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Sunday, May 7, 2017

The Things I Carried: Leaving the Single Life

With all that I've written in the last few years about being single, it would be strange to slip out of singleness silently. So let me pause for a little while on this sunny Sunday afternoon and share with you my final thoughts on singleness as an unmarried woman. (On a side note, I probably won't write much about relationships or marriage. I don't want to be my usual slightly sarcastic self when writing about someone other than me.)

Lately I've been thinking about the things I've carried through my years of singleness.

I carried my name. I've been a Lentz for three decades. I have the Lentz sense of wit and the Lentz analytical mind and the Lentz receding hairline. These days when I sign my name, I remember that this is the last month I'll be scribbling out "Alison R. Lentz." It's probably for the best, given how the legibility of my signature has been on a steady decline since I first learned cursive in 1993.

I think it's fitting to set aside my name for a new one when I marry. I'll be gaining a new name (which I love) and a new set of family members (which I love). Changing my name is a perfect analogy for the new identity I am gaining as a wife and a member of a new family: a new identity where I gain so much, but lose some too. And even though I will no longer carry the name "Lentz," I assume I'll retain my Lentzy qualities.

I carried my preferences. My likes and dislikes, my opinions, and my convictions were the only ones I really had to consult when God's word didn't speak clearly on any particular decision. As my marriage approaches, Lord willing, I will set down some of my multitudinous strong opinions about the best way to live life as I partner up with someone who happens to have his own preferences, opinions, and convictions. I wonder if this process is easier for couples who marry in their early twenties, who haven't each had half a lifetime to get entrenched in their own ideas about everything.

I carried my friendships. Here's a secret: There are heroes among you. Are you part of a church? Chances are good that there are many single women in your church who would like to be married but are not, and who may never be because there are not enough Christian men to go around. Are you on the mission field? Then you probably know that 80-85% of single missionaries are female (from the article "Why are Women More Eager Missionaries?").

Single women in the church who want to get married have a few options:
  1. Continue to hope in the Lord and pray for marriage. Eventually get married.
  2. Continue to hope in the Lord and pray for marriage. Stay single. It is not true that every single person who desires marriage gets it.
  3. Marry a non-Christian. Note: The Bible forbids this, and it makes sense. Why partner with someone whose life purposes are at odds with yours?
For those living in reality #2, there are choices again:
  1. Stay single. Get bitter.
  2. Stay single. Stay selfish.
  3. Stay single. Refresh others. Serve enthusiastically. 
I'm happy to have spent the last ten years surrounded by single women who are choosing option #3.
  • They are planning other people's bridal and baby showers, setting up their friends' weddings, and babysitting other women's kids.
  • They can be found at the registration tables of college retreats, fatherhood seminars, and marriage conferences. They fill the ranks of volunteers that keep most of the ministries at my church running.
  • They knowingly sabotage their chances of meeting a husband by moving to China, Laos, or the Middle East for as long as the Lord calls them there. 
  • They raise support, buy houses, and fix appliances alone. They figure out how to assemble lawnmowers and set up IRAs.
  • They are advancing in their professions and reaching out to their co-workers long after they might have thought they would be cutting their work hours to raise their families. 
  • They respond graciously when their singleness is misunderstood or their sadness is dismissed by well-meaning friends and family.
My single friends are funny, faithful, encouraging, and strong. I loved writing about singleness partly because of the camaraderie of this particular group of unsung heroes. I'll miss being in the trenches with them, and I find it bittersweet to be setting down my identity as a single Christian woman.

There are other things I carried as a single woman that I'm happy to release. I carried a lot more Kleenexes before I met Andy, because I needed them a lot more often. Ha. I carried sadness, uncertainty, and the pain of watching my friendships change and weaken as friends got married and began having children.

I also learned to carry my expectations more loosely. I learned to carry greater hope in God Himself and not what he might do for me.

On the brink of my marriage, I'd love to hear from you: What did you carry as a single person? If you got married, what did you set down? What are you carrying now, in your current stage of life?

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