Ever since I was little I’ve been aware of protesting too much. If you ask for something and then get it, it isn’t as sweet as surprise, and if you say you are happy with too much vigour, then you probably aren’t. If only Shakespeare could know how his words are flung about and take root. So that every sentence I utter is analysed for whether the truth I am trying to tell is too earnest, whatever that means.
Today it means a deep breath, before what follows. Because there is a part of me, an honest to goodness real fraction, which hopes I never have a smiling engagement photo on Facebook. And this hope springs from a desire not to have anyone finally pleased for me, where now there is only pity. It isn’t an honourable sentiment, but let me explain.
It is hard to be an object of pity. How much more when you don’t agree with the assessment. Sometimes I feel like I have to be an (admittedly lousy) poster girl for a happy, single, Christian, because there aren’t very many around. I don’t believe that’s true, but so often it feels like what we communicate. And I’m starting to believe that the only way to convince anyone of the joy of singleness, and the lack of a feeling of lack, is to still be happy, single and Christian in 10, 20, 30 years. As though the moment my status changes, everything I once protested turns out to be a stop-gap after all.
I cannot tell you how many times I have been pitied by people who assume I would prefer their life. And my face is tired from the tightness that happens around my smile and the internal battle about whether to defend myself or whether – gasp – it will be more evidence for the fire of discontent that they swear is raging below my surface.
I truly don’t wish to denigrate anyone’s circumstances, as though mine are preferable. But are they not at least of equal value? Marriage is beautiful, as are children. But they are not the only beauty. And I long for the lip service we pay to singleness to not be followed by a caveat, muttered or stifled under our breath – just not me or mine God. Please not me.
Because most days, almost every day, I am grateful to wake up and sing opposite words to my Saviour. Thankful words of what life can mean when it’s just me and God. This season is an incredibly special one, I know. A city and a community and college which fill my life with sparkling richness in the service of my king. I am so happy, so much of the time, that I very rarely wish my life different. The song of my days, I pray, is one of thanks for abundant blessing, not bewilderment at some missing part.
And so it is an odd intermission when my song is doubted.* When I feel foolish for singing it, as though I am deluded about the sweetness of the melody, or longing not-so-secretly for another song. And because I am sinful, and care far too much what people think, you should know this is less demand and more plea. So please my friends, I beg you, can we not assume happiness or sorrow based on marital status?
It is this assumption that makes me want to weep with frustration and also where I find my sin raging. I am certain that this is a huge part of how God is patiently working in impatient me – teaching me how to extend grace when I want to snap, or fold. I did not ask to be this person who bares her single self and asks you to decide whether I am protesting too much. And that assessment is so much harder than being alone is or – I wager – will ever be. I have never felt more insignificant than at the hands of others who are looking on. I don’t know why it works this way.
I have written about this before, and my conclusion is the same. I need to spend less time worrying what other people think of me and more time remembering what Jesus thinks. He loved me when I was unlovable in the extreme. When I warred against him, he died for me. When I wallowed in sin, he paid for it, to the last drop. I am so grateful to have been bought back at such a price. I am so grateful to be loved in the ultimate way love has ever been shown. And I am grateful for the way my life gets to be lived, in service of my King. There are things I get to do, for him, by virtue of my present singleness, that I will grieve the loss of, if a different season begins. I am still desperately in need of my Saviour to turn my eyes from my self, and so ultimately it is your prayers I covet, not your pity.
May we pray for each other in all the nuance of our lives, praising God for his abundant and varied blessings. I protest for prayer today thankful indeed that whichever way you slice it, there is no way to protest for that too much.
* This hasn’t been motivated by any particular exchange or person or interaction – I hope and pray I will never use any online platform that way. It’s just some thoughts I’ve had for a while, coalescing on a Saturday when I have time to think them xx