Shame, Sanctification, Singleness, and Marriage

shame single married When I was still unmarried and wrote about singleness a lot, sometimes I'd get particular responses from people who'd been single a year or two longer than me OR twenty years more than me, "Yeah, just you gets harder." I was trying to be faithful with what the Lord was teaching me and I felt ashamed that I wasn't 36 or 37 and single, or 55 or 60 and single. It seemed like there was no good age to be to talk about the difficulties and the blessings of the season in which I was called to by God.

Now I've been married a year and I've heard from married folks things like, "Just you wait, it gets harder," or "You've experienced nothing yet," or with eyes being rolled, "Honeymooners..." and more.

Or from single friends, "As hard as it is, at least you get to have sex," or "But would you really trade marriage for singleness again?" or "At least you get to live with your best friend," and more.

And I'm realizing, I'm walking in shame about whatever season of life I'm in. God called me to be sanctified in singleness until the year 2015, and then He called me to be sanctified in marriage, and who knows what the future holds. I have been married for a mere 16 months, easily the best and the hardest 16 months of my life. God is still sanctifying me deeply—and in many ways this time of sanctification feels more painful than it did when I was unmarried, though I know ahead of me there will be times when the sweetness of the season makes it worth it.

I don't want to be ashamed of the fact that I was unmarried for 34 years, many years longer than many people and many years shorter than other people. I'm not ashamed of the fact that God gave me a rich season of singleness that I love to talk about and testify about to others in that season. Singleness was God's best gift to me—and I said that often while I was in it, so it's not some nostalgic longing for yesteryear that has me saying it now. I longed for marriage, prayed for it, but tried my best to be faithful to what God was calling me to that day.

I don't want to be ashamed of the fact that at 35, I've only been married a year and while most of my peers are coming into their second decade of marriage, I am still a baby at it. I don't know how to do it well, but I also take great delight in it. Please don't say to someone who is newly married, "Just you wait." You have no idea how they are being painfully cracked open and splayed out today. You have no idea what kinds of identity they're wrestling with. What things they are grieving. When you say, "Just you wait," you're telling them to live in fear of tomorrow.

My favorite quote from my favorite thrice married woman is this: “This gift for this day. The life of faith is lived one day at a time, and it has to be lived—not always looked forward to as though the 'real' living were around the next corner. It is for today we are responsible. God still owns tomorrow.”

What is your today? What is the today of your friends and neighbors? Instead of warning them of the trouble to come (which no mere man can ever predict either the extent or the circumstances), get into their messy beautiful life of today. Ask how you can pray for today. Ask how you can encourage them while it's still today. Ask the Holy Spirit how He might have you minister to them today. Some of my present day heroes are women in very different circumstances than I, still unmarried at 55, just married at 50, a mother of nine and a mother of two, an unmarried 22 year old. They're all living different stories, but all faithfully binding themselves to the anchor of God and the ship He is steering. I want to be like that and I want you, whatever season you're in, to be like that.

I am praying for you today, for this gift for this day.