While listening to the radio the other day, the DJ interrupted my jams with a short “random facts” segment.
Reading from a study entitled “The State of Women’s Wellness in 2017,” he reported that 32% of women surveyed stated they feared being lonely more than receiving a cancer diagnosis. Whoa.
I checked three different sources to make sure this wasn’t some made-up story. It’s totally true. But how does one arrive at that conclusion?
I know people can feel lonely even when they have a significant other, but when I heard this, I immediately pictured women like myself: single, close to 40-something-year-old ladies. Women who might have such a strong longing for love that its absence makes them feel this lonely. So lonely that they would prefer to battle through cancer than to be single.
Now, if God decided that His plans for my life would not include somebody changing my last name, well, we would have to have a long talk. Scratch that. There would be a lot of talks involving at least one adult beverage, a pint of cookies ‘n’ cream ice cream, and Doritos, all on hand as therapeutic aids. But, I still can’t imagine getting to the point of feeling that lonely. The choosing-cancer-over-being-forever-boo-less kind of lonely.
But, if I let myself get real honest, the truth is that I am very familiar with that pit of loneliness. I have racked up a lot of frequent flyer miles traveling back to that place. I might not have arrived at the same hypothetical preference of desiring a disease over being the real-life black Bridget Jones, but I get it ladies. Oh, how I get it.
I so get being over that feeling of temporary chosen-ness. The good enough for now, but not forever. The endless, repetitive questions that run through your mind like a bad song on repeat: “Is it me? What if I did that differently? What if I looked like that instead?” The “one of these things is not like the other” feeling when you’re the only single person at the reception table because your “plus one” box was left unchecked…again. The fear of dreams deferred becoming dreams that are permanently laid to rest because he—and the guy your friend set you up with, and the guy who serves with you at church—is still just not that into you.
No sugar coating here. This sucks.
When Ours Plans Don’t Go As Planned
Problem is, when we get to the point of being vulnerable enough to share how we are really feeling (those “this sucks” moments referenced above), our vulnerability often gets dismissed as complaining or even worse, bitterness. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes I think feelings can veer off into either of those directions, but for most singles I know, expressing this deep longing for partnership is just that: an expression. An expression of what we desire, not an obsession to live out some unrealistic version of The Notebook. Precious ending, but too much drama. Please don’t sign me up for that.
Instead, like the 32% of women in this survey, I just want the freedom to have a moment to feel the things I am feeling, without judgment, and with acknowledgement that loneliness stings.
I am 37, and I don’t think I have to convince anyone that I thought a lot of things would look a lot different at this point in my life. Did I think I would be married by now? Oh, at least a good 10 years in. Heck, five years would have been totally acceptable. Babies? Honey, yes! All the babies! Well, I wanted five lovely little ones, but the older I got, I started subtracting. So we’re hovering around two or three right now. I digress. The point is, I had plans and thought they were pretty good ones. Then I slowly began to realize: “Oh, that’s not how this works, is it?”
See, I quickly began to understand that as perfect as I thought my timeline was, it was my timeline.
You might ask, “What’s wrong with that? Aren’t people supposed to have a vision for their lives?” For sure! Vision boards are my thing. But what happens when a cardboard collage filled with pictures of things that I hope will happen becomes the thing that I place all my hope? Well, that has potential to lead me down a road of utter disappointment, because I’ll be left chasing after things that won’t ever fully satisfy me.
According to many of my married friends, marriage and motherhood are not cures for loneliness. And this is coming from people who have awesome husbands and precious kids. Why? Because people are not perfect and were not built to carry the weight of our hope.
So what do we do if the things we hope for don’t actually happen? Yeah, this is not a question I’m thrilled about asking either. But honestly, what do we do with that one?
Well, I sure as heck don’t have the answer, and I don’t believe there is a person who does. But there is an answer. There are many actually.
Feelings Vs. Truth
As I began to dialogue back and forth with God, he began to remind me of the truth.
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Jeremiah 29:11
He is the one who gives me hope. He has specific plans for me.
I like my vision board, but if the God of the universe says he has plans for me, you better believe I’m going with whatever he’s got! I can’t think up anything half as good as what He has already planned. And, He is telling me that his plans are not meant to harm me but to prosper me. What?! I want all of that!
So, the minute that loneliness creeps in and tries really hard to make me think that unless I am in holy matrimony I am doomed to a life in that pit, here I am reminded that this couldn’t be further from the truth. Yes, there are things missing in my life that I deeply desire to have, and there are also many amazing gifts I currently do have that I would be silly to dismiss as second best.
Here’s another one:
Look…and watch—and be utterly amazed. For I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe. Habakkuk 1:5
What?! Well, this just got even more exciting! I have no idea how this word might play out in my life, but God spoke this in response to someone who was feeling really low, unseen, and unheard. God’s response to that feeling of abandonment: Just wait, I got you. (My translation.)
You know how many times I’ve felt that way? I’m holding onto these words as evidence that not only does God know every ache in my heart, he has a response that will amaze me! Yes, Jesus, I will sit back and watch you do your thing.
And there’s more:
Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him. 1 Corinthians 2:9
There we see it again: His plans (what he has prepared for me). This one is simple. Basically, Jesus is going to blow my mind with what He has prepared for me. Mic drop.
If I was into that kinda thing, I might tattoo one of these verses onto my forehead, but I have a job, and I like my face. However (cliché moment coming), I am straight up tattooing these words on my heart! I mean that in all of its cheesiness. Mark me with all of this all day!
The Third Option
And 32%’ers, I have not forgotten about you. As we enter into wedding season and are surrounded by everybody loving everyone and everything, know that I am with you, over here like, “Dang, Jesus, when am I going to get my lifetime boo?” But, when I think about how much God thinks about me, it honestly makes me super excited about the things he has up his sleeve for me. Yes, even if those things don’t include a husband at the time I want him or, dare I say, even at all (eeek, I’m squinting as I type this), I want what he has planned for me over what I have planned for myself.
I hope you can get to a place of wanting that, too, because He has specific plans designed just for you. Plans to heal the wounds of your past. Plans to address the present pain of uncertainty. Plans for the future that are set up to amaze you.
Now, hopefully those plans do include a nice, shiny new last name for all of us desiring such a thing. (#keephopealive) But if there is no changing, or hyphenating going down, let’s hope that whatever God does have for us is so much better than what we could ever dream up on our own. I’ve learned that it’s okay to hope for what we truly desire, as long as we remember to put our hope in the one who can truly and completely satisfy. So, for now, I’m gonna rock this name that I have, and today I’m totally okay with that. Ask me next week, and that response might change, lol, but for now that’s totally true.