What’s a Single Woman’s Goal?
About the Guest
Is getting married the only goal a single should have? Dennis Rainey talks to Carolyn Leutwiler, a 30-something opera singer who encourages singles to move past their disappointment from still being single in order to discover the beauty and opportunities of this season of their lives.
Is getting married the only goal a single should have?
What’s a Single Woman’s Goal?
Carolyn: “There is no way that we as human beings can fulfill another person all of the time. There is just no way. We have to look to the Lord. I continually have to go back to the Lord and say, “What does your scripture say? What do you say about me?” and to believe that He has a plan and a purpose. I love Jeremiah 29:11. “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord. Plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Plans to give you hope and a future.” That is such a comfort.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Thursday, July 9th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife Dennis Rainey and I’m Bob Lepine. As a single how do you resolve the tension you feel when the Lord’s plans for you aren’t the same as what you were hoping His plans would be? We’ll talk about that today.
Welcome to FamilyLife Today thanks for joining us. I would imagine if you went to most young women today, women who are in their late teens or early twenties, and you said, “What’s your aspiration? What’s your goal? Ten years from now what would you like to be doing?”
I would guess that very few of those young women would say, “I would hope that ten years from today maybe I could have written a book based on my own experience about singleness.” I’m guessing that nobody has that as kind of their goal for what they like to be doing.
Dennis: Well, nobody may be a stretch but probably not a high percentage. We have a special guest with us. In fact we haven’t had that many guests from Manhattan. I’m not talking about Manhattan, Kansas. We have an opera star from Manhattan, New York.
Bob: She’s shaking her head.
Dennis: Not a star, but an aspiring star. Carolyn Leutwiler joins us on FamilyLife Today. Carolyn, you are a good sport to come all this way from New York City.
Carolyn: It’s wonderful to be here and see trees.
Dennis: I’ve been looking forward to this interview. I have some questions for you of your preference. Are you ready for this?
Dennis: Are you a Yankee or a Mets fan? She’s shaking her head no. She doesn’t like baseball.
Carolyn: I’m a Cardinal fan if I have to choose.
Dennis: Are you a New York Giants or are you a Jets fan?
Carolyn: I would have to say a Michigan Wolverine.
Bob: She hasn’t lived in New York long enough to have had that blood flowing through her.
Dennis: One last question. Are you a Brooklyn Tabernacle person or a Redeemer Pres person?
Carolyn: Redeemer Pres because I go there.
Dennis: You not only go there. You are employed there.
Carolyn: Yes, I am.
Dennis: You are the Administrative Coordinator of the Children’s Ministry. You’ve been there for 4 ½ years. You’ve written a book, Singleness Redefined. I was thinking about Bob’s introduction here of saying you didn’t have that dream when you were a young lady of growing up to write a book about being single.
Carolyn: Not at all because I was going to be married by the time I was 27.
Dennis: That was one of your goals?
Carolyn: Yes. I knew it would happen.
Dennis: So when it didn’t happen?
Carolyn: When it didn’t happen, God really brought me through a lot. I had to really struggle through that realization that I wasn’t married. Through that I ended up writing the book later because I saw that a lot of my friends were struggling, too.
Bob: I want to ask you about that struggle because it would seem like that’s something that kind of comes on progressively. I don’t know if that’s the same for young men as it is for young women. I doubt it is. I would imagine at 22 or 23 you are thinking, “Well, okay.” At 25 you are thinking, “What’s going on here?” At 27 you are starting to think, “Something is wrong.” Do you remember going through the process yourself of realizing month in and month out, year in and year out, I thought I’d be married by now?
Carolyn: Yes. That actually was exactly the timeframe I would say that I was on. When I graduated from college I still had some years to have fun, look around, and figure out what I wanted to do.
Then once it got to about 25 I think I started being a little concerned. Twenty-seven was very difficult. My late 20’s were really, really hard for me. A season of trying to question, first of all, what do I do with my life now? I thought I would be a mom by this point. But then also having to work through with the Lord what does He call me to as a single person.
