Q: I am a single girl of 23, and I am happy and busy and having lots of fun in my first “real” job after college. Here is my problem: I want SO BADLY to get married. I have always known that I was made to be a wife and a mother. I couldn’t have more faith in this truth if God had stood in front of me in human form and told me in plain English. But I go through periods where I want to get married so badly that it makes me miserable. This ache distracts me from what I should be doing at this season, which I think is growing closer to God, concentrating on my job, and maybe growing up a little more. So what can a single girl do when the ache of wanting to get married drowns out the joys of being single? I completely trust God’s plan, and I know that He gets to decide when and how I meet a man that may become my husband. Truthfully, I want Him to be in charge as He is, because I believe that He is planning something far more wonderful for me than I could have planned for myself. But how do I develop patience and make these miserable feelings go away?
A: As a fortysomething single woman, let me assure you that I am well acquainted with living with a deferred strong desire. I can greatly empathize with you and your reactions. But as I read your comments, I have to say I had a comical image pop in my head. It was of a young woman, with all your passion and capped letters and yearning-turned-misery, bursting forth these emotions on a young man—and him, in alarm, with wide eyes and flushed cheeks, turning tail and fleeing from the weight of these expectations. I know you don’t know my sense of humor, so pardon me for thinking like a cartoon strip. But perhaps that word-picture can help us get started putting those emotions in check. Just in the human sense, that’s a lot to put on one man’s shoulders, no matter how wonderfully wide and strong they are!
Seriously, I think there are two perspectives we should consider here. The first is what I alluded to above. With all our yearnings to be married, we have to keep in mind that if the Lord has marriage for us we’re not going to marry Prince Charming. He doesn’t exist. We’re going to be marrying another weak, sinful being, though—assuming we follow the clear biblical teaching to marry only in the Lord—this man will also be a co-heir in Christ and a clay vessel containing amazing eternal treasures. Like ourselves, he will no doubt want to do good, but find himself falling short on a daily basis. He may be an answer to prayer, but he will not be all-satisfying. It’s not possible, period. To walk into marriage with all these expectations and emotional fantasies is to put a tremendous burden on such a relationship.
Second, I want to be a kind sister to you and gently show you that to want something so badly that you feel miserable is a warning sign. It is an “idolatry alarm.” What it means is that you’ve pinned all your hopes for happiness and fulfillment on something other than the only source for this: God. If you’re not familiar with the idea of modern idolatry, you may think I’m over-the-top here. But let’s stop and consider it. When we look at any created thing (a shrine, a “divine” figurine, another human being) and lavish upon it all kinds of emotions and expectations for our happiness and fulfillment, this is what the Bible calls idolatry. It doesn’t honor God and it always backfires on us.
But God is the one who created the institution of marriage and He did it before the Fall. So obviously marriage is a good idea, even though Scripture also tells us it is a temporary institution (Matt. 22:30). So it’s not wrong to desire a good and godly gift like marriage. In fact, in a modern culture that thinks so lowly of marriage, it’s commendable that you and I desire it! But we have to guard ourselves from falling down the slippery slope where desire morphs into a demand, because when a demand is not met on our timetable or our terms, we become disappointed and lash out in punishment. (I’m grateful to biblical counselor Paul Tripp for this insight.) The key is to hold our desires in open, worshiping hands before the Lord. He can then take our desires and place His provision in them—which sometimes is different than we expected. But if we have already begun to make a desire a demand, our open hands will close around our demands in clenched fists. And thus we are no longer in a worshipful posture.
So how do we live in the tension of desire and trust? One key is found in Romans 12:12. “Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.” The hope that is referred to here is for far more than earthly blessings. It is the hope of future glory that the apostle Paul refers to earlier in this book (Romans 8:18). It’s not that hope for marriage is wrong, it’s just not the highest aim. So aim for the greater thing, and you will find patience in the trial of unwanted singleness. (Yes, I do believe there is a bit of trial or suffering in unwanted singleness, but we have to view it in proportion to what we’ve already received in our salvation.) Then be constant in prayer—about marriage, about everything. Just this morning I was reviewing a prayer journal from 2001 and I was marveling at all the prayers, large and small, that God had already answered in these past few years. Though the various entries about a husband for me have so far gone unanswered, I couldn’t be discouraged when I saw how many other requests the Lord had answered for both myself and others.
