I ran into a friend the other day who recently graduated college and she shared with me that it seemed like all of her friends were getting engaged and married. She was feeling left out. She asked what it looked like for me when I was in that season.
That season? As if to say it’s passed? As of last month, I’ve been in 22 weddings since 2009; 17 of those have been since graduating college in 2010. So the question would be better stated, how are you navigating this season?
Preface: this is not going to be one of those ‘enjoy your singleness’, ‘someday your prince will come’, ‘just be content already’, or ‘become a queen if you want to get a king’ posts. There are plenty of those out there, but this is not one of them.
So, If you’re still reading, here’s a glimpse into my story and what God has taught me along the way.
In 2011 I had my heart broken. Within a week (6 days actually) of the breakup, I found myself walking into a Tiffany’s to meet my life long bestie’s soon-to-be fiancé. He had flown in from Africa, because he was a missionary of course, and had covertly arranged for me to meet him there to help him pick out an engagement ring for a complete surprise proposal that would go down shortly after. Nicholas Sparks ain’t got nothin’ on their love story.
So this was the first time I was taken under by an internal struggle of this sort:
Was I happy for my best friend, who I have talked about ‘our future husbands’ with since we were literally 4 years old? Duh.
Was I simultaneously in writhing pain over my own recent heart break, drowning in a sea of comparison (If only I had dated a missionary instead!), whilst trying on flawless, brilliant, princess cut Tiffany’s engagement rings to model them for my bestie’s fiancé? Um, yes… to say the very least.
I felt like I was deteriorating inside, but I wanted to be happy for her, and knew that I was happy for her, somewhere beneath my angst. How are you supposed to get psyched for someone else’s relational bliss while you are in a level of relational hell? I doubt that I’m the only person who has asked this question.
The thought of not totally celebrating her moment because I was too busy raging at my own personal pity party was not an option for me. This was my person and I was not about to rain on her parade, or make her feel like she needed to “tone down” her excitement to be sensitive to me. This was my first time to try to put my mind over my emotions in this particular arena.
Little did I know, yet entirely as the Lord would will it, that same year I was in 6 weddings: two of which were among my best friends’ weddings, in addition to my younger brother’s wedding. You can’t make this stuff up.
Clearly God had something he was trying to teach me.
So I started sifting through what my issue was, because you better believe this became an issue. I couldn’t decipher why I was so irked by not being married (mind you I was in my mid-twenties at this point, though everywhere else in the world considers this a young age to be married my small town upbringing tempted me to think I was a few cats away from reaching “spinster” status). My question for myself was, why do I want to be married so badly? What is it that I’m looking to gain out of a marriage?
Please note my selfish mentality from the get-go, ‘what can I gain?’… bless my heart.
1 Samuel 8 is the passage God called to mind and ever so gently gave me some insight into my situation. See the passage here
In short, the people of Israel are asking Samuel to appoint a king for them. Samuel can’t help but ask why on earth they would want a king, anyhow. Samuel tells the people all that comes with having a king, since this is no casual matter. The people respond saying this:
“No! But there shall be a king over us, that we also may be like all the nations, and that our king may judge us and go out before us and fight our battles”
(1 Sam. 8:19-20)
Recap: the people are wanting a king for 3 reasons:
To judge them. To go out before them. To fight their battles.
This seemed absurd to Samuel because the Lord was already doing these things for the nation of Israel. These ‘needs’ were already being met—and exceeded. We must ask why, then, were they so bent on having a king? …
That we also may be like all the nations…
At this point in my reading I could tell that the Lord was nudging me to draw parallels between this specific passage and my fixation with marriage. Been there before? You feel like the dots are all there, He’s just waiting for you to connect them… cool.
Problem: I am far too prideful to hang my hat on the ‘I just want to be like everyone else’ hook. I am far above that, right? So, while I’m sure there is some (or a lot) of that mentality playing into it, I concluded that there was more to it than that. I started asking what it was that I was wanting to get out of a husband/ a marriage? I narrowed it down to the following:
Companionship. Security. Annnnd (something that sounds more respectable…) Sanctification… no, no, a teammate for a missional lifestyle. Runner Up: because I just want one, alright?
Are these things bad reasons for wanting to be married? Not in and of themselves.
Are these areas that God is already filling in my life? ………..
Here’s the gist of this lesson he’s been teaching me:
My dissatisfaction is not specific to this season of singleness. This is a disease that has plagued my life before and will continue to plague my life regardless of my marital status, or anything else. That best friend of mine told me after she got married that she is so glad that her hope had been for her husband, but not in her husband. She said that even though she is now happily married to the best man she knows, it still does not and cannot satisfy the depths of her soul.
If I am seeking alternative outlets to satisfy different depths of my soul I will come up empty every time.
The question is not, is the Lord satisfactory for my needs? The question is, will I seek him to satisfy these needs?
Is he providing companionship? Holy spirit dwelling inside me, 24/7. How’s that for companionship?
Is he providing security? He is the only thing that is secure. Continue to learn this on the reg.
Sanctification? I mean… His spirit. His word. His church. His instruments through Christian literature… the list goes on. Plus that’s a lot of pressure to put on one person.
Teammate for missional lifestyle? I need to be doing this on my own first and foremost.
Then we face the, I want to be like everyone else bit.
Rephrased: I don’t want to be the only one who isn’t married.
And at that I am nudged to return to verses that have been sweet in the past: Psalm 139:16 “in your books were written every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there were none of them.” He has written my story, and I am not the main character. His glory is the theme of the book; not my temporal happiness. This is not bleak, this is life-giving. This is fullness and this is freedom.
And yet again I find myself landing the plane on Proverbs 31:25 “She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come.” Again I have a call to reset my gaze and my hope, and to seek Him to satisfy this restless soul of mine. Because he is faithful, I can laugh at whatever may come next—be that marriage or not—knowing that he never changes and he is the only source of satisfaction.
So to all the bridesmaids out there, hold that bouquet with your chin up, sister. He is exceedingly more than enough. His goodness is not contingent on whether you’re married or single. And He has already authored all of our stories. There’s no promise of a prince charming, but there is a promise of a returning king who will redeem and restore the years that the locusts have eaten. Let us not—myself being the first—become nearsighted and begin to hope in anything less, and everything else is far less, than his return.