Today’s guest post comes from Amber Wackford —a student, counselor, and blogger who truly loves her work. Amber sees counseling as “a special invitation by the people stepping into my office to sit with them in their most vulnerable places.” (Note: Amber’s “Dan and Rachel” refers to a different couple. … I made my bridesmaids wear red!)
In the back of my closet hangs Butter Dress, the most infamous of the bridesmaid’s dresses I have worn since graduating from college five years ago. It’s floor length, poorly fitting, and its color truly resembles the inside of a Country Crock container. I can say with absolutely certainty that I will never wear this dress again. But, I can also say with absolute certainty that I love this dress. In all of its ugly, it reminds me of something beautiful and important.
Two and a half years ago, I wore Butter Dress in my friend Rachel’s wedding. Rachel lived across the hall from me freshman year, and we bonded over shared histories of growing up on military bases and a love for reading. When she asked me to stand for her, I knew it wasn’t a light question aimed at solely getting my opinion on dresses (obviously), flowers, or table settings. She was asking me to make a covenant with her, similar to the covenant she was making with Dan in their marriage vows. She was asking me to stand for her in wedding and in her life, to support and encourage her and her husband through the duration of their marriage so that they didn’t become another divorce statistic. She was asking me to be her friend for the long haul. By simply saying “yes” when she asked me to be a bridesmaid, I was saying “yes” to living in community with her on this side of heaven.
I said “yes” to Rachel, and I have said “yes” to Joanna, Julie, and Danielle. Butter Dress has found kinship in Strapless Dress, Blue Dress, and Grape Dress, and my closest has become a reflection of the “always a bridesmaid” cliché. The thing that seems to strike everyone in my life as a little strange, though, is that I wouldn’t have it any other way.
I’m on my way toward 30 and I’m nowhere near ready to take on being a “bride.” I’m not in a place where I can put on a white dress, throw a big party for my friends and family, and force them into doing the Chicken Dance, nor am I in a place to be someone’s wife, with all the challenges and joys that brings. I’m not in that place because God’s not called me there, and until He does I’m committed to embracing the moments of my singleness for as long as they last.
Truth is that this becomes difficult when the people around me – the people of the church, “my people” – don’t embrace singleness with the same zeal. When I’ve attended these weddings, I’ve been bombarded with questions about my less-than-busy dating life and the type of guy I’m looking for because a well-intentioned congregant’s hairdresser’s cousin’s son is my age and available.
When I attend weddings, I’m not provided with the opportunity to talk about the really exciting ways that God’s moving and using me – through my Master’s degree classes, or the research project I’m wading through writing, or the middle school and high school girls Sunday school class I’m privileged to teach, or the fun trips I’m taking and the new people I’m meeting. It feels often like I’m expected to wear black and drown my sorrows in a pint of Ben & Jerry’s Chubby Hubby because I have no hubby of my own.
Forgive me for sounding flippant, but I much prefer to wear my sneakers, grab a cup of coffee, and live my life in forward momentum. Life truly is too short, and there are too many people who’ve not experienced the enveloping love of Christ, for me to feel too bad for too long about not having a companion for the journey. Because the point is, single or married, I’m not alone. I have God’s ever-present help and presence, and He’s opted to take care of me – and everyone else – by creating us to be in relationship with each other.
Seems to me that when I said “yes” to standing for Rachel, Joanna, Julie, and Danielle, I joined not only with them to support their marriage, but they joined with me. They’ve agreed to welcome me into their lives and their homes, and to engage with me in the kinds of friendships that last a lifetime. They’ve partnered with me to offer encouragement, accountability, and admonition. They’ve stepped in to take some of the sting out of the loneliness of being single.
I think if we as a church opted to operate in community at large the way we operate in weddings, in making covenants and joining in partnerships, then maybe being a single adult wouldn’t be such a big deal. Maybe being single could be seen as a godly calling, as “good,” as Paul describes it in 1 Corinthians 7. Like my closet holds room for Butter Dress, a one-of-a-kind creation, so should there be room for singles in the community of the church.
So, if you’re part of the church, I’m asking you to make room for me. I’m also asking that you stop trying to set me up with your hairdresser’s cousin’s son who’s about my age and available, and give me permission to simply enjoy this season of being a bridesmaid.