Everyone reaches the point in their life where their friend circle starts looking a lot like Noah’s ark – everyone starts pairing off and walking two-by-two. Engagements are announced, weddings are planned, prayers are spoken, tears are shed, vows are read, marriage is celebrated. And it’s beautiful. Because God is the Master Designer, and He designed marriage to be beautiful.
What’s new, however, is the information age in which everything is quickly accessible and an engagement announcement that perhaps, once upon a time, was a big deal, sit down, in-person announcement is suddenly just another segment in the daily Facebook newsfeed. And because these things generally happen in great numbers, many of these engagements happen around the same time. And so do the respective weddings.
And while marriage is still beautiful, to the members of Noah’s menagerie who have yet to be paired off, the constant pairing and matchmaking leaves them kicking up the dust and saying, “Well, there goes another one. Make that two.” I say this only because I have heard this from other single women, and some men, that I know. And I get it.
It’s weird when friendships change because your best friend is married and suddenly your schedules don’t match up anymore. It didn’t used to matter what time you left your friend’s house – you could talk all night before, but now that she’s married…things change.
But it’s more than that.
I think that singles could handle the flurry of wedding announcements in and of themselves. Personally, I loved the wedding invitation collage on my bulletin board this past spring. I carefully marked each date on my calendar, made travel arrangements when necessary, and eagerly anticipated celebrating the marriages of my dear friends.
The damaging part of our culture is that the majority of those who are already married are incredibly eager to marry off their remaining single friends. So they ask us if we’ve met “someone” yet or if the guy whose picture is plastered on our Facebook profile has “popped the question” yet. And it’s awkward and uncomfortable. Because what if there isn’t a “somebody” in sight? And what if the guy in the picture is just a good friend and the dating conversation hasn’t even come up yet?
Generally, it seems that friends who have found their “someone” want to speed up the process for those who have not. If Single Girl hasn’t met anyone yet – no problem. There’s this guy who is friends with so-and-so who would be just perfect, so you two should meet. If Single Girl has started spending more time with Cute-and-must-be-single Boy, then the questions start flying about interest and love and marriage and yikes – someone please put on the brakes.
And heaven forbid if Single Girl starts pursuing her career or thinking about something other than meeting “the one” – then there probably needs to be some sort of intervention – like signing them up for the church’s singles small group – after all, everyone knows that the singles small group was the inspiration for eharmony.com. Or if there’s no hope for that, at least she is the perfect person to volunteer for every single task that absolutely no married person would ever commit to, since they have responsibilities and a life and everything.
I say all of this not because I have been personally offended by any of these approaches, but because I see and know people – a whole lot of single people – who have been. Who are tired of the pressure to find the right person right now. And maybe, who aren’t called to marriage now or possibly ever.
Have we ever thought of that? That some people just aren’t called to marriage?
Don’t get me wrong, I would like to be married. I would love to have a best friend and helpmate who gets me, cares for me, and is in my life for better or for worse. But I know that I am not ready for marriage right now. And that God is calling me to full service and devotion to Him for the rest of my life, whether or not I ever get married.
A long time ago, my mom encouraged me to pray for my future husband. And I did. I think I even wrote a letter or two. But I was 13 back then and the reality of marriage seemed so far off. Today, marriage is very much a reality for many of my friends and very much a possibility for me at this stage of life. Except at this moment, marriage is not an impending reality. And that’s okay. Because God has graciously given me plenty of people to love and invest in at this season of life.
Don’t get me wrong – I think prayer is so important and so vital to growth and communion with God and a greater understanding of the things which may be hidden from us at certain points in our life. And I believe that it is important to pray for your spouse and possibly even for a future spouse. But when I pray for my spouse, I don’t “name it and claim it,” so to speak. This is what my prayer sounds like:
Lord, if it is in your perfect design for me to get married one day, please be with the man that you have for me to marry one day. Please strengthen his love for you and please reveal yourself to him more and more. And God, if there is that person for me, please allow us to love you the most – more than we care for each other – and then let us love each other in a way that glorifies you and points others towards you. But if it is not in your plan for me to marry, may I continue to serve and glorify and honor you and may I live out my calling to the fullest, seeking to worship you even when it is hard. Amen.
