To My Sister On Her 30th Birthday
There are many people who can tell you that the 30’s are significantly better than the 20’s. Most of those people probably have all of their student loans paid off. I love being older than 29, for other reasons. I do occasionally panic about how I’m going to afford retirement (the internet says I need a million dollars), but overall it’s nice. One advantage I have is that I don’t live in Texas where it’s weird to be 30ish and single. It’s not weird in other places. Since you’re living in a zone where people might not understand that you’re not weird and there’s nothing wrong with you, I wanted to speak to that.
I am the only person in our family who has gone before you into the territory of being 30 and single. In the same way that Sarah or Mom can speak more meaningfully about parenting, I can tell you all about this.
Sometimes people give well-meaning but slightly misguided advice to single people that is rooted in a deep misunderstanding of the person of Jesus Christ, and the way He loves us.
They might tell you that if you are content, a spouse will magically appear before your eyes – right in that moment when you are able to be perfectly content. Aside from the fact that being perfectly content is not even a thing this side of Heaven, I wonder if these people might be bigger fans of Buddha than they are of Jesus. You can’t manipulate Jesus into giving you a husband. You can’t earn a husband (or anything) from Jesus by performing a task – even if the task is a good one, like being content. Being content is great, but not because you are trying to earn something else from Jesus. We can’t earn anything from Jesus. Remember the cross? That was Jesus, taking care of the fact that we can’t earn anything or do anything right. We can’t trick Him into giving us what we want by obeying Him. He loves us and gives to us freely, no matter what we do. He lavishes us with love while we are stuck in the darkest, most sinful moments of our lives. So if you desire to be married, please trust me when I say that your desire for marriage is not keeping you from being married. Jesus isn’t playing games with you. He doesn’t command you to stop wanting to be married, so that He can give you a spouse. He’s not insane. He gives bread, not stones. He is bread.
You might have also heard that if you become the kind of person you want to be married to, then you can/should/will get married. How very zen. Does this mean that people who are married have “become” someone good, but single people haven’t? Yikes. This seems like the same kind of faulty mindset: If you do ______, then you will be rewarded with ______. This is so contrary to the gospel, I have not the words. Anytime someone tells you that you need to “become better” or “improve” in order to obtain anything from Jesus, run as far and as fast as you can in the other direction. You’ll be running into the presence, rest, and peace of Jesus. If He ends up telling you to make improvements, it’s not because He’s dangling a carrot in front of your eyes for some other prize that you want. He doesn’t treat us like animals. He doesn’t play games. He’s not holding anything back from you. The prize for any change that takes place in your heart – is Jesus. He has given you everything, because He has given you Himself.
Someone once implied to me that married people are more mature than single people. It was super cute. She was young and newly married. Insert epic eyeroll here. I just wondered: if I was 90 and unmarried, would this adorable newlywed be claiming to have more maturity than me? Married people are not inherently more mature than single people. Consider the Kardashians. Marriage is not the only thing that breeds maturity, although it does. The single life is full of opportunities to become a mature adult. I still cry when I have car problems, but I take care of them by myself. I pay my bills by myself. I come home from stressful days of work, shake it off, and deal with it – by myself. I don’t have a husband to talk through the day with. No one else to take out the trash, change the oil in my car, or fix my computer problems. No tasks are divided. They’re all mine. No second income to pay the rent/mortgage/loans. No one else has the same stakes in my life decisions as I do. These things develop maturity in a gal. Jesus has given us everything we need to follow Him, everything we need for life and godliness. He’s not delaying your growth and development until you get married. Your maturity comes from only one source: Jesus Christ.
Are you sensing a theme? Have I exalted Him too high? Given Jesus too much credit?
When people scour the Bible for an example of a godly marriage, they go straight for Ruth and Boaz. It’s a simple, easy story. No offense to Ruth and Boaz. They’re totes amazeballs. But it’s the milk and cookies version of a marriage story in the Bible. You can read it to five year olds, and they won’t ask uncomfortable followup questions. (Mom, what is a kinsman redeemer?) If you want some meat, I encourage you to read the story of Hosea and Gomer. God told Hosea to marry a prostitute. (Dad, what is a whore?) Over and over again, Gomer was faithless. No redeeming qualities. But God told Hosea to pursue her and love her, to not give up on her, to be faithful. This is the gospel. It is the story of how much Jesus loves the Church, His bride. This is the story that marriage was designed to tell us. You can’t read Hosea and then tell single people that self-improvement is the way to marriage, or the way to anything. Jesus Christ, in all things, is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.
There will be days when you love being single and 30. The days when no kids are rubbing their snot on your clothes. There will be days when it’s hard to be single, like when you have to fill out your tax return and can’t make someone else do it.
The answer to any kind of sadness you feel is not found in a mindset within yourself – not in being content, self-improvement, or maturity. The medicine, the answer, the hope – it is all found in the person of Jesus Christ alone. Marriage and the family unit are not the cornerstone and savior of society or you, Jesus Christ is. Alone. Period. Look nowhere else. He is so good to us. Every day, every trial, every victory, every longing, He is so good to us. He ordains marriage for some people, because He is so good. You are single, because He is so good. Trust me, because I am two years older than you so this means I know everything.
Other relevant life advice:
– Consider not voting for Donald Trump. Third parties are real candidates. Not voting is a type of vote. You have options, okay?
– Eat fish once a week, for your brain. Alzheimer’s runs in the family and this is supposed to help. You should also brush your teeth with your non-dominant hand, and do word puzzles.
– But don’t eat fish more than twice a week. Something about mercury.
– Go to the bathroom every two to three hours, even if you don’t feel like it. But you will feel like it, because your bladder starts shrinking when you turn 30.
– Drink more water. This probably goes without saying, but I’m just saying.
– Go on vacation with me to New York. This is not advice. It’s just something we should do.
– Look at NASA’s “astronomy picture of the day” every now and then for some perspective, if you aren’t prone to existential crises’. It’s a good way to spend all that free time you have on your hands as a single person. It will make you want to be an astronaut, but it’s too late. You can’t be. I am nothing if not realistic.
– Organic meat is not worth the price. Just accept the fact that you are going to die one day, and buy your ground beef at Kroger anyway.
Happy birthday!!! Enjoy another trip around the sun.