Singleness and Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego

A while back, my pastor preached a message on the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego and the fiery furnace. I didn’t realize I kind of don’t like those guys until that moment. As they told King Nebuchadnezzar they refused to worship an image, they said a phrase I’ve read before but hadn’t fully processed.

If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up. (Daniel 3:17-18, NIV. Emphasis mine.)

marko-horvat-220259 (1)

Photo by Marko Horvat on Unsplash

But even if he does not.

It would have been bold, and perhaps would have sent a stronger message, if Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego had simply told the king their God would save them. Instead, they proclaimed that God is able, he would deliver them, and they also acknowledged they did not fully know what deliverance would look like. I can only assume they desired to live to tell the story, but they were still willing to trust God even before they knew the outcome.

Those words “But even if he does not” paint a picture of a kind of faith I don’t know how to have. It’s a faith to be admired, to aspire to, but it’s also the kind of faith that has the ability to make me feel like a failure. In the areas of my life, most specifically the area of singleness, where nothing seems to be worked out and I don’t know if or when it will or in what way, I desperately want to be able to have a “But even if he does not” kind of faith.

But it’s also the kind of faith that can drop me to my knees, unable to breathe for the realness and rawness of the ache of the unanswereds and unknowns.

Because one of my frustrations with being single is the expansive uncertainty inherent in it. I may have already met the guy I’ll one day marry, or I might meet him in two days or two years, or I may never meet the right guy at the right time and I will spend the rest of my life single, only ever wanting and hoping for things to be different.

I have no way of knowing.

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego didn’t know what their outcome would be either, yet they found a way to trust God anyway.

God’s goodness, his trustworthiness, his lovingness do not depend on him doing what I want him to do. He is all of those things and so much more, always and forever, independent of my wishes or the actions he does or doesn’t take in my life. His goodness doesn’t depend on whether or not he brings me a husband.

Those are such easy words to type, and seem laughably simple–of course God’s intrinsic nature doesn’t change based on whether or not I get married. My ability to trust in his goodness sometimes seems to though.

A “But even if he does not” kind of faith fully recognizes God’s ability to grant me what I desire, while simultaneously recognizing and not shying away from the truth that God’s will may not match up with my own.

And if that is the case, I am the one who has to change, not him.

Til next time…

~Brianna!~

p.s. Does your ability to trust in God’s goodness sometimes hinge on whether or not he’s acting as you’d like him to?

Advertisements

A Very Good, Very Single Life

It’s a new year, I turn 27 at the end of the month, and I am (still) single. Just as I have been at the beginning of every other year, and heading into every other birthday.

When I was in high school I attended a wedding of people who were 25 or 26, and I remember thinking, “I’ll definitely be married before then.” In the community I grew up in and still live in, marrying young is normal, almost expected even. Younger versions of me were foolish and prideful in many ways, but this–my assumptions about how a relationship would factor into my life–has proven to be the most glaring example.

tnkopaefsde-web-agency

Photo Credit: WEB AGENCY

A while back I read a post by the blogger Leigh Kramer that’s made me reconsider how I approach my life. She wrote, “I began dreaming about what my ideal single life would look like. Taking a future husband out of the equation entirely: what would a happy, whole life look like for me? What would need to be in place for me to feel I’m living my best life?”

Planning out my days and weeks on my Google Calendar has become essential to me, but even the phrase “life plan” nearly makes me ill. I like small bits of time to be planned ahead, but not big expanses of time. Yet as I considered Leigh’s post, I realized I’ve always been resistant to the idea of envisioning or planning for my long-term future in terms of being single. Months ahead, maybe even a year, sure–but to think much beyond that felt like giving up hope of things ever changing. Except when I look at my life, as good and full as it is, but very much lacking any reasonable prospects of marriage in the near future, I have to wonder if it’s more damaging for me to not think of my future in terms of being single. It’s all I’ve ever known, and it might be all I’ll ever know.

I’d be lying if I said that even typing those words wasn’t painful.

