A lesson from Month #2:
I live in this world where my life is either a massive economic success, a magic serendipitous romance, or absolutely nothing at all.
The societal narrative is a barrage of voices telling me and everyone else that we either need to have a career, or a man, or an Instagram-worthy lifestyle. And do you want to know the saddest part? For a long time I believed them. Unless I’m careful, sometimes I still believe them.
I was of the mind that my life would only have true depth and value if I got married, and had kids. I didn’t want much. I didn’t need fancy cars, or high-end vacations, or the biggest mansion in the prettiest area code. I could weather any storm, survive any length of mundane, and handle the disappointments of life if at the very least, I had a man who loved me. I could survive anything as long as one day, my dream of becoming someone’s wife came true. Didn’t God owe me that? It was all I wanted.
I guess I didn’t know I was desperate. It seemed every girl I ever knew approached the prospect of love exactly the same way I did. We’d spend hours getting ready “just in case” we ran into a handsome bachelor. We would take laps checking left hands for the absence of rings and linger long and smiley inviting men to ask for our names. Every accepted invitation, every planned event, every time we left the house we all had one thing on our mind: what if today’s the day we finally meet the man of our dreams?
My attempts to narrow the search left me discouraged and devastated. Before long, I was going on dates with any suitor that expressed interest. I started giving my time to men who weren’t worth any time at all. I opened conversations that should have been left under lock and key. And when all else failed to bring me the man of my dreams, I numbed my emptiness with attention. Anyone’s attention. Anyone at all.
All I had to do was soldier on long enough until I found the right guy. If I could just hold it together until he showed up to take care of me for the rest of my life, I’d be all set. Everything would work out. It would all be okay. Friends would often try to soothe my aches with “You’ll find someone someday. God has someone special just for you,” as we stared at their brand new diamonds sitting full of promise on their left hand. Easy for them to say, they already found God’s plan.
But there’s always been something about that phrase that really rubs me the wrong way. Because what if I don’t find someone someday? Will everything still be okay? Will God still be God? Will his plan still be sovereign? What if I never find anybody who wants to marry me?
“You will” most people would say, but that was never really the point. I wasn’t looking for reassurance, I was looking for the truth. Would my life still be okay if I never got married? Would I still be okay if I never got married?
There’s a story in the Bible about Jesus’ encounter with a rich, young ruler. The young ruler comes up to Jesus and asks him what he needs to do so that he can go to Heaven. Jesus begins to recite the ten commandments, and the young ruler, brimming with pride says he’s kept every commandment.
Then it says that Jesus looked at him, loved him, and says that he’s still lacking one thing. That he must go and sell all he has and give it to the poor. Then, scripture says, the young man went away sad for he was very rich.
Contrary to what this story seems to be about, this isn’t a lesson in economics. This is a lesson about idolatry. Jesus is asking this rich, young ruler that if his most prized possession was no longer a reality, would Jesus still be enough for him? Would the King of kings still be enough?
What was that man looking to for assurance? Money. What was he looking to for hope? Money. What was he looking to for security, for salvation, for preservation? Money.
Hearing Tim Keller preach this message was like staring at an unflattering photo of yourself – you just cannot believe that’s what you really look like. But what are most single girls like me looking to for assurance? A husband. What were we looking to for hope? A happy marriage. What were we looking to for security, salvation, and preservation? A man’s love.
We are idolaters of the worst offense. We take God from his rightful throne at the center of our universe and put some fickle-hearted, completely broken human being in his place. Then we dress him up nice with a bank account full of money, and strong arms so that we don’t feel so bad about it.
But Jesus asks us this question, too. If I was all you had, would that be enough? If you never found a husband, would I be enough? If you never became a mother, would I be enough?
Here’s the ugly truth: my first answer to that question was no. I wanted to be married. I wanted the dress, and the ring, and the unconditional adoration of a man I was unconditionally in love with. But this place is dangerous ground. To put the weight of God on anything but God Himself is to sentence that thing to destruction.
Marriage is a marvelous, brave, good thing. But it is not the ultimate thing.