Eighteen years ago I faced the cold, hard truth that I was graduating from college with no boyfriend and no prospects. Many of my friends would receive both a diploma and a diamond on that joyous June day and I looked forward only to the piece of paper. My singleness obscured any sense of accomplishment. So about a month after the fact, I sat sobbing on the edge of my bed, envisioning spinster-hood, despair growing by the moment. My good friend, who married at the ripe young age of 22, sat next to me, searching for something to say. All of a sudden, a flash of brilliance struck and she ran for her Bible. In a moment, she returned with it and found in the back a yellowed, torn life-changing piece of paper. Here is what it read:
On His Plan for Your Mate
Everyone longs to give themselves completely to someone – to have a deep soul relationship with another, to be loved thoroughly and exclusively. But God, to the Christian, says, “No, not until you are satisfied and fulfilled and content with living loved by Me alone. I love you, my child and until you discover that only in Me is your satisfaction to be found, you will not be capable of the perfect human relationship that I have planned for you. You will never be united with another until you are united with me – exclusive of anyone or anything else, exclusive of any other desires and longings. I want you to stop planning, stop wishing, and allow Me to give you the most thrilling plan existing – one that you can’t imagine. I want you to have the best. Please allow me to bring it to you – just keep watching Me, expecting the greatest things – keep experiencing the satisfaction knowing that I am. Keep learning and listening to the things I tell you … you must wait.
Don’t be anxious. Don’t worry. Don’t look around at the things others have gotten or that I’ve given them. Don’t look at the things you think you want. You just keep looking off and away up to Me, or you’ll miss what I want to show you.
And, then, when you’re ready, I’ll surprise you with a love far more wonderful than any would ever dream. You see, until you are ready, and until the one I have for you is ready, I am working even this very minute to have both of you ready at the same time. Until you are both satisfied exclusively with me and the life I have prepared for you, you won’t be able to experience the love that exemplifies your relationship with Me…and this is perfect love.
And dear one, I want you to have this most wonderful love, I want you to see in the flesh a picture of your relationship with Me, and to enjoy materially and the everlasting union of beauty and perfection and love that I offer you with Myself. Know I love you utterly. I am God Almighty. Believe and be satisfied.
I can quote most of that by heart. That summer day in my bedroom, those words came like cool lemonade to my soul. Little did I know that I too would carry this paper around with me for eighteen years as the Lover of my Soul made the words real in my heart.
What does it mean to be satisfied, fulfilled and content? Can we really find satisfaction in God alone? I doubted it at first, but over the years, I grew to see that this is God’s desire for every person, and some learn it before they marry and some learn it within their marriages, but all must learn it sometime in some way. I’ve also realized that even though God wants us to be content in Him, He also wants most of us married. So how do we achieve this happy state, even though all the while we’re yearning for the companionship of a spouse? How do we hold all of this in balance? I’m going to discuss 4 ingredients to becoming fulfilled and then talk about what to do with our longings while we wait!
Four ingredients of being satisfied, fulfilled and content:
1. Believe you have a destiny bigger than marriage.
A lot of singles are in a holding pattern. Even though they’re working and even serving in the church, they have a hard time thinking about the bigger picture of their lives. I remember the day I was, for the 400th time, bemoaning single hood. Another good friend (who also married enviously young) challenged me, “Nicole, what else do you want to be besides a wife? What does your life look like outside of the home?” I sat dumb; I couldn’t answer her! I always knew in my head that life was multifaceted, but now I knew it in my heart. I was created to be more than a wife – and just being a wife would not fulfill me. That conversation sobered me and propelled me to take a hold of the garment of Jesus and beseech him:
What have you called me to do? What have you made me to do? What can I do uniquely that no one else can do?
Now, don’t get me wrong, I haven’t bought into the feminist ideal of the 70’s and 80’s that a woman should “bring home the bacon,” by day, turn into Supermom in the evening and then transform one more time into a sexy, supportive wife at night. I never thought I could do it all – and I don’t really advocate women trying to do it all.
Nevertheless, that day I realized that even though I desperately wanted to get married, my life was to be about more than domestic bliss.
