Stories that Make Sense

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,

Amy

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19 Responses to Stories that Make Sense

  1. Rachel says:

    “Lastly, I will become that lady with too many houseplants, cats and a Netflix queue full of PBS. Great! I can’t wait.” <—- This! Oh goodness, this! It is such a relief to hear someone else express the fear of becoming the cat lady – 'cause if that's how things turn out, I'll be right there with you. 😛 But you're so right – it's a lie to think we know how our stories are going to end. And Easter of all times is when we should remember that God loves rewriting our predictable endings into impossible new beginnings. 🙂 Thank you!

    • amy says:

      lol glad you enjoyed! and you’re always invited to the old lady parties i’m going to throw some day. also: “rewriting predictable endings into impossible new beginnings” — i’m tucking them gem away 🙂

  2. connienoelle says:

    Love this! Thank you, Amy for a great reminder as always.

  3. Jenn says:

    Thank you so much for writing this Amy! I’ve felt exactly the same way about the whole concept of “marriage stories” for a while now, but could never express it as clearly as you did. Thank you for putting those thoughts into words and for simultaneously redeeming our stories (or rather, God’s stories!) of our single years in such an encouraging way. I’m so grateful for the way you and the other bloggers here are letting yourselves be used by God to bring blessing to your sisters in Christ as we join together to pursue Him during this time of our lives. This was exactly what I needed to hear this morning as I started my week. Thank you so much!

  4. Miss R. says:

    These weekly posts never fail to resonate in some needed way. Thank you, Amy!

  5. Marie says:

    Thank you for being real about this. You are so right about the fact that none of us know (single or married) where our story might lead next – the Lord is in control.

    I too have had one too many married friends imply the “magical actions” they did to find their spouse – but the funny thing is I remember them feeling exactly like I do now – easily discouraged regarding dating, lonely, confused, sad. But the moment they got that engagement ring on their finger they were somehow superior and ‘had it all figured out’. They dont remember how it felt to long for someone to share life with.

    Trusting God’s timing,

    • amy says:

      I know, right?!? Sometimes I just want to scream, “No, you were complaining about being single and sick of online dating and hating your job too! You did nothing different on the day you met him!”

      I do think that engagement/marriage quickly transforms our brains to forget the details of being single and instead to concentrate relational energy on a spouse….for better or worse. It is a rare friend that I can still be vulnerable with about my singleness after she’s gotten married — but it is also a true and lasting friend. I’m grateful for those gals and I want to be one of them if I get married some day.

  6. Rachel says:

    Thank you for this, Amy. I especially love what you say about the demon-possessed man–it’s true, we all have somewhat odd–and incomplete–stories, at this point.

  7. D says:

    Thanks, I recently signed up to follow this blog and each post seems to hit me right where I’m at.
    I find the point about not knowing where our journey is going to go particularly encouraging…one of my negative thought traps is to think that things in my life are never going to change and to project a negative, dismal, lonely future for myself.
    Thanks for the shot of truth this morning.

    Deb
    40 and single

    • amy says:

      Deb — so glad you are part of the community (welcome!) and excited to see how God surprises you with his unpredictable future plans 🙂

  8. Jodydy says:

    Amy! Wow – this post echoes so much of what I often think about. Only I’m almost 50… I never imagined in my wildest dream I would still be single at 49. NEVER! I was 100% certain that my story so far would include at least 6 children. Its something that I have to offer up to God on a daily basis some weeks. Let me reassure you, though, that you are not condemned to a life of PBS and cats! I’ve been a missionary for nearly 20 years and have a lot of spiritual children. I’m currently in grad school working on an MA in clinical psych and I have so much more life and ministry ahead!! I don’t know where exactly God is taking me but I’m praying to enjoy the journey without letting my idea of what my story should be get in my way. Some days that’s easier than others!
    Thanks so much for your transparency! You spoke to my heart! HE IS RISEN! – That’s the whole story!

  9. dinaner says:

    “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.”

    What an excellent point! I struggle with “my story” too and wonder where my life is heading. It’s too easy to believe the lies and not look for the truth in the situation.

    Diana

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