A stack of save-the-dates and wedding invitations covers a corner of my desk at home. Within the next eight months, five more of my friends and their significant others will have wed, while I—now nearly 29—will have not. That I might witness all their vows without a date doesn’t bother me at all as I write this. That doesn’t mean that how single I am has never bothered me.
“My wedding” sounds to me like the start of something so difficult but so good. In the sacrament of matrimony, we are given to each other by God, and we are given to each other by each other. It’s a miracle, because two people turn into a unit designed to result in the destruction of self-absorption. A marriage is supposed to be a space where we can work together to become holier, and guts are safe to spill, and virtue can blossom, in which love is absolute and unfailing, just like God’s love is for us.
I want that. When I am reminded that I want it, I sometimes start to ache.
The ache is a dull longing, and when present, a constant distraction. It starts in your heart, or in your soul, or in your gut, and is rooted in the belief that something or someone is missing. It can make a person whimper a little, or binge eat pepper jack cheese sticks. It has arrived when I’ve been a third wheel a lot or when all I’ve seen between my world and a good man’s is an iMessage he isn’t sending. It arrives when I think too much about five weddings and no dates.
When I have ached, I’ve sighed a lot, and have felt mildly unfulfilled, and noticeably alone, and irreparably restless. Each time, I’ve made myself agree to wait longer for whatever’s missing to show up. I’ve resolved to accept that for now, I’m alone.
Until the last time I ached.
The last time I ached, I learned the most important thing to do while you’re single. I sighed that day like I usually do. I was restless. But I thought a thought that probably didn’t come from me:
“You don’t ache because you’re alone. You ache because you’re looking in the wrong direction.”
The whole time, every time I ached, I ached because I was waiting to receive from significant others what significant others are not even designed to give us. I ached because I wasn’t paying attention to the source of my peace. As I ached, I associated how I felt with what I thought was missing: a guy to date, and to bring to other people’s weddings.
But nothing was missing. I only felt unfulfilled, alone, and restless because I had turned my head. I wasn’t looking anymore at what all of us actually long for, whether single, married, or religious. Because the most important thing to do while you’re single, as it turns out, is the same as the most important thing to do while you’re not:
Focus on Jesus.
There is no date that can do for me what Christ does, no iMessage that grants peace like the peace that comes from eyes on Him. There is no wedding that’s better because a guy’s beside me than a wedding I attend with Christ before me, and no way I can be a wife someday if I’m not looking at Him.
Arleen Spenceley is author of forthcoming book Chastity is For Lovers: Single, Happy, and (Still) a Virgin, to be released by Ave Maria Press in Fall 2014. She works as a staff writer for the Tampa Bay Times. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a master’s degree in counseling, both from the University of South Florida. She blogs at arleenspenceley.com and tweets @ArleenSpenceley. Click here to like her on Facebook.