Rejection, Desire, & Beauty: Three Perspectives on Singleness

This is a piece born out of friendship and collaboration… and a lot of cheese. Singleness can be both a taboo topic and an isolating experience, yet this Galentine’s Day we snuck away to the little lake house for a weekend of writing. Other activities included: traipsing through the snow, feasting on enchiladas, and recounting ways we’ve seen God’s faithfulness. The following is a collection of lessons we’ve learned (and are still learning) in our singleness. Our prayer is that through our stories you would feel seen and more fully sense the One who sees you.

Rejection by Michelle Pineau

I ‘ve lived the majority of my life crippled by the fear of rejection. My teenage years were spent on the periphery – as someone too fearful to fully engage with life, to truly know others, or let myself be known. The power I subconsciously gave to others ended up doubling back over and crippling me. I feared judgment, feared social missteps, feared both loving and letting myself be loved. My soul was a vacuum, constantly pulling inward, a swirling vortex of others’ voices and my own self doubts. Risking to love was to risk rejection – a chance I was simply never comfortable enough to take. I feared falling. I feared the let down. My thoughts would constantly race: “What if there’s no one on the other end to pick me up?” My hope for love was so high. But the possibility of rejection was too great a wall to climb.

I became a Christian in college after I learned about Jesus. Here was someone who had taken the fall for me, I thought, who had tasted the full sting of rejection in all its forms. Jesus’ love for me was brave enough to scale that wall; it was bold enough to come for me and take me as I was. It broke through all of my guardedness and all of my pride. It was a love without conditions. I decided, somehow, to let his life (and death, and resurrection) change mine, forever.

I decided to believe that Jesus truly loved me.

The Bible talks a lot about rooting ourselves in truth; in abiding in Jesus; and in letting the gospel hope become the anchor of our souls. And it’s not without effect. I’ve found that the more my self is hidden in Christ, the safer I become. The braver I feel and the more freely I love. Getting ghosted by handsome butler Michael* doesn’t hurt so much; being told by Thomas* that I wasn’t his aesthetic (excuse me, what?) doesn’t send me reeling in self pity. Instead, it sends me to Jesus, the one in whom I am safe and secure. The one in whom I am forever steadied, adored, and known.

When we’re living this way, walking in the knowledge of who Jesus is and who we are in him – beloved, forgiven, utterly known and accepted – the rejections we face won’t dictate who we are. No person gets the final say on our identity. Our worthiness isn’t an item up for debate. Anchoring ourselves in Jesus leaves us less room to fall when others let us down. Because let us down, they inevitably will. Human hearts were never meant to be carried by feeble hands, and living in a fallen world garners additional potential for hurt. Yet, through it all, we can still be women enveloped in grace. Walking in truth. Living out hope.

We can still be women strong enough to love. Even in the face of rejection.

*name changed to conceal identity and prevent the rejector’s lifelong shame

Desire by Alecia Hinston

For the past decade, I’ve resisted speaking openly + specifically about my singleness. It feels too vulnerable, kind of messy, and unfinished. The only time I can remember more “publicly” sharing about singleness was when I was nineteen. I gave a “two-minute testimony” of what the Lord had been teaching me at a Saturday morning Cru women’s event. Though I know the longing I felt then was just as valid, somehow at almost twenty-nine, speaking about that “hope deferred” feels more fragile than at nineteen.

By God’s pure grace, I have seen singleness as the gift it’s described to be in 1 Corinthians 7. My intimacy with + dependence on the LORD, relational + ministry capacity, as well as my sense of who God has called me to be are so much stronger, I believe, because I’ve been single for the majority of the past decade. I can even now thank God for the “almost-but-no’s.” As Elisabeth Elliot writes, “God never withholds from His child that which His love and wisdom call good. God’s refusals are always merciful — ‘severe mercies’ at times but mercies all the same. God never denies us our heart’s desire except to give us something better.” Marriage is not the “reward”; more of Christ is (Psalm 16:5-6). And as each day passes, that statement has moved from a “concise theological statement” to my heart.

That desire is still there, however. In fact, it’s grown stronger and deeper and more pervasive. As those close to me have begun stepping into marriage and motherhood, I’m here, asking the Lord for help in holding vulnerable desire and surrendered contentment in tension. And I’ve been learning that desire is not in itself an “unholy” thing, as if I’m not trusting the Lord enough or thankful for what He has given. Desire is just human, and it can drive us to the One in Whom all our deepest desires are met — if we allow it.

I’ve repeatedly returned to two contrasting portraits of desire in Scripture: Rachel and Hannah. When you have a good chunk of time, grab some coffee and read Genesis 29-31 and 1 Samuel 1-2. For now, I’ll give you the Cliff Notes. They’re two women, beautiful + highly favored by their husbands (Genesis 29:17-20; 1 Samuel 1:5). Both battling infertility (Genesis 29:31; 1 Samuel 1:2b, 5b). Both desired children, but they handled that desire quite differently.

