I recently read what I suppose could be called a Meme and was shared on the Facebook wall of my niece. I was struck by power of this simple statement,
“It was one of the best days of my life, a day during which I lived my life and didn’t think about it at all.” – Jonathan Safran Foer
What was paradoxical about that statement was the article I had just read only moments before. It was an article about infertility and couples who must bear up under the weight of unrelenting disappointment. The bitter isolation that only the two who hope for a miracle must suffer through, together, but alone. (http://natepyle.com/the-disgrace-of-infertility/) By the way… if you haven’t read Nate Pyle’s stuff, you really should! I’m constantly blessed by him! Thanks Nate for accepting my offer of friendship and for sharing your life so openly!
While I don’t want to compare the hope for a child with the hope for a life mate, the two are similar in that they are about unmet need. There is a big difference between not getting something which we desire simply because we just fancy it, and the feeling of disappointment or longing that comes as a natural part of our humanity or how we are wired to be. An instinctive driving life force if you will. The need for a Woman to bear a child, the need of a couple to raise a family and the need of a Man to love a Woman and vice versa.
What I found interesting about the “best days of my life” statement was what it made me consider. It made me consider my reality and what is real. My reality is that I am single, but is that who I really am? Being single is merely a state in which I currently find myself. I’m not just single though. I’m also a father to two wonderful children. I’m also blessed to say I’m a friend to a significant number of good friends. There is more, but these will do for my purpose today. The difference between them is that the latter two satisfy some of my core human needs for relationship. They allow me to live my life in the way that I would hope to… but is that all that is best for me?
What I’m asking is whether I’m challenging myself enough or have I become complacent to live in an existence or state of being. There is so much more to life than wishing I had all that I wanted in the way that I want it. I’m not saying that we should forget or bury the human desires of our hearts, but rather, to consider that while those may remain unfulfilled for the moment, we must still live our lives. There are times when life is hard and challenging because we must also live with a deeply rooted human need that we may have yet to realize. While I can’t know the particular need of a single Woman who longs for a child, I can certainly identify with the suffering that that unmet need can bring. Being single in itself is similar in that we must walk that process completely alone. Sure, there are things like friendship or a pet that can bring us solace, but at the end of day, we find ourselves eating dinner and crawling into bed… alone.
It’s what we do in these moments though that define what can be an awful, lonely existence or the makings of an opportunity to meet the next part of our life. What I’m getting at is that if we allow ourselves to be sucked into and focus on our pain, we will let our lives wash by! I’ve seen so many people who’ve been trapped in the cycle of loss or unmet need because they CHOOSE to stay there. They remain focused on what they don’t have or what they’ve lost instead of what life can bring. Please don’t misunderstand, I’m not for a second suggesting that we do not honour process of grief if we’ve suffered a loss. That is a natural and healthy component of moving on, but it’s definitely a part of moving on!
No matter what we do in life, we can’t hit pause! Life marches mercilessly forward and we have no choice but to go with that flow! It’s how God designed it and it’s brilliant. I could trap myself in a singular view of life by remaining focused on how my need to be with someone is not being met, or I can live my life while I’m in this single state. Sure… it can suck at times, but there’s more to my life than my singleness. The point here is understanding that I have no choice in the matter! I could manufacture a life that I want I suppose, and maybe it would work out for me, but chances are that it would not. It would likely not because it did not occur as it should have. I’ve tried to force many things in my life and every single one of them has failed! Every single one! I’m done with that and so, while it hurts sometimes to be single, I would rather suffer that feeling than suffer the pain of further rejection or loss because I’ve compromised myself or manipulated someone else. I am who I am! I am who God created me to be and so I choose to do the one thing that God gave me to do… I’m living life! I’m not focused on what I have not yet realized, I’m focused on learning what I do not yet know and I live with an optimism for what today will bring. It may bring some reminder of my singleness, but it may also bring an opportunity to learn something new or, if I’m lucky the Woman I am to share my life with. The point is… I’m not going to dwell on it and I think that’s the point of the statement above.
Ok… tough question time.
Writing a blog for the world to read, I’ve received many kind emails from lovely people who say “how can you be single” or “you won’t be available long” and yet… I remain single. Before you jump to a conclusion, I’m not going to “boo hoo” about why I’m single; but a friend of mine wrote me to ask me how I deal with my singleness when my awareness of being single becomes acute. I think it’s a good question to consider in the face of the original statement “It was one of the best days of my life, a day during which I lived my life and didn’t think about it at all.”