In general, however, the Church world doesn’t help. The family is so highly esteemed that with no effort at all, one can conclude that life before marriage is suboptimal living; it’s a winter season to be prayed through, cursed and left behind as quickly as possible.
Family has become an idol in the church and being a wife and mother is considered the highest calling. The church has reacted to the feminist movement that exalted career over family and really just did the same thing in reverse: exalted family over everything else. People revealed their hearts all the time when through the years, amidst every trial, they said it was “preparation for marriage.” If I struggled with a roommate, this was good preparation for marriage. If I served selflessly, this was good preparation for marriage. If I learned how to cook, clean and keep a nice home, this was good preparation for marriage. If I learned how to dress attractively, this was good preparation for marriage! It was as if everything in life was pointing to that pinnacle called MARRIAGE. That was the finish line and the END.
Looking back on all those things now, I think a more accurate statement would be that they were good preparation for loving people; they do help me to be a better wife, but that was not the sole purpose of those lessons.
Now, this is a radical statement, but I don’t think being a wife and mother or a husband and a father is the highest calling. I think the highest calling for your life and mine is to be in the will of God.
If you are single the goal for you right now is to figure out why you were created, and move forward with a sense of purpose.
When you get married, your highest call will still be walking in the will of God – which will then include being the best wife, the best husband, the best mother, the best father you can be, but it will still include more.
If your life ends at the altar, if you get married and just settle back and settle in; if you stop pursuing God and cease investing the talents that he’s given you, you will fall short of the purpose for which you were born. You will become stale. And your marriage will suffer.
When my husband and I were engaged, we asked several happily married couples, what their secret was to a good marriage. One man said, “My wife is so interesting! I love to see her speak up front; I’m just so proud of her!” (His wife is the director of a crisis pregnancy center who often speaks at churches and fundraisers.) Their kids are grown and gone, and she has not settled into a humdrum life. She’s kept growing and He’s discovering new dimensions of her! Her life stays current and fresh and so his love for her is also current and fresh.
Our lives should be moving, dynamic, anointed, and that CAN’T start when we get married; it has to start now!
Once you get a glimpse of the bigger picture, this will help focus your time and attention and give you purpose and goals other than catching a mate. By my late twenties, I had realized that God was calling me to be a writer and speaker; He wanted to use my mouth and my pen to communicate the truths of His Word and encourage His people. Then this was confirmed when I spoke in my first conference overseas. I was in Ghana, West Africa at a women’s conference, and as I stood at the podium, ministering to hundreds of beautiful women, I felt like I had come home; this is what I was born to do. Similar to Eric Liddell in Chariots of Fire, “I feel God’s pleasure when I (speak).”
I didn’t know how opportunities would come, but I did know that those single years were prime time to invest in the talents God had given me. I had enough married friends to know that I had more time on my hands than they did. I knew that evenings free of distraction and quiet Saturday afternoons were a luxury and that I should invest some of those hours honing skills and pressing into God. I determined to be ready in season and out of season and I spent many evenings with my Bible and my laptop open, praying, taking notes and receiving revelation. I had purpose and this guided my use of time.
If you have no idea what your destiny is, let me ask you this, what has God put in your hand? Like the boy with the fishes and loaves, if you offer even small things to God, he can multiple them and use them to feed multitudes. So, can you write, play an instrument, sing, organize, teach, cook, research, build or sew?
NOW is the time to discover gifts, no matter how small, and begin to invest in them. NOW is the time to ask the Father for a bigger picture of your life and guidance to work towards it.
My only caveat is this: don’t limit God. Remember, a single man wrote half of the New Testament (Paul)! God wants to use you to change history: perhaps not world history, but the history of a child, a church, a community, a family or an office. What He is calling you to is life-changing for someone somewhere, and it is vital that you discover it. Your mate will come along side you and compliment the work you are already doing. He or she will add to it and make it better, but there is much for you to do in the meantime.
As Israel Houghton sings, “No limits! No boundaries!”
Read more in Part II of Singlehood: a blessing or a curse?!