God You don't need me / But somehow You want me / Oh how You love me / Somehow that frees me / To take my hands off of my life / And the way it should go / God You don't need me / But somehow You want me / Oh how You love me / Somehow that frees me / To open my hands up / And give You control / I give You control — Tenth Avenue North
I had my life all planned out. 14-year-old me knew exactly how it was going to go. I was going to meet some guy who loved God and was amazing, I was going to be married at 18 (ya’know, because that’s the youngest age you can be decently married at) and have at least half a dozen kids by the time I was 25. I was going to be a wife, a mum, a homeschooler, and a homemaker. That was my dream. It was also the dream of everyone else around me, growing up in the conservative homeschool circle.
We talked glory boxes, sewing, cooking, and what it would be like to be a mum. We mooned over new babies, and read books that filled our heads with the noblest of idealism. All the while we spruiked purity, the importance of waiting, the do’s and don’t’s of courtship, and how valuable our single years were. Except, none of us believed that last part. Getting married was the pinnacle of life, and the sole purpose of a woman’s existence. What calling could be higher than that, right? So obviously. We ignored that last point.
Time passed, and all of us began to grow up and experience this thing called life. I have to admit, I was confused most of the time. Firstly, life wasn’t playing the game. I knew how things were supposed to turn out. 18 and married with one on the way, remember? There honestly weren’t any guys around that were even remotely near my age. Get it together, Life. Secondly, as time was flying by and my prospects were growing dimmer (and my grip on my dream was slipping) I had this sneaky suspicion creeping up on me that perhaps there was something to the whole ‘called to be single’ thing I had been in denial of. What if that was me? Crumbs, I didn’t want to die of that kind of martyrdom! This could destroy my entire life’s plan. Talk about a contingency I had definitely not planned for. This would take some study. I needed to prepare myself for the apocalypse.
It was at about this time I hit the young Christian conservative women’s world of magazines and online blogs. 16-year-old me was going to get the inside scoop on this whole singleness thing. Surely there was a bulletproof way to survive singleness without heartache (if it truly was my calling… I was still hoping I was wrong). Yet for all my blog-following and magazine-subscribing, I honestly did not believe much of what I read. Besides, the single ladies writing these blogs and articles were… well, crazy. I did not get them one bit.
For example, a lot of them? They talked about contentment like they really were content. They wanted me to believe that having Jesus in their lives and investing in that relationship was the most fulfilling thing in their whole world; that having a boyfriend or a dream for getting married didn’t compare to the love of God. Please. Like you’ve never read the Janette Oke books where the handsome cowboy gets the girl and they ride off into the sunset and sighed painfully as you closed the book. As if you never cried yourself to sleep because no one has ever looked your way! You never sat through Pride and Prejudice and felt like that was the closest you were going to get to having a relationship: dreaming about Mr. Darcy. As if reading the Bible could be better than kissing someone, or serving in church was so much more exciting than having kids. No—all you had were “some trying days” where it was “harder to focus on the Lord”. Call me a hardened, blind cynic, (or a stubborn teenager) but I was calling their bluff. No girl—I repeat—no girl, can be THAT content. Period. I had tried singleness and found it wanting: wanting marriage. I was convinced that I could never be content as a single woman and that contentment was a delusion for the disappointed. I would not resign myself to that.
However life is a good teacher in the hands of a loving Father, even if it comes with bruises. As time continued to pass, I threw my heart into things that definitely did not fill the void. Whilst I believed I loved God and had a growing relationship with Him, my desire for marriage had the potential to be more consuming than anything else. I clung to Bible verses that promised “the desires of my heart”, “a good plan and a future”, and “a man who finds a wife finds a good thing”; strong-arming God through the manipulation of His Word (always a flawless plan). I’d read enough in my singleness binge to know that this was the time to “prepare”, and become the best version of myself. So I did all I could to become one amazing piece of wife material. Very unfulfilling stuff. Every new person I met became a prospect, and the chance of meeting “the one” was always at the forefront of my mind at social functions. Whilst on the outside I may have been an active participant at home or church, enjoying life; on the inside I was very much pining away for someone to fall in love with.
After one particular pet hope I had been nursing for two years was completely crushed, I finally came to the end of my own efforts. I dropped off the bottom rung of the ladder of my plans and landed with a dejected thud. I was done. For a while, I didn’t want to talk to God. He had ruined everything. I was 23, more unmarried than ever, stuck in the same place I’d always been, and I had nothing left to hope for. But since I had enough brains to realize that there was nowhere else to go besides God, I crawled back to Him and settled into a lengthy pout session, Him patiently and lovingly holding me as I ranted and railed. This was the end of me, but the beginning of something quite different.
