There’s something that’s been on my mind for quite a while now, so I guess it’s time I attempted to put it into words.  I’m not sure how eloquently or clearly I’ll present it, but I will do my best.

For several years, I went through a very difficult and personal struggle with being single.  I can’t remember a time in my life when I didn’t expect to be married some day.  Having a lifelong partner, with or without children, was my goal, and I never even entertained the thought that it wouldn’t happen.  When I was in my 20s, I didn’t worry too much because I figured I still had plenty of time.  But when I got to my early 30s, a nagging desperation began to set in.  I pushed it away most of the time, because I knew I was still young.  But it was there.  It began to rear its ugly head every time I received another wedding invitation or birth announcement from one of my friends.  It got even worse once I started getting invitations to the weddings of the students I used to teach in Sunday school.  I kept telling myself I just need to be patient and God would reward me.  After all, He loved me and wanted what was best for me, so naturally He would present me with my significant other soon.  Then the self-deprecation started.  To be more exact, I began mentally ripping myself to shreds. I wasted so much time criticizing myself, my looks, my character.  Obviously I was deficient in some way.  As more years went by and Prince Charming continued to elude me, I became more and more critical.

During these times, I honestly did turn to God.  In every difficult situation, when I turn to God and seek comfort in the Bible, I am never disappointed. So talking to God about my struggles with singleness always helped. For a while.  But then I’d walk out the door and be slapped in the face again with how perfect everyone else was and what a loser I was.  I rarely spoke about it with anyone, but many times I would get comments like, “Jen, I can’t believe you’re not married yet, or “We need to find you  husband.”   That made it even worse because that meant that everyone was aware of my deficiency. I suspected that my friends, especially the married ones, pitied me.  I just knew they had secret conversations amongst themselves: “Why isn’t Jen married yet?” “I know!  She’s so nice. What do you think the problem is?”  I just couldn’t cling tight enough to God to be able to deal well with society’s perceptions and expectations.  Which of course were my own perceptions and expectations as well.

The thing is, all these comments and bits of advice were well-meaning.  I know that my friends like me and enjoy my company.  That’s why they’re my friends.  I know that when they say things like that, they want to encourage me and make me feel better.  But the problem with all of this is, they’re all looking at it wrong.  I’ve been looking at it wrong. I believe that the prevailing attitude in our society, including the Christian community, is that marriage is the final goal.  It’s what all of us, especially the women, should strive for.  Ultimate success is marriage and family.  Of course, no one would say this exactly.  It sounds so old-fashioned. But it’s such a part of our culture (and I’m guessing many other cultures) that we don’t even notice that we think this way anymore.

The way I see it, marriage and singleness are gifts.  I’m not just talking about spiritual gifts, but gifts that God gives each of us to equip us for the work He calls us to do.  They are gifts the same way that patience and athletic ability and intelligence are gifts.  One person can draw and another is good at cooking and yet another is good at science.  The difference in these gifts doesn’t make one person better than the other.  Each person just has different ways of being able to serve God.  My married friends are able to serve Him in their marriages.  I am able to serve Him in my singleness.  Neither one trumps the other.  They are simply different states of being. Marriage should never be the end goal or the defining factor of our lives. Serving God as best we can should be.

I am single right now.  I have no idea if that will stay the same for the rest of my life.  Things change.  A spouse can die, and people can get married at any age.  But I can honestly say now that I have stopped worrying about it.  It is a waste of my time.  It’s like obsessing over being bad at math or not being able to sing.  Sure, you can force a change.  But it’s so much work to do it!  All the time and resources to change something that really doesn’t matter is pointless.  I want to focus on what God has given me, not what I wish He would give me.  I have peace in knowing that I am right where I am supposed to be, doing what I am supposed to be doing, and at least trying to live the way I should live, all for Him.