Friday, February 10, 2017

The Single Series: My Story


I thought I would spend this blog post telling you my story. I mean if I'm going to talk about my struggles with being single and what I've done to overcome them, you might as well know what I'm starting with! It's a little long because there's just a lot to it, so bear with me!

Story time!

Since I was a little girl, I've wanted to get married. My Barbies were all married, I dressed up as a bride for Halloween once, my first Pinterest board was wedding themed, I joke that all I need is a groom because the rest of my wedding is planned, and I'm even a certified wedding planner! Clearly my life has been spent dreaming of being married. But I'm 26 and very much single.

I had my first boyfriend in middle school...also my first kiss. It was awkward and oh my gosh why were we such weird kids in middle school? I mean who has their first kiss during the movie Anacondas?! Anyway...I dated a couple guys in high school. The guy I dated freshman year didn't last too long. But the guy I dated junior year was a dream. He was outgoing and really pulled me out of my quiet shell. He broke up with me right before prom. Now you may be thinking "oh my gosh that's awful" but it was the best thing. Even then I knew it was good. Going to prom with my girlfriends was the best thing ever! Senior year I dated a guy, and we got pretty serious. We actually ended up at the same university. Unfortunately the freedom of college caused a lot of his personality traits to surface that I wasn't okay with. He was passive aggressive and made me feel terrible for having other friends, going to Bible study, or going to church. As these character traits were surfacing in him, I was becoming more outgoing, more independent as many college freshman become. But because I swore I loved him (dare I say thought I would marry him?), I stayed with him. I compromised my beliefs for him. I gave into some temptations I shouldn't have. Looking back it's very easy to see that this was a form of emotional abuse. If I'm being honest and as awful as it is, I have a feeling that if I had stayed with him it might have turned physical. The Lord is good though and the Holy Spirit intervened in a very intense way and with His strength I broke up with that guy and never looked back. 

By this time we're near spring break of my freshman year of college. From then until right before spring break my senior year I was single. No dates. No boyfriends. And I was so happy! I was serving in Cru (formerly Campus Crusade for Christ) and had the best friends ever! I was really growing in the Lord and as my own independent self. Sophomore year was a blast and junior year was even better. Truly some of the best times in my life. I was living with the best girls ever and became best friends with women that I still talk to often...if not every day! But then senior year came. A lot of my friends started dating, getting engaged, and even getting married. All of these girls had guys swooning over them and I felt lucky if a guy even looked at me. To make things worse, my best friend started dating a guy. And I started to resent her. This is my best friend who knows everything about me. I would ignore her or just be really cold and awful to her. Finally my discipler and Bible study leader called me out on it. We were sitting in Starbucks and she asked "Ashley, why are you so upset to be single? What's your problem?" I thought I was upset because my best friend was hanging out with a guy more than me. Nah boo. Through lots of digging over a couple weeks, it turns out I was angry with God. And I mean angry! Remember my childhood? I wanted to be the girl who had the boyfriend who would propose in a sweet way, celebrate with all our friends, and get married right after college. But that just wasn't happening.

My discipler and I dug through my issues for a while (ahem at least a month). Cru taught me to go further than addressing the surface sins. Find the root that is producing those leaves. Me ignoring my best friend was just a leaf on a tree with some very deep roots. So what was the root I had to dig real deep to find? I didn't believe God loved me or cared about me. Obviously I know he loves me. It says so in the Bible. But I had let myself believe that God was being mean and dangling my deepest want in front of my face because he didn't truly care about me. Now just because I found the root of that sin didn't mean I was "cured." I daily remind myself that my singleness is not because God doesn't love me or care for me, so it's still a struggle.

