Married by 23?

Almost a year ago, I was in a relationship with a guy and we were headed towards marriage (or so I thought). He came along at the “perfect” time. We’d met in college and dated off and on before finally getting together at the end of my senior year of college. I’d always hoped and prayed that I would get married by 23 or 24, so he’d come along just in time. Plus he was just as excited about marriage as I was. He was heaven sent and I just knew he had to be my Boaz, Adam or whatever Biblical figure we’re using to describe husbands these days. The only problem was, I was focused on marriage for all the wrong reasons. I wanted to be married for me and me alone. I wanted the wedding for me. I wanted the beautiful ring for me. I wanted the husband and kids for me. Me, me, me, me, me! And I was so busy focusing on my own selfish desires that I couldn’t see that the relationship that I thought was heaven sent was really a counterfeit.

But the one thing that kept me from walking down the aisle with him, was my relationship with Christ. The closer I got to God, the further away I grew from my ex. The more I sought out God’s wisdom and counsel for leading my life and my relationship, the more red flags started popping up left and right. All of a sudden, I started discovering things that weren’t compatible with the purpose that God had for me. Though he was a Christian, we didn’t hold a lot of the same views about our relationship with Christ. One of our biggest arguments actually stemmed from a disagreement about tithes. Yes, chile, tithes! I started noticing how I was too dependent on him when it came to making decisions about my life. I realized that I didn’t like the involvement that his family had in our relationship. He realized he didn’t really like the fact that I preferred being homebody over going out. And the biggest kicker was the fact that we were having sex outside of marriage; we weren’t even building our relationship on a Godly foundation to prepare for marriage. That’s not to say that he was a bad guy, but looking back on it, it was clear that we were not meant for each other. In the haste of trying to make a major life decision, based on my own selfish desires, I could have made one of the biggest mistakes of my life. I could have gotten what I wanted at the time. I could have ignored the signs that the Lord was giving me and kept focusing on my selfish wants. I could have ended up married by the age of 23. But you know what, I probably would have ended up miserable. I would have ended up in a marriage that wasn’t build on a solid foundation, which would have caused chaos and confusion for my ex, myself, and any children we may have had.

I prayed so hard to have a husband by 23, but less than a month away from being 24, I can say I’m so grateful that this was one prayer He did not answer. That’s not to knock marriage or getting married young, but if God had allowed me to get married so young I would have missed the whole point of what marriage (and life) is really about. Marriage is not about me. It’s not about what I want, when I want it, and how I want it. Yes, marriage comes with its perks and I know there are few things that are more fulfilling then living and growing with the spouse that God set aside for you. But ultimately marriage is about God. Marriage is a ministry. It is supposed to be an earthly example of the love that Christ has for the church. Marriage is about giving up self, to serve your spouse and to serve God. And to be honest, I was far too committed to myself and my selfish desires to make that type of commitment to God and to someone else.

God has really been showing me over this past year, that marriage is not just another task that I check off my to-do list or another accomplishment I can add to my resume. It’s a serious undertaking that I need to wait on His perfect timing to take on. As a woman, it can be so easy to get caught up in the marriage frenzy and to fall into the trap that your ultimate purpose in life is to get wifed up, but God has been really showing me that marriage is only part of my purpose. My ultimate purpose, and anyone’s ultimate purpose, is to serve God and to give Him all the glory with your life. Right now, that means I’m serving God by working on my Master’s degree, healing and becoming whole in this period of singleness. One day, my purpose will include getting married, but until that day comes, I am content with where I’m at. I’m growing to a place where I want what God wants for me at any given point in my life, even if it isn’t what I planned out for my life. I’m thankful God said no to marriage at 23, so I could say yes to building my relationship with Him and preparing for marriage at the age He wants me to.

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Being a Christian is Hard

Being a Christian is hard.

I grew up in the church. I’m the daughter of a pastor. I was baptized at the age of 3 or 4. But being in the church and being in a relationship with Christ can be very different things. There’s a big difference between practicing the religion of Christianity and embracing a life-long love with Christ, and it’s safe to say I’m learning that difference now at 23 years old. It wasn’t until the past year or so that I got serious about my relationship with Christ. I got to the point where I was tired of the occasional conversations with God that I had via prayer. I was fed up with living “good” Christian life in public, but living a different life behind closed doors. I was tired of carrying around the guilt of living a double life. A life full of fornication, alcohol abuse, profanity, gossiping, lying, disobedience and rebellion to God’s will for my life. I’d had enough and I was ready to give my all to Him. I finally wanted to live a life that was pleasing in His eyesight, both inside and outside of the church. I wanted to live a pure and righteous life, both in public and private.

