She lived, we’ll say,
A harmless life, she called a virtuous life,
A quiet life, which was not life at all
Elizabeth Browning wasn’t just describing the life of Aurora Leigh with these words, she was also unintentionally writing about me.
To give you a better understanding, allow me to elaborate. The average day in the life of Jessica might look a little like this …
After five blaring alarms and several presses of the snooze button, I crawl out of bed and grab my first of many cups of coffee. I get ready and try not leave my house until the very last possible minute. From the moment I arrive at school I’m bombarded with questions and complaints from students and faculty. Throughout the day, I try to keep my sanity and positive attitude as I brainwash my students. After teaching class and after-school private lessons, I am completely exhausted. I make my commute back home, plan for the next day of school, heat up a veggie burger or lean cuisine, watch an episode of my newest obsession on Netflix, spend time with Jesus, and call it a night.
Now, does this seem like the flashy single life they so vividly display in Friends?
Much like the false pretenses and expectations thrust upon my young married friends, I too deal with guilt and frustration of things not “being as they should”.
Singleness is lonely.
This is not how I envisioned my life.
Like many single ladies out there, I’ve sought out wisdom from every book I can get my hands on. What I come to realize is each of them seem to say the exact same frustrating thing: just be content.
One day the Lord really convicted me of trying to solve my problem with advice from other people. Why not try to glean as much wisdom as I can from His word?
As I started doing so, I became frustrated with what I was reading. At one point I found myself yelling at Paul when he writes it is better to be single than married. I can tell you that I’m living it out and it seems the phrase couldn’t be further from the truth.
But, in all my digging, I continually find myself coming back to the story of Hannah.
For six months I’ve been enthralled by 1 Samuel chapter 1. There is just something about Hannah’s story that continues to catch my interest and fascinate me. For the longest time I just couldn’t put my finger on it. Then it hit me. Just a few days ago, I realized why I have such an obsession with this story. I am Hannah. No, I’m not upset that my “sister wife” has tons of babies while I’m barren. Heck, I’m not even married! But, the thing is, Hannah had a deep, God-given desire burning in her heart. More than anything she wanted to be a mother. Unfortunately, there was absolutely nothing she could do to make this happen. She could try all she wanted, but in the end, everything was out of her hands.
Like Hannah, I have an unyielding desire that will not go away. More than anything, I want to share my life with someone. I’ve done everything I can to gain this, but each time I try, I fail. I’ve changed my make-up and hair, I’ve tried losing weight, I even tried to change how I dress. The list could go on and on with the ways I’ve sought to “fix” my situation. In the end, I wind up heart-broken and even more miserable than when I started.
Hannah had reason enough to wallow in self-loathing. But it didn’t stop there. Hannah had a cruel woman who continued to remind her of her “failure” and heart-break every chance she had. She rubbed it in Hannah’s face that she, Peninnah, could give Hannah’s husband children. You see, Hannah’s husband, Elkanah had two wives. One was fertile (Peninnah) and the other barren (Hannah).
Can you imagine having to face that woman every day? From the moment you wake up to the time you go to bed, you’re reminded that your heart’s desire isn’t fulfilled. This slap in the face came directly from the mocking of Peninnah (1Sam. 1:6) and, I think, from even just seeing her children everywhere.
Life has a cruel way of consistently throwing my unhappy situation back in my face, as if it is mocking me. Thankfully, I’ve never had a person blatantly ridicule me for my state of singleness, but there have been a few times when they might as well have done so. Does anyone know what I’m talking about? Here are a few examples to help you understand what I’m trying to convey.
How about those sweet people who always seem to ask if you’ve found “a feller” yet. And when you ashamedly smile and reply with a “no” they then offer their opinion that you can’t be “too picky” and that you should probably consider “lowering your standards”.
Or what about the concerned grandmother that tries to teach you how to “flirt” because you must not be doing it right or you would have a husband by now. Or the parent who continually reminds you of their desire to have grandchildren. They might as well put a shirt on you that says, “Single for a reason, not a season.”
Sometimes it’s just too much.
This emotional turmoil was so great for Hannah that she “wept bitterly and would not eat.” It was more than she could take.
If I’m being honest, there are times I completely shut down and want to give up. I can’t escape from the pressure. I see a constant reminder of my failure in commercials, TV shows, movies, magazines, restaurants, theatres and everywhere there are people. Like Hannah in 1Samuel 1:10 I find myself “greatly distressed.”
Unfortunately, most people want to stop at this point. They realize they have absolutely no control of their situation and will just stay content in their self-pity. I’ve been that person. Quite honestly, sometimes I’m still that “woe is me” person. But there is something that Hannah is teaching me. I’ve finally wised up and realized the questions I need to ask myself aren’t, ‘When am I going to get married?’ or ‘What do I need to do to find my future husband?’ Instead, I need to ask, ‘What am I going to do with my life until God fulfills His promises?’
Hannah had every right to be the emotional roller coaster she was. Nowhere in this chapter does it state God was displeased with Hannah for being upset. Believe me, if God was mad, He would have made it known. I believe God was pleased with Hannah, not for the emotions she was experiencing, but for a different reason.
If you look back in 1 Samuel 1:10 you will read that in Hannah’s great distress she “PRAYED to the Lord and WEPT bitterly.” She didn’t hold in her feelings and throw a private pity party for herself. Instead, she went directly to the source of her promise, God, and told him EVERYTHING. How many times do I respond that way compared to whining and complaining? Why can’t I just take my emotions to the One who created them? He knows what I’m going through and actually wants me to come to Him. Rather than trying to shun God because I think He’s being mean or unfair in making me wait, why don’t I voice my hurt, desperation, or rage and just cry in His embrace? Why don’t I go to Him and claim the promises He gave to me? I could save myself a lot of unnecessary heartache and turmoil.
I know God is faithful to deliver his promises. I know, just like Hannah received the gift of her sweet baby boy, Samuel, someday, I too will be blessed. I will have the treasure of an amazing man of God that loves me just as Christ loved the church. I have absolutely no control over the timing, or the way it is presented to me, but I know it is coming. It is now up to me to decide if I will pout or pray in the waiting.
*photo courtesy: britney @baretribeblog.blogspot.com