Sometime last October, I celebrated spending a quarter of a life on earth. Incidentally, I also celebrated 2 years of being single. Celebrate. That’s a pretty appropriate verb to use alongside the word “birthday”. It is not, however, that often used alongside the word “single”. In fact, if you were to ride a DeLorean and tell the Ren of over two years ago that 25-year old me was living life joyfully uncoupled, I would have laughed at you in the face and mistaken you for a crazy person.
When it comes to love, most of us have our own beliefs and expectations. Mine were already constructed even before I hit puberty. (See why I wouldn’t have believed I’d still be single?) As a result, at 14 I had someone’s last name in mind to replace mine, and by the time I graduated college and had gone through a few years in the working world, I had also dated more men than I could count with my hands and feet. (I really, truly wish I were just exaggerating.) My love life was a series of hits and misses, until the biggest hit turned out to be the biggest miss. You can read more about all that here.
My point is that I got it all wrong. I didn’t see it then, but I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. I had already lost myself trying to wade my way into the messy, consuming ocean of romantic relationships before I even knew who I was, what I stood for, and what I truly wanted from being in one.
After ending my last relationship and realizing that the numbing effect of my coping mechanisms were temporary, I was at a loss. It was then I decided to try the last thing I could try (apart from giving up on life altogether, but that testimony is reserved for another opportunity)–and so I very awkwardly, shyly, and slowly, started exploring my faith. Why? Because I knew of people who genuinely seemed peaceful, joyful, and content with their lives praising and loving God, which I thought could be because 1) they were just super great at hiding their real feelings, 2) they were devoid of any of life’s big problems, or 3) there really was something about the whole Christianity thing that I was missing. Nevertheless I was intrigued, church service and prayers didn’t cost a cent, and most of all I thought, no one ever died or got sick from a worship overdose (as compared to the often dangerous and self-destructive activities I was getting myself into). Thus began my sometimes faltering, often hard, but always fruitful and grace-filled journey in building a personal relationship with my Lord and Savior. And wow, did the last two years of discovering my faith teach me more about love than over a decade of failed relationships, romance novels, and mass media ever could.
“Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.” Proverbs 4:23, NIV – This is but one of the countless passages in the Bible that God has provided on the subject of love. It is also one of the most basic things we need to know, but only a few apply–at least I didn’t. I was too hooked on the notion of “finding a special someone” that I didn’t care about whether my heart was ready for a relationship, nor that my idea of loving another human being was based only from what my pre-pubescent mind conceived. So not realizing it needed guarding, I threw my heart around in full abandon and fed myself with so many ideas of love in the process–taking it all in and molding its meaning to conform to what I wanted it to be. That said, the kind of love I conjured up equated to an escape–a need to be intimate with someone especially when it felt like the rest of my world was falling apart. It also included expecting the other person to give me back the same amount of love I gave , and then leaving / screaming / venting to my friends (or social media) when I didn’t think I was getting what I deserved. To add to the chaos, my view on love and relationships got even more distorted as I jumped from one guy to another, because I felt that my sense of entitlement, my impatience, and my obsession with hanging on to another person’s every word and action to pacify my emotions and validate my self-worth, were all perfectly normal and acceptable.
Safe to say, I knew no other way. But in exploring my faith I also discovered that the love I had made up had always been built to fail. I created a toxic cycle for myself because of my inability to realize that love is not an escape nor an entitlement; it is about sacrifice and service, and it can be hard. “.. Walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” Ephesians 5:2, NIV. Most of us have heard a version of this line–it is the very foundation of Christianity–but to apply it in my life? I had never thought it a possibility before finding out that the Bible wasn’t just meant to be read, but meant to be LIVED. Sacrifice was Jesus’ ultimate display–and example–of love. Without complaint, without regret, without asking what he could get in return, God’s sinless son submitted himself to the Father’s will and allowed himself to be beaten, spat on, and nailed to the cross to die in the place of sinners, so that we can be saved. BECAUSE HE LOVED US. And it is in that truth that I now rest my life, and my love on.
To follow Jesus means to live as he did, and to love like he did. That is by far the greatest learning I have gotten from my walk in faith, and it has proven to be the toughest, but the most rewarding. Resting in God’s love and mercy has taught me that love is not to be chased, bought, nor earned–it is freely given. It has also made me realize that being IN LOVE is not just a relationship status, but a total commitment to serve and sacrifice for another person’s sake, instead of thinking how you can benefit for yourself. And that kind of love? I now know that it should be reserved for the person that God will entrust to me. 🙂 And though it is yet to be revealed who that person is, God actively and continuously reforms my heart to be able to love as Jesus did, through the relationships I have been entrusted to nurture RIGHT NOW: that of my family, my friends, and His people.
So you can choose to believe any or all I say, or you can choose not to, but here’s the thing–in learning to be single, I sought and I have found my truth, I have found my peace, and I have found what love truly is–all at the cross. And that, I believe, is more than enough reason to celebrate. 🙂
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-8, NIV