I remember clearly the tone the waitress used when she took in my solitary self at the hostess stand at Ruby Tuesday's. "Party of One?" So dismissive. So accusatory. As if I was somehow less because I hadn't managed to attract any others onto this dinner date. At least to me it seemed that way. (Not that I was sensitive or anything!)
I was a Christian single, living in a "family values" world. A community of smiling, happy family units, sitting neatly in their pews, while Mom shushed the kids and handed them gum to keep them quiet. I didn't fit beside MY mom anymore, felt too grown up for that. But I didn't have my own family to value either. I was stuck in that awkward, in-between stage. Not quite a pimply, overly-hairy adolescent; but neither was I a real adult either.
Yesterday, I listened to my colleague Dr. Antipas Harris speak on the subject of Christian singleness. He made a powerful case that Christian singles should have their focus on the Lord "until then." That is, until the time when "the one" arrives (always thought that moment would be accompanied by angels singing and harps playing, it had been built up so much in my mind) a Christian single should be "focused on the things of the Lord." I Cor. 7:32 It sparked my memories of those single days when I thought St. Paul hopelessly pious and out of touch with my reality.
The feelings of isolation from that "awkward, in between stage" came flooding back to me. I was consumed with the frog's fear that no beautiful young woman would transform me with a kiss into her Prince Charming. Every wedding invitation that arrived in the mail was another subpoena to "solitary confinement." I'm smiling now, after fifteen years of marriage to a wonderful Princess, to remember my all-consuming fears.
I smile, not because those fears and insecurities were not real. Rather, because marriage brings its own troubles and challenges. Even the best marriage demonstrates the truth of Paul's words "a married man is concerned about—how he can please his wife..." (I Cor. 7:33) The overriding message Paul is giving in this chapter of the Bible can be found earlier...
"17Nevertheless, each one should retain the place in life that the Lord assigned to him
and to which God has called him."
We each find ourselves in a "place in life" or a segment of our journey, that has challenges, problems and difficulties. When I was a "party of one" I got certain uncomfortable stares in restaurants. But now that I am a "Party of Five" the looks I get are Death Stares when my toddler destroys a booth in record time. We all need the grace of God to deal with the place in life the Lord has assigned to us. "Marriage is no land of perfection," I would tell me frightened, single self. Don't worry about tomorrow, because today has enough worries of it's own.
And in this place in life which the Lord has assigned to me, I too wait "until then" when "The One" will come. (for whom the angels will sing the hallelujah chorus!) For as Paul reminds us, "the time is short" and our bridegroom will come for us soon. Until then, we will love with single-minded devotion, remember to care for each other in whatever stage of our journey we find ourselves, and remember, the grass is rarely greener on the other side of the fence...