When I was thirteen, my older sister got married. She was twenty. I couldn’t wait for it to be my turn. If life were like a commercial, there would have been an announcer reciting a disclaimer, “Results may vary; your actual life may not look like this.” But then, at thirteen you think you know everything, so I probably wouldn’t have listened anyway. I was sure I would marry at twenty like my sister and my parents, before her.
I still fight shame and embarrassment about how foolish I was when I was young. The nineteen-year-old me was so silly and so determined to be loved. I chased guys around and tried to create relationships out of whole cloth. At twenty, I fell prey to the first man who had ever really shown me attention. His intentions weren’t good and I knew better. At twenty-two, I had my first actual relationship. When it ended, I tried everything to hold on. He had said he would marry me. Then he cast me aside into the garbage heap. I was devastated.
It amazes me to look back on all of this, now. What I see most clearly is God’s faithfulness and mercy shining brilliantly through the course of my life. He rescued me from myself. The boyfriend called himself a Christian, but he wasn’t really following Christ. How unhappy I might have been, if not for God’s grace to me. It has been seventeen years, give or take, and life has been quiet since then. Quiet on the outside, at least. Inside, things are not always peaceful, as I wrestle with God over my life and my future, loneliness and bareness.
The book of James says, “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” I have found this to be so. The more time I spend in Scripture, the more He speaks to me (His written word is, of course, His primary means of communicating with us). When I lay in bed at night crying, telling Him how rejected I feel by the whole male species, I hear Him say, “It’s not that you are rejected by men, it is that I have set you apart.” This idea, these words ‘set apart’ are a theme across Scripture that first came to me reading Deuteronomy a few years ago. Deuteronomy 10:8-9 states, “At that time, the LORD set apart the tribe of Levi to carry the ark of the covenant of the LORD to stand before the LORD to minister to him and to bless in his name, to this day. Therefore, Levi has no portion or inheritance with his brothers. The LORD is his inheritance, as the LORD your God said to him.” Though God had chosen all of Israel to be His people, from within that people He set apart the Levites for a special calling and a different way of life. This helped me understand that God had made my life look different for a reason, and that it was an opportunity for me to have a deeper relationship with Him.
Don’t think that I view God as a consolation prize. But this I know, He is a consoler of hearts. Living for Him, knowing He has chosen me, and trusting that He has a plan for my life, is what makes it okay to be thirty-nine and single with no prospects. It gives me a reason to move forward in faith. Trusting is the opposite of assuming. It means it is okay to not know the details. When I trust, I don’t try to force my own plan for the future. “Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit’ – yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.’ As it is, you boast in your arrogance [i.e. assume]. All such boasting is evil.” (James 4:13-16, ESV) Whatever God has in store for me, life will go a lot better if I remember my lesson about assuming.