Rachel turned to her husband, Jacob, as if he were the problem and the solution: “When Rachel saw that she bore Jacob no children, she envied her sister. She said to Jacob, ‘Give me children, or I shall die!'” (Genesis 30:1). Jacob’s response? We see in Genesis 30:2 that “Jacob’s anger was kindled against Rachel, and he said, ‘Am I in the place of God, who has withheld from you the fruit of the womb?” This is a portrait of the principle James writes about in James 4:1-2: “What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask.” How many times have I been Rachel? Harboring a genuine, God-honoring desire in and of itself, but heightened to the place of an idol and misdirected towards men, who cannot satisfy as Christ can? Rachel did eventually get what she desired — a few children, in fact — but she was never satisfied. Ironically, what she desired eventually brought her death (Genesis 35:16-20).

Hannah, on the other hand, brought this raw desire to the LORD. “Year after year” (1 Sam. 1:7) she went to the house of the LORD to pray, her ache for a child compounded by the ache of being misunderstood by her husband (1 Sam. 1:8). And yet we do not see her growing angry or looking to anyone but the LORD to heal her or satisfy her desire. She is “deeply distressed” and “[weeps] bitterly,” and “[speaks] out of [her] great anxiety and vexation,” so much so that the priest watching her thinks she’s drunk (1 Sam. 1:10, 13-16). She brings her desire and pain to the LORD, specifically calling on His Name Jehovah-Sabaoth, the LORD of Hosts, a “military” name used for those who have not ceased fighting but who have run out of all of their resources. The LORD hears, provides her with her son Samuel whom she gives back to the LORD to serve in the temple, and then has five other sons and daughters (1 Samuel 2:21).

My prayer is that I will continue to hold this desire for marriage tenderly and open-handed, using it to drive me to my knees before Jehovah-Sabaoth rather than to man. I pray that I will be more like Hannah than Rachel. I do pray for a husband, but more than that I pray for more of Him as I learn to wait on Him (and him?!? 😉 ) more closely.

Beauty by Sarah Lagpacan

On the far side of the lake where the grass shallows and a break in the trees lets out to a pebbled shore, a young woman kneels in the sand, studying her reflection in the water. Oblivious to the beauty of her surroundings, she stays there throughout the afternoon, searching for beauty in her self mirrored before her, until the slight circles beneath her eyes begin to look like craters and the minor tilt of her front teeth revealed when she smiles embarrasses her to the point of never wanting to smile again. Before long, she’s convinced that even the frogs’ croaking is directed at her – a goad at the extent of her utter unbeauty, her thoughts so far gone that it takes a strong wind from the north to disturb her from her worried trance. With her reflection lost in the turbulence of the lake’s surface, she sits back with heels dug into the sand, disheveled and defeated.

It’s not until twilight, as the sun dips below the tree line, casting the day’s final rays of light across the lake, that she raises her gaze from where she sits on the shore – just in time to catch the sunset as it threads streams of magenta, tangerine, and lavender across the vast tapestry of the sky. For the first time, she finds herself the beholder instead of the beheld, too lost in the wonders before her to even remember herself, and as the deep navy of nighttime stretches to fill the air above her, she lays with her back on the ground and closes her eyes in breath-stolen satisfaction.

For a season, it feels as though she could watch the sunset forever – each evening just as enrapturing as the last – until one night she takes a boat out onto the lake just to see the sunset clearer, and as she rows back into shore, she catches sight of two silhouettes on another small beach across the way, their heads tilted together as they gaze skyward, drinking in the same view. A dull ache radiating from within her ribcage catches her off guard. Each night she sees the couple spread a picnic blanket out on the sand of their shared beach and hears their cheerful chatter as they watch the sunset hand in hand, and each night she wonders with heart ever heavier: “Wouldn’t that be nice?”

For some time, the sunset itself loses its luster to her and her gaze spends more time hovering along the lakefront in search of other lone sky watchers than it does fixed on the nightly miracle that once was enough. No longer able to sleep, she stays up through the night tossing and turning, until she witnesses her first sunrise.

She’d never noticed it before – the sky brightening from behind her instead of ahead – and as she reorients herself to face it, bathing in its newfound warmth, the place where each ray of sunshine originates from seems to call her by name, beckoning her from her small shore sheltered in the forest to a vantage point yet undiscovered – somewhere she can see the sunrise in its full glory, and the prospect presented by this still, small voice terrifies her. But each morning the call grows stronger until it’s almost audible, and she can’t deny the curiosity building in the back of her mind. She finds herself torn between the sunset – its beauty tainted by unfulfilled longing and held-out hopes – and the sunrise – a beauty of a different kind, bursting with promise and danger. She tells herself she’ll decide in the morning.

The next day, a young drifter from the lake’s other side takes her makeshift raft to yet another new shore, in search of a soul just as lonely as hers. Trawling along the water’s edge, she spots the smoldering remains of a recently extinguished fire on the beach where she’d once seen a young woman who watched the sunset. Pulling her raft up beside the woman’s boat – now overturned and decidedly retired to the beach – she notices footprints trailing into the woods. Treading cautiously to the forest’s edge, she places her boot inside the footprint of the one who’d embarked before her, imagining the young woman standing where she now stood. With the assurance of this trail already blazed, she did not hover near the water in hesitation, wondering if it would be better to stay, but continued onward into the brightening sunshine, steps guided by the one who’d gone on ahead.

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