On my 27th birthday, I woke up with a heavy heart. I shuffled around the house, brushing my teeth, making my bed and feeling sorry for myself. I'd had big hopes for the night before - a guy I liked was coming to my party and I was sure it was going to be the start of something for us.
I was wrong. It wasn't.
As I made my breakfast, I started feeling frustrated. But not with the situation. With myself. I'd spent the night before with 30 of my friends, who were there to celebrate me and fill me with love for the year ahead. Here I was focusing on one dude who didn't give me the attention I'd hoped for.
I knew, in that moment, I had to take a break from dating. I knew it had become an idol. I knew I was gripping my dreams of marriage and the future so tightly that I was strangling all of the joy out of my life.
I get a lot of emails from people who are wondering how to meet someone. First of all, let me just say: I hear you. Unending singleness can make you ache. It feels lonely. It feels like everyone else is in a club and, no matter how hard you try, you can't swing an invite.
I used to read blogs and mentally catalogue how girls met their husbands:
A blind date? Good!
High school? Ugh. Bad.
Online? Maybe that could work!
A mutual friend? YES YES YES.
Reconnected over Facebook? How does that even happen? Should I poke people?
The grocery store? Wait! I go there all the time!
I used to tell my roommate, Melissa: If I don't meet a guy TODAY, I am going to lose it! And then, I'd go to bed again, yet another day had passed and I felt like I was the only single girl left in the city.
I told my sisters all the time: I just want to be someone's Friday night. I want one person to want their weekend to revolve around me. I want to be somebody's first pick for New Year's Eve and automatic wedding date. I just want to be one person's person.
As I sat there on my 27th birthday, I assessed the situation. According to the life plan I'd mapped out when I was eight years old, I was five years behind when I thought I'd get married and two babies behind schedule.
OK, I thought. This way of living is not working. I felt an overwhelming peace as I realized I couldn't do anything more to meet my husband. I'd tried everything. My only options left were to try to live my life to the fullest, doing the things that gave me joy. And pray he'd come along.
But I couldn't control this situation; I had to let go.
And, a few months later, I sat in Uganda on one of our last nights there. Everyone had gone to bed, but I was sitting outside after dinner with Bob Goff. He barely knew me - we'd met on the trip and it was a large group. But, as we sat there, he said: Make sure that when a guy comes along who wants to be with you, you don't slow down. If he can keep up with you, let him run alongside you. But keep running and never slow down for someone.
I let his words soak in as we wrapped up the trip. I realized I'd had the wrong idea all along. Throughout my 20s, I'd been running. And then I'd veer left if I thought I could meet someone. And then I'd run again. Then do a few hurdles. And veer right. Then I'd start again.
I was constantly pivoting, chasing and veering, hoping I'd find the right guy for me.
I felt completely ready to get married long before I did. But, the truth is, I was wrong. I wasn't ready to date Chris a minute before it happened. I needed to wrestle with marriage as an idol. I needed to feel the loneliness, knowing now it has shaped who I am.
I needed to go deep into the valley and sit in the darkness before I could experience all of the beauty the light had to offer.
For those of you who are in the thick of it: does it make it easier to hear my story? Maybe not. But, I hope it helps you believe that you are not the last single person left on Earth. I have been there. It hurts and it's OK to feel sad. You are beautiful and worthy of love. And, even when it feels unendingly lonely: you are never, ever alone. On the good days and the bad days, we are in this world together.
If you want to learn more, you can read most posts about my break from dating here.