I don’t often write about being single. Mostly because while my “singleness” is a part of my life, it’s simply not the main focus of my life or ministry. For today, however, I am choosing to talk about it. But this post is for everyone, so if you’re not single, I hope you’ll stick around.
I have an amazing, fulfilling life. I am surrounded by the most incredible and devoted Godly men and women who challenge me, love me, bless me, minister to me, and just generally “put up” with me every day. Moments of loneliness do come, but they are rare and usually short-lived. It wasn’t always that way, but God has transformed my heart over the years to bring me to this place.
Yet even with a fulfilled life, there is a very short list of things that occasionally make me “feel” single. One of those things is coming home from a trip to a quiet, empty house, with no one there to hug me and tell me I was missed. I don’t love that part of being single.
The other is being sick, and this is probably when I “feel” it the most. I really struggle emotionally and spiritually with being alone when I’m not well. No one to hold my hand and tell me it’s going to be OK, pray over me, drive me to the doctor, or bring me soup and meds. Several months ago, while driving myself to the emergency room, I lost it. In a feverish panic, crying out, “God, I’m going to die alone!” Oh, the melodrama of a single Italian woman with a fever!
And then came October 17, 2011.
October. My favorite month of the year. I love the crisp air, the colors, the sound of the leaves blowing, and the promise of the harvest. In fact, I’ve often said that if God called me to marriage, I would want an October wedding.
On this beautiful day in October, though, sickness would enter my life in a way I’d never known before. This wasn’t the flu. This was no sinus infection. This wasn’t going to be me driving myself to the store to get my own OJ and cold meds. This was way bigger than that.
About an hour after I got the news, I was driving across town to my parents’ house to tell them. That hour had been a whirlwind of information overload and emotional chaos. And as the surreal became real…
Oh my God. I have cancer. And I’m single.
I immediately started to pray, and I remember my exact words.
OK, God, this is going to be a weak area for me spiritually, so I need you to perfect my weakness in your strength. Like right now. Set me like a seal upon your heart.
From that moment on, as tough as this road has been, not for one day have I felt single or alone in this journey. Not for one second. His presence has been felt at every step. He is faithful.
I have also been lavished with love and the presence of my community. Each of my former pastors have visited me at the hospital and at home, my family has been present with me for all of it, and my friends have been present with meals and companionship. Since then, I have continually thanked and praised Him for filling loneliness with the prayers and presence of my community.
But God would show me something unexpected about my heart. He would show me that as wonderful as my community is, they are not the reason that I have never felt alone in this crazy ride through cancer.
Just a couple of weeks ago, I was working on the next chapter in my book and focusing on verses that I’ve read a hundred times before, and the familiar words jumped out at me in a way that had nothing to do with the subject matter of the chapter I was writing. And I nearly fell out of my chair.
Therefore I am now going to allure her; I will lead her into the wilderness and speak tenderly to her. There I will give her back her vineyards, and will make the Valley of Achor a door of hope…“In that day,” declares the Lord, “you will call me ‘my husband’; you will no longer call me ‘my master’ … I will betroth you to me forever; I will betroth you in righteousness and justice, in love and compassion. I will betroth you in faithfulness, and you will acknowledge the Lord” (Hosea 2:14-15, 19-20, NIV).
Upon reading those words, He captivated me with new truth. How had I missed it before? I haven’t felt single through this journey because quite possibly for the first time in my life, I have allowed Him to be my Husband. And just as that realization began to penetrate my heart, he allowed me to recall the prayer I prayed in my car two months before on that dark day in October…
Set me like a seal upon your heart, like a seal on your arm… (Song of Solomon 8:6)
His wedding vow had long before been spoken. But mine was spoken in the car that day when I prayed… Set me like a seal upon your heart. And I meant it. From that point on through this journey, I finally allowed Him to be the Husband that He always was.
I don’t know why I was surprised by this. After all, 2011 was the year of Dreams, right? And He has been courting me all along. Just months before in Africa, He promised that He wouldn’t relent until He had my whole heart. I was being prepared for my dream of an October wedding and didn’t even know it.
October 17th was the day I found out I had cancer. But that day was about so much more than that.
October 17th was my wedding day.