Why is it some people's path to the altar is just a few footsteps long? Mine felt like a marathon.
When I was about 10 years old, I used to dream about being married. I had it all figured out. I would get married when I turned 24. I would have four children — two boys, two girls. Of course, some days, that number would change, depending on the scientific experiment I used to look into the future. For instance, every time I ate an apple, I'd count how many times I could twist the stem around before it broke off. Whatever number I counted to would equal the number of children I'd have. Sure I got a little nervous on the days when I counted to, say 15 or 16 ... but I had faith that it would all work out.
Of course, I also dreamed my husband would sweep me off my feet. (And I'm talking he would physically lift me off the ground and twirl me around on a daily basis, because he would be so manly and burly and strong.) We would sing songs by the fireplace every night after dinner — after we ate our chocolate cake — and then dance and dance and dance ourselves silly. This would happen every night until we both went to heaven.
When I was young I knew this would happen, just like I dreamed. It doesn't hurt to dream, right?
Oh, the Confidence of Our Youth
By age 23, I finally had my first serious boyfriend. He loved God and liked me a lot. But after several months of dating, I noticed that his head seemed a little small for his body. This realization kept me up at night. I also discerned that his fingernails were a bit too long — even when he cut them — and that disturbed me. Not to mention, he was skinny, so I was pretty sure he couldn't lift me up, let alone swing me around.
Needless to say, when I turned 24, I wasn't married. I wasn't even dating. I didn't panic though. Per my agenda, I had a whole year to figure things out. But then suddenly, I turned 25. You might say I began to panic. Just ever so slightly.
By this time, I had already been a bridesmaid in approximately 143 weddings — or at least it seemed like that many. These were weddings of friends and classmates from my small Christian college who met their future mates within the first six minutes of freshmen orientation. Was I in the bathroom or something? Because I totally missed that window.
And then I turned 26. Gulp, then 27. And I started to wonder, Did God forget about me? I started consuming several pints of ice cream on a weekly basis. Then I remembered something one of my professors said during a class discussion about love. He told us about a woman he met in college. He described her as amazing — exactly what he was looking for. They dated for a while, and his love for her grew. He thought she was the perfect woman for him. Then she dumped him. His friends told him not to worry — that God had someone better for him. But he said he was struck with the thought, deep in his heart, that perhaps God had "someone" better for him to be.
There I was, 27 years old, wondering was I the "best" I could be? So, I started to pray. I prayed like never before, that the Lord would prepare my heart for marriage and mold me more fully to His image. Months passed. More pints of ice cream were consumed. And I began to question what really was the will of God for my life regarding marriage. Did He want me to be married? Was this just my hopeful longing — or something He truly desired for me? So I prayed earnestly that He would give me the desires of my heart — not make what I desired magically happen — but that He would place in my heart the very desires He wanted me to have. I prayed that if my dream to be married wasn't His will for me, He would take that desire away.
Trusting God for Your Future Spouse
Well, the desire to be married did not go away. I decided to choose to find completeness in Christ as a single person. I say "choose" because I knew that for me, this would have to be a decision of the will — at least initially. But, at the same time, I also decided to trust God that someday, I would get married. I began to feel peace as a single person. Yes, I wanted to be married. I even felt ready to be married. But I hadn't bought a pint of ice cream in months. I was enjoying my current life and felt amazing trust in God's timing.
I decided to use that time in my life to prepare for marriage. I prayed tirelessly for my future husband, for God to make him ready. I read books on marriage. I sought out married couples I admired and asked them a million questions about marriage: What did they love most about it? What did they find most difficult? What advice could they give me to prepare for it?
I realize this way of thinking is slightly counter cultural. It's common to hear, "Just be happy. If you're not married, maybe it's not meant to be. Get on with your life." But as a Christian, if you feel called to marriage — if you truly believe God himself has placed the desire in your heart to be married, then why not actively prepare for it? Why not trust Him that it will happen?
It happened to me. When I turned 28, I met a man, and we fell in love. He wasn't perfect (although his head was a perfect size), and months and months and many, many more months later, he eventually discovered I wasn't perfect either ... but through time spent together and much prayer, we realized we were perfect for each other. We were married shortly after I turned 30. God answered my prayers. It wasn't the timetable I envisioned as a young girl, but it was the right timing.
Whether Married or Single, Living for Christ is the Goal
Marriage should not be the ultimate goal of the Christian life. I do feel blessed that I'm married and experiencing unconditional love from a man. And honestly, I can even appreciate the struggles that cause intense growth ... on a good day, anyway. But we're not going to stand before Christ someday as Mrs. or Mr. So and So. We're going to stand before Him alone. And we'll be accountable for the kind of person we are here on earth, whether single or married.
If you are single, you're not of lesser value as a person. God's plan will take each of us down different paths, paths to be celebrated. The key is to submit your will to the Lord's, because living a life that is glorifying to God isn't about getting what you want. It's about conforming to what God wants. And that's where praying — and I mean really praying — about and discerning God's will for your life regarding marriage becomes critical. If you do feel called to marriage, shouldn't we see God as big enough to make it happen? It may not be your timetable, but if He put that desire in your heart, is He not worthy of your trust?
Of course, not everyone is called to marriage. I have the utmost admiration for my single friends who are able to minister to others to an extent that wouldn't be possible if they were married. I consider them heroes in the body of Christ. And not every single person who wants to be married feels unsatisfied or lonely. But the truth is, many do.
To these individuals I say, be encouraged — God has not forgotten about you. "[He] is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit" (Psalm 34:18). Pray that God would be the Author of your dreams. If you believe God has called you to marriage, hold fast to that dream. "God sets the lonely in families" (Psalm 68:6a). Use this time now to prepare yourself for marriage. Pray for God to make you — and your spouse-to-be — ready. You can trust God for your future. "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight" (Proverbs 3:5-6).
And remember, you can find peace and joy in Christ right now knowing that you are — and will always be — His bride.
Copyright 2004 Kara Schwab. All rights reserved.