When I moved out of my parent's house, no one told me how to scrutinize my credit report, live on a diet of macaroni and cheese or handle disappointment if I didn't marry by the time I turned 30 years old. Maybe I just didn't feel like these were important issues at the time. Or maybe, like millions of other single women, I assumed that my Mr. Right would make me his bride, take care of the finances and encourage me to buy food that wasn't of the pre-packaged variety.
Reality is so different than what I imagined nineteen years ago. Since then, I've won the battle of the bank book and have only sometimes eaten SpaghettiOs from the can. But the one thing that hasn't changed is my marital status.
For the life of me, I can't figure out why I haven't met a mate. I'm open to love, family and marriage, I'm emotionally stable and I've prayed countless times for a spouse. Still, I haven't met my husband.
Over the years, I've come to terms with my singleness. I've learned to cut out the whining and to celebrate life.
The most important thing I've learned is that I don't have to trick myself into believing that life is good. When we focus on others, when we strive to serve God, when we choose to believe that He is in control of our lives, that He loves us and knows what is best for us, we're more likely to focus on "whatever is good, whatever is lovely" (Phil. 4:8) like Scripture commands. Which I know from experience is much better than focusing on what you don't have and feeling miserable.
This isn't an easy mentality to embrace. It's even harder when it gets lonely or when fears about the future set in. The key is to go on the offensive. These are a few ways that have helped me combat self-pity, embrace joy and celebrate life:
- Start a gratitude journal. I once watched a movie in which a woman asked the main character, "Can you think of a time when you were really happy?"
I asked myself the same question and immediately thought about one Christmas when I taught my five-year-old niece to stand on her head. This memory reminded me that if I make the effort, I can find joy in the smallest things. Paying close attention to life's little details—and then writing them down—helps me to remember little everyday moments as a celebration of life.
- Make a list of passions. I recently visited a Web site of a young woman who decided to celebrate her single life by creating a list of 38 things she wants to accomplish. Her wish-list included learning to dance, going sky-diving and taking a road trip with her sister. Like me, she's not anti-marriage. In fact, falling in love and having a family is near the top of her list. But writing these passions down reminds her of everything that she loves.
- Pour yourself into someone else's life. Last year I struck up a friendship with a young woman I met at a coffee shop. Turns out, she was looking for another woman to mentor her. Because I've been mentored, I know how it can encourage both people involved. Giving my time and heart to someone else has easily fostered my attitude of gratitude.
Opportunities in your church or community to help others are abundant. Take a first step by asking God how you can serve and then keep your eyes open for ways to help someone in need.
- Reach out to others to meet your own social needs. I'm always amazed when I hear someone say they are disappointed in a church because no one greeted them. I gently want to remind them that others may be just as uncomfortable to step out and make friends as they are.
Remember that if you are lonely, there is someone just like you nearby who is lonely, too. After you make the first move, consider taking the next step by inviting a group of singles over for dinner or start a Bible study in your home.
- Do something that you couldn't do if you were married. Don't miss out on opportunities you might not be able to do in another chapter of your life, like taking an extensive missions trip or starting your own business. Don't forget to thank God for what you have.
Celebrating your singleness does not mean you'll be single forever. It doesn't mean that you've decided to become a monk or join a nunnery, that you have to stop asking God for a mate or that you won't be lonely sometimes. It simply means surrendering to where God has you now in your life.