I can’t remember which pastor said it recently, but I remember the illustration, at least for the most part. It went something like this — if you board a plane in New York, and the pilot sets the plane to fly one degree off course, you might not notice it so much if you were going to New Jersey … the plane would probably still come pretty close to landing in the right place.
But if you’re flying from New York to California, you might end up in Mexico instead.
And it’s the same thing that happens if a truth gets pushed just a tiny bit off center in your soul.
Over time, your heart can end up in a place it never meant to go.
God never promised that
That’s what’s happening up here in the 20s, 30s, and beyond … a bunch of single girls and women flying for years on a flight plan that’s a tiny bit off, and now they’re wondering how in the world they got here. I wrote a blog post about it a few years back, about how for a lot of us the “just wait, God will bring the right person in His timing” and “when you least expect it, that’s when it will happen” proverbs passed down through the ages turned the rudder just a degree away from God’s truth back when we were younger.
They’re nice thoughts. And for some now-wives and mothers, that is their story, the way God worked that out in their individual lives. But the truth is, they aren’t God’s Word, nor His promises for the masses. They’re nice, easy things to say. But when you say them, even just as passing encouragement, girls grow up clinging to them.
And the farther that plane flies toward Mexico with no husband on the horizon, the more women question who God is.
Is He good if He’s given this to other people and not me? What does it say about Him if I’ve been waiting obediently and nothing has happened? People keep asking me why I’m not married yet and telling me to just wait for it … does that mean my life is sub-par until it happens?
And not just that — more and more girls grow up learning by observation that what we as believers really think is the prize of life is the life we expect to get from God one day, not the joy we find simply in following Him.
It’s a position we as women mentoring younger women, pastors preaching to parents, men raising daughters and churches raising the next generation can’t afford to take.
So what do we do?
It’s tricky, to turn back the habits of saying words that we (I know I have personally) have said dozens if not hundreds of times, ideas clung to culturally for so long that they’re practically cross-stitched on pillows in our house.
I don’t know all the answers. Sometimes I’ll remember in horror things I’ve said in the past, not thinking at the time how they might impact someone’s struggle to follow Jesus now and in the future, and wishing I could buy back those well-intended words and actions that didn’t help a thing.
But I’d like to offer a few things I’ve seen from my own life and the lives of people I’ve crossed paths with, things that can point girls and women toward Jesus and not toward something we want.
1. Affirm the place where God has her and the story He is writing with her life.
God knows the breath we’re taking right now, and the exact square foot of land we’re standing on when we breathe it. He knows our lives, and He knows the story that will help us know Him best, give Him the most glory and bring the most people to Him if we’ll just surrender everything … and love Him with every fiber of our being.
That is the best story.
It might include being a wife and mom, but it might also include being a teacher in the Middle East, or a foster mom, or a businesswoman who is living intentionally to bring her entire office to Jesus. It might be walking through cancer or a disability and giving God glory in the midst of it.
Our God is a creative God, and He loves without boundaries. He loves each woman, and He loves the people He’s going to reach through her unique life and story. The life we have was never meant to be a consolation prize, runner-up to the thing we wanted more. It’s meant to be God-infused right where it is with the fullness of knowing Him through His Word and chasing after Him with our entire life.
So as you sit in the row next to that single woman in your church, or you raise your daughters, or you mentor middle school girls, remember that. Finding a godly husband isn’t the best story.
Being exactly who God created them to be is the best story.
Don’t ask why they haven’t found somebody yet. Ask how God is working in their lives.
Then affirm that story in all its fullness without pointing to something it looks like they don’t have yet.
2. Remember that the struggle is real.
Even for the most content single woman, digging into Christ daily and finding satisfaction in Him is a conscious decision.
For a lot of people, not being married is a deep struggle — it’s not just a trip to Australia that you’re bummed hasn’t happened yet; it’s a lifelong desire that hasn’t come true, or may not come true at all. Laying that aside and reminding your heart that Christ is more fulfilling, more love-filled, more joy-filled than the marriages you see one friend after another getting is, like many things in life, a war against the flesh.
So that comment — “You’re such an amazing person, I don’t know why you haven’t been snatched up yet” — doesn’t reach into that war zone in our hearts and comfort it, even though it’s a compliment. It points away from Christ and to the thing the world says we’re missing, the thing the world says gives us worth and fulfillment.
The truth is — Christ is everything and worth everything. Chasing Him with our whole hearts is a beautiful thing. Affirm that.
I don’t know any single woman who would mind being thoughtfully introduced to someone you know, but think toward doing it in care, not because you’re on the hunt to “find her someone.”
And that woman who’s good with kids? Affirm her abilities, but maybe with a nod to “I can’t wait to see how God continues to use you and your gifts” rather than “you’ll make a great mom one day.”
3. Unless you’re talking about the moment when God sets everything right again one day, try to drop “yet” from your vocabulary.
Marriage hasn’t happened in some of our lives. It might one day.
But tacking “yet” on the end of that sentence only sets our eyes on the carrot strung just a little bit farther down the trail and moves our focus away from Christ, the One we chase right now.
We also know that nowhere in God’s Word does He promise us all a spouse, in return for obedience or otherwise. His promises are found with answers in Himself. The only thing we know for sure is that God was meant to be the end goal of our lives. He’s the “yet” we’re waiting for.
Easy fixes — like hanging hopes on “yet” when God never meant for us to — are like sticking a band-aid on a leaky pipe. Point the girls and women in your life to the place where life really comes from. We need to know how to function as a part of a family in the way that God wants, but that isn’t the goal of our lives. Teach them how to really dig into the Word. Show them how to look to Jesus for everything, for fulfillment in who He is, not what He gives. Let them see in your own life, no matter what stage of life you’re in, that your joy comes from following Christ, not from your circumstances.
Those are the things we need stitched on pillows … and buried deep in our hearts.
Want to read more on this topic?
“I Don’t Wait Anymore” the book, now at Barnes & Noble and other retailers. Check it out here.
It’s the story of shaking off broken dreams and expectations to follow God to something better — to a far better story, to a life of knowing God as the prize worth our whole lives.
You want in? I’d love it if you’d come along.
(And if you’d like to read a free chapter, feel free to look here.)