And three other things I did "wrong" to find a mate.
I sat across a familiar checkered black-and-cream table, cupping a pumpkin spice latte in my hands. "It's really true," my friend said with stars in her eyes. "When I stopped looking, he was just ... there." She shrugged her shoulders and gave a satisfied giggle. She had been telling me the story of how she met her husband, the love of her life.
A confirmed singleton at the time, my mind clicked to attention. This sounded like a formula. I love formulas. So ... I thought, You "quit looking," and a man perfect for you materializes out of thin air. It didn't totally make sense to me, but this wasn't the first time I'd heard this kind of argument. As if the act of "forgetting" that you want to be married and have a family will cause God to push some Willy Wonka-esque button that produces the golden egg: a husband.
I was truly happy for my friend and the way God had brought her together with her husband. And perhaps reaching a new level of contentment with her position in life had been the very thing that attracted her husband to her. But I felt her reasoning was flawed.
In fact, there are several pieces of relationship lore that I ignored, either on purpose or inadvertently in my journey to finding my fiancé, Kevin. Let me review them. And then, for those of you who are like me and love a good formula, I'll give you one.
I Was Looking
Like most young women, I entered college and the post-college years with anticipation of meeting the man I would spend my life with. Thus began "the search." Don't get me wrong. I prided myself on not being a "gopher girl." ("I am a gopher girl; I always go for guys; they never go for me; I wonder why?") I simply turned up my bat senses so that I would recognize that godly guy when he showed up.
In my early 20s I had a very clear vision for what he would be like. He would sing. (My family is musical.) He would be a family man. He would have a good sense of humor. He would be something of a theologian but not too nerdy. He might even possibly wear black-rimmed glasses and carry a messenger bag. Superficial? Yeah, maybe. But that's the kind of guy I pictured myself with.
As I waited in singleness throughout my 20s — sometimes patiently, other times not-so-patiently — my perspective on relationships matured. and I became more open to what God had for me as opposed to my own ideas. Through the wisdom of godly mentors, I adopted an approach of intentional receptivity toward potential mates. Admittedly the possibilities were not always plentiful.
My tactic became to have appropriate friendships with members of the opposite sex, with intent to bless and not to crush them with misplaced expectations. If a friendship veered into the "more than friends" zone, I would decide whether I needed to withdraw or confront. To me, some of these friendships were vague "possibilities," but if nothing ever came of them, I viewed them as good training ground for the way I would one day relate to my husband. In each relationship I endeavored to exercise encouragement, grace and respect.
And when new men entered my sphere, I evaluated whether or not there might be potential there. In this sense, I was "looking" when I met Kevin. In fact, I was on an initial coffee date with another guy when I walked into the Starbucks where Kevin worked. My relationship with Kevin didn't begin until many months later, but being in "looking" mode led me right into the path of my future husband.
I Wasn't Ready
Another statement I've heard flow freely from the lips of single women is, "God will give me a husband when I'm ready." In some ways, such as spiritual and emotional maturity, I've been ready to wed for years. On other fronts, however — financial responsibility, domestic skills and spiritual discipline — I come to my marriage less prepared.
Every woman who wants to get married should be preparing herself to be a wife. Obviously spiritual preparation, beginning with a vital relationship with Jesus Christ, is most important. A woman should ask herself what she can do now to become the kind of person who can be used by God in her future spouse's life. Beyond spiritual readiness, a woman does well to cultivate her homemaking skills, become adept at financial management and build a foundation of personal discipline. Proverbs 31 sums up the wife of noble character and provides many practical examples of a "ready" wife.
However, every woman will be unprepared or weak in some areas when she walks down that aisle. Readiness is not a recipe for matrimony. In fact, sometimes marriage is the very thing God uses to refine and mature someone. In some ways, I am not ready for marriage; but I am absolutely convinced that now is God's timing for me to marry.
I Waited Until I Was Past My Prime
Getting married during your 20s is a healthy, beautiful thing, as we often note here at Boundless. However, as much as I desired it, I did not marry in my 20s. Instead I experienced the relational frustrations common to (wo)man. The buddy relationship. The too-bad-I-can't-think-of-you-as-more-than-a-friend relationship. The where-have-all-the-guys-gone-non-relationship relationship.
Sometimes I questioned God about His timing in my life. After all, wasn't it His will that I get married and start investing in a husband and family? I may never know exactly why God worked in my life in the way and timing He did. I do know His fingerprints are all over my relationship with Kevin.
My choice (sometimes daily and painful) to trust the Lord despite undesirable circumstances paid off, not only in a wonderful, godly man coming into my life, but in a heart not bitter toward a loving and generous God. I had to come to grips with the fact that God does not stamp out our lives with a cookie cutter. He has a personal, intricate plan for each of His children.
I Let Myself Go
This statement may be misleading, so let me explain. For years, I was unsatisfied with my body; I wished to be thinner with a clearer complexion. Many times I wondered if my level of attractiveness was the thing keeping me single. The comparison game held me hostage. I would look at married women and think, Are they prettier than me? Yes, they must be. That's why they're married and I'm not.
One day I noticed something in Song of Solomon. The woman in the story is not a traditional beauty (though her beloved finds her irresistible). She even asks her friends not to stare at her because she is so dark from working in the sun. This woman — like most women — was dissatisfied by an aspect of her appearance. But in the glow of her fiancé's love, she blossoms.
Midway through the book she says: "I am a rose of Sharon, a lily of the valleys." Her beloved's opinion of her puts the woman's confidence through the roof. Understanding this concept was a turning point for me. I recognized that someday my brand of beauty would most likely be irresistible to someone.
I didn't stop trying; I just stopped obsessing. I continued to wear my hair in a flattering style. I took up running for exercise. I focused on good skincare. But I also accepted my average, not-skinny weight and imperfect skin, and quit comparing myself (as much) to other girls. Accepting my outward appearance gave my inner beauty a chance to shine more brightly. When I walked into Kevin's Starbucks that day, he says he was wowed by my confidence and smile.
The Faithfulness Formula
I am proof you can mess up the formula and still get the guy. I was looking, I wasn't ready, I was past my prime and I had let myself go. Four seeming no-no's. But there was something else going on. To the best of my ability, I was being faithful. Despite the disappointment of still being single past 30, I tried each day to be worthy of the calling I had received (Ephesians 4:1) by taking the opportunities God placed in my path.
Everyone has a calling. And being faithful to the One who has called you is the absolute best way to have a fulfilling, hope-filled life. Faithfulness leads you to the places God wants you to go, including those places where you might bump into someone who's headed the same direction. That's why it's wise to keep looking.
Copyright 2009 Focus on the Family. All rights reserved.