“I had never heard marriage discussed more than in a Jane Austen novel until I went to a Christian college.”
I saw that quote one time while scrolling through Pinterest and was struck by how very true it is. At any college, there is a focus on relationships. After all, this is the age at which you will most likely meet your future spouse. At a Christian college, however, the phrase “ring by spring” is as common as “Jesus loves you” or “I’m praying for you.” Not to downplay the latter two–it’s just that ring by spring really is that prominent here. This is the culture that I, a single 20 year old who’s never dated, am living in.
Disclaimer: before I go any farther, let me make this very clear: I love my school. I have never regretted coming here for a single second.
You know how, in most chick flicks, the main female character usually has a best friend? That best friend is often single and is basically vicariously living through the main character and her relationship. She gives advice, is there for the break-up then is the maid of honor in the wedding. (Apologies for the sarcasm; I really don’t like chick flicks.) That’s me. At least for now.
For pretty much my whole life (well, for as long as I’ve actually cared about relationships), that fact has really bothered me. When I was younger I had made a promise that I wouldn’t date until I was ready to marry. (Meaning I’m not interested in dating around or dealing with broken relationships. That doesn’t mean I’m going to date for a month then get engaged.) That made not dating in high school a little easier. I kind of had tunnel vision going on. I was so excited for college because I just knew I was going to meet my husband here and it was going to be absolutely amazing and I’d never be lonely again.
But I got to college and I realized I wasn’t nearly ready to date. So I said I wouldn’t date freshman year but maybe by the time sophomore year came around I’d be ready. After all, there are other couples that age who are obviously going to get married eventually (and I don’t mean that sarcastically). But I’m nearly halfway through sophomore year and I’m not much closer to being ready. I’ve learned some things, though, that have drastically changed my perspective.
One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned is one I’ve already alluded to. If you picked up on it, you’re on the right path. I said, “I was going to meet my husband here …and I’d never be lonely again.” That’s a problem. And I’ve known it for a while but never knew how to deal with it/didn’t want to deal with it. Why is it a problem? Because there is a hole in my heart that gets very lonely sometimes and I was hoping another human, who is just a broken as me, could fill it up. It won’t work though. That hole in my heart, that empty loneliness that gets so very intense sometimes is there for a reason: it’s meant to draw me closer to God and depend more on him.
Now my mom had told me this a couple years ago but it’s one of those lessons you have to learn for yourself. A relationship is an amazing, beautiful thing and it feels so great. Especially if you’re someone who struggles with not feeling accepted or with making friends. When you have someone who says you look cute in sweatpants or will hold your hand in front of anyone, that is the most amazing feeling and I’m not trying to downplay that. But that feeling won’t last. It can’t. That’s like putting those big, Duplo building blocks in a sink and saying it’s full. There are so many empty spots that the blocks simply can’t fill because they don’t fit right. The person you’re trying to fill the hole with can’t fill it because they have holes, too.
And so, knowing this in my head, my mission has been getting my heart to believe it. I’ll be honest, it’s hard. There are couples everywhere. But what I’ve been finding is that, the more I rely on God to fill my loneliness rather than my friends or a relationship, the friendships I have are changing. They are deeper and more meaningful. I’ve begun to approach friendships with a “what can I give” mentality rather than “what can you give me”. Now this wasn’t a conscious change–it’s something I’ve noticed as God has drawn me closer to him.
I hope you hear what I’m saying here. I’m not saying dating or relationships are bad. By no means! On the contrary, I believe that, secondary to worshiping Him, God created us to love and be loved. A marriage between two broken people, however, does not result in one whole person. You just have two broken people. We must first allow God to mend us and make us whole in Him and daily rely on Him to keep us that way. Then, and only then, can you have a whole marriage between two whole people. It won’t be perfect by any means–nothing this side of death is–but when those two people are relying on God, rather than each other, to fill them, that marriage is going to work much better.
One final thought: I tried making this “let God fill my loneliness” thing while I was in a close relationship with someone I was depending on to fill that void. It didn’t work. As difficult and hard as it was, we had to change our relationship so that we weren’t depending on each other so we could depend on God. For us that meant taking a huge step back, basically to square one of our friendship, and sort of starting over. Man, was that hard. It was worth it, though. We have a much better friendship now and we don’t depend on each other to fill our lonely void.
So basically the trend is: let God fill your loneliness and your other friendships/relationships will be more fulfilling.
I have more thoughts on this but this has been long enough. Perhaps they’ll appear in another post.