Post from a Reader: The Waiting Game

Throughout the next few months we will feature posts submitted by readers of the FastPray blog. It’s encouraging to know there is a whole community of Jesus followers fasting and praying on Mondays.

We fast and pray asking for the Lord to bring healing in our times: for men to be bold and to walk in to relationships with women, for women to be soft and willing to be molded by God’s gracious plan in their lives, and for God to give the good gift of marriage to those who desire it.

Everything in my childhood led me to believe I would marry young.

First, there were my parents. A new and eager Christian, my mom arrived as a freshman at her Ivy League school and headed directly to the campus chapel where she heard Christians had been gathering. She met the charismatic young pastor, a recent graduate. Four years later, shortly after her own graduation, she married him. Yes, not only was my Dad her pastor, he was the first person she met her first day on campus. (The stuff Christian dreams are made of.)

Second, there were my siblings. My first wedding took place at the age of 3, when my brother, a budding pastor even then, married me off with a Monkey-in-the-Barrel in lieu of a ring to a childhood friend. A friend who later became my pastor! At the age of 4, I remember holding my sisters (2 and newborn) and knowing I wanted my own babies. By the age of 6, I believe I had had a crush on every young guy, worship leader and pastor my Dad mentored. My brother can embarrassingly still name many of them.

I was enough of a rational young adult surrounded by a wonderful youth group of friends to know it was unlikely I would date and marry someone from my high school years. I invested those years in friendship.

Then college arrived. The first person I met on campus on my first day…was my brother. Who had joined that year’s freshman orientation specifically to be there early to welcome me. My college was split 50-50 men and women and we always joked about how it was designed so everyone could pair up…and that unfortunately, my brother and I were the last two remaining once everyone else found their other half!

After college, I worked for a church in England for a year.  During which time both my baby sisters began to date the men they would later marry. I have lived and cried and hoped through so many of the times the blog writers have described:

  • Watching both of my baby sisters get engaged. In the same week. (I joked to my Dad that if I could fake an engagement with a guy off the street that same week, we could probably all get featured on Oprah.)
  • Watching both of my sisters receive lovely birthday, Valentine’s and Christmas gifts from their special guys.
  • Watching both of my sisters get married. Being a bridesmaid in 5 weddings in 6 weekends. Featuring most of the same people at each wedding which means the same comments, condolences and criticism on my continuing singlehood.  My boyfriend at the time breaking up with me over the phone as I dressed for the 6th wedding because he realized he was in love with a girl from his college…the first Christian he had met on campus a decade earlier.
  • Dating someone who was verbally and physically abusive.
  • Watching my older brother fall in love. Realizing I would be the only “kid” at home on Christmas morning (and no, that is not cool when you’re in your late 20’s).
  • Watching my Dad cry and say “I don’t know why God hasn’t brought someone for you yet but I believe strongly that he hasn’t forgotten about you.”
  • A friend telling me about her vivid dreams of attending my bridal shower – and viewing that as a promise from God – while I politely nodded and thanked her and tried not to hope too much.

The hilarious pinnacle of my singleness is best described in this anecdote that made me equal parts amused/hurt at God’s sense of humor: one April, I visited my grandma and cousins in PA. I have two older female cousins, both married and raising lovely kids. And I have one male cousin, less than a year younger than me, who was in a coma following a horrific car accident when he was two. He is blind, severely crippled, and mentally still very much a toddler. He also loves life and laughs more than anyone I know. On this trip, he very excitedly announced to me that he had a girlfriend! He showed me pictures from the school they both attend, he blushed every time he mentioned her name and his Mom told me the teachers caught them kissing! On one hand, it was the sweetest most innocent thing I had ever heard. And I thank God for giving my cousin this love. On the other hand, I cried secretly that night because it is quite a blow to the ego when one’s mentally handicapped cousin is ahead of them in the dating game.

