“Will your husband be joining you?”
The look of surprise was always the same. I had already seen it half a dozen times on my trip—always followed by a quick apology, and something along the lines of: “It’s just so rare for a young woman to be traveling in Puerto Rico alone.”
That had been the concern of my family, friends and co-workers as I set off on a solo trip that was half business and half pleasure into the heart of Puerto Rico. I call it the Taken effect.
“You’ll have to come back on your honeymoon. The island is best with a lover,” was the most common response.
Sweet. Let me put “Get a lover” right on the top of my to-do list.
The sun was dipping low behind the green mountains as I lay in my hammock a few minutes later. It seemed like a thousand sights and sounds were exploding all around me. The sky was a love sonnet from God, etched for the entire world to see … and I was alone.
“God. This sucks,” I prayed, “I know I should be grateful for this adventure, but seriously, can’t I have someone to share it with?”
You know the feeling—that moment when everything is perfect, yet something—someone—is missing. Ninety percent of the time, I’m happy being single and glad for the crazy adventures I’m able to have. But part of me always wishes for an adventure buddy—to have someone else with whom to share the moments and memories.
Growing up in the Church, I’ve heard many people call singleness a gift. These people take words penned by the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 7 and try to lay them across the shoulders of depressed singles as encouragement.
Being given the gift of singleness is as appealing and fun as receiving socks for Christmas. It’s one of those “gifts” that make you paste a shadow of a smile on your face while inwardly, you want to punch the giver in the face. Most of us want to give it back.
But then there are the people who cling to the gift, saying that marriage gets in the way of ministry. Suddenly, the “gift of singleness” has become an excuse for people in the ministry to hide behind the fear of commitment, let themselves go or be lazy in their relationships with others.
Both extremes miss the whole picture. Maybe it’s time to take another look at that gift.
Gifts don’t have to be big things like spouses, book deals, houses in Puerto Rico or ponies. They can be simple gifts of smiles, the taste of bacon, or the beautiful way candlelight flickers across a dark room.
Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
The bottom line is that He’s working for our ultimate good.
Psalm 84:11 makes another incredible promise: “…no good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless.”
God isn’t a cosmic killjoy orchestrating a wide variety of near-misses with the love of your life. He’s not sitting on a cloud, cackling at your sexual frustration or looking down on you for wanting to start a family.
He created love, marriage and sex and called them very good things.
It’s easy to recognize this, then look at singles and think they must be lonely. And while there’s some truth to this at times, there’s a huge difference between loneliness and being alone. The two terms aren’t interchangeable.
One is an emotion and the other is a physical state. When people marry to erase their loneliness, they wake up to find a ring on their finger, a spouse in their bed and the familiar ache of loneliness still at home in their hearts.
It’s easy to make an idol of marriage. After all, we’ve been told time and time again that we’re broken without a spouse. It’s what well-meaning aunts hint at when they ask you when you’ll be getting married or what happened to that “nice boy” you were dating.
Whether you are lonely or alone or both, you are worth more than your marital status. Please believe that. You are whole without a ring on your finger. You alone were worth Jesus dying for. He thought you were a big deal without a spouse. You don’t need anyone else to validate that.
Married, single, eternally celibate, or fill in the blank—if you are looking to anyone other that Christ to give you worth, you are setting yourself up for a disaster.
So how does all this fit with the concept of singleness as a gift? In Matthew 7: 7-11, Jesus talks about how God gives good gifts to His children. He finds pleasure in bringing you delight.
This might sound simple but I really believe that for some reason, for my ultimate good, it’s best for me to be single right now. I’m learning that bemoaning singledom is stupid. If you can trust the God of the universe to save your soul from eternal damnation, you should be able to trust Him while you waiting for a husband or wife.
Trusting in the sovereignty of God isn’t an excuse to let yourself go, become a recluse or ignore the broken places in your life. It doesn’t mean “The One” will show up magically on your doorstep and your relationship will follow the script of a Hollywood movie. That sounds nice and idealistic but in reality, it’s a really bad game plan.
Trusting means putting your best foot forward, preparing for good things ahead and realizing that while the timing is up to God, you still have to show up.
Get a haircut. Go to the gym. Get a makeover. Show interest. Learn a new language. Spend time volunteering. Take random trips to far-off places by yourself. You know—live a little.
Walk confidently in who He created you to be, discover the joys He’s set before you and realize the dreams He’s hidden in your heart.
At the end of my whining session in the rainforest, I finally asked God to change my attitude. I asked Him to be my adventure buddy since I was flying solo. Honestly? It was a game changer for me.
Caitlin Muir is a coffee snob from Portland who finally found her home in Austin, Texas. When she's not daydreaming adventures, she's living one or writing about past ones at www.caitlinmuir.com.