At Velvet Ashes, a watering hole for women living overseas, we’re ending our special three week series on parenting, marriage and singleness. We end each with with The Grove and gather around the topic for the week. The following was The Grove post for “singleness.”
I was 19 and was talking to a fellow counselor at the summer camp where I worked. Many of the counselors were older, married, and mothers to a camper. She smiled and in response to the confident age I announced I was going to get married she said, “I hope it works out, but when you get married isn’t something you can control.”
Guess what age I moved to China.
In a sense, I have been married ever since.
I have put off writing this post more than any other I have written. If I’m awake in the middle of the night, my mind drifts to it and I dread needing to write.
Here are two reasons I don’t want to write this – 1. I do not want to be a go-to person for singleness. This was not my dream. I did not picture myself being single and though I am very, very happy. I do not think it’s because I’m single. So it’s hard to write about something that has nothing to do with my contentment. 2. Though very, very happy, I can still feel like an outsider at times.
You know this month we’ve looked at TCKs and marriage and now singleness. You also know one of the reasons I love Velvet Ashes is because we are a place for all women. Single, married, happy overseas, drowning overseas, divorced, raising little ones, living in empty nests, young, old, in-between. There is something we each can offer to one another. I need you and you need me.
But as a 46-year-old single woman I also scare you. And that makes me sad.
As we planned out these three weeks, there was a throw away comment. “We need to protect the hope of the young women and if we only hear from older single women … well.”
I am no longer the “young” single. I am the cautionary tale. When did that happen?
Young single women reading this, cherish your dreams, your longings. I love the energy and hope you bring to us, to me. I love the ways you throw yourself at life and have so much before you. If you hope to get married and have children and bake cookies and build family memories, this is good and honorable and exciting.
But it is not a given.
We started this conversation in December and one of the questions in the comments asked me how do you have peace and joy as a single person.
In that post I wrote about playing Old Maid and said: When it comes to singleness, I can say this for sure: Jesus is into being a game changer. And I stand by that. Jesus values and loves and uses and disciplines me because I am, not because I am _(fill in the blank)______ (single, married, a mother, awesome at language, a killer baker, a sports fan).
No, He places value on every single person simply because they are. When he declared “It is finished” from the cross, he changed who is invited to “play the game.” He did not, however, throw out all rules.
I said above I do not think my happiness, joy, and contentment have anything to do with being single. Here is the secret to my contentment: accepting the reality of limits and freedoms.
I do not dwell on what I don’t have. I enjoy what I do have.
As a single person, I have limits placed on me. But getting married wouldn’t change that reality, it would shift it. I’d still have limits.
On the flip side, I have all kinds of freedoms as single person. Parents have freedoms too, they just look different than mine.
I have been in the unique position of having a dear friend with the same name, major in college and love for the Lord. The major difference, she married when we were 21. Our parallel lives have allowed us to “do life” on similar paths separated by continents. We offer each other a glimpse into “what my life might have been like.” So much sameness, so much difference.
A few years ago she said the kindest thing to me, “Amy I didn’t know what I was choosing when I got married at 21, you have shown me much by making different choices.” She is happily married and the mother of three (how can the oldest soon be going to college?!). But she sees that I haven’t missed out on life, I have lived full-on, engaged and invested.
To my sisters reading this who want to SCREAM, “BUT I DO NOT WANT THIS LIMIT.” I hear you. Neither did the woman whose husband had an affair, or had a child who is on the autism spectrum, or she herself has health problems. Life does not always happen the way we’d want. Living within limits is not just for the single.
Our limits point us to God. They say, “This is where you end. You are not limitless, only I AM. I give you limits to remind you who you are so you remember who I AM.”
Cry out, unabashedly, and unashamedly to God.
But like the good Father he is, it’s not all about limits. There are freedoms offered to each path in life. And I delight in my freedom. When I was deciding whether or not to leave the field for a season, one benefit I had was I was only deciding for one. If I crash and burn, I’m only taking one down. When I want to exercise on a Saturday morning, I don’t have to coordinate with someone, I just go.
I have more to say (of course =)), but this conversation will continue to unfold over time, right?
What limits and freedoms do you experience? What helps you be content?
I appreciate how you note that all of us as women regardless of “station” in life have something to give to each other. AMEN. I wonder also, if the broader Christian community would step back and look at how scripture uses the word mother / father sometimes: Paul considered himself a “father” of many and Jesus considered Himself as a “mother” hen.
