7 steps for being single and content
Part 1: How I learned to find a deep contentment in my singleness.
By Hannah Ellenwood
"How are you doing with that, Han!?"
I've been asked this question several times a week by deeply caring friends and family who recognize that this season might be a difficult one for me. And here's what they're referring to: my two younger siblings both just got married within six months of each other. That leaves me, the oldest, as the only single one in our family.
My “single status” isn’t for a lack of vulnerability or willingness to go out and meet new people. I’ve had my fair share of awkward dates. They just haven’t led to anything beyond becoming a good story. But this season has actually been marked by something really different for me: Deep contentment. And I don't throw those words around lightly.
What do I mean by contentment? That I don't wait to live my life or commit to a home or community until I am married.
My life now is not defined by the “could be's” of the future. It is defined by the people, the places, and the work God has called me to commit to and be faithful to in this very moment. I am a complete person now because of Christ's finished work on the cross and work in me. Being in a relationship or engaged or married doesn't make me more or less complete than I am right now, right here. But it's taken some work to get here.
As I've spent time thinking through my journey to contentment, I've been able to articulate the practices that I believe have led me here. So, because I've been asked about it pretty often, I wanted to share these practices more openly. And my hope is that if singleness is something you find yourself dissatisfied with, you will know you're not alone, and find some hope and encouragement in these practical ways of moving forward.
Acknowledge the expectations you've had, and give yourself space to grieve the death of them. If I'm being honest, as much as I trust God with my life and know I can't see the future or control my circumstances, I also feel the reality that my life has played out very differently than I thought it would.
I remember two birthdays ago, I was at home in Czech with my family and my best friend, in my favorite city - and I spent most of the day crying. I had just turned the age at which I thought I'd be married. Or at least either have a home I could call my own or be working a job I loved and feeling fulfilled. And I didn't have any of those things. That felt like a loss, and it came out of nowhere. I needed to recognize that my expectations had not come to fruition, and give myself permission to grieve the loss of that expected "life."
I've had to take an honest look at what rival visions of "the good life" or “flourishing” have captivated my love and desires and what cultural acts of worship are shaping and competing for my heart.
- What movies and TV shows am I watching, and how are those shaping my desires?
- What words am I soaking in through songs or books that shape my hopes?
- What places do I hang out in and what people do I spend time with, and how have their philosophies shaped my beliefs?
If I can intentionally become aware of these liturgies I am immersed in and how they are shaping my vision of the good life, I can expose the wrong beliefs and start engaging in love-shaping practices that recalibrate my heart to set it back on track for God's vision of the good life. This helps me grieve and move on with greater hope.
Make a list of the gifts you've been given in this season because you are single. And actually practice receiving them - open and enjoy them.
Every season comes with gifts that other seasons don't. And I really don't want to waste the gifts of this season wishing I had those of another.
For me, one of the greatest gifts is the freedom with which I get to invest in my community. I don't have to say no to time with people because I need to protect time with a significant other. I also get to pick up and go wherever I want, whenever I want.
I get to come alongside my siblings and purposefully invest in them and their significant others. I have the time, space and emotional energy to pour into strengthening and deepening those relationships and rejoicing with them in this season of their lives. This doesn't just mean that I can recite the gifts that I "should be thankful for" in this season while I wallow in my dissatisfaction, but that I truly receive them and enjoy them to the fullest.
Live your best life now. Really. Your best life doesn't come when everything you've ever wanted comes true - when you have that perfect body, the apartment of your pinterest dreams, or that blingy ring on your finger. You can live it here and now.
And when you really enjoy and live a full life instead of desperately trying to grasp and control your circumstances and turn them in your favor, people are attracted to that. There is a sense of winsome confidence, calm, and life-giving joy about a person who loves the life they are living.
It's contagious - it inspires and draws people to you because they want what you have. And you know what?! I actually believe that the best path to meeting someone you want to be in a relationship with is on the path of a vibrant life. When we truly live and are doing the things we feel like we were made for, where we give of ourselves freely and lavishly - it is in those places that we can then see who is doing those things alongside us. And who knows what could happen!?
Come back next week for four more steps for being single and content!
Hannah is a global citizen - born in the Northwoods of America and raised in the heart of Europe. Upon graduating from Biola University in 2015 she has worked in the world of marketing and branding and is now pursuing work in vocational ministry.