I survived my brother’s engagement and found myself able to fully join in his joy. I survived my grandma passing away, the grandma who married in her 30’s and would have understood (maybe) what my life felt like, had she been the kind of grandma who talked about those things.

And all those years: I lived. I ran half marathons and marathons and ultramarathons. I lived in England and Maine and Boston. I attended Red Sox games with my former babysitter who became a dear mentor and friend also living the single life. I helped plant two churches. I visited Russia, Ukraine, England, France, Ireland, Wales and traveled to Miami and San Francisco for work. I got my MBA. I spent five years in the most darling apartment next to Fenway Park. A home that became a wonderful haven and a constant source of thanksgiving whenever singleness became especially painful. I celebrated my 30th birthday by flying my Mom and sisters to Napa Valley to watch me run my 3rd marathon on 03.03.13. I babysat for my dearest friends when they all began to become mothers. And I kept all these beloved babies dressed in the cutest attire. Most recently, I celebrated the birth of three nephews who are precisely 6 weeks apart from each other. I loved being single and I hated being single and I was constantly loved by a good and gracious God.

I’m dating a wonderful man now. He has asked my father for my hand. He has procured my grandma’s engagement ring. He is everything good and kind I could want in a husband and he is not at all what I had planned for. I have caught myself wanting to move the waiting game along. Wanting to Pinterest my way to a perfect engagement and wedding. To allow myself to be selfish and self-centered for the next year or so because “I deserve it” and “it’s my time.”

But the truth is that life doesn’t stop when you’re engaged. Or waiting to be engaged. Or dating. Or single.  We are prayerfully and painfully walking a cancer journey with his Mom. We are trying to be respectful of hurting friends going thru divorces and infertility. And in the midst of all of that, one of these days, we will get engaged. And it will be a joyous day of thanks to God. But it will also just be another day, not the finish line of a race.

In my job, I work closely with a lot of retirees and the elderly. And it is pretty rare for both partners in a couple to pass away at the same time. Which means it is very likely that I, or you, or many of our friends, will end our time on this temporal earth once again…single! I am so blessed by God that I know how to be single. That I know goodness and blessing that have flowed from that. Maybe I will be the one to graciously help others thru that journey? And to remind them again, that this is not a finish line. Heaven with its promise of no pain or sorrow, no feelings of being picked over or left behind, no thoughts of inadequacy and loneliness, await us all! I can’t wait.

I know I’m not the only one to think “if only I knew I was going to marry in the future, I would stop worrying about it and focus on God and my present life.” Yet I know that’s a lie. It’s precisely the unknown and unknowable that pulls me closer to God. It’s the promises in his Bible such as “the years the locust have stolen from you” and “for I know the plans I have for you” that feel sweetest when I’m struggling (even if I sometime takes his promises out of context, I know He is bigger than my potentially wrong interpretations.)

My prayer for us all during this busy holiday season is that we would wait on the Lord expectantly, prayerfully, and that we would be able to pray this with confidence over ourselves and each other:

“I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living! Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!” Psalm 27:13-14

And also “But as for me, I will look to the Lord; I will wait for the God of my salvation; my God will hear me.” Micah 7:7.


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20 Responses to Post from a Reader: The Waiting Game

  1. Cat says:

    Thanks for the post. Would have been nice to know how you met your current boyfriend to make the story more complete. Really nice to get a fresh voice and perspective on this blog.

    • ezelie says:

      I wrote a comment on this to you but think it got deleted. Take 2.

      I actually met him online, not my #1 way to meet someone but he was Southern and new to my city and we worked/churched/attended gyms in different parts of the city. Neither of us are huge extroverts chasing extracurricular activities so this was the way God used. We met pretty quickly after exchanging a few emails (and wading thru the emails, many of them creepy, was the worst part of online dating even on a Christian site with filters set) because I was worried about indulging in an electronic relationship and becoming too attached too soon. God’s ways are not our ways…but his ways are good!

