The barrenness of singlehood
“When you start working, all the good girls will already be taken.”
This was a common sentiment from friends when I was an undergraduate. Willingly or not, here I am today: a working professional and single. While I enjoy the freedom that singlehood gives, there have been fleeting moments where my heart has yearned for companionship.
These feelings of absence hit hard when you see a couple cloistered in an embrace before they separate at the departure hall, or when you wish for someone by your side after a frustrating day. In these acute moments, your heart feels vacant — vast and generous like the ocean, yet nothing fills it.
It is aggravated when everyone in church expects you to serendipitously fall in love and consummate soon after — “Eh, why you still single ah? Can you faster find a girlfriend?” Marriage has often been portrayed by Christians as the purpose in life, whether consciously or subconsciously.
I recently dated someone. I thought, from the onset, that everything was going to align beautifully, but it failed to blossom into a blissful relationship. When you’re in your twenties, there is a self-imposed supposition that you’re more cognisant of “your type,” but sometimes life is ever ready to remind you that you’re a minuscule being, with no hold on the universe.
The failed relationship left me disillusioned with this ineffable thing called ‘Love,’ as it has never seemed to work in my favour. To be honest, I was disappointed with God. I found myself questioning His intentions for my life; I could not believe that “goodness and mercy” (Psalm 23:6) were faithfully pursuing me, like the earth’s orbit around the sun.
When I looked at my life, it felt cold and barren. I was a desert plain, anything good planted in the ground will inevitably shrivel and die. During this period of disenchantment, I knew that two regrettable things could happen to me. I could grow bitter and wean myself off His life source. There was also the possibility for me to settle — I could place my trust in my own flesh instead of God’s will, and pursue a relationship that is not blessed by Him. Thankfully, I chose to hang onto my faith, albeit with only one hand.
As I splayed across the desolate terrain with dust caught in my eyes, I came across a video by Melissa Helser. She explains how the nakedness of the forest during frigid winter enables you to see far beyond what you can see in spring’s lush foliage; winter brings sharp clarity. Melissa revealed how the trees, in their state of undress, do not feel any tinge of anxiety that they shall never grow leaves again and bloom; they are rooted in a confidence and security that spring will come in due time. The Holy Spirit taught her how seasons of rest and barrenness are necessary to seasons of fruitfulness and harvest.
Before the video ended, my eyes had welled up as His love meandered through my arid heart like a rolling river. I understood that there was a purpose for this season of infertility and emptiness: the chill of winter strips us of excess and brings us to the end of ourselves.
The unchecked desire to get attached had perniciously become a life goal, in turn cutting myself from the Vine. I had forgotten that “by his divine power, God has given [me] everything [I] need for living a godly life. [I] have received all of this by coming to know Him, the one who called [me] to Himself by means of His marvellous glory and excellence” (2 Peter 1:3). In swooning to the notions of romantic love, I simply lost sight of God — the one true Person who makes my soul come alive; the very Person who has unfathomably put His everlasting love inside of me.
Apart from correcting my heart’s posture, God also gently reminded me that there is a purpose for singlehood. Jesus did not marry whilst on earth. Paul also says in 1 Corinthians 7:8, “So I say to those who aren’t married and to widows — it’s better to stay unmarried, just as I am.” Contrary to society’s distorted conception of Hollywood love today, singlehood is not lesser than being married.
I have come to respect this season of my life, whether it lasts a lifetime or not. In my youth, I can focus all my energies into building His Kingdom. Whatever He has planned for me, this is something that cannot change. I am first a son, and it is my greatest desire to do my Father’s will.
If you’re currently wrestling with the barrenness of singlehood or have just come out of a tumultuous relationship, do not wait for spring to arrive before you start singing. May you understand that seasons of barrenness and seasons of fruitfulness are intertwined; may you sing prophetically for spring to come. There will surely be a day where “the cooing of turtledoves fills the air” and where “fig trees are forming young fruit” (Song of Solomon 2:12-13). As your sweet voice finds release, joy will come rushing in, filling in the gap between winter and spring.