Sarah Anne Hayes

some thoughts on singleness

RelationshipsSarah Anne Hayes2 Comments

I'm not entirely sure how to start this post. Not because I don't have a lot of things to say, but because this is a hard topic for me to talk about and I'm a little afraid. We'll get to it soon enough, so bear with me for a moment or two.

I started this blog in 2008 during my first semester of college and it's gone through a lot of changes since then. I've redesigned it goodness knows how many times, gone through five or six names, and used three hosting platforms. When I started blogging regularly after college, I wrote about a lot of things including, in hindsight, a lot of things I shouldn't have written about. In the name of vulnerability, honesty, and transparency, I had a season of some serious oversharing and there are things I posted online I regret putting out there for public consumption.

That's part of why this blog is hard for me to write. Because, despite the fact that I've matured a vast amount and hopefully gained some wisdom and discernment in the years since that season of oversharing, there's a part of me that's afraid I haven't actually learned the difference between it and healthy vulnerability. 

But this is what I know: writing sets people free. It sets me free because that's how Jesus made me — a woman who processes her life by putting pen to paper or fingers to keyboards, and when I write about the things that cause me fear and shame and push them into the light, they lose their power. It sets other people free when they read my words and that little voice whispers, "See? You're not the only one." And despite lots of conversations with friends, this is a topic that's often made me feel ashamed and alone. So I'm gonna write about it today and in the future and hopefully set myself and some others free, too.

And with that longer-than-necessary preamble, let's get to it: this is a post about singleness. 

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For most of my life, I have been single. 97.18% of it, if you want the hard numbers.

I dated one guy at the tail end of college for about a month. He's the first guy I kissed, but we never made it official. After college, I had one boyfriend and we were together for about 8 1/2 months from first date to break up. So of the 28 years I've spent on this earth, less than one has had me romantically attached to another person.

I'm not going to sugarcoat it: that fact is really hard for me to deal with sometimes.

When I was growing up, I had an unabashed love for princesses — Disney and non-Disney alike. Heck, I still have an unabashed love for them. This, of course, meant I sang "Someday My Prince Will Come" and "Once Upon a Dream" and dressed up for Halloween and danced around my house imagining the day I'd meet my very own Prince Charming.

Though I will argue Disney gave me more unrealistic expectations about hair than it did about men (anyone else still wishing for Aurora's perfect curls?), I'll agree that it probably gave some false notions that all my dreams coming true meant finding Prince Charming. 

My thought process on dreams and expectations of what a future husband and marriage would look like have changed a lot since I was a 6-year-old obsessed with Disney's sanitized depictions of fairy tales. I have a heck of a lot of goals and dreams that have absolutely nothing to do with a future spouse. I know the man I marry will be a fallible human, unlikely to replicate the actions of a man from a fairy tale or chick flick. I know a whole lot of work goes into "happily ever after."

But one thing hasn't changed since my days of dressing up as a princess and dancing around my house — over 20 years later, I still dream of and desire marriage. I still hope and pray for my future husband, for the start of my own "happily ever after," for the children and home and family I hope to be.

I was that girl who fully expected to meet her husband in college and get married within a year of graduation. Clearly that did not happen, and in many respects I'm glad it didn't, but the desire for marriage has in no way lessened in my heart.

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When we talk about singleness within the Church, it's often a weird conversation that leaves singles feeling ashamed, alone, or patronized more than it leaves them feeling loved and encouraged. I think the reason is because we usually talk about singleness in one of two ways.

Either we talk about it as a disease to be cured, a waiting room, a season of preparation before life really begins when you get married, or we talk about it as a blessing, a gift, or a special calling for which you should clearly be immensely grateful all the time. There are good and bad things about both of these conversations, but neither of them is a complete picture.

For anyone who will get married one day, singleness is a season of a preparation for marriage, not because life "really" begins when you get married, but because whatever season you're in now is preparation for the season you'll enter into next. Singleness is also a blessing and a gift because, as Paul says, it allows the individual the opportunity to be undivided in their affection for Christ in a way they cannot when they have a spouse or children. And for some people, like Paul, it is the Lord's calling on their life to remain single.

The problem with both of these conversations is they often fail to address the nuance of singleness in the life of a believer. They ignore the reality of a person who deeply loves and trusts Christ's plan for their life, who knows His timing is perfect, who is content with their current life, but who also deeply desires marriage, who at times grieves its absence, and cries out to the Lord to answer this prayer of their heart.