So I started making changes. I went to a Christian counselor to help me with my unhealthy relationship with alcohol. I ended the relationship that was causing me to continually have pre-marital sex. I distanced myself from the friends, TV shows, music, or anything else that would influence me to turn away from God. I joined a prayer group of other young women with hearts for Christ. I started delving into the Word more and more and praying everyday. I even enrolled in seminary school so I could learn more and discern the call that God has for my life. When I did those things and started taking my relationship with Christ more seriously, I saw drastic changes in my life. I felt so much better. Much of the guilt and pressure that came with trying to live two lives at once was gone. My relationship with Christ felt so much deeper. I experienced His presence in ways that I never had before. But what I didn’t realize was that what I was feeling was the honeymoon phase.

Our relationship with Christ is a lot like a marriage. As a matter of fact, we are the bride and Christ is the bridesgroom. Unfortunately, many of us, have been cheating on Christ with the world. Granted we may go on dates with Him occasionally by going to church or praying when we need something, but as soon as we get what we need from Him, we’re back out in the world doing the very things that break His heart. That’s exactly what I had been doing for most of my life. I’d been locked in a cycle of getting my heart broken and shattered by the world, running to Christ to get Him to mend all the broken pieces, then running right back out the world only to get heart broken again. I had been using Christ. Exploiting His love for me and getting “closer” to Him just long enough for Him to patch me up, so I could go back out in the world and do what I wanted to do. Thankfully, He brought me to a point where I could see that the cycle of make-up and break-up with Him would not sustain me, and that what I was doing was breaking His heart. He showed me that He loved me so much. He loved me so much that He would heal my broken heart every time I came to Him hurting, even though He knew I would turn my back on Him as soon as I started feeling better. He loved me so much that He still wanted me no matter how many times I cheated on Him with the world. I finally saw that and wanted to commit my life to Him and stop cheating on Him with the world. I decided to finally be the bride of Christ and spend the rest of my life with Him and not the world.

This past year has been wonderful. I have grown a lot closer to Him. I received so many blessings from Him. I started feeling the joy and fulfillment in Him that I had been hopelessly searching for in the world. But now I feel like I’m coming to the place where the honeymoon is over and the very real work of marriage starts kicking in. Lately, the Lord has been showing me that while the initial things I gave up to be completely committed to Him were great, there still is more work to do. He’s showing me more and more that I have to die to my flesh every single day. I have to give my all to Him and serve Him every single day. Even on the days when I don’t feel as close to Him. Even on the days when I haven’t received tangible blessing from Him. Even on the days when I feel tired or sad. Just like a marriage isn’t always fun and filled with ecstasy, neither is our relationship with Christ. Just like a marriage can be hard, our relationship with Christ can be hard, too.

This phase of our relationship can be so tricky, because for many of us, we assume that because it doesn’t feel like it initially felt then something must be wrong. Maybe we’re just not cut out for this Christian life. Maybe life in the world wasn’t so bad after all. Maybe it’s okay to start compromising our faith just a little bit. Maybe we don’t need to pray or read our Bible today. It’s not like we’re getting the same feeling that we did before. I know I’ve struggled with thoughts like that. I’ve been tempted to go back to things in the world and have fallen into sin because I felt that maybe it wasn’t really a big deal like I thought it was. However, the Lord has been showing me the importance of this phase of our relationship. Being a Christian is about far more than being on a continual spiritual high. It’s about more than always being happy and always being blessed. Being a Christian is about loving Him with our all and having the endurance and discipline to stick with our relationship with Him even when it’s not easy. Hebrews 12: 1-11 lays this out perfectly. In our relationship with Him, we have to have discipline so that we can gain endurance and righteousness. Having to face discipline is hard. Gaining endurance is hard. Being righteous is hard. Being a Christian is hard, but it’s well worth it. Don’t be discouraged if you find yourself leaving the honeymoon phase of your relationship with Christ. Remember, this is where the work happens. This is where you will grow and become more and more of who God wants you to be. Don’t give up and don’t turn back. The hard work of your marriage to Christ starts here, but the crown you will receive from it one day will be well worth it.