Being single when you’d rather be married can sometimes be downright lousy. I was single for almost the entirety of my twenties and, although I wasn’t desperate to get married at the time, I remember seasons when I strongly felt discontentedly alone.
When you’ve been single for a long time, you begin to wonder if your standards need adjusting. This may be true for some, but it mostly concerns those with unrealistically high standards for who they hope to marry. They’re almost certain a priestly underwear model will appear, eyes will meet, and the two will know it’s meant to be. On the other hand, I’ve known men and women to date or even marry someone completely wrong for them simply out of desperation or fear of being alone. Standards that should have been cherished were compromised for mere companionship.
My wife calls these predicaments “elevator-stairs situations.” You push the button for the elevator, and the light comes on. And then you wait. You wait for so long that you start to realize if you had just taken the stairs, you’d be where you were going by now. Surely the elevator is only moments away, but the stairs are taunting you with their predictability and availability. You have a crisis of choice: commit to waiting or give up and go. Some of you have been waiting for the perfect guy or girl for so long that you feel confident your soul mate will arrive at any moment. But your mind is spinning with “what ifs.” Perhaps if you were willing to settle, you would be married by now.
There’s not always a right answer or a perfect choice. Please hear my love for you in this: Some of you have standards worth adjusting, while others have standards worth clinging to. Here are three thoughts for you, my single friends, on how to stand at the elevator while being mindful of the stairs.
1. Choose honorable non-negotiables and remain true to them.
You need to have a list of standards for whom you will date/marry that are non-negotiable. But these standards must always be about the glory of God, not superficial issues. Sincere non-negotiables include: sharing theological and spiritual alignment; possessing a mutual desire for the pursuit of purity, accountability, community, integrity and maturity; devoting a primary focus to whether you are right for them before determining whether they are right for you; exercising a willingness to repent and to offer forgiveness; and training a heart to serve, not to be served. Your non-negotiables should be clear and public. Hold tightly to these standards and do not settle for less. The Lord has described the characteristics of godliness. Pursue them in your own life and look for them in the lives of those you might date.
2. Don’t draw a line in the sand when God has given you the whole beach.
We are prone to create superficial standards for our future spouses. If you have made a law for yourself where God has given you freedom, it’s time to consider loosening your grip on an ideal that may be unrealistic. For instance, if your date’s calf-to-ankle ratio is a deal-breaker for you, it’s time to revisit your list of non-negotiables and erase some of the lines you’ve drawn in the sand. Our primary standards should not hinge on where someone went to college, their yearly income, their profession or aspects of their physical attractiveness. Search your heart for where you’ve made a savior out of a fantasy spouse. It’s great to marry up, but it’s impossible to marry the perfect person.
3. God is not looking at you and saying, “Oops.”
Finding a spouse is a good thing, but it is not the epitome of human existence. Don’t squander your singleness by focusing excessively on your waiting. Waiting is not the same as wasting away. Your usefulness to the kingdom does not begin on your wedding day. Pursue the things of the Lord and work diligently at all He’s given you to do. You may never get married, and that is okay. You may get married a long time from now, and that is okay, too. God is not looking at you and saying, “Oops.” Whether you marry the love of your life or you faithfully sustain your singleness, He is your loving Father and He knows how to give good gifts. He is trustworthy.