What do you do when you feel desperate to get married–but you’re still single years after you thought you’d be?
I’ve been writing about singleness this week–how to increase your chances of marriage, how to be sure you’re not settling in marriage. But there’s been a voice missing, and that’s the voice of a single person.
Emily Lewis from See the Sparrow has impressed me so much with her heart for God and her authenticity, and I love the perspective she shares here.
I had dreamed of this moment for most of my life.
An open box lay before me, tissue paper the color of a ripe Georgia peach was strewn all over the floor, and I held in my arms an ivory lace dress.
But as I held my dreams there in my hands, my chest cavity felt as hollow as freshly dug grave. We had cancelled the wedding two weeks before, just days after sending out the invitations. I’d waited so long and prayed so hard and all I had to show for it was an empty box and a white dress.
I’m just going to be honest – what I felt at that moment towards God wasn’t anger. It was jealousy.
I was jealous of all those girls who meet the love of their life on their first semester at college and they get married the summer after graduation and have their first child before 25 and a house of their own by 30. Here I was a month into my fourth decade of life and I had never had a place I could call my own, or a person that I knew wouldn’t leave me. All I hoped for was a home, and a partner, and to be a mother. Was that too much, God? Did I dream too big?
Hope so long deferred can start to feel like desperation.
And though desperation may be taboo in the church, in the Bible it’s the desperate women who are most often honored by God.
I could talk about Hannah, who cried so hard the priest thought she was drunk, or Ruth, widowed and scavenging for food. But let me tell you a story you probably haven’t heard a thousand times already.
The Shunammite woman of 2 Kings 4 was childless and knew she would lose everything when her husband died. When Elisha promised she would have a son, she begged him, “Please don’t lie to me.” Can you hear the hopelessness ringing in her voice? But she gets pregnant and gives birth to a beautiful baby boy. All her dreams are finally given life.
Then one day, some years later, the little boy came to her complaining of a headache. He crawled up into his mother’s lap, and he died.
We can only imagine what the Shunammite woman felt holding the body of her dead child. But we know what she did: she went to the prophet of God. What she said is telling. “Did I ask you for a son, my lord? Didn’t I tell you, ‘Don’t raise my hopes’?”
Maybe you feel like that, too — that at some point your dreams curled up and died in your arms.
Maybe it was as simple as a wedding dress that you would never wear, or an “I love you” that never came. Maybe you really lost a child. Maybe you couldn’t have the child you wanted because of medical complications or waiting for a partner. (No one ever warned me how much singleness can feel like bareness when your dream is to be a mom.)
Like the Shunammite, I had a choice. I could run to God, or wall myself up against Him. Jealousy could become bitterness. I could develop a personal theology of being forgotten by God. Or I could dare to ask the question, “Why did you let me get my hopes up?”
The Shunammite woman ran to the right place. If God could resurrect the dream of a child after the heartbreak of barrenness, He could resurrect that child. She was resurrected that day as surely as her son was. In Jewish tradition it’s said that that boy grew up to be the prophet Jonah, who in a way had to die and be resurrected again to save the 120,000 people of Nineveh. He’s also a representation of the One who died to resurrect our hearts forever (Matt 12:39).
Don’t hear me wrong here, desperation for a husband, or a home, or a family avails nothing. But desperation for God avails much.
The desperation that matters is the desperation that pushes us back into Him.
Which is why Paul can say:
“We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts . . . ” (Romans 5:3-5).
Or as the NLT has it,
“hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us.”
Once upon a time, long before I called off my engagement, I suffered another heartbreak. I was so devastated, I couldn’t hope. My future looked to me like a painting that had been dowsed in turpentine. I just curled up in my bed and folded myself into God’s arms. And I lay there for what felt like weeks, if not months.
Three nights in a row I was woken from sleep by a dream. In the dream God was holding a stillborn child and urgently repeating over it, “Live! Live!” (I didn’t recognize it then, but this is very close to a scene out of Ezekiel 16.) I thought of all the dreams I had held that had died, but I didn’t see how I myself was a dream of God’s heart. I was God’s child who was dying. I was His hope that was languishing.
Hopelessness is a dangerous poison. It steals our ability to dream.
And if we cannot dream we cannot even pray, because prayer requires that we open our hearts to God’s dreams for us.
Once my dreams had died, and spiritually I had died with them. This time I chose to stay open. It didn’t happen in a moment, it took months of choosing.
I put the dress back in the box and put my dreams back the hands of the only One who could hold them. And when the time came, if He chose to, resurrect them.
Read another awesome post of hers on singleness right here!