It's okay, this is just the end / Don't be afraid, this is where it begins, oh / 'Cause everything here had to fall apart / But in the ruins of a broken heart / I found peace like a river to attend my soul / Hope running over when I let go / I found joy that was hidden for all these years / And love overflowing to wash over everything / Here at the end of me — Jason Gray
Bit by bit over the next couple of years, God began to teach me about myself. I realized that being single and wanting to be married was not actually my problem (WHUT). Much of what I thought I wanted was not really what I was looking for at all. I began to see that this life I had tried (and failed) to orchestrate, was not about me, or my wants, or even my needs. I was not here just to have the “desires of my heart” fulfilled. As I was learning more and more about myself, and who I really was apart from the dreams and desires I had idolized, I made some major discoveries.
- My life is not my own. Aka, “it’s not about me”. We all know this in theory, but when I came face to face with the fact that when I gave my life to Christ it was His to do with what He wanted, I realized this left little room for my little old desires. Desires are good, and we ought to pursue them, but the pursuit should lead us to the heart of God, not the satisfaction of our own selfishness. This was the part where I opened up my hands and was able to completely surrender to God by saying, “married tomorrow, or single till I die, my life is at Your command. Your will, not mine.” Habakkuk 3:17-19 became my prayer, and I prayed it till I meant it.
- His dreams are better than mine. I realized that a lot of my dreams of marriage and family came from the expectations of people around me, not from what God had put in my heart. I wanted to be married because I did not understand who I was in Christ, and I know that should someone have paid me attention, I would have clung to them as my worth and value. In letting go of what I thought were my dreams, I gained His. I also gained a greater understanding of my personal worth and identity in Christ. Though this doesn’t mean I scorn the idea of marriage, my reasons for wanting it have changed. Marriage should be for the glory of God, and for the benefit of His kingdom. Otherwise there is no earthly point to it.
- Waiting is a myth. To live one’s life waiting for dreams to come true is to waste it. I bought the lie that if you wait patiently on the Lord, He will give you what you want. That is not what Scripture says. We are to wait on the Lord the same way a waiter waits on a guest: actively pursuing and obeying the wishes of Him. It is to be ever attentive to His ways, and eager to accomplish them out of love for Him, and a desire to serve. It is in this kind of waiting, we are fulfilled. It really has nothing to do with what we “want” in life. Whilst God does care about our desires, and wants us to be free to come and bring our requests to Him, we should never use waiting as a bargaining chip with God. It doesn’t work. Don't wait to live. Life is now.
- Contentment is not a lack of desires, it is not being governed by your desires. Contentment does indeed exist. It just doesn’t look like what many single women bloggers have portrayed it as. Contentment is the next door neighbor of trust, and trust means that you believe God is reliable. He will come through. He gets you, and will give you what you need. A contentment issue, is a trust issue. And trust only comes from one place—
What I was really missing all those years was a grasp on the love God has for me. Understanding how deep the Father’s love is for us is vital to the way we live the rest of our lives. It wasn’t pursuing a relationship, pursuing a career, investing in people, serving in the church, or honing my skills that gave me a sense of fulfillment and worth. For it is not by works we are saved, lest anyone boast (Eph. 2:8-9). The past year, and especially the past month, I have learned just how incredibly loved I am by my extraordinary Father in heaven. It is in tasting this love—grasping it—that all other desires truly do die. I’ve come to the place where I realize those girls who blogged and wrote articles were right: you truly can be content, but it’s not in what you do for yourself, or what you do for God, it’s in Who God is, and who you are, in Him. God is love. You are His beloved. That’s it. That’s all there is to it.
You see, I’ve seen discontentment in so many people: successful people, married people, single people, gifted people, busy people, quiet people. I’ve seen people who have so much I could be envious of, be the most discontented. Contentment has nothing to do with your circumstances. It has everything to do with your situation in God.
Are you trying to get from God, without recognizing what He has already given?
Are you seeking the gift, not the Giver?
If you are, you haven’t truly discovered His love for you. Because that kind of love is enough. Contentment is not a single thing. It’s an everyone thing, because knowing you are loved by the Father is a truth everyone needs to understand, and something no one will find outside of Him. It fills you up so you overflow, and instead of clinging to God in order to get something from Him, you will rest in His presence more satisfied than you have ever been. This love is unswayed by the world, unswayed by your relationship status, your job status, or anything else anyone might tell you. No circumstance can remove this contentment, and no situation can shake this foundation in your life. It only requires one thing from you—
It’s a scary leap to give up all the plans you have for your life. It’s a fearful thing, to surrender. But I can tell you that when you give everything for God’s love, there is nothing that can take it away from you.
Not a single thing.
It's alright, we're not alone, we don't have to fight / The very things that might lead us back home, oh / 'Cause every wound here is a place to start / The healing of a broken heart / The end of me is not the enemy / It's where mercy gets the better part of me, oh / The end of me is not the enemy / It's where love was always leading me — Jason Gray