(Part 3 of 4)
When I was attending a High School ECCYC (East Coast Coptic Youth Convention) Q&A session I sent a silly question up to the panel. “What is the right age to start dating?” Giggling trickled through the audience at the anonymous question. My technical little spirit wanted a magical number to look forward to, but little did I know that this question does not have a “right” answer. Now I give talks to youth groups about dating, and I always get the same question. I smile and remember the younger me who was just as curious to find an age to look forward to. Now I realize I was looking forward in the wrong way, and that I should have focused on the present.
How many days and nights do we spend daydreaming, hoping and praying that Mr. Right would come along? How much effort goes into chasing our crush and stalking them on social media? How many moments do we waste just waiting around to be in a relationship?
If I answered those questions honestly, my responses would make you cringe. There were countless moments that I spent doing all those things instead of enjoying my singleness. I saw my single days as lonely sad days, instead of seeing them for what they could have been: time to invest in myself.
“Remember now your Creator in the days of your youth,
Before the difficult days come.” (Ecclesiastes 12:1)
I wish I could tell my younger self to use every ounce of free time I had to focus on myself. To give extra attention to my relationship with God, because it is the one relationship that surpasses all. It is timeless and eternal. I should have used the time to build a strong foundation that can withstand any spiritual storm to come (and many storms did come). I should have gone on every retreat and monastery trip I could find to spend that special quiet time with Him. I should have attended all the available church services to spend more time in His house. I now have two little girls, and if I want any alone with God it's at 5:00 AM before they wake up. Also, going to church with them is more work than I ever imagined, forget trying to pay attention in liturgy. I can go on forever about how kids flip your life upside down, but I hope this is convincing enough for you to take advantage of the gift of singleness.
I wish I could have used the time and energy I wasted on those passing feelings on fruitful relationships instead. I could have gotten closer to my family. Served my parents more. Spent quality time with my brother. Bonded with my girlfriends more.
If I had the chance to talk to my younger self I would tell her to stop living for the future, and start living for the present!
I always used my prayers to pray for the right person to come along, and for God’s perfect timing. I prayed for my future spouse and children, years before any of them came along. I’m not saying to ignore those things or to not pray about them, I’m saying also pray about your singleness too. Pray for yourself individually and struggle in your own spiritual journey.
There are many direct and indirect messages in the media that might lead us to believe that we are incomplete without someone. Can we please take that idea and throw it out the window?! You are a strong, spiritually mature, beautiful (inside and out), bold young woman wrapped in His grace! All on your own. Do not ever forget that you were made in His image and according to His likeness (Genesis 1:26).
You can live a deeply fulfilling life, enriched with spiritual adventure, thrilling experiences, quiet moments that lead to aha moments, friendships that bring out the very best in you, journeys that take you deep into yourself and bring you back stronger, smarter, and wiser than you ever were. Being preoccupied with another can distract you from fully processing all of the awesomeness that is you.
If you find yourself only hanging out with couples the majority of the time, and seeing relationships all around you makes you feel insecure about being single, then it’s time to change your environment. Find a few single gals you can hang out with. People who share the same struggles and can encourage you to be the best version of yourself.
Or if you are the type of person who likes to jump from relationship to relationship, then maybe it's time to break that cycle. If you are uncomfortable with being alone, then you must confront that feeling and become comfortable in your own skin. You must be whole before you bring another person into your life. I don’t believe in the “he completes me” mentality.
I know it also doesn’t help when every taunt [older Egyptian woman] is always asking if you’re single so she can set you up with her son. Or always hearing “obalek” at every wedding occasion; that word doesn’t even have an English translation. It’s essentially wishing you to be next. The next graduate, bride, mother, etc. It’s proof that people are always looking to what’s next, and not focusing on the now. The Egyptian culture sometimes doesn’t know what to do with single women. Unfortunately, it tends to value those who are married, and pities those who aren’t. (I’m making a general statement here, of course this is not true in every situation.) This is not a standard you should live by. Live by seeking the kingdom first, and trust that God will take care of the rest.
“But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33)
We know that marriage is created for the sake of our salvation, but it is not the only way to salvation. God gave Adam a helper comparable to him so that he should not remain alone (Genesis 2). It was a gift given from God, and I would argue, not a gift meant for everyone. St. Paul starts 1 Corinthians chapter 7 talking about marriage, then he says, “But I say this as a concession, not as a commandment. For I wish that all men were even as I myself. But each one has his own gift from God, one in this manner and another in that.” (1 Corinthians 7: 6-7) St. Paul is referring to his singleness and celibacy when he wishes that everyone would be like him, but also explains that this is not for everyone.
You might have to embrace singleness for a temporary time, but might have to also embrace it for a lifetime. Either way, the end goal is your salvation. Always focus your eyes on the prize: that is Christ. Whether He leads you to marriage or singleness, you should be following Him regardless of the season and the circumstance.
So take a deep breath, set aside any obsessive tendencies you have around relationships, and just focus on you and Him. Embrace it all!
This is the third post in a four part series about purity & relationships.
Part 1 - Let’s Talk About Sex & Listen Up Boys, We're Talking About Sex
Part 2 - Purity Isn't Just Virginity
Part 4 - God's Timing is The Perfect Timing