How Do I Know if I'm Settling in My Search for Spouse?

For a lot of years I thought I was going to have to settle for a husband. I was never the girl getting asked out dozens of times and having to perfect my "I think Jesus is calling me to be single...for now" refusals. I dated occasionally, lots of first dates, usually with men I knew fairly well already, but nothing ever really seemed to fit. I began to think maybe my expectations were wild, maybe my requirements were too extreme, maybe I was waiting for some guy who didn't exist. 

I don't know when it happened, somewhere in my 33rd year, but I began to believe being single was actually better than all the mid-life marriages I was surrounded by. Many of my friends were getting divorced or on the brink of divorce or just sort of "meh" about their spouses. I heard more about how hard marriage was than about how good it was. I watched couple after couple face circumstances they didn't expect and end up in the arms of another or just passively facing life together as roommates. I knew that wasn't what I wanted, but I also knew I was getting older and the pickin's seemed slim. The question, for me, became not "Should I settle?" but "What is settling?" That's a hard question to answer for any unmarried person because it doesn't really have a solid answer. You have nothing to compare what not settling looks like because, well, for obvious reasons, that person isn't on your radar. There were plenty of guys I admired for their work and theology ethic, and for their love for the local church and their families. But either they were married to someone else or they hadn't noticed me in any fashion. It was easier to answer the first question (Should I settle?) than to answer the second: What is settling?

It turned out that I didn't need to ask the question or find the answer, because at the proper time and not one minute sooner, Nate and I began to have conversations.

Friends, there was no spark. There was no voice from heaven saying, "This is the one." There was no giddy butterfly in my stomach fluttering up into my heart. There was no chorus of angels announcing my wait had come to an end. There was none of that. There was not one bit of assurance that this guy would be anything other than a guy with whom I had a series of cool conversations about pacifism. The question of settling didn't come into the equation, it didn't have a chance to, because in the space we'd embarked on, I began to think of him as my friend.

Without doubts, without questions, without "What ifs?" Nate was simply my friend. I won't deny there was the hope of something more, but there wasn't space for it to breathe, not much. Not really at all. He was so completely clear with me from the very beginning that it was friendship, and not until he picked up his phone and called me to ask me on a date, could I assume it was anything more. And once it was something more, he continued to use his voice to ask me on more dates, ask me how I felt about continuing to date, and then ask me to marry him. And since then, there have been thousands of more asks from him to me. 

He was not the first to ask me on a date, but he was the first for whom there was a complete absence of doubt for me. People ask: "When did you know he was the one?" I never knew he was the one (I don't even know if there is a such thing as one.). What I knew was day to day to day to day, I was going to walk forward as long as I had faith as it led me to the altar. And then, only then, would he become my one, the question of doubts and fears and what ifs and expectations always taking a backseat to the vows we said standing in front of our friends, family, pastors, and elders. 

We have a really beautiful marriage. It's not perfect. It's not without disagreements or failures or misunderstandings. But it's a really beautiful marriage built on a singular point: faith. Not faith in one another to never fail us, but faith in God that we came together without doubts, with the confidence of our church family and elders, with the joy of our families, with the cheers of our friends. There was faith that we weren't settling. 

God, in his goodness, gave me a husband beyond any of my wildest hopes and dreams, with specificity and precision, with attentiveness to my needs and my wants. God crafted a husband for me as specifically as he crafted me himself. I have not one single doubt that my beloved is mine and I am his, and I never have had one doubt. 

I wanted to say this because since we've been married, I've encountered so many couples for whom doubt was a big part of their dating and engagement. A feeling they couldn't flee from, an uncertainty they couldn't get past, a sense they couldn't shake, a feeling of settling. Or there were doubts of others: concerns of immaturity, fears of unequal yoking, desires to protect from what seemed not good. And yet, they got married just the same, and every day since then their marriage has suffered for it.

These marriages began on what they could see and feel (looks, money, chemistry, security, appearance of godliness), and not on what they could not (faith from God and in God, hope from God and in God, love from God and in God). They made a pragmatic decision to marry for whatever reasons, and now their marriages have suffered for it. It might have seemed to them and others that they were not settling as they said their vows to one another based on appearances, but deep in their hearts they were settling for less than "perfect peace" (Isa. 26:3). 

Listen to me: if you are married or will be married, there will come hard times when money will be scarce, looks will falter, houses will be lost, jobs will be gone, churches will be difficult, and children will be a source of ache: what sustains you in those times is that strong and certain faith in the God who drew you to one another. If you married your spouse, or they married you, without a certain faith and an absence of doubt, ask God today to give you the gift of faith that this is your beloved and ask him to give your spouse the same gift of faith. God wants to give you that gift! He's longing to give it to you. 

