From searching to becoming.
Friends - we finally made it to the fourth and final part of the Becoming Her series. Let’s go. Gosh, I could just burst with gratitude. What a fun, difficult, incredible season it has been - and will continue to be! Let’s keep it going, shall we?
In a short few months (or perhaps what has seemed like days), we have walked through the slight nudge of conviction, followed by pressing into the romance Christ has for us as part of His Church. We even explored “the trenches” of rummaging through our past as we allowed God to shine His healing light on the darkest corners of our hearts.
We’ve begun the process of creating new operating systems for our minds and hearts. Hopefully, we have found truth behind the wise, ever relevant words of the Apostle Paul when he said, “Be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is - his good, pleasing and perfect will” (Romans 12:2).
I don’t know how long this journey will be for you, just as I did not know how long it would be for me when I started. Some may be in a journey of fighting to find joy in singleness for years, others perhaps only a few months. Some may never be called to this season at all! For few, some will pursue a lifelong journey of celibacy with the Lord. I have met many women who claimed this time and met their husband 2 months later, just as I have met many who claimed a three month period that lasted three years. The few: claimed this time and felt called to a certain passion or career path that did not include marriage whatsoever.
The point is: there is fullness of joy to be found in each and every one of those paths.
But what is the balance between freedom from fear of being single and knowing that you may be called to singleness? I believe the answer is simple: conviction and joy.
With an aching heart, I asked a mentor of mine, "So if we reach a place of freedom from fear of singleness, does that mean we must pursue lifelong celibacy?"
I had feared thoughts like this in the past.
You know, afraid to pray something because God might just give it to you, and even though you know His ways are Higher than your own, you still want what you want and hope in all things good that He doesn't do that?
Yeah. It was like that.
Uncomfortably sitting on my hands, I fidgeted at the thought... The thought that said because I had reached a place of peace, He would then call me there for the rest of my life. While yes, I had learned the joys and blessings of singleness, I still didn't exactly want that for the long haul.
I still wanted a husband. I still wanted to build a home. I wanted the beautiful chaos of raising a family. I still wanted kids of my own. Kids, dude - messy kids. I wanted to wipe their leftover pizza sauce'd little fingers with organic nontoxic hand wipes. Teach them about Jesus. I wanted to run the race with a partner. I wanted it all still. Just because I was at peace if God withheld that, did that mean I had to deny my desire for it?
My rapid train of thought halted; I was brought back to reality at the sound of my mentor chuckling back at my restless ideas.
He laughed, his lighthearted manner both comforting and confusing to me as if telling me softly that I was missing the grand picture once again - as little sisters often do. I could hear him smiling warmly over the phone as he answered by telling me a story of our ministry children’s pastor at the church we both grew up.
“She was engaged, did you know that?”
My eyes widened in shock.
“Sandy?! Was engaged?
He laughed again at my amazement.
“Yeah, she was engaged. I know. She called off the marriage because she wanted to live in singleness with Jesus for the rest of her life.”
My heart dropped. Sandy was one of the most joy filled women in our congregation. Though I haven’t seen her in what may be nearly 5 years, I could still hear her jubilant laughter bellowing from the children’s Bible study room down the hall from the main sanctuary.
It dawned on me then: celibacy was her desire. She had the option of marriage, literally, as her left hand held the ring. The Lord graciously gifted her with the choice, and she chose singleness.
Just as quickly, I was reminded of an old professor of mine from college: James Heft.
Father Heft is a priest, expert in Catholic history, author, professor, speaker, academic, father-figure, and incredible friend. Of the many titles Father Heft holds, “biological father” and “husband” are not included. And yet, he is one of the most joy filled, grateful men of faith I have ever met. His heart cry is to serve, and his conviction and joy in doing that outside of marriage was clear from a young age. Praise God - for he has blessed thousands of individuals through his celibate journey on this earth.
Do you see what I'm trying to illustrate here?
If you do not want that path and you still deeply desire marriage, I believe the Lord wrote that on your heart for a reason. If your desires are pure and you want to pursue marriage and build a home, raise children to know and love the Lord, allowing your marriage to be a vessel through which the gospel is amplified, I believe it is the furthest thing from sinful to pursue dating and follow those God-fearing desires. The outcome will still be up to God. But hear this: you need not fear that God will call you someplace and not provide the joy and strength to pursue it, should you seek His face in the process.
