Now that we’ve established the four weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas can be challenging ones when you’re single lets talk about what that means.
First, there are a few assumptions I make as I write: 1. I know and understand that these four weeks are difficult for many people, not only those who are not married. 2. I understand that not every person who is single has had the same experiences as I am speaking from my own story and that of those who have shared his or her story with me. 3. The difficulty of singleness is not a male or female issue, it crosses genders. 4. I write not to exclude or ignore another’s pain, story or struggle. I know many of the emotions, thoughts and feelings experienced during these four weeks are common across demographics. If you relate to an experience or emotion, let it encourage you, feel seen in your own story and then respond in the way that you know how, from the context of your own life.
With that settled…
A Story: Saturday night I came home to my empty house. I love my home. It is cozy, has just enough space. It affords me the opportunity to decorate, host and nest which are all very important. I feel safe at home.
This night, I took one step inside and my home felt empty. It greeted me with a rush of emotion and thought with tidal wave force.
I am alone.
I had just come off time with family and friends. I was also feeling all the warm and fuzzy things one can feel as snow is falling and Christmas is in the air. But, something hit. I knew it. I could feel it.
“you are alone!”
“you are invisible”
“you don’t belong to anyone”
And the hits just kept on coming. I searched the corners of my mind to get out. I knew I wasn’t alone. I knew I was seen. I knew that I did and do belong to others. But on this night, as the waves of lies, unmet expectations, and delayed hope crashed against my mind and heart, those were very difficult truths to hold onto .
I sat down and looked through Facebook to see if I could kick myself out of the onslaught, only to be greeted with pictures of friends and their new babies, friends and their husbands, friends and their families, and my angst grew. I love and celebrate these things in the lives of others, but this night, the enemy was using whatever he could to slap me around and get me to walk away from what was true. I put my computer aside.
Like the mature 41 year old that I am, I ran through a list of things I could do to get out of the feelings:
- Eat (there’s nothing in the house, I haven’t been to the grocery store in days)
- Call a friend (they are out of town and you may not want them to see you in your present condition)
- Call an acquaintance to make them a friend (I don’t have the engery)
- Do something spiritual (can’t concentrate, and right now I’m irritated with you God)
- Join Tinder, Match, EHarmony, Plenty of Fish, JDate, Farmers Only and find someone who will see me… maybe meet them for a drink… maybe they will kiss me… maybe then I won’t feel alone… REALITY CHECK, maybe Cari Jenkins, you need to think about something else
- Watch a movie (feel someone else’s loneliness so I don’t have to)
- Feel sorry for yourself, pout, think of sad things, build a case for how bad your life is, get mad (Ugh! This is going no where)
After running through more options than I care to list, I sat there, in my leather chair, and said aloud, “Lord, I don’t like that I want to be married. I don’t like doing this alone. I don’t like that I’m sad about this.” I took a deep breath, chose to shut my computer down, put on my favorite Christmas Album and pull out the decorations.
As I put up the decorations I proceeded to feel all the feelings.
I prayed as I hung garland. I was teary as I put out the manger scene. I said with a whisper only God and I could hear, “Please don’t let me do this alone again next year.” I wrote words of truth on the chalk board of my front stoop. And, I turned toward God in the midst of my story. I chose not to hide from the story, but to feel it. To engage all the emotion, to be naked with it before God and myself and be unashamed.
There is no shame in being single and there is no shame in wanting to be married.
I chose my perspective. I chose to feel. I chose to be with Jesus in the midst. I chose to believe. Because – I am never a victim to circumstance.
I posted a photo of my newly decorated home, mostly because I needed to remember what was true, and said,
I rarely choose my circumstance, but I always get to choose my perspective.
Moments like this are not unfamiliar. They are familiar whether married or single. They surprise us, catch us off guard and altogether too often invite us into making agreements with that which is not true.
To survive the Christmas season, it is important…even imperative, to feel what we feel, to sit with ourselves and Jesus, holding our unanswered prayers, our places of impossibility and our felt hopelessness connecting with the longing within. It is equally important to speak of these feelings and experiences, getting naked before my intimate circles of friends and those who might just understand, and be unashamed.
It is then that we, you and I, get to invite others to hold our stories too. We get to step out of the lonely and step into belonging. We step out of our unbelief and into belief. We hold the simultaneous joy and sorrow of the moment, diminishing neither, nor exalting one above the other and in essence, be human.
We turn our surviving into thriving when we engage our stories with honesty, grace and patience. When we invite others in to our stories and recognize that Jesus, our long expected Savior truly did come to set us free, we live fully.
So today, when tempted to allow your circumstance to dictate your behavior and when ignoring the emotion or thoughts you have that feel unpleasant, take your emotion, whatever it is, and feel it, speak it, and pray it. Sit with it, with Jesus, and experience His love, His kindness, His good, His grace, His tears, His felt absence or His felt presence. When we choose to feel and engage as we are, we move towards Him. For our longings are always His invitation to relationship. And, when we turn to Jesus and come to him, he meets us, where we are and gives us freedom.
Come Thou Long Expectant Jesus
Come, thou long expected Jesus,
born to set thy people free;
from our fears and sins release us,
let us find our rest in thee.
Israel’s strength and consolation,
hope of all the earth thou art;
dear desire of every nation,
joy of every longing heart.
Born thy people to deliver,
born a child and yet a King,
born to reign in us forever,
now thy gracious kingdom bring.
By thine own eternal spirit
rule in all our hearts alone;
by thine all sufficient merit,
raise us to thy glorious throne.