When I first moved into my 1920 vintage home, the kitchen had those crank-out sort of windows. They didn’t work so well, because the cranks kept falling off and eventually would not work anymore. One of the windows would fly open in the wind and I had to nail it shut. First big expense – double-paned windows. A week and BIG chunk of change later, I had windows I could open and shut with ease and the double panes helped with my heating bill. Rain would slam onto the screens and the outside pane but keep the inner pane dry.
Fast forward a couple years. Moisture began to gather between the panes of those expensive windows. Thanks to the warranty, another big chunk of change for labor, and I had airtight windows again. I guess you could call that “labor panes.” Sorry! I couldn’t resist that.
So, why the thoughts about windows today? Because for a few weeks now, I’ve been bumping up against a single window pane of the mind which causes emotional pain. Advice for marriage and family abounds. Some of my long-visited Christian websites have either discontinued their pages for singles, or have buried them under pages labeled “for women” with fewer and fewer articles for those without a life partner. And, generally the articles there tend to be written by now-married women who focus on “what to do while waiting.” Articles abound on “how to raise children” and “10 little things to brighten your husband’s day.”
Venturing onto pages “for men” is usually a different experience. While there are articles for “5 things your wife wishes you knew,” it is rare to find any mention of singleness on men’s pages. Maybe it’s because fewer men than women walk through life as a onesome.
I’ve come to realize that singledom, especially in the church, is an invisible village.
Sermon series for God’s design for sex and marriage are popular. Onesomes are told to pray for their married family and friends, armed with increasing information on what marriage should be about. I’m quite happy to do that. I respect marriage highly. I’m not blind to the endurance of many in this challenging place. Why, however, is it not just as important for those who are married to understand more about the challenges of living as a Godly single, and to pray for us as well? I’m here to tell you that being single takes a lot of hard work, too!
In the absence of attention at church-level in general, I’m aware that there is definitely an elephant in the room – and it seems to be me. Well, at least, it is those of us who do not have a life partner at present. Most unmarrieds who come to the church are those who have had the experience of having had a spouse. Sadly, marriages end by death and divorce, both very painful situations. I’m also here to tell you that never having had a spouse can also be a very painful situation that very few acknowledge, bringing loneliness most folks just don’t get!
I’m saddened greatly that most churches do not think about a sermon series – or even one sermon – on what it means to live a Godly single life. There is an urgent need for even middle and high school students to know how precious their emotions and hormones are to God, and that He is very interested in helping them develop self-control and contentment. College men and women are thrust into a world where many of them are on their own for the first time, and if they have not learned the value of faithfulness and self-control at a younger age, they may have trouble seeing the value now. The term “single” is not generally used until they are post-college age. Once again, they are on a huge learning curve of how to be self-supporting and responsible adults. Too often, too many do not have a practiced discipline in their moral lives and may not see a need to gain one now. Why not?
They have not been told how important and valuable their moral lives are to God, themselves, and those around them.
Read this: “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. (I Corinthians 6:19-20)
The temple in Scripture is described as a visually spectacular place, full of color and lush fabrics, and gold, silver, and gems of every type. Of course, its real purpose was not to be spectacular, but to be a place where people gave back to God from their crops and livestock, acknowledging their shortcomings – sin – and receiving forgiveness. While the Temple does not exist in Jerusalem today, its memory does. And, certainly the reality of Jesus’ sacrifice in my place for my sin exists!
In the process, He considers me as a beautiful temple which is furnished by the Holy Spirit within me! How can I help but live my life glorifying Him as best I can!
However, I still find myself as a sort of Lone Ranger shouting a message few want to hear.
Are you listening?
Apologies to a movie with roughly the same name where an interesting set of escaped convicts in the 1930’s try to find a lost treasure while being pursued by a relentless lawman. For many, finding their “soul mate” is a much desired treasure to be found on a path with many obstacles.
