Oftentimes we can find ourselves torn between searching for completion in another person and searching for completion and satisfaction in ourselves. As a young single I find myself within an hour swinging from a hopeless romantic to happily single individual- I find in talking to my female counterparts that this is perfectly normal.
I’ve spent the majority of my 26 years being single (minus one short relationship and a few “we go on dates but aren’t dating” situations). Making it through 4 years of college and now 4 years post-college, I feel like I have achieved a solid B+ in being single. If I’m honest, I’ve stirred and awakened love when it I ought not to have but I’ve also at times held on too tightly to my freedoms, leaving no room for anyone else’s.
One thing God has been putting on my heart lately is the idea of “singleness as an idol.” The phrase surprised me as I assume it surprises most of you. I’ve heard talk of relationships being ‘idols’ but I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone express concern that they might just be enjoying their singleness a little too much.
Now before every confident single person jumps down my throat, I am not saying that enjoying singleness is wrong. God is jealous for his glory. Every day, we are placed where we are as we are for incredible purpose. I believe in enjoying and savoring the present, enjoying each and every blessing that comes with our current state knowing that God is being glorified in it.
But after talking with a few of my late-twenties, early-thirties counterparts I’ve heard enough to think that maybe God wants to speak something to me…to us. An idol is in essence something good that has become ultimate. For me, God brought to my attention that the reason I might struggle to see someone as a suitable partner or be able to commit to a relationship might have something to do with my hesitation in letting go of my “single-ness.” I struggle to let go of what is familiar. I struggle to let go of what is ‘easy’ about being a single entity. I struggle to let go of the different aspects of singleness that feed my pride, greed, and various other sins.
How many of you can identify with the following thoughts:
– Seriously dating someone means I no longer have “endless options”.
– I thought I was supposed to date someone that has Heath Ledger’s looks, Chris Pratt’s humor and Tim Keller’s spiritual leadership not a real imperfect person
– I enjoy being told I’m a catch, and that people cannot believe I am single still.
– As a single I don’t risk getting hurt or hurting someone else
– Submission, even if it’s mutual, sounds like work!
– I like this two way relationship with God…and God alone
– It’s nice to have full control of my finances.
– I am able to dictate my future without aligning it with someone else’s.
– Pity parties are fun. I get to eat a LOT of brownies.
– Dating and marriage bring with them a whole other set of schedules and needs- singleness=freedom=adventure=YOLO
What has happened above is that singleness, a good thing (see Romans 7), has become ultimate. How do I know? When my single-ness is threatened by a new relationship, fear, pride and various other emotions can overwhelm me. Why does this happen? God knows. Literally…God knows. God is using this person to highlight where my priorities and my identity have been found. It’s then that I realize singleness has become a place of safety and security, a hub of control, vanity, and freedom that I am reluctant to let go of. When a suitor comes I find myself somewhere between celebrating new romance while deeply mourning my status as a single woman. What does Stephanie +1 look like? I hardly know her. What does she like and dislike? How do others perceive her? What are her strengths and weaknesses?
When I am honest with myself I realize my fears in relinquishing singleness are based in a lack of trust. But what does trust look like? A friend of mine once told me that with everything she faces it is her hope that she holds them with open hands. To illustrate this, she held out both her hands as though she was going to cup water from a stream. “God places gifts into our hands,” she said, “and it’s our tendency to hold them too tightly.” Then as she clasped one hand over the other, she explained “it’s as though we want protect it. Open hands mean the gift is susceptible being taken away.” Trust is open hands.
For her she realized that God had placed a young man into her life and that while He was asking her to treasure their relationship He was also asking her to remain “open-handed” allowing Him to dictate its future. Ultimately, God was asking her to trust. Which begged the question… Did she believe that God’s plans for her are truly for her good and for His glory? I need to ask the same.
It is my desire that in every season of life – whether single or dating – I would be open-handed. That I would not take the good gift and make it ultimate. That I would exercise trust in God who has been proven trustworthy. I can do so by embracing his generosity through living out faithfulness and thankfulness while remaining open to whatever changes He sees fit to make.
Lord, thank you for making singleness, dating, and marriage beautiful in their own ways. Thank you for using each season to sanctify me and to call me into deeper dependency on you. Thank you for sending your Son to save this idol-making factory. Regardless of where I find myself, help me to have open hands. Remind me by the Spirit of your loving, sovereign, trustworthy character. May I find rest and peace knowing that whether you are giving, sustaining, or taking away our good and your glory are always your priority.