‘How’s your love life?’, ‘I have a friend you should meet’, ‘God has someone wonderful for you’… Bombarded by the good intentions of others, singles can find themselves in a mad pursuit to find their ‘better half’. But a searingly real and often humorous book, ‘Living Whole Without a Better Half’, shows another way. American WENDY WIDDER tells single life like it is: warts, pain, bitterness and all, but ultimately sheds a fresh perspective on single life as an opportunity. Here, thislife extracts some gold from her touching and inspiring book.
‘The struggles of singleness are real, and they are significant. Being single in a world designed by God for partnership brings pain. I fight the feelings of ‘unsettledness’, tempted to wonder if and when marriage will come. I cradle tiny babies in my arms, filled with wistful longings to have my own. I go solo to social evenings populated by couples and feel the all-too-familiar stabs of aloneness. I get weary of waking up to the furry face of Edward, my stuffed elephant. I tire of digging up dates to attend friends’ weddings. I battle the loneliness of not having a constant, committed companion.
Two of the most destructive forces among singles are bitterness and envy. I have a lot of single friends who, like me, didn’t plan their lives the way they are happening. They pictured being passionately loved by an amazingly handsome man (my guy friends picture a stunningly beautiful woman), but instead they’re pursued by those they’d rather leave for someone else or worse yet, no one chases them at all. They expected that they would be liked and admired by all their peers, but instead they’re clawing their way into a clique. They supposed they’d be surrounded by continuous good times, but instead they eat ice cream out of the carton on a quiet Friday night.
life isn’t fair!
Then we look up from our unhappy circumstances and wonder why she isn’t eating cookies and cream in her living room. We ask ourselves how he got invited to the party. Somehow we’ve missed the all-important lesson that fits into three simple words: life isn’t fair. God never promised fairness in our fallen world, but my problem is that I think I deserve it anyway. My real problem is that I don’t want to let go of my pride and give in to God’s plan.
One of the greatest sources of manna in my life comes from people around me. While everyone needs encouragement, singles especially need people who will walk with them. It’s a matter of survival for me to have friends who can lend faithful support and encouragement. There was a time when I wasn’t willing to let people walk so closely with me. In fact, when I was in college, I nearly lost a dear friend who was frustrated with my lack of vulnerability. I wouldn’t even let the people closest to me see where I struggled, much less ask for any help.
Somewhere along the way, I learned better. I look around at several key friends now and can only imagine how horrible it would be to walk tough roads without them… Friends like these don’t lurk behind every corner, but they are worth looking for. They are worth every ounce of vulnerability I can squeeze out, because they are the ones who push me forward when I cower in fear from the risks of relationships, new ventures and changes.
A trusted friend must have access to the details of my daily living, and they must have permission to ask tough questions. Maybe you need to meet with someone once a week. Perhaps you should be doing a bible study with a friend. Maybe you need a phone call every day. I don’t know how it works for you. I just know it has to work.
Part of the mystery of suffering is God’s choice to be silent in the midst of our pain. God is often silent to the questions over which we lose sleep, yet He has spoken. He has spoken through the written words of scripture, and those words come alive when we are dying inside. The still, small voice of scripture whispers rock-solid promises. God throws us a lifeline of the living Word to gently pull us out of the mire and close to His heart.
Pain puts us in a vulnerable position before God, allowing us to know Him in more intimate ways. It opens the door for personal growth and character shaping. All of those are desired outcomes of my life, and I hope for your life, too. I don’t like the route that’s required to get there, but I wouldn’t trade the results. Painful circumstances place me at the point of decision. I can choose to fight my way through God’s plan, writhing and straining at every turn of events, or I can choose to submit to His divine direction.
There have been bone-chilling winters in my life when God has allowed stormy squalls of pain to rage around me. On the accompanying dark, icy mornings, I’ve awakened wishing I could just roll over again to escape the agony. I’ve pulled my tired toes to the floor, put one foot in front of the other, and reluctantly inched into another day no brighter than the one before. Breathe in. Breathe out. The crushing pain of a shattered heart is intense, but life manages to go on whether or not I think I can. Somehow the days become weeks, the calendar pictures keep changing, and I make it through.