Moreover, I urge you once again to not set a time frame for this season of intentional singleness. Time frames may serve more for limitation rather than encouragement. They can all too easily take on the role of a distraction - making every day a countdown, an “X” on the calendar if you will, rather than an exciting daily question as you approach the throne room to ask, “I’m here. I showed up again today. What will You reveal to me now?”
Lastly, aside from this journey (if and when it ends, which for many of us - it will), I implore you to consider that this is not the “end.” We must always strive to be in a state of self exploration until He comes or calls us Home. If we are not moving forward, we are moving backward. Sin is much too strong for a casual battle plan.
So here we stand.
Things may have begun to normalize now. Hopefully, less emotional rollercoasters surfacing. You’ve said your confessions. You’ve set yourself up with a strong tribe around you. You’re digging, listening to podcasts, journaling, exploring wounds and intentionally reopening them as you wash them out with the power of Scripture and the Holy Spirit. Perhaps maybe, just maybe, you are beginning to taste freedom from fear of singleness.
It is also possible that this heart space is not yet where you have arrived. You have not yet reached a place of peace wherein Part IV: Clothed in White could truly speak the same depths to your heart that I believe the Lord would intend. If this is the case for you, I’d encourage you to go back and reread Parts I - III. Sit with those practical questions for a bit longer. Be brave; be bold. Keep reopening and washing the wounds. Find solace in that there is no set time frame here. There is no rush. You are not behind.
Likewise, you can also continue to read Part IV and let it serve as an encouragement for a place you wish to arrive at the peak or end of this journey.
Peaks of Hope
It took me about 3 months to get to this place of joy in this season... Not 3 weeks, but 3 months. It was not that the following 8 months did not include hardship - quite the opposite in fact. But something shifted in a profound way come that third month.
There was nothing that happened - no massive voice in the sky that spoke my name, no visions, no dreams, no words of encouragement from someone at church. It was a simple, random, Tuesday morning that I woke up and I heard the softest whisper: “It’s just you and Me.”
Even more profound was my reaction to this whisper: a heart drop.
This was a phrase I’d heard couples say many times. It is empowering to know you have a great and powerful partner in your corner, ready to take on life with you. This time though, the “You” was not another human being. It was God.
His goodness and love for me was no longer something I had to convince myself of. Rather, my immediate physical response revealed that I had internalized the meaning of His divine romance to a subconscious and physiological level.
His love was not physical, and yet He was present.
His love was not tangible, and yet I trusted it more than ever before.
I wanted to hide, and yet I found myself willingly curling up in His lap.
My heart exploded with “I love you,” though audible words were left unable to be formed in the grand presence of His pursuit... Yet I knew He felt it 10,000 fold than I could ever say aloud.
All the sudden around the fourth month of this journey, Jesus started whispering a profound, uncomplicated joy into my heart. I woke up, no longer begrudgingly dragging my machete through the trenches and crowded jungle that was the subconscious mind, but instead: I woke up with a hop in my step. I leaped out of bed...
It was another day with Him.
My war cry came out; the battle had been won. I wanted to scream a victory yell every single morning. Let the celebrations begin. Open the flood gates. It was another day with Him! And it was good.
It’s as if my soul cries, “Another day in a love story so profound. The King is calling my name, and I must rise to meet Him.”
He had washed me. The hardest part was done; now He was flooding me with the joy of His promises. To this day, there are nights I lay in bed, grinning, as I struggle to fall asleep because I’m eagerly awaiting the morning light so I can live another day. Another day of creating, another day of living in His promises, another day of being fully known and fully loved, another day of no fear, another day of LIFE.
This is the place of joy and healing that awaits.
A Painted Picture: From Searching to Becoming.
I do not doubt that over the course of the entirety of this journey, even amidst the joy, the Lord will continue to reveal to you the different areas of your heart that will need healing. I do not mean to elicit the idea that we will ever “make it,” be fully healed, nor never experience fears ever again.
This self exploration never stops. We live in a world of hurt, so logically, the need for healing will not cease.
Nonetheless, there is something profoundly different about this part of the journey. Jesus will begin to speak into you, “It’s time to move from searching to becoming who I have originally designed you to be.”
In this phase, you are moving from searching the inner depths of your heart, exploring who you are and healing the wounds you carry, to now: becoming and stepping into His original design.
Let me ask you this...
Who are you?
Moreover, what excites you? By definition, in stepping away from human romance for a season, you get to explore ALL of the other things in life that bring you joy and excitement. What a gift!
What are those things? Is it teaching? Mentoring children? Dancing? Sports? Reading? Writing? Political change? Venture capitalism? Fighting climate change? Art? Theology? Anti sex trafficking? Stocks? Financial advising? Advertising? A certain non-profit? Technology? The fight against homelessness?
