The Single Years
My freshman year in college, I didn’t feel I was making friends very quickly. One day, on the advice of my youth pastor, I picked whatever room had the door open, walked in, sat on the floor, and joined the conversation. The room belonged to two girls from Michigan who will never know how much they impacted my life that first year.
Every now and then, they’d invite me to come with them to the campus prayer chapel. They took journals, notebooks, Bibles, study guides, pens, and highlighters with them. They loved the Bible. So. Much.
These times were when I decided something that has impacted my teaching ever since: having a passion for the Bible is contagious. Whenever I was with them their love for the Word of God and how it impacted their lives was always evident. I found myself more intrigued and finding new ways to explore and enjoy the Bible myself.
The Best Year Ever
One the these girls, Leah, and I decided to room together the next year. My sophomore year I grew closer to God than ever before.
Leah was never afraid to ask tough questions. When I was overly anxious, we memorized Jesus’ “Do Not Worry” message from Matthew 6 together. When I was having a tough time with decisions, depression, or temptation, she would ask me point blank, “Have you talked to Jesus?” She wasn’t blowing me off (even though I made her deal with quite a few “venting” sessions); she was simply pointing me in the direction I should have gone first anyways.
Not only was my roommate a constant encouragement, but I was able to set aside an hour a day just to go to our dorm’s chapel room. There, I would read a Christian-living book, really study the Bible, pray, worship, and journal.
I found myself walking to class, automatically throwing my thoughts towards Jesus instead of simply keeping them to myself. I look back on it now as the season of my life in which I was closest to God.
Mid-way through my junior year, I started dating Kyle, my now-husband. Our relationship moved rather quickly. Eight months later, we were engaged to marry; the date was set for just a year after we had become a couple.
My friend Amanda, who is a sister to me, came home to be in the wedding. While she was here, I told her how I felt my relationship with God had really taken a back seat during the whirlwind relationship and wedding planning. It wasn’t as if God wasn’t leading our relationship – we sought His direction throughout the whole thing.
But somewhere between wedding planning, taking extra classes to graduate early, and working two jobs, I’d lost that beautiful time with God I’d had not even a year before. I knew God was still in my life – I just felt distant.
Amanda’s words encouraged me immensely: “God knows what’s going on in your life right now. He has grace for you in this busy season of life. When you get married, you’ll have a husband to take care of, and your relationship with God won’t look the same.”
Even though I felt so much relief from that conversation and extended it to others later, I didn’t realize the weight of it right away, and I completely forgot about it later.
Kyle & I got married, and instead of using her words as wisdom for how to tackle my personal relationship with God, I started using them as an excuse.
I’d tell myself, I haven’t read my Bible in a while, but God understands I’m a newlywed.
Or, I really haven’t spent quality time with Jesus lately, but He knows these new things I’m going through, so I don’t need to worry about it.
What had started as grace for a busy season turned into my own laziness and lack of discipline. I finally saw it for what it was and was disgusted with who I’d become.
I tried going back to what had worked for me sophomore year of college – when I felt so close to Jesus. But now, one hour a day didn’t make sense when I was working two jobs, homemaking, and supporting my husband’s ministry.
It’s almost two years later and I’m still struggling with what my relationship with Jesus is supposed to look like as a married woman.
Get Close to Jesus or Be Like Jesus?
One day Kyle and I decided to listen to Sacred Marriage by Gary Thomas while driving to visit my parents. Thomas told about a conversation when his brother asked whether he’d advise marriage. His response amazed me:
“If you want to be close to Jesus, stay single; if you want to be like Jesus, get married.”
The truth in this statement is revolutionizing.
He’s not saying one is a higher calling or more important than the other. He’s saying that these two distinct ways of living are two different, yet very powerful, ways of growing in our relationship with Jesus.
1 Corinthians 7:34 explains the tension this way:
…a woman who… has never been married can be devoted to the Lord and holy in body and in spirit. But a married woman has to think about her earthly responsibilities and how to please her husband.
When I was single, my attention was not divided; I didn’t have the struggle of spiritual Jesus first in my life and physical husband second.
But being married allows me to live out how Jesus was in more depth. Take the epic explanation from Ephesians 5 for example:
For wives, this means submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For a husband is the head of his wife as Christ is the head of the church…. For husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church.…. This is a great mystery, but it is an illustration of the way Christ and the church are one. (Ephesians 5:22-23, 25-26, & 32)
I have the opportunity along with my husband to set a living example of the love of Christ for the Church! And if we can even come remotely close – how miraculous!
Not only do we have the opportunity to try and redeem the world’s perception of Jesus’ relationship with the Church, but I personally have the chance to very tangibly practice Ephesians 5:1 – to be imitator’s of God. To attempt to shift my own mindset and attitude towards how I treat others, starting with how I treat my husband – is it how Jesus would love us?
I’m just realizing all these truths. I’m far from living them out well. But there are a few practical things I’m trying to implement in order to begin shifting my attitudes, mindset, and actions.
Learning Discipline – I have an app on my phone called iCommit where I can gauge different areas of personal discipline – health, productivity, and spiritual are the ones I assess. I rate myself in different aspects within these categories every day. Even though it seems tedious or non-impactful, it has begun to remind me throughout the day to change my attitude or accomplish certain tasks.
Taking Thoughts Captive – I try to always remember to think about my thoughts – it’s difficult! But being aware of the thoughts and attitudes that pop into my head allow me to change them more readily – or at least understand where I’m coming from!
Pray First – This idea is from a teaching by Chris Hodges that I would highly recommend everyone listen to. The idea is that we pray before we react, and pray at the beginning of the day. He also explains how to walk through the Lord’s prayer, what it means, and how to pray it ourselves.
Bible Reading Plan – I never thought I’d be that person who didn’t know what to read when approaching the Bible. But now I’ve read it all before and I’m not always just as excited about it as I used to be. So I decided to take advantage of YouVersion’s reading plans. It really helps give direction, whether in a specific topic or just straight through the Bible. Being able to see what friends are reading in the app is always encouraging.
Understanding Who My Husband is as a Spiritual Leader – This was one of the hardest things when we first got married for me to adapt to. Any woman who has always been aware that she wanted and needed her husband to be a spiritual leader in the home has this expectation of what that will look like. The only problem is that we develop that expectation before we actually know who our husband truly is. Kyle and I do devotions together once a week on his day off and pray together every night. I love it even though it isn’t want I initially expected it to look like. It’s who my husband is, how he leads me, and what works for us.