Guest writer, Jana-Lee Patton, shares with us some amazing thoughts. This was a blessing to me, I know it will be for you!
Two fractions do not necessarily make a whole number. In a world full of fractured people it’s no wonder that the divorce rate is so high. You take two fractions and hope that they are the “right” fractions who fit together just so in order to make a perfect whole. From a mathematical perspective the odds are unfavourable at best.
For some reason, which I have yet to discover, there seems to be a preoccupation in our day and age with finding that one partner who will complete one’s seemingly allotted fraction. If you are in the world and playing the dating game, it’s a matter of getting out there and making yourself available to numerous partners of the opposite sex (or not) in hopes that you’ll get lucky and find the one who will fulfill that empty space in your heart and life. If you’re in more fundamentalist circles and have been brought up to believe in the merits of courtship and waiting for God to send the “right one” then you find yourself checking over every eligible male of female who darkens the door of the church or whom you meet at any church gathering and wondering if they’re “the one”.
I have found myself in the latter category most of my youth, beginning at the age when such things become of interest to a teenage girl and lasting into my early twenties. When Mr. Right failed to appear I was forced to examine a few things. I’ve found myself questioning why it is that we human beings play this game of chance with such temerity.
I have noticed that there seems to be an automatic question uppermost in the minds of those whom I meet for the first, or second, or third (or more) time. Casual acquaintances who are themselves either already married or in that state of “looking”. I can almost feel the question simmering. I can usually see it spelled out in their eyes and in the thread of small talk usually engaged in on such meetings before it ever comes out their mouth. They look at me, a twenty-something, attractive young woman, well-spoken and engaging and they just have to ask, “So, are you married?” or “Is there anyone special in your life?” In the past I’ve always shook my head ruefully and made some banal comment about how I’m still waiting on God. Or, they might see me with a young child or baby in my arms and make the, oh so redundant comment, “Looks good on you.” I myself have said it to other singles thinking I was being complimentary when, really, inside a single person’s heart these comments are often depressing because it seems painfully obvious, at least to me, that there does not appear to be enough Godly Christian men to go around. However, that does not negate the fact that God can do anything and He can bring a husband to whomever He chooses, but He may choose not to and it is my job as a single Christian woman to accept His will, whatever that might be.
After several years of this repetitious pattern I found myself getting annoyed by it and wondering why it is that everyone seems to be so preoccupied with the topic of marriage, as though being single was some kind of curse to be endured until the Lord saw fit to reward me with that “perfect someone” who was going to come out of the blue and sweep me off my feet and I’ll be so glad I waited. To paraphrase Jane Austen’s famous first line in “Pride & Prejudice”: “It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single girl in possession of attractiveness and domestic talents must be in want of a husband.” I’ve had young married women relate to me how glad they were that they waited for the right one and how happy they are now and how they just know that they were made for each other and it’s because they were willing to wait so long that this happened, thinking they’re being encouraging to me. When I’d ask how old they were when they got married and they say they were 21, or some similarly young age, I’m anything but encouraged! I’m over the quarter century mark and well on my way to my third decade along with many of my peers and the options appear to be just as limited now as they did five years ago – in some ways more limited perhaps because time has cast my once naive and youthful ideals into serious question.
The Bible says in Psalm 37:4 Delight thyself also in the Lord; and he shall give you the desires of thine heart. I recall my Pastor telling me many times that if I am delighting myself in the Lord then I must believe and trust that the desires of my heart are from Him because it says that He’ll “give” me the desires of my heart – in other words, He puts them there. This prompted me to go to the Lord and ask Him to make His will for me clear by changing the desires of my heart from marriage to singlehood if that’s what He wanted for me. “I want to be in thy will, oh Lord,” I’d pray, “So please bring my desires in line with yours.” All the while I prayed this I knew that it would take a miracle for this to actually happen. I’ve wanted to be a wife and mother since I was a little girl. My own mother is, in my eyes, the perfect domestic goddess and I’ve been said to take after her. I couldn’t imagine that even God – powerful as He is – could change my heart regarding this matter. Oh, me of little faith!
A couple of months ago I got around to searching my heart again and found, to my surprise, that where I once yearned for a lifelong companion I now yearned for a solitary life. Where had this new longing come from and where had the old gone? Had God really answered my prayer? I was amazed and chagrined at my own doubting heart. Thus, I began to search for information on the single life. As a librarian I have access to a wide variety of materials, which I quickly availed myself of as I was suddenly overcome by a passionate craving to read about other people who have chosen to remain single and the wisdom and experiences they may have to share. I also began studying I Corinthians 7 and Matthew 19:12 and anywhere else in the Bible where it talks about people choosing not to marry. I felt like I was engaging in some clandestine and forbidden activity because it feels like such an anathema in church circles these days to not desire filial bliss. I was astounded to discover that there is an entire strata of society, both past and present, who have lived their lives uncoupled and made notable achievements in ways they might not have had they been tied down to a home and family.
