All the Single Ladies {Part One}

May I introduce to you Alida. Her words will delight you, feed you, invite you into a deeper understanding of others. Part 1 of 2 on singleness and how we, the Church, can change our conversation. This article first appeared on the blog of St. Peter’s Fireside.

Confession: I have a secret wedding/love-themed Pinterest board.

Well, at least it was a secret. There’s no wedding on the horizon. I’m not in a relationship. And, the thing is, I don’t even love weddings that much. I just really really love love. I love love stories and I love the way that two people can become each other’s “person” and become a team that makes both stronger and better somehow. I love how marriage reflects the heart of Jesus like few other things do.

And so, alongside the collection of beautiful places around the world that I want to visit and ideas for interior design that I love, I have slowly amassed a board full of candid wedding and engagement photography and flowers and stunning white dresses. And, unlike my mountain obsession and self-curated collection of photojournalism and fashion inspiration, I’ve kept it hidden.

Mostly because I was embarrassed to be the stereotypical single girl with a wedding Pinterest board. But, also, because it’s often hard for me to admit, both to myself and to others, how deeply I want to be loved and to love in that context. How much I desire to be married. And how confusing and heartbreaking the tension between hoping for something I don’t have and living in the reality of it not being part of my story has sometimes felt.

Because, as much as that is an honest part of my life, it’s not (and will never be!) the main part of my life. As much as it’s a piece of my heart, it is not the thing that captivates my heart the most. I don’t love being single, but I do love my life. I haven’t particularly enjoyed the moments when I’ve felt really alone, but I certainly don’t want to trade away all the ways that God has been faithful and with me and exceedingly good in all of the places I’ve walked in this space of it being “just” me and Jesus.

And, admitting that I myself am part of the problem, I wrestle with how much we talk about this stuff, particularly within the church.

The problem of singleness in the church

I hate how trite and even toxic some of those conversations become. And the last thing I want to do is say or perpetuate anything that makes singleness sound like something to be pitied or marriage something to be idolized. In fact, for many of those reasons, I used to say I would never write a publicly posted blog about relationships or singleness. But you know what they say about saying never.

Because, the reality is: this is real and personal and deep and I have more conversations about this with women — both inside and outside of the church – than about anything else. There are few places where we struggle to trust the goodness of faithfulness of God and the truth of who we are in Him more than this area: sandwiched between trying to graciously and wisely acknowledge the good things that we want without shame, yet keeping our eyes always locked on Jesus and steadfast in our faith that He is completely worthy of all we are, and have, and hope to be – regardless of our status as girlfriend, wife, and/or mother.

We’re caught between competing messages from our culture and the church and the consequent convoluted feelings in our own hearts. Inundated on all sides with the messages of contemporary feminism that tell us to be fiercely independent and to not admit weakness or longing. Told that the institution of marriage is archaic and rooted in the injustice of patriarchy. Told that we can do whatever we want with our bodies and our desires, so why hold back at all?

And then the church. Where, for better or worse, we seem to have a bit of an obsession with pairing people up. Where the conversations about what it means to flourish and thrive as a woman of God rarely finds vernacular outside the confines of being a wife and a mum (which, for the record, are crazy beautiful and hugely important roles!). We throw around cliches and we try to wrap up the nuanced and deep-rooted feelings with neat and tidy bows. We try to force notions of one-dimensional contentment on legitimate (and good!) desires. We’re told to be patient, as if it was a task easily accomplished.

The lingering tension between the truth that marriage is a really beautiful, God-ordained, and God-honouring thing and the absence of that good thing in the lives of many men and women who have surrendered their lives and desires to Jesus is a really hard one to navigate. It’s a hard thing to live well. And it’s a hard thing to talk about well.

No empty promises

Here’s the deal: I know some absolutely amazing, beautiful, passionate, kind, interesting, and creative women love Jesus who are married. And I know some absolutely amazing, beautiful, passionate, kind, interesting, and creative women who love Jesus who are single.

The separation makes no sense to me. Actually, it baffles me.

And, often, in every well-intended effort to be encouraging and kind, we reference the “season” of being single or “waiting” for marriage only as a temporary space. Because we’re even told false platitudes like “Oh, don’t worry, you’ll find someone someday!” or “God has a great guy for you, the timing just isn’t right yet.”

Those things may be true. I so deeply hope they are true. I can’t even tell you how much I hope and pray that you get to trade your Beyonce single-ladies dance moves for the ring and the white dress and a life alongside the one you love. I so badly want to definitively tell you that someday you will get to hold a child of your own in your arms.

But, I can’t guarantee that for you. And I’m sitting in JJ Bean with tears falling down my face because I hate having to type that. And, even in all my own longing and hopeful romantic, yet pre-mature Pinterest dreaming, I certainly can’t guarantee that for myself either.

Jesus never promised us romantic love. He never promised that we’d have all of our desires met this side of eternity. God is an exceedingly good Father who delights in giving good gifts to His children, but it’s not ours to get to designate what those things are.

It’s ours – married or single or wherever we are in-between – to seek Christ. It is ours to rejoice in the reality of His salvation that brought us back to life. To love boldly. To worship passionately. To love our neighbour. And to surrender ourselves completely to Christ: Every hour and every day. The reality is that a life of following Jesus is difficult and beautiful and messy and complicated and still worth more than anything else. He alone is our exceedingly great reward.

But there is no guarantee that faithfulness to him will mean that you will fall in love with someone who loves him too and that you’ll build a life and family together. In fact, it very well may mean that you surrender those things for the sake of remaining fully faithful to Jesus.

{To Be Continued}

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Alida Oegema lives and works in beautiful mountains-meets-ocean Vancouver, BC, where she is on staff with St. Peter’s Fireside, a church plant in the heart of downtown Vancouver. Currently finishing her MA in History/Political Studies with an emphasis on refugee studies and human rights, she is passionate about multicultural urban centres, social justice, and prayer. When not in a coffee shop writing, reading, or studying, she can be found in the mountains or watching hockey and soccer.

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