I am young. I am only 21. This already might give you reason to dismiss me and that is okay. Today I am speaking to all the YOUNG women out there. This one is for you guys!
If there is one thing I have discovered about young Christian women it’s that we seriously struggle with singleness and relationships. Romance, love, guys’ attention, etc… as hard as we try, we just can’t seem to NOT think about or want it. It is ingrained in us. Heavily influenced by our culture and media, we just desire it. We desire a strong man, who will take care of us and love us and help us out and romance us and blah blah blah. We have to be honest and say, “yes, we want this.” Seriously. Its not a sin to want something, or desire something. But the reason I want to address this is because it is becoming an issue. It is becoming a focus. For those who are not in relationships, it looks like struggling with jealousy, insecurities, loneliness. For those who are in relationships it looks like misplaced identity, disappointments, deep longing. We all have these desires, whether we are in relationship with a man or not, and in the Christian dating culture, it has become an idol.
Here’s the reality. Marriage is not a promise from God. There are some of you who will never marry. That is just fact. Not everyone is called in marriage. Just because you date someone does not mean you are called into marriage. *GASP* WHAT?!? But aren’t you supposed to date with the intention of marriage? Yes. Sure. Whatever you want. Bible doesn’t exactly have huge outlines for dating because it didn’t exist at that time. As a woman, your father would set you up with a nice young (sometimes old) fella for a reasonable price and badaboom you were a wife. Dating is a new thing created by us. So it is messy and chaotic and most of the time does not make a lot of sense. Lets just get that out of the way. Your life should not be centered or focused around marriage. You can not think to yourself “well, when I’m married I’ll be able to ______” because that was not why marriage was created. Marriage, relationships, romance, none of that fills any kind of void or hole in your life. And if that is how you go into it, I guarantee you will be faced with disappointments and depressions. And I’m not just saying this because I’m set; I’m in a relationship so phew!, don’t have to worry anymore! Nope. God may move this relationship into marriage, He may not. This could be seasonal for us and that is perfectly okay. If there’s one thing I have learned about life it’s that it can flip on a dime. Marriage is no more a promise for me than it is for you so don’t dismiss me quite yet.
Through my relationship with Jeremy, God has not just broken down, but destroyed any idols I may have made out of marriage or love. And I wanted to share what I have learned because frankly, I think it could SAVE so many people from a life of fantasy and disappointment.
I came into this relationship with a list of written out expectations. The expectations were not bad, in fact, a lot of them you would have definitely agreed with. Things about timelines, boundaries, qualities he needs to have, qualities I need to have, etc… But my purpose in writing these things was to protect myself. I have come from a past of abusive relationships, so I wrote this list to ensure that those things never happened to me again. Good intentions. I wanted a healthy, God-honoring relationship. I didn’t know what God-honoring looked like but I wanted it. Fast forward to Jeremy. We met, became fast friends and he liked me and I fought it like crazy. I quite genuinely did not want this relationship in the beginning. He’s the last guy I would have picked, the timing didn’t seem right, his kidney failed, I was still in my “marriage is from satan” phase, I mean, everything just pointed against this. But God was insistent for some reason, did some serious quick work on my heart, and I am glad for it. This relationship is the best and hardest thing that has ever happened to me. I came in with all these expectations and standards, thinking THIS is how it HAS to be or else it is bad and I am going to break up with you. Oh poor Jeremy. Needless to say I have grown tremendously since the beginning and we are both thankful for it.
Jeremy didn’t meet pretty much any of my initial expectations. In fact, he didn’t meet any of my expectations last month either. In fact, he won’t be meeting any of my expectations ever. 1) Because my expectations are based on fantasy, not reality, sculpted by media, not Scripture and 2) he simply can’t. God placed a guy in my life with so many physical limitations that the majority of my outlandish wants he can never fulfill. And yes, this has caused numerous conflicts between us (thanks society!). The Christian Dating Culture influenced us heavily into getting engaged much too early, which caused even more conflict when we realized we were being quite ridiculous and needed to take major steps back. It felt like a train wreck and I was angry because I HAD A LIST! IT WASN’T SUPPOSED TO BE LIKE THIS!
But I didn’t take into account kidney failure. When I dreamed up my perfect guy, DYING didn’t exactly make the list. LIVES ON MACHINE didn’t make the cut, wasn’t what I was looking for. Yet God called me into this. Why? Because I needed to learn.
