I received an email from a young woman who had read Looming Transitions. Janice is a Canadian serving in Laos, but soon to leave as she is moving to France to marry her French fiancé. She wrote so beautifully about the tension singles can feel around marriage. I received permission to share this excerpt.
“In this type of lifestyle, my roommate and I spend a lot of time together. We live together, we work together, we go to the market together, we go out visiting people together, we go on walks together, we pray together, we watch movies together, we read each other’s books.
“Before I came to Laos I didn’t know her. However, we found we get along quite well. We have many overlapping interests and can talk about some personal subjects. I feel bad about not being there to help deal with challenges like money requests and electrical system issues. I also know that my leaving means that there will be periods of time where she is alone as the only expat. In the past there have been periods when I was alone in our town for weeks at a time. Despite having locals I was working with and visiting, and despite the fact that I am largely an introvert, I struggled with loneliness. I feel guilty about potentially putting her in the same situation, even though she doesn’t mind being alone here as much as I do.
“Aside from this, is the fact that I am leaving to get married, which is where I feel the worst about the situation. My roommate really desires to be married. She is mid-30s, and has been in Laos for over seven years. So she is older than me, she’s been overseas longer than me, and she has probably been praying for a husband longer than me.
“I know that God does not always do things in ways that seem obviously fair to us, but in this situation I feel the unfairness very deeply myself, and I can only imagine how it might feel from her perspective. In the past, she’s expressed her frustrations to me about how difficult it is to meet men while living here. And then I connected with this man, and now I‘m engaged. Everything about it just seems so unfair. And I know that there are many other single women like her serving overseas, because there are so many more of us than there are single men.
“To be honest, this has been sort of a difficult area in my faith. Before I came to Laos it was a struggle for me personally; knowing that if I stayed overseas a long time, I might not marry. But I felt God leading me to go, and I went anyway. And I learned of so many others in the same boat as me, including my roommate. Now I am stepping out of the boat. I am so grateful to God for bringing my fiancé and me together, and I do not take our relationship for granted. But I find that even now I still feel the pain somehow, though in a different way. And I feel guilty.
“I have found these feelings somewhat difficult to explain to people who haven’t been overseas and aren’t aware of the general situation. I have tried to talk about it with my fiancé. He is quite willing to listen, but I have found that if I get stuck on this topic with him too much, it is not beneficial. I don’t want it to sound like I feel bad that I’m marrying him, because that’s not what I mean to say. Right now some of my joy is buried beneath these other things. I keep hearing about people in Canada and France who are so happy for us. But I feel somehow removed from the happiness. How are you supposed to feel, when you know that what is a blessing in your life is the subject of such deep pain and disappointment to someone you love?
“I’ve seen that my roommate has been having a difficult time with this over the past few weeks, since some hopes she’d had for a relationship recently fell through. In the past she has been really supportive of me when I’ve gone through difficult times, and I wish I could do or say more. It tears me up inside, to think of her feeling so hurt and disappointed. But I don’t know what to do besides listen, and tell her I’m sorry, and tell her I’m praying for her. And I do pray for her, and when I do, I feel very hopeful for her. I have tried to tell her this, but it’s not very specific, so I don’t really know if it’s helpful.
“I really want to finish well with my roommate. It is painful for me to leave her. I know that our friendship can’t be exactly the same after I leave Laos, but I don’t want to lose it entirely. Since I got engaged four months ago, I’ve tried to tell her that I care about her, that I’ll miss her, that she’s been an important person during my time in Laos, that I hope we can keep in touch, that she’ll be in my prayers, that I wish her well. I hope we can share honestly with each other about how we are feeling, because I wouldn’t want us to have regrets later about things we wish we’d said to each other. But at the same time I know that there are so many deeply personal emotions involved that it can sometimes be difficult to talk about it. During this time I am also going through some of my own transition stress, but I still want to be sensitive to what’s happening around me and be able to express myself to people who are important to me in a way that is honoring to both of us in the long term.”
“Thank you for letting me write to you, Amy. I know this is quite a long email, and I don’t expect a super long response. If you have any thoughts on anything though, I’d be interested in hearing them. Again, I really appreciate your book; it’s been a blessing to me during this season in my life.”
What a gift to us, eh? The way Janice expressed all that is going on. Part of me wants to dive in with thoughts and answers. But because of the length, I sense the Holy Spirit saying, Amy and A Life Overseas, sit with this email. Feel how Janice—and others—are pulled in many directions. Next month, you can share your thoughts. But I want you and this community to grow in your ability to bear witness before you seek to solve. We do not have to rush this conversation and move on to the next post or subject. We will circle back next month and keep this conversation going.
So, in the comments, could you let Janice and me know that you will take a month to sit with her words. That will will listen to the Holy Spirit and other singles we know before we jump in to speak. That we see how wonderfully complex this is . . . for all. Will you join me in listening?