The Point in Disappointment

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“Hope deferred makes the heart sick” ~Proverbs 13:12a

            It sure does, doesn’t it? Proverbs speak to the human condition, and this one is no exception. We’re all familiar with disappointment. You don’t get invited, you don’t get the promotion, or the heartbreak of a break-up is hard to shake. Can I be real with you? Lately, it’s been tempting to view singleness itself as one long string of disappointments. In my 20’s, the single life has been an overall positive experience. The Lord has used my status in greater ways than I could imagine. Yet every once in a while, an event will unearth emotions that force me to put into practice everything I write about. Do I really believe that God is good? Does He truly have my best in mind?  Unreturned interest [again], loneliness when life is tough and I honestly just want to be held, and heart-shaped candy overrunning the grocery store can all serve as triggers for a sick heart.  So what will it look like to climb out of this rut? I believe the answer is found in the second part of the verse.

Part B of the proverb says that “a desire fulfilled is a tree of life.” At first glance, this line doesn’t seem like it could be a comfort to those of us with sick hearts. We understand that our fulfilled desire would be awesome. That’s what makes deferment so tough! But I find it interesting how the picture chosen is a “tree of life.” That same symbol is used in the Garden of Eden as the promise of provision, in Jeremiah 17 to illustrate a man whose trust is in the Lord, and in Revelation 22, which describes another tree of life that bears fruit in the New Earth.  Yes, getting the good things we want this side of heaven would be great, but even those things can’t truly fulfill us.  The shrubs that sprout with a new relationship or a new job can indeed bring temporary satisfaction, but they pale in comparison to the ultimate gifts that the Sower has in store.

Ecclesiastes 3:11 tells us that God has written eternity on our hearts. So what does disappointment point to? God fashioned us with a mechanism for hope. The temporary gifts He graciously gives us may use this design plan from time to time, but when it fails us in the short run, we need to understand that it won’t in the long run. Our hopes will ultimately find their restful bliss in Christ and His redemptive plan. He alone has the power to forever wipe away tears. He alone has the ability to satisfy the deepest longings of our souls. Only Jesus can heal our sick hearts. The beautiful part is that the deferment only adds to the bliss of fulfillment. It’s worth the wait.

So what do we do in the meantime? Should we hope for earthly things at all, or should we just build walls around our hearts and hope that Jesus returns soon? I see the temptation to start putting some bricks together. Even though I have this desire for marriage, the fear of rejection sometimes prevents me from putting myself out there. Nevertheless, I think God has more in store for our hurts and hopes than eventual eternity.

A symbol that comes to mind when I think of unfulfilled hopes is a wishing well. But, if you really think about it, the picture it paints isn’t all that hopeful. Just throw in your spare change and watch it fall to the bottom. It will join other dreams in a watery grave. No redemptive value or investment, just algae-collecting. Then, you go on with your life, longing for something that may or may not happen.

God’s kingdom operates very differently than a wishing well. In His detailed plan, deferred hopes do so much more than collect pond scum. Each rejection, every heartache, all the missed opportunities are invested. They are sown like seeds that will have their time to bring forth fruit. The fruit may be as simple as time spent with Jesus while you walked through a healing process. Perhaps it will look like a tender heart that is a comfort to others, having experienced loss. Or maybe it will be a thicker skin that’s ready to take on what life has in store. No ache will be wasted. It all has a purpose. If you feel like you’ve been hit with one disappointment after another, know this: God is going to cash all that in one day.

That being said, do we continue to hope for earthly events to take place? With some hesitation, my answer is yes. I hesitate because I know it will mean more heartache for a lot of us. I hesitate because I realize the struggle of finding ultimate hope in Jesus with other competing hopes in our hearts. But is heartache really the end of the world? Ache means growth if you are following Christ. Longing reminds Believers that ultimate satisfaction is waiting in what’s to come. So maybe we should continue to prayerfully, yet prudently hope for good desires, offering it up to God and trusting that He has a purpose for it, either in heartache or fulfillment.

