As we turn our eyes and hearts from romance to God, we have the opportunity to experience freedom from fear and an unparalleled joy in the journey of singleness.
A word that typically makes a woman’s heart cave inward with dread, confusion and at our worst, panic. A social stature that the world looks at with pity. A life stage that has for far too long gone misunderstood.
Becoming Her is a four part article series that, through narrative, practical application questions, and Scripture, seeks to answer this one simple question:
What would it look like for young adults everywhere to reach a place where our hearts are first and foremost attuned to loving and being loved by Jesus?
What would it look like to embrace a season of healing in order to step deeper into the woman or man of God that Jesus originally designed you to be?
What would it take to become that person so we can move and operate from a heart space of fullness of joy in Jesus... Such that our life's deepest and strongest desire is to serve Him... A place wherein every relationship, friendship, or marriage that may come thereafter is not our life's only purpose, but instead, a glorious gift that we can enjoy and utilize to glorify Him even more...
This is a lifelong journey, but all journeys have to start somewhere. So let's start here.
A Painted Picture: What It Looks Like When Our Identities Are Rooted in Relationships
The social status words of “single” or “taken” used to be my identifiers. I knew I had other identities – sure. Perhaps for you, it’s college student, sorority member, coworker, friend of hers or friend of his, ministry leader, sister, brother, daughter, son, and oh ya ya ya – that other big one — child of God.
I don’t know about you, but those other identifiers used to carry little weight in my heart. Rather, one of my favored identifiers was the thought of being someone’s person...
Even for some, I've heard, "Her best friend" holds a similar weight.
It is not atypical to hear of a young girl's heart fluttering at simply the thought of princes and princesses. After years of indoctrination watching Disney princess and Twilight movies - most girls have been taught from as early as we can remember that nothing would ever compare to the joy of being pursued by a prince… The idea of being chosen and set apart from the rest by another human. And many of us, myself included, held onto this Disney lie like it was our damn job.
When the heart is in a healthy romantic relationship, it is typical to feel a deep, almost abnormal amount of self worth. I will unashamedly admit that despite Jesus’ gift in allowing me to find freedom from fear of singleness through the process by which we will explore in this series, this is still very true for me today.
This may be true for you, too: that God has gifted you with a heart naturally inclined toward the characteristics and lifestyle of monogamy – desires that clearly come to life as a deep joy arises in simply the thought of serving a man and exploring life with him as you run the race towards Jesus, side by side. It's a wonderful problem to have, I suppose...
A woman's deeply rooted desire to have a husband and build a family, her passion for the art of romance, and the drunk-like state of pure bliss that comes with being in love… It is all a gift, yes. And it is all good - the Lord says so Himself, as it was He who wrote it into your heart in the first place!
But it slowly will become a curse when it becomes a god. Like everything, even the most beautiful, God-given desire can have its cracks.
By nature, when a person's worth resides solely in her partner, difficulties begin to surface. This becomes particularly apparent when her title may change from “his girlfriend” or “his wife,” to “no one’s girlfriend,” “divorcee,” or God forbid, “widow.” In these moments, the sense of self is left confused, wandering, and dazed. At the most challenging times, the heart can even be left lifeless, fruitless, and broken.
When not involved in romance and particularly in the moments of comparison to those who are, why is it that we as women all too often come to a dark place of questioning and doubting our worthiness? And if we’re not ruminating in a place of self doubt, it's even easier to run around like mad women with our eyes on every boy we see, viewing him not first and only with the title of “brother” until he decides to pursue intentions otherwise, but rather, a “potential suitor.” These manic highs and lows with fluidity in self assurance, self worth and viewership of our brothers are surely not God’s design for Eve.
But it is complex! On the one hand, God intentionally designed Eve to help Adam (whether you want to take this in a conservative or liberal, gender normative or nonnormative, romantic or platonic - let us all agree that the world needs women to survive - quite literally). Yet on the other hand, He designed us such that our worth would not be defined by the opinion of man.
So what gives? Where’s the balance?
Not surprisingly, here we find ourselves missing the mark (which, not incidentally, is also the direct translation from the word “sin”). Indeed women have an innate ability to help men - that of which I am sure. Beyond this, humans were also designed to be romanced, to serve others with our whole hearts, and yes, I believe, even to fall madly in love.
Disney may have been right in that there is no joy like being pursued. They were only wrong in one thing: it’s not about being pursued by merely a prince, but by the King Himself.
I use the term “merely” a man not in a degrading way towards my brothers. I would use the same verbiage to a man in encouraging him to stray from putting all of his worth in “merely” a woman.
We are all, to our prideful dismay, merely human.
This does NOT mean however that the joy that inevitably comes from romantic love is sinful - by no means! While the Lord can free us from fear of singleness, rest assured, we can still be in love with love and all things romance, a true supporter of Mr. Darcy himself, and a sucker for dark chocolate and red wine. My love for love has not been tainted nor suppressed in this season, only clarified.
Let me try to explain.
