Below is an excerpt from my book about singleness, Your Single Happiness. Can we be happy when we’re single? How much is marriage our decision and our effort, and how much do we leave up to God to decide? And what the heck do we do about staying pure? Your Single Happiness looks to answer these questions and more.
There I was, ten years old, crying at the back of the bus as our school tour to the small town of Oudsthoorn ended. For months I liked this girl, you see, and plucked up the courage to buy her a necklace in the gift store. What girl wouldn’t like jewellery?
“What’s this?” she asked.
“I- I got it for you.”
“Cause. Cause I like you.”
She frowns and looks at me as if I’ve just told her the worst news she’s ever heard.
“You take that back,” she says, shoving it in my hands. “Don’t give it to me. I don’t like you and never will!”
By now a few people had gathered. I can hear their whispers. One laughs outright – her friend.
“You thought she would like you?” she cackles. “You? Of all people?”
A few minutes later I climb into the bus, trying my best to pull my heart together. Just my luck – there’s only a seat left towards the back. I’ve now got to walk past everyone. As I walk there I can hear the murmuring and giggling. And it’s about to get worse, because I can feel I’m about to burst.
Why? Why again? Why do girls just never like me?
That unanswered question of worthiness once again hits me like an oil tanker. Once again, I wasn’t worthy enough. I didn’t have the looks. I was a geek. I didn’t play the sports. I wasn’t funny enough.
I was just not good enough.
It sends me over the edge and I’m already sobbing before I sit down. My teacher doesn’t exactly make it easier when she gets on the bus and says loudly,
“Ryan, are you okay?”
Everyone turns. More snickering and giggling. The shame of it all! But I don’t care anymore – I’ve lost all dignity anyway. I might as well just carry on crying.
See, I always had a problem with girls. Since I was even four or five, I really liked girls. I wanted a girlfriend from as young as I can remember. I cherished girls and thought that nothing in the world could be more pure and innocent and desirable as a girl.
The problem was girls never liked me. Ever. I tried everything. One of the most popular guys in my school had a fringe that curled and I tried to get mine to curl in the same way one day. All I got were laughs and questions. I mean, I know in retrospect it was a weird thing to do, but I just wanted to be accepted. We all do, don’t we?
You see, shy guys finish last.
But I could never quite give up on these strange creatures called girls. I just liked them too much. I adored them. I loved the idea of having one one day; my very own girl. I loved the idea of romance and slow dancing and saying all the perfect things at the perfect time to my perfect girl who thinks I’m the perfect guy. I had ideals. But I could never live up to them – not in my eyes or anyone else’s. My self-worth issues only ever got worse as I grew up.
We tend to think that only those who have gone through relationship after relationship are those who have a problem with the opposite sex. Not true. Self-esteem was my problem.
Then something happened in my Christian life. In my church it suddenly became godly not to date! Unless you were verysure that the person you wanted to date was the One. When I say sure it was basically that God had to have told you.
Well, I could do this I thought. I could hear from God and if He’s going to tell me who the One is then I don’t have to worry about rejection anymore! Because it’ll be a done deal! What a liberating concept!
And there were enough testimonies to validate it. People came to our church and preached their story to show how well this worked. Youth conferences always had a slot to address dating. There were ways and means in which you could check if it was God’s will – for example, speak to the dad first and tell her you want to date her. If he gives the go-ahead, it’s God confirming it. Then speak to your elders. If they think it’s okay, God is giving the go-ahead. But you need three confirmations – speak to your parents; or see if He gives you a verse; or something along those lines. Then ask her out!
I followed the rules but so many didn’t. And guess what? They even got to date the girls I really liked! Even if they dumped her a few times she would still go back. Why? I’m following the rules! I got all the confirmations! What is going on? Why does she still not like me?
My cellphone rings.
“I can’t believe you would do that to me,” says a voice from the other side. It’s a girl I really, really like. I’m actually in love with her, although she actually doesn’t know.
“Do- do what?”
“Speak to my dad without speaking to me!”
“Yes! My dad says you asked him if we could go out! And you didn’t even respect me enough to speak to me before my dad? I can’t believe it. I would never go out with you!”
