with Stacey Schwenker
1) Describe your relationship to/experience with dating/singleness. If it has changed over time, describe the change.I was single throughout high school and did not date or have a boyfriend until college. Then I went through a long string of boys that felt very back-to-back (2 of them were and some could say I was not honorable to one guy as I began a relationship with another). When I began seminary, at the age of 25, I began what has been a long period of singleness. Through this time I have pursued both wholeness/healing (actively seeking counseling and other ways to emotionally and relationally grow) as well as my vocational goals (mostly in ministry). At my current age of 31 and three-quarters, I have mixed feelings about dating and singleness. Mixed mainly because some days I feel consumed by how horrid the situation is and I am convinced that I shall be alone forever. While other days I feel calm and collected and convinced of how wonderful I am and how wonderful God is, so that surely I shall not be alone forever. I question whether my personality, past, or theological achievements (obtaining a Master of Divinity) make me unappealing to men. Yet the desire to share life with another is just enough hope to continue to pray for a partner and believe that God will bring me someone (if that’s even good terminology…).
2) How has that relationship/experience affected the way you think about your body and/or your self-image?Again, mixed feelings. Mostly I put a lot of effort into my body. Not in the sense that I obsess about it and try to look amazing, rather it’s quite the opposite. I listen to it and try to eat healthy and exercise regularly. I care about its well-being and taking care of it. I put more energy into becoming a person who seeks after God and can be a fair friend than I do about my physical image. Even so, I have deep and ugly fears that my body is something that is keeping men away from me. I don’t pluck my eyebrows and I have thicker thighs. My thoughts about my body have come from a complexity of stories melded together. Most likely I came to the current story from three main places. First, is with my family and how I learned to value myself with a body. There’s definitely an overtone of being thin that is present and my father is regularly ridiculed by and in front of the entire family for being overweight. It’s taken a long time to fight judgmental voices that became a constant in my head and plagued me with most outfits and certainly every hair-do. Second, is with my boyfriends. Depending on the day I’ll tell you that I’ve had 3 or 4 significant relationships. Two of them were great and celebrated my body with generosity and complete embrace. One of them seemed great but turned out to be more selfish than loving. The other one was kind of a jerk the whole time and rejected me regularly. It became a game of seduction where I sought to be a master. Even now I am struggling with the repercussions of feeling continually unwanted and unwelcomed by any prospective man. As if I am too much or too little. Mostly it feels like both at the same time. Third, is how my body has changed over the years. It’s been 7 years since I’ve dated anyone and my body is not how it was then. Honestly, I worry about not being attractive and fight against the lie that this has been causing my singleness. I feel more and more comfortable in my skin. Yet somehow men do not come to me. What’s a woman to do…?
3) How has that relationship/experience affected the way you relate to others?There isn’t enough space on this computer to adequately answer this question! I will say that I am completely conscientious, honest, and present with everyone in my life. I strive to love and honor them. I strive to admit when I am wrong and make amends. I am weary of my need to attach to someone (I’m a co-dependent) and have to fight hard to have balance and health in my relationships. Though, I do fight hard. I’m not flippant anymore and I am willing to work. Mostly, the affects have been positive.
4) How has that relationship/experience affected your spiritual life?I’ve certainly experienced a lot more growth. Honesty does that. I’ve let God get closer than I could have imagined. And I also see how much further I have to go. Because I write weekly (and publically) about this aspect of my life – relationships and spirituality – I’ve spent a great deal reflecting on it. And I see things to be so inter-connected. I consider my motivations and the larger networks at play in my life. For example, I can’t think about dating without thinking about how busy I’ve let me life become, the I consider my vocational dreams, then I think about my ability to trust God, then I consider patience, and then faith verses works, and on and on. Ultimately, the more I consider the more peace I have and the more I feel God’s presence. Perhaps the greatest benefit has been being peeled back like an onion in the presence of God. I feel more known with God since I am actively writing about my singleness and wondering where God is in all of it. Though, it doesn’t take away the questions, loneliness, or fear entirely. But it does bring more meaning to my life and a greater calm.
5) What word of wisdom or encouragement would you offer other people on a similar journey?We must be patient and never lose hope. God is a creative God and will bring us unexpected things. We can knead the dough we’re given and see what will rise. Invite Him into where you are. Reflect on what you are doing. We have the potential to do so much, right now! We must not let any lies or fears get in our way. I truly believe that when we pursue Him, He will grant us the desires of our hearts.
What about you?
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