Longing and Hope

Longing and Hope

I curled my hair this morning. Big loose curls that I tousled with fingertips and hairspray.

As the clock eventually inched toward bedtime, I ran my fingers through it a few times, and then I wept as I put it away into its nightly scrunchie.

I wasn’t expecting a date to show up at my door tonight, a man to appear just to admire and stroke my hair, but I also wouldn’t have been opposed to the idea.

I curled my hair for me today. To make myself feel nice. To remind myself that I am not waiting for something, or someone, to be an adult. To feebly declare that my fingers running through these brown strands is enough.

I get to look beautiful for myself. My feminist heart knows this is true, that curls and mascara are not for a man’s wandering gaze but for my two confident blue eyes to see me—just me—smiling back in the mirror and feel my worthiness, my belonging, my full-grown identity.

I am not alone in affirming my worth. I am surrounded by a group of women who bend over backwards to love me in all the ways my heart understands. My dearest friends champion my work, my character, my story and my life at unprecedented levels. These women make me believe in the transforming power of community more than I’ll ever be able to put into words.

And yet, despite my best efforts and theirs, tonight the tears came.

I am slowly coming to believe that no amount of feminism, no level of confidence, no amount of work around my singleness, no amount of incredible community, will deaden the longing. I am still reckoning with the idea that buried deep inside of me is a longing for partnership that I cannot numb away, grow out of or fill with other relationships.

My hair may literally ache for the rest of my life for the touch of a man that may never come.

To be honest, I feel angry about that. Not so much about the man not coming, but about my inability to escape the longing. It feels cruel of God to not take away the swallowing ache, whether through marriage or a killing off of my desire all together. I sometimes pray that, that if God knows a spouse is not coming, He will utterly destroy my desire for marriage.

The pain feels so pointless if the happy ending isn’t coming. What is the value of longing if it goes unfulfilled?

I think this is why I look for shallow hope. A message from an online dating site, a cute mutual friend at a party, a new guy sans ring at church. I need to know the longing has an expiration date. I need to know there is even the slightest “hope” this ache won’t last forever.

I have a shallow hope right now, a boy who statistically speaking is not my husband but who also is not not my husband. I think he knows my name and we will cross paths again because of shared friendships, and so for the last three months I have held my breath, hoping that the ache will soon retreat for good. I have numbed any impending pain with a neat “what if” and “well, maybe.” I have created simple stories in my head that end with desire fulfilled and this particular suffering past.

And this reprieve has been nice. This hope, however small, has brought comfort and life, or at least it’s felt that way. Having a name and a face to plaster into the vision board of my head feels just a little less painful than a huge question mark pushing against everything else I thought my life would be.

But as I walked outside a few weeks ago, moved my legs and breathed deep, I realized how weak my possibly-but-probably-not-future-spouse hope was. As the chilly air moved deeply in and out of my lungs, I was struck with the shallowness of this hope. My breath caught as I realized how much I was putting my hope in this possible match, how much I just wanted to know there was light at the end of this tunnel, how much I found comfort in a boy who might not remember my name and how little I was grounding my longing in the only thing that will ever satisfy.

I am working in counseling right now to pick up the babies I have thrown out with the bath water. The truths that got lost as I have sorted out my faith from bad belief in the last couple of years. I want to leave lying in the mud phrases like “The only thing that will ever satisfy,” because it sounds obnoxious, like the nonsense we put on coffee mugs in Christian bookstores. But what I am realizing is that sometimes the obnoxious stuff is painfully true.

The reality is longing shall be my lifelong friend, for I am a human living in a broken world that cannot satisfy my every need, want and whim. The truth, however obnoxious, is that I was made for an eternal Kingdom, and as long as I am locked in this uneternal world I will want for more. The truth is that, even if this man does fall madly in love with me and makes me a bride, placing my hope in him is a recipe to crush us both. He cannot bear the weight of my longing heart any better than I can myself.

What is the value of longing if it goes unfulfilled?

When I choose to open myself up to the depth of this longing, it reciprocates. The depth of my pain is met with a depth of hope. A deep well of hope that, with gentleness and power, assures my soul that someday every nook and cranny of this big aching heart will be satisfied. That, more than a slight hope, I have a deep confidence that this ache will not last forever.

The Day the Dancer Died: A Journey to Rejecting the Thin-Ideal and Embracing Self-Love

The Day the Dancer Died: A Journey to Rejecting the Thin-Ideal and Embracing Self-Love

Orgullosamente Negra, Orgullosamente Yo.

Orgullosamente Negra, Orgullosamente Yo.