But it could be true. It doesn’t mean I’m a failure, or less than, or unworthy. It just means I’m single, and might always be. I can’t plan on my life becoming something it very well might not.

So how do I accept that, or at least as well as I can? How do I continue building a good, full life, even though it’s not the kind of good or the kind of full I imagined?

There are some obvious ones for me–despite my at-times complicated relationship with it, faith is always my utmost priority, even when I don’t do a great job of actually making it a priority. I know I’ll have no business getting married if being with him doesn’t make us both able to better love, serve, and glorify God because we are together than we would if we were apart. A tall order, but an important one.

Then there’s the people. I may not have a someONE, but I do have a lot of someoneS. The ones I share DNA with, and the ones I don’t but who have no less significance in my life just because we don’t find each other on a family tree.

Those two are easy, and while the order of the someones might have to shift a bit should a someone come along, they’d both still be there. But they don’t comprise a whole life. They might be priorities, but there’s a lot of living to do in all the other time.

I have no concrete answers for this yet. Will I learn to be okay if things don’t ever turn out the way I had hoped and imagined and prayed they would? How will I not just get through life, but fully embrace it for what it is?

What does a very good, very single life look like for me?

Til next time…

~Brianna!~

p.s. What does your vision of the good single life look like?

Why I Take Christmas Card Photos with My Goldfish

Most Christmas cards have pretty winter scenes or photos of adorable children.

Mine look like this.

copy-of-merry-christmas

This wasn’t exactly the plan, of course. If someone had asked me when I was a teenager what I thought my Christmas card would look like when I was 26, my answer would not have been “A picture of me and my goldfish in front of my artificial hand-me-down Christmas tree, of course.”

Yet, here I am. Year four of Goldfish Christmas Cards, which I think means I’m allowed to call it a tradition now. I don’t even remember where I initially got the idea, but my original goal was mostly for my own amusement. Even still, that’s a large part of the reason I do it–if I didn’t have fun with it, I’d stop.

At the same time, it’s come to mean a bit more to me. I decided I’m over the idea that only couples or families are allowed to have photo Christmas cards. I fully realize I’m not as cute as my young nieces and nephews who grace their families’ cards, but I like thinking of creative ideas for poses and pun-tastic phrases and sharing them with my family and friends. Though I try not to, I sometimes use being single as a reason for why I’m not a “real adult yet,” and I didn’t want to let my singleness be an excuse for not participating in the strange but lovely tradition of exchanging Christmas cards.

Is it a “normal” Christmas card? No. Is it how I thought my Christmas cards would look, or even how I want mine to look for the rest of my life? No. Is it an accurate reflection of where I’m at in life right now? Yup. I live by myself in the house I bought, and the only other creature who resides here permanently is my goldfish. So instead of a “2016 Update” letter included in a card with a typical winter or Christmas setting, this feels particularly fitting this year.

So from our bowl to yours, til next time…

~Brianna!~

p.s. If you’re single, do you send Christmas cards?

One Reason Being Single is Hard

For all its freedoms (and they are true and they are lovely), there are times when being single is not my favorite. While I’m a firm believer, though not always a good practitioner, of the idea that being alone does not have to equal being lonely, there are times when certain kinds of loneliness feel more pronounced.

mountain.jpg

Photo Credit: Levi Price

Lately, one of the larger difficulties of being single is not having one specific person. One person to take all of my stories and troubles and joys to, and in turn, not being that person for someone else. It’s not that I have no one–many times recently I have been thinking of, and rejoicing over, the abundance of good, deep, meaningful relationships I have in my life–yet for all they bring to my life, there is a particular kind of with-ness they do, and will always, lack. It’s the with-ness of having one particular person who has vowed to keep showing up even when it’s hard, to keep hearing the same stories even when they’ve heard them all before, to keep caring about the little things that matter to me even when they’d rather watch TV.

All of these wonderful qualities are ones that can be found in family and friends, and again, it’s not that I don’t have those. But it’s too much to ask just one of those people to be my go-to for all of life’s complexities. Burdens are better when they’re shared, and I know I would become an unhealthy mess of a person if I didn’t vent and talk things through with other people.

