A few years ago, I sat in the audience of my best friend’s wedding. Tears streamed down my face as I watched him wait anxiously at the end of the aisle, his bride floating toward him, both of them bubbling with joy. Joy bubbled out of me, too, but so did a mixture of feelings I thought I had long since buried. Feelings I didn’t recognize in the moment but have finally, years later, been able to name.
Not feelings for the boy I’d spent ninth grade holding hands with. Not jealousy towards the girl I introduced him to in college. Not hurt at the thought of being left behind. It wasn’t that clear. It wasn’t that simple. It wasn’t what I expected.
Weddings stir up something deep inside of me that I now know is straight from the Lord. There’s a hope, an overflow of giddiness, but also longing and a twang of pain. I think this is most acutely felt as a single woman. I’ve spent years digging into it and sifting through it, and just as many years sugar coating it and fleeing from it. There’s this tension that is beautiful and uncomfortable, and I’ve found that such a tension is one the Lord often calls us to in many different seasons in our lives.
At my best friend’s wedding, I felt torn in between celebration and mourning. I was so happy for the both of them (and I totally take credit for introducing them, by the way), but I was also grieving the fact that my best friend had a new best friend. As he should, I might add. It is the most natural thing it the world for friendships to change as a significant other is found. I had known it for years, seen the beginnings of such a transition, but in that moment I realized I never thought I’d have to move on first. Conflicting feelings aside, that night I thoroughly enjoyed myself.
At my best friend’s wedding I chatted with his parents, I made jokes with his pastor, I hugged his grandmother, and I sang along to 90s pop songs with my college roommate.You know what else I did at my best friend’s wedding? I caught the bouquet.
For all you single girls, you know the moment. It is one full of anticipation and dread, eagerness and timidity. The DJ comes over the loudspeaker and beckons all the single ladies (typically to that very song) to gather on the dance floor for the bouquet toss. The bride, decked in white, laughing and giving directions, stands across the room and sends bright, white flowers soaring skywards, and we all throw our hands up in the air. It was the third time I’ve caught the bouquet at a wedding.
I caught my first at my second cousin’s wedding, at the ripe young age of fourteen, when I was dating said best friend I might add. I caught it a second time right after graduating college, but an enthusiastic bridesmaid literally knocked me to the ground for it. Needless to say, I let go and tried to compose myself with as much grace as I could muster. Then I caught the bouquet at my best friend’s wedding. I carried it back to the hotel with me, perched it carefully on my dashboard for the long ride home, and it sat on my desk for quite some time.
Every time I looked at it, those same feelings arose in me: hope, joy, expectation, longing, confusion, ache, sadness, and grief. One after the other after the other.Sometimes they would build sky high then come crashing down. Others I felt like my heart was a pinball machine, bouncing back and forth loudly and in no particular order.
Remember how I said those feelings are from the Lord? I certainly didn’t know it at the time, but in the years since then it has become one of the greatest comforts to my soul.
In Ecclesiastes 3:11 it says that “[God] has put eternity in the hearts of men.” There is a longing inside of us for something more, something beyond, something only HE can fulfill, and that has been put there for a reason. Everything He does is for a reason.
In the same way, every season has its reason. Including singleness. In the very same book, in the very same chapter, seasons are listed one after the other after the other.
“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.”
Ecclesiastes 3:1-8, ESV
Our lives hold many seasons, and seasons are constantly changing. Some have clear beginnings and ends while others linger a little longer and weigh more heavily on our shoulders. Singleness was like that for me. I found that singleness was a label I wore as a chain, almost as if it were a disease I had to apologize for or announce upon entering the room. I wrestled with it and handed it to the Lord saying, “Okay, I’ve had this season, how about an upgrade?” Emotions raged, feelings swayed, and I sank deeper and deeper into dissatisfaction. My best friend’s wedding fell in the thick of that season. In the heart of a tumultuous time of transition, and my feet felt like they were floundering.
Oh, those are some of my favorite words.
BUT GOD was gracious and gentle and breathed life into dry bones.
BUT GOD had more for me than comparison and confusion.
BUT GOD has more for you than feeling less than or labeled by your relationship status.
Don’t get me wrong, sometimes being single feels like the thorn in my side. I have desires and dreams of getting married, dancing the night away under twinkling lights, laughing in the arms of my beloved. I have Pinterest boards of wedding cakes and bridesmaids dresses, sparkler exits and save the dates, front porch swings for two and dinners by a glowing fireplace. That ache and longing in my heart is very real, but I am now more than ever aware of it’s very real purpose.
Whether or not Mr. Right sweeps into my life, the Prince of Peace has been and always will be ever-present. Whether or not I wear a gown of white lace and walk down an aisle drenched in rose petals, the Creator of the Universe has washed my sins white as snow. Whether or not I say “I do” in front of family and friends, the “I do” I said to accepting salvation can never, and will never, be taken away from me.
In more difficult seasons of singleness, I have huffed and flipped my Bible shut in frustration. “Yeah, that’s great God, I get it,” I’ve thought, almost always sarcastically adding, “but don’t you think I’d understand it better if you sent a husband my way? Just maybe?” Needless to say He hasn’t yet taken my advice.
Going back to Ecclesiastes 3:11, the verse begins “He has made everything beautiful in its time.” It is still a work in progress, but He is making my singleness beautiful. How? Because He is changing my heart for this season. Again, that doesn’t mean I am suddenly cured of my desire for a husband. It simply means my perspective is shifting, and I’m learning to savor this season instead of sweat it. My desires grow and change, ache and invigorate, but they each have their reason in this season.Another familiar scripture that many of us single women have probably heard too many times is Psalm 37:4 which says, “Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.” Too many times this verse has been used to shuffle us toward diligence and discipleship, under the false idea that if we are “good enough” then those things we want will suddenly appear. I think we’ve been misunderstanding this verse for far too long.
Instead, I have come to believe that when we delight ourselves in the Lord -when we chooseHim and make Himour delight, digging into scripture and devouring His truth- then He will put His desires in our heart. By aligning our hearts with His, we will then desire the things that He desires, the things that will bring him honor, glory, and further His kingdom.
When we delight ourselves in Him, He will then give us the desires, His desires, of our heart.
Delighting myself in Him does not guarantee a husband. Delighting myself in Him does not mean singleness won’t be tough at times. Delighting myself in Him does not come easily every day. But delighting myself in Him is the only way I have been able to navigate these feelings in my heart and to believe in my soul that the messiness of this moment has meaning. The desires of my heart have a purpose. The desires of yourheart have a purpose. However, the purpose may not be fulfillment, at least not in the earthly way.
“Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart” and “as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you” (Isaiah 62:5).
Some people say that when you catch the bouquet, it means you’ll be the next to get married. Maybe that’s why women run toward the dance floor or hide in the midst of the pack whenever the bundle of flowers is airborne each time. I say we should dare to savor our singleness and dance like nobody’s watching. We should raise our hands high in praise of the God who gives us the desires of our heart, who places in us a longing only He can fulfill, and if those flower land in our grasp, praise the one who painted the petals and put a purpose to our pain.
“He has made everything beautiful in its time,” my friends. He is doing it still.
By Bailey Robert
Originally published in Be Still Magazine, Issue 1.