Surviving the Wait (Part 1)
I used to think that I could handle being single if only I knew that one day I would be married. If God would just tell me, ‘You’re single now BUT you will be married within five years’, then I could rest easy, take a breath, and get on with my life. But of course, that didn’t happen. Like you, I just had to pray and hope that one day, it would happen.
It’s kind of a freaky place to be – not knowing the future. So much of a woman’s potential and purpose is centred around marriage and motherhood, and this is normal, right and proper. Don’t feel ashamed of wanting to be a wife and mum. As we know from the Genesis creation account, it’s the natural desire and ‘fit’ for a woman to partner with a man, be his strong helper and have children with him.
So I get how scary it is to wonder if this will ever happen for you. I wish I could tell you that it would, and when. But I can’t.
In the meantime, how will you live? What routines and habits can you build into your life to become a more healthy person? Which relationships will you seek and nurture in order to fill your love tanks? There’s no point dwelling on your situation and becoming more and more depressed with each passing birthday. Keep your joy, keep your faith, and stay positive. Here are some ideas you might like to weave into your life in order to survive the wait.
1. Maintain your physical and mental health
Let’s start with the obvious – try to get to a healthy BMI (body mass index, link here), and lose or add weight as necessary. If you need to lose weight, reduce your calories. Get an app like My Fitness Pal or similar to track your daily calorie intake. An average woman needs about 2000 calories a day. You might want to reduce this to 1800, 1500 or 1200 for a time, to shed some pounds. If you want to add weight, eat more protein (eggs and dairy, protein shakes and balls, some meat etc.) and do strength training. If you want a super quick and simple route to better overall health, just quit gluten, sugar, dairy, alcohol and caffeine for a couple of months. Everything will improve!
Do some exercise most days, even if it’s just a walk around the block, or a 15-min yoga session off Youtube (I’m really into Yoga with Adriene at the moment). Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Park a distance away from the shops and walk for a couple of minutes. If you hate exercise and hate the gym, go to the shopping centre and do laps while window shopping (no snacking!) Get creative. Just eat nutritious food, cut out the rubbish, move every day, drink 2L water, and get 8+ hours sleep a night. It honestly is that simple. (If you find this incredibly difficult, are carrying a ton of extra weight or are seriously underweight, and being in the healthy BMI range scares you – you might need to get some counselling around those issues.)
Without your health, you are just a shell of yourself. Speaking from experience, if you are struggling with either physical or mental health problems, you may be finding it hard to cope with everyday life, let alone be bright, cheerful and active in the dating scene. If you do have health issues, my heart goes out to you. It’s very tough to deal with this kind of stuff, particularly if you don’t have the emotional/financial support of your parents and also have to continue working and maintaining a social life to survive. Please take some time out to focus on getting better. Don’t ignore what your body is telling you.
It does concern me that many Christian girls these days are burning out left, right and centre. Working a full-time job, studying, doing church leadership and service, and/or doing a very taxing job like social work, pastoring, nursing or teaching can really take it out of you. Please check in with yourself and make sure you’re not overloading your delicate feminine constitution. (You’re not as tough as you think, by the way!) Chronic fatigue, adrenal fatigue, thyroid problems, reproductive issues like endometriosis and PCOS, anxiety, depression – these issues are rife among Christian women these days, and our stressful lifestyles certainly don’t help.
If this is ringing a bell for you (even in the far-away recesses of your mind), I urge you to take stock and to cut back on your commitments, both physically and emotionally. See a GP or a naturopath, get a battery of blood tests and/or hormone tests, and check that all your levels are ok. You might need to start a round of supplements, a different diet, an exercise regime, counselling, or even some medication to help balance out your brain chemistry. It’s really important that you address any issues you have before they get out of hand. Ignoring them won’t make them go away.
And please, don’t take on the shame and guilt that may be put on you by well-meaning Christians, if you choose to take some time out to rest and recharge (or change your lifestyle altogether). It can be disconcerting for other people in your ‘ministry team’ or ‘on leadership’ if you up and quit. They might give you some spiritual platitudes or just tell you to ‘go hard or go home’, or compare you to the Apostle Paul who gave up everything for ‘the cause’. This is unhelpful, insensitive and frankly can be very damaging. You know yourself best. Trust your gut and do what you need to do to look after yourself.
For good mental health, practice mindfulness. This is basically just taking a moment every now and then to look at the sky, breathe, focus on the clouds, or whatever. You don’t have to scroll through your phone every time you have a spare 30 seconds. Just close your eyes and breathe deeply. Your body needs to calm down.
The other big killer for mental health is cognitive dissonance (google it). This is huge for Christians because you are most likely trying to be someone that deep down is just not 100% the real you. Many church ‘communities’ and families don’t have a place for the bare truth of who you are. So you have to put on a facade in order to be accepted. This is extremely damaging to your mental health. Take some time to know yourself and find somewhere where you are free to be who you really are.
Overall, when it comes to this topic and to your demographic, the main thing you probably need to do is to do less. Cut a few things out of the schedule. Quit a few teams. Cancel a few commitments. If you have to get up at 4.30am to fit in a gym session, before your meal prep, commute to work, a full day’s work, another commute, grabbing dinner, squeezing in an hour of a study or a quick boxing class, and leading a church meeting at night – then doing it all again the next day – don’t you think something is a bit out of whack? Although this is kind of normal these days – it’s not normal.
It’s actually okay to get 8+ hours of sleep a night, to linger over a morning cuppa, to mosey into work on time (not early or late) without having perfect hair and makeup, to leave on time, and to go home for a snack, a rest, an evening stroll, and a night curled up with a good book or a phone call to a friend. You are allowed. And if you feel that you don’t deserve this kind of free and relaxed life – you might need to get some counselling on that, because it’s an issue.
