As I was eating my oatmeal with raisins this morning something about the raisins occurred to me. At one point, in their 'youth,' these raisins were just off the vine, ripe, juicy and plump grapes. They were in their prime, as far as grapes go. Add a little heat and give them some time and pretty soon these grapes get dried up, shriveled and become raisins instead.
I sometimes think that the world and church sees us women past a certain age who are unmarried like a grape that never got picked in its prime and instead has become a shriveled old raisin. Partially, I can't blame people for thinking that way. I have seen with my own eyes the physical toll that disappointment after disappointment leaves on the faces of people. Their faces literally seem to shrivel up and become pinched and closed.
I have seen from my many travels in ministering to women across the world what older single women, by and large, become. Disappointment after disappointment often leads to women who were once full of life and joy becoming shriveled like a raisin. I don't mean this just in a physical sense, though sometimes that does happen. I have seen this even more in an emotional and spiritual sense. I have seen woman after woman shut down, relegated to the kitchen or nursery (NOT that there's anything inherently wrong with those places, please don't mis-read) and live lives of shelved dreams. These women are often called "spinsters" or "old maids."
A couple of years ago I had a conversation with a group of gals about my age. We were all in our early 30s or late 20s and single. The conversation, lead by our pastor and his wife, was all about how women who were still single while others were married could battle against the bitterness that seems to plague women in the church at large who are still single after a certain age. I remember coming away from the conversation encouraged that finally, here were people willing to talk about this issue and acknowledge the fear in each of us in that room as the years creep by. We each had a desire to be married, but rather than become a crotchety old women, we so longed to retain the bubbly joy and vitality of youth. Shattered dreams do not have to equal shut down women.
Sometimes, I get to thinking about the many amazing women who served the Lord in more modern times such as Lottie Moon, Mary Slessor, Betsey Stockton, Amy Carmichael, or Mother Theresa, and I wonder if they struggled with disappointment as much as me. It's easy to read their biographies and forget that these women were human beings. We read about their exploits and all the things they have done and we forget that they too were human beings in need of fellowship and relationships.
I wonder, did any of them long to be married? If so, how did they proceed with all the Lord called them to and not blame the Lord for their disappointments? How did they overcome enough to recognize that no matter what the Lord asked of them, His plan was good, His plan was right, His plan was better than any they could have come up with? How did they fight the temptation to fall into blame and bitterness and shut down? These women were able to press through and not only serve the Lord, they served Him effectively!
We read their biographies and they can seem so super-human. In some ways they were super-human because they were supernaturally equipped to do what they were called to. Yet, they WERE human. I am sure they had their moments of loneliness as well. Sometimes I think we do a bit of a disservice by not talking about HOW those who have gone before us have pressed through so as to remain a grape and not shrivel up like a raisin.
I do not want to box myself into anyone's idea where unmarried women are able to serve or what they can do, even in an environment that elevates and celebrates married teams over singles. In spite of my circumstances and because I am determined to believe in the goodness, kindness, lovingness, faithfulness of Christ I want to be a grape, and not a raisin.