Spinster. Old maid. Always the bridesmaid, never the bride.
Sometimes Singlehood feels like a disease. Maybe we should call it Singlitis instead of Singlehood? And isn't it funny how compliments can often feel like daggers? One of my favorites: "I bet you have guys knocking down your door!" Well...I don't. Either they can't find it, they don't want to, or they walk up to it and read the invisible sign that says "buzz off." Somehow when someone makes that exclamation, I walk away wondering what's wrong with me instead of the guys. Go figure. Or how about the "Soooo, what's new?" And after me rambling on about work and family and mundane things in life, they go "Soooooooo, what else is new?" with a gleam in their eye, at which point I get to enlighten them about the lack of any news or changes in the boy department. Que: scarlet letter burning on my chest. So is it a disease? A season? A time? A calling? A lifestyle?
What. is. Singlehood?
Books I've read will describe it as the time to wholeheartedly and undistractedly serve our Lord and grow all you can. And while I don't disagree one bit, Singlehood has also been other things.
Part of me feels like Singlehood is a scarlet letter. Sometimes I feel a bit like Hester Prynne with a big letter "S" on my chest when I talk about how being single affects me. It comes out just about every time someone mentions their fabulous boyfriend, references their family, or discusses their experiences with parenting. I can't tell you how many sermons I have heard about marriage and family. How many weddings I've been to with no dancing partner.
I guess I was cursed after a particular conversation from high school. It was senior year and we were all sitting around the lunch table, several of my friends and I were discussing who we thought would be the first to be married with kids. Guess who it was? Yours truly. Welp, my 10 year high school reunion was a month ago. Most of those friends who once sat around the lunch table are married with kids. In fact, the one who said she never wanted to have children is expecting her first little one in just a few short weeks. Irony.
I think being single can often feel like a fragment. I only recently connected this word to what I was feeling. In Carolyn Custis James' fabulous (must read!!) book The Gospel of Ruth, I read these words about the way a widowed woman can often feel:
"Without a husband, she is half of a conversation. A fragment. The Ying without the Yang...But the messages that inform her of her diminished place in the world don't just come from inside. The outside world is sending signals that the world stops turning for the woman traveling through life alone." (1)
Ever felt that way? Like a fragment?
To be honest (and I promised I would be), when I see married couples interacting together, I feel like I'm missing out on something. Like there's this special language and I can't speak it. Like there's some fabulous undercurrent that I know is there, but no matter what I do, I can't reach it...because I'm single. I guess I feel like I'm missing out on something. Like I was created for more, and I can't tap into it yet. (Cheese warning here...) Like I'm a flower and part of me has started to open, but I won't fully bloom until I have this love. This hope that there is someone who will enter into the most intimate relationship on earth that I will ever know. When that hope becomes a reality, then and only then will I be in full bloom. Until then, my growth feels stunted. And that makes me a little bit sad. There's a song by The Wilkinson's called "The Only Rose." Every time I hear it, it brings tears to my eyes. It talks about a little redheaded, freckled girl who would give anything to look differently. Her mother says to her:
There's a million stars
In the summer sky
And each one has its name
There's a million snowflakes
In the wintertime
But no two are quite the same
And there's something
You can't see right now
But one day girl you'll know
In a field that's full of daisies
You're the only rose
It's just that this rose, in Singlehood, feels more like a scarlet letter than a rose of the same color.
1. Carolyn Custis James, The Gospel of Ruth (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2008), 58.