Table for One, Please
If there’s one thing I absolutely don’t want to do on Valentine’s Day, it’s to go to a restaurant by myself. Not that I begrudge the happy couples around me their status, chocolates, or flowers. As someone who is single, I’m not prone to notice whether most of the people in a place are paired up, single, or in a group. But on Valentine’s Day, it's different. The scenario of me as the lone single in a roomful of couples—each focusing on their relationship—is something I prefer to avoid. And by prefer, I mean go to any lengths to prevent. The combination of a public appearance during the dinner hour, plus that holiday, plus me by myself isn’t good. However, it gives me some compassion for Adam in the Garden of Eden. Did you know he was the first person to be single? We find him in the second chapter of the Bible, knowing a bit of what it’s like to be alone.
Out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to Adam to see what he would call them. And whatever Adam called each living creature, that was its name. So Adam gave names to all cattle, to the birds of the air, and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not found a helper comparable to him. (Genesis 2:19–20)
Here we see Adam before the creation of Eve. He’s fulfilling his God-given occupation of naming all the animals, and while the Bible never mentions Adam was lonely, I've got to assume he was very aware that none of those animals made a suitable companion. In fact, God Himself is aware when He makes the statement one verse prior: “It is not good that man should be alone” (verse 18).
If you read the whole creation account, it's filled with many statements of what is good, yet in the middle of all this perfection, there's one thing that God declares is “not good”—man being alone. With this declaration, God isn’t stating that something is bad. He’s proclaiming that Adam is incomplete. Obviously, we know that Adam is without Eve for only a little while, yet I find it interesting that God doesn't immediately set about fixing the one thing in the garden He proclaims wasn't good. In those verses, God allows the tension of Adam being single to remain while he names all the animals.
So What’s a Single to Do?
I don’t know how Adam handled living under the knowledge that it wasn’t good to be alone while still being in that state. But I can speak for how I live in that tension. It’s not always easy living as an “I” and a “me” in a world of “we’s” and “us’s.” If you know the account of Adam, you know that he soon went from a “me” to a “we.” But Adam and Eve aren’t the only ones in relationship featured in Genesis 1–3. Before the creation of the first couple, God records an “us” when He states, “Let Us make man in Our image” (Genesis 1:26). In that “Us,” many Christians believe we get our first glimpse at the Trinity—our primary example of perfect relationship.
So what does the Trinity have to do with those who are longing for a relationship? To answer that, I’d like to go in the New Testament to John 15. Here Jesus is talking to His disciples the night before He’s going to be handed over to Pilate to be crucified. In some of His final moments with His disciples, Jesus discusses love, relationship, and the Trinity.
He uses His relationship with the Father to be an example of how our relationship with Him should look. “As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love” (John 15:9–10). What’s so good about abiding in Jesus and His love? What if I still want earthly love? What if I still want someone to be sitting across the table from me on Valentine’s Day and every other day?
The truth is that love between people may fail. It may go through a rough patch and falter or, sadly, it may wane altogether. The couple that has a bouquet of roses at the table next to mine may go home to bitter fighting. The love between the couple that’s sitting beyond them isn’t always perfect either. Some days it might be just as lonely for them to be a “we” as it is for me to be simply “me.”
The truth is that what I long for isn’t really going to be met with gifts of chocolate and roses or someone to have dinner with. My soul longs for a greater love. And if we continue reading in John 15, Jesus tells His disciples (and you and me) where that kind of love can be found. “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends. You are My friends if you do whatever I command you” (John 15:13–14).
I encourage you in your search for love, for belonging, for acceptance, to not merely look for it in human context.
I encourage you in your search for love, for belonging, for acceptance, to not merely look for it in human context. Look for it through what Jesus offers in John 14–17. He doesn’t offer His greatest love in the midst of roses, joy, and happiness. Instead, He mentions love in the context of a lot of tension and pain: hatred from the world (15:18), persecution (16:2–4), suffering the rejection of His closest friends (16:32), and attacks from the evil one (17:15).
So it seems that God is comfortable with using tension as a way of getting us to understand love. He starts with allowing Adam to live in the tension of knowing he is alone and that it’s not good. We see it again as Jesus talks to His disciples about His greatest love in the midst of many sorrows. And you and I know it daily as we walk in our own tensions of loneliness and pain. Yet in the midst of this, we can know the love of God. We can walk in close fellowship with Him.
Jesus finished that conversation by praying for us to have relationship. He prayed to the Father saying, “That they may be one just as We are one: I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me” (17:22–23). Embrace the tension in your life as an opportunity to learn more of the love of God. Seek time alone with Him today. Purpose to know His love and to abide in oneness with Jesus. Let me encourage you that in doing so, you will have joy. In fact, I have found that, as I take time to pursue relationship with Him, suddenly that table for one becomes the best seat in the house.