I’ll never forget standing in a sun-soaked church as a fifteen-year-old and staring at the back of “Mollie Goring’s” head, convinced I had met the greatest human to walk the earth. Her smile was bashful and filled with soft-warmth, and when we held hands four months later, I knew I was hooked. I wrote a note to her that read, “Each day I’m with you I begin to wonder more and more what love looks like.”
Our relationship ended two weeks later.
Now, I sit here a week away from turning twenty-six, and I can’t stop thinking about falling in love and being married.
Past relationships are in new relationships, some of them married with children. And I’m single with an aching gut, ready to meet someone and fall in love. Is it even possible?
I know I’m not a victim; I know I have ended relationships and have had an equal part in dissolutions and break-ups. But still, can’t there be a success out there for me?
And he received the gold from their hand and fashioned it with a graving tool and made a golden calf. And they said, “These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!”
I’m reading a collection of Eugene Peterson’s sermons (GREAT BOOK ALERT: As Kingfishers Catch Fire), and the one yesterday was about that time Moses went up the mountain to talk with God while the Israelites and Aaron waited below.
Finally, the Israelites told Aaron—the next in command— “Moses is probably dead. Do something and make us a god.”
So that’s what he did. Out of the fire popped a golden calf.
I can relate.
I’ve been standing at the base of this mountain for a long time, watching as my friends walk up with the man or woman of their dreams and march back down with pomp and circumstance and wedding rings. I clap and throw rice (sometimes a little harder than I should), and I wake up the next morning in a bed by myself.
So I wait.
I think about marriage a ton and talk to my friends about it even more. I make self-deprecating jokes about my singleness and convince rooms to take pity on me. I scan coffee shops expecting to lock eyes with a woman holding an arrow shot by Cupid.
But it doesn’t happen.
Is my future wife my golden calf?
“That is why the real problem of the Christian life comes where people do not usually look for it. It comes the very moment you wake up each morning. All your wishes and hopes for the day rush at you like wild animals. And the first job each morning consists simply in shoving them all back; in listening to that other voice, taking that other point of view, letting that other larger, stronger, quieter life come flowing in. And so on, all day. Standing back from all your natural fussings and frettings; coming in out of the wind.”
-C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (p. 198)
I’ve spent countless journal pages asking God for peace and contentment in singleness, and I’ve spent countless amounts of money on mochas in coffee shops staring at computer screens and writing pretty lines about this subject.
Discovering that peace that surpasses understanding.
But a perfect peace hasn’t swept over me and held me permanently. The switch of contentment hasn’t been flipped. Should I refuse to date until I can find perfect contentment in singleness? But if I am perfectly content, why would I want to date?
What am I doing wrong?
And then the quote from Lewis enters my brain. What if contentment isn’t a one-time decision but a daily surrender? What if it looks like waking up and “listening to that other voice”? What if it comes every single day, every single minute, every single second?
That’s hard because it isn’t extreme. It isn’t swearing off dating, but it also isn’t fully embracing my desire to put up “Bride Wanted” posters around town. It's putting God before everything every morning and trusting the Spirit to guide me somewhere in the middle, somewhere within the tension.
And I’m not good at tension, just ask my counselor. I want things black-and-white, I want a red light and then I want a green light. Just give me a specific time and place, and I’ll start dating then. But this in-between stuff is hard. It’s so tricky because this healthy desire for marriage shares a fence with golden calves grazing in the sun of idolization.
But it’s a process. And I’m learning to practice surrender every day, trusting that God is good enough to hold in tension my desire for a wife and my contentment in singleness.