A year ago I made a decision that changed my life. I ended a destructive relationship, and I’ve never looked back. But I learned something very important very quickly—I learned that I had absolutely no clue who I was! I’d had two long term relationships since I was 16, and I’d forgotten what it meant to not be part of a pair. As an individual my identity was a mystery.
At a Christian festival last summer I wrote a phrase in my prayer journal which has stuck with me ever since:
‘I will be the bride of Christ before I’m the bride of Man.’
The same night I felt God calling me to take a fast from dating, and dedicate a year of my life to Him alone. I’m as guilty as anyone of idolizing marriage, so I was wary of what the year might hold—a whole year which was guaranteed not to include the potential for marriage! I knew I needed to trust in God to lead me where He wanted, and as usual He didn’t disappoint!
I’ve learned more about myself in the last year than I had in the previous twenty. I’ve also seen immense development in my relationship with Jesus, as I learned more and more to cast my burdens onto Him and find my rest in His embrace. From my year of singleness, I’ve also come to realise a series of questions which I believe must be asked before I (or anyone else) enter into a relationship in the future…
1. Are you ready for marriage?
Right now I know that there is so much more work God wants to do in me and with me before I’m ready for marriage, so leisurely dating wouldn’t serve any purpose. That’s not to say dating is a bad thing, just that it should be intentional—and so if you’re not in a place where you’re able to fully discern marriage then you’re doing a disservice to anyone you date.
2. Are you in it for your own gain?
We all have those moments where we think a relationship would make us truly happy. We want someone to solve our problems, cheer us up when we’re down and eradicate our loneliness. But at the heart of all of these reasons is selfishness, and we’re called to love selflessly.
3. Are you satisfied with Jesus?
More than anything else, this year has taught me to hold Jesus at the centre of everything I do—knowing that He is the only one who can truly satisfy me. There is no substitute for Him. If you’re not satisfied with Jesus, then you won’t be satisfied by a relationship.
4. Are you confident in your own identity?
Knowing who you are, whose you are and why you were created allows you to bring so much more to a relationship. Being able to embrace the person God has made you to be enables you to fully embrace the other person. It also stops you relying on that person to reassure and affirm you, which inevitably puts a lot of pressure on them.
The truth is that you don’t have to be afraid of being alone, because you’re never alone! Sometimes God will have plans for your life which require you to be single for a time, but He is always there with you. He uses our times of singleness to teach and transform us, and to mould us into the people He has created us to be, and so we must allow and accept His work, even when it hurts.
As I reach the end of my year of committed singleness, I am so thankful for the journey God has taken me on and the opportunities He has opened my eyes to. If you’re struggling with feeling alone right now I pray that you, too, may be blessed with the comfort of Christ’s presence and the knowledge of God’s oh-so-exciting bigger plan for your life.
Esther Rich has a bachelor degree in Psychology from Oxford University, UK, and is currently completing the Sion Community Foundation Year, working on their youth ministry team. She loves Theology of the Body, Papa Francesco and a good worship band. She is passionate about empowering women to be who they were created to be, and blogs at “For Such A Time As This.”