Mercy in Loneliness
The following was written on March 13, 2008…
Real as a prayer on a lonely night,
sure as the ocean tide
oh love, oh love
oh the many colors that you’re made of
you heal and you bleed
you’re the simple truth and you’re the biggest mystery
— “Oh Love” —
by Brad Paisley and Carrie Underwood
Who doesn’t long for someone to hold?
Who knows how to love you without being told?
Somebody tell me why I’m on my own,
If there’s a soulmate for everyone.
— “Soulmate” —
by Natasha Bedingfield
Well, I think I’ve finally come to the place where I know at least some part of the answer to some questions that have rested on my soul for the longest time. Disclaimer: by no means does this mean I have it ‘figured out’ or even have peace in my heart – it means only that God has spoken Truth into my life and allowed me a slight glimpse into my own life from His perspective. Before I go any further, allow me to elaborate on what I’m actually talking about.
Ever since the day I figured out girls were cool and that I wanted one, I’ve longed to be married. From then on, I’ve schemed, planned, strategized, and tactically approached dating relationships, and all manner of communication in relation to them. Many a late night during my college years was spent hunched over cheap coffee, either dissecting the latest philosophy and/or theology of dating and marriage. Still more were spent engaging in conversation with any number of my peers as we lamented, celebrated, theorized, and advised each other about the many intricacies of dating life, the opposite sex, and what God thought about all of it. Through it all, I’ve had one constant desire on my heart – to be a husband, a father, and a provider for my future family.
That having been said, my last official relationship ended between 4 and 5 years ago, and I’ve been pondering life, marriage, relationships, and theology ever since. The past two years have been especially fruitful and formative for where I believe I’m headed for the rest of my life, and without getting sidetracked there, I’ll say that they have been an immense blessing despite tough times and long nights. I’ve oscillated drastically from near certainty that a relationship would blossom out of a friendship to nearly vowing celibacy and denying what God has put in my heart for me to do. Through thick and thin, laughter and pain, one constant staccato of questions has ached my soul and been a heavy ballast in my heart: When, where, and how will I meet my future wife… and who is she? I know well the dark nights of the soul when prayers hit the ceiling and the only thing on the other end of the phone line is voice mail. The questions, the uncertainty, the insecurity… all of them welled up within me to the breaking point when I found myself crying out like David, “How long, O Lord, will you forget me?”
It is in the still quietness following that silent crescendo in my heart that I found myself praying constantly for my future wife and kids, for myself, for anything at all that would relieve me of my angst. As the months wore on, God began to show me more of myself, which was a scary thing for me to see. Small faults, hidden insecurities, erroneous presuppositions about the way relationships and marriage and myself worked. These discoveries were all good and well, but deliverance from the ache of missing someone I hadn’t even met still eluded me. Pain. Turmoil. Isolation. Why would God put those into my life if He wired me for marriage and community? What would be the purpose in not having that venue to glorify Him? I had my stuff together, I had my priorities in line, and I was ready, right? Absolutely wrong. What follows is the result of the last couple of days in my meditations on this subject, and they are by no means infallible. I do believe that God has given me insight into my own situation, and therefore I’ve chosen to put it down here. Do with it what you will.
Yesterday as I was driving home from class, I continued on the line of thinking that I’d entertained earlier that morning, namely my future family (or lack thereof) and the omnipresence of those who had found precisely what I longed for. As I plumbed these depths for the millionth time, I had an epiphany. If God would have given me who I wanted (and still very much want) when I wanted her, I would have taken advantage of her, taken her for granted, and failed to appreciate her – or perhaps more accurately, God working through her. Basically, I came face-to-face with the reality that God – in His infinite mercy and wisdom – was allowing me to endure the pain of loneliness for my own good… because as a wise pastor once said, it is much better to be lonely outside of a relationship than lonely inside a marriage. Now, I’ll admit that I’m not much closer to having this figured out than I was yesterday, but I do realize the game I’m playing now. Until I’m ready to lay down all that I dream on the altar of God’s will for me, I will continue to be frustrated, lonely, and wholly unattractive to the kind of woman I pray that I’ll marry. So for now, I’m content to work on that which is in me that is fractured and would do massive damage to a marriage were it given the opportunity. I lean wholly on God’s guidance through Scripture, prayer, and godly wisdom/advice/experience, and thus far have found it to be immensely sanctifying, humbling, and hopefully rewarding than even I thought it would be.