A friend told me a couple weeks back that a number of people are talking to her about having finally found their “soul mate,” and for some of these, this did not appear to be their spouse. They were puzzled about what to do. Hmmmmm. Started me thinking about that term.
So, where did it come from?
Most www sites talk about it in connection with Greek mythology, and I found the shortest, clearest summary on Dictionary.com:
Though the phrase soul mate gained steam toward the end of the twentieth century, the idea goes all the way back to Plato’s Symposium, written in 385-380 BC. In Symposium, when the two dialogists discuss love, Aristophanes tells Socrates that human beings used to have four arms, four legs, and two faces, and they were happy and complete. But Zeus was jealous and split them in two with his thunderbolt, and now humans spend their lives searching for their other half. This idea of an “other half” has been with us ever since.
Now, google™ tells me there are at least 800,000 results for “soul mates” and I did not attempt to explore them all. But, the ones I did scan – even the ones which hold on to the theory of “soul mates” – warned of the heartache which can come from holding this belief to an extreme, and most call it a theory – a speculation, a conjecture, a guess. The theory of “soul mates” falls into the category of myth, and the simple definitions most found for “myth” are fable, legend, fairy tale, allegory, illusion, invention, untruth, and the list goes on. Myths are stories which usually involve beings with more than human powers trying to explain mysterious events or religious beliefs.
So, why is finding one’s “soul mate” so tantalizing?
Now, obviously, no one today is looking to literally connect with another set of arms, legs, etc., as described above. But, my guess is that the person one chooses to marry is often considered largely because they just seem to “fit together.” They enjoy the same things. Mutual love brings them to the conclusion that they are “meant for one another.” They feel as if they “complete” each other. Others look at them and think they are “perfect for one another.” I think that our current view of marriage too often falls into the “I’ve-found-my-soul-mate” category. And, too often it brings disappointment.
So, what happens to the ones who haven’t happened on to their “soul mates” yet? I live in Colorado. What happens if my “soul mate” lives in Maine, or Peru, or Bangladesh, or,, heaven forbid, has died ? ? ? Well, you get the picture. How am I to know if or where to look? Does my singleness totally depend on whether or not I find “the one” and if so, what do I do with my heart desires in the meantime? Will I never be “complete” if I don’t find the soul mate?
So, how does the “soul mate” theory compare with what the Bible teaches?
Some try to put the “soul mate” theory into what Scripture teaches right from the beginning of Genesis where we are told God created Eve from a rib from Adam’s side. Adam’s response when he first saw Eve was, “Wow! Bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh.” (Genesis 2:23) Obviously the “Wow!” is my version of what I think Adam must have said after his work of naming the animals was finished. Obviously, if there was only one other creature in Eden to whom he could relate and give himself totally to, they were obviously meant to be together. This seems to be the only option in Scripture in which there was only one solution to being together. But, there is nothing in the Genesis narrative which describes them as “soul mates.”
All through Scripture, the equation to describe God’s intention for marriage is 1 + 1 = 1
Genesis 2:24 That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.
Matthew 19:4-5 “Haven’t you read,” he [Jesus] replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘ made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh?'”
Ephesians 5:31-32 “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” This is a profound mystery–but I am talking about Christ and the church.
Even when folks stray outside their marriage engaging in sexual activity, “they [literally] become one flesh. (I Corinthians 6:16). They do not necessarily “become one” in soul or spirit. The oneness God intends goes far beyond what most of us think. Paul continues to take this far beyond the physical realm, saying in verse 17: “But whoever is united with the Lord is one with Him in spirit.”
Ah, now we see that mere body to body with another person – or even soul to soul – is not all there is for us. This oneness we all seek is ultimately spiritual. It is in God alone that we can really be “one,” be total, be complete. Jesus prayed that for us in John 17:20-21. “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. . .”
So, here’s my take on the “soul mate” idea.
