Waiting for the Next Chapter
By the time my mom was my age, she had been married to my Dad for five years and had her first child.
My older sister (aka that aforementioned first child) married her husband at 27 years old and they are coming up on their 3rd year anniversary.
Several of my old friends from high school as well as college are either engaged, married, or even starting families at this point.
I’m constantly hearing from others that women like me are at “that age”. What they mean to say is this is the age where “most” people think about marriage. It’s the age that “most” people are looking to get settled into a long-term relationship with the intent to marry. That age where “most” people are looking to become “home owners” (I use the term ‘home owner’ very loosely because most folks don’t actually own their home, the bank does. But that’s a different conversation entirely).
Despite being surrounded by this (or as surrounded as you can be when social media is a factor), I can’t find myself to be bothered with not only the fact that I’m not thinking about marriage anytime soon, but I don’t even have anyone with whom to think about it! My most recent “romantic encounter” ended about a week or two ago. The “romantic encounter” before that was last summer. And my last actual relationship ended back when I was a Freshman in college (about 2011). In other words: I’ve been single for quite a while. And I’m okay with that. In fact, I’m more than okay with it–I’m glad about it!
What I’m finding more and more with people that I’ve interacted with over the past year or two is that there’s this idea of having a deadline for all of these things: a relationship, marriage, a family, etc. I keep encountering women who seem to be fixated (and borderline obsessed) with finding a husband and finding him before a certain period of time. At one point, I started getting self-conscious regarding my lack of concern for the subject: Is something wrong with me? Should I be looking for a relationship right now? I don’t care about marriage right now but should I? Will it be ‘too late’ by the time I do start to care about it? I found that the answer to all of these questions is No. There’s nothing wrong with me. If I’m not concerned with pursuing a relationship or marriage right at this moment it’s okay. And the idea of it being “too late” is ridiculous.
I think it’s a human tendency to fall into the “comparison game”. We see other people succeeding, buying cars, buying homes, launching successful businesses, publishing books, getting married, raising kids…sometimes it can hit us right in the self-esteem. Especially if they’re living out something that we specifically want. Or if anyone is like how I was, you may be self-conscious at the fact that you don’t even care. I don’t think like that anymore. These are few reasons why I don’t feel self-conscious about where I am in life right now:
Social Media is a Highlight Reel
I honestly feel like Social Media is a huge driving force when it comes to falling into the comparison game. It’s easy to scroll down your timeline and see the goings-on of everyone you know: Oh wow, they bought a new car……Wow, that’s their first home? It’s huge!….Hm. Looks like I’ll be going to a couple more weddings this year….Look at that engagement ring… and so on and so on. But this is something I’ve learned: social media posts are the ESPN highlights of people’s lives. In other words, people are far more likely to post all of the great things that are happening and hardly any of the bad (unless it’s a testimony, but even then you didn’t get to witness the ugly parts). That couple who posted that super cute selfie isn’t going to tell you about the heated argument they had 30 minutes prior. That guy who bought a brand new car isn’t going to tell you about the huge car payment he’s going to have to make every month that he can barely afford. That girl who just went on a vacation to the Islands isn’t going to tell you about how tight her budget is going to be for the next few months. That guy who just proposed to his girlfriend isn’t going to tell you about the credit card debt he dug himself deeper into.
I know a couple (no longer together). They were married for a few years and from what I understand have either divorced or in the process of doing so. It seemed like they were always arguing about something. One night I witnessed them have another round of bickering; the fact that they weren’t ashamed to argue like this in front of people or even their kid let me know that this was their norm. In any case, they both eventually shut down and stopped talking altogether. Fast forward a few hours later, I am scrolling through my Instagram feed and see a post from the wife. It was a photo from their wedding day and along with it a two-paragraph length caption about how much she loves him and how wonderful her life is now that they have each other and how their love stands the tests of time. Needless to say, I was quite puzzled. I knew for a fact that they didn’t make up from their latest argument, but she was painting a false image for the sake of 20 or so “likes”.
I’m definitely not saying that everyone who creates posts like this on social media is a broke, miserable impostor. I’m just saying that not everything is always as it seems. Even for the people who create these posts with the purest of intentions, it is very likely they struggled in some way before getting to that point. Don’t let how you feel about yourself or your circumstances be dictated by what you see in someone else’s highlight reel.
