I wake slowly, face-down, stretching my legs, cupping my toes over the end of the bed, feeling my calf muscles pull and retract. My head is lying flat, on 400 thread count white sheets. I am facing left, the breeze from my open window setting across my face, the window’s linen blind pulsing steadily in the same breeze.

I spread my right arm out feeling the empty space in my bed. My heart sinks.

There has never been anyone in this space, but I still feel the void all the same. My bed has never been shared, I have never been cuddled too tightly, or felt the aching space of an evening argument which keeps two hearts and bodies apart. I have never had to fight anyone for the covers and when I am cold, I am cold alone.

I stretch my left arm out, toward the window, rest my hand on the screen. My heart breaks a little more every day. It breaks itself and heals itself, and it does it all under the watchful, loving eye of God, so I am not alone, though I feel alone.

I used to worry I would not be married by 24. Then I worried I would not be married by 29. Now I worry I will never come to terms with always being alone. It is a hard thing to share one’s bed with no one and it is a hard thing to wake every morning feeling more undesirable than the night before.

Friends think they are consoling when they say marriage is hard work (who among us thinks it is not?) or when they complain that she steals all the covers or he snores or she likes to cuddle and he only like sex. They think this is consoling.

But it is not.

Because the night comes slowly, every blessed day, like the poet, Richard Wilbur, said, a punctual rape, same in, same out; but morning comes quickly and I spread my arm across this empty space feeling aloneness more than ever before.

Fabs Harford wrote about Fasting from Intimacy and this resonates in me because there is no monster inside of me more ravenous than the one who craves intimacy. I lean across the table in loud restaurants and ask hard questions. I hug tightly without discretion or discrimination. I touch the hands and shoulders of people I love, and sometimes barely know. I lean in. I do this because I am starving for intimacy and I am unafraid of that monster. I know he can kill me. But I know I will starve without his hunger.

Singleness is a beautiful thing and when I take account of the past decade I see a faithfulness to its beauty in my life in a way that only comes from grace, but I also see a succession of tiny funerals every step of the way. A cemetery full of them. Adventures I have had alone. Mornings I have woken alone. Moments I have reveled in alone. Each one bringing joy in its experience and mourning in its completion.

Life is meant to be shared and marriage is not the only way to share life, I know this, but the mystery of two flesh becoming one is a mingling that cannot be known by me, with my bed all to myself, 400 thread count sheets, open window, and quiet morning. And I mourn this.

Tim Keller preached a sermon called Jesus, Lord of the Wine, and he teaches how Christ is the Lord of the wedding feast, how His first miracle was in a wedding, turning water into wine and how this is a sign to us that He is for our joy. And not just our eventual joy, as the old Calvinists would have us believe, but for our present joy, our joy here on earth, in empty beds, empty hearts, and single flesh.

I meditate on this morning before I break my night’s fast.

The hunger in my belly a reminder that there is a feast before me, whether it is the feast I envision for my life or not, it is a feast that brings joy somehow and in some way. And there are mornings when it will be hard, like this one. There will be nights when my fast from intimacy is painful and I shake my fist at God, or ignore Him altogether.

But He is for my joy and joy is there too, in the song of birds outside my window, the Roman blind shivering in the breeze, and the 400 thread count sheets, covers all to myself. There is joy there—a small, but ebbing joy.

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20 responses to SLEEPING ALONE

  1. Angie Thiessen July 26, 2012 at 3:35 pm

    This comes so clearly across that my heart aches for you. I remember like it was yesterday. I felt unwanted and unlovable. I remember. I am sorry. And I know there is nothing that could be said to make the ache pass when it is upon you. Your heart is lovely and that I do know just from what I see here. I pray that there will always be hope and peace. And that you will continue to connect and reach out for intimacy.

  2. Angie, thanks so much for reading. And for your kind, kind words—they mean the world. Thanks for coming by and for commenting, too, it’s always good go meet new readers.

