Last year, after blubbering my way through a third session with my long-suffering counsellor, I finally had an epiphany – I’m in grief! I snuffled my way apologetically out the door and left as quickly as possible. So often the tears are so unexpected. And yet they’ve been no stranger over the years of my journey as a Christian single female.
Why do I feel ashamed to say I grieve over not a death or a disease or a divorce but over….well nothing? Quite literally nothing and no-one.
Perhaps I will not always be single. I might get married, perhaps have children too. But I’m mid-thirties now and it’s precisely that ‘perhaps’ thing that makes it so tricky. If it wasn’t for the ‘perhaps’ maybe all this angst could have been sorted years ago.
Imagine if we received a stamp stating our destiny right from birth – marriage for you, powerful independent business woman for you, weird single adventurous missionary life for you…etc. You get the picture. Then we could know straight up whether to plant marriage and kids in our heart or whether to shoot for another target altogether and hit it hard! In my experience singles so often flounder because the goal posts have moved. We’ve taken our aim and shot for a future that no longer exists. If only we’d been told from the start, we could have adjusted our sights accordingly – and we would have been awesome!
Singles face some very hard realities and feel deep hurt at the perceived oblivion their busy baby-making friends and family may exude. Everything in life and society and church-life points to a women’s worth and identity being as a wife and mother. For example, think of typical messages on gravestones: ‘Here lies Sally, beloved wife to Dave and much loved mother of Jack, Jane and Jill’. Say whatever nice things you like to a single, but reality is that at the end of life the thing that so many people say is the number one most important thing in their life, their family, will be a blank on a single’s gravestone.
Where’s the fruit of my life? I’m sure something nice will be said on my gravestone, but who will be saying it? My work colleagues? Not likely, they’ll be old, dead or senile by then too. And what could possibly be said: ‘Here lies Megan, she was really good at blogging’. It’s a heartbreaking thought. But it’s also a godless thought. Like it or not, I’m single and I choose to be a fighting, hopeful, God-pursuing single who loves and loves well. Singles will have a different message on their gravestone, but they’ve been placed on this planet for a reason too and I truly believe that nothing, not even the grief, is wasted in God. Every line of the story will be told purposefully.
So for what it’s worth, here’s a few little gems I’ve picked up along the way.
Gem 1: Grieve…BUT
Grief is not an abiding place. Grieve for a season but don’t forget there’s a life to be lived and you’re in the middle of it. Be intentional about grief and don’t run from it. Talk to a reliable mentor about your grief. And when it all crashes in on you allow yourself to be utterly miserable for a day or two and ask God for some words and strengthening in that place. But then get yourself out of that place and back into life! We’ve been graced daily with Joy and Strength, take hold of these things! Fight the mental battle valiantly, refuse to let sad thoughts lead to bitter or selfish thoughts and take hold of all true thoughts that lead to life and life to the full. Feeding on Scripture, good books, good words from reliable and strong people is very very important. (And this may sound obvious to you, but one day I suddenly realized that Jesus was single and it was good enough for Him! May I recommend Him as a good friend to get some ‘doing single well’ advice from).
Gem 2: Talk About What Matters
The fact is life is NOT about your future husband. Sixteen-year-old girls talk about the boys they met the other day and little else of any intelligence. Even for a thirty-something-year-old silly conversations about boys you like can be a little fun sometimes, but it’s a topic that has worn seriously thin. It might take some really creative thought to discover topics of discussion that will be a little more edifying for your life and the lives of those around you, but I’m sure it’s possible.
Gem 3: Be Intentional About Being ‘Together’
If you’re like me you’ll hate doing life alone. I’m working on loving the ‘me time’ more, but honestly life really is better together! For me being intentional has included taking a pay-cut in order to have more time for people in my life. Make an effort to create whatever positive support networks you need. Host the dinner party, organize the coffee-catch-up, start the group chat. Be intentional.
Gem 4: Love
Love the person in front of you. Love the unlovely. Love your colleagues. Love God. Love yourself. Love reading. Love art. Love nature. Love conversation. Love whatever beautiful thing it is that you have that extra time for. Don’t love being busy. Don’t love senseless projects. Don’t love filling your life with empty work that exists only as a desperate effort to try to fill that empty personal significance box in your heart. Remember your life is too full of beauty to not be quiet and still and to love it.
Megan lives in Queensland, Australia. She currently works with youth at risk in a special assistance school, but has had a very diverse working life. Always drawn to those on the margins, Megan has worked with prisoners in both Australia and Cambodia, foreign language students and special needs students as well as taking the role of camp instructor for private school students. She paddle boards and surfs and she longs for the realization of the Kingdom of God in her own life and the lives of those around her.