Never compare your Page 3 to someone else’s Page 300.
God’s Timing is Never Late
As a practicing Christian I try my best to pray, read my Bible everyday, and live a clean respectable life. Notice I said the word ‘try’. In no way am I perfect, but I know that I’m steadily improving myself each day and growing into the person God wants me to be. But one thing that I don’t think gets highlighted enough is the importance of patience or “waiting on God”. It’s great to be proactive, to plan things out, to map out your dreams and goals. It’s great to be ambitious, to want marriage, to want kids, and all of that. But I think the problem people face is that they don’t know how to react or feel when things don’t go as planned. Something my Pastor says pretty frequently:
We get so upset when God doesn’t cosign our plans.
Sometimes we get so caught up in what we want, whether it be a relationship, a promotion or anything, that we start getting into this idea that “if we do everything right” God will provide! And He most certainly does provide. It’s just not always when we want it. I would even dare say that most times it’s not when we want it. And there are times that what He provides is something different than what we wanted but it’s something that He knows we need.
First of all, God isn’t obligated to do anything for us. Christians, we know this in our minds but do we always remember that when we’re in our feelings? We could do everything right: Go to church every Sunday, go to Bible study every week, serve in several ministries, give to charity, pay tithes, don’t drink, don’t curse, read our Bible every day, the whole nine yards. But this isn’t a rewards system. And God is not a genie. While He is fully capable of giving us what we desire, we have to face the reality that we won’t always get it. And if we do, it’s not always when we think we should have it.
What I’m finding is that, more than just asking for what I want (because, after all, “you have not because you ask not”), I should also be asking for God’s will to be done. You want to be married by the time you’re 30? Maybe you won’t even encounter your husband until you turn 33. You want that promotion at your job? Maybe you won’t even be working at that company next year. We can pray for what we want, but we have to understand that things won’t play out the way we want if it is not in God’s plan.
There are reasons why we don’t get something and there are reasons why we have to wait. Sometimes God is simply preparing us for what it is that we want. You might want to be in a relationship and have a husband, but are you even ready to receive the man God has planned for you? There are a lot of different scenarios but the point still stands:
God’s timing is always right.
What It Means to Wait
Some people have a distorted view of what it means to wait. People hear the word ‘waiting’ and they somehow think it means they’re supposed to sit around and do nothing. That’s definitely not true. What we really mean when we say ‘wait on the Lord’ is to be patient. And being patient is hard. We live in a society where if you click a link and a tab doesn’t open up in our browser within 2 seconds we complain about ‘how slow the internet is here’. We tap our feet and look among our surroundings as we wait for elevators. We honk our horn at the car in front of us 0.01 second after a traffic light goes green. It’s obvious that patience comes difficult for a lot of us.
We can still keep being active in our pursuits and do the work, but we need to check our attitude when things aren’t happening overnight. There may be some things that you’re waiting to have in life–that relationship, the car, the house, etc. But what does your attitude look like when you’re waiting for those things to come to fruition? Are you keeping a positive mental attitude? If you follow a religion, are you praying diligently? What are you focused on? I know too many people who spend so much of their energy complaining and worrying about what they don’t have (yet) and honestly? It’s exhausting. It’s like hearing a child in the back of a car constantly asking “Are we there yet? When are we getting there? How long is this going to take? I’m tired! My legs hurt! I’m hungry! Are we there yet?!”
Stop focusing on “not being there yet”. Spend that time and energy not just working on yourself and your goals, but also create an ‘outward mindset’. I’ve learned that focusing on and adding value to other people really helps to keep my focus off of myself and the woes that I shouldn’t even be dwelling on in the first place!
My Point is This
Life is not a race. We all have our own timelines in which everything will play out. Just because someone else has received their blessing(s) a little earlier doesn’t mean that yours won’t come to pass. I’ve learned firsthand how unhealthy it is to base happiness and self-worth on the progress of other people in comparison to my own. The only person I’m in competition with is the person I was yesterday. Please don’t waste time and energy worrying about “what ifs”, scrolling through people’s highlights reels, or questioning God. Instead, ask Him to bless you with a spirit of patience. Ask Him to help you keep your heart/mind in check, casting away any negative that would hinder you from your progress. You will get there.
Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up – Galatians 6:9 NIV