I wanted to tell more than just my stories on this blog; I wanted to get stories from other people – men, women, dating, single, living at home, living not at home, etc. So I recruited some guest bloggers. I’m excited to share Dave’s story with you today.
The Weight of Singleness
As a teenager, I had many aspirations but only a few that, from what I perceived from the world at that time, were realistic. Along with the dwindling 1st grade hope of becoming a professional football player, there were more realistic ambitions in my life, such as earning starting positions on the football and wrestling squads, a 4.0 GPA, and – like any young teenage boy – getting the girl. Of course, the assumption was the marriage thing, along with kids and the comfortable family structure that was modeled to me growing up, would follow.
As a teenage boy, there is not a lot of deep thought about marriage or a family. It was just assumed that was the way life would lead because that is what I saw to be the norm. Never did it once cross my mind that I would be approaching the age of 30 and, instead of sharing a house purchased by my hard-earned money with my wife and 5 kids, renting a 3-bedroom apartment with 2 other men.
As a young child, I was ahead of the other kids in a lot of things. I aspired to be the best in school from day one, always sought to please my teachers and my parents, and took to the sport of wrestling at the very young age of six. I was also ahead of the other kids in my BMI. No, this isn’t an acronym for some scale of intelligence or competency test. I am referring to what is otherwise commonly known as Body Mass Index.
It is true I did start wrestling at the age of six. I was in kindergarten and at my first weigh-in I tipped the scales at a whopping 93lbs! So, being so far ahead of the scale (literally) than the other kids my age, my first wrestling season I was matched up with kids that were nearly twice my age. Not because I was that good but because we weighed the same. As I grew into middle school and high school, I did not grow “into” my BMI (as so many said I would) My BMI, however, grew in correlation with my age. By my freshman year in high school, at a towering 5’-9 ¾” tall, I weighed-in at a more than respective 228lbs.
So why am I sharing this? This is after all a blog about singleness, right? You may be wondering if you accidently stumbled on a blog about overcoming the long-term psychological effects of child-hood obesity. But, I believe my scale tipping and BMI shattering at a young age, has had profound influence on me. The experiences, influences, and moral values, often taught by the people around us, shape and develop young peoples’ perceptions of themselves and of the world around them. For me, and I am sure for others as well, body image was one of these influences that impacted my perception of myself and of those around me.
The thought process goes something like this: “Girls only like a certain ‘look’ and if I am 75 lbs outside the lines (literally think of a coloring book) of that ‘look,’ then I won’t get the girl. If I don’t get the girl, then what? Then I am alone. I won’t have warmth and affection from a wife and I won’t have a family to call my own. I’ll be alone.”
This thought process lends to the hand of a double-edged insecurity: relationship-insecurity and singleness-insecurity.
To put it simply, relationship-insecurity has led me into a number of debacles in dating and pursuing women. From fear of rejection to dull-witted passivity, and a wide array of other issues in between, relationship-insecurity has fleshed itself out in nearly every dating relationship I have had. One instance during a long tenure of on-again, off-again dating, I found myself so consumed with wanting just please the woman I was “dating.” Thinking that I was pleasing her by letting her have whatever she wanted, I would defer every decision in the relationship to her. This, of course, was in attempt to get her to like me and continue to like me, since I wasn’t winning anyone over with my good looks. However, it eliminated any sense of responsibility to lead in the relationship as I passively and intently shifted it to her.
On the other side of relationship-insecurity is the stabbing emptiness of singleness-insecurity. For me, this comes from unmet expectations, both my own and the expectations of those around me. Of course, at the age of nearly 30, I had (and still have) an expectation that I should have married at 25 and be on my 5th kid by now. My family, though they most likely wouldn’t admit it, shared this expectation, and still do. So, as things didn’t go according to plan, I started to ask questions like, “will I ever get married?” or, “As I get older, what will my body image look like?” or, probably the most difficult question for me, “What will family look like for me? Who will I belong to?”
