Monday, May 5, 2014

The Wilderness of Singleness

I’m not quite sure why women need their own church conferences, but there I was.

Sitting next to my friend Krista, Bibles open, listening to Nancy Guthrie preach.   The morning had been filled with music that was impossibly too high for my alto voice led by women wearing impossibly high wedge heeled shoes.  Everyone had perfect hair and trendy clothes; most were married with children.

There I sat, in the back of the sanctuary, staring down at my special needs feet, callused and deformed as they are, the likes of which will never wear wedge heels, pondering the volume of estrogen currently present in the room, and feeling very out of place.

Nancy was preaching that morning from Deuteronomy and as she led us on the Israelite journey through the wilderness, I began to see my singleness.  While the Israelites complained to God, I remembered my many prayers, sitting on the couch at home, slowly uncurling my index finger towards heaven (I call these my pointed finger prayers) , asking in exasperation, “Are you kidding me?  This is your great plan?”

It’s not so much that I desire to be married, as much as I have felt unprepared for singleness.  Growing up my youth leader did a really great job making sure that I understood that sex should be saved until marriage, to remain pure, but so much of this conversation centered on the assumption that there would actually be someone in my life to love.

I still have vivid memory of my pastor in college preaching on marriage and family, pausing, looking straight at me, and saying, “For some of you, this message will come in handy later in life.”

It’s later. 

I still haven’t found his words helpful.  In fact, I don’t remember a single word of his sermon; only that I was SINGLED out.

I pondered these memories as Nancy continued.

As she explained the taste of manna, I began to taste what it is to eat the same meal over and over again, eating at my dining room table alone.

Nancy expounded on a passage where the Israelites neared the Red Sea again, many years into their journey.  I thought about how the scenery of singleness can feel like walking through the wilderness because it never changes.  While others mark their lives by the growing and changing of their children; mine seems to be marked by circular routines.

The Israelites had to consider being attacked and feared being overtaken.  I often feel outnumbered in a family friendly society when I have none to come home to at night.  I’m discouraged to hear over and over again that marriage is the only relationship that reflects your relationship with Christ.  This leaves me with a challenging and uncomfortable question:  What does my life reflect?

As I sat in the back of the sanctuary, I came across this verse in Deuteronomy 1:36:

There [in the wilderness] you saw how the LORD your God carried you, as a father carries his son, all the way you went until you reached this place."

I thought about all the ways I have seen the Lord at work in my life.  He is the first one I greet in the morning and the last one I speak to at night.  He greets me at the door when I come home from work and sits at my table while I eat dinner.  He listens to my prayers in the car and knows how to comfort me when I am alone in the midst of a crowd.

I thought of my many heartfelt prayers, asking God how He could possibly create me with such a strong desire to express and receive love through physical touch: a hug, a hold, a touch on the arm when I live alone.   The many times I’ve said, “I can handle being single if you would just send people into my life to hug me.”

Then He did.  I learned how to be honest about this need with others, and in turn, they’ve learned how to wrap me in their embrace.

When I got home, away from the high music, high heels, and estrogen overload, I lost it.  Tears of repentance fell from my eyes, as I sat in my bathroom, learning against the wall crumpled by conviction.

There [in the wilderness] you saw how the LORD your God carried you, as a father carries his son, all the way you went until you reached this place."

As I ponder this verse, I imagine the Lord, scooping me up from the dusty ground, my twisted legs dangling over the side as He gathers me in His big strong arms.  I lay my head against His chest and hear His heartbeat.  This is a posture that defines my life as much as did for John, the Disciple Jesus Loved. He leans over and quiets me with His love as if I’m His little lamb.  And in this manner, He carries me through years of unchanging scenery and unwavering menus, through being surrounded and being alone, all the way, every step, until The Marriage Supper of the Lamb.

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  1. I wanted to edit my comment so as to not insult anybody. I have OCD so that sometimes create an overly guilty feeling in my brain. I do love your posts, as I can relate and that is so rare for us, isn't it? Thank you for your honesty and openness. You are a breath of fresh air!

  2. This is so honest and beautiful. I'm so sorry the conference was a painful experience for you. After reading this post I so want to hug you and join you for dinner sometime! I know God's timing is perfect and He is doing incredible things in and through your life. My mom started your book today and is really enjoying it. Know that I am holding you close in love and prayers. Thank you, again, for sharing your thoughts, I'm always thankful!