Tuesday, June 7, 2016

What The Heart Wants - Part I

My beautiful friend Meredith Evert in Malibu, California
Used With Permission
(This is the first of a three-part post written from the perspective of a 40+ year old woman who desires to be married, and for whom contentment in singleness is difficult. This post represents only one of many valid viewpoints on this topic.)

"Then the Lord God said, 'It is not good
that the man should be alone; 
I will make him a helper fit for him.'"
Genesis 2:18 

For a woman whose heart yearns to be married, there is a huge difference between singleness in your 20's than in your 30's, but being unwed in your 40's takes on a whole new meaning. In no way am I implying that being single in your 20's isn't difficult. But it is different than dealing with the deep longing for marriage when you are older. 

Being unwed in your 40's takes on a whole new meaning!

Several single friends recently asked me about my feelings and experiences as someone whose desire for marriage was unfulfilled until I was in my 40's. I don't have any great wisdom, but their expertly camouflaged pain is so similar to what I felt that I thought it was time for me to write about it. From the heart of an older, single woman desiring marriage to those who seek to understand and minister to such women, and to those who desperately need to know you're not alone, here is a glimpse of the differences in the decades of singleness:

  • 20's - You have finished high school/college and friends are beginning to pair off. Sparkly engagement rings and adorable photo sessions are the rule. You want the Cinderella story too and, every once in a while, the jealous twinges get to you. But there are lots of fun parties to attend, colorful bridesmaid dresses to buy, and wedding festivities to fill your social calendar. By the end of your 20's the initial frenzy is over and it has been a blast. As the big 3-0 approaches, you secretly admit to your closest friend that part of you has enjoyed the carefree lifestyle, but you don't say it too loud lest God think you're OK staying this way. You still socialize with your married friends, but they are being drawn like magnets to other young couples - not because they don't love you or desire your company anymore, but because they have moved into a new station in life and, unfortunately, it's one you don't understand. You feel like you're being left behind, so you cling to that handful of friends who are in your current life station. You pretend that you're fine with it, because desperation is not an attractive quality. 

You want the Cinderella story too and,
every once in a while, the jealous twinges get to you.

  • 30's -  The wedding decade is over and you are genuinely happy for your friends, but each aisle walking occasion rubbed a little more salt in the proverbial wound. You observe your married friends, further defining what you want (or don't want) your marriage to look like. Meanwhile babies begin popping out everywhere and you become an "aunt." You adore your friends' kids and view your time with them as practice for yours (you still have hope that marriage and family are in the cards). Bitterness is biting at your heels, but you're fighting to keep it at bay (mainly by avoiding family gatherings and reunions). By your mid-30's you play math games with yourself - "Ok, if I meet someone this weekend, we can know we're in love within three months, get engaged at six months, be married within the year and, if we plan carefully, I can get pregnant on my honeymoon and have baby #1 before our first anniversary." The bar scene lost its appeal years ago, so you try online dating because several friends have had success with it. Forty is looming. Your heart breaks because this is not the way you pictured your life unfolding. You're angry with God (He could fix this if He wanted to, but He doesn't) so your relationship with Him, that is supposed to fill you and make you whole, suffers. 

Your heart breaks because this is not the way
you pictured your life unfolding.

  • 40's - Over the past twenty years you've looked at all the engagement, wedding, honeymoon, ultrasound, weekly pregnancy, monthly newborn, kid birthday party and happy family photos you can stomach. The longing for the life you thought you would have has erupted into a grief so deep that it's palpable. You put on a happy face publicly, but privately the tears flow as you mourn. You miss God. You need God. But you blame God. How are you supposed to find comfort in Him when you feel like this is all His fault? Statistically speaking, it's now highly unlikely that you will ever marry. Your reality is that you must wrestle this out and, like Jacob, refuse to let go until God blesses you with the ability to be at peace and accept your singleness as a fact of life. The desire still burns, but it's time to stop licking your wounds. You renew your pursuit of God as the lover of your soul, imploring Him to give you a new purpose and the will to walk it out.

You miss God. You need God. But you blame God.

Not all single women struggle with their marital status. I did. And I know others who do. Many unmarried women are not able to embrace their singleness because it's not what the heart wants. Next week I will talk about the way families, friends, co-workers, strangers, and, yes, even the church both hinder and help single women arrive at the conclusion that their wholeness as humans and women has nothing to do with whether or not they wear wedding rings, but, instead, depends entirely on their identity as children of the King.

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything
by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving
let your requests be made known to God. 
And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding,
will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."
Philippians 4:6-7

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