Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Thoughts on Singleness and the Box of Shoes

(For the beautiful ladies in this world who are perhaps wondering, the same as I.)

I've wondered this many times. Perhaps too many. Is it wrong to ask?

Surely not. Jesus said to ask and we would receive. Christiana, from Pilgrim's Progress, learned that “not worth asking means not worth having;” that if we ask and receive, we shall value the gift as we should; and that there are many things God longs to give us, but can’t until we ask for them.

However, it seems almost presumptuous to apply that to this situation.

I could come up with a multitude of reasons why it would be a good thing. God created and ordained it, for one. The Bible is full of proof that it is a good thing, when all is as it should be. When it is the right thing, you become more useful, more productive, happier, more satisfied, better able to serve, and even more able to resist temptation. I mean, how could that not be a good thing?

God said that it was not good for man to be alone. So He made Eve.

But Eve basically woke up and God said “Here you go; enjoy.” In this case, Eve has been living and working and serving and striving and falling and all of that on her own for a decent amount of time. And there’s no indication that Adam’s going to turn up any time soon—and she’s even doubting if he exists.

The other (minor) problem is that Eve can’t figure out what Adam would even look like, be like, or act like. Sometimes she’s thought that he’d be outgoing, friendly, the life of the party—then again, she’s reconsidered and decided he’s probably still friendly, but more quiet, introspective. And then she just doesn’t know and gives up on ever recognizing him.

Then there’s another (minor) problem. Currently, Eve’s living and working in a small corner of the world for a small ministry using her own small talents—albeit, for a big God. But everything about that (save the last factor) is less than conducive to being found by Adam. Or brought to Adam. Or whatever.

Any of this sound familiar? I'm pretty sure I'm not the only girl who's ever felt this way.

Yes, there’s something in me that’s jumping up and down like a little kid who knows a secret and is terrible at keeping them. “Hey! Hey! For real! This is like, the best thing ever! There’s no possible way: and that means God can make a miracle! What are you talking about! Be excited!”

But there’s also a taller, older, less enthusiastic individual with a mallet that reminds you of that Whack-A-Mole game. “Would you stop jumping? Just stop. This is ridiculous.”

“Ask! Ask! Just ask!” *boing boing boing*

“Stop it.” *Whack*

“Ow! Hey, knock that off! I know something you don’t know…And you want to know! But you never will if you don’t ask! Ask! Ask!”

As if my subconscious couldn’t get any more annoying.

There are many schools of thought in the world about this particular thing; especially in the Christian world. There are those who say that women have no business doing anything about their singleness—that they need to sit and wait until God pushes someone onto their doorstep. There are also those who are fed up with that sort of thinking and are all for the “modern woman” approach—be bold, be brave, venture where your grandmother would never have dared to go. Ask a guy out yourself. Pay the bill. Maybe even propose to him. Be on the hunt. Nothing is out of the question.

And there’s every shade of grey in between.

Personally, I don’t subscribe to black or white. I’m in the grey zone somewhere. I don’t for a minute believe that women should be sitting at home doing nothing; but I don’t believe that they should be flying in the face of every eligible bachelor with the war cry, “Will you try my shoes on?!” either.

The shoes. Let me explain about the shoes.

Every person is born into this world and given a box. It’s a very normal-shaped box; and you, as an infant, just aren’t that interested in the box. In fact, for the first decade of your life, you really don’t even care much about the box.

Little girls tend to find out about their boxes (and care about them) much sooner than little boys. They often grow up playing “dress up” and staging mock weddings with their stuffed animals and carting around baby dolls, naming them Suzi or Carrie and then pointing proudly at themselves when a stranger asks, “Who’s the baby’s mother?”

Meanwhile, in the corner, Bobby and Joe are alternating between racing matchbox cars and beating each other up in a game of cowboys and Indians. Yes, little girls know about the box sooner.

Nobody is the same. And so, the boxes get opened at all different times. However, regardless of when you open the box, you’ll all find the same thing: a pair of shoes. And it’s not a pair of shoes for you,

This pair of shoes is going to fit perfectly on the person God intended you to marry. Your job? Keep the shoes clean until God brings someone into your life who will wear those shoes—and love them, I might add.

This also means that someone out there has a pair of shoes that will fit you. And you will love them.

Here’s the problem: there are any number of pairs of shoes that would “fit” you. So much more goes into a shoe than its size. There’s style, and color, and brand and a dozen other things to take into account. There’s also the pair of shoes you’re holding to take into account. Maybe a pair of work boots would go perfectly with a pair of diamond-encrusted heels. On the other hand, maybe not so much.