I’d like to think I’m an extremely independent human being. Anyone who knows me would likely admit the same (or so I’d hope). I have profound relationships I work intentionally to maintain. However, come the end of the day, I trust these friends of mine to continue on life without me and I know that I am to continue on without them should there be distance, time or death that separates us.
Perhaps you are the same way: strong in friendship, yet independent at heart.
And still, I’ll be the first to admit that something deep within us can feel something missing when a romantic pursuit comes to a close. Maybe it comes rushing in all at once, as heartbreak hits you overhead like a falling piano in a Tom & Jerry cartoon. Perhaps, in emotional immaturity and in efforts to run away from experiencing deep pain, you search for what we’ve termed as a classic “re-bound…” putting someone else’s heart on the line in order to avoid the depths of your own pain. Or maybe it doesn’t hurt at all at first, but eventually, as the heart begins to heal, you find yourself strong enough and yearning for romantic love yet again. Regardless of the process, we can all agree: there is something innately exciting about romance, and something innately tragic when it comes to an end.
Now when the time comes when your heart has found as much healing as it can on this side of Heaven and when you’re settled into singleness... Assured in your new routine but left without pursuit (or perhaps for some, left without the pursuit from the one you desire)...
When THIS time comes, I must ask: what emotion overwhelms you?
Does your heart ache every time you see a couple?
Do you feel emptiness on Valentine’s Day?
Are you truly excited for your friends when they get engaged, or are you constantly battling the selfish question: when will it be my turn?
What about on those random weekday nights when there is little distraction? What are you tempted to think, do, or tell yourself?
Do you make self-deprecating, sarcastic jokes about your impending lifelong celibacy?
Do you watch movies like Pride & Prejudice and feel empty and alone, fixating on your lack of your own Mr. Darcy, rather than inspired by the film’s romanticism and cinematography?
If you answered yes to any of these, I want to share with you that you’re not alone. Statistically speaking, over half of those who are reading this article either 1) desire marriage now or 2) will be married in the future (whether you like the thought of that or not in this moment).
But more importantly, I want to share with you this - and you will likely scoff at first - but my hope and prayer is that by the end of this article series, you will truly have hope in this one simple thing: singleness is a gift.
Yes. Reread that; a gift.
Not a curse. Not a death sentence and oh my goodness - calm down, sis - definitely not a punishment from a smiting God. It is a gift from our most loving, jealous-for-your-heart, Father.
Let me tell you why I believe this to be the case.
Light in the Cracks.
My journey into Becoming Her began a little over a year ago. I was heart wrenched and wrestling lies of unworthiness as my mind ran a million miles per second of all the ways I could’ve done better. But the bathroom floor, 3am tears were no match for a God who desperately wanted His daughter to know her worth. I heard Jesus speak these two rhetorical questions into my heart, clearer and sweeter than any sound I’ve ever heard:
“My child, why do you wish someone to fight for you when I have already fought the greatest battle and died for you?”
A heart leap.
Hope began to peak out as I felt the heat drain from my forehead and cheeks. Tingling started growing in the back of my neck. That’s when the second question came rushing in.
“Woman, why are you searching for a prince when the King already calls you by name?”
There was a ringing silence, as I was caught unable to fabricate a clever answer to fool Him.
In one fell swoop, it seemed that the gospel made perfect sense all over again. Parts of a romance story between a God and His bride never fully made sense until, in that moment, tired, anxious and fighting lies of unworthiness on the cold tile of a friend’s bathroom floor, I was the one beautifully clothed in white.
The one He pointed to and said, “Her.”
“I want her so badly... I’m going to die for her to show her.”
Forget the sending you flowers. Forget you catching his eye in the foyer of your church and him asking his buddies, “Who is she? I want to meet her.” Forget the romantic notes. Forget him asking you to dance and picking you out from the crowd. Forgo poetry. Drop everything Hollywood and Disney has ever taught you...
Jesus. Died. For. You.
All to capture your heart and call you “His.”
It’s no surprise that your favorite identifier is “His” - it’s been written in your heart already by "He" Himself!.
That is reckless love…
AND He came back to live forever with you. You thought Edward Cullen, Prince Charming or Mr. Darcy played big? God went bigger. For you.
In that moment as the clouds parted and I tasted the goodness and grace of Jesus, the cold tile underneath me became warm. The heat from my eyes began to burn again - but this time, not over a lost prince. This time, it was over Him. Tears of joy, tears of unworthiness not in what I had or hadn't done but because I stood before a Holy God, tears of repentance, tears of the greatest intimacy I had ever known.
It was far too sweet to bear.
A few months later… I began to look within the depths of my heart and I realized this: I can be as independent as I want — but if I am not as satisfied to the core of my being without a partner as when in relationship with one, am I truly setting myself up well for a healthy and flourishing marriage should the Lord gift me with one?
If I am not at peace with the idea of serving God in someplace other than in marriage for the rest of my life - am I truly living out “let not MY will, but YOURS be done”? Am I truly treating God like God?
The answer, again to my convicted dismay, was a resounding no.
Because within that “no” lies the fact that I did not have fullness of joy from the Lord alone and that my joy in serving Him would be conditional.
