As we continue our discussion on our Identity, we've invited our precious friend, Lisa Harrell, to add her voice from a single woman's perspective... be blessed dear readers!
Another single friend and I were talking recently and she recounted again her frustration about having to do everything herself. “If I were married, someone else would at least be mowing the lawn or balancing the checkbook or getting the oil changed. Sure, I can do each of those things but it’s trying to keep up with it all while working a stressful full-time job, cooking, getting groceries, cleaning, doing laundry, working out, keeping up with friends, caring for my parents, and attempting to tend to my spiritual life and relationship with God that overwhelms me. Heaven forbid I should get sick or some other unwelcome emotional upset, relational conflict, or life event disrupts my life. There is no one to share the load. I need a partner! I want a companion.” While it may sound strange to call this full, busy, often frazzled and overwhelmed way of living lonely, it can be excruciatingly so for a single woman – be she single by choice, a lack of choice, death, or divorce.
Of course, the quick “Sunday school” answer often offered us single women (right after the placating ‘you’ll find someone’ or ‘there’s a good man out there somewhere for you’) is, “You already have a partner, it’s Jesus!” Okay, yes…but how do I experience this in regular life? I haven’t seen Jesus using spot remover in my laundry room lately nor has he surprised me by filling my tank with gas.
Who is Jesus to me, a sometimes lonely one who needs him so much? Who am I to him? At core, I am beloved, I am seen, I am understood, and I am sustained by him. He shares his breath with me. He hears me. He weeps with me. He laughs with me (though I so rarely notice it). He prays for me. He comforts and encourages me. All these things are what I need most and long for in a partner. But for lack of skin and bone presence, there are times I still feel lonely. After years of fighting, hating, being embarrassed by it, and bemoaning it, I’ve come to believe and accept that loneliness is actually my unique flavor of invitation from God, an invitation to come home to Him, to myself, to reality as it is (yep, along the way he invites me to let go of my demand for something better). And in coming home, I find that it is good, very good.
We all are invited to find our home, our identity in Christ. Our paths home to where we feel safe, welcome, known, and held in love may look very different. While I sense God’s call to come home in a variety of ways, it often comes most poignantly through that very painful loneliness I try to ignore or shake off. Each time I am successful in denying or dismissing my pain, I miss the opportunity to encounter God’s compassionate love. Christ knows about my pain and is right in the middle of it with me. He is more present to it and to me than I am. Jesus is with me even while I am thrashing about in the anger, self-pity, guilt, and shame of my loneliness.
It is necessary that we honestly acknowledge the depth of our pain to ourselves and to God. Christ meets us in our truthfulness. The truth does set us free to recognize that God is fully God and fully present even in the darkest of places. God’s love is often most comforting there.
When we walk through this pain with God and on to the other side (and yes, there is an other side), it somehow helps us see God as even bigger and far more trustworthy than we could previously comprehend. God redeems, even in and through darkness and loneliness. God doesn’t have to fix a situation to redeem it. In all this, it’s us that God changes - not necessarily the situation.
I may never have an earthly partner but the reality that Christ is my partner becomes far more real and satisfying as I lean into this pain than if I run away, avoid, or try and fix it. An ancient poem reminds me that I am not the first to believe this.
Don’t surrender your loneliness
Let it cut more deep.
Let it ferment and season you
As few human
Or even divine ingredients can.
Something missing in my heart tonight,
Has made my eyes so soft,
My need of God
When I am finally honest with myself about my need of God, my heart is made ready, a space is prepared, and now I can wait and welcome him home to my heart. In loving and usually surprising ways, Jesus meets me there.
There is something in my singleness and in my longing that witnesses to the truth that I am made to be in relationship, that I am made to find myself in God. God is my home and I am his.
How might Jesus be inviting you to find your true home in God?