So that was a real struggle for me. I do think that for singleness there are seasons. Those seasons are different for different people. I think for some people, for example a lot of my friends in Manhattan, they moved to Manhattan to pursue a career, to pursue a dream that they had had. Whether it be a dream of being on Wall Street or being a musician.
Bob: Or singing opera.
Dennis: So their dreams were around their professional abilities and achievement there?
Carolyn: I think so at that point. So those people, I would say, the struggle for them might be more in their 30’s. Definitely, I think, we go through seasons. Some of them are much longer than others. My 20’s it was really from at least 27 to maybe 30. I loved turning 30. It was great.
Dennis: You are a performer. Performers are good because they have high expectations of themselves.
Bob: Set high standards, right?
Dennis: Right. The only way to not experience disappointment in life, whether you are single or married, have children or don’t have children, is to not have high expectations. But you had some high expectations for yourself and as a result that disappointment went deep, didn’t it?
Carolyn: It did. I think so much of life is learning how to realign our expectations with what God is doing in our lives. So we have thoughts about our career, our family. So many different areas but to really look to the Lord and say, “God, what do You have for my life? What are Your expectations for my life?”
I have seen, too, in relationships, even with women friends of mine, where maybe I have expectations of having great times of intimacy with them and wonderful friendships. Yet it just doesn’t always happen. I think so much of life is realizing that we have to come before God and see His amazing love for us and His amazing care for us regardless of how the circumstances in our lives play out.
Dennis: You, throughout your book, talk about specific lies that singles can believe and begin to embrace. Things that aren’t true about them as people. What are a couple of those lies that they believe?
Carolyn: One of them, I think one of the major problems in our society is we see beautiful images of women and men all over. Somehow we think that we have to be the same way. If people aren’t asking us out then something is wrong with us physically, we are not attractive. So that is one lie from the entertainment industry.
Bob: In fact interestingly, in your book you talk about Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer. Explain how that relates to singles.
Carolyn: I think in that movie there is the scene where all the toys that have something wrong with them are taken to the island of misfit toys. I think sometimes as singles we can feel like something is wrong with us because we are not married, because someone has not asked us out.
Dennis: Or because in the church there really is not a good spot or a good place for singles to really congregate after college.
Bob: Most churches are built around families. You are in a church with 65 percent of the congregation being single. But most churches if you are a single you are kind of on the edges of the church and not sure how you fit in, right?
Carolyn: I think it can be that way. I think that is actually another lie in a way that singles and married people can fall into. I think it is easy to think as a single person that I have nothing to offer to the church or to a married couple or to a family. Vice versa. A family might think that they don’t have anything to offer to the single. There is this impasse where the two parties aren’t meeting. It is really a shame. We are the body of Christ. We need each other. I would love for it to be more organic.
Dennis: If you are on the island of misfits, I was just thinking back to your illustration about Rudolph and where all of the broken toys went. If you are on that island, the temptation is to look horizontally and compare yourself with other people. For you, comparison has been a source of frustration in your life. You think it’s a big issue for singles as they face that issue as well.
Carolyn: Definitely. I think so often we hear that marriage is the next thing. It’s the next place to go. It’s the stepping-stone into happiness or something like that. It’s easy to think that if I’m not married then I don’t have as much. I’m missing out.
For example, with my sister, I bring this up in the book, when I lived in the same town as they did, she was married at that point and I lived with them for a few months. It was so easy for me to look around and see everything that she had materially and also with her family, with her children and to think somehow I am missing out. I don’t have that.
It is so easy to go down a path of loneliness, regret, doubt, and frustration instead of looking at what God has given you. I think that single people have a wealth of opportunity. We have time to do things that married people cannot do. I don’t have to be accountable to anyone. On one hand, I mean I should be. I need to come under the accountability of the church and have the community. I think singles have to force themselves into that. It is very important to do that but it is easy as a single person to do whatever you want with your time. I think that instead of looking at what we don’t have, we should look at all of the things that we do have.
Bob: Even as you were saying that, I am thinking about a single who says, “Okay, you are right. I should look at the benefits of singleness, which include: I’ve got time that married people don’t have.” But now the default is: which means I can be more self-indulgent. Which means I can be more self-absorbed. I can be more selfish. If there is a trap right in the middle of contented singleness it’s this: look at what I have-- lots more opportunity for selfishness than married people have.