Out of the billions of people who have entered and left the world, I am blessed to meet any number of folks who become close friends. While the “other half” and “one soul mate” idea is intriguing, I am not bound to that limitation. For those of us like me, a “onesome” still hoping for another “onesome” with whom to enter into a mutual marriage covenant, life continues to be a great mystery. The details of much of my future days remain hidden to me. It is my privilege to simply keep walking one step at a time in the path God puts before me. One thing I do know. God has not promised marriage to me. He has promised an abundance of living in Him, single or married.
Proverbs 3:5-6 “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and he will make straight your paths.”
It was a sunny Colorado day; just the pleasant sort of day for errands. I was getting groceries out of my car when I heard a little commotion behind me.
There was a moth banging over and over into the garage window – and on the other side there was a bird simultaneously banging over and over into the glass. Now, the moth’s intent was simple. “I just want out of here!” The bird’s intent was simple, too. “I just want moth for lunch.” I watched for a couple minutes and neither of them gave up until I scared the bird away by walking out of the garage.
So, as usual, I began to relate these two little critters to my single life.
- ** I’m in a place I don’t like and I want to get into a better place.
- ** I’m feeling very hemmed in and want to be freeeeeeeeee!
- ** What in the world is this wall I can see through which keeps me from being freeeeeeeeee?
- ** I want the grass and sunshine I see and not this gloomy garage!
- ** I’m just flying along being birdy and realize it’s time for lunch.
- ** Should I go to arches of gold or hut of pizza?
- ** In the meantime, here’s a tasty looking moth. Here I go!
- ** Bammety bam bam! What in the world. . . . .? (Repeat 10 times.)
I’ve often acted just like those little creatures. How many times have I complained to God that I’m tired of where I am and tired of being alone? Too numerous to count, I’m afraid. For instance:
- ** It just seems that if I were married, I’d have a built-in companion to do stuff with. Crash!
- ** We’re attracted to each other. We can work on the spiritual stuff later. Bang!
- ** Surely God wouldn’t deny me the desire of my heart. After all, He promised. (Psalm 37:4) Wham!
I’ve discovered that my perception is often flawed. Sometimes something looks good on the surface, not so good under. When I was about 5, my mother was making bread. I saw the rising dough and decided to snitch a piece because surely it would taste as good as cookie dough. So, I took a small blob and ran outside to enjoy. As Charlie Brown of Peanuts fame might say: Aaaarrrggghhh! In other words: raw bread dough does not taste good! It isn’t in its finished state – baked.
It’s all in the timing!
OK. You get the picture. The one who penned Psalm 73 hit it right on the head for potential birds and moths like me.
- ** I know God is good – – – – – but I’m stumbling around here by myself.
- ** Everyone around me seems to have things so much better – like money and companionship.
- ** They are healthy and happy and trouble-free.
- ** Now, I do see that they act in ways I choose not to – even violently with evil intent.
- ** Oh yes, they have potty mouths, too.
- ** But, they still have friends and are having a good time.
- ** I thought following God would be happier and more comfortable.
- ** Instead, I’m lonely and tired and don’t feel good.
- ** Is following God worth it?
I find some comfort in the fact I’m not alone in the hard places! I’ve learned a lot of tough lessons in the process of going from young to seasoned singleness. Following Jesus is full of challenges – but the commitment is worth it! If I could go back to talk to my younger self, I would say, “God’s word provides the guidance I need even – or especially – when I don’t get it – or even want it. Meanwhile, keep talking to God about what your heart is feeling! He can take it.”
Fortunately, the Psalmist brings us to a glorious conclusion in verse 28:
“But I’m in the very presence of God – oh, how refreshing it is! I’ve made Lord God my home. God, I’m telling the world what you do! (The Message)
I’ve been having “Kumbaya my Lord” flashbacks to church camp this week.
The original Camp Moses Merrill in Nebraska was located near the little town of Fullerton, and I remember several weeks spent there as a kid and then as a camp counselor.♥ It offered great places to hike, with the most daring being “Lover’s Leap” which overlooked the Cedar River and held a lot of American Indian and pioneer folklore.
