Still single at 40.
I never thought those words would apply to me, and I was crushed that they did. For me, prolonged singleness was a loss — loss of love, partnership, motherhood and the joys they were supposed to bring.
The year I turned 40, I wrote the final version of Not Meant to Be: Trusting God for the Redemption of Singleness — the culmination of my search to understand how prolonged singleness had become not only my destiny but that of so many other women in my generation. The book also describes my need to appropriately process the disappointment in my heart and find fresh hope in the God I love and serve.
That hope came as I meditated on and responded to God’s character. I’m convinced that no matter how disappointing we find the unexpected circumstances of our lives, including singleness, we can always expect redemptive gifts to flow from the heart of God.
My prayer is that those experiencing singleness as a loss would trust God to redeem it. Below is a short excerpt from the book’s introduction.
* * *
I am single and disappointed.
Sometimes, I wonder if I’m the only one who feels this way. Single Christian women generally don’t talk openly about being disappointed with their singleness. Many of them appear to be filled with faith, waiting on God’s timing. I often hear of women being “content while contending in prayer for marriage,” believing the day will come when a man will walk through the doorway of their lives, and the rest will be history.
As yet, there isn’t that history for me and many of my friends, my never-married friends, and even some long-time divorced friends and acquaintances. All waiting and waiting. I’m waiting with them. How I have longed, and dreamed, and anticipated. I have hoped and believed.
I have expected love.
Love from a godly man, and yes, maybe good-looking, too; a special prince of a man, honored and respected, doing the work of God’s kingdom. I expected him to come in the years when men typically come, in the days of youth and beauty, when women flower and ovulate and bounce into motherhood with vigor.
But he hasn’t come.
Maybe it’s just not meant to be.
Yet, I thought marriage was God’s intention. I thought this is why He created Woman, partly—to be the helper of Man. To be his glory and crown, loved and protected, supporting, strengthening, and beautifying his life. Like pillars sculpted in palace style, to which the daughters of Jerusalem were compared — graceful and majestic (Psalm 144:12). Like the pillars of Solomon’s temple, named Jachin and Boaz — established and strong, through a deep relationship with the Lord (2 Chronicles 3:17).
Oh, I wanted to be that ornate pillar to his temple.
Beautiful, yet functional. Blessing and contributing and helping the way only a woman can. I thought this was why God gave us this desire for relationship, for nurturing — to be the heart of a family, as my mother was. To make a home. To raise children to also go out and bring God’s light to the world. To be part of His plan for changing society and modeling His ways through godly families.
I thought that was God’s intention. And I still believe that it is.
That’s why to me, it is prolonged singleness that’s not meant to be. As a human being, I was designed for the partnership of marriage. As a woman, I was fashioned to bear children. As a follower of Christ, I thought marriage and motherhood were a part of God’s plan for my life.
For years the conflict has been building: God’s intention and my experience. My faith and reality never touching, like train tracks vanishing into the horizon of someday, someday, where they will merge together into fulfillment. Yet, every time the someday seems to have arrived, the tracks are still as far apart as they ever were.
And the horizon seems just as far away as it ever was.
* * *
I turned 40 this year, and the doors finally broke off their hinges. Forty, with its new little roll of belly fat. With its diminishing bloom at the half-point of life, the prime past, the ovulation less plentiful, and the single men like hidden treasure. I am not a wife and don’t know if I will ever become a mother. Other dreams about my life’s work and calling have not come true. And my mother, to whom I was very close, has recently died. I did not look forward to my 40th birthday.
I reached for help outside myself, the decision having been confirmed by Scripture: “You will show me the path of life; in your presence is fullness of joy” (Psalm 16:11, NKJV). Now, I step onto that path and sit from time to time with a woman named Lisa, who listens as everything gushes out.
And the Holy Spirit speaks. He flips on the lights, and I wince at the brightness. I lay everything out to be seen and examined, not by myself in the corners of the basement, but with an honest Christian woman in a comfortable room upstairs in a little house with musty old wooden floors, a place that feels like home.
Yet, the Spirit speaks before this. Speaks after this. Speaks in my morning reading of the Word. Through the pastor, the small group, the radio, the worship songs. His voice tumbles toward me at every turn. Flashes of light, like circles from a flashlight or patches of sunshine through leafy tree branches, illuminate something I need to see. His golden threads of light string one feeling to the next, tying together experiences and thoughts, connecting the hidden alcoves and corners of my soul until I start to see clearly. Until I begin to grasp each golden cord and follow it from place to place, untangling what has been, for who knows how long, a dark, heavy mass.
Because a life of disappointment is not God’s intention, either.