“We’re ENGAGED! I can confidently say that God has a plan for everyone, and His perfect match for you is out there and is worth the wait! His timing is perfect!”
… says the caption to a picture of a glowing young couple I stumbled across while exploring Instagram the other day.
Cool. Congratulations on having the kind of relationship where you decided it is best to commit to each other for life. Congratulations also on enduring that long wait for The One God saved for you.
Except… You’re 21(ish). And still in school. And you didn’t have to wait that long for marriage.
Maybe it’s a byproduct of Southern values that every time a college girl gets that ring by spring, she feels the need to praise God for her good fortune at finding love and getting to throw a fancy party for her early graduation from the dating pool. But then she also reminds the diamond-less gals that they too can be the belle of the ball someday. The attitude is reminiscent of vaguely Christian antebellum values mixed with survivors’ guilt and a dash of southern hospitality.
You can confidently say God has a plan because you’re already seeing your next chapter. You feel secure about your immediate future because your new ring maps it out for you. But God doesn’t extend that luxury to everyone.
Yes, He has a plan, but it’s not always so confidence-inspiring. Some girls are constantly climbing out of windows because they have so many romantic doors closing on them. Lots of us gave our hearts to someone we thought we would marry, only to find out later that wasn’t The Plan. Some girls do marry that person, but divorce them when they realize they rushed into something that was in their plan, but not in God’s.
You could argue what they learned about themselves and their faith through such a terrible situation was part of God’s plan; something they needed to know before they could move on to the best God has for them. One friend who divorced her husband at age 24, after barely 18 months of matrimony, testified that she was indeed wiser for the experience.
But wisdom gained at the expense of a sacrament isn’t part of God’s plan. It’s a result of the brokenness in each of us as humans. To imply that some people must follow a plan of obstacles disguised as romantic relationships that will transform us into eventual husbands and wives while others receive a ticket to bypass such hardship is naive at best and pretentious at worst. No one confidently knows God’s plans but Him. No one knows His reasons for the events in our lives but Him.
And then some of us have to wait for our help-meet. I mean really wait. I didn’t meet my husband until I was 28, and I consider myself lucky. Many of my friends are still waiting. They’ve passed 30; they’re starting to stare down 40. They’ve seen your two decades and they raise you two more. Waiting for him to show up. Waiting for a sign from God that He hasn’t forgotten about their desire to have a help-meet. It’s not really about the ring or the wedding any more; they’d just like to have someone to laugh and cry and split the rent or mortgage with. That may not sound romantic, but ideas about romance shifted from sorority candlelights and photo-worthy adventures to more practical things long ago. They’ve been in your weddings, they’ve welcomed your children into the world, they’ve become an honorary aunt as they walk through life alongside you and your family.
Now they want their turn.
They do want reassurance that their wait is worth the time ticking by, but they don’t want it from you. They want a nudge, a sign, an email from Tinder or eHarmony or Jesus himself that maybe this spring, that ring can be theirs. He doesn’t have to be perfect. In fact, he won’t be. We all fall short of glory.
Really, they just want a real man who will love them as unconditionally as they are prepared to love – and love Jesus, too.
These women in waiting are stronger than you think. They don’t have a knight or a rock to fix their eyes upon, so instead they look for assurance about what they do not see. They finely tune their hearts to the words of a faith that gives them real confidence in what they hope for, and in the process, learn to block out the empty platitudes about plans, worthwhile waits, and perfect timing.
Perfect timing to them is knowing when the conversation is going to pivot around to their relationship status, and choosing that moment to remind their audience that they have a fulfilling career, friends they care about, and a life that allows for travel, hobbies, pets, and time to be spent however they want to spend it.
Perfect timing is knowing when they’re ready to love the one God has in mind for them, if ever.
Sometimes perfect timing is knowing when to get up during the family holiday dinner to refill their glass of wine.
To these women, your words about plans and perfect matches and timing so confidently pontificated from your vantage point carry some meaning, but that meaning is drowned out by the plunk sound your words make when they invariably bounce off their earlobes and hit the ground.
These women can confidently say: We don’t know what God’s plan is. We don’t like it right now, and we don’t know if we’ll like it once the book of our life closes.
But we’re okay. We’re listening. We’re hopeful.
We’re happy for you.