By Courtney Newbery
While eating my tuna fish sandwich off of a cardboard box, which had been conveniently turned into a dinner table, I had a realization: “Everything I own is disposable.” From my paper plate dinnerware to my upcycled futon (which was missing a leg), I had made virtually no investment in my surroundings.
My surface-level rationalization for living in a state of poverty was that I was a poor college graduate, working her first job and trying to make ends meet. This was true, partially. I did just graduate, but my job more than covered my expenses. So what was it? I told myself that I was trying to live sacrificially, not wanting to be consumed by the glittering things of the world, offering my “extra” to those in need. But I wasn’t giving away mounds of money to the poor. I knew there was a deeper meaning that I didn’t want to confront. (Who knew furniture could tell you so much about yourself, right?) I wasn’t willing to acknowledge my issue, until a single friend, well into her fifties, confronted me on my “disposable world.”
“Why are you living off of paper plates and plastic silverware?” she said. “What is keeping you from buying a couch?”
Not knowing where the words came from, I replied,
“I want to pick it out with my husband.”
Covering my mouth, I stood there wide-eyed. I had just said what my soul had been feeling for as long as I can remember. I wasn’t making an investment in my life, because I was single. I was saying to myself, “You can’t live in beauty and comfort until you can share it with a husband.” That was a hard discovery to make, especially since I wasn’t even dating anyone. Part of me felt that I didn’t deserve or shouldn’t desire these “luxuries” as a single woman.
As I began to explore other areas of my life, I realized it was more than just my finances that were on an indefinite pause. I didn’t want to go on a cruise, because I thought it would be the ideal honeymoon destination. I was reluctant to fully engage in dating relationships, because I didn’t want to give any part of myself to someone who would not one day be my husband. I shied away from jobs that required too much commitment or a long-term contract, because I never knew when I would need to move for a man. Upon reflection, I realized that I was disconnected and unplugged, because my mind was preoccupied with waiting for the perfect guy. Instead of living each moment in the present, I was buying time until the “unpromised one” arrived.
I missed out on so much in this season of life, because I wasn’t really living it. I was “waiting” it. Waiting for the time when all of my needs would be met by the love of my life. Waiting to share all the lovely moments with just the right person. Waiting to invest in my future. Waiting instead of living. I was a spectator through much of my singlehood, wishing it would hurry by, so I could move on to “the rest of my life.”
I recently did get married to an incredible guy, and I love being married (it is really fantastic), but a part of me misses my singleness. I am mourning the loss of what I left behind and never really appreciated when I had it. I regret that I did not stop for just a minute, as an unattached woman, and recognize the benefits of charting my own course. So, now, I offer you my hind-sight reflections as a married woman.
These are the top 10 things I wish I had valued when I was single:
10. Dates with girlfriends
9. Freedom to spend money at my own discretion
8. Solo time
7. Permission to decorate in pink
6. Road trips on a whim
5. Cooking without anyone else in mind
4. Crafting late into the night
3. Ability to keep a clean house — or not
2. Time to be available for those in need
1. keeping my own schedule
God gives us some wisdom on staying present in the moment. James 4:13-14 says, “Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit’—yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.” Our time on this earth is short. We can spend it pining away after some hypothetical future, or we can live in the sweet reality that is today, giving thanks for every opportunity. “This is the day that the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it.”(Psalm 118:24).
God doesn’t promise us a spouse, or a boatload of money, or a really great job, but there are many things that He does guarantee right now for those who know Him. He gives us His presence (Hebrews 13:5) for comfort when we are feeling sad or lonely. He offers His Holy Spirit as a Counselor to guide us in our confusion (John 14:26). God promises His enduring love (Psalm 100:5), even when we feel unlovable.
Making it Personal
If you are in a season where meditating on the future keeps you from really living in the present, would you walk through this activity with me? Make a list of 10 things that you are thankful for today. Ask God to help you grow to appreciate where He has you right now.
Courtney Newbery loves eating peanut butter straight from the jar and finds she is at her best after a nice long run. Between piles of endless laundry, she loves embarking on spontaneous adventures with her husband and two young children. Courtney holds a Masters in Biblical Counseling from Dallas Theological Seminary and is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor in the State of Florida.