So Yesenia is away for the week translating for a mission team in another part of Guatemala. It’s the first week I’ve been home alone since we were married almost 18 months ago. Hopes were high that I would get a lot of writing done this week, but I can’t seem to get rolling. Mostly I spend my time trying to remember how to be alone.
Then I realized that today’s date is November 11, (11/11), also known as “Singles Day” in many parts of the world. It is the opposite of Valentine’s Day whereas single persons are supposed to buy themselves treats and gifts. The Chinese internet version of Amazon (Alibaba) reports they sold over eight billion dollars of goods! This all made me think of how I was when I was living alone. Would I want to celebrate?
For the last couple of years before I started my relationship with Yesenia, I was living large. I was making more money than I ever had before. My debt was rapidly dwindling, giving me extra cash almost whenever I needed it. I lived in a small but nice and safe apartment only blocks from the ocean. My job seemed secure (although that proved to be an illusion). I joined a gym and felt healthier than I had in years. Life seemed pretty good.
But I was alone; and I hated it. My apartment was in a development with mostly younger people. On Friday and Saturday nights, I would hear everyone laughing and giggling as they left for a fun evening or returned all happy and maybe a little intoxicated. That was when I felt most lonely. My own social anxieties didn’t really let me go alone to a bar or away for a weekend. I never could start a conversation with someone I didn’t know. A few times I actually forced myself to go out. Usually, I would have a quick soda and maybe watch a ball game for a while if there was a television on. Sometimes I would talk to the bartender for a while, but nothing more than a nod or “hey” to anyone else.
Then I would walk home mad at myself for not trying to talk to anyone. There was always a reason. The crowd was too young, too old, too married, too drunk. But the bottom line was, I was a nice guy who loved talking to people, and just couldn’t.
This all fed into my biggest fear in life: dying someday like my namesake Uncle Pat, alone in my apartment, unnoticed and unmissed for days.
As I started my trek back to God, things didn’t immediately get much better. I still hated Saturday nights, but at least I had a book to read. Someone gave me a great study Bible that not only offered some translation help, but also told the history of the world and biographies of the characters. It mesmerized me.
There were stories I remembered from my childhood. There were expressions I’d heard hundreds of times without knowing they were Biblical. Parables made me feel like one of the apostles as I tried to figure out the lesson in a way applicable to my current situation.
Somewhere along the line, I was saved. The Word worked on me big-time. I got more involved in the church I joined. I made my first trip to Guatemala which just sealed the deal. I prayed and read the Bible as habit and I enjoyed it. One day I realized that I was in a relationship. It was the only relationship I would ever need. I would never be alone again because I was walking with Christ.
Everything got easier. Saturday nights were no longer the woefully sorrowful experience I made them out to be. My work performance improved and new opportunities arose. My finances got even better! With my new-found faith, I found it easier to talk to people. I tried new things and made a couple of friends.
One day, I was shooting the breeze with a friend, explaining how great life was. I told him that I realized I could live alone and didn’t need to worry about not having someone at my side. I was resigned to being single and devoting myself to my faith. I also told him I wanted to explore working in our food pantry and how I was really looking forward to visiting Guatemala and then Africa with our church’s mission teams.
He gleefully recounted that conversation the following year, after I told him about my feelings for Yesenia. “God works in mysterious ways I guess!” he said.
So would I celebrate Singles Day if I wasn’t married now? Heck yeah! If I don’t deserve a treat or a gift, who does? But I would celebrate it knowing full well that even if I was single, I was never really alone. God is with each of us regardless of our romantic or marital status. He doesn’t mind if we have trouble starting conversations, finding the right shoes, or picking out a good wine. We don’t need to look for him in bars, at parties or on a dating site.
All we have to do is open our hearts to Him; allow ourselves to feel his presence. It’s awesome. It’s loving. It’s powerful. It’s the most perfect relationship I’ve ever had.
“The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.” -Zephaniah 3:17