My wedding day five years ago dawned cold and drizzly. But the weather didn’t dampen the utter joy and excitement I felt at finally getting married at 31.
The previous 10 years had seemed very long with few prospects for the life I truly desired. Life with a husband and children. (Some of you walked with me through that journey as I wrote about it for Boundless.)
During that time, I went day after day to a career I enjoyed, took on the variety of opportunities that came my way, and prayed and hoped for the day when God would bless me with a spouse.
Then, one evening, two months after I turned 30, I met him. Kevin was the barista at the coffee shop where I met an out-of-town friend. As I ordered my latte, that tall, kind (young) man discovered that we shared a passion for children’s ministry. That’s where it began, although we didn’t begin dating until the following March. We were engaged by June and married in September. During the following five years, we added three children to our family.
On my wedding day, with the fall crispness in the air, I could feel the change coming. And it did. But in five years that have in many ways changed everything, some things have stayed the same. Here they are:
My identity. Shortly before I met Kevin, I wrote an article titled “My Single Identity Baggage.” In it, I revealed some of the barriers I felt I had put up to finding a mate. I wrote:
In the eight years since college, I’ve accumulated more than a house full of photographs, furniture and dishes that aren’t plastic — I’ve developed a fairly complex identity. And honestly, finding someone who’s a fit seems like a much more difficult task than it used to.
This was true, and I had already pushed the “bags” of my accomplishments into the background when I met Kevin. We connected on a more basic level, sharing an interest in children’s ministry and discussing life over a good cup of coffee. (Plus, Kevin was just the cutest boy I had ever seen.)
When I got married, I thought that my “single girl” identity was behind me. I imagined it would fade away and be replaced with my married alter ego. But five years in, I am realizing how my single years permanently shaped me. These days, my “Single Identity Baggage” rears its ugly head in a different way.
One example of this is that singleness gave me a lot of time to pursue my own interests. On the good side, I feel this allows me to bring more to the table when it comes to knowledge and experience of the world. I can have interesting and complex conversations with people, and I have a long list of exciting stories and memories to share with my children. On the bad side, sometimes this new life feels like an awkward fit.
I felt a lot more confident performing editorial tasks in an office than I do performing the daily tasks of caring for two toddlers and an infant. And sometimes I feel dissatisfied because I no longer gain a sense of accomplishment each day the way I did when I was working. When I was pregnant with my first child, I remember a friend telling me that it can be harder to be a mom in your 30s because you know what you’re missing out on.
As I’ve morphed into wife and mommy, I’ve had to allow God to give me new bags, knowing that He has equipped me for this new season — even on days when I feel inadequate. And, truth be told, I love the new bags more than the old ones. It’s just awkward learning to carry them sometimes.
My sinfulness. This really isn’t a revelation. I made plenty of mistakes before I was married and had children. I didn’t need those things to show me that I was a sinner. But entering into life with another person … and then three more … has brought about some of my most selfish and ugly moments.
It’s crazy how a context so filled with joy — marriage and parenthood — could also, with such precision, highlight my brokenness and need for a Savior. I’ve cried more, apologized more and been refreshed by forgiveness more in the past five years than the rest of my years combined.
Marriage and family is like a pressure cooker. Sometimes it feels like it’s about to explode. But when I deal with my sin by regularly confessing it and receiving God’s forgiveness, good stuff pours out of my marriage and family that blesses us and everyone we encounter.
The beauty of God’s plan. I was recently studying the biblical prophets. Israel’s history was a series of highs and lows, and many times God’s chosen people could not see what God was doing. While some of their trials were a result of their own sin, there were times when those faithful to God had to wonder what He was up to. The prophet Habakkuk cried out, “How long, Lord?”
Though Habakkuk was asking God to punish sin, I relate to his impassioned question. When I was single, I often asked the Lord, “How long?” I wondered if I would be too old to have children or possibly never even marry.
But when God’s plan for my marriage and family began to unfold, I was amazed by it. My husband, Kevin, and I went from dating to marriage in six months. Six months after that we found out we were expecting our son, and in the following three years we had two more children.
Though it was not without challenges, God made my love story so beautiful in His timing that all I could do was thank Him for not allowing me to choose my own way. Now, if I’m having a hard or stressful day, I need only to think about what God has done for me, and my eyes brim with tears of gratitude.
My intention here isn’t to present a “health and wealth gospel” in regard to marriage. I understand that God could have chosen for me to still be single to this day … or my entire life, for that matter. While that would have been difficult for me to accept, it would not have changed God’s love for me or His ability to sustain me.
My need for friends. When I was single, I wrote an article about my need for female friends. In my newlywed days, I was so consumed with my new relationship with my husband (as is very natural) that some of those friendships faded. I still maintained a few important ones, but it became harder to make the time to cultivate these relationships.
After a season of basking in the newness of marriage, I realized I missed those other friendships. And when our son was born and I stayed home from work, those feelings were heightened. Erin Smalley, author of Grown-Up Girlfriends, says that first-time moms especially need female friends. But the truth is, girlfriends are crucial at any stage of life.
When I was single, I had to be proactive about cultivating community with other women. And five years into marriage, I still have to. If you’re a guy and thinking this doesn’t apply to you, let me say that this point was my husband’s idea. He, too, needs friends and found it difficult to cultivate those relationships before and after marriage.
My source of hope. When I was single, I never gave up hope. I didn’t really see another viable option. If I never got married, I vowed to not live out my days in misery. I would offer singleness as a sacrifice to God, believing that He knew best.
Psalm 130:5 says: “I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in his word I hope.” I didn’t live this out perfectly. Too many times, I remember dropping into a sniveling heap, feeling pretty sorry for myself. (Incidentally, this still happens, possibly even more, now that I am a mom of young children.) Why me, Lord? Why not me? I wondered what He was doing, but like the psalmist who expressed so much anguish but in the end trusted in the Lord, I chose to believe His plan for me was best.
That hasn’t changed. Through the “happily ever after” moments and the “God, what are you doing?” moments of the past five years, God has continued to be my hope. Yes, I have the blessing of having my very best friend and companion by my side and the happy noises of children filling my home, but they can never be my savior. Only Jesus can.
Five years in is a sweet place to be. In some ways I am the same person I was five years ago, but in other ways I am drastically different. God has continued to educate me on the meaning of grace and dependence. This life I’m living is a gift. It always has been.
Copyright 2014 Suzanne Hadley Gosselin. All rights reserved.