I don’t really want to write this but I am going to because I promised myself on the plane ride home from North Carolina that I would try. I also thought of a million ways to start and then I couldn’t. And then I saw on Amber’s instagram that she was reading Donald Miller’s latest book.
I remember seeing that he had a new book coming out a long time ago and as a fan, I was thrilled. Then I saw what it was about. The book is titled Scary Close: Dropping the Act and Finding True Intimacy.
I was not pleased.
I was not pleased because I knew this was a book I should read and one that I would find convicting. I was not pleased because this is probably the biggest area of my life where I like to live with blinders on. If I feel God asking me to do something, I do it. Really, I do.
A lot of strands from a lot of different places have been coming together for quite awhile to put me in the place I was on the plane ride coming home. On that plane ride, I tried to think of how I would articulate all these things and gave up. Then I tweeted that I would be posting this today so I could not chicken out.
A few weeks ago, I asked readers what they liked reading about. Someone responded that they liked reading my posts on singleness. I kind of sighed. I think I have written one post solely on the topic but certainly have alluded to it in other places. But who wants to write about singleness? It’s not something I want to exactly be known for. Besides, everyone feels differently about it and is at a different place with it. I don’t know all and I think even then, a few weeks ago, I realized my view on singleness looked on the surface healthy had a lot of hidden (even from me) unhealthy layers to it.
For so long–and I mean years–I was grateful for being single. I wanted to be married someday but being single allowed me to go on these great adventures and experience some amazing things I wouldn’t have been able to otherwise. The biggest reason I was content was because I trust God, etc, etc.
I was lying to myself a bit. The truth: I was grateful for being single. The lie? While yes, God knows best and I did get to go on adventures and that was definitely part of my gratitude, the larger part of my gratitude, which I am only now figuring out, came from being protected.
You see, if I was single, as in not dating, not looking, not married, I could not be hurt.
I am terrified of being hurt.
I always have been but when my fears become actual reality in a startling and horrible way, I built walls. Yes, the post about that first relationship is one way my fears became reality–and a big one at that. It isn’t the only way (there are just some things I can’t share). So as I was saying, I really love being single and I don’t get why other girls don’t (which is partly true…girls who can only think of is being married at 18 or any age really are hard for me to deal with), I also meant: isn’t it so great that I can’t be hurt?
Again, I started peeling back the layers only a little while ago but since then the realizations have been coming fast and hard in a way I cannot ignore. There are reasons for this.
For the first time in my life, over the last few years, I have had the privilege of doing life with married friends in healthy relationships where their lives and marriages and family are for the glory of God. I saw that people hurt each other because that is the nature of being human but that people didn’t always wound one another. There is a distinct difference.
This was huge for me.
As I said, I’ve always wanted to be married and have a family. Then, another realization. What I really wanted was for my closest friends who know me best to find this great guy who they could vet and say: you would be perfect with my friend, Nina. You guys will hurt each other because you are human but you won’t wound each other. You will also love God together and laugh a lot.
I literally wanted my friends to vet some guy for me so that I could be promised that I would not be wounded again (and really, I don’t even love that word because with it is often paired with the word victim but here we are). I wanted that so I could trust this imaginary, vetted guy without doing the work of trying to trust him with the possibility of wounds and hurts. It sounds a little insane when I type it out but it also makes a lot of sense.
Another strand of realization: while I was getting to do life with these great couples, I was also cutting myself off from community. I had been doing this for awhile because again, I had been wounded and I have always kind of had this metaphor for wounds that involved an electric fence and dogs. You see, it is very easy to train a dog to respect an electric fence. I’ve seen it done three times with three very different dogs. All it takes is one minor shock and they never willingly cross it again. So why in the heck would I willingly invest myself in community when the major community I spent my time in as a Christian had left me wounded (not that I was perfect either, let’s be clear)?
I was wary but I could have trusted God. I could have said, people hurt people and ministries and communities and churches are made up of people and you’ve got to get back in the saddle. But I didn’t.
Instead I spent my time building walls–all sorts of walls.
After my silent talk with myself on the plane, I pulled out my Beth Moore Bible Study I am doing with a few friends and we took apart 1 Thessalonians 2:17-20. I’m just going to quote Beth because to take you through the steps of explanation without making you do the whole study but she wrote: “Together they [Paul, Silas, and Timothy] describe a time when the settling sediment of loneliness whips up into the activation of healthy longing. Shifting from bereft to bestirred is when you cease settling for feeling something; you actually start doing something” (Children of the Day: 1 & 2 Thessalonians, 58).
My walls were strong and I built them well but for the reasons I’ve listed above (and others but we will get to those another time), I was starting to shift from contentment in my singleness while longing for a family someday to actual loneliness (no community will do that to you).
Before we took off, before I read Beth Moore’s quote, I had already texted a friend (ironically, someone doing the study with) and told her: I can’t do this anymore. I am not fooling myself any longer. I’m not single because I want to be. I am single because it is easier. I am single because being lonely*** is easier than being wounded. But I am tired of being lonely and I am going to do something about it. Then I did the study and read that quote. And I thought, Oh, God, you are so funny. I am going to download that Donald Miller book (Scary Close: Dropping the Act and Finding True Intimacy
)when I have internet access and with your help, I am going to do something about it. And one of the first things I am going to do is write about it, somehow, because this has, as you know, God, been one way I keep myself accountable.
I downloaded the book and I am doing other things which I will share with you next week. As always, when I share my heart like this, I am nervous. But here goes nothing.
*I hope it is quite clear that I am not: oh, I NEED a relationship. I NEED to be married ASAP. This is about me letting down walls and just being open to whatever God brings my way which I have not been up until this point. Ya know?
***I am not equating singleness to loneliness. I would never do that. What I am saying, is that, for me, I was lying to myself. I hadn’t just cut out romantic relationships. I had gutted my life so only my most trusted friends remained. I had no community and without community we are lonely because we were made for it. For me, it is all tied together.
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