While I remember evening bonfires with roasted hot dogs and s’mores, one memory stands out for the impact it had on my life for many years.
I was a 13 year-old high school freshman, and had enjoyed a week of Bible studies, hiking, crafts, and looking for arrow heads. The highlight of these weeks was a Saturday night “banquet” such as one could have in a rather rustic building. The girls wore dresses and the guys wore nice shirts, and the food served was a step above what we had gotten all week. Often we ate by candlelight, and then had a special service in the chapel where we were challenged to make Jesus the Lord of our lives.
Now, of course, as young teenagers, we were interested in finding dates for this special meal. There was a boy I really liked in many of the Bible studies and hiking groups, etc., and I dreamed he would ask me to the banquet. And, then it happened! I was ecstatic! But then, as I turned a corner around the snack shack, I ran into a group of laughing boys – including my Prince Charming. It seems that they were having a little contest to see who could invite the biggest number of “ugly girls” to the banquet – who would fall for the invitation, that is.
I felt as if I had been punched in the stomach. Ugly girl? Of course, no boy materialized on banquet night. I still remember the black and white dress I wore. I remember curling my blond hair and putting on my happy face and going to a meal which tasted like sawdust. I let those words, “ugly girl,” haunt my thoughts for way too many years. My guess is that many of you reading this may have similar little-big stories?
Fast forward a bunch of years – to 2015.
I was privileged to be accompanist for 28 years for The Greeley Chorale, an auditioned choral group which has gained fame with worldwide travels by singing in:
- * The American Pavilion on July 4th at the 1988 World’s Fair in Brisbane, Australia.
- * The jazz festival in Montreux, Switzerland.
- * The Mozart Requiem in the Votivkirche in Vienna, Austria and the Sheldonian Theater in Oxford, England.
- * Vespers services in St. Peter’s in Rome and St. Mark’s in Venice, Italy.
- * The huge outdoor amphitheater in Ephesus, Turkey – where the Apostle Paul preached a number of times.
Well – on to my point before I get totally lost in Memory Lane!
Being involved with Chorale brought healing in many, many ways as a musician/pianist and as a person loved by caring friends. Week after week brought heartwarming rehearsals filled with music which challenged me as a pianist and often gave rise to personal worship in my heart – even during the stop and start nature of rehearsals. Great choral music of all types was in our repertoire from show tunes to opera to American music to spirituals to large sacred works.
While I retired from that accompanist position several years back, they asked me to accompany two numbers in May 2015 to help celebrate Chorale’s 50-year anniversary. What a privilege it was to sit before “my people” again to play Randall Thompson’s Last Words of David, and Rene Claussen’s At the Name of Jesus.
After lots of applause and lots of hugs, I was thoughtfully tiny-stepping my way in heels through a snow storm to my car. Yes, it was snowing even though it was Mother’s Day weekend! But, I didn’t mind because the warm glow in my heart far outshone the freezing night.
And then it happened! A gentlemen came alongside me, took my arm, and said, “Let me escort you to your car.” We chit-chatted our way through a couple blocks, and he made me sit inside while he brushed an amazing array of snowflakes off my car, and then left with a friendly “Good night.” I had never seen him before, and will most likely never see him again. But, that one simple kindness made me feel beautiful!
A marvelous example of a little big thing which will always make me smile!
I think it is God who brought the long-ago camp incident to my mind as I drove home, just to let me know that it has no power over my thoughts any more!
Colossians 3:12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. (NIV)
♥ The original Camp Merrill is now the Nebraska Broken Arrow Wilderness.
I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about longings which feel exactly like losses – even though I’ve never experienced the longed-for thing.
Can you really lose something you’ve never had?
Apparently a lot of song writers think you can because when I googled™ that question, a whole flurry of song lyrics came up.
