Last year, I stood at a booth at a women’s conference, selling shirts and telling visitors about the virtue of chastity. One of them — in her 50s and still single — loitered at the table until she found the words.
“This doesn’t work,” she said.
“What doesn’t work?” I asked her.
She pointed at the big, foam board replica of the cover of my book, Chastity Is For Lovers — which, then, had not yet published.
“This stuff,” she said. “I’ve lived my whole life for God, and I still don’t have a husband.”
I frankly wanted to say “join the club!” Instead, I said — as gently as I could — that “God has not necessarily promised us husbands.”
She is one of many people I have met who are still single and don’t want to be, who have hoped for a spouse but have moped, because they haven’t met one yet. And you know what? It’s ok to be sad. It’s ok to mope. It’s even ok to throw a pity party about your relationship status, just like the woman I met that day did. But a person who is single and doesn’t want to be doesn’t have to mope forever.
For the next time we need to snap out of that, here are a few ways to do it:
1. Identify the beliefs that underlie the thoughts that sadden you, and challenge them if you have to. The thought, for instance, that saddened the woman I met at the conference was this one: “I’ve lived for God my whole life, and I still don’t have a husband.” She had expressed resentment for her choice to live a chaste life because it hadn’t resulted in what she believed it should: a spouse.
When we challenge that belief, we have to acknowledge that marriage is not chastity’s goal. Love is. We all are called to love. We are not all called to marriage. That does not mean that a person who is single today and doesn’t want to be will be single forever. But to adopt the belief that we are owed a spouse because we want one and love Jesus is to reject the truth: God knows what you need better than you do, and he is going to give it to you. (Read Matthew 6:25-34.)
2. Get out of your head (and get out of your house). Read a book in your back yard, or read it at the beach. Host a game night for friends. Play a team sport at the park. Volunteer for a food bank or a youth group. In other words, do some stuff that doesn’t revolve around your relationship status — some stuff that forces you, for a little while, to have a specific goal that isn’t marriage.
Setting goals unrelated to what got your pity party started (such as “finish this book,” or “win this game,” or “meet somebody else’s need”) will provide pain relief where you need it. It’ll distract you. It’ll keep you busy. And in some cases, it’ll provide you with opportunities to meet people.
3. Focus on Jesus, focus on Jesus, focus on Jesus. I’ve blogged before about the time I hoped to hear from a dude I liked. While I worked out, I stared at my phone and braced for a text. It never came. I ached. But right there on the elliptical, I thought a thought that God clearly provided:
“You don’t ache because you’re alone. You ache because you’re looking in the wrong direction.”
Afterward, this is what I wrote:
I ached because I was waiting to receive from significant others what significant others are not even designed to give us. I ached because I wasn’t paying attention to the source of my peace. As I ached, I associated how I felt with what I thought was missing: a guy to date, and to bring to other people’s weddings.
But nothing was missing. I only felt unfulfilled, alone, and restless because I had turned my head.
I hadn’t been seeking first God’s kingdom. Instead, I had been seeking first a text from some guy. I had focused on my phone, when I needed to focus instead on Jesus Christ.
And when we truly do, our pity parties can’t not end.*