Maybe I'm alone in this, but I believe it is possible to be content with the life you're living and trusting the Lord's sovereignty and timing while also deeply desiring the Lord would give you something more than you have now. It is a precarious balance to be sure, but it's possible.

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I count myself as one such individual. 

My trust in the Lord has increased exponentially over the last three years, something for which I am exceedingly grateful. This increase in trust means an increased trust in His timing, His plan, His sovereignty, His everything. It means, at the end of the day, I trust and believe He will bring my future husband into my life at the exact right moment, in the perfect way, and nothing will change or thwart that. 

I love a lot of things about the current season of life He's placed me in, and I am doing my best to live in an intentional way that makes the most of this unique time in my life. But my heart aches for what could be, and I often cry out to the Lord asking for more trust and faith in His perfect timing because I want it to be different than it is.

For deeply personal reasons, I know I will get married one day. You can fight me on that if you want, but it's a losing battle. I don't know when or to whom, but I do know it will happen. And though I love the person I am becoming and the ways the Lord is transforming my heart through the wanting and the waiting, I often grieve the moments and years that continue to pass that I don't get to share with my future husband. I know we will have a lifetime to know each other and hear all the stories that made up who we were before we met, but so much of me wishes we could start making those memories together now rather than having to tell each other the stories in hindsight.

The thing is, we don't have a rubric for allowing this kind of grief. In the Church, we sometimes even struggle to let people grieve a "legitimate" loss like the death of a loved one, citing platitudes like "everything happens for a reason" and "God is in control." And yet there is a different kind of grief for an unfulfilled hope or a dream deferred. That is something we never talk about and so many singles sit awash in guilt and shame for grieving in this way because we don't allow space or conversation for its reality. 

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Not every night, but frequently, I pray for my future husband. Both for who he is now, how he's growing, and how the Lord is working in his life while we are both still single, and for the Lord to make haste in joining our lives together. It's something I pray every year — that this would be the year my husband and I become one.

In my bedroom, there is a bookshelf and on it sits a brown leather box. Inside this brown leather box are dozens of letters penned at sporadic moments over the last 13 years. They are letters I have written to my future husband.

I wrote the first letter as a freshman in high school because my small group leader had us all write a letter to our future husband. Probably because I love letters and words and stories, I decided to continue, and though the letters have been anything but consistent in the years since, I continue to write them and plan to give them to my husband on our wedding day.

Most people don't know that because I don't usually talk about it. In the same way having a Pinterest board dedicated to your future wedding is often viewed as desperate, I fear the same will be thought of my box of letters. And yet, I don't view it as desperation. To me, those letters are a picture of years of hope and desire and trust in the Lord's faithfulness. I hope my future husband will read them and see how long I have prayed for him and for our lives together and he will feel so loved in those moments.

I'm sure a lot of my friends do something similar, and even if they don't, I am sure they often pray for their future spouse. But it's something we don't talk about because there's a false belief that fervent prayer for something means discontentment with what you currently have. The two things aren't mutually exclusive, but we treat them as if they are.

A couple of years ago, I heard a sermon on the early chapters of Luke, specifically the story of when Zechariah learned he would finally have a son. When the angel appears to him in the Holy of Holies, he says, "Do not be afraid, Zechariah, your prayer has been heard."

At this point in their lives, Zechariah and Elizabeth were well past the age of bearing children, yet their desire had not gone away and neither had their prayers. Can you imagine the kind of faith that must have taken? To continue praying for decades, for a thing they wanted desperately, and a thing that seemed impossible? Yet they still prayed.

It seems to me that fervent, consistent prayer is an indication of deep and abiding faith and trust in the Lord and His ability to do far more than we could ask or imagine. Yet we often treat it like it's the opposite. As if spending weeks, months, or years on your knees pouring your heart out before the Father is an indication of weakness. In reality, it is, but it's an indication of the best kind of weakness.

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One of my favorite bloggers got married recently, and after she was dating her now husband, she wrote a post about singleness. In it, she wrote all the things she wished she'd written when she was single. Another one of my favorite bloggers, who got married in 2015, wrote a lot about her singleness and I am forever grateful for her words.

We often tell stories only when they've reached their denouement, their lovely conclusion. Stories told from the middle are messy and often provide more questions than answers, but they're equally important as the stories told in hindsight.

Being single at 28 is rough, especially when you thought you'd be married at 22. I have a good life and a good God but good doesn't always mean easy and singleness at this point is not easy.

Being a writer is scary, because it means opening yourself up so others can know they're not alone. So that's what I'm doing here, for as long as I'm in this messy middle place. And if you're here, in the messy middle of singleness, too, I hope you will know that you're not alone.