On Mondays, we fast and pray for men and women to more boldly and faithfully show forth God’s image in relation to one another, and for marriages to those who desire them.
At a recent family baby shower, one of my lovely cousins (who has 5 kids!) was telling me that she looks forward to someday meeting my future spouse. I laughed and said, “ME TOO!” On one hand, I was so happy to feel emotionally stable and not-defensive at a baby shower and in a conversation about singleness. That itself is huge evidence of God’s grace in my heart and life! (Granted, I’ll probably be sobbing on my floor later in the week for something completely inconsequential, but I’ll take the stability as today’s gift.).
Yet on the other hand, a dark voice in the deep of my heart says…“There is no such man. You’ve seen you. You’ve seen the options. You’ve seen the culture. You know it’s impossible.”
All three of those categories give me pause. Yes, I know my own junk: the broken patterns of my past and present, the lonely, empty places sometimes filled by sinful relational choices, the lack of love for others, the deep-rooted anxiety and unseen expectations. I know the Lord is at work in all those areas…but I also know I can be a relational tornado, which makes me afraid that marrying a godly man will somehow be harder.
Secondly, I’ve seen the options. I’ve seen some friends’ promising relationships recently end in disappointment. I’ve got my own tragic dating track record. I don’t see any quickly apparent pool of godly men who want to date/get married. And even though I live in an urban area which is technically full of single adults, I can’t really say that I see the caliber or quantity of godly men to give me much external hope that marriage is a possibility.
And then there’s the culture…add all that into the context of cultural decay around gender/marriage/children, the cancer of pornographic images and words, and confusion about the purpose and gift of human sexuality (including its celibate forms), and perhaps an overarching loss of relational hope (h/t to Dale Keuhne on that front).
Yikes. It’s enough to make me cry, eat salted caramel chocolates and/or crawl under a rock and hide.
And that’s why I love 1 Kings 19. Elijah is just great. After a major win against Ahab and his false idols, he is terrified by Jezebel and runs into the wilderness. Elijah is having such a terrible day that he sits down under a lone tree and asks to die (verse 4): It is enough; now, O LORD, take away my life, for I am no better than my fathers.
Instead, God comes and initiates a conversation with Elijah, and asks him what is wrong. Elijah (my translation): “Look, it’s pretty much just me at this point. I’m trying to do what is right because I believe you. But the rest of your stupid people have seriously destroyed everything, and now they’re looking to kill me too. Did I mention that I’M THE ONLY ONE LEFT? Yep. Me. That’s it, God. Just me.”
Honestly, some of me can identity with Elijah. I feel like I’m the only one looking at the disaster zone of my heart, the lack of men, and the disintegrating culture. It can feel like no one cares what it means to live a counter-cultural life as a celibate, believing single adult. I feel like I’m the only one left (in lots of ways) and, sometimes, I want to sit down under a tree and cry too.
Thankfully, God is still God. He doesn’t quash Elijah’s original complaint but instead cares for him in three ways:
- God brings food for Elijah (verse 5, 7): God twice sends an angel to provide for Elijah’s physical needs because He says the journey is too great for you. He sends Elijah the needed provision for the next task immediately ahead of Elijah. That is an incredible encouragement to me. God knows what is in front of me, and He sends the fuel I need for the next step.
- God speaks to Elijah in unexpected ways (verses 9-14): After feeding Elijah, God sends him on 40-day journey, and then asks Elijah to tell Him his complaint. And He responds in the quietest, least predictable manner….sound familiar? God is not what we expect, does not operate how we expect, and is not always where we expect…and yet, He’s there and He’s listening and responding. That is comfort to my soul.
- God has things we can’t see (verse 18): This is the original verse that God brought to my mind on a particular day that I was overwhelmed by the magnitude of cultural brokenness. I despaired that there were absolutely no godly, single men anywhere. And this verse came to mind: Yet I will leave seven thousand in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him.
NB: Baal was that era’s pagan fertility god who was worshiped with sexual orgies and temple prostitution.) So Elijah had no idea that God had kept thousands of God-fearing Israelites who hadn’t bowed to the pressure of the culture’s sexual practices. I don’t want to take the verse out of context, but I think it is safe to say that God has His people stashed where we might least expect them. When it looks like all hope is dashed, this is a constant reminder to me of God’s prerogative and ability to guide His people…and I’d like to think that can include to marriage, if that is His will.
So when that dark voice in my heart tells me the horizon is too dark and there’s no one left, I instead want to listen to the still, small voice that speaks truth and directs my steps.
Praying with you and for you,