I remember the exact moment when I realized that not one drop of my DNA would go beyond me. I was at a family reunion and watched as my married brothers gathered their children and grandchildren together for pictures. While my personal desire to have children has always been tied to husband first, children second, the realization was still quite like a sledge hammer blast to the heart. I melted into a puddle of tears and fled to a quiet corner to be alone.
That awareness has served to give me great compassion for those married folks who ache to have children, but for varying reasons, cannot. Some go through the heartache of hoping with expectations which are dashed to pieces over and over. It brings some couples together in heart-to-heart ways they would never had anticipated. It tears other couples apart as each person deals with grief in different ways which shreds their relationship to pieces. Other couples struggle as one spouse wants children, the other does not. Each of these bruising experiences has its roots in that fateful day in Eden when Adam and Eve disobeyed God. Not only did they live their whole lives suffering the consequences, but they passed that legacy on to every one of us.
Paul understands those effects when he wrote Romans 8:35-39. He asserts confidently that the love of Jesus Christ cannot be shaken by trouble, hardship, persecution, famine, nakedness, danger, violence [sword], death, life, angels, demons, present, future, powers, height, depth, or anything else in creation. Well – that about covers it all, doesn’t it?
There are times when I allow some of these admittedly huge things to hide God’s love from my sight. There is a line in verse 4 of Charles Wesley’s great hymn, “O for a Thousand Tongues to Sing” which says, “He breaks the power of canceled sin, He sets the prisoner free!” Think of it! Even when we have Jesus as Savior and Lord in our lives today, we are living through the consequences of sins He died for 2,000+ years ago.
He wants us to live in the reality of canceled sin which has no power over us!
Read some more of Paul’s words in Colossians 2:14-15 from The Message: God brought you alive–right along with Christ! Think of it! All sins forgiven, the slate wiped clean, that old arrest warrant canceled and nailed to Christ’s cross. He stripped all the spiritual tyrants in the universe of their sham authority at the cross and marched them naked through the streets.
“Longings reveal something is missing in our lives yet our attempts to fill up the hole often leave us terribly unsatisfied. I explore the question, “What if our longings are sacred, given by God for a purpose?” **
Longings come in all shapes and sizes. There is no “one size fits all.” More and more, I believe that my longings are truly designed to drive me deeper into knowing God with every ounce of my being. Jesus alone is my Savior, is always with me, will never fail me. No person on earth can fill those shoes.
So, what about you? What are your longings? I appreciate your comments, and invite you to read Janey’s thoughtful comment to the post, “really good resolutions for us all.” I also see that I’m off on an internet trail of great thoughts from others about singleness and Godly longings.
** From website, “Deeper Devotion” by Elizabeth, a spiritual director
It was a very warm day in Venice, and I was enjoying a delicious cup of gelato with friends on a stone bench outside St. Mark’s Cathedral. Our community chorale was waiting to sing a vesper service in this historic place. I think I just had one spoonful, and suddenly – SPLAT! One of St. Mark Square’s numerous pigeons doo dood right in my gelato! Laughter erupted, of course, as I looked sadly at a treat never to be enjoyed. I’ve never quite thought the same about gelato since. 🙂
Pigeons had been a matter of concern at my little abode, also. The noisy, filthy little critters built little condos on top of my porch. They sat under the eves of my roof and splattered all over the outer walls. Money spent to pigeon-proof my house was money well-spent. Three-inch spikes kept them from roosting under the eaves and netting on the porch roof served to foreclose on their several-storied nests. For several days they lined up on the edges of the front of the house when I came home from work, voicing their displeasure as they swooped en masse at me when I went out for the mail. Finally, they accepted their fate and moved on. I have to say, though, that I did not find the Italian cooing versions any more attractive than the Colorado ones – especially when one ruined my gelato!
