Blessings of singleness #2: The pain of freedom
Okay – this may be a hard sell – but there is a unique pain in singleness in what the world affectionately calls ‘freedom’.
As a single woman, I have the ‘freedom’ to make my own decisions about where to go and what to do and there aren’t a lot of people implicated or affected by those choices. I think this is sometimes something that others are tempted to envy about singleness: the freedom to just leave a place without any obligation; the freedom to make dreams for yourself and act them out without anyone asking you to be considered in your planning.
In my heart I believe in the rightness of binding our lives to one another in such a way that we move through this life in unison. And there is a considerable pain in the facing the reality that tomorrow I could go anywhere or do anything without it affecting anyone on a profound degree. I have a strong desire for my decisions to matter to someone. I have a strange desire to spend my life making someone else’s calling become a reality.
I have these godly desires yet my decisions are seemingly made alone. And the conflict between what I want and the perception of what I have creates pain. It’s easy to convince myself that I have this pain because my heart wants something so biblical.
And this pain is such a huge blessing because it reveals that I’m a total idiot.
First, let me say that if singleness provides us with the opportunity to live out dreams without submitting them to anyone and make decisions without ever encountering interference, then we are not walking in the Christianity we see in Scripture.
When Paul talks about the freedom of singleness as a blessing, he’s not talking about the ability to do whatever you want whenever you want without anyone saying anything. He’s talking about the freedom to submit every single moment to the leadership of Christ without a middle man. He’s talking about the opportunity to go to the ends of the earth and to spend your life for the gospel and to die to self without distraction for the sake of the Father.
We will waste this pain in singleness if it doesn’t lead us to evaluate if we are truly living under the absolute kingship of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. We must ask ourselves if we are experiencing the pain of no one caring what we do because we aren’t living as if Someone cares what we do. It may be that we are experiencing the sorrow of living out our own dreams unchecked, because we are not being obedient to the call to come and die and get new desires and new dreams that belong to our Father.
The pain we experience in this area testifies to our true desires. If what we want is someone to care what we do, then rest assured – single and married – we have that. But the pain reveals that we actually want something else. It’s not that we want to be led. We want to be led in the same tangible way our friends are led.
In 1 Samuel the Israelites go to Samuel and ask for him to go to God and ask for a King. They explain that all the other nations have physical kings – men who go with them into battle and lead them and direct them and tell them what to do, but not the Israelites – they’re ‘stuck’ with God instead. They don’t have a tangible representative ruling over them.
Crazy Israelites. I am SO glad I’m nothing like them. (sarcasm).
The Israelites aren’t foolish for wanting someone to lead them any more than we are foolish when we long to submit our destiny to someone. The Israelites are foolish for looking around at their neighbors and thinking that what their neighbors have is better just because it’s more tangible. News flash America: what is tangible in the here and now isn’t always better.
The pain I experience because no one cares where I go on a Friday night doesn’t exist because no one cares where I go on a Friday night. That pain exists because the Person who cares about where I am on a Friday night isn’t as tangible as the person who cares about where my married friend is on a Friday night. I experience pain because I covet instead of trusting that my God has given me what is best.
Whatever our circumstance or stage of life we are prone to this coveting comparison that afflicted the Israelites. Married folks are prone to covet the ‘freedom’ of singleness just as singles are prone to covet the constraints of marriage. It’s odd because the lordship of our King doesn’t shift with our stage of life. In both we are joyfully called to lay down our lives for the reward of knowing Him. This may play out differently but don’t be deceived: there is no such thing as a Christian whose life is their own.
If my true desire is to have my freedom constrained in love – no fear – that desire has been met and met in abundance. But as long as my desire is to have what others have – I will never be free of this pain. And I – like the Israelites – will live each day rejecting God as my King.
And that causes a new pain; a better pain. I don’t want my life to testify that my King isn’t good enough. I want my life to testify that I trust Him. And if He brings a husband into my life, by His grace it won’t change that testimony. I want to submit to a husband, not because I believe that the guy has any idea what he’s doing, but because I have learned through this pain in my singleness to trust my God to lead me even when I’m confused about what’s happening. I want to trust His leadership so much that whether He leads through a donkey or a husband I will follow.
We will waste this pain if it doesn’t lead us to repentance. Repentance is turning and trusting. So turn and trust. Take your gaze off your neighbors and the other nations that may have a tangible leader and fix your eyes on the author and perfecter of your faith. Confess that you – like the Israelites – have rejected Him when you’ve questioned the manner He’s designed to lead you. Turn back in faith that He is a better King.
In quietness and trust is your strength. In repentance and rest is your salvation. (So says that crazy Isaiah.)