 

Love,

Rachelle

To the Man who Takes my Place

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I knew from the moment my question went unanswered. Up until that point, what I had to say always claimed her audience above anybody else (you know, besides Jesus).  For the past nine years, we’ve been inseparable.  Nothing earthly knows her better than I do, but I’m starting to realize that won’t always be the case. And so, my words hung in the air as she caught your gaze from across the room and everything, including myself, faded into the background. I won’t lie- it stung in the moment, but can I blame her? You’ve been the perfect combination of Cary Grant and Walt Disney. I mean, your chivalry will be the cause of her forgetting how to open a car door, and your creative date-planning skills would turn the heart of the worst man-hater to mush!

….Accepting Change….

When a best friend dates and begins to date seriously, it’s natural for things to shift. Change is part of life, and this particular change has been prayed for by her and myself for most of our friendship. Now that those prayers have been answered, my moment of possessiveness sounds ironic. For the time being, that emotion was fleeting. But in all honesty, it will likely return. You know what a catch she is, and can at least somewhat understand how difficult it might be to surrender some parts of our sisterhood to make room for an outsider.

Even though I can’t compete with hammocks under the Mt. Charleston stars and fancy dinner date nights, I think I’m still MVP, at least for now. It’s a role I don’t take lightly. It’s a role that you shouldn’t take lightly, either. Here’s why: we are sisters. If I saw any red flags, she would consider them. If I had any reservations, I would have her full attention. It’s only fair to mention that so far, no concerns have surfaced. In fact, I’m convinced that besides the work of Jesus in her heart, you might be the best thing to ever happen to her. You seem to have figured out her quirks and broken down walls in record timing. The giggles and laughter that ensue whenever you call echo through our apartment. Sometimes, after coming home from a great date the night before, she’ll actually wake up cheerful, and she’s by no means a morning person. There’s a new level of exuberance in her countenance, and I can’t help but notice that the transformation began right around the time that the two of you started talking. Most important among your merits however, is that you claim to know Jesus. And the fruit of that claim seems to be evident in how you love and serve others, even complete strangers. But a bestie needs more assurance than that. A bestie needs to know that her sister will be well-taken care of, should you one day ask a question that will dress her in white. I’ve narrowed it down to the three things that I want you to have in order before you get down on one knee.

….The Requirements….

First of all, I need you to be fearful of loving her too much. That sentiment might fly in the face of everything our culture tells us about love, but let me explain. She might make a great girlfriend. She is, without a doubt, wifey material. If God blesses her with children, she’ll be a fantastic mother. The one role she’d be terrible at is taking the place of God in your life. She’s a wonderful human being, but her flawed humanity is unable to carry the weight of your cosmic expectations. So don’t ask her to. Fight hard to love Jesus more, and tremble at the thought of anything less so that my dear friend can be appropriately treasured, not idolized.

Secondly, cultivate godly male friendships. Allow older men in the church to speak into your life. Trials will come. Temptation will knock. And if you don’t have flesh and blood safeguards who can offer counsel or a straight up kick in the shin when needed, you risk steering your family off the narrow path and my friend into heartache.

Last but certainly not least, you need to understand that one day, you will find yourself in a similar position to the one I’m in- you will find your role partially diminished and taken over by a more capable man. I don’t mean to be morbid, but should you change my friend’s last name, death will eventually do you part. On that day, you will cease to be her husband and she will cease to be your wife. She will take on a more permanent state along with the rest of us who are eventually called to our eternal home with Jesus. You need to realize this now because she is only ever on loan to any of us.  How will this point make a difference? This mindset will aid you in points one and two. If you understand that she isn’t your forever, Jesus will keep his rightful place in both of your lives. If you understand that you will be surrendering her fully to Christ one day, you’ll step up your game in caring for her spiritually while she is yours. You’ll include those safeguards to make sure you don’t fail your Savior.

….Passing the Baton….

I honestly couldn’t care less about how big a house she sleeps in or how financially stable your budget is. Life gets tough, marriage is no piece of cake, and there’s too much kingdom work to bother with building too many earthly accomplishments. So before you pledge your earthly life to serving my friend and take my place as her closest companion, I need to know that her beautiful soul will be well-cared for in the days to come. I will accept nothing less because I love her that much.

