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

The Litmus Test of a Healthy Relationship

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My doors were opened, and dinner was paid for. Anecdote-prompted laughter, a dive into the Colorado River, and an accepted challenge to run the last bit of a hike back to the car are the other details that stand out. That night, I walked through my door on cloud nine, grateful for the full day and God’s gifts. The funny part is, it really sounds like I’m describing a date. Not exactly. The door-opener happens to be my best friend’s boyfriend, and before you think I’m a horrible person, I need to mention that she was there as well.

Me and my bestie have always wondered what it would look like for one of us to start dating someone. In a long season of singleness and God’s gentle and loving “No’s” for a status change, our friendship has been the one area of our lives where God hasn’t withheld ANYTHING. If I had the time, I could tell you about countless adventures where God clearly showed up, just showering us with good gifts. It’s this beautiful mixture of deep, Jesus-loving conversations as we sit on kitchen counters and spontaneous bouts of silliness that leave us with stomach aches from laughing so hard and people around us wondering if any illegal substances are involved. Nope, all natural. My parents adopted her into our family as their third daughter, and we get to work and live together. Free time, adventure, weekends, and humorous meme texts have been spent on each other for almost a decade, and so it seemed like a step towards marriage for either one of us might throw off the sisterhood we’ve been blessed to build.

About 6 months ago, she met someone, and I find myself in the midst of figuring out what it looks like to share her. As it turns out, It’s not as difficult as I thought it would be.  They actually invite me to hang out with them on dates and she’s really gracious to check up on me every once in a while, to ask if anything about their interaction makes me uncomfortable. More than just surviving this new era, I find myself actually enjoying it.  And it’s got me asking a question: What is the difference between the friendships that disappear with a new relationship and those that are actually enhanced?

I think of a friend from college whose spouse was quick to give me the title of friend. Since I mattered to her, I was going to matter to him, too.  Alternatively, I think of other scenarios where hanging out with an old friend and their boyfriend or spouse was just plain uncomfortable.  I’m sure we can all think of a time when an excess of “coupling” left you looking for an exit or conversation suffered a slow death because the counterpart you don’t know as well wasn’t as keen on getting to know you. Or maybe after a new relationship, a friend decides that they don’t have much in common with you anymore, and it’s time for them to start hanging out with other couples at the expense of your friendship. Here’s my next question: As Believer’s, should we allow the natural drift that tends to happen when people pair off? My opinion is no, but since I’m biased, I will explain, in detail, why you should pay attention to the third wheels in your life.  I intend to convince you that they are one of the best indicators of a healthy relationship.

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1. Relationships should help you serve better together than apart

I’m sure we’ve all heard this sentiment, but as a single person, this truth is something that I’ve had to hang onto for dear life at times. If God’s goal in rescuing us into His family is to build His kingdom, then the reason for my season of singleness must be that He knows I can serve Him better this way. Should He choose to throw an eligible bachelor into the equation, it can only mean that our union enhances how we serve others, helping them know and love Jesus more. Alternatively, if a couple behaves in a way that cuts them off from some of the people in their lives, they are potentially less fruitful than when they were single. A Kingdom-call-answering relationship should enhance the gifts of those involved in a way that blesses those around them.

2. Diverse Community Reinforces a Relationship

We typically think about the necessity of community in a new relationship because of the pitfalls that dating life bring about. But every season of life offers its own challenges that require community, and not the kind of community that segregates the church into teens, singles, young marrieds, married with kids, etc. I love the passage in 1 Corinthians 12 that compares the church to a body. Verse 18 says that “God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as He chose.” Verse 21 goes on to say “The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you,’ nor again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.’” The natural separation that happens sometimes between single and married people can often sound like that. But this passage flies in the face of what is natural. Verse 13 says that “in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, Jews or Greeks, slaves or free.” We need each other. We have all been given unique gifts and insight due to our unique callings by the same Spirit, and much like a limb being cut off from blood-flow, when we cut ourselves off from each other, we miss out and fall asleep.

3. The Gospel needs to be on display.

From Ephesians 5 and elsewhere, we understand that the main purpose of marriage, as God designed from the beginning, is to put the Gospel on display. In this image, the husband loves sacrificially like Christ loves the church and the bride responds in respect and service. They prefer and serve each other in a beautiful dance that puts Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers to shame. We are all given lights that serve as a testimony of God’s love and work in our lives, but the combining of two lights in marriage should provide a much brighter light to their spheres of influence. An isolated couple might as well cover the light they’ve been entrusted with because no one can see it anyways.  I’m reminded of a song from my childhood. “Hide it under a bushel, no! I’m gonna let it shine.” (And now it’s in your head, isn’t it?) If you are a Christian and you are in a relationship, you have been entrusted with beautiful truths that are meant to shine bright for ALL to see, not just those who have lots in common with you.

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            You may recall from high school chemistry that a litmus test is performed to tell you how acidic or basic a solution is. In a similar way, a couple’s interaction with the plus nones in their lives will indicate the health of their relationship. The kind of dating or marriage relationship that encourages the single people in its sphere speaks to an understanding of its purpose, God-given community, and gospel-reflecting interaction.

For married and dating couples reading this, let me ask one more question. Have you checked in on your single friends lately? They might have some valuable insight to share on how inclusive and caring your relationship is towards outsiders. Ask them if they can see the Gospel up-close in the image you reflect. Don’t have any single friends, anymore? Well maybe you have some work to do. Much like the pins and needles sensation of a limb regaining feeling, it might not be easy. But it will be worth it. I so treasure the friendships of couples who allow me to live life with them and treat me like family.

 

All my heart,

Rachelle