I had a dream last night. A good kind of dream. In it two star crossed lovers found each other in the midst of danger. They clasped their hands together and set their faces against their coming end, intent on weathering it together. My dreaming self could feel their confidence in their complete belonging to one another. They knew that death itself could not dull the resplendence of two people who had found such a gift.
Right as the villain approached for the final battle, I woke, not to war cries and lovers’ flames, but to lonely gray morning light and an ache for connection. Reaching out to the other side of the bed, my hand found only cool sheets, untouched by the heat of another body. My mini-aussie, Juniper, heard my stirring and quickly sidled up for her daily dose of affection. I let her bury her head into my side, sighing at the small relief of touch and the deeper twinge of longing for something more human.
These are the mornings that feel hard to talk about. There’s an expectation to project feelings of contentment and independence in singleness, to pretend to have it all together. It might even be acceptable in many circles to occasionally speak of the utter crumbling of doubt and loneliness that sometimes comes crashing in. But if I’m honest, it feels too tender to expose the shadowy absence of connection that might be present at any given moment and the underlying desire for it that always is. Yet it feels untenable today to leave it hidden and perhaps you are out there like me, hoping for a bit of that elusive shadow yourself.
My counselor has taught me the mental practice of scanning my body for any physical manifestations of emotions that might be buried deep. A racing heart, tingling hands, a pit in my stomach. I start at the top of my head and work my way slowly downward to my shoulders, my arms, my hands. Then moving down further to my chest and my stomach. Finally reaching down to my legs and my feet, taking stock of each notable sensation along the way. This morning as I perform my scan, I notice that my limbs are a little too warm under the comforter and my muscles are sore from a workout I did yesterday. I feel the warmth of Juniper at my side, who has now rolled onto her back to lean against me. These aren’t the things I’m looking for, so I keep moving. Then I feel it, a small heaviness in my chest. It’s no beast or ravenous void, merely a slight, nervous weight on my heart, more akin to lonesomeness than loneliness itself. As my counselor has taught me, I acknowledge it, welcoming it’s presence into what's real. I breathe deep, and then I get up.
On these kinds of days, what I long for is someone to say good morning to through sleepy eyes and a still sleepier voice. I long for someone to make decisions with, someone to comfortably brush against as we pass each other in the kitchen at breakfast, someone to call me when I’m out late to ask when I’ll be home. I long to be asked how I am with the space to bare the full weight of my soul in response. I know even in marriage that’s not the reality for many, and it points to the deep need for companionship all of us feel. We were made to be in union with our creator and each other, and I’m merely experiencing the brokenness of that with the specific flavor of singleness sprinkled over it. But having sampled this particular flavor for nearly three decades, it’s getting a little stale.
This morning, what I longed for most amidst all that was the balm of sitting quietly in the arms of a spouse, letting physical touch do the work of comfort that words just sometimes cannot. Letting the pain of sadness meet the medicine of skin. Not an amorous embrace, but a nurturing one. The kind that doesn’t answer to time limits or shrink from vulnerability. The kind that is simply present.
I place my own hand on my collarbone and make do with rhythmic breathing instead.
There is nothing left to do for it, so I take my coffee and I sit down to pray quietly with the Lord. As I do, I acknowledge again that heaviness. My body still craves a physical embrace, but my soul knows it’s a deeper need. So I invite the Lord in.
I bring that small weight to him, knowing he can carry it. Knowing that the desire to bare my soul is always available with him. I wrestle with contentment and disappointment. I ask him for a husband, and I surrender to the present reality of my singleness. I confess that Jesus is my perfect bridegroom even while I long for the earthly shadow of a divine marriage. This morning there are no quick fixes, only holy promises and the hope that they’ll be worth the faith I put in them.
I sit with him for a while, letting the ministry of his presence be the only ministry I receive. Letting his written word be the communication of love I so deeply long for. Letting my sanctified imagination carry me to sit at his very feet. It’s not really enough, and at the same time it is.
I sit like that until the demands of the day force me to move. Before I get up, I do one more scan. The heaviness is still there, but it’s woven with a deeper peace and a renewed sense of connection to my true beloved.
Perhaps we don’t get the connection we crave physically here on this earth, whether we’re married or single. Maybe that’s the point. That our broken longing would draw us to our great husband who stands ready to comfort us. Maybe this is what it means to be held.
Cover image by Morgan Lane.