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Columnists

The single file

Jude Simpson

SimpsonBy the time you read this I will be on holiday amid the lush landscapes and azure seas of the Caribbean. I will be married, in love, and six months pregnant. As Catherine von Ruhland stated in this mag last month, 'coupledom is one of our culture's prescribed aspirations' and after 18 years of adult life 'struggling' with singleness, I've at last ticked it off.

Do I sound smug? I hope not. I'm the first to realise how little I did to make this happen. I didn't work hard enough or follow the correct steps (five of them, all beginning with the letter 'p'). I have simply been blessed and try as I may, I cannot keep silent about it.

But why would I even consider keeping silent?

Because I still remember the lump in my throat, the knot in my stomach, the wince in my smile whenever I tried to give a spontaneously positive reaction to the news that someone else was engaged or pregnant. I never begrudged their happiness, but I never mastered unmitigated, selfless joy either.

And I know what it's like to be offered a daffodil at a Mother's Day service, only to have it retracted when the steward thought to ask, 'Are you a mother?' and I had to reply 'Er, no, actually'. Sometimes I felt I had a sign round my neck, 'Shattered Dreams Here - Ideal for Treading Upon!'

Was I a failure? Did my inability to experience God as the full, sustaining force in my life regardless of Significant Others demonstrate an inadequate faith? Answers on the back of a postcard (and while you're at it, why not send me some examples of married people who experience God as the full, sustaining force in their lives regardless of Significant Others).

But the questions are now academic. God has answered my prayers, and I'm blessed to my wildest dreams. But how do I give God the glory and gratefulness without being in other people's faces?

There's a temptation to play it all down - 'marriage isn't all it's cracked up to be ... morning sickness is a nightmare...' - but not only would that be denying God's goodness, it's also patronising. Oh, the times new mothers tried to make me feel better with claims of, 'You wouldn't want the sleepless nights!' Do they have any idea how close I came to grabbing them by the straps of their breastfeeding bras, wrapping their three-wheeler buggies round their necks and shouting, 'Yes! I do! I want the sleepless nights! The filthy nappies! The baggy tummy! The sore nipples! I want them all!'
There's no point serving a faithful, loving God through the hard times if you feel embarrassed about praising him when the good times come. So if I shove my blessedness down your throat, slap me, but if you want to acknowledge God's goodness - however unequally distributed it sometimes seems - then slap me on the back, and buy me another non-alcoholic cocktail.