Sincerely,

MVP

Am I Too Picky? (Part I)

 

Chances are, if you’ve been single for an extended amount of time, this thought has crossed your mind. If you’ve been single for an extension of an extended amount of time, you’ve probably had someone else take a stab at your love life with a similar quizzical sentiment. In all honesty, I’ve avoided writing about this topic because I’m afraid that the answer might be “yes” and yes in a variety of ways. And unless you fall into extremes like my sister (who is the least superficial person I know) or Henry XIII, there is no easy answer. So if you read the title and followed a link hoping for a tidy list of do’s and don’ts, read no further. You won’t find such an impossibility. You will, however, get a discussion, some thoughts to ponder, and hopefully, a whole lot of Gospel. This will be broken into two parts: one that will focus on character and one that will camp on physical attraction. Let’s get started!

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     When Christian singles ask for a passage of Scripture to tell them what to look for in a future spouse, they are often pointed to Proverbs 31 if the inquisitor is a dude and 1 Timothy 3 if the question is coming from someone with two X chromosomes. Here are some highlights from each:

Proverbs 31:10-31

If you’ve ever intently read this passage, then you know that the woman described here is accomplished indeed. The passage is advice given to a king by his mother on what he should look for in a wife, and it is used more broadly today as a passage that either offers a standard for women to strive for or a set of characteristics Christian men should look for in a future wife.  She is practical, hard-working, loved by all, charitable, fearless, generous, handy, wise, and apparently never actually sleeps because of all the activity in her schedule.

1 Timothy 3

This passage describes qualifications for a church elder or deacon. He is a good manager of his household, a seasoned Believer with proven faithfulness in many areas of his life, and he has a good public reputation. He “must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money.” That is quite a tall order, is it not?

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     I admire the qualities presented in these passages because they all reflect attributes that honor Christ, and these standards are, in fact, impossible to meet without a heart that has been shaped over time by the gospel.

So how does this relate to pickiness? In reviewing these qualifications, the take-away can often be that this list is an immovable bar that must be reached by anyone a single Christian should find themselves interested in. But here’s the trouble with that outlook: the woman described in Proverbs 31 and the type of man described in 1 Timothy 3 are finished products. We can assume this based not only on their polished attributes, but also in the mentioning of spouses and children and extensive reputations. They have experienced a lot of life and trials that have lent to what has taken shape. Unless you are dating in or above your 50’s, chances are you won’t find this type of spouse. If the Lord wills, you will only ever be dating and marrying an unfinished product. Single gentlemen will (hopefully) survey the available ladies in their life for Proverbs 31 potential, but there’s still a bit of the journey to go before any of us will be Wonder Woman with a Bible. Bachelorettes will do well to look for a budding 1 Timothy 3 man because Captain Wentworth is a fictional character.

And is that not the point of marriage, anyhow? God’s eternal goal in marriage is to reflect Christ and the church. But isn’t a second, yet still important goal to find someone to be a mutual sharpener on their respective journeys with Jesus? For those that marry, isn’t marriage the tool that causes a Believer to be pushed from potential to spiritual success? I was recently listening to a sermon by Tim Keller titled “Sexuality and the Christian Hope” (highly recommend!), and he makes an important point in regards to selecting a mate. I’m paraphrasing, but he basically says that you should be in love with who your significant other is becoming, because if Christ is working in them, that will be the aspect of their life that will allow you to fall more and more in love with them every day. I am by no means suggesting that this concept be used as an excuse to date unbelievers. “I’m just really excited about who they could become” holds no significance if Christ isn’t part of their life to begin with. But perhaps I have come through a season of judging potentials too harshly for not being as sanctified as someone older, more seasoned, or Jesus Christ himself. Us humans are works in progress. Why should we expect to date someone who has it all figured out?

Stay tuned for Part II, where we will talk about pickiness in regards to physical attraction!

Love,

Rachelle