If you have been reading my blog for any length of time now, you are well aware that I am almost 30 (in December, baby!) and single (all the single ladies...all the single ladies.) And here is the truth, I actually am very OK with this. I'm delightfully fulfilled by the Lord, his love and my wonderful life. I have great friends, work for an amazing ministry and am happy to love on anyone and everyone I meet with the love of Jesus. But after a few conversations I had with some amazing ladies this week, it got me to thinking about my relationships with men.
So here's the thing: I'm a fox hunter. True story.
I have spent so much time in my adult life drooling over cute boys, even after I became a Christian. I think they teach it to you in sixth grade.
"OK well, you have hormones now, so you should pretty much have a crush on every male in sight. Tall boy with the shaggy hair and skater shoes? Perfect. Attractive male substitute teacher? Well done. Brooding young man on the t.v. show you watch every Friday night? Here's a poster and a subscription to Teen Weekly so you can track his every waking move."
I got an A in this course.
I have talked in past posts about my adolescent fantasies over the princes in the Disney movies. It never really changed. When I officially gave my life to Jesus, ( 13 years ago August 8th. Whoot whoot!) my love for boys took on a "purer"form. I wanted my prince. The conversation over cute boys became "Oh, girl, I'm gonna marry him someday!" (apparently, I get a little hood when I talk about boys). I developed a massive crush on a classmate my senior year. ( sorry if you're reading this, but the stories gotta be told, man.) He was tall and handsome and led a small prayer group at school. He was my first ever serious crush. He loved the Lord a lot and was really nice to me so naturally that meant we were destined to be together, right? Oh my poor, teenage heart. I let the crazy crush go on way too long and was devastated when he didn't fall in love with me and ask me to marry him....at 18. He is now married to an amazing, beautiful and talented woman who is also a dear friend of mine and I could not be happier for them. I laugh at the whole thing because its so clear to me now that what I felt was not love. It was a crush wrapped around some misplaced adoration that was meant for the Lord. To put it simply, I loved the Jesus in him.
You think I would have learned. Nope. It went on like this for years. It seemed like every guy I tried to become friends with ended up on my "maybe" list. What's a "maybe" list you ask? Its that invisible list that girls carry around with them of their potential future husbands ( come on...don't lie. I know I'm not the only one who had one.) The list also had little invisible boxes next to each name.
"Oh you like kids? Check. And puppies? Check. And Star Wars? Double Check."
Its also had boxes for deduction points.
"Oh you're really into golf? Minus eleventy billion points." (sorry golf fans...I just don't get it.)
The lists got longer but sadly the relationships never got any deeper. I guess its hard to build a lasting friendship under all that scrutiny. But still I soldiered on.
Cute guy in the church pew near me:
"Is that him?"
Lovely bearded man with the plaid shirt and tattoos in the coffee shop:
"Oh please God, let that be him!"
It got to be so bad, it was like I was an English rider on a fox hunt. I could literally see men fleeing from me in terror as I'm chasing after them yelling, "Marry me! I'm desperate!"
It makes me sad sometimes to think of the amazing friendships I could have built had I just realized sooner what I was doing. The Lord has really worked on my heart a lot on this subject the last year of my life and I am happy to say I have some very lovely men in my life that I am blessed to call friends. But still I found myself every once in awhile falling back into the "fox hunt". So I had to just lay the whole idea of marriage down completely because I felt I couldn't trust myself anymore. Well that, and I guess it was also self preservation. All of that build up and let down really does a number on your heart after awhile.
I have been thinking a lot about the culture we develop in the church for young men and women. We quietly teach them that marriage is the ultimate goal to life's completion and the best way to keep from stumbling into sexual sin. And though I do agree that it is a Holy, God given gift and that I do personally believe is intended for most in the church, its not the answer to your fulfillment. And though I do agree, like what Paul talks about in 1 Corinthians 7, that it is better to marry that to burn with passion, its doesn't mean that you will never again struggle with sexual sin. I have seen many young marriages destroyed because they either realized they married too soon/too young or because of sexual sin. If you are a broken, insecure human with the maturity level of a peanut, deep into pornography...there is no person alive that can fix that for you. They can try. But unless they possess some sort of super power, my guess is they will fail. The only marriage that has the capability of producing salvation is the one between you and Jesus.
