“I would like you to be free from concern. An unmarried man is concerned about the Lord’s affairs—how he can please the Lord. But a married man is concerned about the affairs of this world—how he can please his wife— and his interests are divided. An unmarried woman or virgin is concerned about the Lord’s affairs: Her aim is to be devoted to the Lord in both body and spirit. But a married woman is concerned about the affairs of this world—how she can please her husband. I am saying this for your own good, not to restrict you, but that you may live in a right way in undivided devotion to the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 7:32-35)
There’s a clearing behind my grandmother’s pasture. It’s just past the old barn. At sunset, everything turns golden, and it resembles more of a dream than reality. I planned to be thrifty and buy mismatched wooden chairs and set them up next to a small alter of flowers. They would line the natural isle, an elongated hill caught between the thicket and a small lake. I wouldn’t spend much on a dress, something simple – maybe vintage. It would be a small wedding, only close friends and family. I even know which pastor would officiate. I wouldn’t even have to ask. I’d also decided on the dream ring, my man would never have a chance. A blood-free, raw diamond with a simple, rose-gold band – it would be very fitting of my style. I’d probably splurge on the photos, but I’d rather save for a fantastic honeymoon or a down payment on a house.
Yep, I’m “that” girl. I’ve had it planned since I was little. My dad was always pretty relieved that I didn’t want a big, flashy wedding. I’ve just never had the interest.
I guess as a little girl, painstakingly formulating these plans, it never occurred to me that I would struggle with relationships when I was older. I know I’m still pretty young, and I’m definitely not complaining about my married friends or my lack of marital status. I’m so happy for them, and I can truly say that without a hint of resentment or bitterness in my mouth. I guess I just always thought I’d meet the right person in college, get married right after and have kids in my late twenties. That was my plan, always the plan-- until it wasn’t.
There’s always been a part of me that’s hesitant to pursue my dreams outside the one I just mentioned. And, while there are many contributing factors to this fear, the worst, at least in my opinion, is my fear of impeding my availability. There is this desperation within my heart to find a happily ever after so strong that I would allow it to negate the plans God has for my life – whether or not those plans included marriage.
This fear was so strong that I was willing to hide my faith when I dated, downplaying the role God had in my life so I didn’t sound like some weird evangelist despite the fact that this was the very calling God has placed on my heart. This fear persuaded me to compromise my values for the comfort of the men I dated and pursue relationships that did not glorify God. I was so afraid that God would not provide this future of marriage and family that I was willing to seek it outside Him.
Following my most recent break up, one that occurred at the tail end of one of my darkest seasons, God revealed to me the fault in this mindset.
Marriage is a good thing. It is a union that reflects the marriage of Christ and the Church and has the ability to glorify God in ways we cannot alone. But the thing is, when we put these good things on a pedestal as an idol above God, they begin to show their toxicity. I was so obsessed with seeking a relationship with a person that I lost track of my relationship with my Father.
That is when God proposed a question that posed as a true wakeup call in this weakness of my heart:
“If I was to tell you the thing you want most in this world – a marriage and family – isn’t the thing I wants for your life, would you be willing to accept it and praise Me, knowing that my plan will prosper you and the Kingdom better than yours?”
Keep in mind that the things God wants for us are always greater than the things we want for ourselves. These are the things that we see as worst-case scenarios, but they hold no comparison to an eternity without God. Would I be willing to take my chances in a future without His blessing?
This question should result in a cut-and-dry answer, but if we are honest with our hearts, it may be a little messier than that. For me, the decision to choose God’s future for me over my own is a daily one. It means that, in the moments I feel inadequate or that I feel my life is unfair, I must turn to God, ask for forgiveness, and ask that He show me His better version of my future. It is not an easy choice, and I have chosen to wallow in my self-pity many more times than I am proud of.
However, the heart is a muscle. The more we turn it to God, the more we will build a muscle memory that leads us to God every time. With our mistakes comes grace, but ultimately we must remember that He must come first. He must reign above our desires. He must be our Alpha and Omega. No matter how good the things we want may be, God must be greater and all else will fall into place.
Do I doubt the desires God has set on my heart to be a wife and mother some day? Absolutely not. I believe that I would be pretty fantastic at it. But, if God decides one day to tell me that it is not within His Devine Will, would I dig my heals in the earth and turn my face from Him? Absolutely not. The experiences of this world, no matter how wonderful, have no comparison to His love for us.
But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be added unto you. (Matt 6:33)
Since making this decision, it has not been a night and day difference. I still have crushes, and I feel lonely sometimes and cry when I watch the beginning of Up, but I also smile in these moments a little faster now. When these moments of frustration hit my heart or when I begin to compare myself to those who have found their “one” I am reminded of a beautiful truth: the love of another person is a wonderful thing, but nothing compares to the living embodiment of love. As Paul perfectly describes in the beginning scripture of this post, I have a love that compares to no other – one that is eternal and limitless. I am thankful for the time I have to praise Him in it.