I’d like to close with a quote from Charles Spurgeon about Ephesians 3:20-21. This verse says: “Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” (Eph. 3:20-21). Spurgeon’s comment is:
“People often misquote Ephesians 3:20. They say, ‘God is able to do exceedingly, abundantly above all that we can ask or think.’ The truth is that we could ask for the very greatest of things, if we were only more alert and had more faith. Ephesians 3:20 really says that God ‘is able to do exceedingly, abundantly above all that we do ask or think.’ God is willing to give us infinitely more than we actually do ask.”
Isn’t that great news? I rejoice in it, because I know I never would have thought to ask Him to sacrifice His Son for my own sins and thus display the lavishness of His grace and the riches of His mercy before all of creation. A husband, by comparison, is a FAR lesser need and one we can restfully trust in Him to provide, if it is His will to do so.
We have been waiting for just the right opportunity to introduce to you one of our favorite people…Her name is Carolyn McCulley. Carolyn has quite the resume. She currently works for Sovereign Grace Ministries coordinating church and media relations. But she is also an extremely wise and gifted writer. She has written dozens of freelance magazine and newspaper articles, and most recently a wonderful book entitled Did I Kiss Marriage Goodbye?: Trusting God with a Hope Deferred.
Carolyn is a personal friend of mine. I have the privilege of watching this lady up close. Her example of humble service to the Lord and the church is one worthy of following. She exudes joy and kindness to all who interact with her and few will make you laugh like Carolyn. If you ever get to meet her, just ask her to tell you one of her “Carolyn stories”!
We have been receiving a number of questions from single ladies regarding biblical womanhood and we have asked Carolyn to answer some of them for us. She will post for us today and tomorrow in a special two-part “Q & A.” I can’t wait for each of you to benefit from Carolyn’s wisdom just as I have. Be sure to check out Carolyn’s blog at www.solofemininity.blogs.com. And if you haven’t already, order a copy of her book here.
Carolyn, I’m turning it over to you…
I’m back! Still enjoying my reign as queen of the blog for a day. I’m thinking that we need to have some kind of contest. How about submitting the funniest thing that your child or a child that you know has ever said. The winner will not only be posted on “Friday Funnies,” but will win a Starbucks gift certificate! I will start the submissions…
My two most recent favorite sayings are from my 2-year-old nephew Jack:
1.) He opened up his bible story book the other day and said “Hi God!”
2.) He was watching me do something around the house and when I finished he said, “Good job, NaNa (that’s the kids name for me), I’m proud of you.”
Your goal is to top these so that I won’t have to award myself the Starbucks gift certificate. Send us an e-mail with your submissions by clicking on the “Email Me” link on the left side-bar. This is gonna be fun!
This is going to be a fun day…I have the run of the blog! Mom and Nicole are heading out of town and Kristin is just returning from a trip. This means that I am free to do whatever I want. The first thing that came to mind was a little something that I have been wanting to post for a while. I was just waiting for the right time. Today is perfect. Enjoy…
It will come as no surprise to any of you that I have been thinking a little more about motherhood lately. I can’t get very far in thinking on this topic without my three very favorite mothers coming to mind—my mom and my two sisters. Many girls have to stumble into motherhood unprepared and unsure, but not me. I walk around each and every day watching and learning from the examples of these three amazing women. At any given moment one of them can be found wiping noses, tying shoes, reading stories, driving carpool, attending soccer games, cleaning up messes, giving kisses…you get the picture. They are always there. Their children know what it is like to live in the goodness of a mother committed to her family and her home, no matter the cost. The options of alternative vocations abound for each of them, but their hearts are firm and their understanding of God’s call on their lives unwavering.
Mom, Nicole, and Kristin, thank you for providing me with a living example of how to walk in the way of the Lord with so much joy. I’m so grateful for the many years learning from each of you. I only pray that the Lord will help me to be the kind of mother to my little baby that you have been to each of your children. I love y’all.
Saturday was our final chance to attend the annual Montgomery County Agricultural Fair. And so, ignoring a heat advisory, scoffing at all the cleaning and painting I needed to finish, and not even considering the two hour car-trip there and back before Jack’s afternoon nap, I guided my 1993 Toyota Camry (greasy-finger artwork on Jack’s window comes standard) toward the Capital Beltway. Once my car is pointed in the direction of Gaithersburg (where the rest of my family lives) it could probably get there on its own, without me steering. Sometimes it actually goes there when I’m intending to go somewhere else.
