Recently I let the realization sink in that I have bought into the culture’s idols of romanticism and individualism for far too long. I’ve let them become my default, along with the idol of marriage that often shows up in the church, and have encouraged and fed them by filtering my life’s story around them.
As a result, I saw how I’ve created narratives about my life of the “tragic unrequited love” story, the “one of these days it will have been worth the wait” story, and the noble “she didn’t need a man” story – all of them fed by an overly-active imagination, a highly romantic, idealistic view of myself, and my instinct to tell a story about everything.
On the one hand, it’s completely natural to make sense of our lives by telling stories about them. And to honestly process what happens in our lives, we need to acknowledge that some of our stories are sad, some are worth rejoicing over, and some do indeed sound like they could have come out of a novel.
But do I have to view everything in my life through a romantic lens? Do I have to make my relationship status (or lack thereof) the most important thing about me? And is that what God cares most about in my story? Is he filtering everything in my life through this “dream-come-true” fairy tale ending? (Spoiler alert: he’s not.)
What if he wanted to tell a different story in my life with a different focus, and I completely missed it because I kept expecting it to turn out like someone else’s story?
You see, God’s story has two main purposes for my life: to abide and to produce. His primary concern is that my soul would be sanctified and that I would become like Christ. And this happens through abiding – the daily dwelling in him through Scripture and prayer. When I spend most of my thoughts on past, present, and future romantic possibilities, I’m missing so many opportunities to abide in Christ and draw near to him.
He doesn’t want me to shut off my desire to be married or pretend like it doesn’t exist. But he wants me to run to him with that desire. He wants me to cry out to him with my loneliness and challenges, give them to him, and then watch him transform my life day by day through dependence on him.
God’s second purpose for my life is to produce, which is a natural result of abiding – for the branch that abides in the tree trunk will produce healthy fruit. So when I take the time to abide in Christ and set my thoughts on him, he will lead me to produce his character and his disciples. He wants me to channel the desire for connection in marriage into the body of Christ where I can build up relationships with other believers. Instead of wallowing in self-pity about not having a husband, God wants me to find needs in the church and fill them.
In a sermon by Dave Lomas entitled “Singleness and the Kingdom of God,” he said, “Singleness is not second-best. All of our Christian life is about channeling our desires in ways that bring life and God’s kingdom to bear on the world. That is spiritual development.”
He also said, “When that feeling of loneliness comes over you, ask where it’s coming from and how you can channel it – view it as an invitation from God.”
Time and time again when loneliness has enveloped me, and I have chosen to use it as a cue to reach out to other people, I’ve found deep purpose in connecting with them. When I have not chosen that path and allowed loneliness to drown me in despair, I’ve felt useless, empty, and hopeless.
God created us to have purpose and that purpose is found in producing life-giving relationships that reflect the Trinity. So instead of just waiting around for the “ultimate relationship” to start finding my purpose, may I instead take advantage of the dozens of relationships all around me just waiting to be poured into.
This aim of abiding and producing is lost when my default is always set to a romantic lens. Every interaction I have with guys, every dream for the future, every lonely moment is seen in connection with romantic fulfillment when the romantic switch is turned on.
And God is saying, “No. Turn that switch off. Stop expecting your life’s fullest happiness when a man loves you.”
God already loves me deeper than I could fathom, and he longs for me to daily explore that love, abide in it, and live out a producing of fruit for his kingdom. And this is the default switch I need to be turning to in my life. This is the lens through which I need to view my days – from the moment I wake up to the moment I go to bed at night.
I pray that my thinking would be transformed, that I would die to self, and that I would be surrendered to the call of Christ in my life.