Here are some quick facts about me and relationships before I begin to write:
- The first girlfriend I had was in 7th grade.
- Since then, I’ve had approximately 6 girlfriends.
- Matthew Leung’s nickname for me in high school was “The Island Hopper”.
- The last girlfriend I had was freshman year of college
- Therefore, I have been single five years.
What have I learned? A whole lot. But before I delve into my latest revelations, it would be fitting to explain briefly a little bit of the journey to where I am at.
The quick facts summarize very quickly what I was like in high school and what I was like in college.
I was very active in relationships in high school. It was literally one after another after another. It was both what I expected of me, blossoming into the young man I was, and what others expected of me. Yet if there is one thing I can say about those relationships, it’s that none of them were very fruitful. In fact, most of them were quite the opposite. None of them came from obedience to the Lord. All of them were with Christians (for the years after I became a Christian), yet none of them were Christ-centered (big difference). All of them ended sourly and I am friends with but a few of those women now.
The last one was so bitter that the Lord put me in a long season of singleness (the one I’m still in). I never met a single girl which interested me in college. I had my infatuations here and there, but by (I swear by it) divine intervention, none of them amounted to anything. I was busy serving and loving Jesus during that time and so college was the time when I became the man of God that I am today. I became devoted the Lord in everything and I am still in awe at the work of the Lord in my life during those years. It is by his grace that I stand.
Fast foward a little- graduated from college. Within a week of graduation, I was working full time earning my wage. Surely this is the season where the Lord will see fit to bless me with a wife! I began praying dilligently for a wife. Every week I prayed that the Lord might even reveal her to me that very week. And if all else failed, I had prayed that the Lord would surely bless me by the end of summer. There’s no way he could ignore me- I had prayed in Jesus’ name! Of course, did it mean that it was what Jesus wanted?
Unfortunately, week after week, there were no answers to prayer. I began to grow impatient. There were numerous occasions where I thought the Lord had answered my prayer, but they turned out to be false alarms. It was like seeing a child’s eye’s light up only to be utterly dissapointed. Dissapointment turned into bitterness as I began recording in my journal in big bold letters: “Why won’t you answer me, Lord?”.
I was a spoiled child, throwing a terrible tantrum at the Lord’s cruelty. Soft trusting prayers turned into resentful discontented prayers. “Don’t you know I need a wife, Lord? Didn’t you say it ‘wasn’t good’ that man was alone and you created a helper for him? Haven’t I been a faithful servant to you? Where is my answer, Lord?’
But the Lord was gracious to me. What was my complaint bothered me no more as He slowly unraveled the contents of my heart…
What exactly about us longs so much for relationships? And what about being single makes one so depressed and unfulfilled?
Is it from the Lord or is from the world? It is my conviction now that it is from the world.
This, the Lord began to teach me, in the most gentle way. During the second semester of my senior year of college, I was sitting in my living room praying and reading the Word. I began to again pray for a wife. “I need a wife, Lord. I need a wife, Lord…” It was then that the Spirit broke in and began to speak to me. He said, “Phil, oh Phil, you are already married.“
He was reminding me that when I gave my life to Christ, I joined the bridal party of the greatest marriage yet to come. It is the marriage between Jesus and the Church. It is when He returns and His Church is dressed and ready for Him, with garments of righteousness and with her lamp burning with oil (Matthew 25). He has designed human marriage to mirror this marriage, and not the other way around.
So much so that even Jesus said that there would be no marriage in heaven (Luke 20). Earthly marriage partners will not be married in the new Kingdom. The Lord has greater plans for that age and we can only imagine what redemptive plan God has for relationships.
Yet why are our eyes so earthly bound? The Lord began to knock at my heart and revealed to me that idolatry dwelled there. It was the idolatry of a wife. Not to say that all wives are idols, but it is the expectation of what a wife brings and does for me instead of what the Lord should that was idolatry.
A wife shouldn’t bring ultimate joy and happiness. A wife shouldn’t bring completeness in my life. The Lord told me that I don’t have a wife-shaped hole in my heart, I have a God-shaped hole. My need for Jesus is forever; my need for a wife is temporary.
It is only the Lord for which the Psalmist speaks about in Psalm 73, “Whom have I in heaven but You? And earth has nothing I desire besides You. My heart and my flesh may fail but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” It is only the Lord for which we are to love with our entire hearts, minds, and souls. It is only the Lord to whom we should worship, not the idol of relationships!
And if we have subscribed to the opposite doctrine, we are set up for failure. We are set up for disappointment. For no man or woman can bring the things that the Lord can. And falling in love with another human being serves no substitute for the burning jealous love of God for His people.
What brings me contentment
And so, the Lord has me 180 degrees from whence I first started.
I have changed from an emotional hopelessly romantic man ridden with idolatry to a man who rejoices seeing the great adventure of growing in my relationship with Jesus. And so there are things which I can say now which I could not have a couple of months ago. Here’s one:
I am so content with being single.
It is because Jesus is enough. His pleasure is satisfying. His grace is sufficient. He is everything I need and will ever need. I have so much joy in my heart when I confess that to the Lord. When I can be idol-free going to bed at night and just recieve the Lord’s love.
And His love comes in a new measure because there are fewer hindrances in my heart! Oh what marvelous blessings come when one commits to Psalm 37, “Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.” My desire is for Him and Him alone.
Do I still pray for a wife? Yes, but very differently now: not my will, but Yours be done!
I have found the answer is
to love You and be loved by You alone
Alright! Alright! Alright!
You crucify me and the world to me
and I will only boast in You
Alright! Alright! Alright!
Shane & Shane – The Answer