My Dear “Kindred Spirit,”
It’s not a punishment.
Ok, ok, stop it. Smooth that puzzled, slightly concerned look off your face and call a halt to the inner dialogue that you just started with yourself (“What the heck is she talking about?? Wow, I think she’s really lost it this time! This girl needs help! Like, professional help!”)
Just let me try and ‘splain, ok?
I’m 24 years old. I’ve only been in one relationship in my life.
Before that one, I’d never so much as been asked out. I can easily count on one hand (err… 2 fingers??) the men who have even so much as shown interest in me.
As I started to get into my 20’s with no sign of a man – any man – I kinda freaked out. Friends and relatives my age were beginning to show up with boyfriends/girlfriends. Then some of them got married. Babies came. I was – and still am – delighted for them. I’m happy that they’re happy.
But this nagging question started up in the back of my brain:
“Why isn’t that me?”
There were plenty of answers to that question. I’d been hearing and reading the answers all my life:
“That will be you someday! You just have to wait until the timing is right. God’s timing is different from yours. He’ll send you someone when you’re ready!”
When I’m READY??
Ok, here’s the thing. When I’m told that God will send me someone “when I’m ready,” this is the thought process I immediately launch into:
“I’ll be in a relationship when I’m ready, huh?? Ok. Doggone it, I feel ready now! But, no, apparently not, or God would’ve sent someone already… So why aren’t I ready? What am I doing wrong?? It can’t be anything practical, I mean, I know how to cook and do laundry and take care of children. I can even balance a checkbook!
So this must be something deeper. Like, there’s some unresolved issues or character flaws that I need to fix. There’s probably some things I’m supposed to learn before I’ll be ready. God sees some things in my life he wants me to work on.
Well, I guess it’s my fault, then. It’s my problem to fix. If I was a little smarter, maybe I could have already learned these lessons, and I’d have been ready to be in a relationship a few years ago. Some people apparently are, you see couples getting married at 18 and 19 all the time. So I’m just a slower learner than them, I guess.
Doggone it, I need to get my act together! Like, NOW!! If I don’t get my act together and fix whatever these issues are I’m supposed to be fixing in order to be “ready” then God won’t let me be in a relationship and I’ll never get to be a wife and mother!”
Yeah, I know. It goes downhill pretty quick, don’t it??
Maybe I’m just crazier than most. I suppose there’s probably a lot of people out there who haven’t ever felt as though if they could just “get their act together” then God would finally send them someone.
But I know I’m not the only person who’s ever felt as though there must be something wrong with them because they’re still single.
So my painfully practical, logical mind says that if there’s something wrong with you, and that’s why you’re single, then all you have to do in order to “find” a relationship is fix what’s wrong (aka “get your act together”).
It gets to feeling very much like the relationship is a treat being dangled in front of a dog. If you’re a good dog and do your tricks, then you get the treat. If you’re a bad dog, then the treat just keeps dangling there, as a supposed incentive to become a good dog.
Lucky for me, there’s big issues with this line of thinking.
For one thing, we think we have no choice in the matter. “When the time is right, God will send ‘the one’ and everything will just magically fall into place!”
Yeah… about that.
I’m a firm believer that God does send people into our lives. He is totally a matchmaker, and I can only imagine how much fun he gets out of making two people’s paths cross and just watching the romance play out.
But I think sometimes we forget that God also gives us a free will. We get a very big say in the matter!
Understand that our humanity can throw a wrench into the mix, but not because God is waiting for us to come to some great revelation, reach some magical point in our life or overcome some obstacle before he’s willing to “send” someone our way.
Our humanity throws a wrench into the mix because we get to make our own choices.
Maybe we choose to fight to keep an unhealthy relationship alive when God wants us to let it go. Maybe we choose to let the person God has sent just float on by.
This isn’t God “punishing” us for not having our act together or withholding a good relationship from us because we’ve got issues. It’s him allowing us to exercise our free will.
Ok, next thing – all those articles, books, and lectures I’ve heard about singleness being a time of “sanctification” and “preparation for marriage…”
Honestly, when I hear those terms, it makes me think of a college course. If you pass the sanctification and preparation courses, then you get your diploma (aka a relationship).
Well… NO. (And yes. But mostly no).
Here’s my example:
As most of you know by now, I have health issues. Because of these issues, I’ve started taking better care of myself. Through my struggles with my health, I’ve grown and changed and learned absolutely amazing things.
Did I have to get sick in order to learn those things? No.
But did God use the sickness to teach and “stretch” me into a better person? Absolutely!
In the same way, God will use your time of singleness to teach you things. To help you learn and grow. But that doesn’t mean you have to get your act together and learn everything while you’re single before God will send you a good relationship! Because he can (and will) use a relationship to teach you things and help you learn and grow, just as easily and effectively as he uses singleness.
Another thing – I think we need to define here what it really is we’re looking for – a GODLY relationship.
If I chose to dress and act in a certain way and spent my time hanging out with certain crowds of people, I have no doubt I’d have way more guys show interest in me. But they’re not the men I’m interested in. That’s not the relationship I’m looking for.
Keep in mind that part of the reason you’re single is because of your own choice of standards for a relationship. And that’s a good thing. Standards are definitely a good thing!
But understand that the relationship you’re looking for – a Godly relationship – is not going to come easily. Satan is alive and well, and there are few things he hates more than a good relationship that brings honor and glory to God. I assure you, he’s not gonna just stand by and let that happen.
So, no. God doesn’t withhold relationships from us because we don’t quite have our act together yet.
God is, in fact, rooting for us! He loves relationships and marriage, and wants more of them in this world! So he’s up there maintaining a delicate balance between playing the matchmaker as much as he can while still letting us make our own choices.
This may be an odd comparison, but instead of feeling like a dog with a treat dangling in front of me, I’ve started thinking about singleness and relationships as a treasure hunt.
Remember going on treasure hunts as a kid? Weren’t they always so much fun!? You never knew what or where the prize was gonna be or how long it would take you to find it, but you knew mom or dad would be pointing you in the right direction, giving you clues and helping you along as much as they could without actually taking over and doing it for you.
I know. I’m just strange.
You can go back to that inner dialogue now (“She’s crazy!! I mean, seriously, this girl has more than a few screws loose! Wow!”)