When I was nineteen years old, I went on spring break from my small Christian liberal arts college, cut off my wildly curly hair to a quarter inch from my head, and swore off dating forever. I was done with a capital D.
Let me explain. I had dated. I had sought. I had searched. I had read books and magazines. I had asked questions of friends and mentors. I wanted to know what solid romantic relationships looked like and where to find a good man to share my hopes and dreams with. And by good man, I meant a man running with Jesus, not lollygagging with a sort-of faith walk. I also wanted to know if this search was good, bad, or reeked of distrust in God. Most of all, I wanted to know where God was in the midst of all my questions and more than anything—
did He care about my love life?
In my head, I thought, why would God want to hear from little ol’ me about my desires for a husband? Surely there was more important stuff, like poverty, injustice, and Truth. I also struggled with whether I even wanted a husband to begin with. After all, there was poverty, injustice, and Truth to fight for. I often wondered if I was betraying womanhood by desiring a lover for my soul.
My internal struggles always show up on the outside somewhere. So, I cut my hair to show myself and the world around me that I didn’t need a man, and I was surprised when in the dark of night, when it was just me and God, I prayed the words I have since found chorused by Solomon’s bride in Song of Songs 3:1—
“On my bed by night I sought him whom my soul loves; I sought him, but found him not.”
I wanted a Jesus-loving man to be a part of my life, but I didn’t find him, and goodness knows he was hard to find even when I tried.
I think God put the words of the bride in the Song of Songs for many layers of learning, but not the least of which is expressing the weird, wild, wonderful, and often confusing longings of many single women everywhere—not all single women, mind you, but many.
There is a pull and counter-pull I have found in womanhood. It shows up in marriage, don’t worry, but it shows up first and loudest when we are single young adults.
Based on my study of Genesis 3 alongside the Song of Songs, I believe that life as a woman has two poles:
Pole #1: the desire to be a strong, confident, independent woman, free and fine.
Pole #2: the desire to be loved, cared for, protected, and known.
It’s easy to say to single women,
“You’re fine! Embrace your freedom!” Or
“You’ll meet someone, don’t you worry! It’s all in God’s hands!” (As if that magically makes wonderful Christian men appear.)
But that does not address the polarity, the struggle between the two. Pat answers also are rarely helpful.
What if instead we acted just as concerned with their heart as God does? What if we heard?
What if women, young and not-so young, had open spaces to ask questions and contemplate about romance, love, marriage, and the single life?
A Bible study around cafeteria tables of the Song of Songs taught me when I was twenty years old that Jesus Christ is the one whom my soul loves.
He knows me, He loves me, and He fills me.
But that same study of the Song of Songs also taught me to wrestle with those hidden questions of marriage, singlehood, and my love life out loud and around the Word.
I want every woman around me to have this same freedom to ask questions and delve into the Word, whether the woman feels great about being single or wonders what in the world God is up to.
Life rarely holds easy answers. Does God want me to marry? When will He bring me a spouse? How do I embrace singlehood well? There are no easy answers, no simple responses applicable to every one of us, but we don’t have to ask the questions alone. This is what the Church is for. This is why God gave us community around the Word, to hash out what He is doing and saying in our lives and how His love and forgiveness is transforming us, no matter what our lives and desires look like.
The One whom my soul loves sacrificed His life for me, and He hears my heart every day.
He loves our souls.
He can handle our questions.
He is faithful to us, and in His faithfulness He enables us to be faithful to one another in this beautiful life lived together.