It was seven years ago and February had quickly rolled around again. Year one of graduate school was barely half over, but it was time to think of next year’s housing. This was a university town, and rentals went quickly. One roommate was moving out and the leasing office was raising the rental prices. My remaining roommate and I had to sift through decisions: stay and find another roommate? Stay and downsize? Move somewhere cheaper? But where?
I’ve had nine roommates and nine different living spaces in the eight years since graduating from college. As I mentioned in the first post in this series, our housing situations changed rather more frequently those first few years than I had anticipated. Every year my roommate(s) and I had to decide if we wanted to keep living together, if we should renew our lease, or if we should seek another rental. There was always the desire to lessen the financial burden. The apartments in the “safe” parts of town were quite expensive. Another lack of permanency is the changefulness of roommates. They may back out of commitments. They can sign a lease, and then decide to leave early. They may get married, as four of mine did. They may take jobs out of the area. I believe many other single women (and men) also sense this lack of permanency inn housing situations. When my living conditions are in a state of flux, I often feel that the rest of my life is, too. At those times, marriage seems like the ideal solution. If nothing else, at least the roommate would be permanent.
While housing can be an annual issue for singles, a single woman does have a lot of freedom when deciding where to live. For example, there are no husbands or children to take into consideration. Be that as it may, a single woman can feel the pressure of those around her when picking a place: “Why do you need a house, you’re just one person?” “So-and-so would be great roommate, you should ask her.” “Why do you want to live alone?” “Why don’t you live with your parents and save money?”
One of the scariest decisions I have made was the decision to buy a house. I had always thought that I would buy a house, but I never meant to do it alone. While I knew of a handful of single women who were homeowners, I didn’t think I had the courage to do it. I was still encumbered with the philosophy that if a woman wanted to marry, she had to present herself as marriageable. I was afraid that buying a house as a single woman in her late-20s would send one of two messages. The first message I was afraid to send was that I was too strong to need a man or that I’d at least be difficult to lead. The second message was that I had resigned to my singleness by giving up and buying a house. Buying a house seemed dauntingly permanent. I was afraid that I would be cementing my singleness as well. I was afraid of the stigma I might attract. I was also afraid of this new change in plans that didn’t seem to lead to marriage. Just like grad school was a change in my original plans for my life, buying a house while unmarried was another great change.
As deeply as I felt these fears, I also knew that apartment living, even in “nice” apartments can still be rough and downright expensive. I was tired of my upstairs neighbor who banged mercilessly on the wall when I practiced piano (with headphones) at an hour he deemed too early. I was tired of throwing money into the rent vacuum. I was tired of the apartment pool drama outside my window and my neighbors’ intoxicated/high shenanigans. I had also just “lost” my roommate to marriage (She is still a sweet friend and I don’t regret this ‘loss’ at all). I was looking at a single rental, which, in a safe apartment complex would cost as much as a monthly mortgage payment on a small house. I planned to buy a few years later when I was in my 30s, but I had also been keeping my eye on the market to see what was available and the prices. I found a home I liked on Zillow (it was the kitchen) and e-mailed a realtor who also “happened” to be our music deacon. I’m not really in the market for house hunting, but I have just one I want to see and since I don’t know what I’m doing, would you show it to me, please? I spent two hours looking through the house and several conversations with my realtor and my dad regarding the finances and logistics. Logistically, the process was smooth and simple. I had a real estate agent I knew and trusted. All the inspections and negotiations went quickly. Emotionally, however, the process was more difficult. I remember praying through the process. Several times, I would panic and think, “I don’t have a clue what I’m doing. What makes me think I can buy a house?” I would often remind God (as if he needed it) that I was going to buy a house since that seemed like a wise decision and an opportunity he was giving me. If it wasn’t from him, I begged that he would take that opportunity away from me. Long story short, I wrote a really big check and bought the house. Three years later, I still really like the kitchen.
There are many lost hopes that I could regret. I could regret that I didn’t save, dream, and buy with a husband. I could regret that when I walked through the house, I didn’t have a family of my own to envision living in these spaces. I could regret that I didn’t have a husband to lean on for making the decisions.
As much as I could focus on regret and resent that my fairy-tale plans weren’t actualized, I have much more cause for thanksgiving. I had a wise real estate agent who was a trusted friend. His wife was a constant source of enthusiasm and encouragement through the buying process. She even gathered several of my close friends to host a shower with other ladies from the church. She lovingly planned and wrote prayers and scriptures to be prayed through my house by ladies in our church. God gave me a wise father to walk through the house and be a sounding board for ideas. God gave me a supportive and encouraging mother who never reproached my singleness or suggested that I was ruining my chances for marriage. A close single girl-friend went through the house-buying process at the same time, which provided a listening ear that understood perfectly the emotions I felt through this process. I also had a dear single friend who had owned her own home for a while who graciously shared her thoughts and prayers she had recorded from that experience. God gave me everything I needed in the way that he knew was best.
I’m not saying that single girls have to buy their own houses, but that is what God planned for me. He gave me the experience of making a major life decision that was “all on me”. I could get advice, but in the end, it was my call. God provided: the finances, the timing, the support I needed to get through the process and stay sane, and faith in the truth that He is sovereign. And in that experience, he showed me that the decision was technically mine, but it was really on His authority that the door was opened or closed.
As a note to married friends of singles: One encouragement during the home-buying process – and I want to say a repeated thank you to the ladies at my church – was a first-house shower. I still use the gifts I received with happiness, but the prayers of the ladies all as we walked through my home and their encouraging confirmation of my work in the home were the biggest blessings I could have asked for that evening. So, please encourage the single women (and men) in your acquaintance that their work in the home is important and glorifying to God. Give encouragement and confirmation of their homemaking, and don’t dissuade them from taking the steps of obedience God has called them to.
To single women, don’t be afraid to live the life God has called you to, whether in an apartment or your own house. You have the Creator of the Universe who delights in you and fulfills your request for wisdom (James 1:5). You may not be planning with a husband, but you can seek the will of and plan with the the one true, sovereign God. During our walk though, my realtor asked if I was afraid buying a house would mean I’d always be single. “Because it doesn’t,” he added, without waiting for my answer. Don’t make decisions based on whether or not it hurts your chance for marriage later. Keep your focus on God himself. He, not marriage, is your only hope and the only ultimate goal. The Proverbs 31 woman considered a field (discernment) and bought it (strength). Don’t shy away from practicing discernment and making business choices because you might appear too strong. Do not be afraid to exercise strength and discernment that is completely dependent on God. However, do be afraid of worldly, self-empowered wisdom and arrogant, independent strength. Walk in faith remembering that the days of your life are written in his book, even before one of them came to be (Psalm 139:16).
In all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make straight your paths. Proverbs 3:6