Sometimes life just doesn’t “fit” anymore. Spring is coming, and we’ll be going to the back of our closets to pull out our warm weather apparel. Some things we’ll look at with new eyes and wonder if we really wore that last year. Some things will be too small or rarely — okay, never — too big. I can get flustered with the whole process and think I need to reinvent my wardrobe, only to come back to the tried-and-true style that is me. Only then do I feel comfortable and able to move on to more important matters.
If all trials in our lives were as simple as wardrobe changes, we would have less turmoil, but there would also be less growth. For when life changes come that thrust us into unknown territory, we have no choice but to begin the search for “who am I now?” Some of you have known this truth through the death of a loved one, a devastating divorce, a job loss, a move to a new location where you don’t know a soul, or just becoming an empty-nester after years of homework, school programs, and ball practice to fill your calendar. For me it happened when I became widowed after 31 years of marriage. It happened suddenly, without warning, at the same time my youngest child was about to get married.
In my search to find out how to make life fit as a middle-age single woman, I made a lot of decisions quickly. Within a month I started working again in my career as a free-lance court reporter. I had retired only months earlier. Advice was given not to move from my home for at least a year, but I had it sold and another house purchased in six months. Working again plus all the details involved in buying and selling a house kept me very busy, which made the grief tolerable. But the first night in my new house, sitting with unpacked boxes all around me, I didn’t feel peace. It just felt strange.
It seemed to me that life was pretty much divided into singles and couples. Even though I’d been half of a couple for a long time, I was now single. Married friends still reached out to me, but now it’s one-on-one with the girls. And frankly, the one time I did decide to attend a couples’ event, it just didn’t feel right. My change in status screamed too loudly within me. The new rhythm of my life was now learning to navigate it alone. The best advice I can give someone who finds themselves suddenly single is to to seek out some single friends as soon as possible. The Lord gave me two such friends and a dear sister-in-law who also lost her husband. They helped fill the gap immeasurably. .
Nine months after moving into my new house, I became restless again and decided I needed to move 30 miles to the city where I did most of my free-lance work. I rented out my house to my son and had signed a lease on an apartment days after making the decision. It was very exciting decorating my new apartment, even buying new furniture, and getting ready for the change that I was sure was what I needed. But that night after I moved in, I sat all alone and wondered what in the world I had done. Now my children weren’t even near me. I felt lonely, so lonely.
I toughed it out for five months and then cried out to the Lord to please get me back home. I didn’t know how it would happen with a twelve-month lease. But He heard my cry and sent me someone to sublet my apartment, and home I went, right on top of my son who was still renting my house! At that time he was a salesman and on the road quite a bit, so it wasn’t too inconvenient for him.
Though there were still many adjustments I had to learn to make during this season, the one constant in my life had always been God. He knew I was shaken and that I would have to wander a bit, but He brought me back to the center of who I am, only not as I had known myself, but the one He was molding me to be after having passed through this fire. And I just wanted to serve Him.
I had planned to write about my season of singleness, and I believe the Lord is saying “now.” So this will be the first of several posts that I pray will help someone else whose life doesn’t fit anymore. After coming home I started a Bible study with some friends based on the book of James, entitled “Refined by the Fire.” It is written for anyone at any stage of life, but we opened it up for singles. I wrote it, just the Holy Spirit and me, and will post it on my website for anyone who is interested. It came from a heart that was desperately looking to God for everything good that He wanted to do in me through what I had been through.
Father God, I believe your Word, so when you say in James 1:2, to “consider it joy when we go through trials of various kinds,” I know it is truth. Let my testimony speak to those who who are hurting right now. You created us to be who we are regardless of the changes in our lives, and there is purpose for everything that you allow to touch us. I want them to know that you will see them through if they look to you. And not only do you bring us back to the core of who we are, but you bring us closer to who we ultimately will be someday, and that is conformed to the image of your Son. And He is the perfect fit. In the precious name of Jesus, amen.