The Dream of Marriage: Waiting, Trusting, and Letting Go

In looking back through my journal entries from the summer, I found this:

“Help me remember Your goodness and be patient-  WAIT.  How strange that I’m learning to wait during a season when You’re giving me so many long-desired gifts…”

I could see God’s merciful and gracious hand in so much this past summer. I was truly blown away at how many good provisions were made for me to walk in- many were ones I had dreamed about for years. Yet, there were places that I wrestled with God. Anxieties threatened to overtake my body on many occasions so that I was left to cry out to the Lord seemingly constantly. At the time, it was very frustrating, though I could see how it was drawing me closer to God. This was one verse (of many) that was given to me during that time:

“Sow for yourselves righteousness; reap steadfast love; break up your fallow ground, for it is the time to seek the Lord, that he may come and rain righteousness upon you.” (Hosea 11:12)

The big thing that was being broken up in me was my strong desire for a serious relationship/ marriage. I was reading through ‘Passion and Purity’ by Elisabeth Elliot. It is the hardest book I’ve ever digested. So many emotions were brought up by each tiny chapter. The main point that stuck out to me was that God may not have marriage in our individual plan.. if so, will we say, “Yes, Lord”? Elliot included this quote in her book and its truth struck me:

“The fair new petals may fall, and for no visible reason. No one seems enriched by the stripping.

“And the first step into the realm of giving is a like surrender–not manward a Godward: an utter yielding of our best. So long as our idea of surrender is limited to the renouncing of unlawful things, we have never grasped it’s true meaning: that is not worthy of the name of “no poluted thing” can be offered.

“The life lost on the Cross was not a sinful one–the treasure poured forth there was God-given, God-blessed treasure, lawful and right to be kept: that there was the life of the world at stake.”

It was a hard truth to hear, and like I said, it produced a struggle. It made me examine how much I trust the Lord’s heart toward me. Honestly, I found that I didn’t trust Him as much I as thought.

God was so gracious to send people into my life to speak words of comfort and truth to this area when it seemed unbarable. Someone told me, “Most people will meet someone special at some point in their life and get married.” On one level this was a comfort, even though it did not address the possibility of God asking forever singleness of me. Still, the person who said it made a good point that the gift of singleness is usually only for a season of life.

Another encouragement was the current testimony of a godly woman at my church. She shared about how she was being pursued my a kind, incredible man of God and God was/ is very clearly orchestrating the relationship. It is much better than anything she had ever dared to dream of! Hearing her tell of what God was doing renewed my trust that God does love to give the good, great gift of serious relationships/ marriage (in the perfect timing). Also, seeing how God is the center of their relationship renewed my hope that it is possible to stay focused on God and bring Him glory through a dating relationship.

So God is good. Believing that to the core is the key to trusting God with any of our the deepest hopes and dreams. Romans 8:32 says, “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” (All things within His will, of course.) And yet, God asks hard things of us and does not contradict His own character. I love this quote by Ruth Stull that Elisabeth Elliot included in her book, “If my life is broken when given to Jesus, it is because pieces will feed a multitude, while a loaf will satisfy only a lad.” When we give up the good in our lives, God can use it in the best way possible to serve others and bring Himself glory. That often will look different than we have envisioned.

The dream of marriage is only one (fairly big) area where I must release my hopes and dreams to the will of God. God has been so gracious in the journey thus far, though! So yes, when God led me to write “WAIT” in my journal, there was a reason. I still have need for patience in the good times. I have need for patience as I wait for the Lord’s will. I also have need for trust in the Lord’s unfailing love and His good, great plan so I can focus on pouring out my life. He is providing day by day what I need for this journey called faith, though, and that is possibly more encouraging than anything else!

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A Life of Crazy Love

In my experience, debate/ argument is valued by many Christians. Honestly, I used to be included in that group. I loved a good debate, where I made my point (and of course won ūüėČ ). My desire to be right has diminished in recent years, which I’m sure I can only attribute to God. I still enjoy having challenging conversations about things that are important, but I think I have a stronger value for how the other person feels during the discourse.

A couple weeks ago, I turned on my Bible app’s audible reading option. Because I was busy coloring, I listened to Romans 8 all the way into the next book, 1 Corinthians! It was eye opening to listen to all those passages strung together. (I highly recommend listening to big passages of Scripture read out loud. You get so much out of it!) Anyway, a theme came to my attention. Our actions as believers should be chosen because of our brothers and sisters in Christ.

“Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.” (Romans 12:9-10)

“Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.” (Romans 13:8)

Paul specifically addressed how to live with those who had different convictions on what was okay to eat. Today, this can be applied to diet restrictions or any other kind of restriction a person places on them self because they feel led to. It is made clear that each person will give an account to God and that it’s not the place of any other believer to judge their choices.

“As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions.” (Romans 14:1)

“Therefore let us not pass judgement on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother.” (Romans 14:13)

What a humbling way to live: for others. To make every decision based on how it ¬†would effect the people around us seems a little crazy! We have been given the perfect example of this kind of living in Jesus, though. He showed love, sought after others, did not seek to quarrel, and ultimately died for people who didn’t deserve to be loved. We are called to be like Jesus. It takes a whole lot of vulnerability and humility, but it flows from our receiving this very mind-blowing gift ourselves. We’re just passing along a little bit of what we have been given.

So how can you put your brothers and sisters in Christ first this week? And beyond the family of God, how can you show this crazy love to those who don’t know Jesus?

Waiting for Good Things

Life is full of good things this summer. In many ways it is what I dreamed the summer would be. And yet, with each dreamed of activity on the horizon, I find a struggle waging within. There’s a little voice in the back of my head saying, “You’re getting too excited. Remember all the other times it didn’t work out? That’s going to happen once more and you’re going to be left devastated.¬†Again.” So what if I am let down again? What if the thing I hope for doesn’t happen in my timing, or at all? This can be a big thing or a little thing and I think we all deal with this tension to some degree or another at least once in our lives.

I am reading Passion and Purity by Elisabeth Elliot right now. (Such an amazing book! If you want to dig deeper into this tension of not getting what you want when you want it or just have questions about what it looks like to have a God-honoring relationship, read this book!) Despite it being specifically about a love relationship, I think this philosophical concept still applies to desiring something good in the future:

“We may imagine what it would be like to share a given event and feel loss at having to experience it alone. But let us not forget– that loss is imagined, not real… What is, is actual– what might be simply is¬†not, and I must not therefore query God as though He robbed me– of things that are not. ” (Words of Jim Elliot written to Elisabeth during their long before-engaged season)

In that light, becoming bitter toward God for not giving a supposedly-good gift is ludicrous. On the one hand, was it really a good gift for us if God didn’t see fit to provide it for us? On the other hand, would we forfeit a right relationship with God because He wouldn’t be Santa Clause for us?

So can we eagerly anticipate a desired event or outcome, while still being fulfilled and happy in Christ? Can we have a desire in the back of our heart and wait for the right time to come for it to bloom? What if _______ doesn’t happen when we think it should? Can we be patient? Can we trust God to be good the the tension of the waiting?

I love this quote on waiting! It is,

“Steadfastness, that is holding on;

Patience that is holding back;

Expectancy, that is holding the face up;

Obedience, that is holding one’s self in readiness to go or do;

Listening, that is holding quiet and still as to hear.” (S.D. Gordon)

When we allow God to work in the waiting, we are drawn closer to Him in love; we are brought to a place of trusting Him more.

So wait bravely, friend.

Take Heart

Trials will come. We live in a world broken with sin, have an enemy who wants to destroy us, and are also¬†in the process of sanctification. Knowing the reasons why we go through hard things, doesn’t usually make them any easier. The great news is that we are not left alone in our troubles. Jesus has gone before us and we can cry out to our Father God. The Holy Spirit also¬†leads us¬†as we seek Him.

“Trust in Him at all times, O people; Pour out your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us. Selah” (Psalm 62:8 NASB).

“For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15 NASB).

And those who know Your name will put their trust in You, For You, O LORD, have not forsaken those who seek You” (Psalm 9:10 NASB).

So take heart.

Cast your cares.

He cares for you (1 Peter 5:7).

“The disposition… to leave the dearest objects of our hearts in the sublime keeping of the general and unspecific belief that God is now answering our prayers in His own time and way, and in the best manner, involves a present process of inward crucifixion which is obviously unfavorable to the growth and even the existence of the life of self.” (T.C. Upham)

We are kept even as we struggle. Jesus said,¬†“I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand” (John 10:28 ESV).

So keep on keeping on. Keep following. Take heart because you are held, loved, and cared for.

