The question threw me off guard.
“I’m just going to ask.” He said. “So you don’t have a husband. Why?”
I smiled. I knew he had been wondering for some time.
It wasn’t the question; it was the tone in which my new friend asked that really made me smile.
It was as if he knew there was more to the story and he was curious.
The boldness of students sometimes catches me off guard, but I appreciated the question instead of assumptions. The truth was that I had answered that same question three other times that week in one form or another and I wondered why it continued to come up. Was it an obvious question? Had I said something that made them curious?
I was looking forward to a plane ride where I could escape into my own mind and debrief on the week with myself and look at my schedule for the next week. But as I sunk into my seat, I realized that I had three hours beside Noah, a student that stuck out for his leadership and desire to chase after God, and I could either deflect the question or share my heart.
How did I answer that question? Simple.
God’s plan for my life.
One of these. All of the above.
It had been awhile since I’ve had to wrestle through this conversation with someone who was actually interested, who dug deeper into the whys and how, who was authentically curious and asking questions about his own future at the same time. Someone who didn’t just take the surface level answer but wanted to know my story and what led me to this point. And so we spent most of the flight talking about living in the center of God’s will as opposed to making your own path to achieve your own dreams. And I’ve been tossing around thoughts in my mind ever since.
I whole heartily with my mind, body and soul believe in the power that God has in this world to make things happen. And I completely believe that God will bring that man into my life that I am to marry in His timing and not mine. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve prayed for God to bring that man into my life that day – through a flat tire, a conversation in line, a stranger in an airport, someone at a conference. I’ve traveled enough, met enough people and been available more than anyone I know. And so it’s not for lack of opportunity or desire that I don’t have a husband. It’s God.
There have been many times in my life when I have put serving others and Kingdom focus aside and focused on myself – my needs, my wants, my desires. I have succumbed to the pressures of the world. And every time I have been left with a feeling of emptiness, frustration or worldliness. I have felt frustrated that I am wasting my time. I have sought after things that the world tells me that I should have or be. And in those things I have found some small reward. But ultimately it has made me realize that I could put all of my efforts and prayers and energy into finding myself a partner in life, but if that is not what God has for me, then it’s futile. I will end up so far from the center of what God has for me that I will be less “happy” than when I started. I’d be chasing the world’s standards and not God’s standards. So what’s it to be?
This is the question I come back to often in my life as I make decisions. God’s path or my path. What’s it to be.
“So is it hard?” The directness of the question was appreciated. But my heart stopped because I didn’t want to cry as I answered that question.
Yes. Actually hard doesn’t even describe how I feel sometimes. As I continue to live in a small town where I am on the outside because of my marriage status, I do have to ask myself, “Is it worth the cost?” Is being in the center of God’s will and allowing Him to dictate that part of my life enough? It has been increasing difficult living in a small town as a single female. Not because I can’t drive a car or can’t speak the language or don’t have an education. Not because I can’t find a job to provide for me. But because I am an outsider, even more than a single mom with kids. I don’t have kids that can play with other kids. I don’t have a husband that can carry on conversation with another male. There are few other singles my age with my interests. I don’t have anything to offer but myself. And it seems as if that’s not enough at times. I didn’t imagine that it would become this difficult. The sting is real. I’ve had friends tell me that it’s awkward when I come around because I am single. Their husbands feel awkward. They don’t have play dates for their kids so they have to still entertain their kids and it’s too much to juggle conversation and kids. I have invited myself places to only be rejected because it made it difficult then to have to stretch their families. Yes. People have told me these things.
And so your brain always evaluates. Is the shame great enough to enter into a marriage with someone who doesn’t share that same passion with me to serve Jesus just so that I can be invited into the family functions and fun. Is that for me to decide or for God? What happens when we begin to make those decisions as if we are God? These are the thoughts and questions that I continually have to answer, to myself or students.
There have been people in my life that have led me to believe that it’s my fault that I’m not married and that I have chosen this life. Is it my fault? Is it a curse over me? Why am I still single and most others my age are not? Is it something that I wanted? Most certainly not. In high school I was nicknamed Mom and that is a title that I have often carried since then. Most likely to marry first. Most likely to have kids first. Most likely to have the most kids. So…. if I have the qualities for all of these things, then why do I not have these things?
God’s will and not my own.
We have to count the cost.
And so my conversation with Noah continued as I challenged him to not just find someone in life because everyone else was finding someone. But to count the cost. To know what it was that God really wanted in His life. To find a partner that can join Him in his passion and pursuit of the gospel. To be sure that she could walk beside him in the calling and gifting that God had given him. As God has put a unique calling on my life to pour into and reach the next generation, that is the message that I want this generation to hear. In the end it’s not really about the desire of my own heart to have a husband and a family. It’s the desire to serve God with my whole heart and to accept His will above my own that we need to adopt. This is not the message that the world is sending this generation.
Since I first began to mentor young people, I had a life moto that I would not ask them to do anything that I was not willing to do myself. Don’t drink. Don’t smoke. Don’t have premarital sex. Don’t gossip. Don’t lie to your friends. Do what you say you’re going to do. And so, as I challenge today’s youth to not follow the pressures of the world for momentary satisfaction or to appear like everyone else, I have to take up that challenge myself. I have a responsibility for my future. I pray for my future husband. I engage in life with others and I surrender my will to God’s will and trust in His power to bring something out of nothing.
I remain steadfast to the call on my life and pray for a partner to join me. To join together as one and strengthen one another. But until then, I know that I have also had some unique opportunities to walk with students through difficult seasons of their lives because I could devote myself to them in a different way than I could if I were married. To live out this life as a blessing and not a curse.
So why don’t I have a husband?
To pray thy will be done, I must be willing, if the answer requires it, that my will be undone. And in this matter, I have been undone. Not my will but yours Lord, whatever that is. Thank you Elisabeth Elliot for showing me the truth.