Filing your taxes isn’t the usual time to be moaning about a relationship status but here I am, early February and filling out Turbo Tax and suddenly that pang hits.
I blame the silly first page of questions.
Have you changed jobs?
Have you moved?
Have you changed relationship status?
There it is. Nope. Still single.
(That’s not my turbo tax page just FYI).
Pangs about singleness happen predictably and unpredictably. The turn of a new year, a new birthday, and oddly, tax time are predictably sad moments. I get them unpredictably throughout the year as well but milestone markers are hard.
It is a reminder that I am still single. I have been ready for marriage for a long time. Yet, the decisions I make in life, coupled with the decisions other people make, plus the mystery of Divine Providence have left marriage elusive.
Eighteen months ago as I moved to Ohio, I thought if work brought me to the States rather than Europe, one benefit would be meeting more people. I assumed moving back to Ohio where I am part of a semi-mega church would be a great place to meet someone. (You all know I am holding out for a guy who really loves Jesus, not a cultural Christian right? I think everyone knows that.. but just for the strangers on the internet who might read this. Hello, readers in Oman and Uruguay!)
I’ve maybe met 4 single guys in the last 18 months at a church of thousands and had zero ask me out even for a date. It’s my song in life. It’s really a bit disheartening. I had a similar experience at my church in the UK.
“Do you try online dating?” people ask. It’s 2017 and I am still single. Of course. Yes. Yes, I am there. I have been on most of the sites. I recommend people do it. If you meet no one, you might as well put a profile out there and try to meet someone. However, for me, I hate it. I wish the people we met in real life would just ask us on dates. It’s JUST coffee. I find the online thing to be HORRIBLE.
I basically get bored really quickly. That’s my main problem. I also find the sifting to be way too frustrating. “Favourite” story from last years’ online attempts: start emailing with a guy: cute, loves Jesus, good conversation, was in full-time ministry for ten years so we had some things in common (and thought that would mean he was more serious about his faith). Just before we grab our first coffee, he emails to let me know, “just because of the kind of girl you are….”
He’s still in the middle of a divorce and it’s not final.
Some friends in England call me “pocket rocket.”
I was so mad I went back to find him online two weeks after I revoked my date acceptance to yell at him. “You are still married in the eyes of God AND THE STATE. You are not LEGALLY single. Sort yourself out. Deal with whatever broke up your marriage. And don’t put women like me in compromising situations!!”
What do you mean? The kind of girl I am?! The kind of girl that doesn’t date married men? I should hope so.
Then there was the guy who thought we’d be a great match who had answered a question:
“Do you think the life of one American is more valuable than ten foreigners.”
He answered? “Yes.”
Eeessssshhh. There is somethin’ WRONG with your gospel dude. I don’t even want to be friends with someone with a mindset like that.
I’ll stop with the online stories.
Then there was the guy I met in another state. Really lovely. Instant chemistry. He asked for my number. Called me as soon as I returned to Ohio. We spent 12 weeks texting ridiculous amounts every day from dawn til dark and racking up maybe 3-4 phone calls a week. Swapped testimonies of coming to faith that first conversation and he told me he liked me before the end of the first week and wanted to come see me in Ohio. He’d call and sing songs onto my voicemail frequently. Cuuuute. I finally ask “what we should call this” after a few months and he feigns shock. “What do you mean?”
I tried to grapple with the question a different way and he answers:
“I never planned on us being anything but friends.”
Whaaaaaa?!?!? On what planet?! In our 30s?! You spend 8 hours a week on the phone with a girl telling her you like her regularly, but call that “just friends.” You must be joking.
To make matters worse, he had TOLD me the first week we started talking that he liked me and wanted to come to Ohio to take me on a date and had not ever mentioned a change of heart on that one.
Well, that was the end of that. He thought we could continue our regular communication with no change. Na uh. No way josé.
Honestly, dating is so hard. But it’s not even dating. It’s the non-dating. The non-dating process sucks.
The thing is I have had a fair amount of interest from guys over the year but never, never from guys interested in Jesus. I really want to date a guy who loves the Lord.
And you know, doesn’t fake date a girl and call it just friends. That would also be nice.