As your mind and heart begin to wean off thinking about relationships, you will be baffled over how many other deep, deep desires the Lord has written in your heart.
Let your mind run wild. Sit down and write: to which places does your heart cry out? Ask yourself this: in what areas do you want to be a catalyst? Where do you NEED to see change in the world?
What areas of darkness particularly break your heart and how have you been specifically gifted in a way that will bring healing to that darkness?
As Frederick Buechner said.. “The place where God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world's deep hunger coincide.”
My mind spun at the possibilities.
I want to see change in the way healthcare is conducted. I want to serve junior high young women. I want to WRITE! I want to create; I want to photograph; I want to model; I want to dance; I want to sing. I love speaking with women over coffee as we get lost in black vortex holes of discussions over controversial topics. I love learning about the strong, broken, and fearless women of the Old Testament Scriptures. I want to serve in anti-sex trafficking spheres and I want to counsel women who have endured the pain caused by the evils of that space. I want to bake and cook and run a marathon and study scripture’s history and read more books and spend more time with my roommates and learn about the enneagram and fine wine and how to make good coffee and why impressionism in art makes my heart drop (seriously, how does it do that, it's just strokes of paint I don't get it?) and politics and how to better love and support the LGBTQ community as a Christian and how to be a part of the diversity conversation as a white female and make different kinds of art and paint even if I’m not the best at it and learn guitar and teach myself new skills and improve my vocabulary and.... *BREATHES AGAIN*
Oh my GOD - He is so good that He would give us so many other things to enjoy and be excited about than just finding a spouse!
Can’t we see?
To experience marriage would be a gift, one of the greatest gifts on this side of Heaven. But gosh, to think we are doomed if we don’t experience marriage would be to say that all of these incredible desires God bestowed upon you and me are unworthy and obsolete. THAT is the greatest lie of all. That is the one the enemy wants you to believe.
Life does not begin with marriage. Life is now.
Are you living it?
Light in the Cracks: Desiring Jesus More than Marriage.
I do not doubt you’ve heard before that your wedding day will change your life forever. However, I think all too often we view this change with “rose colored glasses...” Could it not be possible that the ever so coveted gift of marriage may also have its downside? The part that the pretty Instagram photos don’t reveal?
A mentor of mine once opened my eyes to some of the less pretty parts behind marriage. We walked briskly along the coast of PCH in Pacifica, California, a mere three months into my journey. Salty air kissed my face as we watched butterflies dancing on the trail beside our feet. I found myself swaying away from the conversation from time to time, wishing I could turn into one of them... Worry free, dancing along the greenery of the oceanside in Northern California. Oh, what it would be like to just "be." Then, every once in a while, the bushes would rattle and I snapped back to reality.
My mentor's voice faded back in.
“You will spend more of your life married than you ever will single. Look at me, I got married when I was 22, and I am now 54. That means over 30 years of my life I have been with my husband, 8 years more than I was ever single, and that’s including the time that I was a toddler to a young adolescent when I wasn’t even dating. And I’m only 54 years old… That gap will only continue to grow. Once you're in, you can't really go back, at least the way we see it.”
When put bluntly that way - boiling down our life span down to some odd 70 - 100 numbers - our mindset can begin to shift as we see things in a bird’s eye (or God’s eye) view.
Know this: you will (likely) be married longer than you will ever be single. Now is one of the few, if only, times you will have in your life to be fully and completely and only devoted to falling in love with Jesus.
Does that excite you or scare you? Perhaps both, as it was for me.
Pastor Bryan Kim (who I have mentioned in the resources portion in Part II) speaks about where our hearts should stand if we one day are gifted with marriage.
When we stand at that altar, looking in our soon-to-be-spouse’s eyes, we should almost be in tears. Of course, there will be joy - POWERFUL joy. Of course, there will be excitement - a LOT of excitement… Heyoooo ;).
But I pray for you that there would also be a sense of deep sadness in that your relationship with Jesus will not look the same come the next morning and “until death do us part.”
From that day forward, it is no longer “It’s you and me vs. the world, God.”
From that day forward, it is “It’s you and us vs. the world, God.”
As you step into the covenant of marriage, you are relinquishing a completely one-on-one relationship with Jesus Christ. Though your relationship with Jesus will always be something you must pursue on your own accord, you are no longer responsible for leading merely your own heart - as if that wasn’t a challenge as it was. As you become one with your husband or wife, you are stepping into covenant with that person and you are shouldering responsibility for leading his or her heart toward Jesus too. Your family, should you choose to have children, will also be part of your responsibility to lead toward the Lord.
