Dear Young Lady in Waiting,
To be honest, writing this letter makes me really nervous. You see, I’m married. And someone already told me that because I’m married and you’re single, you might not even read this. This is a mismatch of sorts…a married person writing to you about your single life. So who am I to give you advice on how to handle your situation? I understand that it may be difficult for you to hear from me regarding this, but please know that it is difficult for me to write to you about this as well.
I already wrote a letter to your friend who is dating. But what about you, the one who is not dating? Are you hoping to marry in the Lord someday? Or do you think you would be content to remain single for the rest of your life? Your answer might be different from another single girl’s answer, and for that matter, maybe you don’t even know the answer to that question right now. However, it is a question that you should be asking. Philippians 4:6 encourages you to go to God in prayer with every thing. So ask God to guide you in this matter also. With much prayer, and maybe even after much time, God will reveal his will to you.
You see, the single life can be fulfilling, and single people hold a special place in the church of Christ. Romans 12:4–8 reminds us that the body of believers has many different members, each with their own gifts and talents…and single people are no exception to this. But they have the somewhat enviable freedom to share their gifts and talents without being concerned about putting their spouse and children first. Being single is not a “problem,” and single people are not to be pitied. If after much thought and prayer, you have decided that God is leading you down the path of the single life, then this letter is not for you. A dear, single friend of mine is willing to write to you in the near future regarding that topic. However, if you are hoping to date and get married someday, or even think that it’s a slight possibility, then read on…
So why do you want to date? As you’ve probably guessed, dating is (usually!) fun. Having a boyfriend is (most of the time!) fun. But, as I wrote in a letter to your friend, you should date or look to date with the end goal of marrying in the Lord. Desiring to date and get married is not something to be ashamed of. Proverbs 18:22 says, “Whoso findeth a wife [or in your case, a husband] findeth a good thing, and obtaineth favour of the Lord.” If you have sincerely prayed that God would reveal his will to you concerning this, then the strong desire to be a Godly wife and mother can only be seen as coming from him.
I do not know your exact situation, so therefore I don’t know why you are not dating. Maybe it’s because you are shy, and guys scare you. Maybe it’s because you had a relationship end badly, so you are not ready for another one. Maybe the only guys asking are ones you are not interested in, so you’ve said “no thanks” a few times. Or maybe it’s as simple as the fact that no one is asking. Some of my words of advice may not apply to you, but it is my prayer that something I have to say here will speak to your heart, regardless of the reason you are not dating.
Please know that I was in your situation once. I’ll be honest: I was young and probably a little foolish. But still, I wasn’t dating, and I wanted to date. I know that it’s not an easy situation to be in, whether you are 16, 21, or 26. Therefore, what I am about to say is a combination of my own experiences and my conversations with single girls—conversations with girls who were single for years before they found “the one”. Yes, I interviewed women before I sat down to write this letter. These few words of advice are not just my words. They are hard-won words of wisdom from a variety of women. These words are heartfelt, and were spoken from the perspective of looking back on their single years with fondness, and sometimes looking back on their single years from the perspective of “I should have done that differently.” As well, they are words spoken with love and concern (but not pity!) for you and your situation. Because we all know it’s not easy.
First, remember that your current position of singleness is not a bad thing. There are many benefits to not dating. These benefits will be explored in a future letter from my friend, but just remember that you are not an object of pity. There will always be people (some of them well-meaning) who will wonder out loud why you don’t have a boyfriend or ask if you met anyone at the retreat, and generally give you a negative vibe about being single. Don’t be afraid to smile, politely reply that you are single right now because it’s God’s will for you, and walk away.
Next, keep in mind that all things happen in God’s time. Not our time. Psalm 90:4 reminds us that God is an eternal being when it says “For a thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday when it is past, and as a watch in the night.” This means that he doesn’t do things according to human timelines. Even if you know in your heart that you are called to be a wife and mother, it doesn’t mean that it will happen for you tomorrow. Or next year. Or the year after that. Patience in this matter is not always easy, but remember who is in control. He has a plan for your life…one that he knew about before you were even born.