Isn’t that the way with life at times? We’re in our comfort zones, enjoying a pleasant day, and along comes something which changes the course of the whole day – perhaps the whole life. We have a neat little plan all in place and – SPLAT! Well, I know you have your own stories to tell, right?
I have to admit that as this Christmas approaches, I again struggle with the realization that my life has turned out differently from my plan. My plan included husband and family and personal traditions as a result. Well, there was just one thing which which complicated my plan. It needed someone other than me to complete it. Well, Mr. Other-than-me has not shown up yet. So much for that plan. 🙁
Several years back, there was a strong trend of choosing a life-verse from the Bible. I sort of flitted from verse to verse depending on what mood I was in, or what I thought would answer my heart’s cry. Somehow, I never seemed to be as blessed by “my verse” as those around me. And then, I read the story of Daniel and was riveted by the absolute commitment of him and his friends to God. Daniel 3:17-18 tells about three men who were just about to be thrown into a blazing furnace because they refused to bow down to worship a golden idol. Here’s what they said: “If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and He will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if He does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.” (NIV)
And then, it happened! Don’t get me wrong. I have absolutely no desire to be thrown into a blazing furnace. It’s just that the words, “even if He does not,” stood out to me. “Even if He does not deliver us from this blazing furnace, we will still trust in Him!” It was as if God said to me:
What if you are to spend the rest of your life unmarried? Will you still trust Me?
I’d like to be able to tell you I was like the much younger Mary in Luke 1 when the angel told her she was to be the mother of the Savior of the world. She placed herself totally in God’s hands even though she did not totally understand the impact of the words the angel spoke to her. (Luke 1:38) Scripture does not record much of the day-to-day realization which grew in her heart. My guess is that there were many tears as she daily committed herself to this incredible plan.
I certainly know it has taken an ocean of tears for me to finally accept that God has an incredible plan for me as a single woman. Along the way, I have asked God to show me how to be a contented and joyful onesome for however long that will last. Finally, I accept that the whys and why nots are not mine to understand – at least yet.
So, dear single friend – and any others reading this post – my prayer for you is what God said in Jeremiah 31:3 to His chosen people:
“I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.”
May you have a joy-filled day in celebrating the birth of Emmanuel – God with us – Jesus!
This quote from renowned family therapist, Virginia Satir, sounds nice, doesn’t it? But, if the statement is true, my guess is that there are a large number of “living dead” folks running around – unmarried and married. I love Webster’s definition of a hug: “to press closely within the arms.” Who doesn’t want that?
Here are some titles gleaned from an online search:
- ♥ 10 reasons we need at least 8 hugs a day.
- ♥ 7 reasons we should be giving more hugs.
- ♥ 4 benefits of hugs for mind and body.
- ♥ 9 compelling reasons why you need hugs every day.
- ♥ “Lord, I need a hug.” (book title)
We know that touch is imperative for the tiniest among us. If babies are not held often, their emotional development is arrested. You hoo! I think it happens to the rest of us, too. I don’t think we ever outgrow that need! Can I hear a very loud, “YOU’RE RIGHT!” Truth be told, too many singles go for weeks, even months without even a good side hug. Now, I know that many married folks don’t spend a lot of daily time hugging – and I think that is a crying shame! The opportunity is there, though. Built-in hugging sounds good to me.
Personally, I am fortunate to have a very huggy church family, so I get caught up on that activity on Sunday mornings. However, I barely make the “survivor” mode. That’s 28 hugs to account for 7 days.
About 15 years ago, I began to invest in monthly massages – mainly to deal with the knots in my shoulders – but realize that it also benefits the health and welfare of body, soul, and spirit. Of course, the fact that it just feels wonderful doesn’t hurt. I certainly have never made it up to the 12 hugs a day Satir thought was necessary for growth. I doubt many have. We are a hug-deprived society, methinks.
