He Said-She Said: Stop Thinking About Finding a Mate
- 2011 24 Feb
EDITOR'S NOTE: Each He Said-She Said column features a question from a Crosswalk.com reader with responses from a male and female point of view. If you've got a question about anything related to singleness or living the single life, please submit it to He Said-She Said (selected questions will be posted anonymously).
QUESTION: They say that the moment you stop thinking about [finding a mate] or "lay it down" is the moment it will happen for you. Is this even possible to stop thinking about it when surrounded by people getting married, having babies or getting invitation cards that read to _____ and partner?
HE SAID: Sure it's possible to stop, but it certainly isn't easy to refrain from thinking about finding a mate (or from comparing yourself with friends who have) when you're receiving piles of invitations to weddings and showers, and surrounded by everyone else's marital and maternal bliss.
I have also heard "They" say, "The more you try not to think about something, the more you do." How true is that?
We are sort of raised to have a "Circle of Life" mindset.We graduate from high school, go to college, meet our college sweetheart, get married, settle down, have kids, they grow up and the whole cycle continues. That's what many older singles including myself probably "thought" would happen before AARP (American Association of Retired Persons) notices start showing up in our mail.
We formulated and prayed for our plans and goals, tried to achieve them in the best and most honorable way we know how, yet we are disappointed and frustrated when "our" plan doesn't come to fruition especially when we see others, some of who may not have led as moral of a life, have.
I alone know the plans I have for you, plans to bring you prosperity and not disaster, plans to bring about the future you hope for (Jeremiah 29:11).
It's natural to measure ourselves against others based upon our age or where we are in life, and it's easy to look and think about what others have. However, each of us has our own journey (and timeline) which God has specifically planned and created for us.
We are instructed in Exodus 20:17, "You shall not covet your neighbor's house. You shall not covet your neighbor's wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor," and although most of us aren't necessarily coveting his wife or her husband specifically, we may be in a sense coveting what our neighbor has—a mate, a marriage and children.
Even though our yearning is to get hold of "things" we want when we want them, over the years I have learned many of those "objects of my desire" weren't necessarily the best for me or weren't right for me at that time. I have often been spared from hardship and as a result been able to enjoy a variety of other blessings I never would have expected.
The way I try to (somewhat) "not think about it" is by keeping my eyes open for what God has for me that is "even better" than a relationship at this time. I look for what he wants me to focus on and be a part of now, instead of worrying about what I want. Then I expect great things from him.
Each of us has a specific path for our lives, some may look very similar, but many may be altogether different. It's not easy to live in a society where you are "expected" to have a significant other and don't, constantly being bombarded by advertisements and media telling us "what we need" or "how we can become more ‘complete'." We ARE complete, if we are in the Lord.
I'm reminded of the lyrics to the classic hymn, "Turn Your Eyes upon Jesus."
Turn your eyes upon Jesus
Look full in His wonderful face
And the things of Earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of His glory and grace
If we turn our eyes and attention upon Jesus, looking at him and striving to do what he wants us to do in our situation, the "things of Earth" (including other people's relationships or our lack of) will grow dim (in our thoughts) because we are focusing on something that is even more radiant, his will.
I understand that's a lot easier said than done, but it can be done.
And yes, there is some truth to "their" statement—When you aren't "looking" for a mate and seeking God is the moment it will happen, he will give you the desires of your heart (Psalms 37:4).
SHE SAID: Yes. And no. And everything in between. Next question?
Seriously, though, this is great to ask because it really is something that all singles can relate to in their singleness. We are always surrounded by reminders that we are single (but we are not alone, amen?). And me, myself and most of my single friends have struggled with how to stop constantly thinking about finding a mate as well.
Sometimes it's easy to lay it aside and sometimes it's not. That's my short answer, really. I've found that the busier I am in other areas of my life (work, church, volunteering, etc.) the less I think about the fact that I am single and where, oh wherefore art thou, is my future mate?
Then, there are other times when I have some down time in my schedule, and I have more time to think. Or a movie (drama, romantic comedy) can also trigger my mind and get me thinking (okay, maybe obsessing) about finding a mate. And then there are the holidays. Any holiday. Take your pick. Wherever and whenever there are lots of people gathered who are socializing around any sort of occasion, there is bound to be discussion about family and significant others. Plus, you can guarantee you will be asked "why are you not married?" or "are you dating anyone?" at these kind of get-togethers. I promise.
So what's a single to do to keep this kind of thinking in balance? Well, whatever anyone else does—or is instructed to do—when he or she is struggling with an issue in life: take it to the Lord in prayer!
Philippians 4:6-7 tells us:
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
I had the opportunity to hear Pastor Tim Keller of Redeemer Presbyterian Church (PCA) in New York City preach on this same passage recently, and what an encouragement it was to me. I especially liked the way he unpacked how we are to bring our requests to God. Praying with thanksgiving means that we are thanking God for what he has already done, is doing and will do—because if we knew what God knows and if we could see what God sees, then we would just go ahead and thank him for his protection and his perfect provision in our lives.
Make sense? It was a lightbulb moment for me to be sure. God already knows what is best for you and for me. And to that end, should we not just go ahead and be grateful for that and for his omniscience right off the bat?
Believe me, I know it's not easy. But if I truly believe that God is all-knowing and all-powerful and that he has a perfect plan for me and my life, then I should be able to rest in the knowledge that it is not meant for me to be married today. Tomorrow is another issue. But today, I can rest in knowing that I will "find my mate" whenever I am supposed to and that in the meantime—and that's the key word, meantime—he will guide me in the choices and decisions I am making as I live my life as a single adult.
So then, speaking of meantime, how should I be living today?
Well, to list out every verse that speaks to Christian living from the Bible would be … well, let's just say it would take a long time. So I'll just offer to you one of the passages that is most convicting to me from God's Word and which I think encapsulates what living out the gospel (God's love demonstrated to us and our response by demonstrating this love to others) really means:
Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with God's people who are in need. Practice hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written, "It is mine to avenge; I will repay," says the Lord. On the contrary: "If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head." Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good (Romans 12:9-21).
So that laundry list of instructions should be just about enough to keep us all busy and focused on others in the meantime, right? And maybe just enough to keep us in step with our primary purpose while here on earth: being ambassadors of the gospel and sharing the good news that Christ died for our sins.
Whether we get married or not is secondary to the call God has placed on each of our lives as his children to be a source of light in our world and point others to him (Matthew 5:13-16). May we never forget that, even as we struggle with thinking about finding a mate, and as we strive to serve our Lord and Saviour with the lives he has purposed for us today.
HE is … Cliff Young, a Crosswalk.com contributing writer and a veteran single of many decades. He has traveled the world in search of fresh experiences, serving opportunities, and the perfect woman (for him) and has found that his investments in God, career and youth ministry have paid off in priceless dividends.
SHE is … Laura MacCorkle, Senior Editor at Crosswalk.com. She loves God, her family and her friends. Singleness has taught her patience, deepened her walk with the Lord and afforded her countless (who's counting anyway?) opportunities to whip up an amazing three-course meal for one.
DISCLAIMER: We are not trained psychologists or licensed professionals. We're just average folk who understand what it's like to live the solo life in the 21st century. We believe that the Bible is our go-to guide for answers to all of life's questions, and it's where we'll go for guidance when responding to your questions. Also, it's important to note that we write our answers separately (we think they sound eerily similar sometimes, too!).
GOT A QUESTION? If you've got a question about anything related to singleness or living the single life, please submit it to He Said-She Said (selected questions will be posted anonymously). While we are unable to answer every inquiry, we do hope that this column will be an encouragement to you.