In the fall of 1999, I flipped through my SAT practice book, feeling a little overwhelmed by the geometry section. Feeling a little overwhelmed about this whole college thing, actually. My dad had bought me a fatty directory of colleges (bigger than a phone book – no joke), and I had been going through it for days, trying to pick out colleges I should maybe think about applying to.
“Ugh!” I called out in the general direction of God, as I began an internal monologue I hoped He overheard. If I could just find a man and get married, I could start making babies and not have to worry about this geometry problem. I wish my dad would hurry up and find me a boyfriend; I only have less than two years before I turn 18 and have to go to college.
I languished as neither God nor my dad found me a boyfriend in the next two years, and my family and I packed up and moved from Southern California to NW Oregon so I could go to George Fox University in Newberg.
I hate “no” for an answer – even from God. So I pleaded with Him as we hauled boxes, waited for an acceptance letter, settled in, found a new church, and counted down the days to my first day of school: “God, you could get me out of this if you’d just send me a cute man who will give me cute babies.”
(At the time, I was still a little iffy on HOW babies were made. I was more focused on having children of my own, and a husband seemed a necessary part of achieving that goal.)
Even during Orientation Week, as I looked around wondering how this undersocialized homeschooler would ever fit into school (much less college), I dictated again to God exactly how my plan was so great, and His plan to make me wait was not so great. “God, if you would just pick out one of these men for me – ooh, he’s kind of cute, how about him? – then we can get on with my plan to be a full-time wife and mother and not have to decide on a major.”
Fastforward four and a half years. I’d studied abroad, beefed up my resume, applied for jobs in my field, and even tried the “starving artist, writing a novel in a coffee shop” gig. It was time to resurrect my old mantra: “I could get out of entering the job market if only God would ever hear my prayer and find me a man to make babies with.”
Again and again, year after year, major life change after major life change, I’d pray (with varying degrees of frustration), “God! Just give me a husband to put a baby in me! If you would only provide for me in this way, You wouldn’t have to provide for [insert need of the moment here: job, roommate, travel buddy]. It would be so easy! See, I already have it figure out for You. Why is this so hard for You to understand?”
I managed to avoid utter despair by looking back on each stage of my life to understand what God was doing when He had decided I’d be better off single:
- In my first two years of college, if I’d gotten a boyfriend or a husband, I probably wouldn’t have finished college.
- In my last two and a half years of college, if I’d had a boyfriend, I would have turned to that man (instead of to Jesus) to comfort me over my sister’s death. And I probably wouldn’t have studied abroad. Twice.
- After college, if I’d not been single, I wouldn’t have gone to work in Australia for a year.
- If I’d found my man in Australia, I maybe wouldn’t have moved back to the States.
- If I’d had a man instead of a roommate when I came back, my job-hopping would have led only to a dead-end temp job in Portland. But because I was not romantically involved when my parents moved to Minnesota, I moved with them.
- If I’d gotten married in Minnesota, I wouldn’t have allowed the dream job opportunity I found there to lead me around the country, living in several states and solo-adventuring every weekend.
- If I’d started dating someone when I was traveling, I’d be stuck in a long-distance relationship or in the Midwest or somewhere without an ocean, and I’d never have moved to San Diego – which, I’m convinced, is where I was born to live.
In each stage of life, though, my prayer has been much the same: “God, I admit you knew what you were doing before, but I know what I’m asking for now is definitely the best thing for me: a rich/smart/godly husband, with whom I can start making rich/smart/godly babies. Not getting any younger over here!”
I thought I was being helpful by doing part of God’s job for Him; I had already figured out what I wanted to be when I grew up (wife and mother), and if He would just bless me in that goal (husband and kids), He wouldn’t need to put all that work into building my character and making me a better single person. See? Easy!
I thought I was being mature by seeing God’s faithfulness to me, acknowledging the good in His plans, and telling Him I trusted Him with my future (for the next five seconds or until my next major life decision – whichever came first).
I never, ever doubted that God was in control. What I doubted was that He was for my good.
I knew that God was infinite in His provision for me. I didn’t understand that He provides only what is good for me – and, ultimately, for His glory (John 17).
I thought I knew what would be good for me: life as a wife and mother. Because I was so committed to the supremacy of my plans, I “logically” deduced that God’s husband-less, child-less plans for me must be less than good.
What I failed to realize was that God has already proven that He is only for my good – and not just in my lifetime. Before the foundation of the world, when God the Father was planning all the little babies to be born into this world, He knew that I would be born a sinner (Romans 3:23). So He put me into a pastor’s family, where I would be surrounded by the truth of God’s Word from before I was born.
Knowing that my sin would separate me from Him forever, He sent His Son Jesus 1983 years before I was born to die on the cross for my sins (John 3:16), thus providing a way for me to spend eternity with Him.
Knowing that I would need a way to communicate with Him and understand the Bible, Jesus sent the Holy Spirit (John 14:16) – who very patiently listened to all my controlling ideas, ignored them, and did His own thing.
In the life/death/resurrection of Jesus, God has already proven that He is for my good. And THAT is why I can trust that my singleness right now is for my good.
I can (and I do) sit around and guess about why my singleness might be for my good, circumstantially speaking. But in the moments I remember and revel in God’s faithfulness to me, I can rejoice knowing that EVERYthing He gives me – even singleness – is a “good and perfect gift” (James 1:17).
So if I could somehow talk to my 16-year-old self, I would say, “God is in charge, and you are not. Relax into that reality, and be so much more comforted than you can even hope or dream.”
I would also probably confirm the truth that geometry doesn’t help you much in post-high-school life. Just saying.