Just to clarify: some of the greatest women I know are wives and mothers and grandmothers and I would never belittle that calling. However, I have always seemed so well equipped and been intentionally prepared for the married state that I didn’t stop to consider that perhaps God has another plan for me. By placing domestic bliss so high up on my own personal scale of noble achievement I neglected to consider that there are other options in life as well.
I cannot count how many times in the past decade I’ve heard from well-meaning people, “You’re so sweet and pretty it won’t be long before some nice young man scoops you up.” There was a time when I was flattered and encouraged by these words as my girlish heart soared with the romantic promise of such a statement. And I’m not saying it’s necessarily a bad thing to say so long as there is sensitivity to where the single person is at in their life. Now I find that the Lord has changed my thinking so dramatically that statements such as these cause me to wonder what I would be fit for if I were ugly and had a tart disposition. Would I be passed over as undesirable wife material? I began to realize that my worth involves a whole lot more than just my demeanour and looks. I say this only because I can see, much to my sorrow and dismay, that many a young girl falls into the trap of thinking that she must find a guy (who will preferably marry her) in order to prove her value. I’ve concluded that there is much more involved in any kind of relationship and the evidence is that if the only criteria were looks and disposition then there would be many more of us married, and some who are married, wouldn’t be. I don’t mean to sound vain, I’m merely attempting to point out that true relationship goes so much deeper than mere looks and personality, though these things may provide an initial attraction. However, if it goes no deeper and effort is not made to know and understand the person inside then when beauty fades (and it always does) or personality reveals its many varied facets, the relationship suddenly freezes because there is no depth to it. The depth must begin in the individual and his or her relationship with Christ.
Paul says in I Corinthians 7:34-35 “There is a difference also between a wife and a virgin. The unmarried woman careth for the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit: but she that is married careth for the things of the world, how she may please her husband. And this I speak for your own profit; not that I may cast a snare upon you, but for that which is comely, and that ye may attend upon the Lord without distraction.”
Right in those verses I saw for the first time that singlehood is not a state to be shunned or avoided. Rather, it is a gift bestowed that one may serve the Lord without distraction, and goodness knows there are enough distractions in the world as it is!
Having crossed over that bridge from wanton and fractured singularity to blissfully complete-in-Christ autonomy I now see life in a wonderfully new way. My outlook has changed as have my relationships with people, particularly those of the opposite sex. I no longer feel the pressure of “checking out” every prospective male. It’s as if I’m peacefully asleep to everything relating to that odd dance that occurs between eligible counterparts whereas before I was keenly awake. Such a transformation can only be the Lord because I know without a doubt that I could not achieve such a change on my own.
Returning to the idea of fractions – I’ve come to see that ½ plus ½ (or any fraction) does not make a whole. If one is lucky enough to land on the right combination of fractions they might get really close to a perfect whole. When you add fractions your bottom number always remains the same regardless of how the top number may increase or decrease; essentially, it is still a fraction. Only when you reduce it to its simplest form can you find the whole numbers that may or may not be hiding within the fraction. However, if one takes a complete 1 and another complete 1 you will invariably get a complete 2 because you’re working with whole numbers and not fractions. The Word of God speaks of marriage and says “they two shall be one flesh.” What I’ve realised is that you have to have two whole individuals before you can join them together to become a whole entity. I think many have mistaken this passage to mean that we are all halves or fractions of a whole and in order to become whole we must find our other half or fraction. It becomes a game of chance to see if we can sift through all the pieces and find the one that fits just right. I’ve seen it so many times among young people where it’s as if they are playing a game and who ever is the best and most competitive player wins the jackpot. But, if you happen to be slower than the others or deficient in some way then you’re out of luck and subject to the sympathetic clucking of those who already made it to the next level.
I used to think of singlehood as merely a brief stage between childhood and marriage (and the briefer the better). Now I see it as an honourable state of being in which I can be a whole “one” because of Christ who makes me complete (Colossians 2:9-10a For in him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily. And ye are complete in him . . .). As a single person I have the freedom to do things and go places that my married counterparts cannot do or go, simply because I am at liberty and do not bear the burden of a home and family. I’m thankful for those who do marry and do their best to raise children for the Lord and I admire their courage greatly. I wouldn’t be here if my parents hadn’t done so. However, for myself, I have come to see that the Lord can use me in ways that are different than if I were married and I’m excited to see what ways those may be. I am no longer afraid to step out and do these things for fear I might miss “Mr. Right” should he come by while I’m out. There is so much more that God has put in my life that it would be a shame not to live it fully; it would be a shame to waste it. The future has opened up for me in a new way and I feel such blissful freedom in being the bride of Christ knowing full well that He is more than enough to fulfill every need and desire that He has placed in me as my divine Creator, For he knoweth [my] frame (Psalm 103:14a).
God doesn’t create fractured people. We became fractured through the fall of man and the nature of sin dwelling in us. There is no other way back to wholeness except through the life, death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ who was broken that we might be made whole. However, one has to choose life by entering into His death and thereby resurrecting in newness of life.
Because of Christ’s life in me I am not merely a fraction of a human being. I am a whole number, a perfect “1”, complete in Him. It is finished and so am I!