I never expected love to look like this.
The week before Christmas my adoptive family surprised me with an early gift. I teased them, “Is this some tradition of which I was unaware? A gift that must be opened before Christmas?!” They explained with great delight that this was a special exception just for me! I soon unveiled a red velvet Christmas stocking with the letter “B” embroidered at the top. The kids excitedly exclaimed, “It is so Santa knows that you’ll be staying at our house and to leave your gifts here!!”
It was truly a Christmas to remember. I never expected love to look like this.
As a woman who is intentionally single, I have been utterly amazed by the ways God chooses to love me and allows love to enter into my life – especially in people like my best friend, her husband, and their three kids – my adoptive family. I am blessed to now have a spot on their fireplace, but they have given me so much more as well.
They are the most loyal friends and neighbors – quick to open their home to visitors, hosting socially distant summer BBQs, and rallying the neighborhood kids to play together at the park. Their passion for hospitality was a godsend as the pandemic stay-at-home orders turned from weeks to months, and their open-door policy remained open to me as part of their “COVID bubble”. We celebrated baseball’s opening day (a national holiday at their house!), birthdays, and Thanksgiving together. With Christmas drawing near, and most of my immediate family 500 miles away, I knew the best decision for everyone’s health and safety was for me to stay in Chicago.
I’ve known for a long time that God has called me to be single. (You can read a fuller version of that story here – “Attracted to the Single Life”.) I gave up dating in my early 30s. And to be honest, I didn’t give up dating as much as I let go of the expectation that I needed to have a permanent life-partner, and I relinquished the constant striving to find the one who would complete me.
What I discovered along the way was a depth of new relationships that I never imagined possible. Love made itself known through my work in campus ministry, on mission trips, through the pursuit of justice, and in the intimacy of friendship.
Understanding the single life as a vocation, a calling, and a way of being a disciple is not only accepting our state in life, but a single minded purpose to be in relationship with people in such a way that God’s love is made known in the world. It is about living with greater freedom, intentionality, and pursuit of God’s kingdom.
Freedom, not in a sense that “I can do whatever I want” but rather, a deep spiritual freedom. Free from fear or hesitation, we are given the freedom to follow God’s call wherever it may lead. Free from the expectation that life should or ought or is supposed to unfold a certain way has allowed me to be open, and for love to enter my life in surprising new ways.
Intentionality comes in choosing to live in relationship with others. My kind and good humored 90-year old neighbor rarely steps outside the house these days, but he brings so much joy when I see him. My single-self has been intentional about checking in with him through a card or a phone call or a wave at the window. We share those mutual feelings of being isolated at home and the desire for connection. The surest cure for loneliness is to reach out to a friend who is feeling the same way.
The pursuit of God’s kingdom means giving our lives over to the call for justice, mercy, healing, and forgiveness in whatever form that may take. There is an endless need for greater unity and understanding among people who do not look, vote, think, worship, or identify in the same way I do. Being single invites me to love others in a way that extends an embrace to everyone, especially those on the margins and to people who have traditionally been excluded from society.
I never expected love to look like this. But the more I continue to live out my discipleship as a single person, the more I know that my heart is full and complete, ready to share God’s love with others.
- Read Beth’s book: Party of One: Living Single with Faith, Purpose, and Passion
- Check out Beth’s blog for more resources on the Single Life
Photo by Caroline Veronez on Unsplash