Overcoming Eponine.

I was sitting on my grandmother’s couch. My stomach had been tested to it’s limit with turkey, casseroles, and dessert. I was warm to my core and my eyes were heavy. I could have very happily taken a meal-induced nap, but then I was asked the very question I was dreading: Paige, do you have a boyfriend? Every year it’s a resounding no. Even if the question is worded differently, the answer is always the same. It is not for lack of trying or wanting. It just hasn’t happened. For the rest of the day I tried to get those thoughts out of my head, but they crept back into the forefront of my mind. I am single, I hate it, and sometimes I blame God for it.

I am Eponine (Les Mis). I am the girl that doesn’t get the guy. The name Eponine has become synonymous with the word single for me. And this is my attempt to overcome that. My love life is and has been empty. It is a deserted, forgotten town. It’s a blank canvas. It’s a beach with no footprints in the sand. It’s a writer that can’t seem to fill her page with words. I am surrounded by a sea of God-centered couples (some dating, others engaged, a few married) and I am the single one. I get all the cliche (but good hearted) pep talks that make head swim with anger. As I spend my weekends with my dogs and Netflix, my friends are on date nights. I hate the jealousy that I feel, BUT I also love love. I love hearing about wedding planning and engagements. I love my friends and their significant others, but it makes me want that kind of relationship. I’m “that single friend.” Even if others don’t think it, I feel like that has almost become a part of my identity. I feel like the word, “Eponine” is stamped across my forehead for everyone to see. Those red letters aren’t so easy to scrub off of my translucent skin-especially when I’m too stubborn to realize that it’s not even there in the first place. I desperately yearn for a companion for this life, to have a “meet cute” at a pretty, little coffee shop, to fall madly, deeply in love, to get married at a young age, and to grow closer to Christ together.

Okay, time to be super vulnerable here: When my love life is empty, it feels like my relationship with God is as well. Being alone can be quite lonely and I can’t quite feel His presence when it isn’t emitting from someone else. I can see Him when I look at my friends who are in love. I see Him around me, but when I try to think about God in my own life, I feel like there is an absence, like He’s forgotten about me. I know in my mind, from my knowledge of Scripture, that this ISN’T true, but in my flawed emotions, I feel like this is the case. I am tend to be stubborn in my singleness. I am unhealthy in my singleness. I am negative in my singleness. I think that’s why I blame God. I wish it was as simple as Him snapping His fingers and “gifting” me a boyfriend. Then I would be passionate in my relationship with God. I would be a joyful and positive Paige agan. Why wouldn’t God want that for me? Well, here is the answer- honest and not always what I want to hear: That isn’t how life or love or God works. He granted us free will so man is not a puppet on strings. A human’s love doesn’t cover my sins and change me for the better, God does. These things I know to be true. I just have to tell myself this every day.

With doubt in my heart, I have questioned my Maker. I have questioned His goodness, His faithfulness, and His love. I have been in a self-made valley, ignoring the Wilderness around me. I’ve disregarded God’s hand to pull me out of this pit. I’ve sat in my filth and cried while He has tried to comfort an inconsolable and angry me. His arms have wrapped around me, but I still ask where He is. I attempted to climb out of this hole on my own, but I can’t. I thought that I needed a human man to lift me out, but when the Almighty God is offering his help, I call out with blind eyes. I yell at God while a continuous stream of tears streak my mud-caked face. My hands cover my eyes and I don’t see the ladder that He has made for me. I’ve turned my back on the beautifully crafted blessings that are happening in my life, not just others. Just because they aren’t a relationship doesn’t mean they are any less from the Good Father. Not having a relationship doesn’t mean I can’t run towards Jesus. I should run to Him even more in my loneliness because He is always there for His child.

“I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear the Lord and put their trust in him.” Psalm 40:1-3.

With all that venting and vulnerability being said, I don’t think I will not stop desiring a husband. I pray that I will have a partner in this life. But until that time comes, I can find joy in this season of my life. God declares me worthy of love and that He far exceeds my most basic need to feel loved and wanted. He has filled my cup full of friends and family that love me fiercely. There is love in my life in other forms and avenues. In His own time, God will bless me with the desires of my heart, but my heart needs to be still in HIm, not in this romance-obsessed society. I am not a perfect Christian woman, even though I try to put on that facade. Sometimes, I believe the enemy’s lies about singleness. But despite those lies, being single doesn’t define who am I, being a servant of God should. So while I preach to the choir,  I’ll be working on fully believing my advice and re-reading Psalm 139. *Psalm 139:5 speaks to how God’s protection is sometimes painful. It is forceful and leaves a bruise, but He keeps us whole.*

Run to Christ. We are His bride. You are never alone.

words by Paige Burleson and photo by Leah Van Otterloo

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