At our church’s most recent Mother’s Legacy breakfast this month, unfortunately we limited “mothering” to the horizontal concept of bearing or nurturing physical children. Where are our eyes? Do we not see that nurturing and caring goes beyond our physical & legal relationship? Might we see with Paul’s eyes, might we respond with Christ’s heart…for it is ONLY Christ within me, the hope of ANY glory, that brings full contentment, peace & joy.
Might we be freed from the cultural here & now and remember we are priestesses & Daughters of the King!
Amy, this is spot on. Newly single, sharing kids, it is a discouraging place of “limitation.” And the life of the moment is enjoying freedoms. Dance classes because I’m not on dinner duty and corn dogs for dinner because kids don’t care. The unknown is the most difficult for us all, though, right? What if I always live with A or B limitation, and what if I don’t? What if I hate Cha Cha, and my kids go Paleo? What do I hope for, what do I pursue as a worthy dream? It’s a dark place, not because of the discouragement, but because we don’t know. But when I sit in darkness, the Lord will be my light. (Micah 7:8) I take that on faith. Because the darkness, by definition, is a blind spot. :) Thanks, as always, for your transparency.
Such an astute commentary on singleness, Amy, and one that will evolve over time (as you are still quite young, my friend!) But having spent many years married and many years single, and having a child and grandchildren, I realize that whatever stage in life or status of your life, there are limitations and precious freedoms to be experienced. ALL ARE WORTHY and all are to be treasured, as this is what God has provided for us. I miss our Small Group gatherings already, but am looking forward to June 28 or 29 at my place for food and fellowship (and swimming if desired).
Amy, I want to thank you for this post. Personally, it is very timely and befitting. You uplifted my drowning spirit tonight. My eyes are swollen from crying all day questioning God of His plans for me. I have been on this very dark moment before when my mother died and I can vividly remember how I berated God and questionned His existence. But I confessed about it, and asked for forgiveness. I promised Him that I would never ever do that again but I need His help on this because to follow Him, in every sense of the word, is to not question His ways but simply to obey. I am still hurting but this post helped in some ways. God bless!
Amy, I have to admit that sometimes (more so recently than in the past) I’ve had the feeling that I’m an interloper reading your blog. I catch myself asking questions like, ‘Why am I reading a blog that feels tailored to women?’ or, ‘When did Amy’s blog become dedicated to women?’
I know that your intent is not to write exclusively to women, but that’s how I feel sometimes these days.
But I read it anyway. :-)
And you never (well, hardly ever) fail to say something that speaks to me.
What limits do I experience? Oh my! What a question to ask myself at this point in life! The answer has nothing at all to do with singleness or marriage, although I’m forever grateful for my wonderful wife who helps me to live with my new limits. Limits like not having enough energy some days to finish the day without crashing to bed by early afternoon. Limits like not being able to run anymore or turn my head too quickly for fear that I’ll lose my balance and end up flat on my face. Limits like having to give up any position of leadership because I just can’t function anymore at a high enough level to be fair to those I’m supposed to be leading.
What helps me be content? I have to admit that this is what I struggle with the most – being content with where He has me now. It has nothing to do with geography, but rather with the things that I CAN’T do anymore. It’s been a hard road to go down, to discover who the “new” me is, and then to accept it.
I’m still in process on this, and I’m so thankful for my wonderful wife who is a constant source of encouragement and comfort.
And it has been amazing (I don’t use that word lightly!) what the Father has taught me, not only about who I am (that has nothing to do with the things that I can’t do) and who he is, and how much he loves me. I am more deeply in love with him now than I have ever been! I still find it extremely difficult to accept my new limits, but I know he is faithful and will give me everything I need for each day to honor him with my life, whatever else I can – or can’t! – do!
Amy L. (formerly F.) ^_^ says
Our dear friend G is visiting and I don’t have much time to write but THANK YOU for expressing what is on so many hearts….single, married, or otherwise. Having enjoyed the single life immensely (while often referring back to Phil. 4:11-13….and still do!) and now married “late” in life, (enjoying and learning to appreciate that more as well), your reminder about limits in all stages of life is true. Like you wrote, I need to be reminded to cling to the One who is infinite and sets those limits to make me foremost dependent on Him. To be content is to be confident in Jesus who holds my hand, dries my tears, and disciplines with love, all as I go forth willingly or with a dent in faith to obey Him and bring Him glory. Lord, in all this, may I appreciate what I do have and not what I don’t have or think I need. Onward! ^_^
I’ve read a number of posts on singleness, but yours gives me an entirely different perspective. When it comes down to it, aren’t we all cautionary tales? I love that you’re living fully right where you are. What a lovely, full story you have to tell!