Turn on the radio at any tick of the clock and, chances are, nine out of ten songs will involve the theme of relationships; stories of love or a longing for it. The tenth will likely tell the plot of revenge by the jilted lover when the relationship breaks down. Depending on the radio station, the ratios may change a little. Either way, extrapolation says that life is centred on relationships, with the ultimate goal to pursue and establish something solid, passionate and lasting with that ‘someone’.
Stuff I’ve read in the past on singleness usually identifies it as a ‘season’, complete with its own set of assumptions and connotations. For some, this season is short, for others it spans a lifetime. Articles usually discuss management of the (single) situation with lists often involved to offer ideas on how to use the ‘season’ wisely and highlight what singleness ‘teaches’.
From my experience, those lists have provided good and honourable ideas to invest time and experience growth, both as individual and in faith.
It seems, however, that when the ‘season’ (of singleness) becomes the ‘teacher’, it’s the relationship status that shifts to take the glory.
Lessons learned during that period of life are confined to a season, attributed to circumstance, and, in turn, disconnected from something much bigger.
This year, I’ve come to understand singleness in terms of an iceberg.
The peaks of an iceberg break the water surface and take on their own size and shape. They’re visible, measurable (and in and of themselves can be pretty substantial). Seasons, such as singleness, may crop up in our lives…or show themselves a whole lot.
One inclination may be to camp on one of these (chilly) peaks, letting it teach us whatever it can: how it shapes and grows us, who it says we are and how we’re doing, compared with others. The lists will provide a degree of accomplishment and maybe some meaning to that particular timeframe.
As with all icebergs, the peaks, the troughs, the sharp bits, and the flat bits that project out are all connected to a common thing: something much bigger. Under the water’s surface sits that chunky, invisible slab of ice that substantiates everything manifesting itself above the surface.
Jesus is the origin and giver of all good things. ‘Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.’ (James 1:17)
The moment I start disconnecting the peaks from that underwater chunk is the moment I miss out on a full understanding (and appreciation) of their origin. No longer can singleness be defined by a ‘season’, nor confined by a relational status, nor gain meaning, through circumstance. It shifts to who’s behind it and what He has to say; the ultimate Author, the free Giver, and the true Teacher. Jesus.
As we place our faith and trust in HIm, He abides in us (John 15:5). Jesus makes himself at home – in pain, in joy, in uncertainty, in new seasons and in old, in familiarity and in monotony. He equips us, by His Spirit to see His goodness working in it all, and we can trust Him because of the promises of who that He says He is. No season or list, achievement or status can, in isolation, gain full meaning or take glory from who He is and the significance of His sacrifice at the cross.
When any life is lived through the lens of God’s fulfilled plan in Jesus (closing the gap on law we couldn’t and fuelled by grace), every relationship status can gain meaning and every season a solid reference point.
That said, if someone had offered this in the past, I’d feel it a bit of a cop-out; a pretty unrelated piece consolation. What I ‘wanted’ was specific advice on handling each season well, extracting meaning and growing from circumstance. The gospel sounded secondary to the questions I had and offered little practical help to my ‘situation’/’season’/something else starting with ‘s’. What I ‘needed’ was to see the whole iceberg and ‘know’ the chunk.
Although totally weird, blanking out the object of affection/ desire/ passion, on any of those radio songs (and replacing with the word ‘Jesus’) only magnifies the elusive pursuit for ultimate fulfilment in earthly relationships. Even Seal, who happens to be on in the background as I write this has mentioned something about needing to know ‘love, love divine’.
It’s Jesus who can give (in complete wholeness) satisfaction of the soul for all of eternity. But sometimes we forget. I totally do. Heck, I’m busy with my season. I love that God knows that and gives us His Holy Spirit to ‘remind us’ of everything He has ever told us (John 14:26).
Nothing can supersede this truth, which is why I’m thankful (and must be reminded often!) of the origin of goodness, hope, steadfastness, sovereignty, truth and faithfulness. If a God with these attributes is the author of life and the giver of good things, He has to be the anchor holding everything together, giving us purpose and meaning for whatever stage we’re in, in life.