When talking to Stephanie Rische, I noticed something rather quickly that I admired greatly: her ability to be graciously honest.
Often people will try to cover their struggles and portray a stronger version of themselves for the world to see, but Stephanie didn’t do that because she understands the importance of sharing transparently with others. When we’re open with our thoughts, feelings and struggles, it shows people who might be feeling the same exact way that they are not alone. And that is Stephanie’s heart summed up perfectly. She wants you — yes, you — to know you aren’t alone. I’m confident you’ll be encouraged by this conversation and will gain some beautiful wisdom on how to walk through your singleness with your loving Father.
Holly Hrywnak: In your book, I Was Blind (Dating), But Now I See: My Misadventures in Dating, Waiting, and Stumbling into Love, you shared stories from your dating life. What are some things you learned about the character of God in that process?
Stephanie Rische: At the start of my blind-dating adventures, I was looking for one thing: for God to give me a husband. But somewhere along the way, he changed what I was chasing after. Yes, I still wanted to be married — that desire never went away — but I began to realize that this journey wasn’t as much about my relationship status as about who I was becoming, and who I believed God is. I was learning (slooowly) that no matter what happened, God already loved me unconditionally and extravagantly — more than any human being could. I’d known since I was in third-grade Sunday school that God so loved the world, but I needed to truly grasp that he loved me, specifically. And that was something that needed to sink in, whether I got married one day or not. God was showing me that he is a good Father who gives good gifts to his children, even if the gifts he gives are different from the ones we expect or if the gifts come on a different timeline than we imagine.
HH: As a single person, how were you able to guard yourself from becoming bitter toward God because your life didn’t look like you imagined it would?
SR: I confess that there were times when I did feel bitter and times when I envied what other people had, especially when things like marriage and a family seemed to come so easily for them and not for me. When those feelings flooded over me, it helped to realize that I didn’t have to make myself presentable in order to come to God — I didn’t have to have my emotions in check and my thoughts all sorted out. I discovered that God is a safe place to fall apart and that he can handle my raw emotions and gut reactions. So although it was a bit counter-intuitive, I found the best way to deal with my feelings of bitterness toward God was to go directly to Him with those feelings instead of letting them fester and come between us.
HH: What are some practical ways single people can work through the ache of singleness?
SR: Unfortunately, there isn’t any magical three-step formula for dealing with the real ache that comes from having an unfulfilled desire like this one (at least, I never found it!). God has hardwired us for relationships, and it’s a legitimate yearning to want someone to love and be loved by, someone to serve with, someone to share life with. So I think it’s healthy to acknowledge that there’s a sense of loss and grief that can come with being single. We sometimes feel pressure to “be content” or embrace the “gift of singleness,” and those ideas certainly have their place. But it helps to remember that we can hold two opposing feelings in our hands at once: We can be grateful for the blessings God has given us and still long for a spouse. We can choose to be joyful and still acknowledge that there are tender spots in our hearts. There is power in being able to name our struggle and share it with others as well.
HH: What was it that made you realize that even though you were single, it didn’t mean your life was on hold?
SR: Every January I try to choose a theme for the year (let’s face it: I’m terrible with resolutions, so I figure I can at least remember a one-word theme!). One year I chose the word accountability, and I invited several people I love and trust to give me feedback about any areas of my life where I wasn’t being the person God intended me to be. One person I really respect told me, “I feel like you’re putting your life on hold … like you’re waiting until you get married to really start living.” Well, that hit me like a sucker punch in the gut, because I knew she was right. That kicked off a year of evaluating my life and examining where I was “treadmilling,” and then finding ways to dig in and embrace the abundant life Jesus intended. Over the course of that year I got more involved in church instead of waiting until I had a husband to partner with, and I traveled with a friend and her husband, even though I was afraid of being the third wheel. It was stretching but ultimately so rewarding.
HH: Why do you believe it’s important for people to share transparently with friends and family about their struggles with singleness?
SR: I think that with any struggle, we tend to think we’re alone in this … like no one else feels this way. It reminds me of Elijah in the wilderness. He’d just come down from a huge spiritual victory, but when it was all over, he felt utterly alone and hopeless. God reminded him that he wasn’t really alone — that God was with him and that he’d given him other people to walk through these challenges with (1 Kings 19). When we’re isolated in our struggles, it gives the enemy an opportunity to whisper lies to us — lies that we’re not good enough, that God doesn’t care about us, that we should compromise what we know to be right. We need people to speak truth to us and encourage us to keep going. For me personally, there were times after praying for a husband for so long when I just couldn’t muster up enough courage to keep praying about it. It felt painful and vulnerable to keep on hoping for something that was so close to my heart. During those times, I was grateful I had people who loved me enough to pray and hope on my behalf when I couldn’t myself.
Be sure to purchase Stephanie’s book I Was Blind (Dating), But Now I See: My Misadventures in Dating, Waiting, and Stumbling into Love today!