Carolyn: That’s totally true. I believe that’s why single people have to fight against that. We have to look for opportunities to be in community, to be serving in the church or outside the church in outreach opportunities. I know for me I have to make a very, very conscientious effort and decision to do that type of thing. I could spend all of my time alone if I wanted to if I chose that.
Dennis: Back to being alone. It’s when you are alone that you can begin to have a pity party. You can go back to that comparison game. There’s my sister with her four kids and the husband and all the activities. And look at my life. And withdraw. The phone’s not ringing. They guy’s not calling. In those dark moments, how do you handle that? I mean what’s the process you go through in your soul to pull yourself out of that emotional ditch?
Carolyn: I have to go to the Word. That is the place. In scripture that is where I have found comfort. It’s the only true, true foundation we have for life, for support, for sanity in this life. I think that’s true for even married people. There is no way that we as human beings can fulfill another person all of the time. There is just no way.
We have to look to the Lord. He has been the place that I have to go. I continually have to go back to the Lord and say, “What does your scripture say? What do you say about me?” and to believe that He has a plan and a purpose. I love Jeremiah 29:11. “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord. Plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Plans to give you hope and a future.” That is such a comfort.
Dennis: So what does that plan look like for you?
Carolyn: I am finding out day by day. He’s unfolding it.
Dennis: But you’re on a mission right now. Describe that because I think some singles who are listening in right now like what you are saying in theory but they are wondering what does that look like practically. You are saying first of all: not all of your questions about your future are answered. But in the midst of that….
Bob: Not all of my questions about my future are answered either.
Dennis: That’s right. But I think for a single person…I think because there is…
Bob: This defining issue of: am I going to be single or will I ever get married.
Dennis: Exactly. It’s like an airplane circling the field feeling, like when I land this thing and get married then we’ll get on with life. Life is what’s happening right now. What is life for you? What is that mission and plan that you just talked about for you?
Carolyn: Recently because of this book it has centered around that. I found that a lot of my passion is to see single women truly living joy filled lives, joy filled lives, and also joyful. That God would encourage single women.
I think for me I would say to single women, find things that you enjoy. What do you love doing? What has God given you as spiritual gifts, as giftings in your life, and follow those. See how He can use you. See what doors He will open up for you.
Interestingly for me four and a half years ago what that meant is moving to New York City to pursue opera. Oddly enough it seems like that door is closing. I think even as we follow our passions in life that are God given, I think He uses those to direct us down other paths or maybe that path. Maybe that would have been the path God would have given for me. It seems like He’s doing other things.
The key is to stay open to what the Lord is doing in your life, to be prayerful, to really ask God to show you where does He want you to be, how does He want you to be using your time. Allow Him to direct you in that. There is a lot of joy in that and adventure too.
Bob: What brings you joy right now?
Dennis: Yes. What is your adventure all about?
Carolyn: Part of it is finding out what He would have for me each day. Not trying to get caught up in ten years from now, but today. What does He have for me today? What does He put before me and how can I serve Him in this moment?
I love spending time with friends so it means picking up the phone and calling your friend. Don’t wait for your friend to call you. I think we get into that trap a lot, of waiting until someone calls us. Call someone up. Go do something with a friend. Put yourself in places that bring you joy. For me I like music so go to a concert with a friend. Be about things that you enjoy but also remember to be in service, too.
Bob: You describe your late twenties until the time you were 30 as kind of your perpetual dark night of the soul, this season of despair. I would imagine that there are still, maybe not an extended season, but there have got to be nights when you go, “Okay. I just did this radio interview. I talked about having joy in singleness. I wrote this book but frankly I’m lonely tonight, this week.” What do you do when that comes?
Carolyn: I think first of all we have to recognize that those are totally legitimate emotions. God has given us emotions. I think the thing to not do is to try to squelch those and say, “Okay, I’m supposed to be joyful so I can’t struggle.”
