By Andrea Stunz
Nevertheless, each person should live as a believer in whatever situation the Lord has assigned to them, just as God has called them. (1 Corinthians 7:17 NIV)
I was 21 when we married. The first time I moved out of my parents’ house was to move into to a house with my new husband. As an adult, I never experienced singleness in the way many in the western world do. I didn’t move away for university and I never leased an apartment. I had never lived alone, I had never had to, I had never wanted to – until my marriage imploded.
And then I needed to.
Alone . . . it’s such a weighty word. I’ve never heard of anyone who wishes to live their life alone. This is not to say that some of us don’t occasionally want to be alone. There is a difference between isolation and solitude. We were created to love and be loved and our souls long to belong at some level.
As I navigated singleness for a season of separation for the purpose of healing from significant trauma, not being accustomed to isolation, it was a lot to take in. We had just bought a home in a new city when our marriage crashed. I had no friends or any sort of local network. Sleeping alone was a challenge. I stretched myself and, among other things, began dining out and going to movies alone. Not because I had to, although at first I did make myself, but because I wanted to. I will admit I consumed many meals of FRITOS® and bean dip, but I did come to enjoy cooking for one on occasion. I found it difficult to reference myself with singular pronouns when I’d long grown accustomed to plural. But, gradually, I found myself becoming okay as a “me” and not a “we”.
Don’t get me wrong, it was a hard-fought struggle. I grieve the pile of losses from my 30-year marriage, but I had never really been allowed to or given myself permission to be me. I took the time to discover things I liked, things that brought joy to my soul. Being me began to feel pretty great!
The scripture at the start of this article is preceded by the ever-popular and, in my opinion, grossly misused, 1 Corinthians 7:5 NIV: “Do not deprive each other except perhaps by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.”
Taken out of context, this passage is a one-way trip down the fast lane to guilt and shame for many, but especially so for those of us who have been wounded by sexual betrayal. God is not the author of shame. He is the author of love. And his love, at times, comes in the form of making a new way.
Verse 5 is followed by Paul saying, “I say this as a concession, not as a command” (1 Corinthians 7:6 NIV).
For me, singleness for a season was absolutely necessary and most beneficial. I needed to learn how to be physically alone. I needed to learn that I would survive if my marriage didn’t survive, though that was not my desire. I needed to learn to trust that God would be enough. The more I trusted him, the more he proved himself faithful and present. I found I was never really alone. I needed to find my way back to myself–to work toward becoming who I was created to be. I had lost sight of that goal.
By God’s amazing grace and a commitment to our ongoing recovery work, my husband and I are together and working to create something new. We know that we will only be as healthy in relationship as we are as individuals.
Since my season of singleness, I have become healthier, stronger, more confident, more regulated, more secure, more faithful, more vocal, wiser, less naïve, and more aware. I am generally able to give of myself to others more generously because I’ve put my own oxygen mask on first for a change.
Perhaps it is true what they say, “What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger.”
What I know to be true, however, is that regardless of my relationship status, my ultimate command is to love (Mark 12: 30-31 NIV). And if for a season, that means stepping out of a relationship to learn how to be loved by God and to love myself well so that I will be able to love others well, then so be it.
Andrea Stunz has been a Christ-follower from the age of seven. She is the committed wife to one, loving mom to three amazing adult children, grateful mother-in-law and ridiculously proud grandmother. A well-traveled Texan, having lived in Brazil, Asia, and the UK, Andrea finds joy in her family, grace in her friends, beauty in a story, purpose in the sunrise, wonder in her travels, and hope in Colossians 1:17. Andrea longs to encourage other women by sharing stories because “a story worth living is a story worth sharing”. Find more from her at AndreaStunz.com.