I’ve stood behind a camera well over 35 times capturing an engagement or a wedding day. I’ve hidden behind bushes, ducked around the other side of a rock on the beach, sprinted across a field to congratulate the new couple and rejoice in the moments immediately after she says “yes.”
Simply put: I have watched friend after friend fall in love over the last 8 years. And it’s not just that. I’ve watched all my siblings fall in love, seen my small group celebrate it, rejoiced with co-workers around it. Almost all of my closest girl friends in college and grad school have gotten married. And the reason I want you to know this is because I really want you to understand that I’ve been there.
I’ve watched the jumps for joy and the first dance and the send off and then gotten into my car, alone. I’ve watched them wave as they exit and then gone home to a dark house. It’s just one of those things that we accept as a single person. And yes—there are moments when it can lead me down a dark road. But there is one road in particular that I’ve watched men and women alike go down lately and I consider this post a sign at the entrance, asking for reconsideration. That road is the way of cynicism.
“Another friend just got engaged—I hate my life.”
“It’s Valentine’s Day—singleness awareness day, right?”
“Not gonna have a Valentine because ‘always a bridesmaid and never a bride.’ ”
“I swear. I am quitting Facebook if I see one more happy couple. I GET IT. YOU’RE IN LOVE.”
We’ve all been there. Felt the sting of someone else’s happiness. But the lie we often believe is that someone else’s perceived joy is our loss. That if someone finds love, we never will. That it’s almost a personal assault on our happiness and HOW DARE THEY. But honestly: where is it written?
Where is it written that I am less valuable because of my relationships status? Show me where in the Bible I am less worthy of love. Show me the part where Jesus forgets to go back for the 1 and runs after the 99. Show me the part where Paul gets married. Remind me of the time that Ruth marries Naomi’s son and he doesn’t die, leaving her a barren widow. Remind me of how all the couples in the Bible had perfect lives and zero problems. Oh that’s right: it’s not written.
Jesus goes back for every last sheep. Paul and a number of other individuals that we admire for their faith were single. Ruth is an outcast because of her relationship status. All of the couples had serious issues, y’all. There is nothing in scripture that points to one person finding love as a reason to hate our own lives. That’s coming from somewhere else.
If you open your Bible looking for identity, you’ll find it in the form of being known and seen and loved and forgiven and embraced. You’ll find it in being uniquely gifted to live out God’s call on your life. You’ll find it in the fact that we need one another and are called to rejoice when they rejoice and mourn when they mourn. But we have this tendency to stop looking at the Truth and reality of marriage and exchange it for our cynical assumptions.
We assume that when we go home alone after a wedding, the happy couple stays a happy couple forever. They don’t argue on their honeymoon and sex is easy and fun and their lives stop being human. We believe that our singleness is only to be understood in light of their union. That they have and we have not. And that’s where we start to look more like Cain and Abel or Joseph’s brothers—envious over what they have, unaware of the fact that we’re all just trying our best.
As you scroll through your feed today, take a deep breath. If you’re gonna rejoice with others over their love, do it. And also? Pray for them to be wise and kind and that God would protect their marriages. Pray that they would be rooting themselves in who Jesus says they are and not in their marriage (because newsflash: that’ll let you down real quick.) Pray that they won’t feel small when they see someone else who has a better situation—healthy kids or a doting husband or weekly date nights when they themselves haven’t had a date in 3 months. There will always be a way to compare ourselves to others, and it will always try to ruin us.
And if you aren’t going to rejoice with love today? Maybe consider staying away from social media. Not in a brooding way, but in a way that says, “I don’t like who I become and how I see my fellow human when I see them happy or in love.” And then? Ask your friends what they’re up to. And tell each other what you love about one another. Valentine’s Day doesn’t have to be only romantic love, friends. I know that it can be hard, and I’m praying that for those of you hurting today, that you’ll know that you are seen and loved and a part of all of this—just as much as that Patagonia-clad family with their wedding rings.
And a word to my Married Friends: You know I love you. But maybe today you consider what it’s like on the other side? Maybe today you text your single friends and invite them to dinner sometime soon? Or tell them why you love them and are grateful they’re part of the story?
The bottom line is that we are called to see one another as made in the image of God and that means we all get to be loved and known and appreciated. May we raise a glass today instead raising a wall of shame and insecurity. May we be honest that it stings, but not let that take over our words and actions and hearts. May we dig deep and figure out the root of our struggle and know that the Word of God is speaking over us nothing the Truth that we are still His, single or married. We are all deeply loved, single or married. We all get to be proclaimers of his truth in a dark world, single or married.
May rest in that truth, and may it set us free.