If you look at scripture it is replete with aching people, people crying out to God especially in the Psalms. Lord, why have you forsaken me? Why is my soul so disturbed within me? I think that can be of great comfort but also to remember that there always is an answer in that. For me, the answer is: I will yet praise you, God. That is always the hope that God will restore us, He will renew hope in us, He will bring us through that dark time.
I think also of how the Israelites spent 40 years in the desert. There is so much talk in scripture of the desert. In the desert it where God can do such an amazing work. That is where we have to call out to Him, we have to cry out. In a sense that is the beauty of suffering. In the times of suffering we really have to rely on God. Which I think is exactly where God wants us to be. It’s a beautiful place to be.
Dennis: I think in America it is hard not to get up in the morning and expect all of your needs to be met, every day to go perfect and for your visions, dreams, and longings to be met or exceeded because we are a nation that has so much abundance of so many things.
Yet I think you put your finger on something with singles today that is true with married people as well. I think there are a lot of lonely single folks and, as you mentioned also married people, singles who are waiting to live life. They really need to first and foremost get on with deciding who is going to be Master and Lord of their lives and get busy about His mission and what He’s got for them. Roll up their sleeves. Tackle it. Every day with everything they have.
Then as you fulfill His mission, you are going to encounter Him. You are going to encounter people. You are going to have relationships that He brings along the way, as you have mentioned. People who you need to love on. People you need to encourage. People you need to build up. That’s the kind of life that is going to be attractive to other people.
I just think, Bob, there are so many lies about being single today that can be so deceptive but at the same time alluring to singles thinking, “This is where I am going to find life. I’m finally going to get it here.” Do you know what? If it doesn’t have God in the center, you are going to miss it.
Bob: This is where I always find myself coming back to Philippians chapter 4, whether it is a married person or a single person, it doesn’t matter. The issue is a lack of contentment. You have to ask yourself, “What is causing me to be discontented? Is it my circumstances or is it something about my own heart?”
Paul says in Philippians 4, “I have learned the secret of being content in whatever circumstance I find myself in.” That’s where he says, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” That’s a part of what it means to redefine your singleness.
You have titled your book Singleness Redefined. We have that book in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. There may be some listeners who are surprised that we have books like this in the FamilyLife Today Resource Center but actually we have a lot of resources for singles. Over the years we have talked to lots of singles, got lots of biblical counsel on this subject.
You can go to our website FamilyLifeToday.com. There is information there about Carolyn’s book Singleness Redefined. There is also information about other resources we have for singles. Carolyn McCulley’s book Did I Kiss Marriage Goodbye? is one of the resources that I am thinking of that we have there. All of the information is available on our website FamilyLifeToday.com.
You can also call us toll-free at 1-800-FL-Today. 1-800-358-6329. That’s 1-800, F as in family, L as in life, and the word today. When you contact us someone on our team can let you know about the resources that are available and make arrangements to have the ones you need sent to you.
One of the things we try to make sure we do here at FamilyLife is to have very honest, very transparent, sometimes challenging conversations with a variety of folks on biblical themes. We had that kind of a conversation not long ago with our friend Nancy Leigh DeMoss. She has written a book called Choosing Forgiveness. We spent some time with her talking about what the Bible has to say about the subject of forgiveness. That conversation was recorded. This month we are making the CD of that discussion available to those of you who are able to support this ministry with a donation of any amount.
When you call or go online and make a donation feel free to request a copy of the CD Choosing Forgiveness with Nancy Leigh DeMoss. You can do that by typing the word “forgive” into the key code box on the donation form. When you do that we will send the CD out to you or you can call 1-800-FL-Today. 1-800-358-6329. Make a donation over the phone and mention that you would like the CD with Nancy Leigh DeMoss. Again we are happy to send it to you.
We do appreciate your financial support of this ministry. We are listener supported so your donations are what keep us on the air in this city and in other cities all across the country. We are grateful for you and we appreciate your partnership with us.
Tomorrow we are going to talk more about singleness with our guest Carolyn Leutwiler. I hope you can be back for more of this conversation. I want to thank our engineer today Keith Lynch and our entire broadcast production team on behalf of our host Dennis Rainey I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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