Anyway, it's now February of my senior year in college. Then it happened. A guy asked me out. Seriously?! I just got to a place where I was okay with being single! Now a guy wants to date me?? I had the hardest time wrapping my mind around dating for the first few weeks we went on dates. But I did and we ended up dating the rest of my senior year and all summer. I moved to Ohio for grad school while he was still at college (he was a year younger than me) and we seemed to be handling the distance okay. But one day in September he called to break up with me. Now this wasn't a bad breakup. Honestly. It was one of those breakups where I just sat there when I hung up thinking "wait, did he just break up with me?" Once I realized that yes he did just break up with me, I got angry. While I was angry at my ex-boyfriend for breaking up with me when I'm a couple hours from my best friend, my mom, and in a town where I haven't made close friends yet. But I was more angry at God. Why in the world would God bring me to a place of being okay with being single, bring a boyfriend into my life, then take it away 6 months later when I'm in a new state surrounded by strangers and feeling all kinds of isolated? I became bitter and angry. I cried. I felt physically sick I was so mad and hurt that God would do that to me. I wish I could tell you that this only lasted for a week or two before I realized that God still loved me and I was just mad I wasn't getting my way.

It took me a while (definitely more than a couple weeks) to get to a place where I was more okay with being single than I was not okay. I would have days where I was all "I'm an independent woman. Ain't no man gonna hold me down!" But I would also have days where just the sight of seeing a couple holding hands would send me into a state of pity and bitterness and anger. I would stand in my shower and cry until I could hardly breathe. While this wasn't every day, I definitely felt that range of emotions!

Okay back to the timeline I've been creating. Three years after that breakup (also my fourth year in grad school aka this school year), I got a message asking if I would be willing to give a talk on being single at a retreat for girls 15-24. Uh what? You want the girl who is still angry with God that she's single to talk to other girls about being single? I'm pretty sure I need to hear that talk more than I need to give it! But I decided I should pray about it. And I prayed. A lot. And cried. A lot. And finally I realized that maybe this was how God could start truly healing me. Since the breakup, while I definitely was having more good days than bad, something still felt off. Like my good days were more of just a cover up than a true heart change.

I ended up giving the talk. I've never been so nervous to give a talk. But God is so stinking good. Yes my story is messy. Maybe not to the outside person, but inside was like a tornado had blown through. Few people knew the real struggle going on in my heart. I dug into my hurt and anger and let the Holy Spirit come and start pulling out those roots that were planted so deep in my heart. Through preparing and giving this talk, I wasn't the only one affected by a God sweeping in and healing deep wounds. The girls who were on the retreat knew my anger and hurt. I think as single women, these feelings make us feel isolated because there's an idea that as a single woman you should love life! So when these awful feelings creep in, we might think we're being a bad single woman. But when you realize someone else is struggling as much as you? It makes it easier.

Around the same time I got asked to give this talk, I've began meeting with a woman from my church. It was so funny because I originally went to her to work through my anxiety (well technically I wanted a referral to a therapist but she and I just clicked so I stayed with her). A few weeks into our weekly meetings over lunch the conversation turned to guys. I was very confused. I came to her to talk about my anxiety and anxiety attacks. Why are we talking about men?? I'm working on this talk and finally coming to a place where I'm totally cool with being single!

Oh gracious. I was not fine. I have issues. Issues that traced all the way back not only to high school but from when I was little. Sitting here today I totally know the Lord was speaking to this woman because he knew I had some dark crap to face with the talk I was preparing. And face it we did. I won't go into the gory details here, but if you want to talk more about this, just ask!

I still have days where I find myself dreaming of my wedding or my future husband. I still want to be married. I want kids. But I'm in a place where I know God has me single for a reason. And who am I to argue with him? I'm diving deeper into his word and learning more and more about him. And that above anything else has caused a shift in my heart and attitude. There is power in knowledge. And when you know more about God, you realize that his plan is so much bigger and better than your own.

If you aren't in that place where you're seeking the Lord and being content with being single, it's okay! Like I said in the beginning, no one's story is the same. I started finding rest in the Lord in college, but I'm no where near perfect at it!

Phew that was a lot of info! Thanks for reading my story. If something struck a chord with you and you want to chat about it, e-mail me. DM me on Instagram. Comment on this post. Whatever it is, I would love to talk to you about this. Sharing my single struggles with other women has become a bit of a passion for me! I'm an open book y'all! Keep an eye out next week for a new post in The Single Series!

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