There are also shoes that are the “right size” but due to something down inside that you may not have noticed at the first, they aren’t a good fit. This brings up a small dilemma: do you really need someone to try your shoes on before they say they want them?

Do you have to try shoes on before deciding which ones are yours?

(And when I talk about trying on shoes, I’m not for a minute talking about getting intimate before marriage, or “exploring” in any way like that. I’m talking about courtship, relationships. Getting to know someone as a friend, as a person, as a potential spouse. Just to make that clear.)

Yes, you have to try shoes on. There have been a few cases in the history of our world where a couple of people merely looked at a pair of shoes and went “There it is! Those are mine!” and indeed, they were. But that’s just not how life tends to work. So we often search for someone who will love and wear our shoes.

But we don’t all search in the same way. There are two basic extremes, accompanied again by all those shades of grey in between. One extreme is the typical desperado, who runs from person to person, asking in a non-stop chatter, “Will you try my shoes on? How about you? Here, try my shoes! Have my shoes!”

Then there’s the other extreme, who never pulls the shoes out of the box at all. In fact, their mantra is, “You may not even LOOK at my shoes until you say you want them and you mean it.”

Don’t laugh. You know you’ve met both types out there.

Here’s the problem with both of those extremes. Trying every shoe on in the world is not going to look industrious or committed. No one’s going to look at you and go, “Wow, that person is just so dedicated to finding THE ONE to fill their shoes, they’ll do anything! That’s so inspiring.” Yeah, not even close. Besides that, you’re bound to end up wearing shoes that are too small, hurt your feet or are so big and floppy they cause blisters. And you’ll probably end up resentful in some way.

And never pulling your shoes out of the box? You already know what kind of problems that will cause. When you finally pull them out after the ring is on, your significant other is going to raise a horrified scream. “Hiking boots? HIKING BOOTS? What do you think I am!?”

Cue divorce, heartbreak, and maybe even a thrown shoe.

One of the biggest problems I’ve found is that I don’t even know what the shoes I’m holding look like, let alone the ones I want to wear for the rest of my life. I know a few basics about what my own shoes need to be: they have to be big enough, comfortable, and durable. I want them to last. I want to hike and explore and climb in them. I want to swim, to fly, to dance in them. Serve, laugh, cry. Everything. Really live.

Is there a pair of shoes out there that could hold up through salt water and mountain climbing? Oh, probably. But it won’t be a pair of stilettos, I’m sure.

Then there’s the shoes I’m holding. It’s kind of dark around here, so I’m trying to figure out what these shoes are like by feeling them. Pretty much, what I know is they’re all-terrain, sturdy, and very—VERY—large.

Not much to go on. And that brings us back to the former question: what is a girl’s place in this “search?” Wait to be rescued? Start trying to find your own way out of the tower and hope that the knight will show up at some point? Forget about knights and horses altogether?

Stripping away all allegorical language, I wonder frequently if it would be wrong to make it a habit to, every day, actively ask God to show me His plan, and to bring into my life whoever it is that I will
be able to serve with. “I’m here again, Lord. I still trust You. Your promises still stand. But since it didn’t happen yesterday, I’m asking again today.”

There’s a large portion of people out there who would be extremely uncomfortable with that. There’s a large portion of people out there who would laugh outright at that. And every shade of grey in between.

I recently heard a sermon given by a friend of mine that gave a set of “rules” if you will, for making decisions in life, especially important ones. He talked about surrendering your will, making sure that whatever He plans is okay with you; he talked about praying without ceasing for God to show you the way. But what struck me the most was when he talked about “making a start.”

You have to make a start. You can’t say, “Lord, show me which of these doors to go through,” and then not move. You have to start walking toward one of them. You have to start trying them. God will come through and direct you, through circumstances, to the right door. He’s never failed before; and He certainly won’t fail you now.

How does one “make a start,” though, when there are no doors? Just a mostly dark room, and a very large pair of shoes?

I haven’t figured it out yet.

Is singleness a curse? Not for a moment. Is it to be resented or something to get out of as fast as you possibly can? Absolutely not.

But there’s a familiar verse in the Bible that says God longs to give you the desires of your heart. Maybe a home of your own and a family aren’t high on your list—but they have been on mine since I was little. I don’t at all regret this time in the “tower.” But is it perhaps time to start asking to be shown a way out?

There he goes again, that little, all-too-excitable creature with the pogo stick. “Ask! Ask! Ask! You’ll never know if you don’t ask! It’s a start! Be excited! Miracles are waiting!”

The one with the Whack-A-Mole mallet is there too. But for some reason, he’s oddly quiet now.

“This is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He heareth us. And if we know that He hears us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of Him” (1 John 5:14, 15).