Haven't met your future mate? Getting anxious? Relax; you've got things to do while you wait. Here are eight suggestions for flourishing in The Meantime.
Somewhere between the potluck and tales of Grandpa's childhood antics, your family reunion takes the customary turn for the worse. Stealthily wedging your chair behind the ficus tree was fruitless. They know you're there. They've just been waiting.
"So, you're out of school now," Aunt Beulah begins, passing you an unsolicited slice of rhubarb pie. "When are you getting married?"
Everyone's watching. You shrug and look pleadingly to Mom for rescue.
"There were some dates with Chris from church," Mom says.
"Well, there you go!" Aunt Pauline says, throwing her hands in the air like she's just cured cancer.
"It didn't work out," you say too quickly, grimacing as you remember Chris' frequent racial slurs and obsession with mirrors.
"Kids today want everything to be perfect," Grandma sighs.
"Maybe you shouldn't be so picky, dear," Great Aunt Lois agrees. "You are pushing 25...."
Aunt Pauline pats your leg. "All we're saying," she whispers, "is get yourself someone before you're old and it's too late."
Of course, if not for the gaping wound it's left, the conversation would be positively laughable. "Get" yourself someone? As in, "Get some milk while you're out" or "Hey, would you get me the TV remote?" Do they really think it's so easy? Do they think you planned it this way? Many of us grew up assuming we'd meet our spouse in school. Thus, we weren't mentally prepared for living in The Meantime (my definition: that period after school but before marriage).
I'll be honest — I panicked when I first found myself there. Despite the unprecedented opportunities that lay before me, all I felt was paralysis. From all sides, the world screamed, "Human love provides the ultimate fulfillment." So how could I rest until it was mine?
That's when the voices began. Always keep your radar on, they warned. Mr. Perfect could come at any moment. But blink, and you'll miss him! They further cautioned against growing too comfortable in my singleness. What if you actually let yourself feel at ease? They said, What if your confidence scares him off? What if you start to enjoy being alone and pass up your destiny? Most terrifying: What if God sees your contentment and decides to "bless" you with the gift of lifelong singleness?
Oh, yeah. I'd psyched myself out big time. I can just imagine God shaking His head. "Didn't I promise you good gifts? Didn't I say hope and a future? Streams in the desert? Why can't you believe there's purpose in this time of waiting?"
No one knows how long their Meantime will last. Could be a few months or a lifetime. But one thing's always certain: If our priority is finding another person, we'll never be satisfied. The good news is that we can do more than fight for sanity while waiting on the Lord. Here are eight suggestions for flourishing in The Meantime.
Get to know God. Even the best spouses fail; God never will. Take time to talk — and listen — to Him concerning your future. Meditate on verses about His faithfulness. Discover that human standards of "worthiness" mean nothing to Him; His affection is unconditional. When we make this pivotal truth our own, we can develop a heavenly confidence that permeates all we do.
Build a community. Life is infinitely richer when we generate and nurture friendships. It's easy to develop tunnel vision and surround ourselves only with those who are "relationship material." Resist the urge. Dates come and go, but friends are God's arms, holding us up when romantic ventures let us down.
Do what you love. Have you always been an artist at heart? When you run, do you "feel His pleasure"? The more we develop our talents — particularly if we use our skills to bring glory to God — the more we experience enthusiasm and joy, whatever our circumstances. (There's also something extremely attractive about a person with a passion for life!)
Discover something new. Is there an instrument or language you want to learn? Have you dreamed of backpacking around Europe? This is your moment. When spouses and kids enter the picture, money will be allocated differently — so if you can afford to follow a dream, make it a priority. If money is tight, opportunities still abound. Increase your knowledge by researching online or at the library, or raise support to take a missions trip.
Help others. A poet once wrote, "I sought my soul, but my soul I could not see. I sought my God, but my God eluded me. I sought my brother, and I found all three." Volunteer at a nursing home or soup kitchen. Be a mentor. Rake someone's leaves. When we're feeling empty, we benefit immeasurably by serving folks in need. As their strength is renewed, our cups overflow.
Buy dishes. For nearly a decade, I kept a hope chest full of brand new household items while I ate off of flimsy silverware and cheap, chipped dishes. I was sitting on a gold mine, but chose to live in poverty. When I finally realized how misplaced my hope really was, I dug out some of those utensils and bought myself a set of funky dishes. It sounds crazy, but it freed me! Of course, this principle extends far beyond kitchen gadgets. It's not an exhortation to abandon our dreams — simply a reminder to live in the present.
Be reasonable. My friend Danny didn't date much. Plenty of girls were interested, but he could never find what he was looking for. You know, a rich supermodel whose only dream in life was to serve him? There was no room for distinctiveness; everyone who didn't fit his mental picture was flawed. It behooves us to ask ourselves, "Am I looking for someone perfect or for someone who — eccentricities and all — is good for me?"
But don't compromise. Funny what loneliness can do. People with whom we have nothing in common — and sometimes hardly like — are suddenly attractive. We can even convince ourselves it's unreasonable for God to make us wait for physical pleasure. But anytime we push ahead of Him, either by trying to force a dubious relationship or misplacing our moral compass, we're like the Prodigal, sifting through slop when we could revel in riches down the road.
Somewhere in The Meantime, God changed my theme verse from "How long, oh, Lord?" to "Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert" (Isaiah 43:19, ESV). And I literally went to the desert of West Texas to find that "new thing." I attended graduate school to study what I loved, mentored kids, traveled overseas, and overall, developed a fresh vision of God's plan for my life.
I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the cute co-ed the Lord kept placing in my path. But before all that, God was showing me that even if no one ever met me at the end of a church aisle, I was of immeasurable value, and He had big plans for me. No formula here for finding a perfect mate — just a reminder that, as Helen Keller said, "Life is either a daring adventure or nothing."
Each of us can choose how we spend our days, but God's wish for us is clear: "I came that they may have life and have it abundantly" (John 10:10).
Copyright © 2002 Carolyn MacInnes. All rights reserved.