By Elizabeth Froh
I am a single woman working on my MA degree with the hope of becoming a deaconess in the Lutheran church. Being an unwed woman at this time has some advantages, as I am able to go wherever the church decides to send me and I only have to consider myself in the move. However, the unwed life does have its own burdens. When most people think of the temptations that assail a single person, the most expected, perhaps even anticipated, response to the question of temptation for a single Christian is the temptation of sexual lust. Yes, it is a temptation; a rather strong temptation at times.
However, perhaps owing to my age, sexual temptation is not the biggest battle in my life (I am not going to tell you my age - I am not ashamed of it - but I do not wish the reader to bog down in that mire of, “You’re too young/old to say/think/feel that way”). I am at a time in my life when I generally receive one of two looks from people who find out my true age. Astonishment: some people are flabbergasted when they find out they are five to ten years off in their assumption of my age (I admit to enjoyment of this reaction). Pity: The look I am not fond of (especially since I see no reason for it), received from people who are basing their view on the assumption that someone my age, especially a woman, should be married with children and/or have a fabulous career. I have none of the above. I have always wanted to be a wife and a mother (and I had always thought that I would be by now), and I am working on becoming a deaconess. However, those are not vocations I currently have (please note, that while pity is not necessarily welcome, commiseration, if you are a close friend, is fine.)
This leads me to my own personal main temptation: Despair. It’s a nasty word, and it can lead to some very serious repercussions, both physical and spiritual.
I will be honest: I have not dated a man in over a decade. That is not to say that I have not gone on a date, but rather, that I have not been in a serious, committed relationship in the past ten years. Putting myself through school (undergraduate and now graduate) has taken priority. In some ways time does not seem to have moved much, and in other ways it seems to have flown by me so fast that there is nothing at all for me to grasp onto. And somewhere in this great paradox, despair slipped in because of the unfulfilled ideas I have held since childhood about who and where I would be by now (which, when you are eight years old seems ancient).
There are moments when I wonder why I am not married with a family. I love children and want the vocation of wife and mother. Why do I not have either one? Why doesn’t God send someone that I can spend my life with?
Doubts begin to creep into my mind and make themselves at home. Not only do I question my own worth, I question God. Is He really there? Doesn’t He care about me? Despair rears it venomous head, fangs bared, ready to strike for the kill. Why am I not the way I imagined that I would be? Is something wrong with me?
But, wait! I am a baptized child of God. This is Satan, my age-old nemesis, seeking to tear me away from the One who loves me most. The One who so loves me, that He died for me, taking on all my sin and shame so that I will not suffer endless torment. “Breathe. Take a break. Step back from yourself.” These are all things I tell myself.
“Despair, you will not triumph over me,” I cry. “Get behind me, Satan.” And then I do something smart. I open my Bible. I read the book of Job. Where was I when God created the world? Indeed, there are great words of comfort to find here. Along with Job, God puts me in my place. The place He Himself designed for me. I am not the first person to feel despair. Unfortunately, I will not be the last.
I know that God has a plan for me. He wants me to come to Him in prayer, with all my requests (big and small). There is nothing wrong with asking that if it is His will, God would send a prospective husband into my life. But I also recognize that being a single woman is a God-given vocation, just as being a wife or mother is. Being single is a vocational blessing from God to me. He has a plan for me.
Despair is my biggest temptation as a single woman. By God’s grace, though, despair will not triumph over me. I will continue to live my life as a forgiven and redeemed child of God. A sinful, fallen woman so loved that she was died for. All her despair and shame taken from her and nailed on a cross. Puts things in perspective, doesn’t it?
Despair is not my default setting, nor is it something that I often struggle with. Yet I have been tempted by despair in the past and probably will again at some future time. But God is good. He continuously forgives me; daily showering me with His blessings.