Hey Friends! I’m happy to introduce you to Lisa Anderson! I first met Lisa when I was a guest on The Boundless Show. Through our conversation it was clear that she had a heart for relationships, a passion for people, and a deep love for Jesus. I appreciate her honesty and vulnerability in this guest post, and I’m excited to have her at TrueLoveDates.com. I encourage you to leave her some love and encouragement in the comment section below! — Love, Debra
I fear growing old.
It’s not a paralyzing, hand-wringing, “I don’t know how to function”-type fear, but a fear nonetheless. And a lot of it has to do with the fact I’m single.
My mom is an 86-year-old widow who lives in an assisted living facility. She’s pretty unhappy there. Oh, she likes her apartment well enough, and the staff is friendly and attentive, but she hasn’t settled in. It’s just not home. She’s lonely despite being surrounded by people. She often asks me how long she’ll have to live there, adding that she hopes it’s not for the rest of her life.
My mom never had these concerns when she was married. She and my dad were seemingly inseparable. In everything from the most mundane tasks of life to the memory-making vacations, milestones and ministry opportunities, they were a team.
But now he’s gone, and my mom has never quite recovered from the loss. She’s had trouble finding her identity apart from him. She feels disconnected and even purposeless at times.
Knowing their story, it’s easy for me to equate security and intimacy with marriage. After all, isn’t covenanting with someone before God for life the best kind of insurance policy out there? Isn’t having a “better half” the only way to truly know someone and be known? Isn’t my parents’ story proof that marriage is the only practical answer to loneliness?
If so, then as a 43-year-old single woman, I’m out of luck.
COMMUNITY IS FOR EVERYONE
I’ve never been married. I’ve never known what it’s like to say “till death do us part.” I’ve never had a joint checking account or shared last name.
And for much of my life, I’ve not known true intimacy or community.
Look, I’ll be the first to say that marriage is great. How do I know? Because I see the benefits of marriage all around me. More importantly, I know that marriage is designed by God as a reflection of the church’s relationship with Jesus Christ. God’s the biggest fan of marriage out there. After all, He designed it.
Marriage is a big deal. But it’s not the main deal. And it’s certainly no antidote to all our insecurities and fears. Just look at our current divorce rate. Or talk to the staggering number of people in our communities — even our churches — who are desperately lonely within their marriages; you’ll soon discover that marriage holds no magic formulas or guarantees.
We’re all called to community. We’re all called to love others. To risk relationship, be accountable, and give sacrificially of ourselves. First Thessalonians 4:3 even says it’s God’s will for us to be sanctified. This includes us singletons. Consider the following statements the Bible makes about living in community:
“Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2).
“And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all“ (1 Thessalonians 5:14).
“Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited” (Romans 12:16).
“All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had” (Acts 4:32).
“Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins“ (1 Peter 4:8).
How do we do it?
I’m living proof that selfishness is an easy default. Living on my own, managing my money and time, accountable to no one but God, it’s safe to say I make a lot of decisions that have my interests alone in mind.
But that is changing.
A NEW CALLING, A NEW COMMITMENT
It started a little over 10 years ago when two friends and I decided it was time to really be in each other’s lives. We knew that our standard operating procedure was to exist on the fringes of our community, floating in and out of social activities, attending Bible studies and prayer meetings but only sharing at our predetermined levels of comfort. We gave little and expected little in return.
But then we decided we wanted more.
Thus began weekly breakfasts where we got into the nitty-gritty of our lives. We checked in with each other throughout the week. We called out foolishness. We pushed one another toward vulnerability. We made late-night calls and early-morning confrontations. We grew to love each other as sisters.
One of us got married, and we released her to her husband and now family. But she’s not forgotten. The tightness of our threesome has ebbed and flowed, but it hasn’t ceased. The benefits of our relationship are too great to let go.
And now I’m in a new season. A season that’s calling me to even deeper commitment.
As of one month ago, another close friend, Julianna, and I decided to buy a house together. Actually, we’re building it together.
Why? We both already own homes. We like our homes. More telling, we like the comfort of our current routines and the sameness of operating the way we always have.
She’s actually in a better spot than I am. She’s had a roommate for years; at least she knows how to have someone else in her space. But that roommate is on the brink of marriage and ready to move on.
I’ve lived alone for 13 years. As extroverted as I seem, I love coming home to an empty house. I enjoy eating the occasional Pop Tart for dinner, throwing my laundry in the bathtub (don’t ask), and choosing when to clean my shower, have people over, or blast hip-hop music from my stereo.
This buy/build/move idea was Julianna’s idea first. I had to be convinced of it. But now I’m on board. First of all, it’s financially wise (we’re going to rent out our current homes as investments). But bigger than that, God’s been teaching me that maybe for this season in my life, there’s something silly about rattling around in a home that I alone have to finance, repair, insure, furnish and protect (hello expensive security system). And maybe there’s something even sillier about me thinking that I can do true community when I always have a place to hide to get away from people and problems rather than leaning into them.
Julianna won’t let that happen.
She’s one of those “get into your business” types. The other night she told me that we shouldn’t plan fun activities together unless we’re each prioritizing consistent time with the Lord. I can’t pretend this was prompted by anything less than her noticing my own quiet times become scattered in recent weeks as my schedule spiraled out of control. She also watches me like a hawk when it comes to entertainment choices, social media usage, exercise and over-commitment.
I speak into her life, too. We each have our strengths and corresponding weaknesses. It goes both ways and is mutually beneficial, as it should be.
Is this togetherness and diving deep as single friends weird? Probably. But that’s because living out principles of Christian community in today’s world is weird. None of us want to be pushed out of our comfort zones. We avoid conflict, humility, sacrifice and hard work. We don’t love unconditionally or live open-handedly. We build our mini-kingdoms and rule from them in isolation.
But with God’s help, I’m going to buck the assumptions of the world.
Case in point: That whole shared house thing? Thanks to a bigger house and a friend with a schedule that’s opposite of mine, the plan is to have my mom move in with us. That way, she’ll have community, too. She’ll be cared for and enfolded by people who know and love her. She’ll be given the security and freedom to finish her life well, knowing that she matters and is wanted.
It’s a big step for all of us, but I can’t think of a better challenge to face. And prioritizing community now allows me to look at my own future with less fear. Because as I depend on God for strength in today’s decisions, I’m reminded of the strength I’ll have down the road. Whether I live until tomorrow or until I’m 100. Whether I marry the man of my dreams or stay single for life.
It’s all good. It’s all God’s. Bring it on.
Lisa Anderson is director of young adults for Focus on the Family and host of the popular weekly radio program and podcast The Boundless Show. She is the author of the brand-new book The Dating Manifesto: A Drama-Free Plan for Pursuing Marriage With Purpose. Her writing is featured in newspapers, magazines, and at Boundless.org. Lisa is a frequent guest on radio and TV programs, and she speaks around the world about relationships, faith, and the many challenges facing today’s young adults. She lives in Colorado Springs, Colorado. She can be found at LisaCAnderson.com, Boundless.org, and @LisaCAnderson.
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