On Mondays, we fast and pray that godly men would walk upright and into relationship, that godly women would be softened, and that marriages would be given to those who desire them.
The moment was bound to happen at some point. I was missing my siblings who were with their in-laws over the holidays, and so started (consciously or not) an argument with the remaining family members about the value of keeping family heirlooms. I can be overly sentimental (I still have a box of journals from high school) and the rest of the family tends in the opposite direction (decluttering is high virtue).
In any case, the discussion kept spiraling and somehow I ended up in tears saying things like, “I’m always going to be acting like I’m 15 and helping other people get ready for the holidays and I’m never going to have a house in which to put Grandma’s furniture and I’m never going to have in-laws with whom to spend Christmases and I’m never going to host holiday dinners or my own Christmas traditions and and and…” Well. You get the picture. It wasn’t pretty but it was real. Thankfully my mother is that rare combo of kind and brutally honest, and we got back to common ground of compassion and real-life truth about marriage. But the whole episode make me think a bit more about what I thought it meant to be an adult woman.
Without realizing it, I’ve been drawing up all these pictures of what it meant to be a Christian + adult + woman. Of course it always included “married” and usually with “two kids by age 30.” It meant hosting holiday dinners for the extended family and being deeply involved with ministry at church and in the community. It meant play dates with the kids and real dates with the husband. It meant a house and a yard and a place that we turned into a home. It meant a place to display Grandma’s furniture and cute kid pictures to put on the fridge. It meant a kitchen with the buzz of everyday life and the delicious aroma of dinner.
But that’s not really what my life looks like. I’ve just moved for the third time in six years. It’s home, I guess, but always with the flux of roommate transitions on the horizon. I’ve passed my 30th birthday and no kids or husband…but lots of great community. The only dates I go on start on the interwebs and end in comically tragic awkardness. The cute kids on the fridge aren’t mine (but I do love them!). I don’t have a yard or a place to put furniture from Grandma’s house. My kitchen is shared with two lovely roommates…and I haven’t hosted any holiday dinners. My ministry at church is discreet and unexpected. Hardly the recipe for adulthood I had anticipated.
And yet, two things have become more clear in all this.
First. What I really wanted from the images in my head was a place to belong. And as a woman, I tend to define belonging in relational terms: marriage, friendship, parenthood. And when I didn’t seem to fit in to the relational paradigm I had pictured for myself, I got pretty sad and started questioning if I was even on the right path. Had I missed Exit 25 for Adulthood?
Second. I had never asked where those pictures of adulthood even came from. Maybe it was too many Hallmark Christmas movies or Real Simple magazines? Maybe it was the large majority of my friends who were moving toward that “standard” picture of adulthood? Maybe it was reading one too many Christian magazine articles on the 38 Ways Marriage Helps You Get Sanctified Super Fast. Regardless, the images from all these cultural soups had imprinted themselves on my brain pretty strongly, and I had never stopped to question where the images came from. Is this how God defined maturity, or just me?
I certainly don’t have the full answer to that question. I simply want to say that, as a woman without her own kitchen, I have come to know more deeply that it is not my external circumstances or the appearance of relational connection that makes me secure or makes me an adult or makes me a mature believer. God’s path for me seems to be quite different from what I expected but that fact shouldn’t dent my secured identity in Christ. Instead of panicking about being off-track, I want to ask the Lord what He thinks defines adulthood and to let Him write the story of my relational life – both by letting Him erase some of my mentally imaged expectations for the future and by joyfully accepting the rich gift of “right now” in the present.
Praying with you,
2 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, 3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. 4 And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
5 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. 6 But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind.