Wednesday, July 20, 2011

On Engagements, Contentment and Letting Go

I was that little girl who dressed up like a bride for Halloween.

I graduated valedictorian of my high school class, but all I really wanted was to be a wife and mother.

I came to college and loved the school spirit, the diverse student body, the enriching experiences- but my classes didn't really call me to a higher purpose or give me any sense of direction outside of the fact that I wanted to be a wife and a mother.

After a summer mission trip, I felt called to full time ministry- which was great! It fit right into my ideas about being a good wife and mother, after all.

Well, lo and behold I find David, a guy who I deeply care about, and we develop a serious relationship. At some point I have to stop and examine my heart and I find that I have a pretty solid timeline set out for myself. This wasn't something that I necessarily spoke explicitly about in conversation, but it was something that I planned my life around. I would graduate from college, get married and continue on with my husband to seminary.

I decided to graduate a semester early. By doing so, I wouldn't be held to the restrictions on my scholarship to not get married.

I took a youth minister position with a verbal commitment to remain in Austin for a year after my graduation, so that I could wait for him to finish his 5 year degree plan.

You see the pattern?

Now, none of these things alone were harmful, I don't think. However, my grasp for control over my life was powerful. And powerfully limiting to my faith.

I began to envy those around me getting engaged (which was a lot of people- thank you post graduate Baptists). In fact, upon hearing that two of my friends were engaged, instead of calling to congratulate them, I burst into tears at the injustice of it all.

I became bitter and frustrated when my plan, my timeline, wasn't going like I wanted. I was putting in all this effort. Obviously this wasn't something that David wanted because he wasn't making the same kind of effort that I was. The bitterness caused issues in our relationship as I grasped for control in other ways. If I couldn't set a perfect timeline, I could plan our wedding down to the most detailed tee. I began following wedding blogs and checking out venues, vendors and photography websites. It quickly became a really unhealthy obsession. It crept into most conversations with David, frustrating him, and in turn, frustrating me.

It didn't help when my peers would casually say in conversation, "Oh, what a beautiful ring.... Chelsea, when are you getting married?" To which I would stammer out that we'd just have to wait and see.

It also didn't help that the culture of the churches I attended gravitated toward families. Between the youth group and families, there wasn't a lot of room for single individuals. Although I don't believe it was the intention of any of these believers, the church culture made me feel like I needed to get married in order to be fulfilled. This strikes me, now, as strange because it seems that the most dedicated and committed followers of Christ in history and in the Bible were those who did not have a family to tie them down. In I Corinthians 7, Paul even discourages marriage, because it causes us to split our time and love between God and between a family.

But it was my own selfish, non-trusting spirit that caused most of this bitterness. Whenever I finally stopped and took a deep, objective look at my life I discovered that I wasn't quite prepared to be a wife. I found that my ministry with my youth group and the time that it takes to invest in each student, to plan events and study the Bible in order to teach, didn't leave a lot of time to plan a wedding. I looked at my empty bank account and my part time ministry salary, and his school loans and part time job at Mama Fu's and found that while on our own, we can manage to support ourselves, neither of us can contribute to a family.

And when I thought about it, when I examined the reactions of those wiser than myself, when I studied the Biblical responsibilities of husbands and wives, I knew that even if David proposed today, then I would have to say that we need to wait.

It was such a difficult point to come to. But when I finally did, when I finally let go of my own timeline and my own plans, I felt a weight lift from my heart. I heard God whisper- "Let me have control." It felt so different to finally let go. It was as if, in my stubbornness, I had been pushing against a strong river current because I knew my way was the only way. But when I let go, God guided me along, in the direction He'd determined all along.

I can't honestly say that I'm perfect even months after this spiritual battle was complete. I still find myself browsing wedding blogs sometimes, but instead of typing out notes and ideas, I just admire pretty pictures. When I hear about friends' engagements, instead of being infuriated, I am genuinely happy for them. In June, I was a bridesmaid in my best friend's wedding. And although I was apprehensive that some of my unhealthy feelings would surface, I prayed over the situation. And through the showers, the bachelorette party, the wedding preparations and the wedding day I found myself fully present and simply basking in their love for one another. Like any sin we overcome, I still stumble and I still require incessant prayer to keep my spirit focused on God's purposes.

As for me and David? Embracing contentment has exponentially improved our relationship. We still desire to marry one another, but we both accept that it might not be in our own timing. So we're praying, seeking and looking to God's timing. But navigating how to depend on one another appropriately when not married is a post all its own.

I hope my story has encouraged you!

1 comment:


    can i repost this on my blog? as a guest post by you? & i mean it. i am incredibly passionate about finding contentment where we're at and ready to start writing again about it myself. i would love to feature this post. it's beautiful, Chelsea, as all things are when we surrender them to the Lord, as painful as it may be.

    & I can't help but think: it's almost a year later, and i don't know where you are in your relationship now, but i know you have had to surrender it to God every day of the past almost-year. & i know the heartwrenching pain surrender of singleness & relationship can be, so i know there are days when it wasn't easy, wasn't easy at all, & i just want to say i love you & am praying for you & am so, so thankful for the Spirit in you, inspiring and encouraging and loving on me and other bloggers and all those sweet kids in your ministry.

    i'm deeply thankful for you, Chelsea. & i definitely want to publish this as a guest post on my blog if you're willing!


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