 

Glory

A poignant question posed

A beautiful message sent

Amid a tender world

Ringing, ringing ethereal

Delicate light not of this world

Gaseous, invisible, barely detectable

Shining, shining iridescent

Its quiet eloquence rides the wind

Its brilliance paints the sky before twilight

Look about and find sprinkled glory

Find a lingering question hauntingly beautiful

Forever, forever answer unabashedly.

Goodbye Shame, Goodbye Guilt

It hit me the other day just how much our society likes to measure us up. It starts with school. Each assignment is measured according to a number and letter system. The higher the number, or lower the letter, the better. It seems like a lot of life includes some sort of grading system like this. It becomes part of our mindset to try to perform well and wonder how we measure up. When we start viewing God as though He’s grading us, though, things go awry.

A big part of why we see God like this is because we focus so little on the relationship, and instead, end up focusing on the action part of faith. We do all the right things because we’re supposed. But living as though God were waiting for us to mess up so He could be mad at us is not good motivation for living a moral life.

In any healthy relationship, the people involved feel free to be themselves. The same thing applies to a relationship with God. He won’t hate you if you mess up, but He will convict and encourage you toward real holy change. Patience is an incredible attribute of God we can easily forget about.

We will mess up; we will sin. This is a fact, not something any one of us can defy with the most meticulous work. “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8b) If that isn’t encouraging- that we are loved even when we’re at our worst- than I don’t know what is.

You and me will never be “too far gone” to approach the throne of grace. Any moment is a good moment to talk to God. And maybe by realizing His forgiveness and love for us, we can begin to let that define how we see ourselves.

It is the enemy who wants to destroy us with guilt and shame and fear; God brings peace and joy and love. That is the kind of relationship and life we are offered.

The Time Before Marriage

Growing up is strange and one of the most mysterious parts to me is dating and marriage. Dreaming lots of dreams for the future is part of growing up and that includes many you have no control at all over. The dream of marriage is one of those, in my opinion. American culture has placed so much value and attention on being in a relationship, and I have to wonder if it’s healthy. I watch old TV shows and they show a man pursuing a woman. It is so sweet and gets my mind and heart desiring that kind of story- right now. An appreciation for a sweet love story is good, especially in light of how it is a picture of Christ and the Church. (Ephesians 5:22-32) When it becomes an obsession, though, it’s no longer so good and sweet. I believe God has a different plan for his people when it comes to the time before marriage.

I was not the girl who planned out her wedding at age 13. In fact, at age 21 I still can’t tell you what colors I’ll go with for my wedding day. (Of course, that’s assuming I will get married.) As a teenager I made multiple lists of characteristics I wanted my future husband to have, though. Looking at these long lists now, only a few of the items still stand.

  • Loves God and has an growing relationship with Him
  • Is a good leader
  • Loves people well

These are fairly general characteristics (yet it’s quite obvious when someone has them). There is a reason why they are so general: God can bring a man into my life who has a million little “perfect” characteristics that I would never ever think of. Honestly, some of the characteristics God would choose, I would not have appreciated as a younger me (including my-age me). (Also nobody is perfect, so that must be kept in mind.) At the end of the day, or life that is, God is much better at writing love stories than I am, so I don’t have to try to create the exact person I’m looking for on a piece of paper.

Even more than love stories, though, God is good at writing stories period. They’re never perfect- just look a the stories in the Bible! So living the single life is more than okay. (Despite what you may have heard at church or elsewhere.) Article after cliche online article tell us how life works and when the best time is to go to college, get married, have kids, etc. Life isn’t calculable enough to fit into any article- it’s amazing and beautiful and diverse- at least when we let God take the lead and stop trying to fit into those guidelines.

God is still good to those who don’t get married. In the season before getting married, and maybe even before seriously dating, is one that stretches our trust in God. So do you believe God is good no matter what? Is God good even if you never say, “I do”? I think that’s a good place to start. Falling in love with Jesus isn’t so much the replacement for a romantic relationship, but the bigger, better, authentic version. To live life everyday out of Jesus’ love makes everything sweeter, whether or not you’re dating or married.

Maybe, just maybe this season isn’t to be treated as one of waiting. What if we viewed it as a time to learn about and use the gifts we’ve been given? What if we learned to live and love well? What if we grew a trust in God so strong nothing could shake us? What if we stopped waiting for marriage to save us, and let Jesus save us and bring us into a fuller life right now?