the landless tribe: being single on Valentine's Day
In college, when Valentine's Day rolled around, some of the girls in my dorm went into mourning the week of Valentine's Day because they didn't have a significant other to share it with. And, while they girls who were dating went out for dates, and returned with chocolates and roses, the girls who were single sat in their rooms and ate ramen in their p.j.'s. Some of the girls tried to reframe Valentine's Day by calling it Single Awareness Day, until the mourners pointed out that the acronym spelled, "S-A-D."
While I have never shed a tear about Valentine's Day itself, I know what it's like to watch other people enjoying what you would like to enjoy, too. I know what it's like to either feel -- or, in fact, be -- shut out from enjoying aspects of life because I'm uncoupled. I know a lot of you have, too. The posts I wrote about why it's hard to be single in general, and why it's hard to be single in the church, have gotten more comments than any other posts I've written.
To be fair, dating and marriage are hard, too, but the hardest and most painful parts of relationships tend to take place behind closed doors. It's the happy scenes -- the flowers that get delivered to work, the Christmas Eve proposal in the snow, the walk down the aisle, the "just married" convertible tailing tin cans in its wake -- that often take place in public. They're moments we all get to see.
Sometimes singleness feels like the inverse of that. No one looks at me grocery shopping alone, telling the hotel front desk clerk I'll only need one room key, asking the hostess at the restaurant if I can get a table for one, or sitting in a movie theater by myself and says, "OOOOh, that single thing seems so glamorous. I wish I could be that lucky..."
Most of the best moments of my singleness happen behind closed doors, things that only God and I know about. Except maybe the neighbor for whom I made some soup. Or the child who heard me read them a bedtime story because I don't have children of my own to put to sleep.
While these moments are precious to me, Hallmark doesn't make a card for them. And FTD doesn't send a special "Congrats on your Singleness!" bouquet.
A lot of other saints in history who have been single (including St. Valentine, by the way!) used their singleness to serve others and to develop deep intimacy with God. They didn't leave the world their biological descendants or their estates or their investment portfolios. They left us with their legacies of faithfulness and humility and wisdom. They left us with orphanages and hospitals and schools and hand-written copies of the Scriptures and troves of sage wisdom.
This week I was reading Joshua 13, where the Promised Land gets divided up amongst the twelve tribes of Israel.
And one verse of the chapter stood out to me, especially as I am reminded of my singleness this week.
"But Moses gave no inheritance to the tribe of Levi.
God, the God of Israel, is their inheritance, just as he told them." (v. 33)
It echoes what God told the Levites when he designated them to be the tribe that would serve full-time at the temple and petition God on behalf of their people in Deut 18. God said he wasn't gifting them with any material possessions -- other than enough land to pasture their animals -- because he alone was their inheritance.
In the moment, I can imagine it might have been disappointing for some people in the tribe of Levi to watch the other tribes building homesteads, seeding gardens, spreading out and settling down, while the Levites simply (and literally) sacrificed.
And yet, I realized as I was reading the passage this week, if a Levite had had such a narrow and literal view of what it meant to be blessed in this life -- that the people who got possessions and households were the wealthiest -- then the Levites would've missed out on an amazing opportunity.
True, they didn't get a piece of the literal Promised Land. But in a much bigger, greater, deeper, truer sense, they were the luckiest of any of the tribes. Because they inherited the spiritual Promised Land -- the opportunity to enjoy the company of God.
So, my single friends, if you're feeling "landless" today, wishing or dreaming or aching for the same inheritance that lots of coupled people will get today in the form of rings and hearts and chocolates and champagne and roses, remember that you've received an inheritance that's deep, great, big and true.
And who knows if you'll be single for a season or for a lifetime. But no matter what, I hope you live into it with everything you have.
I hope your soul enjoys every single second as you press into the Love that loves to love you.