My mother lives next door to my old elementary school principal. Every time I travel home to Idaho to visit my family, Mr. Turner pulls out of his driveway on the way to who-knows-where, stops in front of my mother's house, honks (at which time I come out into the yard) and motions me over to his SUV. "Let me see your hand," he says. Like a rehearsed play, I hold out my naked left ring finger where he looks for a rock. "Still single, huh? I just can't believe that a beautiful woman like you isn't married."
At this point, I say what I always do, "You better start praying!" I chuckle, he chuckles, but I still feel a little like someone just hurled a boulder into the pit of my stomach.
Mr. Turner isn't the only one who asks questions about my single status. My family does, too, especially my extended family, once a year when Christmas rolls around and we all meet to celebrate Christ's birth.
Yes, it's the season to be jolly—and I am; it's also the season for which Jesus is the reason (and I'm so very thankful for Him) but when I walk into the room where I am greeted by aunts, uncles and cousins, most of whom I haven't seen for 365 days, I know I'll probably have to dodge questions about my love life.
Can you relate? Do you wonder how you can handle questions about your singleness during the holidays? Here are some tips:
First, silence your internal questions
Several summers ago I had a hangnail on my big toe. I was the only one who knew it was there and it didn't bother me much while it was healing—until someone stepped on my foot, which made me almost jump through the roof.
Without exception, before anyone has ever asked me about my marital status, I have already posed the same questions to myself. That's why the questions hurt so much. It's like having a sore toe that someone unknowingly steps on. Therefore, you can deal with the pain of the questions about your single life by bringing them to God for healing and truth before anyone has a chance to ask them. That way they won't hurt quite as much.
Here are some questions you may have asked yourself about your single life:
- What is wrong with you?
- Why haven't you found anyone?
- Do you think that you are too picky?
- Why aren't you seeing someone?
- What went wrong in your last relationship?
- Aren't you tired of being alone?
- Why haven't you held a relationship together?
- Have you ever thought that perhaps you just aren't good at making love last?
If you ask yourself why you are alone, reaffirm your trust in a sovereign God who loves you. If you doubt your ability to love, believe that God is able to give us the right kind of heart needed to love others. If you think you're somehow dysfunctional, and that's why you can't have a relationship, remind the Devil, who is the author of accusation, that God dearly loves you and that He has created you for a particular purpose and plan which is unfolding day by day.
Take your questions to Christ and let Him minister to the hurt before you see your family or friends. Then, when someone brings up a question you've already asked yourself, you can come back with a peaceful, faith-filled answer.
Focus on others
It's been a few years since- I attended my twenty-year high school reunion. I loved my classmates and I was looking forward to seeing everyone again—but I wasn't looking forward to answering questions about my personal life since I am the only woman who hasn't married. So, I decided to make a plan of attack on how to deal with questions like Mr. Turner's.
Rather than focus on the pain of being single, I decided I would reach out to my classmates from the beginning of our reunion. I would hug them, look them in the eye and try to make them feel as comfortable as possible since many of them would probably be feeling as uneasy as me.
After we greeted one another, I walked around each table, smiled and gave them a big squeeze. Wouldn't you know, something amazing happened? My worries about my love life and what people would think about me being a modern-day old maid vanished. Instead, I was blessed as I blessed my old friends.
In the same way, when you can arm yourself with a heart for service to love your family and friends over the holidays, you'll stop focusing on the questions they might ask, and instead, you'll bless them. You'll be liberated, I promise. And beside that, you'll glorify God.
Don't dwell on what you don't have
When I was a teacher, I learned that the best plan of attack for a smooth running classroom was always preparation. The same applies when dealing with love-life inquiries. Before you meet those whom you think may grill you on your dating life, focus on what you do, rather than what you don't, have. This will arm you with an attitude of gratitude and take much of the sting of the inquisition away.
What do you have? What has God given you? Do you have a great group of girlfriends? A wonderful niece? A marvelous nephew? Do you have the ability to make Christmas cookies and share them with others? Focus on what you do have, not on what you don't, and you'll face questions about your love life with greater peace because you'll have the right heart attitude.
Don't get me wrong; I'm not saying that you will never hurt once you do these three things, but I will guarantee that you will handle questions gracefully, with love and in the kind of faith that will make God proud!
Shana Schutte is a freelance writer, author and speaker living in Colorado Springs, Colo. (www.runtogodministries.org)