Dear Twenty-Year-Old Single Me,
It’s November 14, 2012. You’re sitting in your dorm room, feeling pretty good about yourself right now. In your journal, you just wrote these words:
“It is quite strange to think that if I fell in love now and was on my way to getting married, I would not accomplish the things which I have so deeply set in my heart to accomplish. My whole world would be changed; everything would be different to accommodate the hopes and dreams of another.”
Someone you know just got engaged, and you feel pretty proud that you’re not the one who just watched her dreams disappear with the pop of a question. You’re fairly certain that if it was you on the other side of that engagement ring, you would have to change everything about who you are and what you want in order to fulfill the new role you’ve just accepted.
But I know that deep down, you are wounded. You are hurting, and bleeding pretty badly. I know that just a few short months ago, your heart was wrapped up and your mind was set. And now, you’re determined to move on quickly, silently, and painlessly. You’re masking your pain with pride and covering your loss with lies. And you have no idea that the worst is yet still to come.
But even with everything I know now as an older, wiser, more complete you, there are things I wish I had known then. Here are a few things I wish I had realized about singleness that you currently don't know (and frankly, you don't want to hear):
1. Being single isn’t about you. In fact, life isn’t about you.
You’re not the star, the center of attention, or the be-all-end-all in this little fiesta called ‘life’. You want to think (and sometimes you act) like you’re the Juliet, the Cinderella, or the Rose, but life isn’t a movie and it doesn’t revolve around you.
I’m telling you this because if you think about it—that’s the most liberating truth there is! None of your performing, striving or accomplishing is so important or so ultimate that life would stop should you fail.
Culture is telling you to use your single years solely for yourself—to discover, explore, adventure, and escape. You’ve got no strings attached, so why not live in The Universe of One? A quick Google search brought up a WikiHow article on “How To Be Single Again.” I wasn’t surprised to find this statement: “The time and energy you used to dedicate towards your ex and your relationship can now be transferred and directed towards priority number one: you!”
While I don’t disagree that you can and should discover yourself in a healthy way and open yourself up to plenty of experiences, I want to propose to you that the single most important thing your singleness can offer you is not to “find yourself.” The most important thing your singleness offers is time. Specifically, time to develop a close and intimate relationship with God.
This season of singleness should be used for the purpose of growing in your love for and relationship with Jesus. Your primary goal and focus in life, but especially in singleness, should be to know God more, to discover his purpose for you, and to fall so in love with him that a love for any other person could never even compare to your love for God.
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. This is the first commandment. And the second, like it, is this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” There is no other commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:30-31 (NKJV)
Your singleness is the only time in life where it’s just you and God and no-one else. Don’t waste it! Don’t wish it away!
2. It is better to be single and lonely than married and lonely.
In The Sacred Search, author Gary Thomas says,
“Every counselor—indeed, every married person I know—will tell you that it’s far better to be lonely and single than lonely and married. The cure for lonely and single is almost always less painful and more hopeful than lonely and married” (p. 40).
When I read that for the first time, I was mind blown. I couldn’t believe I was once willing to settle just so I wouldn’t be alone, without ever considering how lonely it might be to be trapped inside of a wrong marriage. So gripping is the fear of being alone that we will often overlook major faults and red flags in someone just so we can have them by our side.
The time is coming where you will experience moments of fear and loneliness. There is an undoubted ache for companionship when you're single that shouldn’t be ignored. But listen to me now: this ache is far better than the desperation and hopelessness found in a lonely marriage.
This may sound odd, but you’ve got a much better end of the deal with your loneliness right now. Being lonely sucks, I know! But please—don’t settle. And hopefully the next point will help you reconcile the ache of loneliness:
3. Singleness is a gift and a season.
Singleness is one of the greatest gifts the Lord is giving you. To have this time to grow, to learn, and to be satisfied fully in him will mean more to your life than anything else. Every day you’ll be so thankful God has allowed you this time to be refined, refreshed, challenged and fulfilled.
You will not be perfect, and your single years will not be perfect. You will have moments of sin, lust, pride, and greed. You will be weary, angry, lost and sad.
But don’t squander this gift of singleness. Embrace it for the gift it really is, and learn the valuable lessons offered to you in this time. Having the opportunity to focus solely on your Savior is one of the sweetest things you will ever experience.
Singleness, just like everything else in life, is a season. Recognize that it’s here for a time, but soon it will be gone—forever. Don’t waste it away wishing for what is yet to be. God has a mission and a task for you to accomplish now! His plans for you don’t start the moment you say, “I do” to someone else. They start when you say, “Here I am, send me” to him.
4. Marriage is not our purpose.
Marriage is not why we were created and put on this earth. Our main purpose in life is not to be wives, husbands, fathers or mothers. John Piper said, “Communion with God is the end for which we were created.” Our number one purpose in this life is to know and be known by God (Isaiah 43:7).
“Marriage is a wonderful, even glorious reality, but it is secondary to our spiritual identity as children of God and something that won’t even exist in heaven” The Sacred Search, p. 57-58.
What a wonderful thing to know that in heaven we will be spiritual beings, and so completely fulfilled simply by virtue of being in the presence of God. No control over our flesh will even be a thought in heaven. No food, no drink, no person will satisfy us, as our fulfillment will be the glorious splendor of the King of Kings; dancing before his throne is all our hearts will desire. What a thought! What a joy!
But the biggest lesson I’ve learned in singleness, is:
5. To Matthew 6:33 my life.
“But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you" (NKJV).
Make this the mission of your life; of all that you do. Seek Him first, above all else, before anything, and with your whole heart. This will change you from the inside out.
I know that right now, you are believing lies upon lies about yourself: “Unwanted, unloved, unworthy.” You are desperate for affection and attention. Your desire to be loved runs so deep that you will cry heavy tears from a gaping hole in your chest, longing so desperately to be filled. You will throw boundaries out the window and escort red flags out the door just for a glimpse of that love.
But please believe me when I tell you that the most love-filled, fulfilling, satisfying relationship you have and will ever have in your entire life is the one you cultivate and develop with Jesus now, not one that is yet still to come.
So, former single me, here I am. Five years later, and I’m still single. But now, one of the last things that keeps me up at night is wondering who or if I’m ever going to get married. I hardly ever think about when I’ll fall in love and if it’ll happen, what it’ll look like or if I’ll be happy. I am so content in my single life and I am so committed to my Savior that my mind is never plagued with thoughts of the future like that anymore.
Know this: God is too good and His plans for you are too great for you to ever be lacking in love. Be excited about that precious day He has waiting for you, and of course you should look forward to it with hope in your heart.
But God’s got a lot for you to do until then. And until then, set your heart ever on Him.
Future Single Me