2. Dwell in community
Life was not meant to be lived alone. In today’s Western world, it’s normal for people to move out of home while still single, and to live alone or in a small or large sharehouse, or college dorm. Then it’s very common for people to partner up and to cohabit for any length of time, without necessarily getting married (if you want instant and long-lasting anxiety, try this!). People don’t really talk to their neighbours anymore. Houses take up an entire block of land and there are no backyards for kids to play in. Young and older adults don’t talk to their parents that often, and festive holidays can be pretty lonely and depressing for many. Families are small and friends scatter. So what’s going on?
We have lost the ‘village’ culture, due to a bunch of sociological and moral factors. Frankly, and I know this is a sweeping statement, the introduction of the contraceptive pill (1960’s) and the no-fault divorce law (1970’s) has led to sexual promiscuity and the break-down of the family unit. We also have a society that is in some ways culturally ‘led’ by kids and youth – their ‘rights’ and freedom of opportunity are paramount, and honour for key stabilising groups such as our elders, mothers, and men has dissipated at an alarming rate. Women are being pushed to have careers and are not really encouraged or even informed about how to become wives and mothers – hence the current late age of first marriage and the small number of kids in families these days.
So now, once you hit 25 and leave your young adults church group, and all the vibrancy and fun and future and ‘calling’ that was your language for your youth has passed on to the next generation, you may find yourself a little bit out to sea. Unanchored. Lost. Lonely. Drifting. Trapped. Confused. Tired. Unseen. (Pick a word that suits you.)
If you are single, and you feel lonely, that means you are normal. We are not meant to live alone! It’s not weakness or immaturity that makes you feel sad when you don’t have anyone who checks in on you, or takes you out for a birthday brunch, or remembers to buy the bread you like. It’s healthy to feel a longing for someone to care. We are built for relationship, and we can’t get away from this.
However, the older you get, the more you may become hardened to deal with your loneliness. Have you ever heard about how older singles become ‘set in their ways’? This really happens. It just means that living for oneself for too long creates a bit of a crusty shell around your heart, and cracking it open is just too hard. This is what you want to avoid. You need your heart to stay supple and open so that the man of your dreams can ‘get in’.
The solution to keep loneliness and crustiness at bay is to dwell in community. What does this mean? For starters, I strongly urge you not to live alone. It’s not good for you. I know it’s annoying to have to keep finding new flatmates, and to put up with new ones who aren’t tuned in to your ways. Trust me, I share-housed for 17 years with about 50 different girls. At times it was hard, frustrating, depressing, and got super annoying when I was like 31 and they were all around 20. (Not ideal.) You may have to work hard to find flatmates that will suit you. Do it. And please, live with Christian girls if you can. I really don’t think it’s appropriate or helpful to live with men, even in a mixed share-house.
If you have the opportunity to live with family, then do that. It’s fine for a woman to continue living with her parents, or a sibling or sibling’s family, if you get along. As I discussed in an earlier post (‘Ezer Kenegdo What??’), women need to be under a covering. They need to be protected, both physically and emotionally, from the harshness of this life. We are different to men. A man can live in his car. You can’t.
As well as living with others (and I mean living with others, and not hiding out in your master suite without ever interacting), it’s important to be part of the wider community, where people know you and care about you, and you have a role to play. This could be your church, a connect group, or a sporting team or other type of group, such as a charity, community centre, choir or theatre group. It doesn’t really matter what it is, but it does matter that you are seen and loved. Try different churches and groups until you find one that has the right vibe for you. (And remember, bigger is not always better.)
Let me finish with a quick overview of what ‘community’ actually is. It’s a real buzzword these days, but in actual fact a lot of churches and groups aren’t actually very communal. A community should not be a place where the vibe is: do what we say, or you’re out. The agenda should not override the people within it. (This is where things get tricky if you’re in a really big church. No answers for you there, except feel free to go to smaller church!)
M. Scott Peck in his BRILLIANT 1987 book 'The Sound of a Different Drum' sets the stages of community building as follows:
This is when everyone is fake nice to each other and talks about superficial topics.
This is when conflict arises between persons in the group, and crap hits the fan.
Now there are 3 options: The group dissolves or explodes, or certain people just walk away from the group. Or the group moves backwards into pseudo-community again, because they can’t handle the truth. Or the group enters the Silence phase, which requires self-reflection and honesty.
This is that awkward time when everyone goes away to lick their wounds, think about what’s happened, and grieve/forgive/repent etc.
If the group members are ‘big’ enough to face their issues, repent and forgive, change and adapt, and own their stuff (etc.) then the group can come back together and it becomes stronger. This 4-stage process will keep cycling through and the group will get stronger and stronger = community.
One of the best share-houses I lived in was with 4 other girls, and I put a post-it note with the 4 stages of community on the fridge. Whenever we got into an awkward discussion about money or cleaning, or a full-on heated argument, someone would point at the fridge and say, ‘We are in chaos! This is good!’ It was a good learning tool to see that conflict can be healthy, and is an important part of moving towards true community. Because the reality is, you just don’t bother doing conflict with someone you don’t care about, do you? The person is just not worth it to you.
So find a community where you are worth fighting for, with people that you could be bothered fighting with in order to maintain relationship. That’s a community.
N.B. If you yourself can’t go through the silence and community stages with anyone, you will not be able to sustain a functioning dating relationship or marriage. You have to be able to own your stuff and stay present in the relational tension. If you walk away every time things get hard, or take it back to pseudo-community due to your fear of conflict, you’re not going to move forward in relationships. Sort yourself out!
I’ll continue with ideas 3-5 in the next post. Love you girls! Xo