Mondays: we fast and pray together for marriage for those who desire it, for godly men to be leaders in relationships and in the church, and for the Lord to soften and turn our hearts toward Him.
I always find it somewhat annoying when a well-intentioned married person tells me their spouse/marriage story in such a way that implies there is something I just need to do (or stop doing) and then I’ll get married. “Just stop looking. That’s when you’ll find it. That’s what happened to me.” “Just have fun!” “Once I put myself out there…” or “Once I decided to take a step back from dating…”
As if there is some magical action I need to take or magical thought I need to think, and then my story will make as much sense as theirs. It’s not that I don’t like their story. It’s that they tell it with such ease and it inevitably concludes with a happy ending. They seem to be saying that when they reflect on their singleness, everything now makes sense in context of how it directed them to or prepared them for their eventual spouse. All the other relationships and seasons of spiritual growth and ordained timing added up to a good spouse.
And I just find this all a bit odd. I mean, I look back on my singleness thus far and see almost nothing that makes sense. I see relational missteps, hours of counseling, way too many dating advice books, trying not to be angry at weddings, some really tragic dating stories, some really great dating stories, painful and less-painful breakups, regret, longing, cyclical disappointment and severe growth at the cost of my hoped-for life. And none of this has led me to a spouse…so is my story somehow permanently less valid?
I think there are several lies inherent in this line of storytelling and in my reaction:
Lie: Our primary story is the story of how we meet our spouse. Nope. The spouse story might be a chapter in the broader story, but it’s not the point. Our primary story is really Easter morning: that God himself bridged the chasm with sinful humanity, suffered in our place, conquered death and rose to live for us, with us, in us. That He has redeemed us, is sanctifying us, and is coming back for us. My story is not really about me – it’s about Him.
Lie: Because I can’t put the pieces together of my strange life, my story is not worth telling. I often feel like I’m waiting to tell my singleness story when it makes sense. Currently, it makes zero sense. I mean, who in their right mind wants to admit to being almost 30, celibate, single, longing for marriage, and all in a public forum? Oh right. Apparently me. I take comfort from Jesus instructing the demon-possessed man in the Gerasenes (whose story probably didn’t make sense either): “Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you.” Our stories don’t have to make sense to us to reflect God’s provision and grace to us.
Lie: We know where the story goes from here. Like most chick flicks, couples often stop telling their “story” at their wedding day. The reality (married folks, correct me here if I’m mistaken) is that on their wedding day, they had no idea what they were getting into with the whole marriage business. Even good married life is full of unmet expectations, suffering, longing, and frustration at circumstances which one wishes could be changed. Which sounds oddly a lot like singleness.
It’s easy for me to tell myself that I know where this life goes next (“I will now become the unmarried older sister who is too career-oriented. Next I will be the unexplainably single aunt for my nieces and nephews. Lastly, I will become that lady with too many houseplants, cats and a Netflix queue full of PBS. Great! I can’t wait.”) The truth is that I have no idea what my singleness holds any more than a couple on their wedding day knows what their marriage will hold.
Letting God write a bigger story for us means we don’t know what will happen and it will probably not make sense for most of the time. But that puts us exactly where we need to be: trusting God anew.
By His Grace,