It’s not very often that I get mad during Sunday school. Sunday school is reserved for spiritual stuff, and yelling is kind of a no-no. But I remember, one Sunday morning long ago, where I had had it.
The topic was Moses and all his wandering around. At the end of the class, our teacher asked if there were any questions, and I blurted out something like this: “Moses never even got to get to where he was going. THERE IS TOO MUCH WAITING IN THE BIBLE, AND I HATE IT.”
What can I say? I was single, in my thirties, and felt like I’d been wandering around in my own unmarried desert. True, I’d been a Christian for four years, not forty. But for a good majority of those four years I had been waiting for Jesus to swoop in and provide me with the Super Single-girl Jackpot: the Handsome Christian Husband. And it just wasn’t happening. Still spouseless and nearing my mid-thirties basically meant I was almost dead, which really narrowed my prospects. I felt short-shrifted. That phrase “Wait on the Lord” only irked me. It made me wonder: was Christianity just a series of tense breath-holding exercise until God finally provided, long overdue?
Before I became a Christian, my life was one of immediacy and streamlined comfort. None of this “waiting for God’s best” was going on. I had spent twenty-eight years settling for a whole bunch of sinful second best. Basically, I led a drive-thru existence. I had multiple crash-and-burned relationships and a huge Visa bill to show for it. My life had become nothing but a series of events, people, and things piled on to make me feel better, so failure was inevitable. People leave. Things become dust. My heart became weighed down and empty, all at the same time. I remember one evening, looking around my perfect and lonely house with a tear-streaked face. “There has to be something more, right?” I cried, startling both myself and my dog with my despair.
And that’s when Jesus showed up and answered, quite gently, “Yes, my sweet girl. There is.”
I gave my life to Jesus because I had no choice. I had exhausted all the other options. My conversion occurred due to a loneliness so sharp that my surrender to Christ was complete and holy and amazing. And for about three months or so, Jesus was all I needed.
My conversion occurred due to a loneliness so sharp that my surrender to Christ was complete and holy and amazing.
But then life came on in.
And the Lord set me down in it and said, “Okay, let’s do this together.”
And I responded, “Sure. Should be easy, right?”
I still needed Jesus, but—as is often the way with humans—I started to think of a lot of other things I needed right along with him. I was walking the walk, doing the Christian life, but I started to figure that Jesus should be offering a more tangible benefits package. Inner peace and blessed assurances were great and all, but I wanted something I could hold on to. Literally.
I wanted a husband.
I don’t really know what came over me. Prior to my conversion I had never really thought about getting hitched. It seemed like a faraway and impossible destination, like Disneyland when you’re broke. But now it was like I couldn’t see the Christian life through all the married Christian trees.
All I could see were happily united Christian couples, all glowy and serene, everywhere I went. They sang praise songs together at my church, the guy on guitar, his wife holding the mic, eyes closed with fervor. They led small groups in their small houses. They were constantly inviting me to game nights and caroling parties, where they announced that babies were on the way, and thus their adorableness multiplied. If Instagram had even existed back then, I would have started my own hashtag: #ChristianCoupleCuteness, which sounds weird and rather stalkerish, but that was my mindset. I was on a mission to find my other half. I had Jesus now, after all, so now I was ready. With Jesus beside me, I had reached “pinnacle human;” therefore, marriage was all that was left.
Eight years. Eight years I waited. I spent eight years standing in line, thinking surely I would be next. But someone else always managed to maneuver over to a faster-moving queue, and I was left standing still, holding my life in my hands and looking haplessly around.
There were more than a few times that Jesus and I had some heated conversations about my situation. I was convinced that, somehow, time spent being single was a waste, like marriage was a sort of Kickstarter campaign for living. Singleness only had me sitting in a crowded terminal, amongst the noise and throngs and stress, and I longed for the peaceful destination of marriage. And yes, I do have to laugh about that idea, now. Some ten years, married and with two small boys who are currently trying to sit on me while I type—well, let’s just say I don’t exactly get to dial up calm on a daily basis.
As the months and then years passed, I also kept wondering, Is God trying to tell me something? Was he trying to let me down easy, give me the old, “It’s not you, Dana, it’s me” speech—when, really, it was me? Was I so messed up that I would have to wait a very, very long time before I met the man who would willingly take me on?
Or was my special someone so royally screwed up himself that a good decade or so was needed to iron out his issues? I figured that was more likely.
Both ideas were very depressing, though. Also, they delve into the whole “Does God have one special soul mate just for you, or do you just go with the hand that’s dealt you?” And that’s an entirely different article for another, much braver writer.
I don’t know if Brian was my only Special Someone in God’s plan, but I sure know this: when I finally did meet him, at an ancient thirty-six, I felt like I had finally reached the summit of Everest. I could stand still, stretch, look across the vista, and shout, “FINALLY. I CAN RELAX!” (Did you know? You can’t really relax at the top of Everest. It’s so not a good idea. Cue the foreshadowing about my ideas on marriage.)
But here’s the thing. Impatience and weird expectations aside, I don’t think I would change much about those years. True, I colossally messed up the whole waiting thing, but I’m glad. It taught me so much about how to live my life with a daily, in-the-thick-of-it, keep-your-eyes-on-Jesus-and-nothing-else kind of mindset. I totally failed Waiting 101 in my single days, but it changed my life for the better. Failure can do that.
I totally failed Waiting 101 in my single days, but it changed my life for the better. Failure can do that.
The next time I find myself sighing and looking into that hazy future, waiting, I pull myself back and pray. And my prayers are rooted in the present. They are deeply punctuated with thanks for the big fat RIGHT NOW, like for my cup of coffee—still hot, which all moms know is a minor miracle. Or for my children—well and healthy and still trying to sit on me while I type. I am thankful for my husband’s kiss this morning—furry because of his new beard. I thank God for the tall and short of it, all the big and small blessings that pack themselves into every breathing moment of my day. And with these meditations, that leaning, longing, waiting feeling fades—or, at the very least, it seems not quite so uncomfortable.
And when it really does seem like the waiting is the hardest part, I remind myself of one life-changing truth: Jesus waited for me for twenty-eight years.