In a few hours, I’ll sit with my hands buried in a bag of Hot Cheetos and watch the fourth season of Gilmore Girls all over again. Nobody’s coming to pick me up, nobody will buy me flowers, and not even my mother will tell me I’m beautiful tonight.
It’s Valentine’s Day and I’m single, and while my singleness has never really been a problem, it’s days like today that the subliminal messages we’ve accidentally believed become deafening.
It’s not just that the world makes much of romance, it’s that the church does too. It’s not just that the world says I’m nothing if I’m not married, it’s that the church is saying it too. Single people are being fed lies from both sides telling us that romance is the height of human existence – that it’s what we were created for and that our lives amount to nothing if we leave here without it. The marriage-centric church and the find-prince-charming lifestyle ultimately leave singles with doubtful hearts. We wonder, not so subtly, why God won’t give us his best.
We’re under the impression that the greatest gift of all is eternal romance. Even Christians are quicker to believe all I need is a husband, rather than all I need is Jesus. We preach to ourselves things like, “Once I’m married everything will be fine”, and find comfort when our spiritual mentors affirm us with, “God has someone special just for you.” We slip into bitterness like our favorite ugly sweatshirt and wonder how we’ve become those women who hate on Valentine’s Day and pick apart happy couples like it’s our job. We use our relationship status as proof of God’s indifference toward us. We figure, if God’s not going to look out for us then we’ll look out for ourselves, and when that doesn’t work we become resentful. We start guarding our hearts against bitterness with all the ferocity of a church mouse.
But why shouldn’t we be bitter? I mean, no one can blame us for being upset that those kinds of girls get dates and we don’t. No one can fault us for our disappointment when we’ve worked so hard to stay pure and still can’t catch a break. No one can find a flaw in that logic except God.
There are bits of anti-gospel scattered throughout our single-girl logic. Heaps of prosperity gospel and salvation-by-works mentalities that creep their way into our understanding of the nature of God. Americans in particular struggle with these foundations because of our relationship with free enterprise, the ongoing rhetoric of all the things “hard work” will get you, and the many insidious ways we believe the common refrain “God helps those who help themselves.” But God does not owe us anything for following him. We offer our lives, not as a favor, but in response to all he’s already given us. He is our greatest treasure. The greatest gift we’ll ever receive is Christ.
Let’s be clear: there is nothing wrong with wanting to be somebody’s wife and there’s nothing wrong with wanting to have a date for Valentine’s Day. There is, however, something wrong when you envy other girls for their relationships. There is something wrong when Christian women have bitter hearts because – and I offer this gently, sisters – we have no right to be.
We once were an enemy of God. We were once the most tragically despicable, outrageously proud, heart-darkened scum of existence. You and I were among the scoffers when Christ carried His cross and died to make us, not just allies, but daughters. We’re not just friends of God, we are family. He saved us from the all-consuming fire, from the deepest dark there is – He saved us from ourselves. He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? (Romans 8:32)
God is not holding out on you. He is not up in heaven dangling the husband of your dreams out in front of you saying “If you obey my commands, I will bless you.” God is not looking at your ability to resist temptation and thinking “I’m going to honor your efforts and give you everything you’ve ever wanted and more.” God does not bless us because we are good, he blesses us because he is good.
Our Father gives good gifts even and especially when we don’t deserve them. If there were something better for you, do you honestly think that he’d withhold it from you until you got your act together? The God who died for you while you were still his enemy, the God who humbled himself and paid the debt you owed him with his life – does that sound like something that God would do? Think about it: if our faithful God came to give us life to the full, is this not it – in all its single glory?
We have a full life because we have life in Christ, so what do we have to be bitter about? What can we possibly resent him for? If Christ’s atoning work on the cross was the only good thing we ever got, we’d still have no excuse to be bitter. And yet, we are lavished with joy and peace and a new family (among other things) and we’re throwing tantrums because he hasn’t just given us a husband already. This wasn’t written to shame you, it was written to remind you. You have been awakened from death, covered by grace, and brought into the family of God. All of your sin, even your unfounded resentment is met with forgiveness and compassion and kindness. How can we possibly be bitter when we serve a God who loves us so?
Happy Valentine’s Day, y’all.
With love and no man,