Anyway, where was I? Oh yes, the Montgomery County Agricultural Fair. My parents took my sisters and Chad and me to the fair every year, ever since we could remember. Today I can walk down the carnival streets and still see the crazy ride Janelle coaxed me onto, only she freaked out as soon as it started moving. She was crying and screaming and I was praying—hard.
Then there are the legendary pig and duck races and the firetrucks and the little booths where political groups hand out stickers and balloons, and the arts and crafts pavilions where you can see the blue-ribbon winner for bundt cake. And the hog and cow and sheep pens that smell like…well, you know. The fair is what you would call “a cultural experience.”
And it’s an experience I wanted Jack to have. So after waiting in a long, hot line for our tickets Mom, Kristin, Janelle, Chad, and I took the kids on one of the rides. Jack smiled and said “weeeee” and I thought, I love the fair!
Then we went to Old MacDonald’s Farm which I was sure he would go crazy over since he’s always pointing out the animals in books or on TV. But it didn’t turn out quite like I’d imagined. Instead of petting the animals, he stayed in my arms, gripping me with his legs and repeating nervously: “I say bye bye cow,” “I say bye bye horsie” whenever we’d get near any animal bigger than a rabbit.
Oh well. Sticky and smelly now, we headed over to the cheese barn for some real Wisconsin cheese and cold red grapes. And then trekked back to the car with sweat dripping down our backs. Exhausted, we finally arrived home, and after depositing Jack in his bed, I took a much-needed nap.
I asked Mom later “Why did I do this? Why did I go to all this effort for an experience I thought Jack would enjoy when in reality, he’d probably be just as happy playing in his sandbox at home? He didn’t even like the animals and he’ll probably never even remember we went to the fair today!”
She laughed and told me about the time she and Dad took us girls for a big day of sight-seeing in downtown Washington, DC. Only, we were more interested in the bright yellow trashcans and the pigeons than the Washington Monument.
I don’t remember that day downtown. But you know, when I think of my childhood, it’s like one big happy memory, full of fun and exciting outings. And I guess that’s why I took Jack to the fair on Saturday. I want him to feel that way about his childhood someday. And who knows, maybe twenty years from now he’ll take his little boy to the cheese barn at the Montgomery County Agricultural Fair.
Last Thursday night occasioned another one of my husband’s surprises. He’s provided a gazillion of them for me through the years. He simply told me what time to be ready and how to dress. This time my surprise was dinner at a homey, rustic restaurant followed by the play “The Miracle Worker” at a nearby theatre. It was a wonderful evening.
And if you will indulge me I’d like to say a word to my husband. (He is in Sun Valley, California at present, due to being the guest speaker at Grace Community Church this past weekend.). CJ, I hope you read this today because I simply want to tell you again how grateful I am to be your wife. Thank you for thirty years of devoted, passionate, exhilarating love. I don’t deserve you!
So back to what I was saying. We went to see “The Miracle Worker.” Most likely, you are familiar with the plot. It’s the story of Annie Sullivan’s struggle to teach the blind and deaf Helen Keller how to communicate. Initially Annie found it extremely difficult to teach Helen due to her wild and violent behavior. But then Annie had a revelatory moment. All of a sudden she realized: “Obedience is the gateway for knowledge to enter the mind.” She understood that she needed to first teach Helen to obey before she could teach her knowledge.
At this point in the play I couldn’t help but think of my daughters, Nicole and Kristin. That’s what they are doing. They are attempting to train and discipline four little boys to obey so they can impart knowledge. And not just any knowledge, but the most important knowledge of all—the message of the gospel.
So to all moms with little children I desire to encourage you today. I want to cheer you on in your efforts to discipline and train your children to obey. It’s hard, exhausting work, I know. Just watching my daughters makes me tired. But it’s worth it. Because an obedient child is a receptive child. And with a receptive child you can teach them the good news, the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ. Now that’s a goal worth striving for, don’t you agree?
“Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” Prov. 22.6
This week’s Friday Funny from our good friend Kathy T. is too long to put in a post. But you can download the file by clicking here. We recommend you wait until the kids are in bed, or you’ve arrived home from work or school, and enjoy this laugh with a steaming cup of hot herbal tea.
