My brother married seven years before I did. Because I’m two years older, by the time I turned 30 I was nine years off pace. As a single woman, I often compared myself to peers who had married and started families. Much like the classic game of Life, I felt like others (including my own brother) had effortlessly added the spouse and kids while my empty car inched along on the game board.
I know I’m not alone in this experience or the feelings that came with it. One friend described it this way, “When it came to going to college, choosing a major, getting a job and even buying a house, I was able to just go and do it! But finding a spouse isn’t that simple.”
She’s right. People who are great at other things — making the grade, excelling in the workplace, managing their finances — may feel stuck when it comes to finding a mate. Getting married seems to be trickier than ever, and many times we feel helpless to bring it about. We could talk all day about the need for singles to live intentionally, pray for a spouse, say “yes” to dates, improve their physical appearances, and a myriad of other self-improvements. However, I know many Christian singles who would get an A+ in all these areas and yet remain unwed.
Sensing that your life desires are on hold is disheartening. Lauren Dunn describes feeling this way after attending a bridal shower. She writes:
Since then, I have attended quite a few more weddings, bridal showers and baby showers (including one for that same bride). As I write this, my sister-in-law and brother are expecting their first baby, a friend is expecting her second baby, another her third, and another her fourth.
All this while my life is nearly the same as it was five years ago. Even 10 years ago. When I run into an acquaintance at the store or at church, I feel like I have no sufficient answer for the inevitable “What’s new?” question. Many days hardly anything is “new.”
I remember feeling this way throughout my 20s. While some areas of my life flourished, I remained “stuck” when it came to getting married and starting a family. Here are a few principles that helped keep me moving forward:
1. Don’t compare.
I have learned that every person’s story has peaks and valleys. Whether single or married, your situation is in constant motion and can change in an instant (for the better or the worse). Though I once felt “left behind,” I’m grateful that God has blessed me with a strong marriage that has endured for more than a decade. (I give Him all thanks!) I have learned that the timetable on which you get married does not dictate the quality of that marriage.
Because I wed a decade later than many of my friends, my children are younger than those of many of my peers. I used to compare myself to my friends and view my “late start” as a negative, but God has provided unexpected opportunities and friendships through my circumstances. In addition, I went into marriage and motherhood with a greater degree of maturity than I had in my 20s.
2. Be intentional where I have control.
Although I sometimes felt stalled as a single, I came to realize there were many areas where I could choose to grow. I could choose to push my introverted self into social settings to make new friends. I could choose to initiate friendly conversation with single men I met (as I did with my now-husband, Kevin). I could choose to invest in my physical health and self-presentation. These were all things I had control over.
Though my relationship status stayed the same, I discovered other ways to ward off stagnation in my life. I could change up my routine. I could learn something new (improv comedy and running were two hobbies I adopted during those years). I had opportunities to develop unexpected friendships, travel, serve at church and grow in my profession. As I intentionally pursued “new” things, I felt less stuck.
3. Where I don’t have control, trust God.
This is the difficult one — particularly if you’ve felt stuck for a while. While I could easily go out and buy a new car, I realized I couldn’t just go to the “husband store” and pick up a spouse. I had to wait on the Lord for the person He would provide. Making a lifelong commitment to someone isn’t a small undertaking. Waiting for a good match required me to trust the Lord and His desire to show me His goodness.
The exciting thing about walking with the Lord is that He is constantly making things new. While I may buy into the illusion of being “left behind” as others hit milestones I desire, when I follow Jesus, I’m never truly stuck. 2 Corinthians 3:18 says, “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.”
When circumstances seem to indicate we’ve stalled, we can trust that God is still at work transforming us into the image of His Son. During my single years, I came to know the Lord more intimately than any other period of my life. I was forced to depend on His plan for me and surrender my own expectations to Him.
Even when I felt left behind, I could see He was transforming me and allowing new things to spring up in my life. My story looked different from that of my peers and even my brother, but I was still making progress — still moving forward with the Lord by my side.
Copyright 2021 Suzanne Hadley Gosselin. All rights reserved.