I am single. Unattached. Keeping my options open. I fly solo.
No matter how you choose to word it, being single was never in my plans. Growing up in the church, I thought I had a solid understanding of how my story would play out. You go to youth group, you love Jesus, you meet someone, you graduate high school, you get married, and as the fairy tales say, “You live happily ever after.”
When I was 19 I was ready. And then when I turned 23, I was really ready. At 27, I understood and accepted that God was using the last few years to prepare me for marriage. But when 30 hit, let’s just say God and me were in a fight.
I never would have considered dating a non-Christian. Not in a million years. In fact, “loves God and puts Him first” was always on the top of the list of what I was looking for. But then the frustration set in.
It started as impatience, but it soon developed into a rampaging beast of unbelief, doubt, and worst of all, hopelessness. It felt like everyone I knew was married, including the kids I used to babysit. There seemed to be 10 girls for every single available guy in church. Then there was the pressure of every person I knew asking about my relationship status every time I saw them. Or mentioning their far-off distant relative who they thought might still be single (which they never were), and who they could maybe one day set me up with (which they never did). It became hard to find peace between the God that I loved and this aching, unmet desire to find a companion.
I was irritated. It felt like God wasn’t listening, and I was discouraged that my life seemed stuck in a pit of hopelessness with no sign of movement anytime soon. So when the opportunity arose, I figured I would just take things into my own hands.
The moment I made the decision to waver on something I always said I would never compromise on, the offers flooded in. Suddenly I got asked out in a grocery store line-up, and then at a dollar store. Then, a really nice guy I met in a coffee shop asked me out.
While the first two dates were just awkward encounters that made me feel uncomfortable and probably caused my face to glow red for hours afterwards, the third guy peaked my interest. He was funny. He was nice. He was kind. And he was pretty direct about his intentions. He had a great career and he truly could give me everything I ever wanted in this life.
I was tossed into a sea of internal conflict. I knew he wasn’t a believer, but I wanted to spend time with him and get to know more about him. The idea of not seeing him again saddened me. I liked the way I felt being around him.
As a believer, especially if you grow up in the church, you can convince yourself that non-Christians aren’t nice people. But the reality is, more often than not, they are really great.
So, I made the decision to spend time with this guy and got to know him. We hung out, we texted. We liked a lot of the same things, had good conversations, and he made me laugh. But it didn’t take long to find out that a relationship with God wasn’t even on his radar. All my ideas and hopes of leading him to Jesus weren’t realistic. He didn’t want to talk about church or Jesus, and conversations always turned uncomfortable every time I mentioned either. No amount of flirting made Jesus more desirable to him. Sure, he could have provided me with every luxury in this world — except the one thing that held the most value to me.
Ultimately, the status of his heart was a deal breaker, and I had to walk away. But I do get it. I get the desire to build a relationship, to keep telling yourself that it doesn’t truly matter if the other person isn’t a believer because everyone is on their own journey: who’s to say that one day he or she won’t accept Christ? Or to allow yourself to believe that you can continue to build your own relationship with God while you build your relationship with him or her: it doesn’t matter if they don’t believe; it won’t cause me to fall away.
Consider the fact that God took six days to create the intricacies of the world around us. Yet the Bible records thousands of years of narrative to cover the ups and downs of relationships. This tells us two things: one, that relationships are hard; and two, that God knows it. While there may be a lot of reasons or contributing factors as to why a Christian would make the choice to be in a romantic relationship with a non-Christian, I don’t believe that it is simply a relational issue. It’s a complex spiritual issue that requires some self-reflection and honesty.
If your heart is truly, genuinely, passionately in pursuit of Christ on a daily basis, then a non-believer — no matter how kind and caring and wonderful they are — can never truly know you. If your identity is in Christ alone, then your life will automatically come into conflict with your non-believing girlfriend or boyfriend. As it should.
Proverbs 27:17 says, “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” Those we build our lives around, the people who are closest to us, are the ones who can either help bring us close to God, or pull us farther away. It's what Paul was referring to in 2 Corinthians 6:14 when he said, "Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?"
Trust that God’s plan is perfect and complete. Psalm 9:10 says, “Those who know your name trust in you, for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you.”
I know that this seems so easy to say. Especially when you watch every one of your friends get married or start a family. Or when you’re invited out with the couples so you can watch the kids. Or when the only thing that people ask you about is your relationship status (even though you’re convinced that if it had changed, you would make sure the whole world would know about it).
The truth is, God has more for you. Worshipping the idea of marriage in place of our Creator places an expectation on that relationship to fulfill the deepest need in our hearts — which can only be filled by one person: Jesus. Our humanity all too often gets in the way of our relationship with Christ and His purpose and plan for our life.
Our desires over His, our will over His: it's not a frivolous idea, but rather one that we are completely unable to fight through on our own. Which is where the Holy Spirit comes in. 1 John 3:20 says, “God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.” Our inability to succeed in giving over our heart’s desires to God is not a surprise to Him. He knows. He cares. But in His love, He also knows better than us. And while I don’t claim to be an expert on the subject, I do know that a heart truly submitted to God desires His heart first and trusts that His love will fulfill all other unmet desires.
I don't know how much longer I will be single, but after trying to take things into my own hands, I now truly believe that whatever He’s got in store is worth fighting for.