So, it stands that the relationship-insecurity fleshing out as the imperceptible passive “yes-man,” and the singleness-insecurity fleshing out as permanent isolation, at the core of it, are not that much different. In both of these insecurities is an unmet need to be accepted. Both insecurities are stemmed from a fear that being loved by another and knowing that someone is there to turn to in times of emotional, physical, psychological, and spiritual need, may never happen.
In the same way as being a kindergartner in the same wrestling weight class as 5th and 6th graders led me to search for acceptance in winning (cause everyone loves a winner), in a relational context, fear of unacceptance drives a person to search for satisfying this fear in another person. The problem with this is that in both of these cases, acceptance cannot be found, or at least, it doesn’t last too long. Eventually, I lost a wrestling match, and eventually, people let us down. Just ask any married couple if their marriage was everything they hoped and dreamed it would be.
The point is, as a fat kid, I wanted to be loved and accepted and thought if I lost the weight and became fit, then I would finally have what I needed. Well, I did lose the weight, but I still did not have the love and acceptance I was seeking because I was searching in a place where it could not be found: body image and relationships. The truth is that the search for satisfaction in love and acceptance is, actually, a perception problem. Not in the way I perceive myself or the way I perceive the world around me, but in the way I perceive God, which, in effect, shapes the way I perceive myself and the world around me.
If I perceive God as mean, distant, and unjust for leaving me in my singleness, then I have concluded that I deserve something that God is withholding. In this case, I believe I deserve the satisfaction of having a wife and children and I believe that I deserve to have acceptance met in them. Since God is in control of everything and I am still single, God must be withholding.
The question is, though, what does the Bible tell me about what I am entitled to? In my pursuit of acceptance, I have clearly made losing weight and having a wife and kids my end-all goal. I have made these things my idol, which God clearly opposes (Ex. 20:2-3). Not only have I made these things my idol, but I am opposing God by believing he is wrong in his ordination of what he gives me. However, the Bible tells me I do deserve something. In fact, my search for acceptance in other things has earned me something. The Bible tells me this search has earned me death (Rom. 6:23), not the acceptance I was looking for.
Alternatively, if I believe in the true character of the Biblical God, I know that his character is consistent with steadfast-love, peace, and justice (Ex. 34:6-7; Nu. 14:18-19; Ps. 86:15-16; Ps. 103:8-14). I know that he always promises good to those he accepts and does not hold back his blessing from them (Ps. 34:10; Ps. 104:28; Ps. 107:9). So who does he accept? Only the ones who haven’t sought acceptance anywhere else but in him. The question is then how could I be accepted by God if I have sought acceptance in losing weight and getting married? The truth is there is only one person who deserved God’s acceptance and his name is Jesus. He lived a life perfect, never seeking acceptance outside of God (Jn. 5:19-20). However, on the cross, Jesus chose to be unaccepted as God turned his back on him. The only one who had real acceptance, God’s acceptance, gave it up on the cross so that I could have it. He didn’t only give up his acceptance, but he bore, in his body, the penalty of my sin by seeking acceptance in other things. He traded the death I earned in looking for acceptance in losing weight and in marriage, and gave me the acceptance of God.
My encouragement in my singleness is that God has accepted me, not by means of earning his acceptance, but by grace in Christ. He intends good for those who trust in him, regardless of body image or relational status. By his resurrection, he has guaranteed this acceptance by defeating my penalty for pursuing acceptance in other things, and has secured my acceptance in God. This is free to all who hope and trust in him.
There is much more to say on this topic of singleness than I can here. Both singleness and marriage are very good things given by God. If you are single, do not stop asking God for a spouse, but do know that if you are trusting in Jesus, you have been given an acceptance that surpasses in time, depth and satisfaction, the acceptance of a wife or husband. For those who do trust him, this is, after all, the hope of the single and the married.
Dave Mishler grew up in a small, rural town in north-central Indiana. After being saved by Jesus at the age of 20 while at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana, he has pursued a career in commercial general contracting, and has a heart for the local church, discipleship, and community. Though still a Midwesterner at heart, Dave now attends Kaleo Church in El Cajon California where he maintains a career in general contracting and continues his commitment to the local church.