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Slippery Hope - Camerin Courtney
Everything about being Single
Slippery Hope
by Camerin Courtney
December 7, 2005

If you look at my bathroom mirror just right, you can see the residue of a post-it note that resided there for a few weeks not too long ago. Sort of like that "wash me" someone scrawls on your windshield you can still see when the sun shines on it just right even after youve obeyed its injunction.

I took the residue-leaving sticky down recently when out-of-state friends were coming to stay with me. It was just easier to take it down than try to explain the process that prompted me to get out a sticky note, put it in a conspicuous place, and write on it one word: hope.

Hope has been elusive for me lately. Slippery. Like trying to hold water with my bare hands. It just keeps trickling out of reach. I know its here somewhere, I just cant pin it down.

So I jotted it down, in some sort of symbolic way of trapping it on a three-inch-square piece of paper—and as a reminder as Id stand there each morning and evening brushing my teeth and applying and taking off makeup to be on the lookout. For hope.

You see, Ive just let go of false hope. The notion that a husband is a sure bet, a guarantee, a right.

I had a conversation not too long ago that brought me both comfort and despair. I was chatting with a newly married 30something about trends in Christian circles and singledom when she said, "We need to face the fact that due to current gender ratios in the church, some single Christian women will have the choice of either marrying a non-Christian or not getting married at all. We in the church need to discuss whats the lesser of these two options, what the ramifications are, and how we can support them in their choice."

It was oddly comforting to have someone spell out a current reality—potentially affecting me—so plainly. Yes, this is the question (whether Ill be one of those faced only with these two less-than-ideal options) deep in my gut that I often try to ignore. Yes, this is the assumption about the future my generation can no longer make. Yes, this is the unfair reality I wrestle with God over on my own and my friends behalf.

Armed with knowledge of demographics, trends, ratios, and anecdotal evidence from singles Ive met across the country, my hope for my future no longer contains the assumption that Ill get married. And yes, I know God is bigger than demographics, trends, ratios, and anecdotal evidence—but when I turn to my Bible for his word on the matter, I see no promise of a spouse. For hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11) yes, but not that that future will necessarily contain a husband and kids.

Dont get me wrong, I still hope for marriage. Just not in the anticipatory way of something you know will come to pass—like the hope of a coming vacation or the hope of heaven. Those things are certain and solid. Theres an end to the anticipation. The hope eventually gives birth to something new and good.

But hope for something that may or may not come to pass is tricky. How much stock do you put in it? How much do you feed this hope? After so many years, do you simply give up hoping? Because even the Bible acknowledges that "a hope deferred makes the heart sick" (Proverbs 13:12). Holding onto hope year after year after year means being aware of longing. "Responding to hope brings a deepened sense of thirst and ache," Jan Meyers writes in her wonderful book The Allure of Hope. But shutting off all hope is a really depressing way to live. And as Christians, were offered so much more.

Sure, I know full well that ultimately hope is Jesus, the salvation he offers, and heaven. Thats the big picture and its wonderful and foundational. But what I wrestle with is what hope looks like here and now, as a relational single woman with no guarantees that my future will contain the closest of relationships. That anchor person you can circle back to in the middle of a boring party, at the end of a lousy day, at the conclusion of a lifetime of sharing the journey.

So I find myself trying to reframe hope. To live with this uncertain anticipation of something that may or may not happen for me. In letting go of some of that more certain hope, at times Ive found myself a bit hope-less. Knowing what I cant put my hope in, and wondering desperately what I can put my hope in instead. As a Christian, I know theres hope here, Im just trying to figure out what it is, what it means, what it looks like.

So Ive been on a hope hunt. With a yellow sticky flag marking my expedition.

This journey has mostly taken place in conversation with trusted Christian friends. Russ said I need to live now, in the present, and not worry so much about the future. Jason warned against my more realistic outlook turning into unbelief. That often we have to believe before we receive. When I mentioned to Margaret that my thoughts about my future have been shifting, that I want to prepare myself in case marriage doesnt happen, she asked a great question: why?

I asked God to give me eyes to see hope, realizing I was striving too hard to find my own definition instead of asking God to reveal his. And I began to see glimmers of hope in a friends long-awaited child. In the soul-moving power of worship. In each sunrise and breath and heartbeat. In staring out my living room windows at the first snowfall—the beauty of the pure white flakes transforming the landscape and the visual marker of the changing seasons. I felt a newfound appreciation for those things I am certain of—beginnings and endings, daily realities I too often take for granted.

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