Can Singleness Be A “Pleasant Place?”

Beautiful purple wild flowers close up

JENILYN SWETT|GUEST

“Why don’t you have a husband?”

She’s 7, her big brown eyes more visible than usual since she broke her glasses, her baby blonde hair turning brown. I’ve known her since she was growing in her mom’s womb, and held her for the first time at just a few days old. This question could never be rude or invasive coming from her. She’s asking in an innocent, genuine way, with both care and curiosity. I know that I must meet her in that place, and offer this sincere question a sincere answer.

But I’m a little undone. This is not the first time that one of the dear little ones in my life has asked me a question like this. And every time it seems, something catches in my throat as I try to answer… she’s asking because she recognizes that not having a husband is unusual, at least in her world. She’s asking because she senses that having a husband would be a good thing. And I sense that too.

I’m a little undone, because I think that when I hear this question from a sweet child, the little girl inside of me echoes that question back to God… not in an angry way, not accusing, just trying to make sense of it all. “Yes, God, why don’t I have a husband?”

I try to collect my thoughts, and say the words that are usually the first to come to my mind in one of these tender conversations: “I don’t know, sweetheart… “ I follow that with something like, “I haven’t found one yet,” or “God hasn’t brought one to me yet.”

“Why not?” she asked. And that lump in my throat rises a little higher.

“It seems like God just doesn’t want me to have a husband right now.”

With barely a pause, she responded light-heartedly, “I like that you don’t have a husband.” This was no cliché reassurance. She said it as a matter of fact.

And much like one of those movie montages where scenes of life flash before you, my mind was flooded with memories of time spent with this one. I babysat her as an infant, and as a one-year-old her face would light up and she’d clap as I walked in the door. She and her family moved away around that time, and in the years since we’ve managed to visit each other often. There have been countless games of hide-and-seek, dinner table conversations, books and books and books read. On one visit, she told me, “You are part of our family.” And it’s true.

I considered all of these things, and heard her words echo in my mind: “I like that you don’t have a husband.” I realized that so much of what we’d shared together over her seven years of life wouldn’t have happened – or would have been very different – if I had a husband. I’d have been less available. My affections would have been more divided. Perhaps by now I’d have kids of my own demanding attention. But for now she had me all to herself. And the privilege and joy of being part of her life makes my cup overflow.

This summer, the women at my church have been reading the book Seasons of Waiting. At a book discussion a few days after this conversation, we got to talking about author Betsy Childs Howard’s encouragement that “seeing Jesus is not a consolation prize.”[1] We reflected together on the things we might be prone to miss – the ways we might miss seeing Jesus in our waiting — when we’re distracted by the thing we’re waiting for. I shared the story of my conversation with this young friend, and found myself saying, “As much as I want to be married…. I wouldn’t trade that for these past seven years of being in her life.”

“The LORD is my chosen portion and my cup;
you hold my lot.
The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.”[2]

In my day-to-day experience of singleness, it doesn’t always feel like the lines have fallen for me in pleasant places. Self-pity, loneliness, anxiety about the future, and feeling left out or overlooked can easily make this feel like a very unpleasant place. I have often needed reminders like the one this dear girl gave me. She has experienced my singleness as a blessing, and at the same time, her presence in my life has been a small glimpse of the beautiful inheritance we have in Christ.

When I take my eyes off of the object of my waiting – a husband – and look around at all God is providing and the relationships and opportunities he is calling me to as I wait, there is a real sense of peace and joy that comes.  Oh, that the LORD would give us all eyes to see that even our waiting places are made pleasant through Him!

Jenilyn Swett is a daughter of God who is passionate about hospitality, education, and helping others to know God and themselves better. She believes that all of those things go hand-in-hand, and can be best accomplished when good food, a whiteboard, and fresh flowers are involved. Jenilyn grew up in Minnesota, spent four post-college years in Alabama, and now calls St. Louis, Missouri home. She received her MDiv from Covenant Seminary and serves as the Director of Women’s Ministry and Adult Education at Crossroads Presbyterian Fellowship.

 

[1] Reflecting on the story of Anna in Luke 2, Howard writes, “While you may not literally lay eyes on Jesus as she did, God wants to give you a richer, deeper experience of himself that is more precious than the thing he has withheld from you. God won’t waste your waiting” (page 92; Crossway, 2016).

[2] Psalm 16:5-6

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