Sunday, April 14, 2013

No Longer Seeking Mr. Right

The 'M' word seems to come up more and more these days.  "So, are you married?"  "Why aren't you married yet?"  "Don't you want to be married?"  "Oh, don't give up — I am sure that many men would be interested in you.  You should be married!"  "But you're such a nice girl — aren't you ever going to get married?"  "Don't shortchange yourself; you would make a wonderful wife."

The thing is, I have given up on the idea.  And there just is no way to admit that in a conversation without people jumping to all sorts of assumptions and offering all sorts of unsought advice.  The biggest objections seem to be:

  1. You're too young (I'm almost 29, so yes, I admit I am still young).
  2. How can you just give up??  Don't you trust God at all?
  3. Aren't you putting yourself in the place of God making this decision?
  4. Oh, you poor thing.  You must really have been hurt.  But don't let a few hurts make you give up on marriage!
  5. You must be bitter.
  6. You can't possibly know the future.
  7. You know, I used to feel the same way and then one day I met my husband . . . 
  8. Have you prayed about this?
  9. God wants you to be married.  He has someone out there for everyone.
  10. Maybe you just have standards that are too high.  (I like to joke that my standards are "Christian, male, and breathing" — if that's too high, there is no hope for the human species.)
People mean well.  The ones bringing up the subject of marriage are, almost always, loving and dear people who wish to see me happy.  They want the best for me, I'm sure.

I spent my entire teen years and the first eight years of my adult life praying for God to send the right man.  When you add it all together, I'd say I spent at least thirteen years of my life praying for someone who never showed up.  I joined dating sites.  When you add those endeavors together, I'd say it adds up to about $500 total (multiple attempts throughout multiple years).  It all seemed worth it if I found the right partner for my life — because where marriage is concerned, no sacrifice is too great, right?  What is money in the face of love and a future?  But the money couldn't find "him" either.  I just wasn't the woman men were seeking.

And then one day, I said, "This has gotten ridiculous.  I am an intelligent, capable woman of God, and I have more important things to do with this priceless time that has been entrusted to me!"  I didn't stop because I doubted God — I do not doubt God at all.  I do, however, recognize three concrete, unchangeable facts:
  1. Sometimes God says no.
  2. If God wants something to happen, He is omnipotent enough to see that it comes to pass.
  3. An endeavor that wastes time, energy, and money without results is utterly foolish.  At some point, it is no longer faith; it's waste.
I awoke one day to the realization that it just wasn't worth it.  If you added together the insecurity and the hurt from feeling unwanted and rejected by every man who sent a message and then faded into the electronic void before meeting me or every man who never returned my hopeful smile . . . well, I could certainly do without the weight of it, and what idiot would pay good money for that sort of baggage?  If you added up all those prayers for the non-arriving man, it would total so many hours that it would, in fact, make up entire days out of my life spent in pursuit of this one object.  If you added up the daydreams and the hopes and the plans and the furtive glances at men who just might be "the one" and the six months spent dating the "the one who wasn't The One" because I thought I couldn't do better — I'm sure all that could fill a year or more of my lifetime.  

What might I have instead accomplished with all that time, energy, and money?  What could I have learned?  Most importantly, what could I have contributed?  Instead of praying for someone who likely doesn't even exist, why not instead pray for those who do exist, those people I see and hear of day after day with needs that I am insufficient to meet — needs which God is fully sufficient to meet?  Couldn't the money instead have been given to someone who needed it, rather than a website full of snazzy photos of smiling couples with flawless teeth and skin (and, of course, a kindly looking fatherly figure reassuring you that true love was only a click away)?  What acts of kindness went undone because I was too busy in a fruitless quest? 

I may be lousy at math, but I can still see in every place I have lived, the trend within churches and within Christianity itself is increasingly that women outnumber men, particularly among singles.  The odds are just not in the average single Christian woman's favor.  Among single Christian women with higher education, it becomes even more difficult.  And when you throw an overseas calling into the mix, it just no longer makes any sense to waste resources on such an endeavor.  The fact is, there is simply no way for every single Christian woman to have a partner — unless we start sharing.  So, the simple and unavoidable fact is, that unless God is so weak that man has thwarted His will for our lives, there is absolutely no way that it can be God's will for every Christian to marry.  That means that for some people, the answer has to be no.  And if the answer for me turns out to be no, I cannot live with the guilt of reaching the end of my life and realizing that I wasted that much in a quest for something that God never planned for me.  

I am not saying that I do not believe in marriage, or even that I would oppose marriage.  Truth be told, if I could be married, I would be.  But, no one ever came along.  And I couldn't risk throwing away my life on what might be when I can instead spend it on what is.  I was bought with a price beyond value by Christ.  I cannot squander that.  And so, I made a decision that was not flippant, bitter, selfish, or anything else of that ilk.  It was a mature acceptance of the fact that I have to place God above my dreams — and that means giving some of them up, and moving on.  Making the decision hurt a little, though far less than the rejections had; carrying it out was painless and surprisingly peaceful.

I don't pray to find a husband anymore — I pray for people with needs or I pray to be more effective, or sometimes I just praise God.  I don't search for a husband.  I never knew how to flirt or had the nerve to try, so in that area there was nothing to give up.  I'm not bitter; I don't blame God or men; and I don't fault other women who are still searching (hey, maybe I made the odds a little better for you!).  Accepting singleness while I'm still young means that I can do more now; I can live my life making and carrying plans (and accepting that God often changes them).  I don't have to stop and say, "But wait, how will I ever find a husband if I do that?" or "Maybe I should wait until I'm married to go there or do that." I'm not filling my life with substitutes while waiting for the 'real thing'  — this is the 'real thing'.

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"Passage—immediate passage! the blood burns in my veins! Away, O soul! hoist instantly the anchor!
Cut the hawsers—haul out—shake out every sail!
Have we not stood here like trees in the ground long enough?
Have we not grovell’d here long enough, eating and drinking like mere brutes?
Have we not darken’d and dazed ourselves with books long enough?

Sail forth! steer for the deep waters only!
Reckless, O soul, exploring, I with thee, and thou with me;
For we are bound where mariner has not yet dared to go, And we will risk the ship, ourselves and all.

O my brave soul!
O farther, farther sail!
O daring joy, but safe! Are they not all the seas of God?
O farther, farther, farther sail!"

~Walt Whitman, "Passage to India"