The White Elephant in the Room: (Un)advice for Surviving Singleness

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“I just don’t get it,” my 11-year-old neighbor Zahara said, her eyebrows wrinkled with confusion. “Lots of ugly people are married, and you’re so pretty.”

A group of us were taking our customary walk around the neighborhood one evening a couple summers ago. Me—the 25-year-old single American girl—and them, preteen immigrant girls whose mothers were not much older than I was.

I had recently arrived home from grad school and once again was inundated by well-meaning friends, church family, and acquaintances with questions about my relationship status.

I always came back with plenty of stories—the boy I met at a missions summit, who was headed overseas and eager to make us official a week after meeting. Or the Asian guy who could barely speak English but starting cooking his native dishes for me after he found out I had a voracious appetite. Then there was the upperclassman who ordered me off the menu at the restaurant where I worked, and barely looked at me again after that night.

I took every piece of advice given to Christian singles as gospel truth.

I had read the books and taken pages of mental notes from my married and single friends. I didn’t want to end up alone, so I took every piece of advice given to Christian singles as gospel truth: what to look for, where to look, and sometimes not to look at all.

“As soon as you stop wanting a husband, that’s when God will bring you someone,” several people informed me.

“You find what you are looking for,” others claimed. “Keep your eyes open.”

So which was it?

“Christian college is the best place to find someone,” a pastor told me. “That’s where most people find their spouse.”

Not me, it appeared.

“Put yourself out there—you have to show a certain amount of interest, or guys won’t notice you.” But also, “Don’t show too much interest until he pursues. You can’t come on too strong.”

Still I finished college completely unattached, feeling like an outdated white elephant gift at the singles Christmas party. Was something wrong with me? How had others found someone special so easily?

I felt like an outdated white elephant gift at the singles Christmas party.

It’s easy to ask why. We want the answers so we can find a solution to the problem. Blaming something or someone seems to be the easiest solution, with God often bearing the brunt of our frustration. That way it’s out of our control, and He is responsible for our inability to find happiness through marriage. Outside of blaming another person, the other option is to blame myself. If it’s my fault, I have the power to fix it. I can try harder, go to the right places, say the right things. But sometimes in life, instead of finding the answers, we have to let go of the questions. We may never know why. And maybe, just maybe, we don’t need to.

So what should we do as we try to let go of the questions and live fully? Ignore every piece of advice? Lash out at well-meaning friends and family for their questions? Bury every desire so deep inside that not even an FBI agent could find it? Here are a few things I try to remember.

  1. Trust God—above all. He is bigger than the statistics, the hurts, and the seemingly missed opportunities. Pay attention when He is closing a door or opening a new one. Go to Him with your desires—He’s got this.
  2. Take advice—with a grain of salt. Everyone has a story, and listening can encourage you. But realize that what worked for them might not necessarily work for you. Your life, your story is just that—yours. So don’t feel like you have to do things exactly like someone else.
  3. Take chances—every chance you get. Go beyond your comfort zone to serve and play. Be open to trying new things and going new places. Strike up a conversation with a stranger. Build strong relationships with the people that God has placed in your life. Be raw, be real. And you just might be surprised by who joins you on the journey.

I didn’t have an answer for Zahara that night. “It’s ok, sweetheart,” I said. “God willing one day I will, but for now, I get to be with all of you.”

That answer seemed to satisfy the girls who nodded in agreement and echoed my sentiment into the gathering dusk. “God willing.”

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