As a kid I always look forward to treats ( I have my dad’s sweet tooth) and would get excited about almost anything dessert-like. But the best treats were the surprise ones. On special occasions my mom would come home from the grocery store and tell me she got me something “just for fun.” It could have been a large candy bar instead of the fun size one, or even a green apple (my other favorite snack as a child – weird, I know ), but part of the fun was that it was an unexpected gift. My mom knew I loved surprises, even the “small ones.”
Singleness is a gift, one that has refined me. Singleness has been a tool, a God-given instrument to help me understand the depths of the Gospel in ways I never foresaw.
I know 27 isn’t ancient, but some days it feels that way to me. I’ve been in countless friends weddings and visited the hospitals to welcome the newest members of their families- those have been treasured times. Yet, I would be dishonest if I failed to say those moments have tinges of sadness for me, because I am not sure those moments will ever be part of my own story.
I just returned from the Gospel for Coalition Women’s Conference (TGCW16) this past weekend. Never have I been so encouraged by a conference! What God showed me was both encouraging and convicting. The whole conference was on I Peter and the resurrected life. The teaching was rich and deeply focused on God’s character and my identity in Him; that is what my soul keenly needed.
When I struggle with insecurities about singleness or even what’s next for my life, that reveals, at the core of my thinking, my identity is wrapped up in what I do for God or how I serve God. That is not stable ground and very centered around myself and my actions. Mary Willson (my favorite speaker from the conference) said “ The Bible always makes clear Christian identity before Christian action.”
Over the last six months or so, I did the exact opposite of what Hebrews 12 says: I let the burden of some hard situations weigh me down. Somewhere along the way I started believed that God was holding out on me, that He was saying “no” to things that would be best for the kingdom and my good. I doubted His kindness. I didn’t piece all of this together until about part way through Mary’s session. This thought kept going through my mind: This stage of life is God’s best for me. He’s not holding out on me. Those are not profound thoughts, but tears welled in my eyes because this time I believed them to be true.
So much of what was taught at the conference connected well because of seminary studies I have been doing the last 9 months. Studying is also a gift, a much bigger one than I anticipated. I’ve always enjoyed school (you would hope so as I’ve spent the last five years being a teacher), but for many reasons, I’ve enjoyed these studies most of all.
Day by day, I am seeing this stage of life as a gift, like the unexpected surprises my mom gave me as a little girl. I don’t always have that attitude, and I am sure there will still be more times of tears and confusion. God has given me the gifts of singleness and studying- He wants me to enjoy both of them right now. I forget that it’s not always the norm to love being in school- that reality usually hits me when I tell my friends about all the books I get to read or papers I have to write, and their reactions are simply “ugh, that sounds awful.” It’s not that I am brilliant- I got one of the worst grades on a paper in my life in seminary- but I still love it. And here’s the crazy thing, I might keep going with it for a while. No immediate changes, I am where I am for the next year, and I am thankful for that! But there are hopes and ideas for the future. As my friend Mary said, “Our stories are not bound up in this world.”