The holidays are a hard time to be single, maybe the hardest time of year to be single.
A time of year when all the couples sitting at the computer at Starbucks planning their couples’ pic for their Christmas cards or coming in with their spouses and kiddos all bundled up in wool sweaters with steamy mugs of hot cocoa for their family night, when these things drive you to your car where you barely manage to step inside without breaking down into messy, snotty tears while you blast horribly sappy music wondering if you’ll be a spinster old maid with 10 cats in your little studio apartment still living on mac and cheese and spaghetti.
I wrote the above last year at Christmastime.
That night, as I practically jogged out of Starbucks to the cold of my car where I snotted all over my sleeve, I called a girlfriend, crying about how pathetic I felt, how lonely I felt, how I was never ever going to have a relationship work out because I just stunk at dating. Royally stunk.
To which she promptly told me to get my butt downtown where she was out with some girlfriends. And so, despite my plans to change into my pajamas, make popcorn, and stay home with my cat for the 100th night of the year, I went home, washed my face, tossed on a dress, smeared on some lipstick, and joined my friend.
And that night I felt beautiful, enjoyed my friend’s company, made a few people laugh with my dating/cat lady stories, and met some interesting people I never would have met otherwise, like a whole roomful of lifeguard friends. Chuckle.
I stepped out of my comfort zone, and it was energizing.
I spent some time tonight looking through the text messages this friend and I sent to each other over the past year, and I realize 1) she was an awesome sister-in-arms in singleness this past year, and 2) I really need to see her soon. It’s been way too long.
We need comrades-in-arms in our singleness, cause it ain’t easy. Many a day even church was a struggle as I watched family after family file into its doors, and I felt my partnerlessness like an ache in the heart that almost sucked the air out of my lungs. One time I skipped church as I sat in my car, again, in messy tears.
The ironic thing is, I prayed for tears.
For a very long time, I barely ever cried. Numbness had become my MO, denial my protection. But I had this college friend Janice, whose eyes welled with tears at the mere mention of another’s pain. Her heart was so tender and caring. I wanted that.
And then, through dating, God gave me that.
This dating journey with Him has brought a lot of tears. My living room rug and the driver’s seat of my car have been baptized with a lot of water. But through it all, He has been there with me. Teaching me. Healing me. Demonstrating His love for me.
Just because something is painful doesn’t mean it is wrong.
Sometimes the brokenness allows the light to get in.
Softens the clay of our hearts for God to do His work in us.
In The Broken Way, Ann Voskamp, in her beautiful vulnerability, writes about the blessings of brokenness, an understanding that has not come easily but one that has transformed her life as she learns to live cruciform: the way of the cross.
What if … what if I made a habit of every day pressing my wounds into the wounds of Christ—could my brokenness be made into a healing abundance for the brokenness of the world? A kind of communion? Could all brokenness meet in the mystery of Christ’s brokenness and givenness and become the miracle of abundance? (34)
Ann talks about the blessings of wounds, thoughts inspired when her daughter’s paper heart rips in two and her little girl says, “Maybe the love gets in easier right where the heart’s broke open?” Ann reflects …
… maybe you can live a full and beautiful life in spite of the great and terrible moments that will happen right inside of you. Actually—maybe you get to “become” more abundant “because” of those moments. Maybe—I don’t know how, but somehow?—maybe our hearts are meant to be broken. Broken open. Broken free. Maybe the deepest wounds birth deepest wisdom.
We are made in the image of God. And wasn’t God’s heart made to be broken too? Wounds can be openings to the beauty in us. And our weaknesses can be a container for God’s glory.
Hannah tasted salty tears of infertility. Elijah howled for God to take his life. David asked his soul a thousand times why it was so downcast. God does great things through the greatly wounded. God sees the broken as the best and He sees the best in the broken and He calls the wounded to be the world changers. (24)
When I was a teen, I felt God calling me into ministry for women, and over the years, I felt Him calling me to write a book. But each time I got close to writing the book, I would step into an unhealthy relationship that led to a double life and the dousing of the flame of my true passions: Jesus and the calling He had for my life.
Halfway through this journey of dating with Jesus, He revealed to me that dating (dating?!) was my mission field, that what I was going through wasn’t just for me but for others.
There was purpose to my brokenness.
It was hard to explain to others, but I knew in the depth of my heart that my journey and my tears were watering a seed that would one day begin to show fruit.
And so I began writing.
Still, many days I cried out, loudly at times, why in the world He was calling me to write about this stuff when I was an utter and complete FAILURE at it!!!???
I questioned how in the world, why in the world, should I be one to write about healthy dating and relationships? Surely my brokenness and mess wouldn’t help anyone.
Shouldn’t you pick someone who got it “right,” Lord?
A year or so later, here I am, blogging my passion. Starting my ministry a little at a time. Trying to be faithful each Sunday to what my Daddy lays it on my heart to write.
Still, I have moments, a good amount of moments, that I feel inadequate, unworthy, exposed as I venture out to do what He’s called me to do.
But I try to do as Ann says and press my wounds into the wounds of Christ.
It’s about Him, really. And being faithful. And it’s satisfying work to know that I know that this one little thing, this little seed, this little blog, is one He has called me to faithfully tend. So I do my best, though it won’t always be pretty and it won’t always be easy.
But it’s sweet brokenness.
Amen and amen.
I want to close with a few lines from the late Leonard Cohen’s “Anthem,” a song that I’ve worn out at certain times of my life, when I’ve struggled with feeling inadequate or good enough. RIP Mr. Cohen …
Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.
So often our callings come from our messes and our mistakes. God redeems them and renames them our training ground. And He uses them for others. When we submit them to Him, He can shine right through, and the darkness becomes light.
(I will be giving away a hardcover copy of The Broken Way AND an advance copy of the study guide with DVD in December. To enter, share this post and let me know in the comments where you shared it. Be blessed.)