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.