I am a single career woman, but not necessarily by choice. At 28 years old I was a stay-at-home mom, and then suddenly I found myself divorced, alone and broke. I went back to work grudgingly, crying every single day for months as I drove away from the daycare center.
I called out to God through the pain, begging for a purpose, for my life to mean something. And he answered that prayer in spades.
I got what I asked for, but not in the way I expected.
He called me into ministry, but he also threw open doors having nothing to do with ministry. Somehow, through all the turmoil and pain and moments of counting my pennies, he blessed me with a career.
But he hasn’t blessed me with other things I’ve asked for.
My plan was to make a living as a writer, not as an executive. My plan was to find a good man to come home to every night, someone who would make me forget about the bad things in my life.
And I thank God that my plans didn’t pan out. Instead of blessing me with my heart’s desires, God taught me sacrifice, humility, loneliness and redemption. Through heartaches, disappointments and rejection, he revealed to me who I am in him.
You see, my plan was all about distraction. I wanted to spend my days in my fictional worlds; God chose to make me live out my own story (and that actually made me a better writer). I wanted to find someone with whom I could be complacent. I wanted to come home and zone out to the television with someone at my side. I wasn’t interested in being challenged.
God, however, is all about challenging his children.
One of the ways he has done that is to force me into situations I have had to handle with God as my guide, and no one else: business trips, speaking in front of hundreds of people, walking into a party by myself, or coming home to an empty house after a hard day.
Just as living made me a better writer, it has also made me realize that the only man I have room for in my life is one who leads me and is worthy of being followed.
Newsflash to me: I am not here for the purpose of my own enjoyment. I have a purpose far greater than that. I can’t spend my life zoned out in fictional worlds, or living in the middle of my own personal bubble.
I still write, and I still have the dream to make a living from it someday, but now I write because I want to express what God has shown me. I want my words to encourage others.
Now I date because I enjoy meeting new people. I want to share and converse with them. I want to challenge and to be challenged. Right now that need is being met through friendships and I find that, despite all the times I’ve whined to God (or maybe because of all my whining) I don’t need a man in my life. However, as I settle into this new sense of peace about my singleness I find there is another need developing: the need to be led.
Don’t misunderstand….I love being single. As a career woman, I call the shots. As a single mom, I make the rules. I don’t have to answer to anyone (except God, of course) about the money I spend or the things I do. It’s wonderful to be free like this, and I am relishing it.
I once called myself impressionable. If I’m with a guy who drinks, I drink. If I’m dating a non-Christian, I stop going to church. As I mature I am more discerning about the people with whom I spend my time, but this part of me still remains. I have to avoid certain people and situations because I know how easy it is to slip into old habits and to fall back into my quest for complacency. I struggle with it constantly. I used to think of this as a weakness, but then I realized it can be a virtue if I choose to use it for good.
My brokenness has taught me to be flexible. It’s amazing how much a person will grow when they are forced to their knees. I’ve had to forgive people because it was just too painful to hold onto the anger. I’ve had to be strong and face my fears because there was no one to distract me from the difficulties of life. Pain can either soften or harden a person. Somewhere along the way I decided to allow it to soften me. While this has damaged my heart, it has allowed people and circumstances into my life that I thank God for. I thank him for the painful experiences most of all.
As I face another Christmas with no one to sit with me by the light of the tree while sharing a bottle of wine, and no one to walk beside me through the park while we’re bundled in our coats and scarves, I find myself less lonely than I was the last seven Christmases. I think this is because I’ve realized that having someone by my side is pointless if that person is not worthy of being followed.
Being led isn’t about being told what to do, or having to answer to someone for the choices you make. And it’s not about being criticized for who you are or having to explain yourself. Being led means being with someone who influences your choices by challenging who you are as a child of God with a God-given purpose in this world. It does not allow you to be complacent and settled because it asks tough questions through the spirit of love and encouragement. And it supports you in your choices, holding you up even when you take a wrong step and fail.
I suppose some might think my desire to be with a man who leads me is an antiquated point of view. It certainly doesn’t fit with modern society’s vision of the single career woman.
This does, however, fit with God’s vision of male and female roles. Ephesians 5: 21-32 gives us instructions for living within a Christian household – God’s idea for how husbands and wives should relate to each other. You’ve probably heard the “Wives, submit to your husbands” part, even if you aren’t a Christian. Many people take that as evidence that God is misogynistic and that the Bible doesn’t apply to modern times. But when you read the entire passage, and consider it contextually with the culture in which it was written and as a part of the whole of biblical revelation, it has a very different meaning.
God gave men and women different roles because he made us differently. We are like pieces of a puzzle, designed to fit together a certain way – physically, spiritually, mentally and emotionally. We are compliments to each other. Yes, God commands wives to submit to their husbands, but the Greek word used for submit in this passage actually means “to support.” And verse 21, right before that verse, actually commands husbands and wives to submit 1) to each other; and 2) out of reverence for Christ. Those two parts add tons more depth to this concept. God also calls husbands to love their wives…there is a give and a take here.
God does not call us to follow Him blindly. That is why he gave us the Bible and the Holy Spirit. True faith is not blind; revelation and “proof” are available to those who seek it. And neither does God call us to follow others blindly. A leader needs to be worthy of being followed. A true man of God is a worthy leader.
I am at the point in my life where I would like a man to lead me. Not to tell me what to do, but to challenge me and to help me grow. But I also know that if that man never comes, God will send me other people, opportunities and situations to serve the same purpose.
This puts the whole concept of being alone for Christmas into an entirely different light. If you are feeling lonely this Christmas, I hope you will take comfort in this. There are times when God sends us people to love and to love us back, but the times of aloneness can be the most blessed times if we allow God to be the one to lead us.