If you want to know how Valentine's Day can make single women feel, watch 30 Rock. In the 13th episode of the hit American television series, the unattached Liz Lemon goes to great extremes to avoid Valentine’s Day... even if it means sedation via oral surgery.
Better to be unconscious than lonely.
Singleness’ greatest sorrows are secretly reinforced every February in the souls of the not-yet-married and those who stare into the abyss of probable disappointment on the most polarized holiday of the year. The chick flicks, charming cards, and chocolate hearts only accentuate further sadness, shame, and spite.
Why am I still single? Am I unattractive? Am I unlovable?
Lack, Longing, and Love
You’ve probably heard this before: "God loves you." But what does this mean, especially on Valentine’s Day, when our lack is heightened and our longing for love further fueled?
Lack can drive even the most legitimate feelings into lecherous longings. Lack can trigger insidious insecurities causing us to stumble under the tyranny of “If only....”, all the while masquerading an aching heart. This is where Satan does his victory dance. Satan wreaks havoc in the hearts of women, magnifying their inadequacies, controlling their emotional appetites, and distracting them from the all-consuming, never-ending love of God.
Longing for romance, companionship, and marriage isn’t wrong nor is the feeling of loneliness without it. However, when we are in a state of weakness, verging on the precipice of discouragement, these longings can consume us and quickly become dangers. Through meaningless relationships we end up exploiting others to satisfy the security we crave without seeking to love them above ourselves. The cheap pleasures of pornography serve as band-aids and good things like movies and chocolate become alluring escape routes to combat feelings of discontentment.
What am I doing that’s feeding my expectations? Do I believe the “if only” lie?
But the truth is, regardless of what your relationship status on earth looks like; nothing changes your heavenly destiny. The purest form of love isn’t found in Cupid’s invitation, but in the Father’s unparalleled, unchanging affirmation of you as a beloved daughter.
God whispers to us—especially in our longing—setting in motion the surges of our heart. Singleness isn’t a status; it is a throbbing ache for what ultimately satisfies. In bitter-sweet surrender before the Lover of our soul we are awakened to a love that meets all lack and a grace that exceeds all expectations.
Free, Favored, and Fruitful
Last year, a single friend visited me broken and beaten under the age-old lie: the longer you stay single, the lesser chance you have to find someone good.
She looked upon her singleness as a burden. A cross. A thorn in the flesh. God’s refining fire.
As she watched friend after friend get hitched, she was convinced that she was worthless and wasn’t going to be whole until she found “the one.” She confessed that she had succumbed to the subconscious lie that she couldn’t experience real wholeness outside of marriage.
Sure, marriage is a gift, but it is not the end goal. The maturity that comes from marriage is unique, but so is the gift of divine development available to single people. As much as God loves marriage, He didn’t design it to bear the burden of an eternal purpose. From the beginning, marriage has been the lens through which we experience and express a far greater union—with God, His Son, and His Holy Spirit.
The key to experiencing true freedom is walking in the newness of the Spirit (see Galatians 5:16). It is turning away from the desires of the flesh to fill ourselves with new fruit—love, peace, joy, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self–control (see Galatians 5:22).
Perhaps the greatest sorrow of the single life is putting off pursuing the produce of the Spirit until marriage. We foolishly think finding love will mysteriously unlock these fruits. In reality, none of these fruits are reserved only for marriage. They’re the produce of conversion. They’re the fruit of faith. They’re the labor of love.
When we expect a groom to make us fruitful, we’re only looking for love, joy, and peace in the wrong places. Let this Valentine’s serve as a fitting reminder that we are favored not because of what we own and who we have by our side on Valentine’s Day, but because we are His beloved. We are created to bear fruit because we are His.
The grand mission of life is not marriage. It is fruit-bearing.
Instead of seeing the single life as a myriad of agonizing incompleteness, why not see it as a soulful endeavor to wholeness? Instead of seeing it as a shameful waiting room, why not see it as a gracious gift to pursue sanctity and holiness?
Instead of waiting for love, why not resolve to give love, to foster the fruit of the Spirit?
The Single Salty Life
Legend has it that Emperor Claudius in the third century outlawed marriage, believing that his young male soldiers’ sticky family ties would impair their commitment to protecting his borders. Saint Valentine intervened and married the couples in secret.
While Emperor Claudius demonstrated self-love, Saint Valentine directed his love towards others. His love was not mere affection but a willingness to die rather than deny Christ. His life bore rich testimony to Christ’s love, a love that overcomes all things—even death.
Pope Benedict XVI wrote:
Our life now belongs to Christ; it is no longer to ourselves... At His side, and indeed, drawn up in His love, we are freed from fear. He enfolds us and carries us wherever we may go—He who is Life itself! // April 7, 2007
By virtue of our Baptism, the integrated Catholic life isn't anything murky or undefined but one of great adventure, defined by great belonging. A life poured out.
Your single life does not have to be a makeshift affair. It can grow into a great quest for compassion, creativity and boundless charity if you allow it. You can press into the wild ride of sisterhood. You can dream dreams and build bridges. You can leave lasting legacies. You can demonstrate that a single salty life in Christ is undoubtedly possible in a self-seeking, self-reliant world.
The world hungers for your story. The Church needs your spirit.
What interests you? How can you pour out your life in service of others? What if you allowed your single life to be interrupted by needy children, distraught mothers, sick women, and the lonely elderly?
His Power in Our Pain
Maybe the women’s community at your parish is only restricted to wives and moms. Maybe you’re tired that all people care about is your relationship status. Maybe you’re angry that people make assumptions about your past because you are single.
But what if you used this opportunity to reorient your thoughts and redirect your gaze? What if you thanked God for the desires that wreck your heart for happiness because this only means you are fashioned for transcendent gains? What if you chose to see your "light and momentary affliction"—on Valentine’s Day or otherwise—as a stepping stone to sainthood, to prepare you for the heights of Heaven, to be satisfied in such a way that cannot fully be attained on earth?
Sister, the luminous Resurrection isn’t something that only happened 2,000 years ago. It is a palpable, present-day reality. The same power that toppled open the empty tomb is the same power that is here, even now as you read, transforming your pain, fueling you forward.
You don’t have to numb your aches or drown out your sorrows through television drama. You, (we) can take our sadness to the Cross and dwell on His sacrifice. We can seek His satisfaction, savor His tenderness and seize the glorious opportunity to become part of the most grand, romantic, eternal love story ever known.