Why I Tried Being Single for a Year

It wasn’t until my mum compared my romantic life to a puzzle last summer that I finally got it.

Some of you are holding hands with the perfect helpmate – the guy or gal who’s explored every inch of your soul and can say with complete confidence that you are the one. I applaud you both for chasing after life together, for braving rejection, for dating loyally, and for doing super cutesy things like memorizing each other’s Starbucks orders…you two are a beautiful couple, I can just feel it. Never stop finding adventure in the mundane.

But some of us are puzzlers. We are unattached, like that one gutsy balloon that always breaks off from the pack and keeps floating on up towards the sky, flying solo but determined to reach the stars. Or we are very attached to a very wrong person. Regardless of your category, we are searching for our missing piece. Don’t pretend this isn’t true. It isn’t bad to search but it is bad – terribly, terribly bad – to force the last piece.

We spend so many hours rifling through the puzzle box, fitting together corners and tiny painted scenes that it would be tragic to rush the insertion of that last section. But last summer, that’s where I was. I had seen potential in a piece and prematurely assumed I’d found the one. So I tried to cram that piece in, tried to make jigsaw ends line up with Amy spaces and I gave it a pretty good effort for three fantastically fun yet heartrending years. Then I realized I had to stop pretending. It was a sobering moment of realization that frightened me.

As a writer I live in metaphor so this puzzle concept makes sense in my mind, but in case you’re not tracking: I hadn’t been alone in roughly 1,095 days. 

More importantly, I had been giving my heart to the wrong man for roughly 1,095 days.

The story is a little more complex than me blindly stumbling along in a relational disaster – we were best friends and that counts for a lot – but ultimately I felt the season of the 3 Year Love was over. We ended our relationship just before my freshman year of college and there I was, missing the piece and rocketing towards the clouds, one wistful little balloon.

As a Christian girl, I checked in with the puzzle-maker, asked him to do some damage control and heal the aching parts of me. He came through like he always does. A few months later I thought I was ready to walk down relationship road again but I had this spirit of caution inside me…God drew near and the crux of his message was Amy, no. You’ve spent the past few years pleasing a boy instead of me, you’ve forgotten who I created you to be. Let’s rediscover who that girl is. God wooed me as he whispered come away with me Amy, come on, come experience my love

So I embarked on the year of quasi-singleness.

Quasi because by the spring of this year I was on the mend (praise God).

My rules were few:

1. Strengthen your relationship with Christ

2. Suspend the year of singleness only if you have complete peace about dating the boy

-Basically the year long time-frame was a parameter I chose, not a period I felt God call me to specifically. He asked me to go deeper but he didn’t specify singleness. Maybe a better title for this post would be Why I Chose to Date as Little as Possible While Pursuing Jesus for a Year…those rules were haaard to keep.

Before we get to the fun stuff I’m going to be crazy vulnerable and insert a journal entry from the week I began last autumn:

“…as I come to you now, I am thankful for the confidence I have in you and for the way you selflessly carry me through the storms, never asking questions or judging me, but meeting me where I am, picking up the pieces and holding me as the wind gusts through…Tonight I allow you to sweep into my soul, open every window and breeze into each room, brushing away the cobwebs, dusting off the surfaces I cannot reach. Create in me a new heart whose first want is to forgive and love, a heart impassioned by you and you alone…

God, you’ve used an emotional mess to turn my eyes back upon you. I hadn’t even realized that they’d wandered. Yet you noticed, and you cared enough to straighten my steps and reveal the right path…forgive me for looking back and bringing yesterday’s problems into today. You have forgotten the mistakes of the past – so too, can I. I  am trusting in your goodness. Believing you will never fail me and excited for how I can honor you tomorrow…know Jesus that I am stepping out of the boat. I am stretching out my arms and I am walking towards you and the security of your love.”

Of course the second I resolved to kiss dating goodbye (Christian lit references are too much fun), a plethora of interested boys came out of the woodwork. I’ve been told that one day a TV series on the single Amy saga needs to be made. One guy drunkenly informed me he was Ben Affleck, another begged me to go hiking, one presented me with fruit to balance my unhealthy ice cream addiction, one drove me mad with his ambiguous texts, one cornered me in every class we had together. Several caught me off-guard and managed to steal parts of my heart. Others were more broken than I and left me reeling.

The stories themselves are endearing proof that boys with crushes will work unbelievably hard to secure the promise of love.

So here I am as October draws to a close, still single and managing alright.

What have I learned?

Jesus fills the void inside.

Song of Solomon should be handled carefully and only on a good day.

I have hopes and desires which may have remained dormant forever if I hadn’t taken the opportunity to rediscover myself.

There is value in hitting pause on romance.

Guarding my heart is a draining enterprise, something I cannot do without God’s strength in me.

God will heal the worst of wounds because he loves us so beautifully.

I can be joy-filled for my dating friends.*

Watching cheesy YouTube proposal videos is a surefire way to unravel all emotional fortitude.

You can never learn enough from those older and wiser with thriving marriages.

 

***Faithful readers, there is love for us to give this world whether we’re dating or not.

If you are fraying at the edges, miserably heartbroken, or missing intimate friendship with Jesus, consider a time of singleness, it doesn’t  have to be a whole year. Try one month. Amp it up to six months. You choose.

Hosea 2:14 became my anthem and maybe it’ll speak to you, “Therefore, behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak tenderly to her.” (ESV, and I know it says ‘her’ but if God’s tugging on your heart, gender doesn’t matter.)

I thought breaking up with my high school sweetheart would destroy me but I’m writing today as a girl who is completely whole and lacking no good thing. Sure the single life is wrought with its own problems but I don’t want to wish away this Amy-Jesus adventure. When the love of God overwhelms, it’s impossible to be unsatisfied. 

As the year finishes I won’t go catapulting myself at every available hunk of man. I’m too fragile to flaunt myself, honestly. I’m anticipating romance but not rushing it. I welcome butterflies and fireworks, mixed tapes and cute texts but I know love amounts to more than strong feels. Love conquers and saves, it forgives and it waits, it treasures and it restores. I hope my journey inspires and encourages you to dig deeper and trust in the Lord’s perfect timing. Sometimes belting out power ballads eases the loneliness, sometimes all it takes is prayer. Know that I am rooting for you whether you’re single or not. If you have any questions or comments feel free to leave them here or email me: amy.bareham@gmail.com 

Oh and future man, if you’re reading this, my Starbucks order is a tall, nonfat Chai latte. Please and thank you.

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