I gave up pretending for Lent. Since that day I have entered into more honest places with a handful of significant people in my life. I also made a commitment to speak my truth here as well. This has turned out to be an interesting platform to speak the truth of my human experience. To this point, writing here has felt safe. I’ve kept the vulnerability level at a fairly palpable level. Today though, I’m feeling a nudge to tell a story that is one that I’ve not allowed myself to write about up to this point.
I at times take selfies. Not always by choice, but often because I am the only one with whom I’m traveling.
I have dated very little in my life. This is not a fact that I bemoan, it is simply the truth. I did not make time for dating, honestly because for much of my life I did not feel I was the kind of girl guys would date. Though I wanted to be married, I would pretend a lot in my singleness. I would be strong. I would be busy. I would have a full social calendar. I would talk on the phone and be the life of the party and though that was my true self, it was also my false self. Of course no one would see me drive home alone, party after party, wedding after wedding and at times cry as the pain of leaving company into isolation filled my car. No one would see me cry as I’d leave the church after a youth trip. I’d see families pick up their children, spouses pick up their loved one and even those with whom I worked most closely would leave and I’d stay and clean or organize or put everything away. In part because I wanted it done, but the secret was that if I stayed I wouldn’t feel the pain of going home to an empty apartment, with no one to greet me and nothing awaiting me. Leavings were difficult, because it was in leaving that I stepped into the reality of my single life.
My singleness is not a subject about which I’ve written vulnerably. I have had a lot of pride around it. Over the years I’ve seen so many woman loose themselves to their desire to be married. I have watched women, wait and cry. I’ve seen them date so often that any sense of self was impossible, for men gave them their value and identity. I’ve seen women eat the pain of their singleness away. I watched women workout or work so much that these activities became their only constant companion. I wanted nothing of it! I, in no way, wanted anyone to ever think I was uncomfortable or sad about not having a husband. There was such shame around the desire itself and the shame led me to hold a prideful pretense that I was okay alone and didn’t really have the desire for a husband to begin with. This was a lie.
In truth, I don’t want to post this particular truth, because it will evoke feelings of discomfort in those who read my secrets. In turn, I assume people will write responses or think responses trying to cheer me up as if I’m sad as I write. Or, perhaps the discomfort of the topic will drive someone to assume the emotion is more than it is and is a problem to be fixed. Words blurt out: Cari, you can serve so much more being single. Cari, your day will come. Cari, it’s when you stop looking that it will come. Cari, I’m so sorry this so hard, if guys only knew what they were missing. Cari I just don’t understand why no one has snatched you up. God doesn’t put a desire in you for something that He doesn’t intend to give you. Such words or encouragement, do not comfort this particular single woman.
The assumed response of others to the conversations around my unmet desire to be married, is what often keeps me from sharing. Pride? Possibly. But mostly, I want others to enter the desire with me, pray with me, cry with me, long with me and hope with me. I want people to know that I can have an unmet desire and be content at the same time. I want the truth, that I can hold two conflicting realities, simultaneously. I love my life the way it is. I long for a spouse with whom I can share life so much so that I feel the absence regularly. Two very real truths.
My singleness is the place where my secrets are kept. It is the place where shame hides in the shadows and where hope and strength rise up, creating intimacy with Jesus so rich that I cannot imagine another source of intimacy.
Each of us has a life full of secrets and it is in telling them, that we share a story, not only belonging to me or to you, but we share a story that is in its truest form, human. The secret places, where cobwebs gather around hidden shame, memories, unmet desires, or longings are the places where humanity is seen and Jesus is found.
This week, as I write, I am going to write about the places where I’ve found Jesus in the secrets I’ve kept.
As you read, take some time to tell the truth to your self, or maybe even to a friend. It’s important to tell your secrets. For it is in telling the truth to others, that you are able to live freely. I hope you’ll participate and find the freedom found in speaking truth.