When I was a little girl, I envisioned a future for myself that included marrying, like my mother, while in my early twenties. I imagined I would meet a good man, marry early, have babies early, and enjoy seeing them skip off to college while I was just entering in my forties.
While in college, I joined Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship. This was when I did a 180 degree turn from the Catholic church and toward Protestantism and non-denominationalism. I also was about to get an education on Christian "dating." First, the dating wasn't happening the way it did in my all-girls Catholic high school. I dated plenty of boys back then and assumed it would be the same after I joined a Christian group. Nothing could be further from the truth.
It was as though God had turned off the Fun and Frivolous Dating Faucet. No Christian young man gave me a second glance. I tried almost everything. (Save a plunging neckline. My Catholic upbringing did teach me something.) I realized that my usual tactic of boldly talking to a man and then suggesting a date just wasn't going to fly. (When I was 16 years old and returning from a date, I confronted my shy escort with the challenge, "So. Are you going to kiss me or what?" Yeah. I was definitely not from in the Shrinking Violet part of the garden. More like the Venus-Fly-Trap area.)
Although I can be thick-headed at times, it didn't take me long to realize God was up to something, and it didn't look like He was going to be bringing my knight in shining armor anytime soon.
So I plunged myself into my faith and pursuing God with every iota of my being. This went on from the time I was 20 until I was 27. At 27, my younger brother married his long-time sweetheart. That was pivotal for me. I remember sinking into a depression as I realized that not only was I probably not going to get married anytime soon, I wasn't even sure if I'd date again. I was tired of being lonely and felt I had done my part for God long enough. Why couldn't He give me the greatest desire of my heart? To find a good man to love and be loved by him?
And so, in typical childish fashion, I pouted my way back into the world and started to date non-Christian men. They were paying attention to me and I kidded myself by thinking that I could be a witness to them. (A pitfall for many faithful women...) I dated a single father for almost a year. Even while dating, I knew it wasn't the way I should be going. I finally stopped my temper-tantrum, repented, and returned to God.
Soon after, I had a epiphany. I called in sick one day during the week because I was in such great anguish over my singleness. I said to God, "Alright, God. We're going to have it out. I'm ready to wrestle and if I get a hip out of joint, so be it. But I need peace in my heart and I have no idea how to get there."
All day I prayed, cried, and read the Bible. This went on for hours and hours. Finally, at the end of it, I prayed, "Lord, being single isn't my choice. But if it's your choice, then I know in my heart it is the best path for me. I know You love me and only want the best for me. So, I'm going to trust You even more with this area. If this is indeed Your choice, then it must be the very best choice, and for that I rejoice. It's going to be an adventure because I know life with You is never boring! I accept Your will, Lord. Give me the grace to accept it in ways I can't comprehend right now." In acceptance lieth peace. (A beautiful poem by the Scottish missionary, Amy Carmichael, who was a huge influence upon another missionary, Elisabeth Elliot.)
And immediately, I felt enveloped by a wonderful peace, the peace that passes all understanding. I knew I was in a good place right then and there.
Throughout the next 12 years, I was involved in church almost 24/7. Since I was single, I felt I was able to do much more for God and it was true. I led Bible studies for women's groups, I taught about prayer and was involved in both training and implementing intercessory prayer teams. I was involved in evangelism and even a little preaching. I eventually attended a ministry school where months later, I was hired on staff. All of it gave me great joy as the Lord shaved off more of the flesh and replaced it with His Divine Love.
Still, my heart secretly longed for a good Christian man.
In 2000, I was struck by how often Jesus would say to those approaching Him, "What do you want?" He challenged them to define what they wanted. He knew exactly what they wanted, but yet it was important to have the person know and able to clearly articulate it. I realized that as many times I sent up prayers for a husband, I never clearly defined what I wanted.
Now I wasn't sure if I could be trusted with what I wanted. I might ask for something stupid. (Which wouldn't have been the first time.) Still, I sensed that God was saying to me, "What do you want? What do you really want?" I prayed and then took out a sheet of paper. Before I started to write, I said, "Okay, God. If I could have any kind of man, this is what he'd look like." And I started to write. A friend had mailed me a copy of a non-Christian book on dating and in it, the author suggested making a list of all the different preferences and traits desired in a future mate.
By the time I was finished, The List filled a typed page with 8 pt. font. I had written very specifically and felt satisfied.
After much prayer and discussion with family and friends, I decided that God had another place for me and I left the ministry I was involved with in North Carolina and headed back to my hometown. I was planning on returning to college to obtain a Masters degree. However, once again, God had other plans. I visited an online Christian chat room and spied a handsome man. I treated this online activity as a way to unwind after a day's work, certainly not as a serious place to meet someone. But after getting to know this man through chat, I knew I wanted to get to know him more. We ended up exchanging over 70 emails before we finally met for a date.
Note: I waited until he asked me out. I was determined not to return to my old assertive ways and trust that God would answer my prayer in this way - which was for the man to take the initiative. Granted, I did leave a few hints but I didn't ask my future husband for a date. He did ask me and we met at a half-way point for dinner and a night of sky-gazing.
Long story short - he fulfilled everything on The List. It was both scary and amazing. We married a few months later. I was 39 years old and he was 43. We've now been happily married for over six years.
I now know that God isn't finished with us by a long shot. When we married, it was outside of the Catholic church. I never thought I'd ever seriously attend a Mass again, so it was not even a consideration to contact a priest. But now I am pursuing the annulment process because my husband was previously married and obtained a civil divorce. In order for me to receive the Sacrament of the Eucharist again, I need to have the marriage blessed by a priest. In order for that to happen, the previous marriage has to be annulled.
I know that God has a reason for all of this. I could have returned to the Catholic church before I met my husband, but it didn't happen that way. My husband, who is a Christian, was brought up in the Lutheran church but at this point calls no church home. I bet you know already what I am offering up in prayer.
I've been blessed with an amazing husband whom I love in so many ways. He loves me like crazy and treats me like a queen. He was worth every minute of waiting. I believe God brought us together for a reason and continue to trust in Him with all my heart.
If you're single, this is the best thing to do. Place your desire on the altar and allow Him to receive it and bless you, because no matter what we give to Him, He will always give us back more than we expect.
We always get the better end of the deal. :-)