Today’s E-votional comes from beloved Sarah Thebarge, former Kings Speakers’ Series guest. You can find this blog, along with many others, at her website sarahthebarge.com 

This month on the blog I’m going to be writing about SINGLENESS, a topic that’s near and dear to my heart — and a source of a lot of consternation for me and my friends.   If you’re single, I hope you read along and let me know in the comment sections what you think, and what questions you have.  If you’re married, I hope you read along and follow the conversation, too, so you can have a better understanding and appreciation for your single friends.

With that being said, here’s post numero uno.

***

In March of 2014 I made some big changes.  I had been living in Portland, working as the Director of Communications at my church and working on some projects for a medical company on the side.  In March, I left my job(s) and moved to Santa Barbara, California…mostly for the sunshine.

I worked two days/week at an urgent care clinic, and spent the rest of the time traveling and speaking about themes from my book, The Invisible Girls.

Before I left Portland, I sat across the desk from one of the pastors on staff.  He wished me well and then said, “I’m excited for your California adventure.”

The he added, “And, by the way, you’re going to get married soon.”

“Excuse me?”  I said.

His comment caught me off guard.  I wasn’t dating anyone — and hadn’t dated anyone for a while, actually.  Why would I be getting married soon?

“Well, you’re attractive and talented and grounded, and I just have a feeling.  Just watch and see — a man will scoop you up any day now.”    I moved to California with those words still echoing in my head.

For the first few months in California, I felt unsettled, but I attributed it to all the life changes I’d just made.

Several months later, I realized the unrest wasn’t improving.  So I set up an appointment with a spiritual director.

She was a beautiful, slender, articulate woman in her late 50’s who sat and patiently listened to me lay out all of my issues and questions.

There were two main questions that I couldn’t answer, no matter how hard I tried.

-I’m single and spend at least half of the time all by myself.  The question I was asking was like the rhetorical, “If a tree falls in the forest and no one hears it, does it make a sound?”  I wondered, If I spend half my life by myself and no one sees me in those moments, does it matter?  Does my life matter?  And if so, Why?

You can say that the solitude is time for God to spend one-on-one with me, but if He just wants to spend time with me, why doesn’t He just take me to heaven?

And then the second question.

-How is it possible that I am absolutely convinced of God’s love for other people and yet I struggle constantly to believe the same for me?  I know in my head that God is love and that God loves me and that if something’s true for the rest of the world, it HAS to be true for me, too.  But why can’t I get that from my head to my heart?  Why are my doubts so strong and so loud and so deep?  What do you do when God feels far away?  What do you do when there’s not a lot of tangible love in your day-to-day life?

After listening to me lay out these issues, my spiritual director closed her eyes and was quiet for a moment, “listening to the Spirit,” as she said.

Then she opened her eyes and said, “I think what we should do is meet together every week so we can pray for your life partner and prepare you for marriage.”

I’m usually pretty stoic, but I have to tell you, I had a visceral reaction to her words.  My body cringed and a wince flashed across my face.

“You disagree?” she asked.

I nodded slowly and tears welled up in my eyes.

She had completely misunderstood me.  The issue at the core of my questions was the absence of God, not the absence of a man.  I wasn’t asking her how to “fix” my singleness.  I wasn’t asking how to survive until a man rescued me at the altar.  I wasn’t asking for help to prepare for marriage.

Because, in spite of the marriage comments from her and the pastor in Portland (and the evangelical culture that often uses marriage as a mark of maturity and adulthood),  there’s something in me that believes that singleness is not regrettable; it is valuable.

That single people need community more than courtship.

That singleness is not a problem to be solved or fixed; it’s a unique opportunity that has not only unique complications, but also unique potential.

And I believe in my soul that it is possible for single people like me to not only “survive” this season, but to thrive in it.

The question is, How?

After lamenting the fact that no one seemed to have the answers to these questions, I decided that maybe it was time for me to search for them myself.