Friday, May 23, 2008

For Singles: Trust in the Lord With All Your Heart

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. :-)

11 comments:

PaulaB52 said...

I can remember after a horrible breakup with yet another loser, praying so hard to God, asking for for a good man. I didn't specify any thing like you did. I just asked for a good man.

I'm not kidding when I tell you less than a week later I accidentally met up with my soon to be husband. He is a good man, one of the best out there. I thank God for him daily. Where would I be without him?? :)

Along the same lines, I've been praying for my husband to become closer to God, etc. A few weeks ago my prayers were proven to have been answered as my husband had it out with a JW at his work when the JW tried to convince another employee who is nominally Catholic that the Holy Spirit is not true. My husband even went to the internet Catholic sites to prove his point! yes! prayers are working.

Mary Rose said...

Paula, I am so encouraged by your comments! Praise God! When I told my husband of my intent to return to the Catholic church, he immediately said, "I'm not becoming Catholic." However, he is such an investigator for the faith and was involved in another church denomination at one point in resolving doctrinal conflicts. So it is my hope that he will come to realize the truths of the Catholic faith.

If anyone else has a good testimonial, I'd love to hear it. I know God is able to do exceedingly abundantly more than we can ask or imagine. (Eph. 3:20 NIV)

Laura said...

Mary Rose, I'm with you - I have no stomach for "missionary dating." I became Catholic more than five years ago, and it's who I am; too much loneliness over the years to compromise now. It's hard - am I damned to being single? or called? is one of the issues I wrestle with - but I'm also in school and doing all I can just to find my balance and my calling in work, etc.

I wouldn't be surprised if this nullity process proves to be Step #1 in your husband's eventual conversion -

Love you!

Mary Rose said...

Laura,

I can relate to your dilemma. I would say that if anyone is single, then it is a calling for that time in their life. Someone long ago pointed me to Ecclesiastes and "for everything, there is a season..." Singles really have no idea if they will be single for life apart from Holy Orders or if one's vocation is a Consecrated Virgin. But when I was single, sometimes I'd say, "At this point, God is obviously calling me to singleness. But I admit I still desire to marry. However, it's really up to Him if that happens."

I think you're doing great as you seek your calling. I know for me, it was a constant exercise of giving God my desires, and then taking them back. (!) Elisabeth Elliot has an excellent book, Path of Loneliness. It was one of the few books I read that dealt with this very real issue. I highly recommend it. (I recommend anything by her, actually!)

I've also thought that the annulment process could be a good thing for my husband. I know for a fact that he does not believe in divorce and did not want it. His ex-wife made the choice. I've been praying that this process would provide healing for him and closure.

You can be sure that if I have good news within a year, I'll be shouting it from the rooftops and blogging like crazy about it!

Thank you for your heart hug! Right back atcha! :-)

Adrienne said...

I was a lapsed Catholic when I met my husband who was just sort of nothing (that was thirty years ago). One Christmas I told him I what I wanted was for him to go to Catholic instuction. I wanted to go back to church but knew we would both have to go. He went to his first class and when we walked out he was very quiet. I was inwardly cringing until he turned to me in the car and said, "that's the first time I've ever heard anything that made sense." Huh???

Question: Is that really you and your knight in the picture?? If it is we kinda look alike (except I'm older)

Rachel Gray said...

Thanks so much for sharing your story, Mary Rose (and all you commenters too.) It's so encouraging and interesting to read the details of how God has worked in others' lives!

Mary Rose said...

Adrienne, yep, that's me with my darlin' man. He bought me a Renaissance-style dress for Christmas and he also had some "Ren-wear." We had a fun little photo session! It would be so great to meet you someday. We're sisters in spirit at any rate! :-)

Rachel, you're welcome. After reading your post (with the mention of Elisabeth Elliot), I thought I'd give my story. God is good and His timing is perfect!

Carolina Cannonball said...

I've said it before and I'll say it again... woman, we live parrallel lives!!!!!!

:-)

I met my current beau through my blog and we exchanged emails for months and I had to foce myself to wait for him to ask me out too. LOL.

Feminism ruined any trace of ladilikeness from me and I was a very straighforward in your face kind of woman... that got me no where.

Great, GREAT post.

Edith Magdalene said...

Thank you so much for post! I write a blog with two friends of mine meditating on just this! I hope you'll consider checking us out - you have been an inspiration to us!

www.themagdalenesisters.blogspot.com

Gardenia said...

Hi, I'm here from the magdelene sisters where part of your post is posted today. nice to meet you. At age 43 and still single, I went on a pilgrimage to Lourdes and petitioned the Blessed Mother. Two other ladies I met on the pilgrimage became dear friends of mine. After returning home, the two ladies and I got together for lunch and they gave me a holy card on which was printed a novena to St. Anne, the Blessed Mother's mother. The two ladies said St. Anne would help me in finding my future husband for me. I prayed the novema. and 21 days later, from the day I received the holy card from my friends, I was introduced to my future husband. We were married when I was 44.5 years old. God is good.

Aaron said...

If you don't mind my asking, what was the "non-Christian book on dating" in which "the author suggested making a list of all the different preferences and traits desired in a future mate"?

Eight or ten years ago I happened upon Neil Clark Warren's How To Know If Someone Is Worth Pursuing in Two Dates or Less. I was fairly certain at the time that, though he was writing for a secular audience, the author was Christian. In any case, I followed his suggestion of putting together Must Have and Can't Stand lists. The end product wasn't long - just nine points total - but it served me well for many years. (My goal was to include everything that was essential and nothing that was not.) It wasn't a magical formula for finding "the one" but it did help me keep focused, particularly when I was interested in women who, let's be honest, wouldn't have worked.

When I started awkwardly semi-dating a gal a couple years ago, the list proved helpful: she satisfied all its points. I liked her; she liked me. I quickly saw that there were no deal breakers. Though it took me several more months to getting around to using the term "dating", a few months thereafter we were engaged, and we are now planning a wedding for next August.

For each of us, our singleness was a gift, but not always a welcome one. My fiancee, older than I, spent some time as a postulant in religious life. A few years ago I had been convinced I would enter monastic life. In the end, both of these failed bids for religious life were blessings, giving us the clarity to see where our true vocations lied, and to embrace it when the opportunity came.