The Pangs of Keen Desire

3:01 AM

In a small creaky room buried deep in the middle of nowhere, a thirty-something-year-old types away at a decrepit Acer. A faded polka dot blanket covers her thin shoulders, cat fur covering the rest. The cat himself, fat and gray, blinks in the lamplight. A cup of tea exhales the last bit of steam and goes cold. This woman has deadlines and macaroni-and-cheese to make, but it is nine o'clock and she isn't hungry at all and there's nobody but the cat who cares whether she skips dinner.

She's supposed to be writing on happy topics for happy Christian women -- that's her job, after all, to pretend that happily married women with happy children and happy homes have real problems (like her), that they have time to read about loneliness and the problem of evil (all she ever thinks about), that they can relate to a woman single for thirty years, typing bitterly at a decrepit Acer with a faded polka dot blanket over her shoulders and a blinking cat.

She's not writing about happy topics. She's reeling because she fell in love again with somebody who didn't want to again and all the cards that were stacked up in her favor in reality were stacked up against her and she was too stupid and hopeful (the same thing) to notice in time.

With keyboard and red eyes, she's crusading against the pat answers: "I'm sure there's somebody out there for you," "God must have someone better in mind," "Just give it to God," "Keep waiting." They're lies, all of them, lies, and liars all. Because an invisible future someone cannot replace the real one lost -- an imaginary future love cannot soothe the present, soon-to-be-past love.

And this one, this one angers her the most: "At least you have God."

God! Since when does His love count for anything?

I know there are a million horrible things wrong with being single (so I've heard), but if I could pick my biggest fear about singleness, it isn't that I won't be loved or won't have my own home or will be overwhelmed by Walmart's stacks of chocolate and red roses on Valentine's Day. It is this, and it terrifies me: becoming so bitter that God becomes less.

As a seventeen-year-old who cannot fully absorb the pain of living life unmarried, it's frightening the kind of despair I see among single Christian women -- and the kind of things people say to comfort them.

"Well, even if nobody ever loves you, at least God will."

"Well, if the One doesn't come along, you can be Jesus' girlfriend!"

"Well, just stick with God until he shows up."

Actually -- though I can in no way disrespect a woman's very real pain -- what disturbs me most isn't that it's tacky comfort and cuts deeply to hurting women. It's the role they've relegated God -- second-best. Leftovers. Some unlucky people get stuck with God only, and we smile politely and say, How privileged! How wonderful! and think, Poor thing.

When did God become second-rate? When did things and people become of greater value than God Himself? When did the offer of God, who breathed out stars and spoke light and knit flesh, become a cliched response from well-meaning ignoramuses?

She got the man. She got the looks. She got the fame. She got the fortune. She got her dreams. She got the normal life. And we? We got stuck with God.


That frightens me -- to be so overwhelmed with what I don't have that I justify idolatry, breed bitterness and view God as second-best. To love the created rather than the Creator, to thank Him for all He's given instead of all His is, to be blind to the treasure of having God within. So I'm pressing into God that He would become my greatest desire, my biggest dream, that nothing, nothing, nothing -- not even the aches inside me, not even the things that scream out for realization -- nothing would tempt me to cry I "only" have God. And I pray it wouldn't be a cliche, it wouldn't be half-hearted piety, but it would be the new reality of placing everything I am and everything I want in the One who always satisfies, always loves, always stays the same.

And shall I pray thee change thy will, Father,
Until it be according unto mine?
But no, Lord, no, that never shall be,
Rather I pray thee blend my human will with thine.
I pray thee hush the hurrying, eager longing,
I pray thee soothe the pangs of keen desire,
See in my quiet places wishes thronging,
Forbid them, Lord, purge, though it be with fire.
And work in me to will and do thy pleasure,
Let all within me, peaceful, reconciled,
Tarry content my Wellbeloved's leisure,
At last, at last, even as a weaned child.
- These Strange Ashes, by Elisabeth Elliot

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9 impressions

  1. Beautiful post. You know, I've always thought it a shame that the protestant communities and evangelicals especially have lost the beauty of a life consecrated to God. The Catholic & Orthodox might have doctrines to disagree with, but I think they've hit the nail on the head by having an option for a life of purposeful celibacy, where nuns are considered married to Christ. I can tell you, those women who have consecrated their life to prayer and loving the poor and destitute outside of marriage don't feel stuck with God! :)

  2. Thank you. I needed this.

    Even though I'm only twenty-one, I'm already struggling with loneliness and having not met "the One." And as another "eligible possibility" (for a lack of a better phrase :) doesn't come to anything, I'm realizing that I have to stop imagining that having a husband and a family someday will complete me and make me content.

    I *have* to understand that God is the only one who can truly fulfill me. It needs to be all about Him. It's one of those things that I know in my mind, but I let my emotions convince me otherwise.


  3. So true, Bailey. Wow... I just went through and read this post twice because it was so well-written and your point was so well made. What a poignet subject for us ladies who are currently blessed with singleness. You've certainly given me something to think about regarding not letting God become "second- best". He certainly isn't like that to me now, but who know what the years ahead have in store.

    May God bless you!

    In Christ Alone,

    P.S. I've been reading your blog for a while now and have been meaning to comment for a long time... Your posts always seem to strike a chord with me.

  4. Very, very beautiful, Bailey.

    I love this part:

    "So I'm pressing into God that He would become my greatest desire, my biggest dream, that nothing, nothing, nothing -- not even the aches inside me, not even the things that scream out for realization -- nothing would tempt me to cry I "only" have God."

    Beautiful. This post took my breath away. How well you expressed this. I ache to have God as my greatest desire, as well. My FIRST and foremost desire. And you know, I think it's starting to happen. It's beginning!!

  5. Yes, yes, yes, Bailey. I've always wondered why those comments bugged me, and you hit the nail on the head. Jesus isn't second-best, but the most wonderful thing that could ever happen. :)

  6. Ouch.

    Good point - I'll be sure to go back to this when I'm thirty-something. ;D

  7. Wow Bailey!!! These are such true words and I am so blessed to have read them. God truly is more than enough, never the fall-back. :)

    God bless!

  8. Elizabeth, I do wish that singleness didn't get such a bad rap in Protestant (especially evangelical) circles or at least that marriage wouldn't be elevated to its detriment. But then we'd have to ask women to change, and I know better than that........;o)

    Oh, Kristin...I'm so sorry. I know. I know what it's like, and I hate it. From a comment you'd left earlier (on a post about God's will, I think?) I figured you were going through something like this. There's always grace in God's no -- there's got to be. Otherwise there's nothing left to hope for. If you ever need to vent, I'm an email away. *HUGS*

    Cassandra, thank you.

    Julia! That's so exciting!

    Well, Bethany, only fifteen more years.....*cough*

  9. right on Bailey! that is something that has scared me too...I know it sounds so easy to say it now (even though it is hard at 21 but nothing like others who are older) but if I'm 40 and single I want God to becoming more and more to be a vessel shining brighter for His glory. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this! so needed right now...


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