There is a relational economy in which success is the measure of self-worth. Sadly for the single with a longing, quite often success is marriage and anything less smells of failure. And the questions, the questions are as natural as the passing of time.
“Is it because I’m ugly?”
“Is it because I’m too fat, too thin, too tall, too short—too something?”
These are the questions that are pressed from our lips every time a failed relationship deals us a kick in the gut. And while they are good questions to ask as we seek maturity, they can be debilitating, discouraging. No matter what the heart hears failure tends to drown out the quieter, kinder voices that whisper, “You are loved.”
It is not that we don’t want to hear we are loved. It is that we are taught from an early age about this ultimate human relationship and we have allowed it to act as validation of our worth. Our questions express our frustration. They confess our hope that if we could figure out what we are doing wrong we would be married. It is a hard thing to feel helpless. It is a hard thing to be asked to wait and trust a God we cannot see or touch and yet this is our task.
The truth is that there IS something wrong with each of us but that may have nothing to do with why we are single. We have a compelling need to grow, to mature, but this is true inside as well as outside of marriage. In seeking to answer the questions do not simply swallow the easy answers and expect that you will feel anything more than—temporary relief. There are no easy answers. Truth does not submit to our formulas.
The truth is we may be pretty and still single, handsome and still single, smart and still single. We may be fat, thin, tall, or short, and still be single. If we expect that being in one or the other of these categories is all that we need we are deluded and these false expectations will yield bitter disappointment.
If the result we expect is contingent on what we do then we MUST ever seek to adjust or change ourselves to find and keep a mate. We will live on this stage dancing for applause and distraught that at the end of the night we are still alone. Or marriage, if we get there, will be years of tiresome performances and not the rest we seek.
Try as we may we can only change so much and it will be up to someone to love us as we are—warts and all. I say this not to discourage but to encourage us to love ourselves as we are, and where we are, even as we work to improve. If we rest content in the Lord’s love for us and are still single then we can put aside thoughts of failure. Success is ours. Never mind that we are single.
The truth is fat people find husbands and wives that love them.
Ugly people find mates that remain loyal.
Short people marry tall and tall marry short.
Sometimes the most unlikely of people find love and live happily ever after.
Some of these have never danced on the stage or spent ours in make-up.
The only thing we are compelled to be is who He has made us to be and more of that each that.
Some of us may ponder the less hopeful question, “What did I do?”
The difficulty here is twofold. First, if you are like me, human, there is no end to the choices of what you did to deserve your plight. Second, there may be nothing to DO about it, no remedy that can be easily applied if you knew what you did. Even the perfectly pure and righteousness (if they exist) sometimes wonder if they have done something wrong or failed to do something right that they should still be single. We all hope for some solution, something to DO about our condition, some means by which we might control the seemingly uncontrollable.
The truth is that we have all done something wrong but that may have nothing to do with why we are single. Our mistakes are covered by His grace and we are made new—the old is passed away. We live in light of grace not in the shadow of our faults.
Still, you may have done everything right and there is NO EASY ANSWER as to why you are still single. In the end this kind of thinking is shortsighted and worldly. It flows from our insatiable desire for control. Deep down what we desire is to be able to control our circumstances. Our minds reel at the idea that finding a husband or wife lies in the realm of God’s providence and grace and not simply under our machinations.
I am not attempting to remove human effort or “free will.” It is the American Ideal of choice that compels us to press for our role in the process over and above the role of providence. We must work and toil, plant and water, but the fruit—the fruit belongs to the Lord (1Cor 3:6, Phil 2:13). This means that our value is in Christ and not a functional part of the dating process and not subject to review because we are still single.
Think of it this way: if our minds cannot separate our worth from our performance then we have confessed Christ by grace but live by works. If finding a husband or wife is on the basis of merit then we who linger at the edge of marital bliss are truly worthless. But it is not so, and this kind of thinking can lead to the deepest and most desperate of questions, “What’s wrong with me?”
This is not the end of the road but it is close. It is here that we must turn and rest our heads on His bosom and listen closely as He recounts His love for us. It is at this very point that we must refuse the cup of self-pity and instead drink of His word—the truth.
We are more than our relational value.
We are more than our relational currency.
We are more than our marital status and even more than our marital stock.
Our value is greater than our relational failures and cannot be measured by what has not come our way. If tomorrow we are married we do not become better. So today, here, we are not worse or less valuable. Indeed, He died for us and thus—single or married—we are priceless. This is the truth we must live by—the truth we must date by.
This article first appeared on Crosswalk.com, Wednesday, May 13, 2009.