Have you ever thought you knew everything there was to know about a topic, only to be completely humbled? That’s where I was on the topic of singleness.
The thing is, I am not single as of a few months ago after entering into a relationship with the one man that I was confident I would never date. God has a funny way of working things out. But before that, my ministry with the women God had placed in my life was often focused on the season of singleness. Most of the time, I did my best to encourage them in this area; but sometimes, I was speaking into the lives of others in this area to make myself feel better about my status.
I believed that singleness meant working as hard as you could to become as close to perfect as you could so that you might find another perfect person to walk with God alongside. It wasn’t likely that I’d say it out loud but even though I had received relatively good teaching in this area, I had taken what I had learned and skewed it to become this mindset. I suppose there is an element of truth in it. It might be difficult to believe but singleness is such a beautiful thing, don’t miss that!
This realization of where I was truly at began when I was talking with my roommate about entering into the relationship I am now in. She told me something like, “Your ministry as a single person isn’t diminished when you start dating someone. It lets you put what you’ve learned into practice.”
And boy was she right because it has been good, but it has not been easy.
What I did not expect was to learn lessons through dating about the very topic I thought I was somewhat of an expert in: singleness.
First, I know now that singleness should not be a space where those in relationships feel that they can’t seek advice or support.
I think our Christian culture does this really complex thing where we don’t make space for singles in our churches and prioritize couples, but we also hesitate to share with our single friends. I think it’s to avoid making them “feel bad”, and while this is admirable, I am not sure it is healthy.
There is a big difference between “bragging” to others and inviting them into your life experiences.
As a single woman, I wasn’t always open to hearing about my friends’ relationships and I wish I would have found joy in them rather than any jealousy. It’s so important to be gentle with this, but one great gift you can give to a friend is to choose to let them in to what is going on while acknowledging the season in which they find themselves. I had such a difficult time navigating this at the start of my relationship but I am so glad that God was working on me through this and used the people in my life to encourage joy in me.
Second, my having high expectations was valuable, but I should have also prepared myself for compromise.
Okay, hear me out on this. It is important to have standards. There are a few questions you SHOULD be asking yourself before you consider entering into a relationship with someone and they revolve around whether or not he is walking with the Lord, how he treats others and the like. I don’t want to diminish the importance of a few, “dealbreaker” qualities. I have found, however, that this can cross a fine line. I believe this because I am guilty of it.
I identify my personality and motivations as an enneagram type 4. This type tends to romanticize and have unachievable expectations. These were expectations I didn’t even realize I was harboring until I noticed that I was finding things my boyfriend was doing, that weren’t really significant, disappointing. Being single is important because it allows you to get to know yourself - to analyze your expectations and know which qualities should be requirements and which you can move forward without.
Finally, it was *easier* to practice the first commandment while single than it is now.
Another illusion I had of relationships was that, somehow, it became easier to pursue God because you, in some ways had a built-in support system when both of you came together already pursuing the Lord. There are some elements of this that are also true and if you are a believer and your significant other isn’t cheering you on in that relationship while also continuing to work on their own, that’s a potential problem.
The truth is, you and I can’t love others if we don’t first love God. That doesn’t change whether we are talking about a friendship or a relationship (or even our relationship with ourselves!). If we aren’t practicing loving God well in our singleness, we probably won’t do it in a relationship, and it will cause issues. This is the “first step” to singleness. It is the “first step” to dating, too. I know its easier said than done, but if you build up a foundation of understanding the love of God by receiving it and practicing it, you have set yourself up for dating, being engaged and marrying well.
Never would I have thought that dating would cause me to reflect on singleness and what is important about its season. Thank you for reading a little of what God is teaching me, and I pray that it encourages you in some way!
Listen, wherever you are at today, know this: no matter your current status, whether or not these lessons resonate with you or made you roll your eyes, the only thing that truly matters about your identity is that you are incomprehensibly loved by a Savior who died to know you. He is working out your path and your experiences for your good and His glory.