For much of my life, I struggled with loneliness. I wrestled with feelings of hopelessness and isolation. While my friends seemed to easily fall in love and get married, I always had a hard time making any relationship work. Deep down, I often feared I would be alone forever.
That’s not to say I never saw glimmers of hope. Over the years, there were girls I genuinely cared for and thought I loved. But each of these relationships ended in disappointment. Instead of filling me, they left me empty. Instead of calming my spirit, they left me restless. Instead of stabilizing me, I felt out of control. Of course, the issue wasn’t with the women I dated. It’s that I was looking for them to do something beyond their ability — fix my loneliness.
After trying for years to ignore this lingering pain, I finally faced it. In despair, I cried out to God, asking Him to fill my heart. And while God didn’t immediately solve all of my problems, I sensed a renewed resolve to make peace with my singleness. In other words, to feel content in this season of life and, once and for all, learn that my wholeness didn’t depend upon another person.
The process of making peace with my singleness didn’t happen overnight. It required hard work and persistence because ultimately, I was accepting my singleness. Not that I abandoned hope of ever getting married. But I acknowledged it may not happen as quickly as I wanted.
The first thing I did was open my life to a few close friends. They helped me through the painful process of confronting the wounds of my past. As I found healing, my loneliness began lifting, replaced with a sense of overwhelming peace. While I still desired to share my life with another person, I could see God had a purpose for my singleness.
Second, I began giving my time and attention to others. For instance, I started mentoring three fatherless, fifth-grade boys. I also started going out and having fun with friends, instead of holing away in my bedroom and sulking in my sorrows. This shifted my focus away from my discontentment and onto others.
Third, I stopped dating for the sole purpose of finding a wife. This immediately relieved the awkwardness and pressure of dating. No longer did I feel compelled to determine whether each woman fit the mold of my idealized wife. Instead, I focused on getting to know each girl as an individual. This went a long way toward helping me view marriage in a healthier way — not as the solution to my every problem.
As I traveled this journey, I slowly grew confident that God had me exactly where He wanted me. And in time, I no longer felt a gaping hole of loneliness. I no longer felt desperate to find love. I received comfort knowing God had a plan for my life better than anything I could ever imagine. In short, God was transforming me into the sort of man who could give his life — and his heart — to a woman.
When I did eventually meet, date and marry my wife, I did so with confidence, because I wasn’t gambling on marriage to fix my loneliness. That had already been resolved. And for that I’m fortunate, because if it hadn’t, I have no doubt I would be just as lonely today as I was in the midst of my singleness.
Paul Perkins lives with his wife in Washington, D.C., and blogs about living intentionally in relationships, art and faith at paulperkins.com, on Facebook (facebook.com/perkinswriter) and on Twitter (twitter.com/prperkins).
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