I knew from the moment I was graduating high school what I wanted to be in life: a wife and mother. It was clear as day to me; everything seemed to pale in contrast to that great calling in my heart.
Fast forward a decade-plus later, and well…the plans I had for myself haven’t exactly come to pass. But there’s that stumbling block I keep tripping over: “the plans I had for myself.” I kept thinking I knew what was best for me. But as the adage says, “Man (or woman, in this case) plans and God laughs.” It surely felt like the joke was on me when my friends were not only getting married, but having two, three and even four kids.
Seriously, God, am I missing something here?
I would sometimes come across a blog post or article that spoke of “the ache of singlehood,” and how it all came to a glorious conclusion. These articles made me roll my eyes because they were often written by a mid-twenty something sister who really didn’t wait all that much. So, no need to roll your eyes at me, sisters. I’ve crossed the threshold of thirty, so I know a thing or two about what it means to walk through the valley of the shadow of singlehood. I’ve heard every criticism, been asked all sorts of impertinent questions, and have had people think all kinds of crazy things.
I don’t often admit it out loud, but for the sake of vulnerability, I’ll say it now: the struggle can get real. I won’t lie and say that living with this ache is ever easy. There’s a twinge of pain at attending wedding after wedding. There’s a certain sense of instability as you plan for the next couple of years. A male friend recently called this “the cross of singlehood.” The cross can certainly get heavy, especially when you don’t know where your next step will be.
I’ve learned, however, that this cross has its sweetness. It turns out, regardless of what the media or our family and friends may think, that singleness actually isn’t the worst thing ever. In fact, I’ve come to see God’s goodness and mercy, not to mention His immense wisdom, during this time. Moreover, I’ve learned a few things along the way that have led me to praise God despite the detour from my plans.
Identity. I’ve learned that before I could ever step into the roles of bride and mother, I need to first and foremost, see myself as “daughter.” That is the one identity that I will carry with me into heaven. There is no marriage in heaven as there is on earth, and I will not need to mother anyone in heaven, but I will always be a beloved daughter of the Father, and that is the most wonderful title I could have. My relationship with God comes before any other, and to be His daughter is wonderful. It means I am not an orphan, I am never alone, nor forgotten, nor unloved. Ever.
Holiness. God’s number one goal for each of us is our personal holiness. Why? First, it means wholeness- and He loves us so much He wants us to be wholly well. Also, holiness means we will be eternally united to Him. Think about that for a second. He is so deeply in love with us that He yearns to be united with us for-ev-er. Marriage just happens to be one of several paths toward holiness. That makes marriage a means to an end. The end goal is not matrimonial bliss or a relationship status on earth, but eternal ecstasy in heaven. That, my friends, is what our hearts are made for.
Sacrifice. Growing up, whenever I had any discomfort or trial, I was told to “offer it up.” I hardly knew what that meant. Then, it seemed as if offering it up meant I had to put up with challenges as a sort of twisted masochism. I often refused to offer up my trials not realizing what a gift it can be. Offering things up, however, shifts my focus of my self-imposed pity party. When I offer things up for the conversion of another or a friend in need, my cross suddenly has purpose and meaning. It becomes a joy and honor to carry it for the sake of another. It’s a beautiful mystery. Christ offered up His suffering for our sake, giving us a beautiful example of strength and selflessness. Because of Christ’s victory on the Cross, suffering does not have any power over us. He shares His victory with us, taking our own suffering and transforming it, empowering us to overcome ache with love.
Reminders. All around us, in the mystery of creation and our relationships with one another is a reminder of God’s presence and God’s love for us. Marriage, therefore, is an icon of God’s profound, total, faithful, generous love. Why does marriage exist in the first place? While it does have some practical aspects like it being the building block of society, the Lord in His goodness established marriage as a sign pointing to the greater mystery of who He is. It serves to remind us of the deep love He has for each of us and the union that awaits us in heaven. In Scripture, we often see the Lord refer to Himself as a Bridegroom and His people as the Bride (both in the Old Testament as well as the New Testament). Marriage is the most intimate relationship that exists between people, and through marriage, though it is not a perfect metaphor, is the only way we can interpret this sacred bond between Christ and the church. In Revelations, Christ presents Himself as a Bridegroom celebrating his marriage—His union—to His people, the Bride. Marriage on earth reminds us of this, and while it would be nice to participate in an earthly marriage of our own, we as believers, do not expressly need it, and can therefore begin to look forward to the day of our true marriage.
So, would I like to be married and have children? Absolutely. Sign me up. But does the delay of it, or—gasp—the lack of it, mean it is a cause for unhappiness and unfulfillment? Nope. If Christ is my joy and strength, then all is well, and I know whatever His plans are for me, they are for the best.