What I learned when I stopped focusing on getting married
I sulked into my bare one-room apartment, plopped down onto its ugly shag carpeting, looked at my mostly empty walls, and thought about how much I'd spent on wedding presents in the last two months—hundreds of hard-earned, much-needed dollars out of my meager income.
As a 25-year-old single woman, I'd attended several weddings and baby showers in a row. While I'd been thrilled for my friends, my mounting frustrations and insecurities overwhelmed me that lonely afternoon.
Life suddenly didn't seem fair. I was expected to give gifts to my soon-to-be-happily-married friends, but my own culinary collection consisted of hand-me-down pots and garage-sale-variety pans.
But it was more than that; other friends were having babies, and I was expected to give shower gifts. I felt left behind, out of place, and more than a little jealous.
How long can this continue? I thought, imagining my friends in their cute little houses, husbands by their sides, kitchens with all the latest goods, and closets full of cute little baby clothes.
My grumblings grew into a full-blown pity party that day. In my misery and frustration, I boldly challenged God. "All my friends have someone special in their life," I told him. "But what about me? I have to be content with YOU!?" It was the culmination of years of left-out, fifth-wheel, the-only-one-without-a-date feelings hurled back at God. I was weary of waiting for God to answer my prayers for a mate—and wearier still of having to explain to people that he hadn't.
That afternoon, I waited in silence, wondering if God would allow such a direct challenge. It's rare for me to be so honest with God about my doubt, to let him know I think he's hurting me. I'd never really vented my anger with him like this before, and I wasn't sure how he'd respond.
But after a few minutes, God's slow, patient voice said, Okay, Lori. If you have to be content with me, then how do I compare? How do I measure up to all the guys you've gone out with—or to anyone, for that matter?
I'm amazed that the God of the universe stooped to answer my insolent question. But because of his response, I began searching the Bible to find out more about him and his promises. Here's what I discovered about my incomparable companion:
- He'll never leave me or fail me (Romans 8:38-39; Hebrews 13:5)
- He always listens (Psalm 116:1-2)
- He always forgives (Psalm 86:5; 1 John 1:9)
- He knows my limits (1 Corinthians 10:13)
- He knows the smallest details of my life (Matthew 10:29-30)
- He guides me (Psalm 32:8; Proverbs 3:5-6)
- He has good things planned for me (Jeremiah 29:11)
- He cares about me (1 Peter 5:7)
- He counts my tears (Psalm 56:8)
- He provides peace in any circumstance (Philippians 4:6-7)
- He'll meet all my needs (Philippians 4:19)
That afternoon made a huge impact on me. I decided to become content with just me and God.
No sooner had I committed myself to being content than my sister, Linda, got engaged. Our family became consumed by wedding preparations. Even my vast bridesmaid experience hadn't prepared me for the year of planning that lay ahead: picking out dresses, a reception hall, and a band; hearing about diamonds and china and honeymoon plans; and of course, attending four different wedding showers. To top it all, Linda was getting married on my birthday, the one day I thought would be mine in the midst of "The Year of the Wedding."
Once again, envy started growing in the pit of my stomach. Linda was only a year older. There had always been an undercurrent of competition in our relationship, and she'd beaten me to the punch on this one. I realized that to be content, I needed to put my jealousy and sibling rivalry aside.
Thankfully, my confrontation with God prepared me for dealing with this challenge. First, it reminded me I didn't have to feel shame over being single. If God had a plan for me and I was trusting in his guidance, I didn't have to worry that my life didn't match up to everyone's expectations. I didn't have to succumb to their fears that I'd be miserable or incomplete. It was much easier to celebrate Linda's wedding when I remembered I had nothing to be ashamed of.
Second, it gave me the reassurance of knowing I could be honest with God about what was on my heart. I told God everything about my envy, fear, and sense of failure. He showed me my pride and jealousy were akin to the notorious ugly step-sisters in Cinderella, and helped me work through my feelings so I could "honor" Linda. Knowing the God I met that lonely afternoon was still there—the God who loved me, who counted my tears, whom I could trust with all my heart—made all the difference. My struggle with Linda's wedding faded into the background as God began to change my attitude.
More than anything else, I became overwhelmed by the amazing qualities of everyday life. Simple things I'd long overlooked—sunsets, stars, summer rain—became vivid. I marveled at the muggy Virginia summer and the marvelous cotton-candy pink sunset that followed an afternoon thunderstorm. On a family vacation to Bermuda, I got caught in a rain shower on a secluded beach; I stood in the turquoise waves and lavished the clear, drenching rain. At Thanksgiving, I sat alone in the hot tub of my parents' beach house, in awe over more stars than I'd ever seen before. I turned off the jets on the hot tub and listened to the waves, watching the moonlight rise and fall with each crash.
I treasured these moments—romantic as they could have been—alone with God. Sometimes that delight came naturally; sometimes it was a decision of my will, in spite of what I felt.
Henry David Thoreau, the classic writer, said, "The morning wind forever blows, The poem of creation is uninterrupted; But few are the ears that hear it." It hasn't always been easy, but I've chosen to open my ears, long closed by loneliness and self-pity, to hear "the poem of creation" in the everyday beauty around me. In it, I hear God speak about his care for me, the blessings he's given me, and the wonderful plans he has for my life.
While I still struggle with being single—I haven't always maintained that mountaintop experience—I've learned something about being content with where I am right now. I've realized I can't waste my life by waiting around for someone to come and make it worth living. Life itself is a beautiful thing. I've also learned that one of the wonderful benefits of being single is that I can actually—to my surprise—spend time just enjoying God.
Yes, I have to be content with God. But now I want to be content with him—whether I marry or not.
Written by Lori Smith
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