I wonder how many Valentine's Day blog posts were written today by single, Christian white girls.
I'm not gonna Google it to find out.
Whatever. However obnoxious the cliches within them, these paragraphs need to be written. Selfishly, I need to read the words as I write them and attempt to swallow what is actually true and push out the falsity. Honestly, this post is mostly for me. If I seem like a hypocrite as you read these words, it's because I am. It's because I'm still learning and I'm not perfect and this is actually one of my weakest areas and sources of deepest insecurity and this post takes a lot of guts and vulnerability. I'm scared. But writing these things down helps me pay attention to them and maybe start to believe them a little bit. Maybe you'll benefit in some way, too. Either way, I've externally processed the tangled mass in my brain. Good enough. Consider yourself warned.
Today. Sucked. Like, a lot. I'm not even going to try to smile away the suckyness and come up with B.S. "But I mean..." statements. It was just plain bad. It started out like a normal Sunday for me: immediately busy and full of people, but in a pretty good way. The weather was a little balmier than on your normal Valentine's Day in the Flint Hills, so that was nice. Got my morning coffee with Jesus in. Met with a sweet friend of mine for our weekly discipleship stuff, which was wonderful and light. Plus we drank more coffee (in our PJs!!!). Attended a workshop for my Greek-letter organization (#srat). Went to an engagement party for some beautiful friends whose union will be God-honoring and hilarious. Headed to a cell group meeting with my family-in-Christ for our monthly covenant night where we talk and listen with each other and our good Father and sing to Him a little bit and eat together and laugh through it all. It was a rich time.
Sounds like a good day, at least on the surface. That's because it was. This Valentine's Day was one where I got to be an active player in the game of celebrating l-o-v-e. And not even just one kind of love. There was brother and sister-ly love, pee-laughing-because-my-best-friend-and-I-both-nearly-gave-each-other-fake-signed-pictures-of-Harry-Styles-for-Valentine's-Day-love, romantic love, texts-from-mom love, notes-and-candy-from-beautiful-roomies love, and of course Biblical, Godly, all-encompassing love. How wonderful! I rejoice with my lips at the opportunity to engage so freely and completely with love today. Even if my heart hasn't quite caught up.
So then. Why am I sitting in my little roost upstairs at 10:27 pm on a Sunday evening writing this post (when I should be doing real homework, by the way) and feeling so downtrodden and worn and somehow unloved after such a day of merriment?
Well, I'm single.
There it is. Ugh, that word just reminds me of fake (but delicious when melted over some beef or something) cheese. Being twenty-one and a junior undergrad student, it's not hard to get caught up in the timeline that so many friends seem to follow. Start dating as sophomores or juniors, spend approximately 0.8-1.7 years together, ring by spring. Oh no - that puts me at least six months behind! Crap. This must be the problem.
The questions arise. "What's wrong with me?" "Will I get married before I'm thirty?" "Maybe God is calling me to a life of singleness... Does He even do that anymore?!" "Surely I won't be in the nine percent of Americans who don't get married." (How ridiculous and nearsighted, Wheeler. I'll get there.) Then the questions stop and the statements start. These ones are even better. "I just need to get back in shape." "I should stop being so annoying." "No one I know now would want to date me, anyways." "I'm not promised marriage, so I just need to stop holding out for someone." "You're in the friend zone pretty much forever with pretty much anyone who's breathing in Manhattan, Kansas, so get over it. Stupid girl."
These thoughts surface almost daily. Today, they were especially present. Probably because couples were everywhere. Engagements are abounding. PMS is also very, very real (apologies to any brave boys who may be reading this). Sprinkle in some snide comments made by guy pals who really do have the best intentions at heart but sometimes don't think before speaking, and you've got a pouty (not to mention hangry), quite miserably-intrenched-in-her-thoughts Wheeler by the end of the day. My guess is that you can relate to some of these thoughts, assuming you are indeed a single woman in her early twenties and you participated in society today. I wish that weren't true, that you couldn't relate. I wish no one had thoughts like these - and there are worse ones, too. Why are they so hard to swat away? I literally just took a break and opened a Dove chocolate and the inside of the foil reads: "Get swept away by love." MAYBE I WOULD IF I HAD THE CHANCE, YOU DUMB CHOCOLATE. You're full of s***. Who would love me? I'm too _____. I'm not ______ enough.
