Well this week I celebrated my 26th birthday, and for some reason I’m feeling old. I did have a 19 year old tell me I “looked good for my age,” so maybe that’s why. But I have to say that after turning 25 last year, the countdown to 30 has become more and more unsettling.
Why? Because I’m still single.
The older I get, the more concerned everyone in my life has become about the fact that I am single. It’s as if they are personally invested in finding me a husband. To give you a good example of this, a few months ago a friend of mine called because he and his fiance were discussing why it is that I am not dating anyone, and were speculating about who might be a good match for me. They had settled on one particular person that they felt would be a good set-up, and were taking bets as to whether or not I’d go out with him. They were calling to find out who won the bet.
Everyone from my parents, to my friends, to my parents’ friends, and even my pastor, have all tried to set me up with someone at one time or another. Fortunately, none of this actually bothers me all that much (except to perhaps annoy me). As far as guarding my heart is concerned, these comments don’t get to me. I don’t find myself pining away, wishing I was married, and crying myself to sleep at night because I’m not. The reason it doesn’t bother me is that I have a full life–I’m in seminary, I do college ministry, and I have wonderful friends, so there is no void in my life that needs to be filled by a boyfriend.
But birthdays are a little different. They cause you to reflect on the past and think about the future, and that is where I get myself into trouble. As soon as I start thinking about the future and the “what-ifs,” I freak out. What if I don’t get married by the time I’m 30? What if I don’t get married til even later? What will that do to me in terms of having kids? Will I still be able to have a big family, or will I only be able to have one because my biological clock will be close to clocking out? Or what if I don’t get married at all?
As all these questions creep into my mind, I feel my heart begin to race, my mind begin to spin, and the next thing I know I’m freaking out.
It’s at times like these that I have come to realize Jesus’ advice to “not worry about tomorrow” was not merely common sense–he was protecting us from ourselves. When I focus on today, and look at all that God is providing for me in this moment, I feel totally fine. I am content.
But as soon as I begin to think about the future, fear elbows in on that contentment, and worry consumes me. Why? Because as women, we are dominated by our emotions. We must constantly fight to replace our emotions, which often lie to us, with the truth of God’s love.
That is a lot easier to do when you can point to the fact that God is taking care of you in this present moment, but the unknowns of the future are a different matter. Who knows what God has planned for us, so it is hard to point to His faithfulness in the future when we don’t know if He willactually be faithful. In light of His track record, we can be fairly certain God will continue to take care of us, but there’s just that little sliver of doubt that makes us wonder if He really will. And soon, that manageable sliver of doubt grows into an uncontrollable monster of anxiety.
For this reason, thinking about the future can often be a treacherous exercise for us women, because we don’t sufficiently guard our hearts and minds before we do it. We carelessly dive into our thoughts about the future, never considering the kind of repercussions it might have on our heart.
This is even evident once you’re dating–you have a great boyfriend, so your imagination runs wild thinking about the wonderful life you’ll have together, all the fun things you’ll do with one another, and so on. Unfortunately, if the relationship ends you’re left feeling even more devastated than you would have otherwise, because you haven’t just lost your boyfriend–you’ve lost your future.
These are the kinds of things that happen when we base our future security on anything but Christ. If we base our future security on being married, then we will always live in fear until we get married. But the thing is, that mentality won’t be remedied the moment you say “I do.” Your security may no longer be based on getting married, but because you have started a habit of depending on other things for security instead of God, then you’ll simply replace marriage with another idol–perhaps with having children, or making a certain amount of money.
You will always have something in your life that, if you can just have it, will make you feel safe in the world. And as long as you don’t have it, you live in fear.
That is why we as women must truly guard our thoughts. Thinking about the future can carry us away in a chariot of lies if we are not careful. For this reason, whenever you feel yourself tempted to start dreaming/worrying about the future in a way that tempts you to depend on something besides Christ for contentment, you must take that thought captive and replace it with the truth that God is taking care of you NOW. As long as I don’t think about the future, I never have to worry about those pesky fears of being single swallowing me up.
Perhaps one day I will get married, but I don’t want to ruin the wonderful adventure that God has for me in the mean time simply because I’m dreaming about a grass that is greener on the other side. As a friend of mine says, the grass isn’t greener on the other side–the grass is greener where you water and nurture it.