Many metaphors are used to describe the baffling process of finding a life partner. Men speak of hunting; women have been known to fish. Dating has been likened to everything from a job interview to shopping on the clearance rack. These metaphors reveal one thing: we spouse-seeking humans like to think we’re playing an active role moving the process along.
Yet at some point we all find ourselves waiting. For some it comes after exploring all the “options,” and finding no one compatible. Others have found someone special, but are waiting for God to guide them to the point of marriage. But the idea of being stuck waiting does little to help a person know how to live in the meantime, and how to deal with feelings of uncertainty and longing.
The Bible doesn’t have much to say about dating, but it does tell stories of characters who experienced intense periods of waiting, such people as Noah, Abraham, and David. Interestingly, the Bible also describes their relationship with God, using an intriguing metaphor: they all “walked” with God.
Indeed, I’ve come to think of the wait as more of a journey. Better yet, an adventure. Allow me to explain.
Growing up, I didn’t fly much. By not much, I mean I’d never set foot on a Boeing 747 until I was off to California for my first college internship. Even if I’d traveled more, it’s hard to imagine not being thrilled by the novelty. It’s not just getting to the destination—I love exploring airports, gazing through train windows, and rolling my suitcase through city streets.
What would happen if we had this same mind-set regarding dating, and finding a spouse? Maybe we’d stop resigning ourselves to toughing out boring periods of anguish, daydreaming only about the bliss to follow. Perhaps instead we’d see the process as one continuous adventure.
But how do we change perspective? Wise people say it starts with a solid relationship with God. To understand what that looks like in daily life, let’s dive back into our travel metaphor.
When we have a travel companion
Have you ever taken a chance on a lesser-known restaurant and left feeling frustrated about the food or the service? I’ve found that throwing a friend into the mix transforms the experience. Suddenly a long wait flies by with good conversation. Weird tastes are something to laugh about together.
Well, of course, I imagine you responding as your eyes roll. That’s precisely why I’m eager to have a significant other with whom to share my life!
In your eagerness, don’t miss out on an exhilarating adventure with God, the companion you have right now and forever. Unlike humans, who always have limits, God is the travel buddy who never leaves (Deut. 31:6), to whom you always have access (Ps. 121:4).
First Kings 9:4 says that David “walked before” God. He also spent years waiting for God to fulfil a promise to make him the next king of Israel. Psalm 23 is possibly David’s clearest description of God as his travel companion, saying, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for thou art with me” (verse 4, KJV).
Other psalms reveal that David understood something important: God isn’t just there to hand out rules and miracles. David spoke constantly and rawly with God about whatever concerned him. When we walk with God, we go through the process of finding a spouse with God by our side. We can communicate with Him about everything that excites us; that hurts us; about the decisions we need to make, big or small.
Subpar restaurant food is still bad. Single life can still be frustrating and lonely. But our perspective improves when we share the highs and lows with God.
When we pursue God’s purpose in other areas of life
If you love to travel, you probably have a bucket list of places to go. But you miss out if you wait to reach the preferred destination to check things off your list. I have a friend who rarely travels without setting goals to meet along the way. His itineraries include such goals as riding a unique trolley to the airport, learning new words from locals, and tasting new foods. He even plans lengthy layovers to explore cities.
Marriage is an important goal for many, but it need not be the only thing we pursue. Consider Abraham, another person God called to “walk before” Him (Gen. 17:1). Abraham’s life calling was wrapped up in the need and desire for a descendant. But he didn’t wait until he had a son to get started on his journey to claim the land God had also promised.
Cultivating vocational, health, and ministry dreams gives us things to talk about with God. We don’t aim to be distracted from our singleness. We grow as we wait.
When we find fulfillment in preparing
Part of the excitement of each new trip is the chance to do it better than the last time. How can I pack better clothing, or pack less and lug around a smaller bag? How can I record my adventures better? are ways I’ve challenged myself. Over time I have developed travel skills that improve each trip.
