I am single.
I’m not ashamed to say it. Most of the time I’m OK with it. By “OK” I mean I don’t break down in tears after attending my fifth wedding in one summer. I don’t mourn with a tub of mint chocolate chip and Sleepless in Seattle every time I have a quiet Saturday night … or four. And I barely cringe when my married friends get a twinkle in their eye and utter those dreaded words: “Soooo (they drag this word out endlessly), is there a guy in your life?”
I smile and explain (with maybe a bit of overcompensating enthusiasm) that there’s not currently a special someone (nor has there been for three years), but I’m confident, in God’s perfect timing, the right one will come along.
I’ve always believed this. In high school, I “kissed dating goodbye” along with a flood of Joshua Harris followers. In college I concentrated on my studies and built strong relationships with girlfriends, sidestepping an MRS degree. As a young college graduate, I got my dream job. I was certain this was the time I’d be swept off my feet by an incredible Christian man.
But this year, as I celebrated my 28th birthday, I began to wonder: When, Lord? You know I want to be married and have a family. Have You forgotten me?
My stand-by excuses suddenly seemed unconvincing: “I’m thankful to be having all these great experiences before I settle down”; “I have more time to serve God as a single woman”; and, of course, the classic: “The amazing man God has for me is worth waiting for.”
I feel foolish and a little guilty for not trusting God to provide a mate for me. After all, He’s given me more than my share of the desires of my heart: a great job, supportive friends, a loving family, a great place to live. But when it comes to waiting on Him for the man of my dreams, I doubt.
Part of the struggle is my lack of control over this area. After all, I can’t go to the husband store and pick out the perfect mate. So in the words of Oklahoma’s spunky redhead, Ado Annie: “What’s a girl to do?”
As I consider my singleness from the perspective of one slightly past the average marrying age, it looks very different than it did when I was 20. Some things I hoped would have happened by now have not. This forces the question: How can I embrace the life God has given me as a single woman while continuing to trust Him to provide the greatest desire of my heart?
Get in the Game
A few years ago, while taking an interpersonal communication class, I was schooled in the technique of active listening. Active listening is not just hearing the words someone is saying but engaging the speaker with follow-up questions that demonstrate you understand. Listening is normally a passive role, but when the listener takes an active part in the conversation the effectiveness of communication is heightened.
In thinking about my singleness, I realize a similar principle can be applied. I can wait on the Lord and trust His perfect plan for my life, while taking steps to prepare myself to be a good wife. As I considered potential action steps, these five rose to the top.
1. Examine my attitude.
It’s easy to put all the blame on the guys for my lack of romantic options. My friends and I often complain about the guys we know and their lack of initiative or seeming immaturity. But what am I doing to encourage healthy relationships with the men I know?
Not much. In fact, I regularly employ a method of instantaneous judgment. Within minutes of meeting a guy, I’ve labeled him worthy or unworthy. If he’s worthy, I stress over whether he’s interested in me; if he’s unworthy, I write him off. Instead of opening myself up to get to know the individual and his many facets, I hamper potential friendships by jumping to conclusions.
These judgmental tendencies are at their worst in my interaction with Christian guy friends. Instead of seeing the unique ways in which God has gifted them, I find myself fixating on their faults.
My mom recently asked, “So what are you looking for in a guy these days?”
My reply was, “I’m not sure, but I know what I’m not looking for.” This statement reveals a critical attitude that on further consideration I believe is unbecoming of a Christian woman. Regardless of whether these men are potential mates, I should be considering how I can spur them on to love and good deeds (Hebrews 10:24). As I allow God to replace judgment and criticism with openness and love, I will be nurturing characteristics valuable in a marriage relationship.
2. Pray for a husband.
I recently read an article that was very freeing. The article reminded me that marriage and family are good gifts that God delights to give. I don’t need to feel guilty about asking for them.
Ignoring my desire for a husband does not make me more holy. While I am called to deny myself and follow Christ, I am also invited to bring my petitions and requests to Him. Why? For His glory.
I have begun praying regularly for a husband. In fact, a friend and I meet weekly to pray for each other in this specific area. I can tell you, it was very difficult the first time I attempted to state this request aloud. I had added about half a dozen disclaimers before my friend finally encouraged, “Just say it!”
As unnatural as requesting a husband feels, I know when a spouse comes into my life, I will recognize him as a gift from God’s hand. And there’s no need to be embarrassed. Our God is romantic. He loves love. He is love. It follows that my desire for marriage — a covenant reflective of God’s character — is as important to Him as it is to me.
3. Get a life.
I have a friend who constantly laments that God has not given her a husband, but she never meets new people. She’s not involved in group activities or even a community at her church.
Good marriages begin as good friendships, and friendships are developed through activities. Last year my college roommate, Gretta, married a man she’d led rafting trips with for four summers. During those years, Gretta and Jay saw each other at their best and worst and built a solid friendship. Eventually, their friendship developed into romance.
Whether you’re an outdoor enthusiast, a musician, a photographer or a movie connoisseur, find new places to develop your interests. Join a mountain biking club. Sign up for an art class. Volunteer for children’s ministry at your church. If you are looking for someone to share your life and passions with, what better place to meet him or her than while pursuing those passions? Even if you don’t meet someone, you’re doing things you love.
4. Find a marriage mentor.
When I look at the lives of my college girlfriends, who are married with children, I can become discouraged, feeling like I’ve been left behind. I have recently discovered the importance of having marriage mentors. These are women who pursued God passionately, but didn’t marry right out of college — women like Robin.
I met Robin on a ministry trip I took to Russia. Robin, in her 40s, is an American doctor with a passion for helping Russian orphans. As I talked with Robin, her story unfolded: She became a medical doctor, married at 32 and had three children. Robin’s oldest son, Nick, 9, was on the trip with us. As I watched Robin interact with Nick, I was impressed by her maturity and parenting ability — the fruit of her life experience.
Barbara is another woman I admire. Barbara, convinced God had chosen to keep her single, was taken by surprise at 34 when she met Chuck, a widower. Within three months, she became a wife and instant mom to two young boys. Twenty-five years later, Barbara continues to share a special bond with her husband and adopted sons.
Women like Robin and Barbara remind me that God has something special planned for me, too. My story may be different from my already-married friends, but it is no less God-inspired.
5. Trust the Lord.
I’ve heard it a hundred times: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5). But trusting the Lord for a mate is easier said than done. I have moments of tremendous clarity where I wonder how I could ever doubt Him, but when yet another friend gets engaged or I face rejection, again, I start leaning.
One moment, I give Him permission to use me in any way He sees fit, and the next I hint that the most fit way would be to deliver me a spouse, immediately (as if He needs suggestions).
Trusting the Lord to provide my deepest heart’s desire requires scary faith. It’s easier to keep God out of it and not risk the possibility that His plan for me may be a disappointment. But holding back, leaning on my own understanding, deprives me of a deep intimacy I could share with Him.
Yes, I am OK with being single. But as I approach my 29th birthday, I will not be passive. I wait expectantly for what God has planned for me. The benefits of trusting God while preparing for what lies ahead are clear: “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:13).
Overflowing with hope. That’s how I want to live … actively waiting and trusting.
Copyright © 2006 Suzanne Hadley. All rights reserved.