As I sat on my yoga mat and ended my practice with meditation today, I contemplated God’s faithfulness. My thoughts drifted to who God has been to me over the past few years.
Wrapping up the first draft of my latest memoir has gotten me thinking about God and his promise of sufficiency. I wrote the painful story of my second marriage.
Neither of my two marriages were easy. Writing about such things has required me to take a long, hard look at myself. To face the part I played in both, being the common denominator.
My first marriage wore me out. My husband was a good but selfish man. Learning he had a terminal illness gave him a new perspective of life and himself. He came to recognize too late how entitled he’d been and how much it had costed me to be his wife. He grieved, but had run out of time to fix it.
Until recently, I haven’t been forthcoming about this marriage’s difficulties. For a long time, I wrote about the best parts as a way to honor him and to protect me. Then I started to hear that I had painted us as having a fairytale romance. Unintentionally, I realized I had continued the practice of covering up his humanness in death, just as I had in life.
Then I got married again. My neediness to be loved led me to rush. To my horror, I discovered I had married someone worse. A man who lacked integrity; a stranger to accountability. How could I have made such a terrible mistake? I had meant to disprove the conventional wisdom that claims new widows often make expensive mistakes the first year or two of losing their spouse but instead became the poster child.
Now that I’m single again, I have to admit the urge to find a new relationship has resurfaced, brought on by fears I might be alone for the rest of my life. Why does the thought of that scare me? I love my newfound independence and autonomy. Yes, I’m enjoying these freedoms today but will they remain satisfying for the next thirty to forty years? That’s a long time to go without the deep intimacy only found in marriage. The thought of that makes me shudder.
Paul spoke of celibacy and singlehood as a blessed state, more specifically, a gift. In 1 Corinthians, he wrote,
“I wish that all were as I myself am. But each has his own gift from God, one of one kind and one of another. To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is good for them to remain single, as I am.” (1 Cor7:7, 8, ESV).
How could Paul have made this assertion? Sometimes I chafe at my unmarried state. Friendships aren’t the same, intended to meet a different need. I live without the kind of intimacy married couples enjoy.
Am I to wander the wilderness of aloneness like a starving creature? Am I never to know the joy of knowing and being known again? Is the cross I must pick up and carry each day? (Luke 9:23) And if so, how could anyone call this state a good thing?
And then it hits me. Maybe I’m viewing my singleness from entirely the wrong perspective. Perhaps I need a paradigm shift. Instead of viewing my marital status as a means to an end, could it simply be a fact unrelated to whether I am or am not content?
Maybe the whole point has been that God longs to be the complete source of my sufficiency, regardless of my marital state. Jesus said in John 10:10, “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” (ESV) Abundant life – that’s a bold offer.
The Psalmist hungered after God. “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God. ” (Psalm 42:1, NIV), he wrote. God was clearly this author’s all. Jesus offered to satisfy the Samaritan woman he met at the well. He said,
“If you knew the generosity of God and who I am, you would be asking me for a drink, and I would give you fresh, living water.” (John 4:10, The Message).
God says enoughness and abundance reside within him, not within myself. I won’t find it married or single. It can only be discovered by seeking and existing within my relationship with him. Paul summed it up beautifully when he preached,“ he[God] is not far from any one of us. ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’” (Acts 17:27b, 28, NIV).
Did I catch that? My very being is to reside within the vastness of God.
I’m being stretched in a new direction with the notion of singlehood as a gift.
I’m working hard to break free from the previous idea that satisfaction and contentment can only be found in sexual intimacy with another. If so, I’ve made Paul and Jesus Christ out to be liars.
I have moments that indicate I’m heading in the right direction. Of discovering God in a whole new way. Take this morning while I meditated on his word. As I sat on the floor, his love and peace flooded over me, wrapping me a warm embrace. I felt a quiet, wordless reassurance that God was with me and knew I’d be okay.
Maybe the reason for my push to marry again isn’t to do it better and smarter, but to fix something unrealistic. Perhaps I expect too much. That it would solve a deep hunger that cannot be found in another human being. Kutter Callaway in his essay,
“Why did Paul prefer singleness for himself and others?” wrote,
“Sex is good (great even!). It provides humans with a pleasure unlike any other, and for some it also brings the blessing of children, so it certainly plays an important role in our lives. But it will never make us whole. All our desires (sexual or otherwise) are reflections of a much deeper and more profound longing that can never be fully met by sex.”
He then concluded,
“no romantic relationship and no amount of sex, no matter how good they are, will ever actually be enough.”
So, in the turmoil and unknown of today, I am leaving my unmet needs, my lofty hopes, and deep desires in God’s good hands. I’m taking a step of faith that no matter what life holds, God’s love is enough. That he doesn’t want me to persist in some shadow of needy existence. That, by faith, I can find satisfying sustenance in him.
This is a hard practice, partly because it’s new, but partly because I don’t fully trust God will meet me in my loneliness. I’m sure the early ship captains quaked in their boots as they drew close to where the maps marked the end of the flat world. It must have taken great courage for them to sail on. They believed they might be risking their very lives to demonstrate the idea that the world was round.
My big step of faith requires that same kind of fearlessness. I’m going against internal forces that beg me to take matters into my own hands.
I know I can only sustain this greater trust in God by making today’s practice of sitting with him a regular one. Not something I do in a hit or miss fashion, but with consistency and high expectations. I must continue to carve out time to spend with God. To turn to him first and about everything. And if done regularly, I believe I’ll discover the gift hidden within singleness.
What hidden gift are you overlooking?
Dr. Kerry McAvoy is a clinical psychologist, mother of three grown sons, writer, and author of the devotionals: Jesus, The Ultimate Therapist: Bringing Hope and Healing, Jesus, The Ultimate Therapist: Healing Without Limits, and Pain as a Starting Point.
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