  2. Carrie says:

    This brought tears to my eyes. Thank you for understanding and putting our feelings into words. I love that you didn’t stop living & experiencing new adventures during your single season as that is what I’m doing as well. Many blessings to you and your future!

    • ezelie says:

      You’re very welcome! And thank you! Don’t stop living! Not only because God created us for adventure but because I think it keeps us young and interesting and seeing new facets of God. (and no one – friends, family, potential boyfriend – wants a boring person around.) We bring God joy when we live each season He gives us to the full. I always think of the parable of the man hiding his talents rather than investing them. I’m not gonna hide my love of travel and cooking and reading and exploring my city and wait for “the right guy” when there are so many ways and people I can invest in now. (I work with a lot of male engineers, like 97% of my company and their biggest complaint these days is that I don’t bake for them anymore!)

      I’ll pray your single season isn’t forever – but that every day of it is joyful!

  3. austriagom says:

    Thank you for these honest, vulnerable words that brought tears to my eyes. I wanted all my life to be married, but relational interests weren’t always mutual. But God gives peace, and we can rest in Him in all situations.

    • ezelie says:

      You are exactly right – God gives peace. Peace that passes all understanding. We all, whatever season of our life, need to rest in Him. I so identify with you and “relational interests not being mutual.” I have felt that pain so many times and I am sorry that you have too. May God continue to bless you as you rest in Him!

  4. T says:

    What are your thoughts on “hoping too much” now?

    • ezelie says:

      Hoping that I’ll get married and live joyfully? Hoping for my friends to be in relationships despite the many setbacks and heartaches? I think it’s easy to want to stop hoping – to protect ourselves. I have done that many times until Jesus tenderly pries me out of my shell. I am a very realistic practical person not given to fanciful hopes. But I do believe that as a Christian, hope is the conviction that no matter the circumstances, God’s plans for our lives are for good and not for evil. That doesn’t mean that if I hope enough, I will get what I hope for. But there is so much in the Bible about being honest about our desires and dreams.

      My Mom once said the most honest powerful prayer in the Bible is Mark 9:24 “I do believe, help my unbelief!” That’s me! That’s you! As humans, we can totally believe…and simultaneously admit to Jesus we need help believing. I often pray “I trust, I believe, I hope, etc. now help me, Jesus, to trust/believe/hope in you more.”

  5. adeline says:

    Thank you for sharing Liz! And I am so so glad that you have now met someone – may our good Lord continue to order your footsteps and direct your paths in this new and precious journey. I am truly encouraged to know that God’s promises will always be true and will come to pass. It will happen not in our own timing but His and the thing is, His timing is never ours and so we wait and stand on God’s promises knowing that he will come through for us. I have been through days where I knew beyond a shadow of doubt that God had come through for me in as far as a husband was concerned (as recently as last year August) but these encounters turned out to be disappointments. And so disappointment after disappointment I have held on – God has remained faithful through these years and has comforted me and wiped away my tears. I am still waiting and trusting and hoping at the feet of Jesus even though I am now in my mid 40’s & never been married, never had a boyfriend years. You have so rightly put it – “It’s the promises in his Bible such as “the years the locust have stolen from you” and “for I know the plans I have for you” that feel sweetest when I’m struggling (even if I sometime takes his promises out of context, I know He is bigger than my potentially wrong interpretations.)”. God bless. Adeline

    • ezelie says:

      I’ll be keeping you in my prayers, Adeline! On one hand, I did witness a friend get married a few years ago – both in their 50’s, first marriages, rarely having dated before. It was one of the most joyous celebrations. On the other hand, I have many friends like the lovely friend who was my babysitter and who has been walking the single journey far longer than me. It makes me angry…and sometimes I slip and blame God or men or society. I’ve had to learn that I am not God. My role is to pray, to offer comfort, to include others (back before I met my guy I planned an Alaskan cruise with my family and we invited some older singles we knew who would want to be included in a family vacation. By the time the vacation happened I was struggling with joy because the guy I’m with lost his job the day before I left for my fun family trip and…my luggage never made it on the cruise. But the perspectives of those around me, single and married, helped me still find joy in my trip.) I am praying that you find grace every step of your way this week, that you don’t give in to despair, and that you have friends and family that include you.