And let me be clear, you may be okay with that in your own heart. This journey we are diving into is not for the faint of heart.
If you're okay with always feeling like you won't have fullness of joy without marriage (or fill in the blank), then you can stop reading here. If you're okay looking at life as half empty until someone comes along to fill your cup as full - then you have better things to do with your time than sit and read a 12 minute article from some Jesus chick from California who wants more for her sisters. If you're at peace in putting your happiness in the hands of another human being, seriously just X this tab out right now.
But I sure as hell didn't want that for my life, a potential future marriage, and most importantly, my relationship with Jesus. I wanted and will always continue to want to view gifts like gifts, and God like God.
This does NOT mean that desiring marriage is bad - I would never claim such a lie. I am only saying: desiring God is better.
In my journey, I have had the blessing of counseling many women, especially those in relationships with both brothers in Christ as well as those who I would not as freely jump to call men I'd wish as partners for my sisters. Regardless of the man and regardless of the nature of the breakup or the season into which my sister is stepping - without fail - every time a woman’s heart is broken she will look deep into my eyes or I’ll hear her voice crack over the phone as she asks something along the lines of: “I won’t be alone, right Jess?”
To which I always respond, “You won’t be. You’ve never been. And you aren’t now.”
My sisters - life does not begin nor end with a man. It begins and ends with Jesus, and the man will be a blessing as you partner together during that race. The prince, should he come, is a gift - one of the greatest gifts! I'll be the first to argue there is nothing quite as magnificent on Earth as the beauty of a holy, deep and passionate love. But the adventure is the King. THE greatest gift is living for Jesus, and the most powerful love is with Him. It always has been and always will be.
Encouragement For You.
I want to share with you something I re-read some odd months following the night the Lord met me on that tile floor. I think it profoundly grabs the heart differently to each and every person who has both the fortune and misfortune of reading it:
“When you think about your life and the concept that God wants you to submit your entire self to Him, if there is even one thing that causes you to say, 'Lord, anything but that!' then this is likely the area where God is asking you to let go"
- Becky Tirabassi.
If you didn’t read that quote, go back and read it.
If you read that quote, please go back and read it again.
So now I ask you: what just came to mind? What immediately did you heart drop at the thought of losing?
Was it pornography? Alcohol? Your body? Health? Eating habits? Instagram? Tobacco?
Or was it something good, relatively speaking, such as your relationship? Hopes for marriage? Your career? Your friend group? Your best friend? Your wife? Your husband? Your hopes to fall in love? Your unborn child? Your child’s salvation? Your siblings salvation?
Ger Jones from Vintage Church LA put it well when he said, “Remember, a good thing can become a bad thing when it becomes a god thing.”
In other words, when something becomes the only thing you want in life - something you question the goodness and omnipotence of God at merely the thought of ever not having - it is no longer a bad or good thing. It has become a god. Your mere desire for something has interrupted your understanding of Jesus.
This to me, as I’m sure you have guessed, used to be a husband and a family. I would imagine, from the many women I have had the opportunity to counsel the past few years and if you have made it this far into this article, it is your “thing,” too. Marriage is your god when you’re not truly focusing on God, or perhaps even when you’re brought to your knees and leave it at the foot of the cross every day, the desire continues to creep into your heart.
I believe that the healthiest of relationships and the most joy filled marriages begin with two people who treat God as God. A healthy marriage is found when two people can confidently say or are confidently in prayer over the desire that their partner is not their sole source of joy, worth, nor identity. They view their partner as not the end goal, but rather simply, the greatest gift from a kind and compassionate God and moreover, a co-laborer with whom they can walk through life and amplify the gospel. As followers of Christ, I believe we are called to a season of deep healing (though our "thing" may always be something that we battle). We are responsible for seeking as much healing as we can on this side of Heaven, and building our tool belts in order to fight against the temptation such that if and when we join with another human - we are better equipped to love and serve that person.
How do we, as young adult women or men who desire marriage, get to the point in our walks where we can confidently say, “A spouse would be a beautiful gift, yes. But if God so chooses not to provide that person and I get to serve Jesus in singleness alongside my sisters and brothers for the rest of my life, that will be a wonderful gift as well.”
That process? Well, I hope to share my journey of what it looks like to fight for that freedom throughout this series.
But this is the first step. The conviction step - the part where you read things you don’t want to read because you know they’re true. A mentor of mine calls conviction “the slight nudge and the impending dread” of the Holy Spirit.
Does that about sum up your emotions right now? (It sure did for me when He started knocking.) If so, you’re not alone, and you’re making strides simply by seeking answers and community. More to come on this soon, but for now, I am praying fervently for your heart.
I encourage you to step into intentional prayer about what this season of finding joy in singleness will look like, and to search for answers in resources other than B&B. Sit with this article.
Pray over the words written that may have hurt to read. What do you agree with? Disagree with? Why? Invite your community into what you find, and then dig even deeper. As always, my words are not Scripture and I encourage you to open your Bible and see what Jesus says about this and about you.
Fair warning, His answer may bring you to tears. (And you might want to pick a more comfortable place to experience it than a bathroom floor.)