Back to main magazine page now!!
Traci Warner ~ CB ‘00b ~ Missionary Nurse to Nicaragua
Written January 1, 2010 and printed in a Vanderbilt publication
Do you remember sitting in English class during your freshman year and being asked to write an essay about
what or where you would be in ten years? That was easy. I knew I’d be 1) married with children, 2) a physician,
and 3) serving as a full-time missionary overseas. If someone could have looked ahead at my future and told me
I’d be 1) single, 2) a nurse practitioner, and 3) living and working in a clinic in downtown Nashville, I would have
considered my life one of complete failure. Okay, that is a bit of an exaggeration, but it makes for a great introduction for an article to be
read by those who are fearful of failure or who are consumed with success and planning out every detail of their lives. Thankfully, I had
learned years before to trust God with my life and to allow Him to shape me into his image and use me however He saw fit. I wanted to
make the claim that Paul did in Philippians 4:11, “I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content,” and I can honestly say that
those same things I would have once considered a failure are now my greatest joys, the things I have become most content in.
I happen to really love and appreciate the story of my life that God has written over the years. I could go into depth with a number of
themes. I’m choosing to write on one that at this point may cause you to stop reading—singleness—but I hope not. There are things I
will address that my married friends ought to read as well.
I have 33 years of experience of being single. I’ve read the books. I’ve heard the sermons. I use to go to the singles-only workshops at
my missions conferences, mostly to learn. After a while, I was sure I had heard or read everything there was out there on singleness,
and I needed a break, not because I was lonely or sad or feeling pathetic about myself, but mostly because I had reached that point
when I figured I could just write the material myself. After all, I truly had an understanding of the blessings and gift of singleness Paul
described in I Corinthians 7, that uncomplicated devotion to God and to service for Him. Aside from full-time work at a busy clinic
for the working uninsured, for the past eight years, I have been the administrator for Vanderbilt’s Medical Campus Outreach (MCO
is a ministry for medical and nursing students where we offer opportunities to teach students how to incorporate their faith in their
practices). I have had many opportunities to serve with them in medicine. Most of the students and residents are single. I’ve observed
that especially in medicine, many people are delaying marriage until they get through medical, nursing, or dental school. They’re
holding off until they secure that stable job in healthcare. Whatever the situation, whether by choice or not, I observed the same things
over and over in these settings, very little contentment in singleness. I’ve actually come to pity my friends and acquaintances that pine
away for what they think will be the ultimate fulfillment of their lives and yearn for the desires of their hearts. So I wanted to address
just a few of the temptations we as singles face.
Temptation to Put Life on Hold
Many single people have that vague sense that their singleness is a temporary phase. It may be. It may not be.
(I wonder if my married friends ever consider that their married-ness may also be temporary.) Either way,
there is a big temptation to just wait for that special someone to come along, wait for a better quality of life
that comes with marriage. (If you’re married and still reading this, you’re probably chuckling right now. Let
me encourage you to take that knowledge and share with or counsel a single person in your life who may be
struggling and have a wrong idea that once he’s married he’ll be more “whole.”) So singles wait.
We’ve all said it in some form or another: “I can’t wait until Friday, when this work-week is over.” Or maybe
it was, “I can’t wait until next month when I take the boat out on the lake,” or “I can’t wait until the last
patient is done so I can go home to my family for dinner.” You might have had more distant timing: “I can’t wait until I finish my
residency training so I can practice out on my own.” When I was in college, one of my mentors cautioned me on making those kinds
of statements, if for no other reason, to just be aware of the opportunities I may miss during those minutes, days, or weeks I was
wishing away. If I can’t wait for Friday and wish away Thursday, I just might miss that opportunity God has to bring an amazing patient
encounter my way that day. In the same way, if my single friends wish and hope for that day down the road, there are so many potential
missed opportunities to serve God and to serve others in the here and now. I’m so thankful that I can look back at the last twelve years
of my life and know that I did not waste them pining for something that God did not have for me at that time. I’ve been blessed to serve
both at a faith-based clinic in downtown Nashville and also to serve overseas on many medical mission trips.
I’m sure we can all relate in some way or another to the idea of sitting in a waiting room, waiting for our name to be called, waiting for
a loved one to return from surgery, or waiting for the results of the scan. That’s not where most of us wish to be. Nobody really wants
to be sitting in the waiting room. We don’t want to wait for that next phase in our lives. We want it now. I think that often comes from
an incorrect assumption of what waiting may look like in the life of a believer. There’s a difference between just “waiting” and “waiting
on God.” I remember reading a quote from a book long ago that said something about waiting just involving passively waiting and
wondering, hoping for something good to happen, while “waiting on God” is an active process—waiting with faith and trusting in God
and His plans, confident of purpose in the process. I could go on and on with this one. It’s the story of my life, but I’ll move on.
Temptation to Confuse Aloneness for Loneliness
Aloneness (the state of being alone) refers to physical separation from others—isolation. Loneliness, however, involves that emotional
state of being disconnected from others. As a single person, I rarely suffer from loneliness, even when I’m physically alone. Might
I also say that many of my married friends struggle regularly with loneliness? Many singles confuse the two and try to remedy the
situation by filling up their calendars and over-committing to events and engagements in an attempt to avoid loneliness. The problem
16 CAMP BIMI