      • adeline says:

        Thank you Ezelie for offering to pray for me and for the encouragement. We will continue to wait upon the Lord and pray for each other. I have friends that I have been praying with, some younger, some older and we hold on tightly knowing that God will see us through this journey. I pray with all my heart that everyone in this forum has a testimony by the end of the year. God bless you all.

  6. Karis says:

    This is so precious: “Watching my Dad cry and say, ‘I don’t know why God hasn’t brought someone for you yet but I believe strongly that he hasn’t forgotten about you.'” What a lovely father you have. My earthly father has passed on, but this reminds me that my Heavenly Father has not forgotten me!

    • ezelie says:

      Your Heavenly Father has certainly not forgotten you and loves you with a perfect and holy love that is far beyond what our earthly dads can provide! He has absolutely NOT forgotten about you and he knows your desires. I’m sorry you’ve lost your earthly father, so many hugs coming your way!

  7. lwinzarni says:

    I’m so encouraged reading this post. Thank you so much!

  8. Dave says:

    I felt very touched reading this, and I think there is hope still for western men to rethink marriage.
    When you listen to the average man today, particularly in the West, most are not only angry when it comes to male-female relationships, but they are also genuinely scared of marriage. The feminist movement has succeeded in making marriage a truly hazardous undertaking for men, particularly for good, decent, marrying kind. These men have witnessed the devastating effects that divorce has had on their friends and relatives (women file 60-70% of divorces); they have seen how weak marriages have made their once strong masculine colleagues, and they simply don’t want anything to do with the institution.

    But in all these there are still godly women who are committed to marriage and love, and who would do the work to make their marriages not only successful, but enjoyable for themselves and for their mates. The author sounds like one of those women.
    Maybe if more sisters would communicate how much they appreciate the men, and how much they are committed to a truly biblical marriage, and not what it has been redefined to be in today’s America, maybe this will go a long way to assuage the fear of these men, and help them work hard to prepare to be husbands and father. I really thank the author for this uplifting piece.

    • ezelie says:

      I’m glad you found encouragement in this. I think there is a lot of fear and disillusionment and heartache in our society for both men and women looking at marriage, especially those looking thru the lens of past divorces. So much love and prayer for people who have been hurt before and want to trust God and step into a relationship again.

      • Dave says:

        T, I am not sure you got my gist. Men definitely prefer to be married–at least most that I know do. They remain single because the western marital atmosphere does not favor them. Ask most typical 20-something year-old man what his experiences have been trying to date a typical American woman. Yes, most have battle scars and horrible experiences to show for their bravery. Rather than being gently turned down by uninterested women, many of these decent men have become the butts of jokes among the ladies they tried to date. That is actually a major reason why men will hardly ever date women from their church. You see, the women don’t simply turn them down, but they go tell their friends, and deacons, who either make fun of them, or reprimand them for not being “spiritual enough, coming to church to look at the ladies”. Meanwhile, the ladies would freely date the less spiritual or unsaved men.
        Fast forward 10 years. The ladies think they are now ready to settle down, but the scars of rejection are still fresh in the minds of the brothers, and therefore, they don’t trust what the ladies are saying. Moreover, the brothers have grown to witness how some of their married friends have been treated in divorce courts, and it’s not pretty.

        But when a godly woman who is committed to marriage comes along, and makes efforts to communicate to the brother that she values him, appreciates him for being in her life, and is committed to a lifelong union with him, even when things get tough (as they surely sometimes will), a brother is likely to show more interest in marriage then. But as long as our women maintain a cavalier attitude towards marriage, and break up families for frivolous reasons (“frivorcing”), most thinking men will certainly balk at the idea of getting married. It’s not rocket science.

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