When we were young, our parents said “no” to save us. No, you can’t stay up all night watching scary movies. No, you can’t have that sucker that’s bigger than your head. No, you can’t hang out with that gang of boys reenacting Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles down the street. (Wish I’d listened before I got a nunchuk to the head.)
But there’s also the sense that parents say no simply to teach us that this ain’t Burger King and you don’t always get it your way. We all know what a kid becomes when he’s given whatever he wants: a spoiled brat. As a teacher, it wasn’t hard for me to spot the kids who’d never heard a “no” in their life. It was more often the “denied” students who exhibited respect, work ethic, and people skills in the classroom; it was those who’d been given less that actually had more.
And I like what I’ve become through my singleness.
We singles often think that God calls us to singleness mostly to help us dodge bad matches. That’s part of it. But let’s be honest: God could bring us a compatible person at any time. That he does not, suggests another purpose. (Sound Biblical theology is silent on the question of “one match for everyone”. As Steven Furtick has pointed out, such theology would require one who misses their match either stay single for life or marry the wrong person and thus cause a chain-reaction dislodging of God’s will for the entire human race.)
I want to say loud and clear: I don’t necessarily believe all singles are being kept there by God. Some are single because they choose it, or because they rarely groom themselves. But it’s undeniable that God has called some to this track. And when we see his hand in such a way, we have an opportunity to uncover an uncomfortable, but powerful, truth.
Like a coastal shelf carved by waves, sometimes God says no simply to refine our character.
And I like who I’ve become through my singleness.
Not that I’ve liked singleness itself. I’m not the type. Even if I was, it was God who said…
The LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” (Genesis 2:18)
I think he was serious. Despite the Christian literature that keeps trying to diminish marriage hoping to make singles feel better (talk about throwing the baby out with the bathwater), singleness is hard. It’s been one of my life’s greater struggles. And I don’t think it whiny or unspiritual to say that, for it’s given me a testimony that glorifies God. If we acknowledge singleness as legitimate trial even as we surrender it to God, it becomes another conduit of all the benefits God promises through trials.
Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. (James 1:4)
Waiting is transformative.
I know. It’s hard to care about transformation.
Especially this month.
But when I try to envision the kind of guy I’d be without this trial, I realize I wouldn’t want to part with what I’ve gained. I like who I’ve become through my singleness (and other trials).
Being in need of compassion has taught me to offer compassion to others. I’ve had to turn to Scripture to learn the path of the Cross. My emotions used to be a loose fire hose, flopping about in all directions. Not good marriage material. Now, through repetition and years of Spirit work, I have joy and peace.
Would I have learned to pray fervently without this time alone?
Would I have had the chance to teach math at a remote school (and I mean remote – thirty miles to the nearest gas station), where God met me on the prairie and changed my heart?
What would I be without the wait?
I don’t want to know.
And still, almost every week it seems, comes some other lesson of incredible value for the future.
Whatever you believe about the cause of your singleness, know that God will not waste a struggle that is surrendered to him. He is willing to do great stuff with it, if you’ll let him. I admit it’s easier for me to say that having walked the road longer than some, but hey – I don’t know when it’s going to end for me, either. (Any day now, God.)
Faith in God means faith in his timing.
Yet another place where my “not good” can make something very good.