I have a friend that I used to go to church with. He hung out quite a bit with one of my other guy friends. In fact, even though he’s much older, he still came to our young adult classes. It’s easy to forget he’s so much older because he hangs out with people younger than himself, and he’s immersed himself in our culture.
Recently, he’s been asking me to lunch and coffee a lot more. I declined a few offers because I didn’t want to spend that much time with him. I’ve backed away before trying to make sure he didn’t get the wrong idea. I asked him to meet once because I wanted to share a ministry idea I had with him. I was completely oblivious to the fact that he liked me, until then. I had this realization during a period of fasting and wondered if because I had been fasting for a husband if this was some revelation from God.
I can talk to him about ministry things, and we have some of the same areas of interest in terms of ministry. He’s a person I enjoy talking to in passing, but I don’t look at him romantically. There are so many issues, or perhaps God is showing me my own shallowness. I’ve talked before about sacrifice for the Gospel, but now I’m not so sure if I could sacrifice my own wants. I’m not physically attracted to him. He’s quadriplegic and 15 years older than me.
I’m a grad student in a very rigorous Ph.D. program in electrical engineering, and I want to become a professor. It’s so much work that I struggle to keep God my focus, and I barely take care of myself. I’m not sure if I could handle it. I’ve never been attracted to older men. They kind of creep me out. It’s gotten to the point where it’s making me uncomfortable and causing me to have anxiety attacks (especially now that his requests to meet are becoming more frequent). I’m not sure if it’s my running from God or just a bad situation. I don’t know what to do.
Thank you for your question; it reminds me of how common it is to mystify this process of finding a mate. I think we tend to make the process of matching up for marriage more complicated than it has to be. You are not alone in this. When we really like someone and they’re not reciprocating, we tend to look for signs and wonders that will change the heart of the one we’re pining for. If it’s “God’s will,” we think, then he surely will realize it and turn and ask me out! But we do a similar thing when we’re the one with no interest. You’ve described it above. Here’s a man who’s significantly older than you, who’s not attractive to you, and who, from all appearances, is not a good fit for you. Yet you’re wondering if maybe the fact that you’re aware of all this “ill-suitedness” and that this awareness came while you were fasting, is some sort of sign that he is, in fact, “God’s will.”
I’d like to put your mind at ease: It’s not shameful to admit you’re not attracted to someone. It’s honest.
To marry a man, you need to like to be around him, look forward to being with him and find him generally pleasant. There is much, much more that goes into making a Christian marriage, but I would suggest that this enjoyment of one another is part of the basics. You need not necessarily be passionately crazy about him to make a good marriage, but feeling creeped out by him is not the place to begin.
Do you have an older, married couple in your church that you could talk with about this — about your plans for school, and career following that, as well as your desire for marriage and family? You need someone who is spiritually wise, biblically astute and relationally healthy to help you think through not only the best way to let your friend know tactfully, kindly, but firmly, that you aren’t interested in a romantic relationship with him, but also to help you think realistically about how your demanding career track may, or may not, fit with your ideals for future family. And more urgently, I believe you need to talk with someone about the way your degree program is putting stress on your relationship with God.
You mention that you were fasting for a husband. I have often encouraged single women desiring to marry for God’s glory to get more serious about their prayers for a husband by including fasting. The intentional giving up of food for at least a day — long enough to create the feelings of hunger — provides a physical reminder to pray. When the stomach growls, we instinctively head to the fridge, and then we remember, Ah, I’m fasting. I must pray. Those rumblings focus the mind wonderfully, reminding us that we were not meant to live on bread alone (Matthew 4:4, Deuteronomy 8:3). We are infinitely more than our appetites and fasting reminds us of this truth.
In A Hunger for God, John Piper writes, “If we don’t feel strong desires for the manifestation of the glory of God, it is not because [we] have drunk deeply and are satisfied. It is because we have nibbled so long at the table of the world. Our soul is stuffed with small things, and there is no room for the great.”
One way to break away from the buffet of small things is by the small pain of hunger created by fasting. But we must know why we do it. We can so easily make what we want the focus of our lives and of our prayers. Even fasting can be done with the thought that somehow if we give up food, God will give us what we want. But that’s not the fasting God desires. He wants us to come to Him in prayer for the praise of His great glory.
The most fundamental reason why fasting cannot earn anything from God is that it is a gift of God. It is something that God is “working in us.” You can’t expect God to pay for what is already his. This is what Paul meant when he said in Romans 11:35-36, “Who has first given to [God] that it might be paid back to him again? For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen.” That includes fasting. It is from him and through him and to him. It is not first offered to God that we might be paid back because of it. It is first given by God that we might benefit from it and that he might be glorified through it.
We mustn’t think fasting is a magic formula for getting what we want. As Edith Schaeffer wrote,
Is fasting ever a bribe to get God to pay more attention to the petitions? No, a thousand times no. It is simply a way to make clear that we sufficiently reverence the amazing opportunity to ask help from the everlasting God, the Creator of the universe, to choose to put everything else aside and concentrate on worshiping, asking for forgiveness, and making our requests known—considering His help more important than anything we could do ourselves in our own strength and with our own ideas.”The Life of Prayer (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 1992), pp. 75-76. Quoted in A Hunger for God, 209.
(A Hunger for God is a strong help for understanding what it means to fast according to God’s Word. And it’s available as a free PDF download. I strongly encourage you to read it!)
If you had said you love everything about this man but can’t imagine giving up your dream of having a husband with two working legs and arms, I would challenge you to revisit your conviction that it is right to sacrifice for the Gospel. Have you heard the Boundless interview with Larissa Murphy about her journey? I think you would find great perspective on marriage to a man with disability and encouragement from her, and from Ian’s and her story of faithfulness in the midst of brain injury and more.
On Career and Family
It would also be good to find a Christian woman in the sort of job you aspire to and ask her how she balances the demands of being a professor with those of a husband and children. If you search but can’t find one who’s married, ask one who’s still unmarried if/how her career has affected her desire for marriage and family. It’s always good to look ahead to where you’re hoping to go and to count the cost of what’s involved in getting there (Luke 14:28).
If your current path is so demanding that it makes caring for yourself difficult, it’s worth asking how you would be able to add a husband and children to the mix. Something may need to change. That’s where the life-giving relationships of a biblical church family come in. It’s within the context of the body of Christ that we’re supposed to live and grow in our understanding of what it means to be a Christian. That includes how we study, date, plan, live — it includes all of life. “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31).
May “God … make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work” (2 Corinthians 9:8).
Copyright 2013 Candice Watters. All rights reserved.