If you are unmarried, trust God. You will know you are not settling because there will be not only an absence of doubt in you, but an absence of doubt in them, and an absence of doubt in your community.  If you do not have community, then do not get married. I mean this. Wait. To get married without a strong, loving community who will speak truth to you even if it's painful, is to invite trauma into your marriage before you've even started. If you feel the presence of doubt, the question of whether you're settling, might that be the Holy Spirit, protecting you from future angst and trauma? Marriage is so full and so fun and so wonderful. I want that for you, but you have to want it for you and you have to believe it can exist for you. God wants to give good gifts to his children! Believe that he wants to give you bread and fish instead of a stone and serpent. 

Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent?  If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him! Matthew 7:9-11

The enemy is crouching at your door, waiting to devour you. He's waiting to devour your singleness, your future marriage, or your present marriage. Do not give him a foothold by moving forward without faith. Trust the Lord: it would be better to remain single than to be in a marriage headed for divorce as soon as the vows have been said. 

*I also recognize that there may be some couples who thought they had this absence of doubt in themselves and their community and moved forward, only to find themselves in a train wreck of a relationship today. I ache for you and pray God would show himself to be enough for you in the wake of disappointment, failure, and sin. He is enough. Put your faith in HIM and not in a fixed, healed, or whole marriage as you would see it. I'm praying for your marriages today. 

 

A Different Kind of Dominance in Marriage

Have you ever injured your dominant hand? Maybe as simple as a paper cut, maybe a broken arm or stitches or a sprain. I've done it a time or two and had to use my other arm which feels like some sort of cruel joke. I wonder sometimes why God gave us dominant hands. Wouldn't it have made more sense to make both hands just as useful all the time? In my wisdom I think so. But then there are times when I have to use my subservient (but certainly not submissive) hand and think to myself, Lord, I'm so grateful I don't always have to do this because it's hard, but it makes me so grateful for that one useful hand. Learning how to be married is a bit like that. Not the lovely parts of marriage, the friendship, the laughter, the good, deep, and cleansing renewing conversations, the dreaming, the sex, the shared goals and visions. Those are so lovely and I wish every bit of them on everyone I know. I mean the parts I don't know how to do, the being a wife, the being a home-maker, the working from home wife, the being alone or having to do so many things by myself I never envisioned were a part of marriage. It feels like using my left hand when my right hand is all I've ever used.

Last night, after staying late into the evening in the District for some work things, Nate was taking the last train home and, as commonly happens, his train was stopped and they recommended finding alternate forms of transportation. I had just settled into bed with some apples and peanut butter, Manor House, and my pup when his text came asking me to drive and pick him up. I threw on my slippers and a hoodie, glanced at my phone which only had 5% left on it, hoped our car charger would work (it hasn't been), and set out for a 45 minute trek through unfamiliar roads to a train station I'd never been to.

About halfway there, though, my phone died. I pulled the car over, breathed really deeply, knew I was about to cry since I had no earthly idea where I was, it was dark, my phone was dead, and I knew somewhere in this big bad world my husband was waiting for me. Common sense took over soon enough and I just kept driving until I found a convenience store to ask directions. I finally got to the train station and found my dear man waiting for me and we began the trek back home—this time with his GPS on.

I felt one handed on the drive there, unprepared for the night, without a navigation system, dressed only in my pajamas, dependent on strangers (drunk ones) to give me directions, on which they couldn't agree and nearly got into a fight about because, as it turned out, they were giving me directions to two different train stations.

This feels like marriage sometimes, I thought this morning. I feel woefully unprepared, without a navigation system, and at the mercy of feuding strangers on the Best Ways to Do Everything. Of course I'm not woefully unprepared and I do have a navigation system, but it's not always as neat and organized as the books, or Bible, make it out to be. It often feels like I knew how to do singleness very, very well, but now I have to use this other, unused part of my brain, heart, skills, everything, and learn from the ground up. Marriage isn't more sanctifying, it's just different sanctifying.

My friend Haley and I got married a year apart and we've been able to talk through some of these challenges, joys, sorrows, together, along with some other aspects of life. We've started a little blog together called Tables and Miles: Friendship, Food, and Finances from Far Away. The premise is just that we'll write a letter to one another once a week on it, talking about those elements in a way that interests us, and might interest you. If it does, here's the link. We just using the free Wix platform because who has money to spend on hobbies?

My friend Hannah Anderson wrote a great post on writing that I thought worth sharing, for readers and writers.

Lexy Sauve wrote an excellent piece on new years and cleaning routines and our hearts. I cannot recommend it enough.

Along the lines of Hannah's article, someone shared this and I found it convicting and interesting.

The Rabbit Room writers shared their favorite music of 2016 here and I made a playlist on Spotify (though, please, for goodness sake, buy some of these albums and support their art. The amount of work I do as a writer and don't get paid for makes me realize how little our world puts actual value on art, and I want to do better about giving toward faithful artists.).

I hope you enjoy your weekend. Perhaps think about some ways you've been called to use your less than dominant hand in life these days, and what the Lord might be teaching you through it.

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