I’m going to be very honest with what I’m about to share. I’m quite certain that there are some who may genuinely feel misunderstood or even a bit hurt by it as a result. If that happens, you’re just going to have to accept that what I’m offering is simply my perspective. I too have felt misunderstood or bewildered because of what I’ve seen displayed in my single and Christian walk. It’s just a part of being human! We all have our own unique perspective. Sometimes though, it’s how we offer that perspective and so, we need to be considerate in our delivery. That is my plea for grace. As you read my words, please remember this is just my perspective. I’m interested to hear (read) yours too.
I was recently asked by a trusted friend “Who do you turn to for comfort?” The great thing about this question is that it requires me to understand my situation very comprehensively. I must consider where I am in it before I can answer this question appropriately. I also realize that when I consider my situation, “my situation” is also contextual. How I feel and see things varies as time wears on. I may be out on a hike, at work, drinking a coffee in the morning while I write. The point is… I live my life and I don’t think about it too much until I stop to think about it. When I stop to think about it, I realize that in aspects, I may not be where I hope to be in some areas. I hope to be married and share a deeply committed life with someone. I hope to be deeply in love! I hope to share the wonderful experience of life with someone and I hope to share faith with them. I hope to make memories with them. That is not my current reality however.
I was then asked… “I’m sure that though you come across as cool, calm and collected, you’ve gotta have your days when you too feel like ‘nothing’s going according to plan’ or ‘if I’m as great as everyone says I am, why am I still single?”.
My friend then asked and stated “When you have these days? Who do you turn to and what scriptures do you turn to for advice? I was reading one of your old posts about people asking you why you’re single, and you said “I think it’s a strange question considering that they’re also single” – touche! Funny, we never see it like that.”
The person who asked me these questions and made these statements has become a friend and I love her for asking me. These are probably some of the most difficult questions I’ve asked myself when I consider why I am single or not? They are fundamental to how I view myself, understand myself and more, what I base my life upon… that is to say, in the living of it!
My answer again is that I just live life. If I feel blue or frustrated, I just go with it and live through it, no differently than I do when I’m happy. When it gets tough, I turn to close and trusted friends who know who I am and who understand both my heart and my faith. My brother is one of them. He’s a believer and he lives with faith, but he’s not connected to God or Jesus in the same that I am. That’s to say… in his walk, reading the Bible or going to church is just not a part of his program. I have to say though, that he really tries to understand my way of faith and attempts to meet me in it by asking very honest and hard questions that I’m quite sure Jesus would also ask. He tries to understand me and that is comforting. He doesn’t allow me to get away with anything or rest on excuses. I’m not one to do that as a rule (live in excuses that is), but hey… I’m human, I get bummed and sometimes wallow a bit like everyone else! I have many close friends who understand me in a similar way and I find comfort in talking with them too, but in the end… when the coffee, food or wine has been consumed and the conversation is over… I’m back to living life on my own. My point is that I surround myself by people who will challenge me with kind truth and will challenge me if I’m becoming complacent or stuck in a rut! The rest is up to me to challenge myself to do something about it when that happens.
As for turning to scripture… I don’t necessarily. It’s now how my mind and heart are wired right now. I rather more turn to God in prayer and discussion actually. I feel His presence with me all of the time…even when I’m not thinking about Him being present. He permeates my life. He lets me know He’s there. That’s just how it works for me. I’m often thanked for my kind and thoughtful posts because I’ve appeared to have connected to whomever I’ve written to. That’s because I don’t offer platitudes or scripture without offering my experience too. I think the single biggest comfort we can offer to one another is that we experience life too. That we’re honestly willing to share our joy and our pain. I think that’s the point of community. Its partly knowing that we’re not the only ones feeling or experiencing life. We’re not alone in our experience!
Seeing someone who is in pain and suffering and then saying… “there, there… have faith and hope because of what it says in Romans 8:12 and Jeremiah 29:11”. What the heck is up with that? Where is the empathy in that kind of statement? How is that relational? I know we’re all different and citing scripture is how some people choose to share, relate or express themselves, but without offering some relational experience… how can it offer solace or consolation?
How about honestly saying to someone… “I remember when I was sitting in the middle of the floor clutching my Dog and crying out to God… “how long must this go on?”” and being willing to leave it at that because they just need to know that they are not alone and that they’ve been heard. Sometimes, just listening to someone can be the kindest thing we can do for them. It may be all we can do for them.
Holy segue Batman… sorry about the rant and rabbit trail (did you see Alice?). Now back to the original questions… How do I deal with my singleness? If I’m selfish, I’ll dwell on ME, on what I don’t have instead of what I can do to live my life and to serve others. I let my relationship with God and my friends and family speak into my life.
What are the best days of my life? There have been many, but I honestly believe that the best are yet to come because I live in the hopeful anticipation of what will come next.