But, I’m thinking to myself, I followed all the rules! I was Mr. followed-it-all and-done-it-all-right, but I end with nothing. And my friends – well, they do it all wrong and they end with something!
And why doesn’t she like me? What’s wrong with me?
Most of the books I’ve read about this subject of singleness or the subject of dating come from people who have done the dating thing to death. I am the complete opposite. When I first wrote this book (2004) the total amount of official girlfriends I had had in my whole life was… two. Oh there was a girl I really liked in High School and she liked me, but I was too darn shy and too slow and too darn blinded by then to believe a girl could actually like me that she got over me. I only found out years later she really did like me. But we never officially went out (although we spent lots of time together and I used to phone her a lot).
God does not work like a textbook. You can’t follow the rules and then expect results. Life is a journey not a bullet-point document. Maybe you’re looking for the secret for singleness or the top five keys for finding your partner. You won’t find that here. If God was about formulas the scriptures would be written in bullet point. This thing is all about relationship.
Can you enjoy your singleness and be content where you’re at? Can you find purpose in it? Is there such a thing as lifelong singleness, and is that a good thing? Is marriage better than singleness? Are married people better than single people? How can I find someone? How can I feel get rid of my self-esteem issues? How can I stop dating? How much of this is all about what I choose and how much is in God’s hands? Am I supposed to know what I want in life and a spouse? Why does this seem to take so much effort and heartache but for others it seems so easy? Why are some people blessed so much with this and others not? How do I stay pure?
There are a lot of questions and many times our married friends forget all too quickly just how difficult this can be to navigate through. I hope I manage to lead you to God through this book in a way where you can hear what He says about your singleness. There is a way. The Bible does address this, and very practically. My prayer is that you will see that God has a special place in his heart for you, and that you will truly find He is the greatest treasure you could ever want.
Your Single Happiness, a new book of an old book of mine, has released! I’m very excited to be releasing this book!
So what do I mean by “a new book of an old book”? In 2004 I was tired of “having tried everything” and still being single. For most of my life I battled with self-worth issues, while being absolutely fascinated with girls and romance. But my dreams and hopes of being married at the age of 24 had, by now, been shattered too many times, and I was over it.
This was augmented by a very popular but over-idealistic view of dating, which had influenced large parts of the church, including my own church. It’s still around today. The idea goes like this: that you shouldn’t date unless you know you’re going to marry that person. You can find this sort of thinking in various guises and forms today, and I had bought into it completely.
But in the end I only found myself more confused about God and his love for me, since none of the legalistic methods of dating, despite a plethora of promises, actually worked.
God had to take me on a very personal journey that changed my approach to my relationship with Him and my life, and it was in this journey that I found a love for theology. After much study and seeing what I believe the Bible really says about singleness, I realised there wasn’t a book on the subject that provided a comprehensive theology. This has not changed. All the Christian books I’ve encountered on singleness only cover principles and guidelines for dating, or use the Bible loosely to prove a particular teaching. There’s very little that goes to the heart of the matter, dealing only with outward behaviour instead of really asking hard questions about God, ourselves, and romance itself!
After a long time of struggle and searching I eventually wrote a book, to chronicle all that I discovered. I called it Single and published it in 2005. One couple I know actually attribute the book for being the catalyst for them getting married! But some years later I stopped producing it because it needed major editing.
I still receive many requests for it, though, and finally decided in 2014, as a kind-of ten year anniversary for the book, to finish the editing. The result is Your Single Happiness. Even though I’m now married, I didn’t change the original thoughts in the book, because I still think they were valid, and too many books about singleness are written from the vantage point of someone who is married! But I’ve edited the verboseness of the book – in ten years, I’ve learned to write things better.
Can we be happy when we’re single? How much is marriage our decision and our effort, and how much do we leave up to God to decide? And what the heck do we do about staying pure during the wait? Your Single Happiness looks to answer these questions and more.
I feel the book is highly relevant for single people today, especially because of the very positive feedback I receive from people who have read it. Your Single Happiness is the book I was looking for when I was single, and I believe it is the book many others are also looking for today.