I remember being a lonely 10 year old who prayed to God every night asking him to send a friend. And guess what? After four years, at 14 I met a girl who made those prayers stop. I imagine it went a little like this:
Today I’m 26 and she’s still my best friend.
Looking back I see now that I’ve spent the last couple decades building one meaningful friendship after the other.
Strangely, I never sought a romantic relationship in the same way. Being single has always been easy and natural for me, and though I’ve struggled with loneliness in the past, it was more of a longing for companionship that I could usually satisfy by spending time with my family or my friends. Even when my first relationship happened, it didn’t in any way change my mind about dating. I was 19 when it started and I had my heart handed back to me broken in a dozen different ways a dozen different times. The whole experience made me anxious. suspicious. reckless. volatile.
So, of course, when things finally ended at age 21, I was happy to close that chapter of my life in a lot of ways. I hated who I became and I thought: I really shouldn’t do that again. I know it may sound like I had a terrible boyfriend, but I was certainly bringing my own set of issues that, in hindsight, must have made things really difficult for him too.
24 was another interesting year because for the second time I found myself in a relationship. This time love tasted a lot like… a fruit so sweet that it hurt? maybe like a pineapple? Whatever it was, it was confusing. And exciting. And painful. And charming. From start to finish it was a complicated duality. Even breaking up felt like a breath of air so deep that my lungs ached.
So when I received a word from God earlier this summer, I took it lightly. A season of singleness. Hm. I thought, God, that’s really not hard for me. Had you told me to go find a husband, I’d pray for a miracle. But being single isn’t a challenge at all. It never has been.
And guess what I learned a couple months later. It was a challenge.
Out of nowhere newlyweds and engaged couples start emerging everywhere. My baby fever starts hitting unprecedented heights. Guys that I would otherwise never take a second glance at start to catch my attention. Guys–and I mean good, solid guys–I had missed connections with previously reappear. Aunts, uncles, friends say they want to set me up with some “guy they know from blah.” Now that I think back on it, there was definitely hurt (or maybe void is a better word?) from the previous failed relationships that I wanted to displace.
But worst of all, out of nowhere I start to feel like I’m running out of time. I’m dangerously short on time. I find myself suddenly swimming in a pool of reasons why I should not be single. Because, I mean, God wouldn’t want me to be alone forever either, right? Would he?
So being the Jonah that I am, I silence my convictions and go head first in the opposite direction. I start meeting guys that I honestly have no business meeting, and along the way I make a handful of mistakes that I wish I could take back. I invest time and attention into this process and all I get back are a few more additions to the list of “THINGS TO NOT DO.”
I also relearn just how much I hate dating. I realize that I’m “dating” for the first time. In the past I had always been unambiguously single or unambiguously involved, and now in my mid-twenties I’m experiencing so many things for the first time, like how to meet someone and share only appealing details about my life, how to pace and sequence more exposure, or how to be unavailably available, how to express interest without attachment.
I hated every moment.
All through that time, though, I felt God fighting for my attention. I mean he was actively, combatively telling me to focus. My peripheral vision was full of distractions, and when I took a step off-track or when my eyes drifted off just a bit, I felt God pull my gaze back to him. He clearly didn’t want me to miss something he was doing—but I spent almost half a year ignoring all his tugs and missing all his movements. And as those of you who’ve experienced this know: there’s no joy and there’s no peace when you aren’t where he wants you to be.
I also learned how to deal with moments of rejection. Girls don’t have many opportunities to be rejected, especially prideful girls like me who don’t like to take emotional risks. But this time around I learned a thing or two about losing. The worst part is that I had to learn that from guys I ordinarily wouldn’t even look at twice.
Very recently, and by recently I mean like a few days ago, I sat down and started thinking again on what I knew to be words divinely imparted—a season of singleness.
A season of
What does God mean? What does that look like? How long is a season? Is the only requisite that I remain romantically uninvolved? I guess you can call it meditation (though, I don’t know, I always felt like that word was so pretentious) but yes, I meditated on it. What did God mean…
And slowly, surely the meaning came to me. I began to see his intentions.
When I’m in a relationship, I tend to operate on an all-or-nothing threshold. I’m intensely (dangerously?) devoted. When I love someone, I forget how to love other things. This person, the object of my affection, shapes everything about me, from what time I sleep at night to what I plan on doing after graduation. His favorite song is on repeat in my mind. His jokes make me smile at the random times of the day. I run at his call. I turn into a fool. He is the only person I see and every other guy sucks. Not only do they suck, they don’t exist. When he and I fight, I stay up all night regretting words and actions, contemplating whether to call him, thinking about how I can make it right, all while struggling with my own hurt, pride, and need to be right. Do I ask for the apology that I feel I deserve, or do I prioritize the apology he wants?
That’s what God wanted. That’s the part of me God was asking for.
A season of singleness doesn’t simply mean a time to abstain from men and romance. Yes, it means taking a step back from those things, but for what purpose? So I can spend that time with God. So that I give that influence and that central throne in my heart to him. So that the doctoral programs I apply to, the things I do with my free time, my musings in the late night hours would take after his design, his impressions. No, God isn’t asking me to merely swear away dating. He’s asking me to be intentional with the time I give him and be consumed with his thoughts, just the way I had been in my relationships. He wants me to use my favorite rejection line, “I’m focusing on God,” and mean it this time. He wants me to focus, actively and combatively, on him—so that I wouldn’t miss a thing.
I enjoy being by myself a lot. I love being able to make my own decisions. And because I know that when I’m in a relationship, I lose the ability to do either, I’m terrified of relationships. I’ve stayed away from them as much as possible for that reason. But at some point, I may never be single again. There’s going to be a time when there will be another me, a partner with whom I’ll spend most of my time and with whom I’ll make most of my decisions. And because that is so incredibly terrifying, I want to make the most of this new season. It’s a gift that I will no longer resist and refuse.
Now that I’ve just professed this and spoken it out to my cloud of witnesses, there’s no going back. I’m not sure if this is going to speak to anyone, though I really, really hope it does. Whether you’re like me and you find yourself being specifically led into a time of singleness, or whether you are looking for a partner and find yourself inevitably led into a time of singleness, I think the word is the same: give that time and energy to God, not because he’s our second best, and not because he’s simply there to fill up your life in between relationships, but because it’s through our foundation on him we find the ability to recognize love and to then practice love. He’s trying to get you ready for the next thing, and he wants to enjoy uninterrupted, undivided, intentional communion with you.
Just as I gave up my longing for a friend to God some twelve years ago, I’m making the decision to give him my loneliness once again. And I know he will be faithful in answering my prayers and meeting my needs today just as he was then.
As I occupy myself with this very intentional pursuit of God and God alone, I’ll someday run into the right kind of person. And when I find someone who isn’t a distraction from this priority but a reminder, I’ll know. If I meet him in the middle of my fullness with God, I’ll know. When I find someone who wants me because I want God, I’ll know that the season has come to an end.