Hey Sweet Friends! About a week ago I was talking with Jesus about the culture we live in and singleness. Fired up, I said out loud, “Jesus please don’t make me talk about this.” Twice, since then, I have had two people in my life say, “You need to say that.” And so, as I sit with you ready to do what I don’t want to to do, I chuckle, because of course He would ask me to bend my will to His.
Before I really get into it I want to acknowledge the obvious. As a 40 year-old woman who has never been married and so consequently still a virgin, I know I am a minority. Anything I share that is contrary to the life you have lived is not in judgement but is simply shared as an alternative way of living because the more I become comfortable with my singleness the more convinced I am that if we talked about singleness differently, if we put it on the table as a viable option…if we did that, I am convinced that so much of the striving to “find the one” would cease and more and more people would love the life they are living, right where they are.
That is all I want. I simply want our young people to know they have another option. I want to put singleness back on the table.
It was the Christmas of 2014…the year that will live in infamy, in my life, as the Christmas Tree Catastrophe of 2014. Oh, but before I get into that, I need to back up a bit.
Growing up, we always had a real Christmas tree. Most of my memories include the whole family going to pick one out, with my mom having the final say, of course, and then my dad, attaching it to whatever vehicle we were in at the time and then moma and daddy struggling to get it in the house and in the stand. Somewhere in those memories we went to a Christmas Tree Farm and my dad cut down our Christmas tree. It was magical. I think we might have only done this once but forever, after that experience, that was what real Christmas Trees meant to me. That was the ideal.
Even when I threw a Christmas tree into the trunk of my four door sedan, as a single 25 year-old living in Orlando, I was trying to capture the magic of a mom and dad taking their children to a Christmas tree farm. I would string popcorn and cranberries and trim my tree, while watching a Christmas movie, dreaming of the day I would string popcorn and cranberries with my own children, trimming a tree my husband cut down at the charming little Christmas tree farm an hour up the road.
Fast forward to Christmas of 2014 when I lived in a second floor apartment in Franklin, Tennessee. It was the first time I would be bringing a Christmas tree up those stairs and I asked for help from some sweet friends. Husband and wife loaded up their triplets and met me at Kroger, which was a far cry from a Christmas tree farm, tied the tree on top of their minivan, and helped me lug it up the stairs to my apartment. There was some trouble getting it into the stand but eventually it stayed. I ended up leaving it standing there a couple of days until I could devote a whole day to decorating it, which would be that Saturday.
The day came and I set the stage well…chilly, early morning romp at the park with Willa and a quick trip to the Franklin Farmer’s Market to get some Ellie’s Old Fashioned Donuts. Enjoying them with my coffee and Christmas Music on, I slowly started decorating my Christmas tree.
The most sentimental ones always went on first. That Precious Moments one I’ve had since I was 2 years-old that my granddaddy bought me. The Hardaway High School, Class of 1999 ornament. The silly little ornament I chose when I was 7.
As I put them on the tree I had a moment when I thought, “Lord, will I ever have a family I can share these ornaments with? Will I ever have children who will ask about these ornaments?” It was a rhetorical question that went unanswered in my heart as I went into my bedroom to get another box of decorations from my closet.
As I was reaching up to grab the next box, all I remember is hearing an unholy crash that came from the next room. Our apartment was all of 642 square feet so from my bedroom closet to the living room was all of 7 1/2 feet. I ran around the corner to be met by a terrified Willa scrambling off the couch in terror and…
…the Christmas Tree Catastrophe of 2014.
Bare foot, I ran to pick up the tree because water from the stand was pouring everywhere. As I got closer to the mess I realized there was glass everywhere too and I was barefoot. The sobs started to choke out of my chest when I saw red shards of glass that used to be my Hardaway High Class of 1999 ornament, but I didn’t have time to sit there in it because water was still pouring out onto the floor. I mustered up all of the strength in my spirit and grabbed the trunk of the tree and tried to right it, but there was something wrong with the stand and so I had to get my body under it to really push it up. To add insult to injury, in the midst of water, pine needles, and glass, I lost my grip and that stupid tree fell on top of me while I was trying to get it back into the stand.
