She sat across from her therapist, sweaty hands clutching the edges of her seat, pulse racing in her wrists, her chests, and the drumbeat in her ears, eyes trained on the ticking clock behind the older woman. As she recounted various events in her life — moments of spiritual darkness, emotional abuse, and crippling self-doubt — her therapist nodded, listening to words that she had never been brave enough to speak out loud.
She was broken. And though it took her many years to admit her brokenness to herself (let alone to another human being), she felt a wave of relief wash over her as so many things began to click into clear focus. No wonder she had struggled to bond with others her entire life. How could she learn how to become one with another person when she didn’t even fully understand herself?
If she is already married, this revelation can be a crucial step in the road to healing, growth, and understanding.
If she’s single, though, this discovery can take on a whole different dimension as the thing that’s made her unlovable all this time.
False Hope and Hopeful Falsehoods
I’ve been that woman. I’ve had that revelation of my brokenness again and again. I’ve reveled in the aha! moments that come after it. And I’ve groaned at the countless ways my brokenness had been hurting my husband all along.
I’ve also been the single version of that woman, connecting that revelation to my unmarried state and anxious to apply it to fixing my singleness (because people treated me like it was a problem to be fixed). When I was single, my moments of brokenness and areas of growth were painted as the barbed wire fence erected between myself and marital bliss. “Just do a little tweaking here, and you’ll be good to go!”
Somehow, we have imbibed the message that broken people don’t get married. And this notion attaches a greater burden to the brokenness of unmarried women than it does to that of their married counterparts. In this economy, our sanctification becomes the weapon aimed at the moving target of finding a husband.
The truth is, though, that if there were a mental health evaluation before we were allowed to sign our marriage license, many of us would have failed it.
We might be tempted to blame some spiritual, emotional, or physical damage for the singleness of those around us. But it’s impossible to live in this fallen world without incurring some baggage.
First of all, we are born in sin (Psalm 51:5). We can thank our father, Adam for the inheritance of brokenness (Romans 5:12, 1 Corinthians 15:22). We’ve all sinned (Romans 3:23), but the good news is that Christ atoning sacrifice saves us from the consequences and the lordship of this sin (Ephesians 2:8-10). We are being transformed to become more and more like him, day by day (Romans 12:1-2), but we will not be perfect in this likeness until glory (1 Peter 1:4-5).
The Good News is our all-deserving Savior has saved undeserving sinners. And, more good news is that, because of this Savior, we can assess the damage that sin has brought to our lives and access healing in him.
The complicating news is that we don’t do this on an island. We do it in community with other broken people.
Only Sinners Say “I Do”
The notion that marriage only comes to flawless women is a recipe for disaster. It encourages us to hide our scars and swallow back the darkness.
I may be the minority on this one. But just in case I’m not, the number one thing I wish I would have known as a single is that I didn’t have to have it all together. I was a broken sinner in need of a savior, and there was no reason to hide it.
This didn’t make me a horrible marriage prospect; it just made me human. And embracing my brokenness early on would have made the first year of my marriage a lot less jarring for my (insanely patient) husband and my (insanely perfectionist) self.
Marriage should not be the carrot that we dangle in front of ourselves as we strive for holiness. The fact is, if God waited until we were perfect to bless us spouses, the only wedding any of us would attend would be the marriage supper of the Lamb.
So, here is my challenge. Grow. Single or married. Drowning in prospects or thirsting on an island. Be honest with where you are in your walk, accountability for the struggles you face, and growth in God’s grace. Whether he is using singleness to sanctify you, or a mate, we are all on the same journey here. And tearing down the superficial walls between the married and the unmarried will give us many more allies in this fight to become more like Christ.