See, I can’t pray for my future spouse because I don’t know if there is one. And you can say, “That’s silly. Of course you’re going to get married. Most people get married. I mean, don’t you want to get married?”
But whether I want to be married or not is irrelevant. There are a lot of things that I want to do in life and many of them probably wouldn’t bring glory to God. The purpose of marriage is to bring glory to God, but I know plenty of older single individuals who are bringing plenty of glory to God by being devoted to Christ and sold out to His plans even when those plans don’t include marriage.
Our purpose on earth is to become more like Christ. I definitely believe marriage is a sanctifying tool (which is part of the reason that I sometimes think I need to be married eventually…I need a lot of sanctifying). However, being single for the remainder of one’s life on earth can also be very sanctifying. Because it teaches us to suppress certain desires or emotions and surrender them so that God’s desires can be at the forefront of our hearts.
The biggest reason that I am not consistently praying for my future spouse is that I believe it is an abuse of prayer in my life, at this time. The purpose of prayer – always – is to get a hold of God, not of the answer, as Oswald Chambers would say. So if I am praying for the man I will one day marry at a season in my life when I know that marriage is not supposed to be the thing occupying my thoughts and desires because God has a different calling for me at the time, then I might be missing something that God wants me to pray about.
If I am testing God to see if He will give me something (or rather, someone) if I beg or plead long enough, then I fear that my motive would be incorrect. There are things right now in my life that I know I need to be seeking God’s counsel about, such as “Who can I minister to today?” or “What sin is keeping me from experiencing full joy and freedom in Christ?” or “Who or what am I idolizing in place of God?”
The crux for me, though, is this: God is not the means to an end. God doesn’t bless us with marriage because of something good we did. And if I am praying for a spouse merely to gain God’s favor so that He will give me a husband sooner than later, my heart is totally in the wrong place.
So when I say I am not praying for my future spouse, it is not out of bitterness or disdain for marriage, but out of a conviction that there are other places for my heart to focus in this season. I recognize that praying for my spouse now could distract me from what God has laid before me. Perhaps by focusing on what God has not given me yet, I will miss out on being grateful for what He has given me. And unless God confirms that I will be married one day, I feel that I cannot pray with the presumption that there is a husband for me out there somewhere. Though, I believe that it is definitely within the realm of God’s power to provide me with a husband, if that is His desire.
For all my single friends – God has a purpose for you now. And He doesn’t view us as less adequate for His work. Rather, as single champions of Christ, we have more flexibility to “go” when God says go and minister in ways which are unique to those who are not married and do not have the responsibility of others to care for.
For all my married friends – God has purposes for you now. To demonstrate with your lives the love that Christ has for His Church and to be an example to other married couples (and singles) of what it looks like to do life with someone else. I would encourage you, though, not to expect the same lifestyle from your single friends that you are currently leading. Maybe God has a different calling for them that isn’t any greater or less than yours, but rather different.
For my single friends who are praying for their future spouse, that is awesome. But please know, that while God may have someone for you in the future, He very much has plans for you right now, right where He has planted you. He is not limited by our circumstances, so I pray that you will feel the fullness of God and may be equipped to trust and obey and walk into whatever calling He has for you.
God’s goodness is not conditional on whether or not we are married or entertaining the idea – His goodness is constant for all of His children and may manifest itself differently for each of us, regardless of our surroundings.
May we pray to seek Him, not in an attempt to manipulate what our future may look like or to what degree God will bless us. He blesses us every day by offering all of Himself. May our joy come from the knowledge of that truth and may our confidence rest in His promise to never leave or forsake us.