Yet for single people, I think that sharing burdens can be more difficult than for those in a relationship–not having one constant person means we have to spread them around a bit. One friend might be our person to talk to about frustrations at work, a different friend for talking about the lows and highs of singleness, and another friend for talking about the complicated mess of trying to be an adult. There’s a beauty in this, of having enough good, solid relationships where this is even possible–but there are unavoidable complications to it as well, and an ache of wanting to not need to remember who I talk to about which things, because there’s one person I can talk to about all of it.

Some of this might be “naive single person wishes,” and I realize that. Should I ever get married, I truly hope and intend to maintain other healthy relationships besides that one specific one. There will always be certain situations that specific people will understand better than others, because of shared history or experiences or simply because of who they are. I also realize that, along with having one person for all my stories, I would then become someone’s one person as well–there is immense weight and responsibility in that, which I hope I don’t take lightly.

Still, there are times when, and reasons why, being single is just plain hard. There’s a certain dimension of these qualities that cannot be met in the same way through family and friends, no matter how wonderful they are. I have a good life and am reasonably content much of the time, but I have no neat and tidy resolution to these thoughts. It’s simply the way things are right now, and will continue to be at times. It’s mostly okay, but it is also, deeply and truly, kind of hard.

Til next time…

~Brianna!~

p.s. What’s a reason being single is hard for you?

On Being Single: What if the Problem Really is Me?

I’ve spent years internally battling the lie that being single is a sign of something “wrong” with me. Marriage isn’t a reward for especially “good” people, and singleness isn’t a punishment for the “bad” people. They’re simply different, neither one being objectively better or worse than the other. This is truth. But there’s a piece of me that doesn’t always feel as though this is true. Society still seems to celebrate couples and marriage and families much more than it celebrates single people, and on an individual basis, I’m pretty sure I’d like to get married.

But I’m not. I’m nowhere close. My life is good and full and busy, and most of the time I can truthfully say I deeply enjoy it. These words I wrote several years ago still ring true though: When you desire something and that desire is coming from a good place, all the wonderful things in your life can’t make up for what you don’t have.

happy ever after.jpg

Photo Credit: Ben Rosett

It’s only natural for me to ponder why I am single. I’m fortunate to have a fairly positive sense of self-worth–I think I’m decently great, and I probably just haven’t met a guy whose particular brand of greatness aligns with mine. But inevitably there are times I wonder: What if the problem really is me? What if I’ve been missing some glaring flaw in myself all this time, and that’s why I’m single? Even with a good sense of self-worth, I also know I’m not perfect. My faith isn’t perfect, my relationships with my family and friends aren’t perfect, I’m not a perfect employee, I’m not perfectly fit, and so on. 

These aren’t uncommon things–I’d be incredibly suspicious of anyone who said they are perfect in all those areas. Exactly zero of the married people I know are perfect, and yet they managed to find a significant other. And, of course, therein lies the problem: If so many other imperfect people can find another imperfect person to hang out with for the rest of their lives, why can’t I seem to?

Am I not smart enough?

Am I not pretty enough?

Am I not outdoorsy enough?

Am I not Jesus-y enough?

Am I not _____ enough?

Rationally, I know other people’s lives aren’t mine, and everyone’s story is different and that’s a good thing. But sometimes it doesn’t feel like just a case of “we all have different lives to lead.” It feels a lot more personal than that.

So in these times when it seems like talk of dating, marriage, and weddings is popping up all over my life way more than usual, I have to remind myself of a few things. This is what I know to be true, even if it feels very untrue for a while:

  • I’m not perfect. Congratulations! Welcome to being a human. We’re all that way.
  • It’s good to identify specific areas of my life I want to work on, not because doing so will magically conjure up a significant other, but because doing so will make me a better person for life in general.
  • Marriage is not a reward, and singleness is not a punishment. It’s not a matter of being _____ enough to get married.
  • Singleness and marriage are both good. Just because I’m one right now doesn’t mean it will always be that way, and the grass is not always greener on the other side. The grass is just different.
  • There are things wrong with me, as there are with everyone, but I am not too “broken” to find a significant other. I haven’t yet, but it doesn’t mean I never will. And if I never do, I’ll make a kind of peace with that someday.

