On Mondays we fast and pray (ideally with a friend) for men to be freed to walk uprightly, for women to be softened, and for marriages to be created and given to those who desire them.
It was several years ago, but I can clearly remember standing in front of my tiny dorm closet with my college bff Erika. We were discussing such things as men and marriage, and why neither of those realities had shown more than a passing interest in our lives during the years at college. Somewhere in the conversation this snippet:
Erika: What would you do if you knew you were never going to get married?
Me: Hmm, I really don’t know. Maybe move abroad? I guess I’d have to grieve some things and mourn – like the husband and family I had hoped for.
[We then returned to more pressing subjects like what I was going to wear that day.]
When I said it, I didn’t think twice about what I said. I really had absolutely less than zero intention of having to actually find out what it meant. Fast forward a few years and a few weddings and a milestone birthday and some wise advice for a mentor, and I realized that perhaps it is actually time. Time to grieve a thing or two. Time to mourn what hadn’t happened, at least not in the way or on the time frame I had hoped.
Finding and naming the things to grieve was its own process. I spent the last decade telling myself that marriage and family were right around the corner. I thought I had met and started dating my future spouse on at least four separate occasions (yeah, that’s with four different guys for those of you wondering). I thought I would get married and start a family around the same time as my friends and siblings did. I thought that dating would be fun and easy and quickly point me and Future Husband toward our shared destiny. I thought there would be an epic and fun wedding day of celebration for me and Future Husband and our families. It was hard to acknowledge that in each of those things, there was a gaping chasm between my hopes and my reality.
I avoided looking directly at these often-painful facts because it seemed like a waste of time, and I was afraid I’d get all anti-social and stuck in my pain. But I think my mentor had a good point – it’s not a waste of time to admit that things you hoped for didn’t happen, and that that fact causes some deep sadness. Nor do those admissions and subsequent grief have to be an all-consuming process. To own the sadness – while not negating God’s great goodness to me in a myriad of unforeseen ways – is a process I have been slowly exploring.
The bizarre thing is that, upon turning and facing these chasms, there is some sort of weird freedom emerging. The freedom to say, “Ok, so apparently God is writing a different story with my life than I assumed He was writing…and that’s ok!” It doesn’t make it any easier but there is a strange freedom in opening up the possibilities of the story God is writing, instead of getting frustrated that He somehow hasn’t come through on the story I had written for myself.
The long-dreaded milestone birthday seemed like a giant, very official badge of failure in finding a spouse, but perhaps it’s rather a doorway to getting out of the insane competition I had been staging (and losing) in my head about my social and personal worth vis-a-vis marriage and family. I really have no idea what story God is writing here, but I think that’s the benefit of trusting a good and sovereign God to arrange the pieces of my future. I can live right here, right now…grieving some lost things, thanking God for His generosity, thoughtfully walking through Lent, and finding out each day what adventure God is taking me on today. And this singleness stuff is part of that adventure – I’m glad to be on that journey with each of you!
Praying that God opens our eyes and hearts today — and that our Mondays are full of grace and truth –
Psalm 38:9 – O Lord, all my longing is before you; my sighing is not hidden from You.