“Jessica, you could be single for the rest of your life.” I glared at my friend. She had a lot of nerve making such a statement. “No! I meant it as a compliment. You are just a very strong woman.”
Strong or no. I had no intentions of being single for the rest of my life. In fact, my plan was to be married within the next five years. I was 18. I am now 27. So much for that five year plan. At 23, I joked with a friend, “How old do you think someone should be before they write a book on singleness?” Her response: “25, at least.” I could have written it two years ago.
Throughout the years, my attitude toward my own singleness has fluctuated from contentment to sheer panic, from half-hearted trust to anger. Was I supposed to want this or not? How long, exactly, did God expect me to wait. If it was such a good thing, such a ‘gift’ then why on earth was God not letting me have it? That’s just stupid.
As I neared my 21st birthday, my heart went into a frenzy. Marriage was not on the horizon, so I started painting my own horizon. Every single man in my life became a potential husband. I would plan out our lives together, and then I would be happy. If I could see it working, God was good; life was good; I was happy. Then, this funny thing started happening.
They all started getting married– and not to me. Salt in an already bleeding wound.
I couldn’t wrap my mind around it. Why wasn’t God answering this desire of my heart? It was a good desire. Marriage is a good thing. I wanted to be married; why was this so difficult?
Then the question came, “Why do you want it?”
Marriage might be a great thing, but if I want it for the wrong reasons, it won’t accomplish its intended ends.
When I first asked myself that question, I had to be honest: I wanted marriage because I figured it was the best way to deal with my struggles. I wanted marriage to fix only what God can, because I knew God’s way would hurt. I wanted a quick fix, a sensible fix- just give me a man, and then I won’t deal with all of these insecurities; I won’t have to worry about all of this anger. It will just be a bed of dark chocolate and tulips (I can’t stand roses).
I had lifted marriage to a place above God. It was more important than the work He was doing in my life. It was the foundation of all my hope and happiness, and I was convinced it must be the key to my Godliness. That’s when I face-planted on this gem:
“For His divine power has bestowed upon us all things that [are requisite and suited] to life and godliness, through the [full, personal] knowledge of Him Who called us by and to His own glory and excellence (virtue).” (2 Peter 1:3- Amplified)
Where to start?
God has given me everything I need for life and for godliness, but it doesn’t say through marriage. I have everything I need for life and godliness through the full and personal knowledge of Christ. This means, and not meaning to be cliche here, that I should be pursuing Christ. My successful navigation of life depends on my knowledge of Him not my tax filing status.
So is wanting marriage wrong?
Here’s where the confusion came for me and for so many others. As Christian women we are fed so many different takes on how we should approach and anticipate marriage. It’s a good thing, but we’re told not to pursue it. We’re supposed to just let it happen.
For some of us, we might be fairly convinced that we have a greater chance of being struck by lightning on a sunny day.
How do we balance a desire to grow in Christ with a desire for marriage?
They aren’t meant to be competing desires. It’s not as if you desire one at the exclusion of the other. In fact, the problem is, for many of us, we have desired marriage at the exclusion of Christ. Then, we swing back to the other side and desire Christ at the exclusion of marriage. We live our lives in this back-and-forth pendulum pattern– unstable, moody, directionless, inconsistent (sound like you?).
I found my own balance (not saying I don’t lose it every now and then, but I found it), through a series of three events.
1. I read Eric and Leslie Ludy’s book, Meet Mr. Smith. I recommend this book to pretty much every girl who comes to me with questions about sex before marriage and dating. It is one of the most beautiful, PG rated guides to human sexuality that I have ever read. Most of them, even the Christian ones, read like a porn site. This one is different- emphasizing matters of the heart in such a powerful way that it led me to…
2. I gave up marriage for one year. Obviously, this is not a recommended course of action for married women, but it is one that I, as a single woman, have never regretted. Right before my 21st birthday, I decided that I would ‘kill’ the dream of being married by 22. I wouldn’t just let it die; I, myself, was going to kill it. I decided that I would not date or even entertain the idea of marrying a man for the next year. It was probably one of the best decisions I have ever made. It taught me the art of guarding my heart.
3. I figured out what marriage really was. I say that now with all the chutzpah of a single woman; check back with me once I’m married. What I mean is, I put marriage in its place. I prayed, studied, and finally sat down and wrote out my own life purpose statement, and then carried that over and applied it to marriage. I have it written down in one of my journals. The basic idea is this:
I am placed on this earth for a divine eternal purpose- to serve both the lost and the church. At any given point, if I am following God, I will be in the best place for that task to be accomplished. When there comes a time that my ability to minister is better done within a marriage, then I can trust that God will bring that to pass. He will always have me in the best place I can serve Him. My job is to be faithful to serve wherever He has me.
If marriage is a struggle for you. If you want it maybe a little too passionately, I would encourage you to sit down with the Lover of Your Soul and ask Him to help you put marriage in its place. Like sex, marriage is a good Godly desire, but only when tempered by God Himself.