None of these are new or earth-shattering, but sometimes we all need to be reminded of simple truths. Now, will you share with me? If you’re single, how do you fight the lie that there’s something wrong with and that’s why you’re not in a relationship? If you’re not single, how can you support the single people you know?

Til next time…

~Brianna!~

Single and (trying to be) Unashamed

“So what is everybody’s family like?”

There are few statements that strike trepidation into the heart of a single person faster. It was a well-meaning question, and a fitting one given the situation, but I was glad someone else answered before I had to go. Trying to keep things light, I started out, “I am me,” and said a few other things about myself before gratefully letting someone else talk about their 2.5 kids and house with the white picket fence. Talking about my parents, siblings, and nieces and nephews wasn’t the kind of family they were asking about, and I found myself almost ashamed to not have a better answer to that question.

Except I shouldn’t feel ashamed of it.

195965_4603260291_2537_n

Even though I’m pretty sure I’d prefer to not be single, it is a fact of my life. But in certain circles, particularly in the ones I tend to roll in, marriage and kids are part of what people are supposed to do, and anyone who hasn’t reached those “milestones” is often looked at with pity and seen as perhaps a wee bit of a failure.

It’s not a failure to be single though.

Some people actively choose it, and for those of us who don’t feel as though we’ve ever actively chosen to be single but continue to find ourselves that way, it is simply our current state of being. It might always be our current state of being, or it might just be the stage we’re in right now.

A relationship or lack thereof doesn’t define who we are as human beings or dictate our worth, even though it sometimes feels that way.

 

There’s a piece of me that hates writing this post.

Especially this time of year, singleness is written and talked about a lot. My blog archives show I write about being single almost every February, and I’m fully aware that writing about singleness can come across as whiney, repetitive, and even entitled.

It should be the most obvious thing in the world that relationship status does not equal worth, but when I’m sitting in a room full of married people, that can be difficult to remember. They didn’t do something especially right and get “rewarded” with marriage, and I didn’t do something especially wrong and get “punished” with singleness. However much it might feel that way to me at times, it is not true.

 

So I keep writing about singleness because I need a reminder that it’s not bad, it does not define me, and I do not need to feel ashamed when people ask about my family and I tell them about my parents, siblings, nieces and nephews, and friends who are so close they feel like family. A single person’s definition of family might look different than a married person’s, and that’s okay. Our value is not derived from the people who may or may not be around us, at this time of year or any other. 

And I’ll keep writing about it in the hope that I’ll finally, fully, truly believe it, once and for all.

Til next time…

~Brianna!~

p.s. If you’re single, how do you answer questions about your family?

Singleness and the Myth of Scarcity

The simplest concepts can be the hardest to truly grasp. In her book Out of Sorts, Sarah Bessey writes about the idea of scarcity*, how the fear of not having enough can drive us to do terrible things. Scrabbling for enough for ourselves puts others down, and hurts us at the same time, even if we can’t see it.

So to say, “There isn’t scarcity. There is more than enough in Christ” seems at the same time so simple and yet so revolutionary.

But the Kingdom of God is more than enough. It is an act of faith to live with the narrative of abundance instead of the fear of scarcity. ~Out of Sorts, p. 227

Photo Credit: Flickr User jescapunk, Creative Commons

Photo Credit: Flickr User jescapunk, Creative Commons

There is no scarcity.

Scarcity thinking pops up most often in my life in regards to singleness. It’s an ugly little truth that when I see engagement announcements and wedding photos on Facebook, the thought often crosses my mind that there’s one less guy who could end up with me. Which is true, of course, so in a sense there’s something valid in that thought, but it goes much deeper than one less eligible guy.

It’s about wanting to be married, but it’s also about the lie I still sometimes believe that tells me the only way to a good life, a blessed life, a life truly full of happiness and joy, is to be married.

Which it’s not, but it’s hard to not want something good even if it might not be what’s best, at least right now.

Scarcity tells me God is using up all the good lives on the married people. 

As I look at that typed out, it seems like such a ridiculous statement. Of course he’s not using up all the good lives on the married people.

It can feel that way though, because feelings aren’t always in the sense-making business. When I look around me and see the happy couples and the happy families, it is so hard to not feel like God is withholding very good things from me. Which, in turn, makes me ask serious questions about him.

Is he good? Does he care? Is he listening?

My head answer is yes, but my heart answer is sometimes no.

So lately, I’ve been reminding myself:

There is no scarcity.

God’s goodness does not depend on whether or not I get married. His love and goodness and his essential nature of being for me is not reflected in the state of my love life (or lack thereof).

There is no scarcity. Not only in this aspect of my life, but in all of them. In the real Kingdom of God, the one not based on my feelings of frustration and sadness and desire for this good thing of marriage, there is no shortage of good lives. Good lives aren’t based on things, whether relationships or money or houses or cars.

A good life in the kingdom of God is based on what he has to offer, and he will never run out of the good things. Infinite love, infinite joy, infinite peace, infinite mercy, infinite grace–there is so much more than enough of all of these, for all of time, for all people. 

Getting what I want in life, or not getting it, is not a reflection of God’s essential character. He is enough, no matter what my fleeting feelings may tell me.

With God, there is no scarcity.

Til next time…

~Brianna!~

p.s. Is there an area of life where you most often fall into scarcity thinking?

*It should be noted that Sarah references Walter Brueggemann’s work on the “liturgy of abundance” versus the “myth of scarcity.” Specifically, she mentions his book Journey to the Common Good.

Of Singleness, Again

I feel like I’ve written about many of the difficulties and complicated feelings I have with being single.

But the problem is, writing about it doesn’t make it stop.

Seasons change, both physically and metaphorically, but just because I’ve been in this particular Season of Singleness before doesn’t make it any less frustrating. Snow makes roads slippery every year–experiencing it before doesn’t make it any less dangerous or annoying or scary.

Photo Credit: Flickr User Wonderlane, Creative Commons

Photo Credit: Flickr User Wonderlane, Creative Commons

So most of the words I’d say about singleness today are words I’ve said before.

It’s frustrating.

It can be lonely.

The fight feels disheartening and never-ending.

And I’ve been here before.

Each time I’m here though, the landscape changes slightly. It’s the same feelings, but brought up because of different circumstances or felt in different ways.

I’m no stranger to this restless agitation, this feeling that, while I know a significant other wouldn’t right all that’s wrong in the world, it would at least give me someone to face it with. I know I’m complete without a significant other, I don’t need one to glorify God and to live a good life, but I’m pretty sure I’d like one.

At the core of this feeling, it’s something I think we all feel in one way or another: I want something, something good, that I do not yet have and don’t know if I ever will. The particularities look different for each person, each situation, but the ache that sits at the heart of it–I think we’re all acquainted with that. Sometimes the pain is dull, hardly noticeable, like a bruise that only throbs when it’s brushed. Other times, the pain is acute, forceful, demanding to be noticed and tended to. These moments arise uninvited, often unforeseen, but cannot be simply pushed down. They must be noticed, wrestled with, given time to pass.

Because I do know this too shall pass. The blessing of seasons is that they always change. But winter can still feel a little bleak, even when it’s come before.

Til next time…

~Brianna!~

p.s. Do you have things you’ve wrestled with before but that keep coming back?

(Un)Happily Single (and everywhere in between)

When I try to explain how I feel about being single, I feel like I often come across wildly inarticulate, hemming and hawing for what seems like an appropriate answer for that person in that situation. The truth is, I often don’t how exactly how I feel about being single–or that I feel so many things about it, I could fill a book.

Photo Credit: Flickr User DGriebeling, Creative Commons

Photo Credit: Flickr User DGriebeling, Creative Commons

 

If there were a spectrum, with “Happily Single” and “Absolutely Miserably Single” as the two extremes, that’s where I live. Not parked at some stationary point along the spectrum, but literally on it. Every point, at various times, sometimes flying back and forth between the two extremes (and everywhere in between) with dizzying speed–no joke, sometimes in a matter of seconds.

