to the girl who wants a boy for Christmas.

Oh, honey.

Let’s sit awhile. I’ll put on a pot for tea.

I know, I’m more of a coffee girl, too, but I think tea has something to teach us here, about this, right now–teaches us to steep, to bleed into the quiet peace of waiting. Coffee–how I love it!–is the violent caffeinated cacophony of force, and we need a little less of that for the moment. Tea it is.

I’ll cut you a fat piece of orange-cranberry-pecan bread, and between bites I’ll tell you I think next time I’ll ditch the crumble for the glaze and that I’ve been single for a lifetime.

For my whole life. All that time.

You’re startled that I’ve blurted this, but that’s how I do things. If we’re to be friends, you should know that. I’ll try to skip past the whys of self-deprecation; I’ll spare you the bad joke about being a tall order in short stature.

OK. Maybe I won’t skip all that, because maybe you need someone to squeeze your hand a little and admit that it’s hard sometimes, that yes, hurt is there.

Because it is hard being the excited friend all the time, feeling all sidelineish. You’re scared to admit that the fact that you are genuinely ridiculously overjoyed to get save-the-dates in the mail and to wedding-scheme with your friends and to walk before them down the aisle almost makes the way out a little more tricky.

If you found bitterness to wrap yourself in, or to paint over your skin (layer after layer of brittle, impermeable shell), eventually it would crack and I think you would have to deal with that pink exposed flesh all at once. BAM. No other way.

But here, where the joy is real? It’s lonely and it’s wonderful all at once.

And maybe if it was later in the evening, with wine instead of tea, I would look away and admit that there have been plenty of why not mes accompanied with my own composition of answers.

I’m telling you this so you know I get it. I do.

I understand that you want to be loved like that.

I understand that you have so much to give. That you want to love like that.

I understand that marriage is one big eschatological metaphor for union with the One who made us, in Whom we have our being, and you kindof want in on that.

I also understand that sometimes you really just want someone to kiss.

But honey. Dearest daughter.

It cannot be all you live for.

It cannot be the only thing you dream of.

You might not even think that is how you do things, so look again while you press your thumb into bits of that crumb topping in question. Examine the way you’ve planned in secret, the imagined wedding date you’ve charted the rest of your life around.

The I’ll-be-married-by-thens and the not-married-untils.

Because here is something hard: that boy of your dreams is no guarantee, and not on any timeline of yours.

We think the falsehood of the prosperity gospel is just about the nice cars and big houses, but it goes deeper still to hot wives and guitar-playing husbands to make us whole, and perfect life plans to give us purpose.

[Here’s something risky: marriage is not the only happy ending, the ultimate eucatastrophe.]

And I want it to be clear that I am not telling you this so you’ll be content dating Jesus or becoming marry-able and-then-he-will-give-you-the-desires-of-your-heart. While sometimes blessing comes just when we’re not hunting it down, I’m not so sure he’s a God of reverse psychology and rhetorical questions. It is not a cosmic dating formula or trick.

We are to be faithful because of who He is, because He’s worth all of it [whether we feel it or not], not to get what we want.

There is a God to know now, and we will participate in that eschatological metaphor whether there’s a ring on our finger or not, when it is more than comparison.

There are people to love now, to listen to, people to clothe, to care for, to feed.

There are even lepers to kiss.

[They are both your dearest friends and total strangers, both next-door neighbors and brothers and sisters across the sea.]

There are cups to pour, hands to get dirty and to hold. Another loaf of bread to bake.

And we circle back round here again, don’t we, love?

It is all grace anyway, the giving and the gift–grace, grace, grace.

We ask, and He always gives.

And gives.

Sometimes now, sometimes later. Sometimes the same, sometimes something different.

But always more.

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when she asks about my [nonexistent] love life.

“Are you afraid that you’ll never date, or get married? Does it ever, well, worry you?”

We’re in the car, and I’ve been watching church after church roll past my window like an ecclesial slideshow, wondering if Texas is the Bible Belt buckle, even though it doesn’t really work geographically. With all of this clearly significant wondering, she’s caught me off guard, and I’m more than a little annoyed anyway, mostly because I think her answer to this question is in the asking.

“What? NO. I mean, I…uh, no.” I stammer, half-angry, half-mystified, thinking, I’ve shown her one too many summer wedding albums on Facebook.

But it’s not the first time she’s asked. It’s usually in the car, or at the grocery, or while waiting at the dentist’s office—somewhere I can’t run. She’s good.

I give about the same unsatisfying answer every time, which is why she keeps asking it, I suppose.

But the truth? I don’t really worry about it.

[At least, that’s the answer I’m giving today. ]

And maybe it’s because at [almost!] twenty-two, I still feel quite young. I’m moving into my very first apartment this week, I’m still discovering the person I’m supposed to be, I’ve only just bought a real person adult wallet. Worrying about marriage honestly seems like a lot.

I have days. Perhaps it’s an occasional pinch rather than a constant ache. On these days, I do have all the usual insecurities, I do fail to see myself as His creation, and I do wonder if someone will understand [not to mention stick around for] this strange combination of parts and story, the awkward quirks and habits, the messy bits I’m not so much a fan of myself.

And of course, there is the sting of the “no, never” that my new friend [and captivating writer] Hilary wrote about once.

So, I suppose, I will admit the ache, at long last, sure. [And perhaps sometime I will even write about it in a post far less self-contradicting than this one.]

I hope it is not denial, but much of the time, I would still say I am not so concerned. And it is not necessarily because of any of those things I just listed vanish at the simple swipe of lipstick or the click of a high heel, but because of the love of the One who makes everything beautiful in its time and  guides the pulsing of the distant stars, the hum of the cicadas in the park, and my ever-wayward heart.

I hope not to mean this cheaply, to make Jesus to be my boyfriend and not my savior, and not even in a His-love-trumps-everyone-else’s way. Because though that last bit is true—ours is only a dim reflection of His—I have found these responses to be unsatisfying at certain times, because the fact of the matter is, there is something sacred about a human romance, and it’s OK for it to be a dream of mine. Of yours, too.

But rather, simply, it is because He whispers, in an acceptable time, and I ask for the strength to trust.

And He reminds me of the grace that brought me to this day, and the winding road of journey, the outcomes I never considered, the friendships I never thought I’d make.

Grace, grace, it is all grace. 

And so, I throw up my hands and say that it is by the grace of God that I will love and be loved, that someone will walk with me, that I will prayerfully be a wife and mother.

But then, anyway, it is by grace that we love at all.

And so for now, I am learning, here and everywhere, to love where I can, to listen, to watch, to pray.