In my campaign against intentional delay have I diminished godly waiting?
Recently a local church emailed me with an invitation to speak about waiting on God for a husband. I wondered if they had the right person.
With a book title like Get Married: What Women Can Do to Help it Happen, I'm not exactly known for messages about waiting. Having spent so much of the past few years writing about all the ways we can delay marriage — to our disappointment and frustration — I wasn't sure I had much to say about waiting in a positive light. Is there anything good about waiting for marriage?
At first I didn't think so. Especially in our culture where the waiting is often a painful consequence of someone's bad decisions. But Steve encouraged me to accept the invitation. So I did. And we started reading the waiting passages in Scripture. Which left me wondering, In my campaign against intentional delay have I diminished godly waiting?
Because we inhabit time with a past and a future, we're always waiting for something. For Christian women especially, when it comes to marriage, there will inevitably be a wait. It will be longer for some, but because women aren't charged with finding a husband, nor expected to get down on our knee, at some point (even in the rare whirlwind romance) we must wait. The relational brokenness of our culture only intensifies that.
Plenty of women have written to say they've read Get Married and done what we've encouraged on Boundless: They're modest, they're guarding their purity, they've been intentional in their relationships, they've been open to opportunities, they've been good stewards and more. Still they find themselves single and waiting.
For them, waiting isn't intentional delay, it's circumstantial. Maybe that's where you're at: waiting for something (or someone) you thought would have materialized by now.
Even as you're avoiding the things that make marriage less likely, and doing what you can to help it happen, how should a Christian woman wait?
It's our relationship with the Father — not what we're waiting for — that should be our ultimate goal. Waiting on Him has the effect of strengthening not only our character, but also our relationship with Him. That's where waiting is redemptive.
In 2 Peter 1:5-8, Peter says,
But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love. For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ (NKJV).
In the KJV, that word perseverance is patience. Thankfully we don't have to conjure up that patience on our own. It's a fruit of the Holy Spirit. Cultivating your relationship with God will make it possible for you to trust Him for a husband and wait for marriage without going crazy. And the patience we're called to isn't passive, but expectant:
In the morning, O LORD, you hear my voice;
in the morning I lay my requests before you
and wait in expectation (Psalm 5:3).
In our waiting, we can trust that God is good.
'The LORD is my portion,' says my soul,
'Therefore I hope in Him!'
The LORD is good to those who wait for Him,
To the soul who seeks Him.
It is good that one should hope and wait quietly
For the salvation of the LORD (Lamentations 3:24-26).
And it's for His goodness, that we can be thankful, even in the midst of difficult circumstances. We're commanded to it actually,
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:4-7).
As we rejoice — not in unexpected or unwelcome circumstances, but in the Lord — we'll be in the frame of mind to guard our thoughts; to resist the temptation to grow bitter or envious when it appears that everyone else is getting what we want.
And so we are to wait patiently, expectantly, with thanksgiving, and committed to ongoing prayer. Colossians 4:2 says, "Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving" (ESV).
A woman who waits that way for marriage is hopeful, but not fixated on it. She's not difficult to be around because she's at peace. Her intimacy with God makes it possible for her to trust that He is sovereign and His plan is good.
A few years ago I decided to start baking bread from scratch. Not only did it taste great, we knew that if we could control the ingredients, it would help our daughter who ate little else be healthy. I went to a demo and by the end of the class, was ready to buy the machines and all the supplies I'd need to get started right away.
The only problem was the price. Nearly $500. And the woman selling the equipment didn't take plastic. Seriously. I was crestfallen. And trying to explain why we didn't have the money right now and figure out when we would. She was utterly gracious in the face of my embarrassment and said something I'll never forget. "It's good to wait."
By that she, a woman of enviable faith, meant that God would provide in His time. And that the meantime would give me the chance to grow my faith muscles. She was right. I had to trust Him in the waiting — for Zoe's health, for our finances and for the timing of what I knew was a good thing. God did make it possible for us to buy what we needed to start baking bread, but it wasn't until many months later and in an unexpectedly creative way.
It helped in the meantime to know that what I was asking Him to provide was good.
I had a friend (I'll call him Sam) who was dating a young woman (Cate). She was a believer and wanted to get married. I thought that's where they were headed until Sam told me about the time they went out with his elderly father.
His dad was visiting from out of town and wanted to spend some time with them as a couple. On their way to dinner, Sam opened the front door of his car and helped his dad in. Then he held the back door for Cate and helped her in. As the evening progressed, she seemed miffed.
Turns out she was upset that Sam had put her in the back. "Leopold never would have done that," she said later. (Leopold was the dashing lead character opposite Meg Ryan in the 2001 movie Kate and Leopold. He, a duke, traveled through time from an era of gentility to one of feminist sensibilities and managed to embody the best of both worlds.)
Sam's girlfriend said she wanted a godly husband, but it looked a lot more like she wanted a man with 19th century manners and 21st century sensibilities (and it wouldn't hurt if he looked like Hugh Jackman's Leopold).
A lot of the women I've spent time with, like Cate, sincerely believed they're waiting on God for a husband. But as they share their expectations, I realize they're actually waiting on God to write their Hollywood love story.
We women complain that men have unrealistic standards, but we're prone to the same thing. What's shaping your husband expectations?
I've written before about the kind of man that makes a good husband, basing my description on what the Bible says about it. Still it's hard to keep our minds focused on God's list of non-negotiables when so many competing lists abound. We live in a consumeristic, materialistic, looks-obsessed culture. And often those influences affect our desires and expectations the most, driving our view of men and who we consider worthy of a first, or second, date.
The reason that biblical traits for a potential mate are so important is that biblical marriage is so different from the world's model. In Ephesians 5:22-33 Paul writes,
Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church — for we are members of his body. 'For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.' This is a profound mystery — but I am talking about Christ and the church. However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.
Paul paints a relationship picture vastly different from what you'd see in a typical sitcom, movie, or even suburban household in our culture. God's design for marriage is radically counter-cultural and counter intuitive. (And all the superficial stuff we're tempted to prioritize — looks, money, title, education, background, etc. — won't matter if what's most important — godly character — is absent or lacking.)
Marriage is a God-given good, but to be married well, you must make the relationship with God primary. That's the only way to live out the radically other-centered marriage relationship when both husband and wife are fallen — and that's always the case.
Will a rework of what you're waiting for suddenly bring into focus a man you didn't consider before? It might. But even if it doesn't, when we wait patiently for what we long for — and what we're longing for conforms to God's design — God uses the waiting to align our desires with His and refine us in the process.
And that kind of purposeful waiting has the potential to produce a good result, both spiritually and relationally. As you grow closer to God, you'll be equipped to discern the character of the men you meet and whether they have the potential to be good husbands. And you'll be prepared to be in relationship with a man, first as his friend and eventually, as his wife.
When you wait on the Lord, the time before marriage will be sweeter. Your spirit will be at peace, even with all the frustration of our relationally broken world. You'll be better prepared to get married and be married for His glory. And if marriage never happens, though thankfully that's statistically unlikely, your waiting won't have been wasted.
Copyright 2009 Candice Watters. All rights reserved.