I’m at an event having a great time with my friends, and I’m thinking “Yea, this is awesome! I don’t have to check in with anyone if I end up staying late, my friends are the best, this is the life!” And then I’ll spot a couple doing an average couple-y thing–laughing together at a story, looking for the other across a crowded room, an arm casually around a shoulder–and suddenly I’m lost in “I want that too.”

It probably shouldn’t cause that reaction, I know. Singleness is not a new state for me, and my fight for contentment has been going on for eons–but it’s not one I think I’ll ever completely win when it comes to being single. Being truly content with being single seems perennially just out of reach. Which gets exhausting.

There’s an element of it I think is true no matter what stage of life we’re in–there will always be something we want but can’t have, or don’t have in full the way we’d like–but the particular lonely longing that can come with being single feels especially poignant. As I’ve said before, it was much easier to come up with “5 Reasons Being Single Sucks” than it was to come up with “5 Reasons Being Single Rocks.”

At the same time, overall, my life is quite good. I have a lot of wonderful people in my life, relationships full of support and love and fun and joy, and I never want to minimize those. They are so important, so life-giving for me. It’s freeing to not have to compare schedules with the same person all the time, to be able to do what I went and when I want. My time is my own–which, although I realize can mean I spend it selfishly (and I certainly do at times), it means I can give my time more easily as well.

This is where I live, holding all these complex thoughts and feelings about being single, trying to not idealize (or idolize) marriage, while simultaneously recognizing it is not inherently wrong for me to want to not be single. Even this post can’t adequately summarize all of the swirling, contradictory thoughts I have about it. On any given day (or hour, really), I might feel any, all, or none of the above about being single–and maybe that’s unusual.

So if you’re single, will you tell me–how do you feel about it?

Til next time…

~Brianna!~

Celebrate All the Love

Valentine’s Day is nearly here, and, as I expected, it’s bringing up some Feelings for me. But, along with the usual tinges of sadness that my life has not turned out quite the way I had planned, there’s something new this year.

I’m kind of irritated with the way “love” gets pigeonholed, made out to be just one certain thing.

Because while romantic love is a fine thing to celebrate, this time of year it gets put on a pedestal as being The Best Thing, The Ultimate Thing, The One True Thing. And it’s just not.

There are so many kinds of love.

Photo Credit: Flickr User Greencolander, Creative Commons

Photo Credit: Flickr User Greencolander, Creative Commons

I still haven’t found the words to adequately express my love for my nieces and nephews. They bring so much wonder, so much light, so much joy to our family. Yet the love I feel for them is a different kind of love than I feel even for my parents, who raised me and my two older siblings so well and demonstrate the beauty of a love that lasts because it’s worked at. And my siblings and their spouses–a kind of love that has endured years of pestering and teasing as the baby of the family. Then there’s the grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, all claiming and bestowing a unique kind of love. It’s surrounded me, even when I have not appreciated or recognized it, from even before the day I was born.

Beyond the love that blood ties together, there are the friends, the fellow churchgoers, the co-workers–people who, now that I no longer live with family, get the majority of my days in some form or another. I think I’ve finally reached the point that I can say with a bit of confidence that at least some of my friendships will be around for the long haul. Friends that (annoyingly) push me to be better, friends that make me laugh, friends that make me sit up and take stock of the type of person I’m becoming and whether it’s who I really want to be.

If that’s not love, I don’t know what is.

So this Valentine’s Day, I’m trying to not be blind. I may not have the exact kind of love I had hoped to find by this point, but my life is far from loveless.

In fact, if I had to pick just one–either romantic love or the myriad kinds in my life as it is right now–I’d take the kind of love I have. It is varied and frustrating and vibrant and maddening. It is real. It is alive. It is worthy to be noticed, to be celebrated. 

So I’ll celebrate all the love.

Til next time…

~Brianna!~

p.s. What kinds of love can you celebrate?