To love Jeremy is my choice. I wake up everyday and decide that I am going to do it. Does that make love sound fun? No, it doesn’t. Because that is not the point. Love is not cute dates, getting a text back, bringing me ice cream when I’m sad, posting cute Instagram photos or surprising me with flowers. Love isn’t even praying over me, sharing similar goals, or supporting me as I start something new. Love isn’t pursuing me, celebrating me, showering me with words of affirmation or spending intentional time with me. Because love isn’t about me. It’s not even about Jeremy. It’s about Jesus.
Love is hard. Love is sacrifice. Love is dying to yourself, and lifting God’s name higher through service.
Here’s another harsh reality in my life: marrying Jeremy benefits me in no way. Actually, it is going to make my life so much more stressful and difficult. He is a big question mark. Marrying him means I have to work full time, figure out health care that will cover his medical needs, pay for bills, take him to appointments, sit next to him through surgeries, help him set up dialysis everyday, rub his legs when he has toxin build up, take care of him. Later, that means most likely not being able to have children of our own, I won’t get to stay home and take care of my children because I have to be the main provider, I take on all of his school debt, and stand by him as he struggles in his faith and isn’t able to spiritually lead us. Not all of this is guaranteed, but with him, the odds are higher that this will be my reality. Yeah, falling in love is cute, right? 😉
But want to hear another reality? I WANT to do this more than anything. Not because it’ll be fun, not because it’s romantic, not because it will make my life more fulfilled, but because I love Jeremy Paz. There is no man on this earth I would rather commit to. He is more than worth it all to me. I don’t need the flowers, the dates, the pursuing, the encouraging, the support. I want it but I don’t need it. Because I am in this to serve and sacrifice. Jeremy is the most incredible man I have ever met and it’s not because of what he does for me but because of who he is. I see who he is now and who God has created him to be and I so badly want to be the person in the gap, who stands by his side always. I want to take on end stage renal failure as if it were my own disease because I want to give Jeremy the best life he could possibly have. I want to give up all of my expectations and dreams of romance for this relationship because THIS is where I see and experience God. This love is not about me. I choose to love this man because God has placed him in my care and I want to honor that. Jeremy is worth all of it.
So ladies, expectations will not be met. Fantasies and dreams of falling in love are not what you will experience. But real love is worth the fight. A love that values sacrifice over romance, a love that imitates Jesus is worth the effort. It is hard, disappointing, testing but so so rich. A heart that desires God above all else will experience this kind of relationship. If God calls Jeremy and I into marriage, I will be pleased. I want to take it all on to push Jeremy closer to Jesus and closer to the man God has created him to be. And that is love guys. And the reason I wanted to share this is not to say “oh, look at me I have it all figured out!” but to prepare you. If God has a man in store for you, I want to help prepare you for that. Because I strongly believe in commitment. This guy is going to be imperfect, he is going to fail you, and he may not be everything you want him to be all the time, as good as those intentions are. But if you go into it as a ministry, when you think “I am going to love this man like Jesus no matter if he reciprocates it or not”, you are going to experience a deepness in your faith like never before. You will start to realize that Jesus is amazing because He just did this, all of the time no questions asked. He sacrificed EVERYTHING for us and we do not reciprocate that love.
Yet, He loves us anyway.
Go in with that mindset. Whomever it may be that God has for you, vow now to love them as Jesus has loved you. Practice now in your friendships and with your family. Sacrificial love is a learned thing, so why not start now? God calls us to love all of those around us, not just our spouses. Marriage may not be in the plan for you either and that is okay. Satisfaction in God sustains us our whole lives, whether we are rich or poor, sick or healthy, married or single. Allow God to break down those idols now so that you do not waste anymore time worrying or focusing on it. Look at what God has for you right now: more of Him.
Jeremy and I are on this journey together. Our relationship flourishes when we both die to ourselves and live for Jesus. Our relationship thrives when we stand firm in our faith and sacrifice for the good of the other. I take on this disease, this difficult lifestyle when I do not have to and he never takes that for granted. We have both experienced God in new ways through this relationship and even if it does not end in marriage, that is more than enough for us.
“The Lord is our chosen portion and our chosen cup; you hold our lot. The lines have fallen for us in pleasant places; indeed, we have a beautiful inheritance…Therefore, our hearts are glad, and our whole being rejoices; our flesh also dwells secure…You make known to us the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” (Psalm 16: 5-6, 9, 11)