Paul talks about this "thorn in his flesh" when he writes to the Corinthians. There are a ton of interpretations of what that means -an illness, an internal struggle, etc. Regardless, it is something that is keeping him back a little bit - something that can be discouraging, that causes pain, that is something he goes to God about quite a bit.
Singleness is not my thorn.
In fact, if you take a look at my life, you'll see the insane blessings that have come throughout the last decade. Many of these have happened because I am single. I can travel, start things, change jobs, move across the country and back...without much thought or consequence (relatively speaking).
So, nope. I don't view my marital status as this nagging, throbbing sore in my side.
I do have a thorn, though. It's been there since I can remember. It's been the root of broken relationships, unwise decisions and pride. The thorn, in all of it's grotesque gore, is the deep desire for intimacy. The desire to be known, to exhale, to be unraveled, to be held, to be led, to be comforted, to analyze, to dig deep. These are all normal feelings, I know. But the depth of this for me (and my attempt to quench it) has been something that has kept me from experiencing God's insanely beautiful, abundant and constant love.
For the longest time, I thought that these things were "solved" in a partner. But recently, I've had the chance to experience the rawness of the longing and realize that it actually isn't related at all to the fact that I sleep alone at night.
In God's kindness and love, I am the person who throws her entire self into the things that she does. Every person. Every job. Every experience. I'm completely there. But this means that the recharge that I need is pretty profound. So when I mix the giving of everything and the pace that I often keep, I miss the real, vulnerable need to be poured into - I often run into a blind search for the soul care I need. Sometimes I don't even realize that it's happening! This has meant holding on to wrong relationships just a little too long, speaking too quickly about where I'm at with someone out of an effort to appear composed, or pursuing situations that are, frankly, cheap imitations of what intimacy really is. And on the other side of all of those things, being met with a CRAP ton of shame and disappointment in myself. It's a truly awful kind of pain.
There it is. The ugly truth. There is a raw weakness in me. And I know that this is the place where, if not wise, I will meet my demise in my ministry, my joy...this is where the enemy has and continues to poke. But the good news, is that in the name of Jesus Christ, I belong to the Lord. So He will not lead me to destruction. And if He went before an entire nation, He will fight for me (Exodus 14:14).
So my plight in these next months - especially as I prepare for our second summer in Mexico is to actually figure out how to build the right kind of guard around my heart. How? I'm heading to counseling tomorrow and will let you know what I come up with ;).
I know beyond a shadow of any doubt, that whether I'm married or single, the longing can only be satisfied by the One who actually holds this entire universe in order. That takes almost no effort to write, but for those of you who are single, who wish and hope that it were different...I want to challenge you to look a little deeper. What "problem" do you hope that having a spouse would actually solve? Because, if you're anything like me, that actual problem is meant to be worked through, brought to the throne of grace, and pressed into with people who love you. It's mean for you to cry out to God with the shout of "I need thee every hour!"
It took me a while to get to the place where I was joyful being single - like almost 10 years. But now is the time for me (and maybe you) to look up and ask God to deliver on His promise. “It is the LORD who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.” – Jeremiah 31:8
Don't lose heart, friend. If the Lord leads you into something radical for His kingdom, He will meet you with the needs of your soul. He is good, faithful and never fails. His grace is sufficient. It's been true throughout history, so I'm counting on it now for you and me both.