Noah also “walked . . . with God” (Gen. 6:9). The time that passed between God’s flood pronouncement and the falling of the first raindrops was time enough for Noah to obey God’s call to prepare, under His guidance.
Preparing for marriage means more than buying a house or getting a good job. We benefit from not only getting to “the right place in life,” but also preparing the right heart. We can all think of attributes such as selflessness, forgiveness, patience, and communication that God needs to improve in us as we spend time studying His Word. Few things make for a more exciting adventure than watching God transform us as we practice these traits in every type of relationship in our lives.
When Christ is our greatest joy
Travel is unpredictable. It often takes longer than expected, or doesn’t go as planned. But I’ve learned that it’s best not to bank my happiness on perfectly fulfilled plans. If I make my hope and expectation to learn and experience new things, these desires are rarely disappointed.
God is the companion who never fails, so He’s the perfect one on which to bank our deepest hopes. It’s easy to feel discontent and frustration when our expectations about anything—including dating—don’t happen. But Jeremiah 17:7 tells us, “Blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him.” Go ahead, read the rest of the chapter. It tells about what happens when we hang our happiness on anyone else.
What am I expecting out of this day? Is there an aspect of growth in my relationship with Christ that excites me? These are questions we can ask each day to become intentional about where we get fulfillment.
To love the journey doesn’t mean we can’t look forward to goals, such as marriage. That’s what some people imply when they urge contented singleness. In my opinion, to love the journey is to understand that the thrill begins now. And because Christ walks with us, we can live a truly thrilling adventure, no matter what stage we’re in.
Kristina Penny is digital editor of Adventist Review.
It was one of those deceptively cold days, the kind that trades sharp wind and paralyzing temperatures for a dull chill that seeps in over time. The kind that tempts you to leave the house without gloves or scarf; but I was wearing both, expecting to be outside for several hours.
That Saturday afternoon our group was unpacking the church van to serve a warm meal to the homeless. Looking at the faces lining up, I found it hard not to think about how long they’d been out in the elements that day.
Up to our table came a mother with two small daughters. Next, a man approached asking for an extra plate of food for his homeless father. Then a woman appeared, wound tight with so many layers of clothes that she could barely carry her tray of food. I shivered and pulled my scarf a little tighter, but purposely left my face exposed to offer a welcoming smile to our guests.
Suddenly, in front of me was a sharply dressed man, his leather-gloved hands toting a briefcase. I hesitated and glanced around at my fellow group members for guidance. It was that very human moment we all face sometimes when trying to make a judgment about someone. Why is he here? Does he really need this food?
Almost immediately another thought forced itself on my mind: Does it actually even matter? No, it didn’t. There was no shortage of food, no reason to withhold an act of kindness from a soul who, for all we knew, could be facing anything from a lost job to simply a bad day.
It hurts to think that I and other Christians indulge that same scrutinizing attitude when dispensing a gift we’ve been given in far more copious amounts: the good news of salvation in Jesus. We do it so unconsciously—yet so scrupulously—with such thoughts as: those people have already been preached to . . . my neighbor would never listen to my testimony . . . my coworker doesn’t want to talk about faith. We then allow these thoughts to paralyze us out of sharing the gospel, and instead wait for the next carefully planned mission trip or evangelistic meeting.
How sad that we often miss an important point in Jesus’ parable about the sower. In Matthew 13 the sower in the story is not your typically precise farmer; he scatters seed all over the place. From him we learn to focus less on evaluating the ground and more on being so radiant with the truth and love of Jesus Christ that we saturate everywhere we go with seeds of faith.
Think of those to whom the Savior spent time revealing the truths of the kingdom: sick individuals, Pharisees, Gentiles, family members, a tax collector, even the one who would betray Him. If Christ can so easily and openly toss the seeds of the gospel, shouldn’t I—a human with no knowledge of the future or conversion matters of the heart—be even more willing to do so every single day?
Kristina Penny is digital editor of Adventist Review.