  3. Minda tweeted this a couple of months ago, and it stuck with me. I don’t know you, but I thank you nonetheless. Each time I’ve read this, it has given permission – to breathe deeper, grieve truer, and to be. Thank you, dear one. Praying for your beloved today. That he would come, just in time.

  4. Lauren. So, so grateful you’ve come back to drop a line about how it encouraged you. True confessions? Sometimes I have to come back and reread things I’ve written so that I can relive the struggle and lesson. I’m so glad that this has given you permission to breath and to be. (Also, do we love Minda or what? We do. We do =))

  5. I reread my writings more frequently that I’d care to admit. It helps to remember how one once felt and believed. And yes, we love Minda, we do, we do. :)

  6. Thank you for putting words to this. I was telling a friend recently, and I wasn’t sure if I was alone… that I have at times felt like I’m “grieving” things that never were. Not to say that they never will be, but some things are already behind. Tiny funerals, as you said. Love your writing.

  7. Thanks for your kind, kind words. Truly.

  8. Erika. I know these small funerals. Yes I do. You are not alone =)

  9. Hi. I just found your website through a link at chatting at the sky – I was feeling exactly like this for the last couple days – post holiday blues perhaps but definitely grieving even though I trust the Lord to bring someone into my life and say in my heart “thy will be done” for this season of singleness yet it is becoming unbearable and I don’t know how to stop crying about it. Your posts are very meaningfull to me. You consistently write how I feel. Thanks

  10. So heartbreakingly truthful this completely describes that which I’ve never been able to put into words. Thank you for this, as it finally gives me permission to grieve those lost moments.

  11. Renske de Clercq June 23, 2014 at 8:51 am

    Hey Lore, my friend forwarded me your link. It felt like someone is putting in words what I have been going through this past 2+ years. Just this morning and I woke up feeling very lonely not fitting in anywhere no one that loved me. The desire to be a wife to someone who love you and a mommy to little ones who depend on you- ever growing-unfulfilled. A person I loved very dearly broke up with me the 2+ years ago and left me broken with too many questions and no answers one moment marriage discussions the next run from me. He’s fine I’m not. I’ve been struggling with it ever since on a daily basis not being good enough or beautiful and why did God allow this in my life. Most my friends my age and younger are married with kids and in church I’m still on the young adult list..that’s where old singles go that it seems they don’t know what to do with. But beyond that how to be content for where God put us as single woman and thankfulness for my everything God blessed me with, a daily trial taking the focus of myself and on God. One could say in short your words made me for the first time not feeling alone in this trial. Thanks for sharing! Trusting God that He knows what He is doing in our lives a hard challenge.

  12. This article was so encouraging for me on levels I have yet to understand. I hope you don’t mind that I used it (with citation) as an example in a grad school application essay I am writing about how journalism can relieve suffering. Thank you for sharing your heart on this.

  13. I get this. Completely. I’m 40, never had a date, and haven’t gotten used to waking up alone. I know the tiny funerals in succession, the faceless griefs, the questions with no answers. And like you, I also know the Wine-giver and His joy for which we were created. Thanks for your brave, honest words!

  14. Thank you for putting into words what I have been feeling for most my life. Grief for things I’ve longed for, but never had and a faithful God who strings little glimmers of hope and joy through it all. It is a hard fight. Every day. But knowing (or knowing of) people like you who still choose joy is helping me still choose the joy that only Jesus can bring. A joy that is free from resentment and reservation all at once. Thank you. A million times, thank you!

  15. Thank you for saying these words, so long ago. There are times when I feel like the ache I feel is one I should be ashamed of considering how truly blessed and abundant my life is. That having this sorrow is somehow a failure on my part. I AM so very grateful for the life I am getting to experience in this single season, but yes, there are times when the void is undeniable because a partner isn’t there beside me like I hoped – to laugh with, rejoice with, cry with. Today has been an especially hard day and it will end with me climbing into my large bed alone yet again. But knowing I am not the only person to have felt this eases that feeling of being alone. So thank you.

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