When all was said and done, I stood there weeping, looking at broken memories and broken dreams in the midst of water and pine needles, and glass. The worst part was the sting of hatred and glee I felt that came from the enemy. No, I would not have a family to share those memories with because those ornaments were gone forever.
Not one to be beaten by a Christmas tree or the enemy who hates me, after about 5 hours of clean up, grieving what was lost, a nap, and a call to my moma, I dragged myself to Hobby Lobby to get some new decorations to take the place of the ones I lost. You’ve got to love Hobby Lobby’s 50% off sales!
That year, it was hard to look at my Christmas tree but I considered it a personal victory that I didn’t chuck the thing off my balcony after everything that happened. And poor Willa slept on the floor of the bathroom for two whole days before she trusted it enough to get on her couch again. It was a year of contending for my joy in one of my favorite seasons after Satan tried to strip it from me in a deeply personal way.
Choosing to get a real Christmas tree the next Christmas was an exercise of will, almost like Jesus and I had a thing to prove…that I would not let the circumstances of life keep me from living a life of joy and celebration. So I took my car and threw a tree in my trunk, by myself, lugged that sucker up the same flight of stairs and made SURE it was in the stand securely.
Spoiler alert! The Christmas Tree of 2015 did not end in a catastrophe, but it was my last real Christmas Tree, because here is what I learned. Trying to recreate and capture the magic of that Christmas Tree Farm is not going to give me a family of my own, so why on earth am I making it that much harder on myself.
Instead, I found a beautiful flocked, lighted, artificial tree that I LOVE! Y’all I LOVE it so much! And hands down, when I am finished decorating it every year, it is prettier than any real tree I ever had in my home. Furthermore, in the case of last year, I was able to have that beauty up for three whole months, and the day I took it down it was just as pretty as the day I put it up. Before you judge me for putting up my Christmas tree on November 1st and not taking it down until February, I will remind you that it was 2020 and I don’t drink…let me have this!
So why? Why did I just tell you that story?
Because sometimes things don’t work out the way we want them to. We can continue to conjure up and strive for and try to recreate and make a square piece fit into a round hole. We can do that and be frustrated and discontent with our lives or we can just stop.
Stop fighting against that place God has us in and live in it.
I am single. I do not have a husband to cut down a Christmas tree for our family. I do not have children to string popcorn and cranberries with. When I asked myself what I wanted, when I thought about what I wanted I got a tree and a process that I love so much more than all of the fighting and striving I did to have the perfect Christmas tree experience.
Now, hear me, if I do get married and children are a miracle I get to be Moma to, you better believe I am going to be back on the real Christmas tree train. But right now, that is not my reality and now that I am living in that reality, the pain of not having what I’m trying to create all on my own is way less painful. I still feel a pang every Christmas but then I look at my beautiful tree and I am so thankful for what I do have instead of looking at everything I don’t have.
My singleness is on the table. I’ve stopped trying to cover it up and apologize for it. It is a part of who I am, and who I am is good. Months and months of counseling and years of wrestling with Jesus have gotten me here and I am so thankful. So when I hear my students or even young adults talk about singleness and how they are afraid they won’t EVER get married it makes me deeply sad.
It seems to me that we are only giving the generations below us two options. As a Christ-Follower you either “save yourself for marriage”, get married, preferably young, so there is less time for you to be tempted to have sex outside of marriage, OR you “live in sin” by having sex with whoever you want to and you don’t have to get married until you are ready to make that commitment. Both of these options include you having sex, as if it is unthinkable that a person would live their whole life without it. Like it’s a thing someone should be pitied for.
Y’all there is a third option! Here’s what I know to be true, and with authority, I can say, you can live a full, whole, and complete life without having sex with any one! Contrary to what the world would have us believe we are not sexual beings! We are first and foremost spiritual beings, who are, by nature, sexual, but we are spiritual before we are sexual.
I watched a documentary last week…it’s not important which one, but in it there was footage of a wedding and the priest said “God created you for communion with one another and the highest expression of this communion is marriage.” It felt like I had been stabbed in the gut. Somehow in the midst of simultaneously feeling like I was missing out on something and hating the fact that we have made marriage such an idol, I heard the Lord.
