Not alone - let me tell you.

Happy Valentine's week, friends!  For me, Valentine's Day has always been just as much about celebrating all my friends and my family as it has romance or relationships.  My absolute favorite Valentine's Day growing up was in the sixth grade.  I had this group of girlfriends, and without talking about it or planning for it, we all brought each other some small gift on Valentine's Day.  One friend gave everyone a different nail polish, I made everyone a card, someone else got us all headbands - you get the idea.  It was such a sweet moment of friendship that stuck with me for a long time, and still makes me smile.

This year I got to celebrate Valentine's Day with sweet friends, family, and my boyfriend, who got me flowers and my favorite loose leaf tea (because he understands me too well).  I don't write much in this space about our relationship - the cards I care the most about I tend to hold close to my chest - but sometimes there also are stories with too much truth in them not to share.

One night, we were deep in a conversation about how we got to who and how we are in the world.  One of the things I love about our relationship is the ways in which it’s clear how God has echoed lessons I’ve learned in his story, and vice versa.  This was one of those times.  The boyfriend was saying that when he moved here, he wasn’t looking for anyone – he was doing alright on his own – and that’s when he met me. 

I said the same.  The first two months I lived here, I was getting used to being alone – going back to what I did when I lived abroad, learning what I loved and what was life-giving to me, making my own choices for my time and my energy.

But at the same time, I noticed I was spending a lot more time positioning myself in the proximity of people.  I logged quite a few hours at Starbucks and Spencer’s, the local coffee shop.  I planned one-on-one dinners and brunches with just about everyone I met who would sit still long enough to let me pin them down in my planner.  I was constantly in communication with my friends from undergrad. 

I am fine being alone.  I like it, sometimes.  But most of the time, I need to get my energy from being around others first before I go back to being by myself.  That’s the way that I work.

All this spun through my mind in a second while we talked.  “I can do it,” I said slowly, “but I don’t really love being alone.  I don’t work that way.”

His arm was wrapped around my shoulders; he pulled me a little bit closer.  “We weren’t made to work that way.”

I liked that.  I liked that a lot.  Not just because I think it has something to do with how God created us for relationship with one another – but because I think it has everything to do with how God created us for relationship with Himself.

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Christian culture has glorified a lot of things about singleness, but I think this is the most tragic of them all: the lie that we were made to stand alone.  There is this misconception that singleness is a time to learn how to be independent, how to walk on your own two feet.  There is this unspoken implication that it’s virtually impossible to learn how to do that with another person involved.

To some degree, I get it.  There’s a difference between delighting in and depending on relationship with others that you have to learn.

But to me, learning how to do it all yourself is everything singleness isn’t about.  Sure, you are learning how to be on your own.  But you may have roommates or be living with family instead of living alone like I do.  You may brush paths with a hundred people a week as you travel from one end of your city to the other, even if you speak to none of them.  The Bible urges us to be a part of the local church and to dig in where we’ve been planted.  Our stories were made to be shared, and there is healing that happens in vulnerability and community.  All of that involves other people.

And here’s the kicker in my world – if I am so eager to be capable of being alone, to stand on my own two feet and become independent, I will become bent on being in control.  Control can so quickly become my lover and my lifeline, somewhere between an infatuation and an innate need.  And when that happens, it is impossible for Christ to be the center of my life.  Control has taken His role – because sweet friend, you were never made to stand alone.  You were designed with a specific need for another, a role He designed for only Himself to satisfy.

I wrote about this last year – singleness is a time to learn what it looks like to live truth.  That’s it – period.  Because this is what is true: you don’t have to do it alone.  You NEVER have to do it alone, no matter what your relationship status is or how many dates you’ve been on.  You were never made to walk alone – you were made to walk with Him, and that makes all the difference.

For me at least, that’s what singleness was a time to learn.  Because in order to walk through this world with someone by your side, you need to know who and Whose you are before anything else.  You need to know what you call truth and how you claim to it, because that person may be able to serve as a reminder, but they cannot find it for you.

When you can look at a man and know that he can’t give you what you most long for – worth, love and a sense of identity – then you are free to be loved by him.  The most he can ever do (which, in itself, is no small thing) is to give witness to the worth God already invests in you.

But you must claim it first for yourself.
— Paula Rinehart