There is a sweet joy that comes when you step into that responsibility, yes! But you mustn’t rush it. This one-on-one relationship with Jesus is a gift for the here and now. There will likely never again be such an extended period of time like this in your life on this side of Heaven.
Again, I will say, a season of singleness is a gift.
Are you starting to believe that yet?
The Promise: Last Nuggets
Bryan Kim continues his series of exploration in singleness as he mentions four important metaphors during this time of becoming who the Lord calls you to be. I have summarized them for us below:
“Everything has a season. If you bypass seasons, you can damage the soil, the seed or even the fruit of that garden.”
The season you are exploring right now is purposeful. You will never be ten years into your marriage and look back and say, “I wish I didn’t step into that season of just me and Jesus” or “I wish I didn’t take the time to heal before I stepped into pursuing another human being.” Literally never will you find yourself saying that. I try to stray away from grand statements like that, but truly, I believe this to the core of my being. No time of healing is wasted. So instead of cowering at the convictions of the Holy Spirit, trust and know that He is bringing His original design for you to the surface. That will serve to bring rich soil to your future in wherever He calls you to serve: marriage or beyond.
Your spouse is the third wheel.
Why is it that we so often forget we have a jealous God? Is He not the one who said to Israel, “I will betroth you to ME forever” (Hosea 2:19)? Is He not the one who smited those who worshipped other gods before the grace of Jesus ruled as the ultimate sacrifice? Jesus will never stop asking you to put Him before your spouse. This should give you peace and joy. Just because you are married does not mean you will not battle those lies we explored in Parts I & II of the pain in finding wholeness from a broken human being. Jesus must remain on the throne for your marriage to healthily succeed.
"The triangle" is made up of rungs of obedience.
You may have heard before that being in a godly relationship is best when it works as a triangle; Jesus at the top. By nature, as two people move upward toward Him, they get closer to one another in the process. But why is it that no one ever speaks on the details of what the triangle actually looks like?
The sides are not downhill slopes. They are not smooth and they are not easily climbed. Rather, they are uphill, jagged on the edges and even at times gruesome steps of faith. Kim says it well as he encourages us to consider the sides of the triangle like two leaning ladders, each complete with its set of rungs with each rung representing steps of obedience. In order to move upward toward Jesus and grow in intimacy with your spouse or future spouse, you must grab onto rungs of obedience.
Simply put: each step to experiencing closer intimacy with Jesus requires a step of faith and obedience. What does it look like to grab those rungs and be obedient now as you move upward to Jesus during singleness?
Don’t lower your standards, increase your patience.
Part of the joyful freedom in moving through this journey is that you no longer feel the pressure of being rushed into finding a relationship. What an absolute joy it is that all you are called to do as a woman of God is step into who Jesus says you are, step into your passions, grow in intimacy with Him, and write Scripture on your heart! That is quite literally, all you have to worry about. Heal, heal, heal, fall in love with Jesus, heal some more, serve others, fall MADLY in love with Jesus, serve again, heal more, and repeat.
When you finally reach the season of harvest, the man who Jesus has in store for you will come out of nowhere and pursue you with fervor and might. He will surprise you, not necessarily because it’s not what or when you were expecting, but rather, because you were so distracted focusing on HIM, the desires He wrote in your heart, and pursuing freedom in Christ, that you forgot altogether what it was like to be marriage-obsessed or controlled by fear of singleness.
No longer are you a slave to fear; you are a child of God.
Your identity is in Him.
You are His beloved.
You are His.
Questions to explore with Jesus and with community in this phase:
Do you know who you are?
Do you know why God created you?
In what area of the world does your heart cry out for change?
Where do you want to be a catalyst?
How can you take tangible steps towards getting involved in places where your heart aches?
In what areas of life do you find yourself lost in the pursuit of Him? Can you make more time for that?
Do you believe in your purpose?
Do you believe in your God?
Hey. I love you guys, a lot. Thanks for walking this journey with me. I'm overwhelmed with gratitude, and praying fervently for your hearts. As for me, it is time for new horizons and to watch Jesus move in new, profound ways. After all, if we're not uncomfortable, we're not trusting Him and giving Him space to show up.
Be bold in His ways & know you are Beloved by the Most High King. Please reach out to me if you want to talk about what this season might look like for you. I could talk for hours on how He showed up and will show up for youu.
Oh, and a very, very Happy Valentine's Day to you. You are loved.