“I created you (collective humanity) for communion with me. Isaiah 43:7, ‘everyone who bears my name and is created for my glory. I have formed them; indeed, I have made them.’ Colossians 1:16, ‘For everything was created by him, in heaven and on earth, the visible and the invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities —all things have been created through him and for him.’ I didn’t create you for anyone but me! In me, you lack no good thing.”
Sweet Friend, no matter where you are in life, can you see how insinuating that a single person has a less meaningful relationship with Christ or even a less meaningful experience in life is deeply hurtful and offensive. Especially taking into consideration what 1 Corinthians 7 says. Beginning in verse six Paul says,
“I say this as a concession, not as a command. I wish that all people were as I am. But each has his own gift from God, one person has this gift, another has that. I say to the unmarried and to widows: It is good for them if they remain as I am. But if they do not have self-control, they should marry, since it is better to marry than to burn with desire.”
Other translations say that it is “better” for them to remain single.
How can the Bible say that and yet that is not the message we send to our young people. Do we really believe that Jesus is enough?
I’ll go first and tell the truth.
No, I didn’t believe that Jesus was enough. I didn’t believe that I was enough without a partner to do what God wanted me to do. That I needed a man to be all and do all for God’s Kingdom that He meant for me to be and do. So I fought against the calling and gift He had given me. And whether that is a lifelong calling or gift, well that is still to be determined but the truth of it is, it is my calling and gift right now, regardless of whether or not I asked for it, chose it, or want it. I get one life to live on this earth and I am so angry that I have spent so much of it fighting against something that the Church has not championed in the way she needed to. Instead, we hear terms like “Old-Maid” to describe the young women who are not married and phrases like, “Boys will be boys” to describe the young men who are not held to the same moral standards as our young women.
Sweet Friends, there is a third option. The journey to holiness may not be as easy as the tide of the culture but Jesus is worth it…and so are you!
I was listening to Sunday’s service from Elevation Church this morning and Pastor Steven said, “What are you subconsciously copying that needs to go? I don’t have to copy what I saw. I can honor it. I can honor where I came from and I can honor others as they move into a new direction but I do not have to copy what I am not called to.”
There have been A LOT of young people getting married lately. I know, I know. I work in youth ministry so I’m up close and personal with it, but it feels like there have been more than usual. I will say nothing in judgement to these decisions. God is telling a different story in their lives than He is telling in mine but I will say this. Just because someone else got married young doesn’t mean you should.
You do not have to copy what you are not called to! But Sweet Young Friend, that means you have to talk to Jesus about what He has called you to!
Also, if you are in a dating relationship but aren’t looking to get married any time soon, and to be clear, I mean you aren’t planning to get married within a year, and you are both struggling with waiting to have sex until marriage because the temptation is too great…BREAK UP! Especially if you are in high school! If the question is have sex or break up, break up! Every. Single. Time!
Sorry, Moma Kathryn came out there a little bit, but seriously, I want you to value yourselves more and to realize there are worse things in life than being single. Way worse things!
Sweet Friends who are parents, can I encourage you to change the way you talk to your children about their futures. Use “if” instead of “when” when you talk about it, no matter what it is about. Remember, “if” leaves room for the will of God for the very specific road they will walk. When you talk about things like marriage and children, would you please throw singleness in there as well and not as the least attractive option that insinuates that to be single is to be a failure at life. If this idea is going to change it starts with you, as you raise your children. And if you are uncomfortable with the thought of your child being single longer than most, may I humbly encourage you to ask yourself why. Talk to Jesus about that. Is it possible that, like me, you have had a hard time believing that Jesus is enough?
Sweet Friend, that is a question we all need to wrestle with. Even married with children, there will come a day when all we have is Jesus and my prayer is that on that day, you will know and have settled in your spirit, that Jesus is not just enough but even more than we need.
I’m not done talking about this, y’all. I wish I was but I’m not. Who we are in Christ, alone, by ourselves, is too important and all around me I am watching young people do the next thing and get married. I’m not saying those young people are wrong but there is another option and until that option is as celebrated as a marriage, I’ll keep talking about it.
Until next time, Sweet Friends,
Thank you for being here.
Remember to take deep breaths.
And God has got us.