May the Lord bless you and keep you and make His face to shine upon you and be gracious to you. May the Lord lift up His countenance upon you and give you peace this weekend! (Numbers 6:24-26)
Carolyn, Nicole, Kristin, and Janelle
Mike and I have been officially “moved in” to our new townhouse for almost two weeks. It has been tons of fun enjoying the process of making our little house into a home.
Over these last two weeks I have noticed a new temptation creeping into my mind and life. All of a sudden, the volume of stuff that “I need” has just increased. “I need” those ice cube trays that make the little cubes instead of the big ones. “I need” some more pictures to fill up my wall. How can I possibly keep my flour and sugar in their original bags? “I need” some new storage containers. You get the picture.
Really it’s not the “I needs” but the “I wants”—the subtle trap of materialism.
How quickly I forget the Lord’s kindness in giving us this townhouse when we were competing with three other contracts. How ungrateful my heart can be, even as I unpack box after box of material possessions. I live in such wealth and prosperity, but what can often occupy my mind is my “need” for more pillows to liven up my couch.
Matthew 6:19-21 is a fresh reminder to me of what truly matters:
“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
I know that it is not wrong for me to want more pictures on my wall or more pillows on my couch, but it is wrong when that desire becomes a demand (“I need”). It is sinful when I become ungrateful for all that the Lord has given me. How kind and gracious of the Lord to give me His Word to correct me in my sin. This excerpt from a prayer in The Valley of Vision helps redirect my thoughts away from what I need to happiness in serving God:
“O Lord, help me never to expect any happiness from the world, but only in thee. Let me not think that I shall be more happy by living to myself, for I can only be happy if employed for thee.”
Arthur Bennett, ed. The Valley of Vision (Carlisle, PA: The Banner of Truth Trust, 2002), 304.
Three overly-ripe bananas make for one happy husband and one happy son eating banana bread. No doubt, the chocolate glaze is the reason they enjoy it so much! Below is the recipe:
Banana Bread with Chocolate Glaze
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1-1/4 cups sugar (1/2 brown and 1/2 white, optional)
1/2 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup mashed ripe bananas
1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
Preheat oven to 325*. Beat together butter, sugar, eggs, sour cream, vanilla and bananas until blended. Stir in flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt, until blended. Do not overmix! Pour batter into a greased bundt pan. Bake for 45-50 minutes, or until a cake tester, inserted in center, comes out clean. Allow cake to cool in pan for 15 minutes then remove and cool. When cake is cool, drizzle top with chocolate glaze. To make glaze, melt chocolate chips and butter in microwave using 30% power (defrost).
With each month that goes by, the question mark gets bigger: will Steve and I be able to have more children?
After the birth of our first son, Jack, in February of 2003, I experienced some serious, life-threatening complications that required two surgeries and a dump-truck load of antibiotics. Thanks to God’s common grace through modern medicine I am 100% healthy today, and able to fully enjoy my adorable little son.
Except…there is a chance I may not be able to conceive again. The antibiotics and surgeries, the doctor told me, may have damaged my reproductive system. That is not for certain. No tests have been run yet. But the more time passes, the more I wonder.
I wonder what will happen if I can’t have any more children: What will I feel? Will it be really hard? Will I always ache to carry another child? I desperately want to be a mother again, but most of all—what will it be like for Steve? He loves kids, and the only reason we may not be able to have more children is because of me. I know Steve has forbidden me to even think these thoughts, however—if he had married someone else, he could have had as many children as he liked. But he’s married to me. And because of me, he may never be a father again.
My sinful, self-pitying thoughts (which I excused as being on Steve’s behalf) were abruptly interrupted by two words: How arrogant! Who did I think I was? Was I God that I could create (or not create) life? God’s question to Job certainly applied to me: “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge….shall a faultfinder contend with the Almighty? He who argues with God, let him answer it” (Job 38:2, 40:2).
God, and God alone, is the “Author of life” (Acts 3:15). My life is in His hands and He has graciously allowed me to live another day. The creation of a new life is in His hands as well. He has already determined the number of children Steve and I will have. And if we don’t conceive another child, it won’t be “because of me.” It will be because the sovereign, wise, loving Creator of the universe has decided that is best—for my good, for Steve’s good, and for God’s glory.
What comfort and freedom conviction brings! By repenting of my arrogant aspirations to be life-creator I now possess a peace that flows from simply resting in the Author of Life. And I can say with the psalmist—whether or not I have another child: “Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well” (Psalm 139:14).