How do you see the single life?

In Romans 12:2, Paul urges each Jesus follower not to “copy the behavior and customs of this world, but [to] let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think (NLT).” As this process unfolds in my own life, I feel prompted to share how my twisted brain naturally thinks and how God is so lovingly rewiring it. I must say that the vulnerability of public renewal is incredibly uncomfortable, and I’d much rather keep quiet about my true thought processes. Yet deep inside it feels right to write.

At this stage in the game, God seems to be transforming my beliefs about my several-year status as a single woman. Perhaps you are single during this present season and can relate to this struggle. Perhaps you once were single and once thought like I do now, and thus my sharing will be an bit of encouragement, reminding you how God faithfully led you through that stretch. Or perhaps you know a single woman in your sphere, and my disclosure can help you extend compassion to her, especially if you have never personally experienced long stretches of singlehood and don’t understand what it feels like for some.

At times, my 28-year-old heart has swelled with joy and gratitude about my single status. Not “tied down,” free to explore and go and do without a significant other’s desires and duties pulling me in any other direction. Independence! A season to discover my true self and explore my own interests. Time and energy to chase after the Spirit, and focus with no dude to distract. What could be better?

But there have been other times, too. Like wedding and baby showers when I’m the one guest flying solo with a ringless left ring finger. Like family vacations when I feel like that one strange sibling without a significant other. Like those occasional facebook scrolls when all the posts seem to spotlight glowing newlyweds and giggling newborns. When I’m in a vulnerable emotional state, these are usually the times that I hurt.

I was feeling some of that pain a few days back, which got me curious about the wound within. In response to the emotion, I began to write down the names of all the single people I know – male and female, young and old. I began to think of “me” as a part of an “us,” since I always find it helpful to remember that whatever I’m facing, I’m not alone.

As I pictured this group, I realized that what showed up in my mind’s eye was a clearance section, and there we all were – scattered around on a table beneath a big, red sign reading “75% Off.” There we were: the picked-over left-overs, the unwanted,  the ugly mismatched items about to be thrown out. We were what folks glanced at before gliding right by. We were the defective goods desperate to be taken home by someone, anyone. There I saw myself, strewn across the discounted display table, wondering, “Would anyone even take me if I were free?”

While that image in my mind aligned perfectly with the emotions I felt in my chest, I knew in my spirit that it was not an accurate depiction of the truth. I envisioned the faces of all those single folks I had listed, and I felt certain that they were not undesirable junk or once-beautiful persons now broken-down beyond repair. I was convinced they were treasures, and since I had already associated myself as part of their singles group, I logically deduced that I qualify as a treasure, too.

Sometimes, though, since no young man has cared for me in a flesh-and-blood way for quite some time, I find myself questioning my value and desirability. How often I have heard through the years, “Only God can fill that hole in your soul,” and I believe that statement sincerely. However, there seems to be something deeply affirming about having a partner’s hand to squeeze. And when no hand is there, the heart can hurt.

It’s then when I become tempted to sink into self-pity or shame. Or else I try to prop my insecure self up, emptily assuring myself that my singlehood must be due to the fact that I’m even more special than all those other ladies who have already been snatched up. Loved ones have tried to encourage me with similar messages, but the “more special” consolation just doesn’t comfort for long. Aren’t we all God’s equally valued kiddos? Being “better than” feels just as unbecoming as being half-priced.

I can see that I don’t belong on the last-call savings shelf, nor do I deserve a majestic throne. So as a single – one who’s got some “what’s wrong with me?” twisted thinking whirling around in my head – where exactly do I fit in this predominantly paired-off society? And how can my core become convinced that I’m intrinsically desirable and valuable when the earthly evidence doesn’t seem to support that claim? And what vision can I call to mind when loneliness and impatience start creeping in, attempting to steal away my contentment?

Today I do not have answers. But I ask my questions and trust that God hears my prayer and knows precisely what my single heart needs.

Teach me your perspective, Spirit. Renew my mind, that I may pass along your loving message to those who are like me, burdened by false beliefs. How do we singles make sense of our situation, and how are we to see you and ourselves in a way that is good, true and beautiful?

In this place, I turn from plea to praise. Much of my being feels confused and clouded, sitting in the shadows, but I sense that the sunlight of the Spirit still shines above, steady in its brightness and warmth. I praise you, God, for being as near as you always are, and for loving me enough to untwist my twisted thoughts. I pray, too, that in the midst of my pain you draw my attention to opportunities to play today. May a divine blend of plea and play and praise pervade the 24 hours ahead. This day is truly a miraculous gift, and thus my single soul chooses gratitude.

How do you see the single life?