Practically speaking, this means that your high school and/or college years should not be spent wishing you had a boyfriend. Dating is fun, but it can also be stressful. So enjoy this time with your girlfriends, your family, and your guy friends. God is blessing you with this season of single life, and there is nothing wrong with enjoying it. You know this doesn’t mean go out dancing and drinking. But this time in your life can be full of joy. Ecclesiastes 3:12–13 reminds us to rejoice and enjoy the fruits of our labor as a gift of God.
However, that same text in Ecclesiastes 3 says that we should do good in our lives. Please don’t spend your days or evenings twiddling your thumbs, waiting for your knight in shining armor to show up. Use your time wisely, and get involved in your church, school, and community. Go to Bible study, join discussion groups, and use your gifts and talents in the service of the kingdom. Your help is needed and can be used in so many areas (See my list of 25 Ways Single Young People Can Serve the Church of Christ at www.youngcalvinists.org). Not only that, but maybe you’ll find that your knight is attending Bible study too, or working alongside you at a fundraiser.
Be very careful about saying no to a first date with a fellow believer. You may think the guy is not marriage material, but on the other hand, how will you know unless you get to know him better? Going on one date does not cue “Here Comes the Bride”. There are some very serious questions that you’ll need to ask yourself about the person you’ll date someday…questions that will help you decide if he’s “the one” or not (again, refer to the letter I wrote to your friend who is dating). But if you don’t give him a chance, you’ll never even have the opportunity to ask those questions.
Don’t automatically assume that the guy you went to school with your whole life is not date-able. You might think you know way too much about him, but the truth is that you know probably know as much about him as he does about you…and he doesn’t know everything about you, right? Further, being friends first is never a bad thing.
Those things being said, you still have the right to be picky for the right reasons (but only after that first date). Don’t let your strong desire to date and get married cause you to settle for less than “in the Lord”. We all know that text about not being unequally yoked with unbelievers (2 Corinthians 6:14), but your criteria should go even further than that. The person you date should strengthen and encourage you in your walk with Christ. He should possess qualities that will help him grow into being the spiritual leader in your home. Don’t settle for less than that.
I don’t want this to read like an instruction manual on “how to get a guy.” But keep in mind that asking out a girl can be stressful for the guy! This means that if you are interested, then make his job easier and act interested. Make conversation, ask questions, smile, and laugh at his jokes. There’s a fine line between showing interest and being pushy. Be careful to not cross that line.
Get together with mixed groups. Girlfriends are tons of fun, but if you hang out exclusively with girls, it’s going to be intimidating for any guy to ask you out. Host a bonfire, start a book club, plan a beach day. If you are too shy to handle this, ask a friend to do the calling. Regardless of whether or not you start dating someone as a result of these gatherings, it’s still beneficial for Christian young people to mingle and fellowship.
The way you dress is directly related to the kind of guy you will attract. If a guy wants to date you because you wear low-cut shirts and short skirts, then don’t be surprised if you’re on a date some day and you see him looking at another girl who is wearing a low-cut shirt and a short skirt. We, as Christian women, whether married or single, are called to dress and behave modestly. As well, Romans 14:13 instructs us not to “put a stumbling block or an occasion to fall in [our] brother’s way.” If you’re dressing immodestly, I can guarantee that you are being a stumbling block for your young single brothers in Christ. That being said, remember that modest apparel does not equal sloppy or frumpy. There are plenty of cute, modest fashion options out there that don’t involve turtlenecks.
Education is never a waste. Spend your single years getting your degree. If you’re sure college is not for you, then at the very least, read good literature and work on improving your skills in other areas. Your education and acquired skills can be utilized now as a benefit to others in the church. But you’ll also use them in many situations someday as a wife and mother.
Remember that your identity is found in Christ. Your worth does not depend on whether or not you have a boyfriend, and your value does not rest on how long it takes for a guy to notice you. You are a sinner saved by grace, fearfully and wonderfully made in his image, and as such, are a beloved child of God.
Pray. James 5:16 encourages us in our prayer life when it says, “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous [wo]man availeth much.” Pray that God will reveal his will to you in this matter. Pray for patience and wisdom as God works out his plan in your life. Pray for your future boyfriend and husband, even though you don’t know who he is. Pray that God will work in both of your hearts, preparing you for each other, and for the commitment of marriage.
And I will also pray for you, my single friend.