The Life I Never Knew I Wanted
- Tuesday, November 08, 2011
Warm sweaters, wool socks, every pair of underwear I own—check, check, check. How do you pack to go to the other side of the world for an indefinite period of time? I never would have dreamed this plot development in my life's story.
It was September 6, 1999. After years of praying, dreaming and preparing, I was moving to Russia as a staff member with Campus Crusade for Christ and I didn't know how long I would be there. At 27 years old, I was thinking I would be there for five to seven years. I was about to embark on one of the greatest adventures of my life and, at the same time, one of the greatest challenges of my life. I guess adventure and challenge go hand in hand.
I have always wanted to make a difference, to be a part of something significant. Knowing Jesus and growing in my relationship with him has been the most significant element of my life. It really was and is the thing that gave context to everything else—everything. Decisions about what activities I would participate in at school, conversations with friends, how I chose my friends, how I viewed relationships with guys. You could call me an idealist. That is not to say that I didn't struggle with sin, because I knew I was far from perfect.
The problem was that I didn't always know how to relate to others who came from a different perspective. I could articulate my point of view and even listen to theirs . . . but then what? I wasn't sure. Most times my attempts at taking the conversation deeper ended in a debate or in the other person disengaging and abandoning ship. My approach wasn't working.
It was hard to find people who understood me and, frankly, I didn't understand them either. In my strategic plan for finding companionship, the pickings seemed close to nonexistent. I wasn't too troubled. Sure, my parents had known one another since childhood, but what was the likelihood that my lifelong friends or my mate would be one of the 4,000 students who walked the halls of my high school. What I needed was a bigger pond!
I'd like to think that I attained a higher level of social maturity in college. In fact, I'm sure I did. I found some like-minded friends who demonstrated an abundance of grace and patience with me. I learned what it meant to be a friend to those who saw eye-to-eye with me on most issues, as well as to folks like my potluck roommate whose style involved a bizarre potpourri of skeletons, Jane's Addiction T-shirts, and Mickey Mouse posters. I got involved with Campus Crusade for Christ and learned how to share my faith with strangers and how to lead a prayer movement among my peers. I also learned how to have fun. Nothing crazy—I was still a strategic idealist living for Jesus, but I found that fun could be very enjoyable as well as valuable.
As my date of departure for Russia drew near, I fielded a lot of questions. By far, one of the most common was this: 'Don't you want to be married?' Many equated finding a suitable mate with geographical placement. Many of them wondered, "How in the world could she find someone to marry in Russia?" It's not that I wasn't thinking about getting married—I certainly was. At the same time, I figured that I had spent quite a few years in geographical locations that placed me around hundreds and hundreds of like-minded singles. I had not yet found my mate in their midst. Contrary to what many of my friends seemed to think, staying in their company didn't seem to be a guarantee that I would end up living out a "happily ever after" ending.
More importantly, though, I was absolutely convinced that I was supposed to go to Russia. It was strategic, it was a cause greater than myself, it was something I wanted to do with my heart as well as my mind, and I had a peace in my heart (along with a great deal of trepidation) that by going to Russia I would be living out one of the purposes for which I was created. If God created me to do this, it didn't make any sense to me that he would punish me for doing what he wanted me to do. He is kind. He is loving. And he promised that he would not withhold any good thing from those who walk uprightly. Even though I wanted to get married, how did I know that was really what was best for me? I had to trust him.
In Russia I had the privilege of developing deep, close relationships with quite a few Russian women. Some of them were my roommates. I got to see firsthand what it was like to trust God when there were none of the safety nets that come with living in a Christian culture. I got to see how some of those safety nets were evidence of God's grace in our lives in the USA and how, on the other hand, they can become idols that we give our hearts to instead of giving our hearts to Him.
So how are their lives so different? Let me describe just a few of the realities my single friends faced. What do you do with a desire to be married to a godly man of character when the only men you know fitting that description are, well, already married? What choice will you make when your grandmother tells you that she never wants to see your face again until you can call yourself a wife to some man—any man? And what do you tell your doctor when he tries to convince you that all of your medical ailments will be resolved if you will just go get laid? I didn't make any of these situations up. They are real examples that my dear friends faced. If it's hard to trust God's goodness in the midst of your singleness in America, it makes me realize that my Russian sisters who walk closely with Jesus and trust him with their whole lives truly are heroes.
So now we fast-forward to the present. It is 2011. As of April of this year, I once again live among the throngs of beautiful Christians in Dallas, Texas. I am 39 and, yes, still single. Am I a bitter, disillusioned, recovering idealist? Do I feel like God tricked me? Have I lost all hope that I will live out my years with some Prince Charming?
Like anyone who lives with a deferred hope, I can find myself in a battle with self-pity. Most days, I am grateful for the life I have lived and am living and I wouldn't exchange it for a guy with a glass slipper in his hand. The rich abundance of this life that I never would have imagined for myself is a lavish gift. I have in no way felt cheated by the Lord. I would still love to find a like-hearted companion who longs to strategically live a life of passionate abandon in following Jesus and calling others to join us. It's not a desire I am entitled to having fulfilled, but it is an ever-present motivation to lean into Jesus and trust in his goodness.
The choices I have made to serve God with my life are by his grace and in response to his love. I haven't made them to earn his love, for I never could do enough to earn it. Unmet desires give extra cause to press into him and maybe that's why his best for me is not to give me everything I want. If that is so, I love him even more for it because he has given me himself and that really is more than enough.
Cheryl Boyd is on staff with Cru where she currently serves in launching a new ministry among young professionals in cities across the country. For 12 years she called Russia home as she helped give national leadership to the campus ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ. Follow Cheryl on Twitter: @cheryloboyd.
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