You know what kind of story I don’t want to tell about singleness? I don’t want to tell the “I’m dating Jesus and it’s awesome” story.
Sometimes Christians, when taking a break from dating or when embracing the spiritual benefits of being single, talk about “dating Jesus.” They might say, “I’m not seeing anyone now. I’m just dating Jesus,” or “I don’t have a husband, but I know that I’m the bride of Christ.”
Even though the picture of the Church as the Bride of Christ is a spiritually sound analogy, I would feel a little funny talking about dating my Lord. For one thing, there are some practical problems: If I start dating someone else, will I be cheating on Jesus? Can Jesus date multiple people? It’s a bit confusing.
But the main reason I don’t want to use this analogy is that it seems to move too quickly past the often painful aspects of singleness and goes straight into “Everything’s great!” territory. I don’t have a husband? No problem — I have Jesus!
Obviously this is technically true, but in the rush to make a moral out of my singleness, I lose the chance to tell a better story. The story I want to tell about singleness is this one: “I’m not dating anyone. (Not even Jesus.) But my life is rich.”
My single life is rich with joys and heartaches. It isn’t wrapped up in a neat bow with a moral at the end, like some of the stories I hear:
“I wanted to be married. But once I learned to content myself in the Lord, I realized I could embrace the gift of singleness. Now I will be content forever after.”
“I wanted to be married. But I was spiritually and emotionally unready. Once I became more spiritually mature, the Lord brought the perfect man into my life. Now I’m happily married. And still super spiritually mature.”
“I wanted to be married. But I gave up that desire. As soon as I stopped asking for marriage, or even expecting it, I met the woman who became my wife. Also, she’s hot.”
I don’t think most life stories are quite that simple. My life story as a single person is not black-and-white; it’s painted in rich color, and I bet yours is too. In my mind’s eye, I can see beautiful and broken moments as if I’m flipping through a photo album:
Here is a room filled with laughter, with blue and teal tissue paper on the walls and a blue photo backdrop where a lovely Indian couple poses for a picture. My roommates are swinging dizzying circles on the living room floor, their faces shining, while my grad school friends pile onto the couch that we put outside so we could clear our small apartment for a dance. I’m bending down tease to my little 5-year-old neighbor, who is blowing bubbles into the crowd.
Here is an autumn scene. I’m standing on a wooden bridge, a stream under me and a man beside me. He’s telling me we should just be friends. I’m leaning against the railing, smelling the brand new wood and listening quietly as I stare down into the water.
Here are my parents sitting with me at the home of a Chinese friend. My mom’s face looks slightly strained behind her smile. Her chopsticks, poised near her mouth, are gingerly holding a fried cicada. My dad is peering through the lens of an SLR camera pointed at her.
Here is an Easter scene. I stand alone watching the sun rise into a peachy gray sky, my hand resting on my bike handle and a little camera dangling from my wrist. The Yellow Sea laps against strands of seaweed strewn on the beach. It’s a perfectly peaceful picture.
Here I am standing in a mint-green dress watching my sister hold hands with her almost-husband as they sing. The words on the program are “Be Thou My Vision.” Relatives and friends stand singing in the pews, and the lit cross at the front of the church presides over us all.
Here is a Christmas. Here is a prayer group. Here is a speech therapy classroom. Here is a work party. Here is an airplane ride. A service project. A writing group. Family. Friends. Life.
When I look at these scenes, I praise God that He has given me an Ecclesiastes 3 sort of story, where there is “a time to tear down and a time to build up, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance.”
Ecclesiastes is one of my favorite books to turn to when I’m going through hard times, because it reminds me that there is a season for everything. Happy events, sad events, exciting times, boring times — this is the stuff life is made of. Singles are not excluded.
When I view my life through this lens — the lens that acknowledges richness in my singleness — I can thank God even though He has not given me many of the things I have asked for. And this is the story I want to tell about the single life: It’s not the cliché we sometimes make it. It’s so much more.