Questions and conversations and predictions about my elusive future filled many-a-evening of my teenage years. Sprawled on the floor of my best friend’s living room on a rainy winter’s day, fifteen years old, pens in our hands, lined paper neatly placed on the carpet. Where would I be in ten years? I’d be a business woman with a degree and a corner office. I’d pursue my recently discovered art interest and become a graphic designer. I’d study, receive a Masters of Fine Arts, become a writer. Where would I live? I’d stay in the suburbs of Vancouver. I’d move to an apartment in the city. I’d go to University in a college town on the East coast of Canada. Who would I be with? Someone I’d meet at university, in between classes, in the dining hall. We’d meet through mutual friends. We’d meet over a conversation about C.S.Lewis in a quirky cafe. Or maybe we had already met. I was never interested in a relationship while in high school. Sure, I liked boys, but I knew they were just that… boys. I wanted something more. A couple months after high school, I started attending Trinity Western University with plans to attend for one year. I was excited about the possibilities – to learn, to read, to meet students and professors, to grow my photography business on the side. Some of those teenage questions about my future started to come into focus. I was living my future! If I worked hard I could achieve anything I wanted. (I wanted to achieve a lot.) I could drop out of college if I wanted. (Turns out I wanted to after one semester.) Travel anywhere I wanted. (I wanted to travel lots and lots.) Live anywhere I wanted. (I wanted to live at home with my family.) Those young adult years after high school all the way up until, well, today and this season were and are beautiful days. Filled with learning, challenges, ups and downs, “growing into my own,” dreaming and believing.
“Young single ladies, I have met so many women who are far more lonely and distraught today because of being married than I have ever met single women who are lonely and desperate who are not married. I would plead with you to hold out for a man of God. ‘Well they’re hard to find.’ They are hard to find. Even our young men now… I’m not quite sure what they’re doing. I don’t know why they don’t ask you out on dates. I don’t know why they don’t pursue you. They’re not sitting in the living room wishing a sandwich would just show up on the coffee table. They get up and make it. I apologize for their laziness in regard to pursuing you, and in their lack of integrity in pursuing you, and how they flirt with you. You be a woman of God and call them on that nonsense, and we’ll see how quickly it shuts down. If you have a dude flirting with you who hasn’t declared his intentions, just call him out. Just go, ‘Hey, are you courting me here? Are you interested in me? Because that’s inappropriate, your little joking texts to me all the time. Stop that nonsense unless you’re serious.’ If you’ll approach this seriously, then I think you’ll find yourself a serious man. If you’re like, ‘I might run him away if I do that,’ it might be a dude who needs to be run away. ‘Oh, he’s so cute.’ That cuteness wears off, yo. In the end, again, this is just a lack of seriousness about the things of God. When we date, when we approach marriage, our concern is what? It’s godliness. It’s temperature of the house. It’s the rest of our lives. It’s not momentary decisions.” Matt Chandler
I’m convinced there has to be a change in every girl’s heart before she’s ready for a relationship with a man. Not a boy. How will you recognize a good man unless you know what a good man looks like? Equally as important, how will you be attracted to this good, solid, hard-working man, when all you’ve experienced in the past is the mystery, the intrigue, the unpredictability of a boy? I was in that limbo and God knew he couldn’t bring me a man–and give me eyes to see him! For the gift he was!–until I stopped liking boys. In my life, it meant a couple “mistakes” of relationships, settling for less than I needed or deserved, a few years of “wasted” affection and time to grow as a single woman.