After years in the dating desert, God chose to surprise me. Jay was everything I’d ever put on a list and more. He exceeded my wildest dreams, and I had some wild ones. He went beyond my highest expectations, and I had some high ones. He was easily what no one else had ever been, or what I was sure nobody else could ever be. And wonder of wonders, he loved me. Life was on a long-awaited track. It wasn’t a perfect track; it was laden with its share of weights and obstacles. Big ones. But I had no doubts about those obstacles; they weren’t insurmountable. The weights weren’t unbearable. Jay and I would make it. We had what it would take. I knew it.
Ten months later came Jay’s uncertainties. Against every inclination of my heart, we broke up. In the torrents of tears that followed that horrible July night, God held me. He didn’t take the pain away, but like a loving parent, He kissed the wound and soothed it with His healing ointment. He tenderly bathed my wounds with His Word. He applied the salve of His promises to my torn-apart heart, and the slow healing began.
In the struggle to retain my life dreams and somehow make them happen, I’ve sometimes felt like a Rubik’s cube. Just when I get one side of my life falling into place and making some sense, I realise that so much else is beyond my control. I am helpless to solve things, and in fact, I make a bigger mess and create more pain.
It’s only when I hand it back to the Master Puzzler that there is hope. He may twist and change the whole puzzle, and it may appear to me that He’s just created another disaster beyond repair, yet I know that my puzzle is never out of His control. Sometimes the transitions, twists and turns of life make me creak and groan. I don’t understand, and I don’t see the solution. Sometimes I wonder what on earth He is doing with my life, but I’m so thankful that He understands what I can’t. With a lot of patience on my part and an expert series of twists on His part, life takes on a whole new dimension.
The Master Puzzler often takes His time revealing that new dimension. He may choose to turn the cube a little more slowly, drawing out the groan of the jumbled mess. He may allow great pain to course through my life. But He knows the solution; He knows the way I must take. And He can get me there.
The unpopular truth is that God often does his greatest work while we wait. It’s when he puts us in prison, when he traps us inside the cold, clammy walls of a stone cell, that he gives us the greatest opportunity to experience his deliverance.
God is big, and His power is limitless. I believe this with all my heart, but I still struggle with fear. My faith in God’s power doesn’t automatically ease my fear because, although God is big enough to bail me out, He sometimes allows me to tread a significant amount of water in what appears to be a sinking ship. Even though I believe in His bigness, my fears may still become reality. My worst nightmares can still come true.
God is big, but He doesn’t always choose to manifest His strength in the way I want. God’s perspective on the world is very different from my own. I see the world myopically, only able to focus on what concerns me and those close to me. His eyes, however, see everything. He sees what I don’t. He knows what is best, and He’s big enough to accomplish it.
Whenever life threatens me, I can be afraid, or I can choose to trust. Fear comes naturally. I see my whole life in one glimpse and think I have to solve all the issues. I want answers for the unknowns and solutions for the problems. The scary parts loom over me, and I struggle for control… Fear is a lump in my throat, rising without effort. Trust is the constant swallowing of truth, sending the lump back to its place. Truth: God only gives good gifts. Truth: God is still in control… With each swallow, my trembling hands relax in the omnipotent grip of my big God. With each swallow, my pounding heart slows in the calming presence of the One who’s in control. ‘The Lord is my light and my salvation – whom shall I fear?’ (Psalm 27, verse 1).
satisfying the craving
God placed within men and women the longing to be loved and the need to be happy. However, He didn’t create anything in all the world that could meet those needs. Only He can. No amount of kicking and screaming, searching and experimenting, can change the fundamental fact that we need God. We need Him for more than eternal life; we need Him for this life. We need Him to satisfy the craving that gnaws at our souls. Whenever we stuff things into the place only He can fill, we lose… The beauty of a relationship with God is that He can retrieve all those little pieces of us and put them back together into the persons He designed us to be.’
One minute with Wendy Widder, author of Living Whole Without a Better Half
Ultimate comfort food?
Milk and homemade chocolate chip cookies.
Dogs, no contest. Big ones
Make me president and I’d…
President of what? I’d probably rather not be president of anything because of the admin – the bane of my existence
Favourite spiritual read/thought/quote?
My favourite author these days is Eugene Peterson, particularly his series on spiritual theology and conversation. Nearly every page has profound thoughts. Reading him is like eating decadent chocolate – best in small bites so as to be fully savoured
One thing never to say to a single person?
‘God has someone wonderful for you.’ Maybe he does, maybe he doesn’t. How do you know?!