She sat across from her counselor, sweaty hands clutching her seat, pulse racing, eyes trained on the ticking clock. As she recounted various events in her life—moments of spiritual darkness, emotional abuse, and crippling self-doubt—her counselor nodded, listening to words she’d never been brave enough to speak out loud.
She was broken. Though it took her many years to admit her brokenness to herself (let alone another human being), she felt a wave of relief as so many things began to click into place. No wonder she’d struggled to bond with others her entire life. How could she learn to become one with another person when she didn’t even fully understand herself?
If she’s married, this revelation can be a crucial step on the road to healing, growth, and understanding.
If she’s single, however, she can think she’s discovered the thing that made her unlovable all this time.
False Hope and Hopeful Falsehoods
I’ve been the married version of that woman. I’ve had many revelations of my brokenness, and I’ve reveled in the aha! moments that follow. Then I’ve groaned at the countless ways I’ve hurt my husband.
I’ve also been the single version, connecting revelations of brokenness to my unmarried state, anxious to use my new knowledge to fix my singleness (because some treated singleness like it was a problem to be fixed). When I was single, I saw my weakness as the barbed-wire fence erected between me and marital bliss. “Just do a little tweaking here, and you’ll be good to go!”
Somehow we’ve imbibed the message that broken people don’t get married. This notion attaches a greater burden to the struggles of unmarried women than it does to their married counterparts. In this economy, our sanctification becomes a weapon aimed at the moving target of finding a husband.
The truth is that if there were a sanctification evaluation before we were allowed to sign our marriage license, many of us would have failed it.
We might be tempted to blame spiritual, emotional, or physical damage for the singleness of those around us. But it’s impossible to live in this fallen world without incurring some baggage.
First of all, we are born in sin (Ps. 51:5). We can thank our father, Adam, for the inheritance of brokenness (Rom. 5:12; 1 Cor. 15:22). We all sin (Rom. 3:23), but the good news is that Christ’s atoning sacrifice saves us from the eternal consequence of our sin (Eph. 2:8–10). We’re being transformed to be more like him, day by day (Rom. 12:1–2), but we won’t be perfected in his likeness until glory (1 Pet. 1:4–5).
God’s plans for us don’t always include the things we want, no matter how holy we become.
Our all-deserving Savior saved undeserving sinners. Because of Jesus, we can both assess sin’s damage and also access healing in him. Yet this healing doesn’t guarantee other benefits, like a husband or wealth. God’s plans for us don’t always include the things we want, no matter how holy we become.
Only Sinners Say ‘I Do’
The notion that marriage only comes to flawless women is a recipe for disaster. It encourages us to hide our scars and swallow back the darkness. The number one thing I wish I would’ve known as a single person is that I didn’t have to have it all together. I was a broken sinner in need of a Savior, and there was no reason to hide it.
The number one thing I wish I would’ve known as a single person is that I didn’t have to have it all together.
This truth didn’t make me a horrible marriage prospect; it just made me human. Embracing my brokenness early on would have made the first year of marriage a lot less jarring for my (insanely patient) husband and my (insanely perfectionist) self.
Marriage shouldn’t be the carrot we dangle in front of ourselves as we strive for holiness. The fact is, if God waited until we were perfect to bless us with spouses, the only wedding any of us would attend would be the marriage supper of the Lamb (Rev. 19:6–9). So here is my challenge: grow. Single or married, drowning in prospects or thirsting on an island. Because whether God is using singleness or a mate to sanctify you, we’re all on the same journey. Tearing down the superficial walls between the married and unmarried will give us many more allies in the fight to become more like Christ.
Editors’ note: A version of this article appeared at Jasmine L. Holmes.