While the word “hug” does not appear in scripture, we see the concept as a loving and protecting gesture, especially for the tiny ones among us. We get the touching image of the shepherd holding little lambs close. (Isaiah 40:11) Most notably, we see Jesus taking little children in His arms and blessing them. My guess is that Jesus laughed and played with children frequently. (Mark 9:36; Mark 10:16) Another notable example of hugging is in the story of the prodigal son, where the father throws his arms around his returning son and kisses him. (Luke 15:20) Of course, the Song of Solomon is full of intimate touching as the writer expresses an ageless love song. Now, the word, “touch” is used often, but not so much in context of warm affection – until we read of Jesus touching folks.
- ♥ He touched those who had contagious diseases, such as leprosy, fever, etc. – forbidden in the Old Testament. (Matthew 8:3; 8:15)
- ♥ He touched those who had died in order to renew physical life. (Luke 17:4)
- ♥ He touched the blind, deaf, and mute. (Matthew 9:29; 20:34)
- ♥ And many people touched Jesus and even His clothes knowing that His love and healing would result. (Matthew 14:36; Mark 3:10; 5:27-31)
So, fellow hug-deprived persons, let’s work our way up to growth – 12 hugs a day. That’s 84 hugs a week! Ha ha!
But you, dear friends, carefully build yourselves up in this most holy faith by praying in the Holy Spirit, staying right at the center of God’s love, keeping your arms open and outstretched, ready for the mercy of our Master, Jesus Christ. This is the unending life, the real life! (Jude 1:20-21 – MSG)
A number of years back, while wrestling with the tough stuff of life, I spent nine days totally alone at a cabin in the mountains. The days were gorgeous; the nights cool; the smell of pine was refreshing; the sunsets were dazzling wonders of God’s imagination. I’m sure the sunrises were equally as dazzling. But, not being an “Oh boy, it’s morning. Let’s get up at the crack of dawn” person, I didn’t see those. 🙂
One day as I was reading, I heard a soft whimper, and looked into the eyes of the most adorable tiny cocker spaniel puppy which had appeared seemingly out of nowhere. Then, I could hear voices calling and calling for “Shenanigan.” The cabin was in the midst of dense forest, and I knew this little fur ball had picked his way through a gigantic maze of trees and tall grass looking for adventure. His adventure backfired, though, and now he was lost and afraid. I tried to coax him back toward the voices calling his name. But, he was having none of that. I was having none of it either, since I didn’t want to get lost in a sea of trees after locating his owners. So, we set off along the winding roads. Poor Shenanigan was torn. He knew he had come through the trees, and now this person was leading him away from where he had come. After a few false starts, though, he decided to trust me and began to follow right at my heels. It took about 20 minutes of walking to find his frantic owners, and with a little lick on my hand, he bounced back into his people’s arms.
Then, as God often does, He gently prodded me into realizing that I was much like Shenanigan. I was wandering around in a dense emotional forest.
The job I loved as Instructor of Music at a state university had simply disappeared when spoken promise of tenure was rescinded on the last day of school with a very terse letter. Suddenly my teaching and piano performance were not satisfactory after several years of praise. Since their notice was so late, they gave me another year’s contract – teaching honors classes – which made no sense to me whatsoever. No amount of questioning brought answers as to what had happened to change their minds.
A young man I dearly loved had simply walked away with a “Well, bye,” as he melted into a crowd of people, leaving me with a gaping wound in my heart.
A hurricane of broken dreams.
- * God, I’m totally alone. What do I do now? (Psalm 39:7)
- * God, where are You in all this? (Psalm 63:1)
- * God, do You love me? This doesn’t feel like love! (Psalm 109:26-27)
- * God, both of those things were the deepest desires of my heart. What happened? (Psalm 37:4)
It was during this time that I discovered the relevance of the Psalms. When I simply did not have words to pray anymore, I could pray those words aloud. There were prayers of –
Sadness – and joy
Anger – and peace
Storm – and refuge
Confusion – and clarity
In the midst of these emotional words were constant reminders of God’s provision and care – especially when I didn’t feel it. And, in the midst of these words were assurances that He does indeed hear the deepest heart cries. His responses often come, though, following those times when there’s nothing around but tall trees and deep grass – or a dusty and hot, or snowy and cold wilderness.
