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This Is Not the Life I Imagined — or Even Wanted

Woman sitting alone on a beach
Gray hairs and wrinkles and acne and crushed dreams are teaching me to abandon the life I imagined and embrace the one I have.

I found my first gray hair this week. I sighed and cried and yanked it out. Then I saw another, and I resigned myself; unless I want to go prematurely bald, I should probably leave the little silver streaks. After all they aren’t that noticeable, especially if someone is far-sighted … and only glances in my direction.

I’m aging, and it’s not very much fun. What’s even less fun is being in this stage where I’m using both acne and wrinkle cream. I’m living in the in-between. I find myself still clinging to my youth and college memories, and yet I’m forced to pretend I’m an adult 90% of the time. When I’m home for the holidays, I still try and make my dad call my doctors back to schedule appointments (he politely declines). For the past five years, one of the Christmas presents from my mom has been her doing my taxes (why didn’t they teach that in college? But don’t worry, I still remember SOH-CAH-TOA from Trig). Growing up and being an adult is so hard sometimes, and it’s especially difficult when I’m faced with disappointment or disillusionment. This isn’t the life I imagined, you know?

On my timeline, I was supposed to be married at 23 (right after earning that English Bachelor’s degree) to a tall, handsome, godly man who desperately loved me and Jesus. We would live in a quaint one-bedroom apartment, delicately sit on dilapidated Ikea furniture and struggle, together, to make our way in the world.

After a few years of tough but blissful marriage, I’d start having babies at 25. I would be one of those adorable pregnant women who really embraced pregnancy — I’d wear those bows that sit right on top of the belly, I’d do one of those birth announcements that shocks my husband and I’d glow, all the time.

Perhaps once all the kids hit kindergarten, I’d pick up a part-time job while serving as the homeroom mom, bringing cupcakes for birthdays and cutting up orange slices for soccer practice (“Aren’t those pink shin guards adorable? They were the only thing she wanted for Christmas.”).

Even now, I can picture this life. It’s beautiful and happy and utterly unrealistic.

The reality is I’m 27 and still single. The reality is my quest for love has broken my heart and left me in weepy, ice-cream coated shambles. The reality is this future I always imagined belongs in a novel or a movie script but not in my life (and definitely not in my expectations of what God should have provided).

I’m aging — as evidenced by those cute little crow’s feet and the bags under my eyes — and every year that passes is a year I deviate further and further from the life I imagined. But you know what? That’s okay. The only way I can say that and even come close to meaning it is I believe God is good and God is in control. If those two things are unequivocally, undeniably true, I have to look at this life, this in-between, and find purpose here. I am destined for this in-between. I am meant for the in-between. For some reason God is glorified by my upset timelines and unfulfilled longings and pangs of loneliness as I wait for marriage, and, while that’s hard to understand, it’s enough for me.

Today, I choose to look at my acne and wrinkles and fear and doubt and trust that there is purpose here, in the in-between, and that there are far, far better things ahead. I choose not to shy away from my pain and suffering and broken dreams, but rather I will bring them to the One who cares, the One who sees, the One who heals.

My gray hair is evidence of God’s provision in sustaining me this long. My deepening laugh lines are proof there’s much in this world that inspires joy. The bags under my eyes tell the story of hours spent in the car with a friend, driving to the airport instead of sleeping those recommended eight hours.

Life is taking its toll on my body and on my heart and on my soul, but I’m hopeful, even for marriage. There will come a beautiful wedding ceremony where the Bridegroom meets His bride and every tear is wiped away and every timeline fades into the reality of eternity. That day is not today — today I am weepy and gray haired and exhausted — but it might be tomorrow. So I choose to put my faith in the knowledge that God is good and God is in control, even in the in-between.

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About the Author

Joy Beth Smith
Joy Beth Smith

Joy Beth Smith hails from Charleston, SC, but she’s left pieces of her heart in Lynchburg, VA, Nashville, TN, and Chicago, IL. Joy Beth is passionate about connecting with other singles, and with the abundance of faulty theology surrounding singleness, marriage, and dating, she hopes to contribute to the ongoing conversations revolving around these issues. Joy Beth enjoys writing, reading, and coffee drinking, and you can often find her lurking in the corner of a local coffee shop pretending to read while shamelessly eavesdropping.

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