I feel very blessed with the path of singleness and relationships that God brought me through (even my mistakes) before Matt and I finally got together. From my boyfriend at 2 years old, to the puppy love boyfriend of junior high, through those awkward years in junior high too that extended into my high school years, to my liberation of college when I embraced my singleness, to those years when I didn’t…it’s been everything I could have wanted it to be and even those things I didn’t enjoy at the time, I know that it was for my benefit.
But even now, I know that I can’t comprehend the blessings of that time in my life fully. However, I’m still close enough to remember the painful evenings, or the times when my friends were getting married and I was going to the wedding by myself, again. I’m close enough to remember the pangs, even though they are greatly diminished, of longing to be with someone who I was certain had no idea I existed or was interested. Of dreaming of some kind of idyllic future that played more to my selfish wants. But I’m getting ahead of myself here.
I am in a Sunday School class with some very sweet young women. I enjoy the class so much and cherish our time of fellowship, study, encouragement and admonishment. We were talking about relationships this week, as we often do, and it reminded me of just how much God has taught me throughout the last 10 years, especially about being single in this world and dating, etc. I am not without faults. I very often balked at what God was showing me, determined that I knew a better way. And very often, God would show me that He did indeed know better and I’d realize it was better to submit than to stubbornly push on my own way. Sometimes it was painful, sometimes it just made me feel ashamed, sometimes I was so relieved to be out of whatever mess I got myself into. That’s been true in other areas of my life, but I think I’m learning to submit more readily than before.
I thought I would give some advice. Rather, some strategies I found that worked when I was feeling sorry for myself, missing someone I hadn’t met yet, and nursing a bruised heart. The strategies are for those who are single and have never married. I can’t speak to those who have been divorced or widowed as I’ve never been either of those. There might be some parallels in here for those situations, but you will have to glean them out yourself. I also do not claim to be an expert. These are just some tools I found to help.
I’m not going to sit here and tell you that I was amazing at falling to my knees whenever temptation or loneliness tried to overpower me. Nope. I will freely admit that my prayer life is not what it should be. BUT, I have witnessed in my own life that when I am eager to turn to God to talk things through, I am ten times better off than when I turn to Him as a last resort. Also, God is not afraid of emotions. It’s ok to sit and mean to pray to God and just cry instead. Been there, done that. God created us as emotional beings and I’m sure I’ve been more afraid of my emotions than God ever could.
I have been journaling since I was in high school. I never thought much about it at that time. Most of it is the typical sappy, angsty stuff of teens, but I am one who likes to flesh out my thoughts on a page. I avoid journals with lines because sometimes the best therapy is to write something down and then have the pleasure of scratching it out again. Now, I write down my sermon notes, reflections to things I’m reading or just thoughts throughout the day, important events in my life, etc. There are lots of little gems in those books throughout the years, and it’s good to know that I have that book handy when I just need to write something down, whatever it is.
I also had a friend recommend journaling to her future husband. This has been such a fun thing to do. I’ve taken the journal with me to other countries, I’ve written dreams, hopes, disappointments, life changes, prayers for him, etc. I can’t wait to share it with him.
Pray FOR him (or her)
I know I didn’t come up with this myself, but I can’t for the life of me remember who I got it from – no doubt one of the many books I’ve read on relationships. Whenever I felt like I was totally completely ready to meet The One, but God hadn’t brought him to me yet, I would get this image in mind. Imagine the two hands of God. You are in one hand, while The One is in the other. You are in one place and they are in another. You are both having your own life experiences, your own triumphs and challenges. You might be on a mountaintop, but they might be in a valley and desperately in need of prayer. I’ve noticed that when I am becoming too self-minded, it’s best to start praying for someone else and God has an amazing ability to turn our hearts and prayers to something uplifting to that other person. Maybe your One needs you on your knees while he faces one of the biggest challenges of his life. Maybe he is on cloud nine and would like you to rejoice with him. When I had these times of prayer with God, I liked to document them. Maybe I can compare notes and find that I really was needed at that particular moment. It might not be something we know until heaven, but I’m a firm believer that our prayers are effectual and when we pray in faith and in God’s will, He can do great things.
Find a mentor
I have been blessed with some wonderful mentors throughout my life. They have come in a wide variety of places and relationships, I can’t even begin to share who they all are. Find yourself an older “you.” Someone who is firm in their faith and actively living out the commands of God. They don’t have to be perfect; no one is, after all. In fact, someone who doesn’t “have it all together” is great because they can show you how to seek God’s will when you struggle. Mentors are great because they’ve been in a similar place as you and have the benefit of hindsight. Take advantage of that and use it to your benefit. Learn from their mistakes and successes and ask them to pray for you. Look for ways to serve them as a way of thanks.
Be a mentor
This is a big deal. You might not feel like you have it all together yourself, but investing in someone else’s life is a big distraction from any heartache and loneliness you may have. It’s not a cure, but it’s a command of God – when Christians mentor someone else, they are to be building a disciple of Christ. When you are following God’s commands, you are in a better place. Period.
Find accountability partners
What’s an accountability partner? It’s someone who is a peer and willing to help keep you on track to avoid temptation. You know what will trip you up. You know what kinds of things feed into your pity parties. For me, it can be love stories. I love Jane Austen, and I still read her books every so often, but for a time, they were a stumbling block for me. Certain movies too. Facebook can be a stumbling block too, especially if you have an object of affection and find yourself spending an increased amount of time “checking in” on them. Oh, you know you’ve done it! Share those things with a close friend and ask them to help you avoid them and keep tabs on you. And you do the same for them.
You know, God has made us creatures of community for a reason. We thrive on relationships. Yes, the relationship between a man and a woman in marriage is a special thing, something God made with a specific purpose. But there are so many other relationships that should have our attention, relationships that have an eternal purpose. Focusing on these things not only gives us a healthy distraction from any loneliness we might be feeling, but also prepares us for any future romantic relationship. Every season has a purpose and every relationship has a purpose as well. Make the most/best out of each one. Some will fail and some will endure. This feeds right into the next tip.
Embrace it and serve God
When you are single, you are in a unique stage of life where you answer to only one: God. Take advantage of your freedom to live drastically for Christ. I was able to do some amazing things before God called me back to Ohio, I believe, to be ready for Matt. I spent a summer in China, graduated college, served in my church for several years, taught in Japan, etc. I was free to travel around to build relationships with dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ around the globe. There have been so many things I can’t even remember them all to list here. I wouldn’t trade those opportunities for anything. They were an important season in my life and have grown my faith.
Also, as someone who had ever so many crushes on guys until now, I have witnessed the benefit of unanswered prayers. Some of my crushes went on to meet and marry amazing women. They lead a life now that I could never have been prepared to handle. Some of them turned out just awful and I’m grateful that God didn’t allow me to get into a relationship with them because I would probably be in a terrible state now. If you are struggling with why God is keeping you from someone, ask Him to reveal the reason to. God loves to illuminate dark places, and a question is just that, a dark place. Keep in mind, He won’t always reveal it on your time, so be prepared to have to wait a bit. The waiting is hard, but hopefully, there are enough strategies here to keep you occupied.
So in summary: Pray, get your focus off yourself, love God, serve God, love others, serve others.
Do you have any advice or strategies you used while you were single or are single?
I’m getting married to my, you guessed it, best friend on June 1st, 2013! Matt and I are super-excited and since we have quite a bit of time to plan this thing, I decided it’d be fun to blog about it. Well, maybe not always fun, but at least informative and it might give me a welcome distraction. You can find all the posts by clicking the “Getting Married” tab on the right of this page, or by clicking here. Thanks for stopping by!
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