Solomon wrote: “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.” (Proverbs 13:12 NIV) God and I began to have loooooooooooong conversations about the hope deferred part, begging for the longing fulfilled part. Slowly, the truth of Paul’s New Testament words in Romans 5:1-5 began to sink into my soul.
(NASB) Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God. And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.
And God’s hope does not disappoint!
During those days at the mountain cabin, I could not know there would be many fulfilling years as a professional accompanist, deep, lasting friendships, and joy in sinking deeper into God’s grace and mercy.
So, dear reader, my prayer for you is that you experience more and more of God’s hope fulfilling your deepest longings!
I don’t know about you, but it seems that there is a super abundance of advertising for medications on TV these days. And while they are miracle aids for a myriad of ailments, most of the ads seem to be taken up with the dire possible side effects. I’m sort of waiting for one which says:
Take this for XYZ, but be aware that your legs might fall off in the process.
Now, I admit there have been times in my life when it felt as though marriage would bring total and complete happiness which would erase loneliness. It was magnified each time I attended weddings of friends and family, and then attended baby showers for the same – and then weddings and showers for their children. Even knowing in my head that marriage isn’t always warm and fuzzy, it didn’t help to be told that, when every fiber of my heart screamed out for that experience.
What does help is for someone to simply say, “I hear you! It is hard!”
That gives encouragement to walk through that tunnel into the light of “OK God. Now what are You and I going to do together?”
As you might expect from me when thinking about such weighty things, I went to Noah Webster’s great book – called the dictionary. 🙂
Of the word “lonely,” Webster says:
- * Sequestered apart from company or neighbors; in want of company.
- * Having a feeling of depression or sadness resulting from the consciousness of being alone.
Of a similar, but slightly different word, ‘alone,” he says:
- * Quite by one’s self; apart from others; without a sharer.
- * Unique, rare, matchless.
Now, the first definitions are quite similar in that they stress the apartness both represent. Re. loneliness, the thing which strikes me is that loneliness and depression can walk hand-in-hand into deep dark places which may seem to have no door out. And, for the single person, loneliness may take a variety of shapes and sizes according to the circumstance. What can seem like adventurous opportunities for some can be intense trials for others.
The boundaries of loneliness can be outweighed by the freedom of aloneness.
I have to admit, I’ve had a foot in both camps at times.
Buying a house on my own was a very daunting experience, and walking through “what have I done?” without another having the same vested interest, moved into “Wow, I can pound nails and paint wherever I want.”
Watching my brothers and their families at a family reunion and realizing that not one drop of my DNA goes any further than me was overwhelming at the time. Being blessed by nieces and nephews and their children (and even a couple of great-great nieces) has brought immense joy to my life.
Continuing to have a deep desire for companionship in marriage, while experiencing an equally deep and true contentment in where I am in life because God has brought me to this place in His plan and timing.
Living with paradoxical loss of what I’ve never had, while reveling in the deepening relationship with God made more precious by opportunities for friendships and travel adventures – and even this blog!
Singleness often provides a sort of human petri dish for loneliness, doesn’t it? But, it can also be a place of healing for unmarrieds and those around them. Once again, Scripture has some words helping to bring life to those who are alone and lonely. True to the 2nd definition above under “alone,” we have an infinitely unique, rare, and matchless God who loves us for those same qualities because He made us that way! Psalm 139 is full of truth affirming that.
Psalm 139:13-14 – For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful. I know that full well.♥
II Thessalonians 2:16-17 – May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word.
I Timothy 6:15-16 – . . . God, the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see. To him be honor and might forever. Amen.
Thank you for joining me on this amazing journey!
♥ New International Version – NIV