Tomorrow will mark my grandparents’ 62nd wedding anniversary (yes, 62). My brother and his wife just celebrated their first anniversary earlier this week. Next weekend, I’m going to a bridal shower for a friend from college.
(My mother was quick to remind me that she is the last single friend I have from college… thanks, Mom)
It’s been ten years since I graduated college, and, let me tell you, it never stops. Yet, “it” never seems to make its way over to me. There have definitely been times over the last ten years I’ve thought, “Oh my goodness, everybody else is getting married!” Let me tell you, those times are hard.
Immediately after college, it seemed like there was wedding after wedding. I guess they didn’t call it the Word of Life Bridal Institute for nothing. Since I hadn’t “mastered the ring by spring” (MRS degree), I honestly felt like a bit of a failure. As I traveled to countless weddings I found myself questioning myself, putting myself down, getting discouraged, and feeling increasingly frustrated. Things quieted down as the college couples all started having families.
Then, single friends moved to new towns and met Mr/Mrs Right. There I was again, purchasing plane tickets and wedding presents, flying all over the country, with my camera in tow. Round two.
To make matters worse, I started working as an event coordinator for a wedding venue, and later as a wedding coordinator for a private company. It was my job to surround myself with people who were getting married. Apparently, I was a glutton for punishment.
All the while, the strangest thing was happening. I would sit down with a friend and we’d talk about life as single women. Without fail, within the next year she would be married. It happened time and time again. I started joking that I was a good luck charm while secretly thinking, “Hey! What gives?!”
Under all of it was this nagging question:
God, have you forgotten about me?
I think that’s really the question most of us are asking when we get overwhelmed by calligraphy wedding invitations. We feel this twinge of loneliness maybe even anger, frustration, or self-pity. God has surely forgotten us.
In that moment, it can be really hard to hold on. It can be hard to wait. Hard to hope. You find yourself asking, “What’s the point?”
We grasp at these concepts of hope and contentment all while struggling with very real desires- emotionally, physically, and mentally. There is a sense of longing and then guilt for the longing because we’re taught to be content. So, then there is this attempted murder of the longing which just serves to frustrate us even more.
It’s a dizzying cycle.
How do you break it?
A couple years ago, I hit a really low point in this arena. I had come off a pretty rough break up and I was pushing forward with this ministry all the while silently panicking because the big 30 was on the horizon and I really wanted to be married by at least 30. (My original target age was 21). I felt guilty for wanting marriage and torn between marriage and ministry. They felt like two very separate paths.
If I trusted God, I needed to push forward with ministry and shut up about marriage. That’s what I thought.
That’s when a very wise friend, who got married at 29, pointed me to the story of Hannah in the Old Testament.
In Samuel chapter 1, we meet Hannah, a woman who desperately longs for a child.
Using modern Christian wisdom, we might tell Hannah, “Oh, Hannah! Just be content! Trust God and He will bring you a child.” It’s a really religious way of saying, “Try not to think about it so much.” We might have told Hannah to just be content with what she had, complained about how hard children are, and how she had it easy.
But Hannah, it says, was often grieved by her barren state. She was heartbroken over it. She went to the Temple, poured her bleeding heart out to God in prayer, begged for a child and asked God not to forget her. It was a silent prayer, but her lips were moving, so the priest thought she was drunk and making a scene. He even reprimanded her, but she replied that she was not drunk, just heartbroken.
“Jessica,” my friend said, “Hannah desired a child so greatly the priest thought she was drunk. She was heartbroken. Being content doesn’t mean you can’t petition. Just because you trust God doesn’t mean you can’t ask him.“
It was a light bulb moment for me- a turning point in my life as a single woman.
Sharing my heart with God, even my disappointments, is a manifestation of my trust in Him not my distrust of Him. It, not silence, is the root of ‘contentment.’
God is ok. He is ok with me coming to Him saying, “God I really really really want this and I’m confused and I’m hurt and I don’t understand why I don’t have it yet.”
Contentment isn’t not asking for it. Contentment is asking and trusting His answer. It isn’t a blind trust. It is a confident hope. It is sharing my deepest longing with the only One who can satisfy and knowing that He hears me. He is listening.
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Our desires can be handled in one of two ways. We can either handle them with God or handle them in spite of Him. They can drive us away from Him or drive us to Him. After all, He is the giver of good gifts (James 1:17), whose ways are so much higher than ours (Isaiah 55:9), who makes all things beautiful in His time (Ecclesiastes 3:11).
In this season, if you are one of those girls who is tired of lining up to catch the bouquet, can I encourage you in something? Enjoy these moments. Lord willing, weddings only happen once, and it is far better to experience them with joy than bitterness. But, that doesn’t mean your heart can’t ache and you can’t long.
Let that aching and that longing drive you even closer to the Lover of your Soul. He loves you. He hears you. He has not forgotten you.