These are my immediate reactions. To a "fortune" inside of a chocolate wrapper. Something is off here. If I am claiming to live as if the things that my Creator says about me are true (which I am trying desperately to), something is seriously wrong with my self-concept. With our self-concepts, women. I am continuing to pay out-of-pocket for a lie. And here it is, the big kahuna, the stinky, fat, sneaky fib that we all listen to no matter how much we hate to admit it: What will make me the most happy, what will make me feel the most beautiful, what will give me the most contentment and satisfaction... that thing is a human being. I am only valuable if a boy calls me his girl. I am invaluable as a single person. I am defective. I am lesser. I need to be fixed. I need to be better. I need to be more of whatever it is that boys want.
This. Is. Completely. Wrong. It is upside down. This way of thinking about ourselves cannot coincide with the gospel. Go on, read Psalm 139. Do any of those self-deprecating thoughts listed above line up with who the God of the universe says we are? Someone show me a place in Scripture where it says "a woman is only valuable if she is betrothed or married or if men are interested in taking her on dates often" and I will shut my mouth. Where in any of the gospel books or epistles do Jesus or His beloved followers talk about trying to create our identity by finding a romantic partner?
All this infuriates me. I'm mad at myself. It's foolishness.
Not only are we thinking about ourselves in a way that is dishonoring to what God says about us, but we actually have the wrong definition of love if we are pining for someone else to fulfill our desires. 1 Corinthians 13 provides us with the ultimate definition of this word we toss around like a hot potato. This time, it's God's definition, so I think it's pretty infallible. "Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things." Love is not self-seeking in any regard. Women: does this line up with the way we think about love? Take an honest and brutal look at your thought life.
I was told once to replace the word "love" in this passage with Jesus' name. It sheds a whole new light on this one. Are we trying to model our lives after our King? He never asked for love from any human. No one except His Father. He never expected it from us. He desired that people love one another, but He was well aware of our imperfection. Bob Goff tweeted awhile back: "We're all amateurs when it comes to love. Don't be too hard on each other."
Jesus knew we were amateurs. He knew that the love of the Father was the only love that would ever, ever, EVER satisfy Him enough to allow Him to live the life of servitude and sacrifice that He lived. Heck, He allowed people (some who claimed to love God) to nail His hands and feet to some pieces of splintery wood - after they whipped him raw with pieces of sharp bone and jammed a crown of thorns on His head till His scalp ran red. Does the love that Jesus had for those people when He said “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” sound like the "love" our culture seems to be saturated with? I don't think so. This world seems to want nothing to do with that, and we have blindly and ignorantly trusted the world over our Savior time and time again, like sheep gone astray.
And yet, this Jesus-love is the best love we could ever seek. I would argue that it is the only true kind of love.
Church, women, humans everywhere: let me make this clear. Our beautiful God made beautiful desires for beautiful things like marriage and deep, abounding human relationships and placed them in our beautiful hearts. To desire to get married is such a God-honoring desire. It is wholesome and worthy. If you are in a relationship or if you are married or engaged, that is truly wonderful. These words are in no way meant to shame you or back you into a corner or put you in a box or anything of the sort. I hope that whoever you are with is pointing you not to themselves, but to the King of both of your hearts, day-in and day-out.
Also, the Lord's heart breaks when we give in to cheap lies and place our worth and our hope in something that will not withstand the test of time or trial. He weeps with us when we are struck by piercing loneliness. He has so much grace and mercy and compassion for His kids, and I think He is especially tender towards His daughters. He knows how He made us. He doesn't shame us for craving the things He made us to crave.
But this desire for marriage is secondary. Or at least it should be, in comparison to our desire for an eternal relationship with Christ. It is not a necessity. The only necessity is knowing Him and glorifying Him. And that's His main concern. The Westminster Shorter Catechism puts it this way: "Man's chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy Him forever."
My prayer is that we can seek first the Kingdom. Only there, at the feet of Jesus, will we find our soul's satisfaction. And, if it's in line with His will, He will provide us a partner in ministry in due time. But let's stop living in the mean time. Start seeking Christ and what He says about who you are. He wants to use you to reach the far-off and the lame and the sick and the poor. He wants to change you from your insides out so that His joy shines right out of your pretty little pores. He wants to see you confidently and boldly embracing who He has made you to be.
So I guess the point of these 1800 words is basically just to say that our problem on Valentine's Day is not that we are unloved by others or by men or boys or Harry Styles or whoever. It is that we are unloved by ourselves. In order for us to love ourselves, we must first allow Jesus to love us radically and respond by loving Him with our lives. So how the heck do we get that stamped on the inside of a chocolate wrapper?