I’m approaching my 30th birthday and I’m still single.
I was 27 on my first date, the age my mother was when she gave birth to her first child. I honestly enjoy being single, but my journey has also been painful.
I’ve watched friend after friend after friend after friend get married and start families. I’ve had to initiate a breakup because I was being led down a specific path of ministry—and he wasn’t. I’ve suffered through loneliness, questioned my beauty (inside and out), and doubted my sexuality and femininity.
Too many times, I’ve begged God to take away my desire to get married, but He hasn’t. I’ve read every book about being a “happy single girl” ever published (it’s a rather large section at Lifeway Christian bookstore). I’ve had people give me all sorts of advice when they have no clue what my life is like.
When I was in college, several of us were bemoaning our singleness—it was one of our favorite pastimes, right behind mocking our football team and descending like locusts on a Starbucks. In my deep theological wisdom, I cited one of the most misquoted scripture verses in our generation: “Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4).
My reasoning went like this:
- God gives you the desires of your heart.
- I want to get married. Therefore…
- God MUST send me a husband” (who played guitar and looked like Vin Diesel—we didn’t have Ryan Reynolds back then).
I’ll never forget what happened next. Like a toddler with a blow dart, my buddy Stephen lobbed the following sentence out into the universe. “You’re not guaranteed to get married.” I didn’t argue, nor did I punch him in the stomach. But I had never been so afraid.
Years later, I was driving home in the rain and I lamenting the fact that I was still UN-married. I started to wonder aloud, What if I never get married? I heard God whisper back, What if you don’t?
Like during my college days, my immediate reaction was terror.
Quickly thereafter, God began to speak tenderly to me:
Tracy, what if you live your whole life with this longing on earth and you don’t get married? What if I’m the only husband you ever have? What if the only wedding dress you wear is when you attend the wedding feast of the Lamb? Will that be enough for you?
Suddenly, my desire to get married looked pathetically small and lackluster. I remembered the years of walking through the painful and joyful moments of my singleness with Him—seeing Him prove Himself to be working all things together for my good.
I was experiencing what my favorite Narnian, C.S. Lewis, had meant when he said:
“It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased”
(C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory, and Other Addresses).
Whether it’s to get married, have children, or to “get out of this town once and for all,” the pull of our desires can nearly tear us to bits. We simply cannot imagine anything stronger. We see the invitation of Jesus as a quid-pro-quo business deal: if we follow him, he’ll give us our Christmas list. He extends his nail-scarred hand—the proof of his love and our freedom—and we assume it’s so we can shake on our agreement. We even look at God—the infinite Creator of time and space—and wonder if what He has to offer could match what we can see and taste and touch.
Contrary to my 21-year-old self’s understanding of Psalm 37:4, that verse is not a formula on how to strong-arm God into bringing me what I want (even if it’s something noble and good). It’s a reminder that God will faithfully give of Himself if indeed it is a relationship with Him that I seek.
QUESTION: Have you ever tried to twist God’s arm into fulfilling your desires? Let me know in the comments below.