R3_LOGOThe next videocast is about one of the most confusing, painful realities that I face and hear about from others. Singleness.

It taunts you in a house full of people. It greets you at the end of a day, after you’ve done everything you’re supposed to do. It walks with you through the aisles of the grocery store. It sits with you in church. It will join you at the table for Thanksgiving dinner. It has been waiting for me when I have stepped off airplanes in the some of the most interesting cities in the world. It has wrapped itself around my heart and mind after I have finished speaking, sharing intimate details about my life. It’s there on amazing days. It is a constant companion during challenging days. I have willed it to go away, but it returns, proving it is stronger than my will. I have tried to numb myself to it with food, alcohol, shopping, work, and people-pleasing – only to find that it is strengthened by my attempted to escape. I have prayed for it to go away, and it becomes part of my prayer.

The unique loneliness of being single.

lonely man

The dread of loneliness is greater than the fear of bondage.
-Germaine Greer, The Madwoman’s Underclothes

For the first time in America’s history, there are more single adults than married adults, and so I know that there are a lot of people asking this question – “What wrong with me? If I’m so great, why am I still single?”

Holly Stratton and I talk about singleness in this videocast. I’d love to hear what you think.
What’s Wrong With Me if I’m Still Single – https://youtu.be/Kn1t7l8brWo

I had an unique encounter with marriage and singleness last week in the most unlikely place – the hospital. Due to complications from illness, I spent a week in the hospital with some scary moments. Because we live in a privileged country and because of HIPPA rules and regulations, most hospital rooms are single rooms. As I was being wheeled up to my room, I anticipated the almost hotel-like quality of the room, complete with room-service and cable. I was surprised to find myself wheeled into a room with another patient – only a few feet from my bed with a 60-inch panel of thin cloth separating us.

My roommate was eighty-year-old Vianetta. I could hear everything she said – from the details of her illness to her speaking commands into her phone: “Google, play my music!” Vianetta’s husband came every day – morning, noon, and night. He would greet her and then say, ““Oh, I don’t think you’re going home today. You don’t look better.” She would quickly rebuff his observations and then start to tell him what she needed: “Move my tray over there, take home those two chicken fingers for lunch, get me some coffee, ice chips, the paper with my crossword puzzle. Now you go home.” About an hour later he would call her, and she would answer, “Why don’t you come on over, and bring me a milk shake.” In one more tender moment, she sighed and said, “I have to get a bath as soon as I get home,” and he kindly answered, “We’ll take care of that on Saturday.”


Love makes your soul crawl out from it’s hiding place.
-Zora Neal Hurston, I Love Myself When I am Laughing . . . and Then Again

Their intimate, intertwined lives made my singleness look harsh and grim in the light and warmth of their interdependence. In a moment of self-pity I cried, “I want someone to move my tray and get me ice chips.” In an instant I heard my companion that is more intimate and intertwined with my life than a human could ever be. I heard Jesus say, “Sharon, don’t you see why you are here – in this room? I am giving you a picture of how intimately I know you, and I am trying to get your attention, to take care of you, to plead with you to take care of yourself – my Bride, who I loved before you even knew what love was.”

Singleness is hard. Marriage is hard. Not having children is painful. Having children brings more pain than we can possibly anticipate. But marriage and children are not the pinnacle of arrival into the good life. These flesh and blood relationships seem so real that it is easy to forget that they are merely signs foreshadowing the substance of what we were really made for.


All these things are mere shadows cast before what is to come –
the substance is Christ.
Colossians 2:17

When I was pregnant with my daughter, Kristin, the doctor called for an ultrasound. As I lay in the doctor’s office and gazed at the shadowy image on the monitor, I was in awe and wonderment at who I saw. I could not believe that this living, breathing human being with fingernails was growing inside of me! If I understand it right, an ultrasound is a fancy echo. When it’s sonic waves hit something solid, something real, they are reflected back to a sensor that creates the image we see on the screen.

Our experiences in human relationships are like an ultrasound echo. They often hit and reflect something real – longing at a cellular level to love and be loved for the pure joy of love. Wonderful marriages and beautiful children or painful singleness and barren childlessness are echoes returning to us from the solid, true, intimate realities God intends for us to experience in relationship with Him. He is the More we’re looking for.

How silly and sad it would have been if I had held on to the picture of Kristin’s ultrasound and treated it as if it were the real thing. I could have gone on and on about this incredible picture and showed it to everyone for years. When the labor pains came, I could have refused to go to the hospital because I already had the picture. But once Kristin came into the world, I didn’t even think about the picture. It’s place on the refrigerator was crowded out with other pictures of the substance of living.

When you are lonely, are you willing to believe that your loneliness is intended to remind you of a lonely God who wanders through the garden asking, “Where are you?”

When you feel shame because of your failure in relationships, will you let it lead you to the One who allows failure – not so we can hide but so He can be our covering?

When all of the yearnings and desires for relationship rise up within you, are you willing to let those longings lead you to the Author of desire?

When we miss all that we long for in relationships, the terrible beautiful ache that we feel comes from the hands of a Designer who longs for relationship with us more than we can possibly imagine. He is committed to relationship with us above anything else. His entire story is about His design for relationship with us. This is the original purpose of our life. The terrible beautiful ache is an echo of a relationship that God is actively forming with us in the midst of human relational difficulties.

In fact, those of us who are single or in painful relationships just might long for a divine relationship more than those who get to stop along the journey and enjoy “the pictures.”

The One we long for is Jesus.
Human relationships were intended to nurture our deepest longing for Him.
Human relationships are merely an echo of what is to come.

calm woman meditating reciving power by light

Pray that your loneliness may spur you into finding Something to live for, great enough to die for.
Dag Hammarskjold, Markings

“Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the hope of my heart and my portion forever.” Psalm 73:25-26