But what I find most interesting is that when I say these things are taught quietly, I mean just that. Quietly. In whispers. I can't actually recall anyone every actually preaching a sermon called "Marriage: find a spouse or burn." It was more subtle than that. It was in conversations young women had with each other, dreaming up their perfect mate. "Well, I hope I marry a pastor. He will have dark hair, brown eyes and will play worship music on the guitar." I felt like every conversation we had turned to this. I can't speak for young men, but I imagine their conversation going like this: "Yeah, she's hot. And she loves Jesus. Wife it up." But the thing is, it was years before I ever heard anyone even remotely try to correct this focus of attention. Instead we offered up ourselves on the alter of the rom-com and cried on our girlfriends shoulders while they said things like," Don't worry, he'll come when you're not looking."
Oh really? Ok... well then I'll just stop thinking about boys all to___
Oh hey, who's that new guy in Bible study?
Crap...did it again.
After years and years and years of this I had enough. No more fantasies. No more Pinterest wedding planning. No more rom-coms with hot actors with scripted mush ( still stumble in this area occasionally. I just really like a good J-Lo flick). It was too painful. Too torturous. I let it go completely. It was too much pressure on myself and the men around me. Fort Knox security on this old heart of mind from now on. So I just focused on work, ministry, building familial relationships and weirdly, found fulfillment in happiness that Jesus was enough. I had new dreams, bigger, broader and just was content to see what Jesus was going to do with me. Then it happened again. I was chatting with a co-worker about this dude I thought was really cute and every time I talked to him, I got stupid. I was explaining to her how I just really needed to quit talking about him and gushing on his cuteness because I didn't want to stir up things in my heart. I explained that marriage was really low on my list of priorities right now and I had so much else going on my life. And I promise, I meant it.
That's when she said it. Here comes the perfects storm:
"Well, you know then, you are in the perfect place to meet someone. It always happens when you aren't looking."
AGGGGGGHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!! Don't say that to me now!
I had just gotten to a really good place and here she goes with this mess again. I explained to her very kindly that I just couldn't hear that right now because then, of course, what am I gonna do? Start looking again. I launched into my whole saga of man drama and blah blah blah blah blah. About midway through, she stopped me and sort of made me realize something. Somewhere in the middle between Teen Weekly and Fort Knox, I had shut my heart down to the idea of marriage and falling in love completely and became terrified of even discussing it. I was so hell-bent on protecting myself that I let go of a dream. A dream God gave me. There was nothing wrong with wanting to fall in love and getting married.There is something very wrong with wanting to be married because you think you're supposed to or that it will fix whatever mess you got going on in your life. There was something very wrong with forming crushes on every cute guy from here to Cuba (though, I'm sure given the right resources, I could have covered more ground than that.) and pretending that its love. There is something wrong with chasing after someone just because they're "hot". There is something very wrong with letting bitterness develop towards my brothers in Christ just because they failed my check list. There is something very wrong with thinking that every time one of these imaginary relationships I was creating didn't have the happy ending I desired, there must be something desperately wrong with me.
My point is this: guard your heart.
Not with an electric fence, barbed wire, a mote full of piranhas and and flame thrower.
With the precious love of Christ and the knowledge that it is a gift. Marriage is not something to be taken so lightly and hotness doesn't last forever. Know who you are, what you want and the vision over your life. If you want to get married, awesome. But keep running towards your dreams. The Lord will make the dude fast enough to keep up but wise enough not to hold you back. You will run together. In the mean time keep your eyes forward. Spend too much time looking around to see if he's coming, you're likely to trip.
If you don't want to get married because you rather devote all your time to the Lord, awesome. That is just as valid and as holy a desire. Its not about the desire itself. Its about its motivation.
And remember ladies: you don't have to swoon over every dude that says "Hey girl." But may the strength of Christ be with you if its Chris Hemsworth. That dude is fine.