There are a lot of reasons I didn’t want to publish this. Most of all because it required me texting some friends with a disclaimer so my jumbled mess of thoughts here didn’t catch them off guard and make them think I was upset with them (a.k.a. creating potential conflict which I hate). And secondly, because I’m talking in part about my emotions over the years about being single, which I only ever joke about out of fear of getting too real, dwelling on it, and exposing the fact I’m actually an emotional person.
But in talking with a couple of people, I felt this needed to be shared. So here goes.
I recently turned 26, and it’s made me reflect on all sorts of things. My life looks a whole lot different at this age than I imagined it would 10 years ago. If I’m being honest, I thought for sure that I’d be married and maybe a mom or pregnant with my first child by now. It was always in my perfectly crafted plan for my life.
I definitely didn’t go to college seeking an MRS degree, but I always imagined myself graduating college and getting married soon after – a natural progression of events in my mind. So when I finished college still single, I was perfectly okay with it and assumed I’d meet someone soon and get married.
As each year has passed since then, my attitude has changed and I’ve gone through a lot of different emotions ranging from joking with my roommates about my singleness, confusion, sadness, contentment, loneliness, and questioning God (as if he needs me to bargain with him so he’ll change his mind).
Some of those conversations went something like this:
Okay, God, here’s the deal. I had these plans and desires in my heart, and you’ve kind of messed those up? What’s going on here? What’s wrong with me? Do you want me to be single forever? Because I really don’t want that in case you’re wondering. God, what are you trying to tell me?
Out of that questioning came a lot of struggling and God working in my heart. I’ve processed through a lot of false beliefs and shame that I wasn’t ready to face or even aware of until a couple of years ago. Someday, I may open up about that stuff here. And now, I’m thankful I wasn’t in a relationship before that happened because it probably wouldn’t have turned out well. I may have stuffed those things down even further and not even realized they were there to be worked through. God knew I needed to process that with Him first.
I came to a place of contentment in Christ, knowing that he orchestrates all things and if he wants something for my life, he’ll make it happen in his timing.
This isn’t to say things in my heart are perfect now and I’m always happy with wherever he has me. I’m open to what he’s doing, speaking, and showing me. It’s a continual process of him working in me, and contentment, confusion, and frustration come and go.
Like the fact that several months ago not one, not two, but three of my closest friends from college told me they were pregnant and due within a couple months of each other.
Talk about a mix of emotions and crap I thought I had moved past. I was so happy and excited for them. But at the same time, I was honestly really sad. Here the three of them are, getting to experience pregnancy at the same time, and eventually have their babies so close together. And here I am, still single and wishing so bad that I could be experiencing that with them. It isn’t just a FOMO thing. It’s real, raw emotion and confusion I’ve had to contend with. This was always where I thought I’d be by now.
As I approached 26, I began to reflect on the desires of my heart, the first of which is to serve God and glorify Him in all I do. As I reflected on that, and continue to do so, I realize that, while I’m not married or having kids right now like I’d hoped, there’s so much more that I’d prayed for that God has absolutely blessed me with. It’s not about what could have been; it’s about what currently is. I have amazing friends, a wonderful church community, I get to live with my nephew in his early years, and so much more.
I guess what I’m learning is I need to truly abide in Christ. I can’t just wait on God to fulfill the desires of my heart. Because waiting for him to give me what I want isn’t really resting and abiding in him; it’s just selfishness and resting in my own ideals with the guise of them maybe, possibly being in God’s plans for me.
We’re called to abide in him. Abide in him.
Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.
Now, if I was going to take something out of context in this passage to make myself feel warm and fuzzy inside, I’d choose “ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” So nice. It’d probably fit perfectly on a coffee mug or some pretty wall decor.
Instead, let’s focus for a second on verse 6. If I don’t abide in Christ, I’m like a branch that gets thrown away from its vine, withers, dies, and finally gets tossed in the fire.
Because I nerd out on word studies, let’s look at this one for a minute. Abide (or remain or dwell, depending on translation) comes from the Greek word meno, which means “stay, wait for, remain in a place or state, expect something in future, continue to exist, keep on.” (Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains: Greek)
I am to continually be present with Christ. Not just when it’s all going well or I have the time for it. But to stay with Christ and be still all the time. He is the vine. I am a branch. If I don’t stay with him, held to the vine, then I’ll shrivel up and be tossed aside. That sounds so brutal but, well, it’s true. Without Christ, we don’t have life. We might be physically alive and walking around, but we’re spiritually dead.
Life comes in seasons, and with different seasons come change. We’re witnessing the tangible changes of a season right now. If you look outside, you can probably see several trees with leaves changing colors or falling on the ground. It might be rainy and cold rather than sunny and warm.
Just the same, change happens in our relationships as we enter different seasons in our lives. As a lot of my close friends got married, our friendships naturally changed. As those friendships changed, I was blessed with new single friends.
The changes in those old friendships aren’t bad. I think a lot of the time, we get hung up on what’s uncomfortable about transition (in our work, relationships, walks with God, whatever) and miss an important part of the change.
With every change comes the opportunity to adapt. And learning to adapt to change, instead of getting frustrated with it and running away, is something we all need to do. No, things aren’t going to be the same. But our hearts can be.
Just because we don’t see friends as often, or what we’d hoped for our lives doesn’t happen in our timing, or even if we’re really struggling through the transitions, it doesn’t mean things are bad. If we keep our hearts and minds centered on Christ and his promise for our lives, then we can adapt to whatever changes he throws at us.
If we’re not abiding in Christ, we are spiritually dead. But if we abide in him, and he in us, we are alive and thriving. And he tells us this so “that [his] joy may be in [us], and that [our] joy may be full.” He’s not just giving us rules for the sake of rules, but because he truly desires for us to partake in the fullness of his joy!
So as changes inevitably keep coming, I’m learning to abide in Christ, knowing that even in the struggle and sadness, he is there and his joy is in me. That is a promise.
It’s a constant battle to release my desires to him, especially if I think my heart is in the right place and wanting to bring him glory. But I’m learning.
I hope this can be an encouragement to some of you as you face transition and the confusion that often accompanies it. I pray you will abide in Christ so you can experience the joy that he extends to us.
If you’re struggling in this area, reach out to me if you want. I’m far from an expert, but it always helps to have someone to hear you. And if not me, I pray you can find other people to walk with you through the heart work.