Platform Delving: My Heart Cries Out to Thee!
One of the things I love most about writing romance novels is that I get to reveal and explore parts of my own psyche that I may not have ever touched upon before writing a reaction or thought a character has.
There’s a personally poignant scene that I wrote for Menu for Romance—it’s a scene that I wrote in the very first draft (back when I thought it would be called A Major Event Inc. and the storyline was much different) which I kept through every revision not just because it revealed so much of who Meredith is but because it has been my own heart’s lament for many, many years.
“It’s not fair,” Jenn wailed.
“What? That Marci’s engaged? Or that she’s twenty-four and engaged?”
Jenn moaned into her fistful of tissue.
“Look, I understand—”
“How could you possibly understand what I’m feeling?”
Meredith rocked back, the words hitting her like a sucker-punch to the gut. “Wait just a minute. You haven’t forgotten that I’m almost three years older than you, have you? And that I’m having to figure out how to accept the fact that my sister who is ten years younger than me just got engaged?”
“But you’ve never been in love—you’ve never even dated! How could you understand what this means to me? I’ve been trying for half my life to find what Marci found with her first boyfriend.”
Meredith separated the hurt and anger Jenn’s words caused from the need to counsel her sister through this emotional crisis. She’d deal with her own emotions later. “Just because I’ve never dated doesn’t mean I’ve never been in love. . . . How do you think it makes me feel to know my younger sister has found something I’m still searching for? Something I’ve been searching for longer than you? How do you think I feel every time a handsome, interesting man asks you for a date? Or when Rafe doesn’t come to Thursday night dinner because he’s on a date? Or being maid of honor for Anne?”
Jenn sniffed, but her sobs subsided. . . . “But I’ve been praying so hard for God to send me my husband. What’s wrong with me?” . . .
. . . Melancholy caught in Meredith’s throat. She was tired of praying the same prayer Jenn had lamented earlier: When, oh Lord, will it be my turn?
I cannot tell you how often I’ve included as part of my Prayer for the New Year that it would be the year I would meet my future husband (as Meredith does at the end of this scene). Or how many times I’ve sat at the weddings of younger friends and family members and had to wonder what was wrong with me because no one had ever fallen in love with me. Or how many bridal showers and baby showers I’ve opted out of attending because I knew (a) I’d be the only unmarried person there and (b) the inevitable dumb things people say to singles would come up, and I just couldn’t abide hearing them (again) in that setting. Not having lived in the same city (or even state) with my mother since 1996, the “Mother-Child” (used to be “Daughter” but most churches have gone PC with those) breakfasts on Mother’s Day are oh-so-wonderful for all of the single and/or childless women out there. And whenever I hear someone gushing about how so-and-so, whose beloved husband died two years ago (or however long it was), has “been blessed with love again,” I experience jealousy like you wouldn’t believe—how is it fair that someone else gets TWO “beloved husbands” and I don’t even rate ONE???? (I do have to say, though, that a dear friend of mine just recently went through this—lost her husband and a couple of years later met and married a wonderful, never-married man. And I am truly happy for her.)
What little ministry there is to singles in the American church focuses on learning to be content with the “season of singleness” God has called us to. To find out what special ministry or task God wants us to do before He’ll bless us with a mate. (Oh, yeah? What great spiritual works did you have to complete before you were “blessed” with your spouse that you married at age eighteen?) Those who haven’t already fled the church by the time they’re thirty-five years old—unless they are absolutely confident that the Lord has called them to remain unmarried—sit there and smile and give lip-service to the idea that they’re “content” in their singleness.
I’ll be the first to say that I’ve come to terms with my singleness. I don’t know that I would say I believe there’s a reason why God hasn’t chosen to “bless” me with a husband; but for the most part, I just focus on living my life according to John 10:10—abundantly. I seek out companionship and fellowship from people and groups who are like-minded and encouraging (mostly, this has become the communities of writers with which I’m involved, and 99.9% of these are women) and my family.
But I’ll also be amongst the few who’ll come right out and say what we all think occasionally: Being single sucks. Not all the time, but there are times when it really feels like I’m being punished for something I didn’t know I did. Like I’m having my nose rubbed into the fact that I’m alone, unchosen, unloved—unlovable—wrong, deviant, odd, and unworthy of God’s time and attention.
In the questionnaire I sent out to a bunch of unmarried people, I posed the question: “What do you like least about being single/unmarried?”
Here are some of the responses I received:
- “It can be lonely. When life is rotten, I want someone to hold me and encourage me. I want someone to watch the sunset with, to cuddle with, or to talk with late at night. There’s a sense of companionship that is missing. Not the roller-coaster companionship of girlfriends but the steady companionship that comes with love and commitment.” (Caitlin Muir, 23)
“Having to make every decision by myself; not having someone to bounce ideas off of or to unwind with when the day is done. Sleeping alone. Not having someone to make a special meal for or share my latest review with.” (Christina Berry, 32)
“The loneliness. Sure, I don’t have to check in with another person to make decisions but that also comes with a knowledge that there isn’t really anyone who cares what you do with your time, money, resources. That loneliness unfortunately hits at unpredictable times, too. You can plan around it at Christmas or attending weddings and the like but those odd, random sucker punches really can knock you down sometimes.” (Anne Mabry, 42)
“There are definitely times when it gets really lonely, and your heart does a darn good job of making sure you know it.” (Thich Truong, 25)
“Loneliness, not having someone to share even mundane things with.” (Lee Allen Howard, 40-something)
“The unbearable, gaping loneliness that threatens to make me an island.” (~[Name Withheld], 34)
And before you say, “But married people experience loneliness, too,” let me assure you: We’ve heard it before. And it doesn’t help. Because when it comes right down to it, you do have someone there when times get tough.
Like Jenn and Meredith in Menu for Romance (along with every other heroine I’ll ever write, probably), I go through periods when my prayers consist only of crying out to God: When, oh Lord, will it be my turn?
My soul is in anguish.
How long, O LORD, how long?
Turn, O LORD, and deliver me;
save me because of your unfailing love. . . .
I am worn out from groaning;
all night long I flood my bed with weeping
and drench my couch with tears.
(Psalm 6:3–6, NIV)