I have said no to some really lovely guys because of my desire to have this life centred on Christ. That has been hard. Sometimes I just want to date them. The Christians just do not ask. Or do not act in a way that is Godly. My worst experiences have been with Christian men. The older I get, it’s become one of the hardest parts about being a Christian. Saying no to a lot of guys who aren’t interested in Jesus but are really kind and cute and are forward enough to ask for the date and have great character is tough. That used to be an easy no because my faith is a really central part of my life but it is getting harder and harder. Every time I walk away from a great guy who has bothered to ask, I feel sad and a little tired. Sometimes, I really want to toss that value (of wanting a real Christian). It’s a real struggle.
So what does a girl do? I don’t have all the answers, I am in process, but here is where I am at the moment:
I wrestle with God. I tell him how frustrated I am. I sometimes yell at him. I talk to close friends who feel safe and share the junk in my head I am wrestling around with. I am wrestling with Scripture.
2.) Be Honest
There are sometimes really unhelpful caricatures that float around in church. “Christian men are somehow better, kinder, etc.” No. I have been in ministry for a long time and know horror stories of train wrecks. Common grace is alive and well in the world and sometimes unbelievers are kinder and resemble Jesus much more than believers do. I have been treated much better by guys who don’t claim to follow Christ and been treated terribly by those who do.
Sometimes it’s better to get rid of the caricatures, the cha chi pithy sayings: “Oh you’ll find someone when the time is right.” Says who!? People don’t always. Christian women certainly don’t always.
I am not waiting for a Christian man because I think he will be a better person. In fact, I know enough difficult marriage stories that I am a little afraid. Marriages blow up. Christian marriages blow up and people walk away from God.
I am waiting for a Christian because I want to be obedient to Jesus. I want Jesus to be Lord. I want to marry someone who wants Jesus to be Lord (read, in charge). But I find some days I just want to give up on that. I want to read the Bible with someone and have a husband that will pray with me. I want someone who thinks leadership looks like being a servant because that is what the gospel looks like rather than the way our world’s leadership looks like which is being the one who can control the conversation the most. I want someone who wants other people to hear about the good news of Jesus and doesn’t think I am nuts for sharing that with others.
But in the middle of that, honesty is needed and saying it’s hard and not glossing over anything is important.
3.) Hold on to Jesus.
Jesus is really good news. I experience the unconditional love of God. He died to make me clean and right with God when I am not. The cross takes away shame. What else can take shame away from us? He loves me on days when it is lonely. He has not forgotten me. I never need to impress God. I don’t need to be good enough. Jesus has already done that for me. Jesus has lived perfectly in my place. I can stop striving and rest in him. That is really unlike the way we live in a world that always tells us we need to prove ourselves. To think I can rest that way with the God of the universe? Crazy. It gives my heart a rest and a desire to want to be more like Jesus because I don’t need to strive to prove myself. The gospel matters and is life changing. Who Jesus is has changed my life in really transformative life-giving ways. If I had not tasted that, waiting around and living differently in the realm of dating would just not be worth it at all. But, I have tasted the goodness of God and it’s hard to walk away from that…
4.) Apply the gospel everywhere
That means when I am exasperated, asking God to help me give people grace. I certainly don’t have it together and the guys I’d like to date don’t. We all need the grace of God for the way we don’t treat one another well. We need Jesus to change us and help us love more selflessly. It means when I go 18 months without hardly meeting single guys, I remember my hope is in Christ and not in my singleness or marital status. Applying the gospel means I try to remember people need the gospel like I need the gospel. Or reminding myself I need the gospel more than other people need it. It means, I share the gospel with potential dates when I’d sometimes like to just hide from Jesus a bit and make him less a big deal so I could date all the guys who pursue me. It means I end up saying no to some great guys sometimes because the desire for Jesus to reign over all of my life is a really big deal and I can’t walk away from that even when I try. The temptation to minimize my faith and just date someone is a real struggle some days. I’ll be honest, however, I know in my heart we all need to get to know Jesus even more than we need to find a great person to date.
So, by God’s grace… I’ll keep praying and awkwardly talking about Jesus with guys who ask me out.
Maybe he has yet to come to know Jesus yet and soon will.
Or maybe, I’ll just fill out Turbo Tax next year with another “single” check mark.
Who knows what a year will bring?