Thursday, March 05, 2009

That's What Susan Said...

And ain't it funny what people say
And ain't it funny what people write
And ain't it funny how it hits you so hard
In the middle of the night

~ Rich Mullins (What Susan Said)

Sometime around my senior year in high school, or maybe it was during a break my first year in college (they say you’re memory is the first thing to go), I was hanging out with some friends from my youth group, and one of our former interns was visiting. Truth be told, it was my favorite youth intern, you know, the one you really connect with and learn from and end up having a school-girl crush on, and all that jazz? That intern.

So we’re hanging out, and catching up, and somehow get on the subject of relationships. I don’t think he had married yet, but he was probably engaged by that point. It was really a beautiful story how God brought him and his wife together, even though they had run in the same circle for years and never paid much attention to each other. They had attended the same college I was enrolled in, where the unofficial motto was “ring by spring, or your money back.” I’m still waiting for my refund.

We signed these True Love Waits cards in high school, but the whole I Kissed Dating Goodbye thing hadn’t reared its ugly head yet. I, however, being ahead of my time, had managed to be dateless when dateless wasn’t cool. I figured that would change when I got to college, but… not so much.

So here I am, in the midst of a conversation on dating and relationships and marriage, and this intern looks at me and says, “You know, God isn’t going to bring you someone until he has you where he wants you.”

*insert knife in heart & turn*

To my 18 year old self, those words cut deep. What I heard at that time, from this guy I greatly admired, was that God had brought him his wife because he was living like God wanted him to live, and I was dateless because there was obviously something about the Christian life that I wasn’t getting right. I really resented that conversation for years during college.

Fifteen years later, I can still hear those words.

Thing is, I hear them in a completely different and affirming way. God has moved me in some pretty significant ways, and I can’t imagine I would be the person I am today had I met and married my husband in college. By this point in my life, a majority of my friends are married with children, and they are still surprisingly imperfect. I love that about them. I’ve come to realize that it’s not about me reaching this particular level of holiness before (or if) I marry, but about God working in my life to mold me into who he wants me to be for his kingdom.

I recall the revelation when I first learned that Psalm 37:4 (Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.) was not about God giving us everything we desire but about placing his desires in our hearts. It was profound at the time, and it is something I am still learning. do not fret… trust… dwell…delight… commit… be still… wait patiently…

I’ve written before about coming to the point where I was comfortable with my singleness. But I continue to look at my life and at what I am learning and how I am growing and changing, and I realize that God has me in an entirely different place than where I once was. Is it the place where he would bring me a mate for the rest of the journey, or does he have more up his sleeve for my solitary life? Moments when I long to have someone tangible hold me together are quickly chased by moments of thankfulness that God didn’t have two interconnected personalities to guide through a challenging situation. Luckily, I have community, and I have learned so much from the people the Lord continues to bring through my life.

God isn’t going to bring me someone until he has me where he wants me. I will wait patiently to see where he leads from here. And, in the meantime, I will learn to love like nobody’s business.

Some Rich Mullins quotes from the article Living Single in February 1995’s CCM Magazine:

A lot of people think they are struggling with being content and single, and I think that everybody struggles with being content. You can blame your discontent on being single, or you can blame it on anything else. I don't think that necessarily singleness is any more the cause of discontent than marriage is.

If you're miserable single, you'll be miserable married. If you're miserable married, you'll likely be miserable divorced. The idea is not to change your status, the idea is to stop worrying about how miserable you are and do something fun - like try to love somebody.

I think one of the problems I have with married people and single people on the issue of singleness is people often talk about marriage as if it's a cure for loneliness. One of the things that I find shocking is when I talk to my married friends, who are very married - they are very happily married, and they're also very lonely. And in the midst of that loneliness they have to deal with somebody else and their loneliness.

Loving isn't [necessarily] about filling a void. Loving is being open to somebody, being receiving of them, allowing what's going to happen to happen.

(image attribution)


Angela said...

i'll blame it on being young that it shocked the hell out of me to discover how gut achingly lonely i was in the middle of (for a time) a very happy marriage.
being divorced is crap. but one of the nice things about it is that i don't have any illusions about how being married again will fix my loneliness.
being single is hard as hell. being married was hard as hell. and both are so stinking beautiful sometimes, and so full of god that it knocks me flat on my face in gratitude for how they've shape my soul.

thanks for this. it did me good to read.

Rachel P. said...

I enjoyed reading this. But I have a question that I'm going to ask next time we talk.

Moff said...

Word up on this post, lady. Love it.

I took a year off from dating last year after a string of relationships where I'd been hurt and hurt badly. It was a very good decision. As I've gotten older (and I'm only 33, but the 10 years between 23 and 33 are some pretty significant years), I've increasingly come to see the emphasis on marriage within some Christian communities as idolatry... particularly the way it's pitched to young women.

Your Rich Mullins quote is right on the money: marriage doesn't solve anything. It permits you to have sex and live with that person without technically feeling guilty, but it doesn't change who you are, or who THEY are. Some of the married folks I know are the loneliest people I've ever met because they bought into the idea that marriage was going to "fix" them.

I also bear witness to the fact that being single has allowed God to work some things in my life that would have been more difficult if I'd been married, had kids, etc. and I'm grateful. I'm also grateful that suffering through intense depression over my singleness has made me (I think) more patient with other people's loneliness, depression, disappointment, etc.

Every single one of us struggles with these things, and part of me views my own struggle as a precious jewel that I would never, ever give up for what it has taught me about the reality of life on this earth, separated from our One True Beloved.

Jerusalem said...

I have a question too.. but I will save it for later. We need to do a Reno's lunch this week. I feel the humus calling. Oh yeah, and everything Rich said is dead on. Exactly.