On Lent and Letting Go

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 –

Amy

Psalm 38:9 – O Lord, all my longing is before you; my sighing is not hidden from You. 

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7 Responses to On Lent and Letting Go

  1. Karis says:

    I’ve already passed my SECOND milestone, and from my experience, it doesn’t really get easier. I actually felt very loved when a 50-something friend with a new grandbaby acknowledged the pain of my recent breakup, and subsequent loss of hope for marriage (at least for the moment). I had told her it was all so discouraging, and she responded, “Discouraging? That’s DEVASTATING!”

    The LORD is always near, He IS writing a great story for each of us, and there is always HOPE. And yet, it feels good to be given permission to grieve a great loss (of a life partner to have in my 20s AND 30s; of perhaps the chance to bear children), with several decades of unknown marital/family status still ahead in life.

    Making a point to grieve certain losses seems like it would help re-set, clear the cobwebs, and help with the process of turning over a renewed attitude. I’m learning that thanksgiving and praise, along with NOT entertaining jealousy or judgmental attitudes, does bring more freedom.

    I still pray that God will bring me a spouse one day, though! =)

  2. Karina says:

    What a lovely honest post. Thank you for opening up.

    I’m still hoping that I will get married but I often spiral into deep despair over this. My question is, if marriage is not for me, then what exactly IS God’s plan for me? There doesn’t seem to be anything else that God is specifically calling me to do and that’s the hardest part.

    It would be so much easier if I could say, God may not have marriage in store for me but I know his plan is for me is to do XYZ, but the truth is, thats just not the case right now.

    Maybe once I’m 45 and if I’m still single, I will be able to find the peace of singleness but at 32, and finding myself in this in-between stage where I’m “late but there’s still a chance,” its really hard to settle down and accept singleness graciously.

    • fast. pray. says:

      Yes, I totally get that and thank you for sharing your heart. I told my friends after I wrote this post that I’ll probably be on the floor sobbing about things next week, so take my current placid perspective with a grain of salt. I mean, I do think the God-molded pieces of my heart are true, but we’ve probably all been around the cycle enough to know there is not some definitive arrival point for “gracious, contented acceptance of unlooked-for life circumstances.”

      Also, how do we define “late” or “still a chance”? I know it might perhaps be a statistical way to describe ourselves…we’re people, not just data points! I also don’t think those are the words God uses to describe us, even though I’ve definitely referred to myself like that. (I’ve referred to me getting married as an already-closed question as well…talk about faith haha) Honestly, I don’t know what this looks like either — but I will be praying with you (and for myself!) that God gives us a clearer vision of what He is calling us to…because I think that encourages true hope (even more than cheery statistics?)…thanks again for reading and taking the time to share what you’re thinking!

  3. lesley says:

    So true. Was talking with God about this very situation tonight. I am another milestone birthday older than you, I think, and my hopes for marriage are yet to be realised. Somewhere along the way as my life has taken a different direction to the “norm”, I have moved from grief and despair to peace. Yes, I still hope to be married. But I know that I will be ok if I’m not. In fact, I am already ok! If God’s plan for my life doesn’t involve marriage, that is perfectly ok. He and I have walked a long way together for me to reach this point! God is sovereign.

  4. smvernalis says:

    Beautiful, as always, my dear! Milestone, shmilestone! Thirties are WAY better than twenties, as I hope I’ve told you before. You know (and like) who you are way better, comparisons and insecurities fall by the wayside, etc. Yes, things to grieve, but lots to celebrate and look forward to, as well! Love. xo

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