Who Has Your Heart?

11-11 is Singles Day as denoted by the Chinese. It is especially significant that this year is 11-11-11. We here in Beijing are celebrating our singleness by having a pizza and game night. And oh what a night it will be! 🙂

Several months ago I was “getting to know” someone. Yes, I, too, have joined the ranks of eharmony. Somehow, though, that is not such a shameful thing to say as it was, say, ten years ago. Through this process I met someone. I flew out to meet him. We developed a relationship. We talked marriage. And in order to take the relationship further we needed to be in the same city. I seriously considered leaving everything I knew in China to be in the same town as him. I came very close to that, actually. And then I ended it. I ended it because I knew I was settling. And I was settling because I figured it was the best that I would ever get and I shouldn’t complain about those red flags that kept rearing their ugly heads. (a counselor said to me, “even if they are yellow flags, pay attention to them! They are telling you something!”). But I also knew that this would not be a happy marriage and that wasn’t fair to him. There were other reasons, but I won’t get into that. He was a good guy- just not the good guy for me.

At first I was sad. Then I was angry. And then? Well, then I was relieved. Content.

I watch as most of my friends get married and are starting to have children. While I wish for that for myself sometimes, I am probably more content in my singlehood than I ever have been. (Though, I certainly wouldn’t object to the Father suddenly convincing you to introduce me to your brother or next-door neighbor :))

The fact is I love being independent. I love that I can eat cereal for dinner over the sink. And I love being able to travel and hang out with various people as I would like. I just cannot imagine a single person on the entire planet that I want to spend with every single day for the rest of my life. Not yet, anyway. Perhaps when I fall in love that will change, but right now I just don’t see the pleasure of that. Is that selfish? Probably.

You might be familiar with the old Garth Brooks song “Unanswered Prayers” about a married man who goes to his high school reunion and comes across the girl who broke his heart back in the day. The whole song is about how he thanks God for “unanswered prayers” in getting them back together, otherwise he would have never met his wife. We make fun of that song, especially those of you who detest country music, but oh how true it is! I was just telling my Chinese friends last night that I am so very glad that guys in the past have broken my heart because they were certainly not the right ones for me and I didn’t realize that until much hindsight. Oh my word, how different my life would have been if I had married them!!

Yet, there are days where being single is just hard. Really hard.

People think that I have “chosen” the life of a single person because I have been called overseas for the past decade.  And that’ just not true.  Speaking honestly, I don’t think anybody “chooses” this.  Yet we do make the choice to live for God regardless.

Recently I picked up a book. At first I groaned a little inside because it seemed to be yet another book about singleness. About what to do when “waiting for a husband” or how to prepare yourself for him. Some books tell you to think of God as your husband, you as the bride of Christ, and that just never settles right with me. The church is the bride of Christ, not me. Or it is a book written by a married woman who gives you advice about being single because “she’s been there.” While their words of encouragement are well-meaning you cannot possibly know what it’s like to be single if you’ve been married since you were 22.

But, this book was refreshingly different. Emily E. Ryan writes a book called  Who Has Your Heart? The Single Woman’s Pursuit of Godliness.  When looking for heroines in the Bible we come to the conclusion that they are all married! Great women to learn from, regardless. However, the author searches to find a heroine deep in the story of Judges 11, an unnamed woman simply known as “Jephthah’s daughter.” She calls her “A woman to imitate. A lady to admire. A heroine to learn from…someone to teach about being a single woman because she was a single woman, not simply because she’d ‘been there.’” She weaves through this woman’s life and examines what she has to say for each of us. For once I felt encouraged when reading a book about singleness.

Rather than viewing singleness as a problem that must be overcome, the author talks about viewing it as an opportunity for God and strengthening our relationship with Christ. She has this “pull up a chair and grab a cup of coffee and let’s chat” approach and speaks honestly and realistically, giving helpful conclusions for the single woman looking for something that’s different from the same old tired repackaged material. It’s not a book about dating. It’s not a book about preparing for marriage. It’s about inspiring single women to find identity in Christ rather than marital status. On the back cover it reads, “You will find peace and contentment as you become a woman who is more preoccupied with who you are in God’s eyes than with who you are as a single.”

If His plan is to bring the right guy along, splendid! I’m open to that, certainly, and I’m not sitting on a log waiting for it to fall in my lap. But if His plan is something different, then that’s okay, too. Either way, it’s about community and relationship- with God and with man.

So, on 11-11-11, let’s celebrate being single!

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