Or worse – a failed work? I know that’s not what you mean… but oh how sorry I am to admit that it is what I sometimes hear. I know that held-hands in daisy meadows is the ultimate sign of ‘got it’ for our love-starved world, but for us? For Christians? Hasn’t Jesus made a difference? Doesn’t this time, these times we are in, mean that maybe I could be ok without those things? I sure feel ok, until I am offered another Band-Aid, for another just-discovered wound. The skin underneath grows crinkly from lack of sunlight. It leaves a mark.
Instead of laughing at it, I quickly deflect the person who asks me for the umpteenth time if I have found my husband at college yet, and snap at the one who follows it up with a weird “Jesus is your husband anyway” remark. Oh my. The implication for everyone else is too much for me to be silent, it would seem. Because surely Jesus is only my ‘husband’ in the way he is yours… as we, together, form part of the church, his precious bride. Individually, to me, he is so very much more than my husband… Our sweet Saviour is my king and lord, my friend and my redeemer. And this college? This precious place of joy and truth and rest and rigour is so very much more than a dating website come to life. And I know these things. They are settled deep and sure in my mind. But I take the Band-Aid, held out before me. The skin underneath grows crinkly from lack of sunlight. It leaves a mark.
The picture I am painting is as one surrounded by people clamouring, me awkwardly in their midst. But that makes me seem so uninvolved, so beset, a victim, when that could not be further from the truth. Consider, please, the person in the middle, me. Despite my bravado, I am clearly insecure enough to let words sting to my depths. I am sinful enough to nurture things carelessly said, instead of laying them at the feet of my king. I am mistrusting of my Saviour enough to believe what other people say about me, instead of listening to what he says. Bitter, party of 1. Am I – gulp – bitter? Well, Betty Botter wants the better butter. Because if I was a better person, none of this stuff would worry me. If I could trust in Jesus more, it would all be water off a ducks back. Right?
And so I don’t really have a neat conclusion or a take home message. I just want to say how I feel, even as I wish I didn’t. There is another post in me, sometime, about how incredible it is to be by myself in this season of life. Barely a day goes by when I don’t feel blessed for what I get to do and how it gets to be done. Me and God. But that’s a different post. It’s different because what hurts me most has nothing to do with the reality of being single, and everything to do with the rhetoric surrounding it. We need to talk about it more, or better, or something. I need to care far, far less what people think of me.
In chapel this morning we were reminded of what it means to pray “your kingdom come”. That a kingdom is defined by its king. And our King Jesus was weak, a lonely sufferer, a slave. He did not use his power to serve – he gave up his power altogether. What does this mean for me as his disciple? For you? This lacking-in-love gal needs to be soaked in these truths until I am nothing like my sinful heart longs for me to be. What does it mean to lay aside my rights to live entirely for others? What do I expect of my life, in service of this servant king? There are so many questions I am trying to answer, and a faithful God who is shaping this stony heart. Let’s talk about that more, instead of the other. Ask me about Jesus, that’s my take home message. Always ask me about Jesus.
My song is love unknown, my Saviour’s love to me. Love to the loveless shown, that they might lovely be. O who am I, that for my sake, my Lord should take frail flesh and die?
* I don’t write or publish this defiantly, but extremely apprehensively. Feel free to push back, but do be kind!