I’m in full vacation-count-down mode for an upcoming trip to Montana with my sister. Some of my co-workers, Christians whom I count as friends, have begun a mantra of “Maybe you’ll meet a cowboy!” My last big vacation was to Hawaii, and prior to that trip, there was similar talk of me “meeting” a man. The inference, of course, is that I won’t just “meet” someone, I’ll return home with a significant other in my life. This week, my sister told me that a co-worker of hers, who is a dear friend of ours, was on the same “You’re gonna meet a cowboy in Montana” train.
Now, if my sister and I planned vacations for the purpose of meeting men, we would not be going to a secluded ranch where there is a limited number of people. Also, for our Hawaii trip, we would have stayed at Waikiki rather than on the North Shore of Oahu. But for us, vacation is about getting away; we do not like to be surrounded by people. More to the point, we know that life is not a Hallmark Channel romance movie. I am heading to Montana seeking rest, relaxation, and some fun with my sister. I am looking forward to serenity, horses, and beautiful scenery. Maybe I’ll find out if I really Should’ve Been A Cowgirl. I do not have the least notion that I am going to meet “Mr. Right” and have a spontaneously romantic vacation. The young me thought that way; it led to nothing but heartache. I don’t believe in fairytales; whether the topic is International Relations or my personal life, I am a realist.
It is important to be grounded in the present and in reality. One of the problems with Christians encouraging their single friends to believe that love is around every corner, is that it sets our minds on romance. I know that some of it is just teasing, and I know that people are rooting for their single friends to be happy. But God has not called us to live lives that are focused on romance.
In The Screwtape Letters (#leahsreadinglist), C.S. Lewis wrote of how the devil wants to keep us living either in the past or, even better, in the future. Lewis explained that it is in the present we are linked most closely with God and eternity. He wrote, “[God] would therefore have them continually concerned either with eternity (which means being concerned with Him) or with the Present – either meditating on their eternal union with, or separation from, Himself, or else obeying the present voice of conscience, bearing the present cross, receiving the present grace, giving thanks for the present pleasure.” Lewis went on to explain how the devil can use either worry or hope to keep our thoughts focused on the future. For singles, hoping and dreaming about future love draws us away from living the life that God has for us in the present.
I am certain that the devil loves it when we get stuck in our daydreams and fantasies, because not only is it removed from the present, but it also leads to disappointment. As Lewis wrote, “. . .it is only piling up more disappointment, and therefore more impatience, for [the human subject] when his false hopes are dashed.” I have experienced this several times in the past, and I know that the disappointment and impatience that C.S. Lewis wrote about, can discourage us from trusting God. Not trusting Him leads us to make bad decisions. So, it is not profitable to encourage single people to entertain notions of happily-ever-after. It is a paradox that is true for all believers: there is more joy in “bearing the present cross [and] receiving the present grace” than in chasing dreams. I think this explains why, as I have become more grounded in the present, I have also experienced more joy.
Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”
There is another point that I would like to address about this issue: the underlying assumption that something is missing from the life of a single person. The repeated talk of “meeting someone” infers that the single person needs to find a spouse to be happy. It reminds me of a line from the movie Hitch, when the female lead tells her best friend, “You’re not sick; you’re single.” Truly, being single is not a malady that needs to be cured. I am frustrated because Christians should understand this better than the rest of the world.
Anyone who knows me, knows that I desire to be married, but I do not need a husband to be complete. No one will find completeness (or happiness!) in another human being any more than they would find it in wealth or possessions. We need only to look around at our society to know this. If I seek a husband to fill me, in the end I will find myself empty. If I seek God to fill me, my cup will overflow.
So, please, don’t encourage the singles you know to live with their minds set on the future. Encourage us to live each day in obedience to the Lord. There is but one true Matchmaker: GOD. He is also the perfect Author, but His script won’t look like a Hallmark Channel movie. I am sure this is a good thing, and I know that the only safe place for my life and my future is in His hands.
For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him. He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken. On God rests my salvation and my glory; my mighty rock, my refuge is God.