“Ladies, if you’re single there is nothing wrong, sinful or wicked about desiring a husband, nothing. Anyone who would say otherwise is absolutely lying to you. God wired you for it, He built you for it. Men, there is nothing wrong, wicked, or evil about wanting a wife. I don’t know when that happened, I don’t, now listen I do think that you need to be content where you are today, alright, but listen I’m content with what Christ is doing in me today but I don’t want to be who I am today, I’m hoping Christ will complete what He began. It’s okay, it’s alright, who made it so complicated? It’s okay, it’s okay to want a wife, it’s okay to want a husband, those are good things, they’re really good things. It’s okay, it’s okay to want.” Matt Chandler
This word “satisfied” is hard to define as a single woman. It sounds so churchy, so Christianese. “Be satisfied in God and then you’ll find a man.” No, no, no. I don’t like that. Be satisfied in God and then… you’ll be satisfied in God. Being whole in Jesus is the goal, not a pitstop on your way to some sort of fulfilment in human relationship. Part of allowing your heart to be satisfied in God is finding your rest in Him. You are fully known by God and therefore can be fully honest with God. I am thankful God blesses me with a joyful heart. I knew I was so young (seriously, single and 20, 21, 22? Liiiiiive! There’s a life out there to liiiiive!) but I did crave community. Sometimes that community we crave can be difficult to find. In lonely seasons, seasons where I just stinkin’ wanted somebody who was available to hang out, to be a real friend, God spoke when I felt heavy-hearted, reminding me. “You’re feeling lonely? Find companionship in me. You’re feeling less than worthy? Find your worth in me. You’re frustrated with your season? Tell me. I know your future and it is good. Who I’m preparing is good. But he won’t fix loneliness… so let’s deal with that now.” I was never the girl who dreamed of moving away from home, adventuring for a year in Southeast Asia or going to bible school in an exotic location.. but I did dream of my own kind of adventures and travel, time to wander without a plan. The Fall and Winter of 2011 felt like “my year of adventure” in a season. At twenty-one years old, over a span of three months, I was in Quebec for three weeks, Arizona and Nashville and Maryland for two weeks, Australia for two weeks and Salt Lake City for three days. I could almost feel myself grow that winter, emotionally and spiritually. The most impacting part of that season was in Quebec. There was no purpose to the trip (unlike the States, which was family vacation and visiting Kristen, and Australia, shooting a wedding, and Salt Lake City, a conference) and I was alone the majority of every day. I had a dorm room or spare bedroom to sleep (depending on what city I was in) but every day held no plans – just my bible, journal, camera, metro card and parka. I enjoy silence and consider myself an independent, capable woman. I have flown alone frequently most of my life, and alone since I was seventeen years old. I was capable of booking hotels, rental cars, planning an international itinerary. So it felt strange when only five dark and cold evenings into my Montreal trip, I sat with my laptop drinking tea, thinking “What am I doing here?” I was in a crowded coffee shop a couple of blocks from the dorm but I felt alone. I was trying to write something, anything, worth writing but all that came out was, “I don’t know anyone here. Everyone I know is happy and warm in BC. I have fifteen more days and evenings to pass alone… with more of the same walking, reading, writing, walking, sitting and waiting for buses. Why did I come?” In that moment, I decided to shove aside my desire for the familiar and reassured my soul: You’re here for a reason. You’ve been given a luxury – three weeks alone across the country, to explore, to grow, to pray. Don’t waste this. Don’t wish away your season. Over the course of those weeks, whether it was in Montreal or later in Quebec City, I wrote, wandered, drank a lot of coffee, sometimes ate a bar of rich dark chocolate for lunch, people-watched tourists and locals alike. For a couple of hours every day, I dug into the Bible in a fresh way, copying out verse after verse, practicing what it was like to sit and be still before the Lord. Many, many evenings I sat alone in a quiet room, only reading, doodling, praying, listening to podcasts from after dinner to late at night. It was powerful to feel God clearly speak to me during those weeks. When we take time to turn away from distraction, it is incredible how faithful God is to respond. [And reading this now, almost eight months after I first wrote these words, they are serving as an important reminder.] I know everyone is different – created with different strengths and weaknesses, passions and fears – but for me, learning to be alone was a key lesson of my single life. I needed it. I needed to have adventures on my own, see the world on my own, make decisions on my own, grow confident that there was nothing I needed from a man – someday, he would be icing on the cake. I wouldn’t trade those days (and Quebec was just one example!) for anything. I’m writing this now as an engaged woman (EDIT: That’s technically true, but I’m editing and publishing as a married woman) and I love the season I am in. I genuinely would not have wished for our dating relationship to start even one day earlier than it did. Every season is a gift. Sometimes we only see that in hindsight. There is beauty in singleness, beauty in dating, beauty in engagement and beauty in marriage. We just have to look for it.