By Fern Horst
My five-year-old niece and I were having a heart-to-heart talk — one she had initiated about women having babies. When I asked her if she thought I should get married and have a baby she looked back at me with a why-would-you-do-that look. Her answer was clear: “No! You’re an auntie. You can’t do everything!”
On the way to adulthood we often lose sight of this five-year-old wisdom and we think that someday we can have it all. We grow up with certain hopes and dreams. My three-year-old niece, listening in on this conversation, clutched her doll closer to her and declared confidently that some day she wants to be a mommy. I watched her little face shine with anticipation and realized how young one starts to hope and dream. I prayed silently that the Lord would prepare her for her future, whatever that will be.
As we go through life, some of our dreams are wondrously fulfilled while others aren’t. Some are goals we can work towards and achieve, others we have little or no control over. The bottom line, though, is that we’ll never get all that we’ve ever wanted — at least not on this side of heaven.
My niece isn’t the only little girl who grows up hoping to someday replace her doll with a real live baby of her own. But for many little girls that life-long dream is never realized. But that’s just one of many dreams which may not be fulfilled in life. For many of us singles it may be the unrealized dream of marriage, or the broken dream resulting from divorce or the death of a spouse.
I recently read a brief conclusion of a scientific study which stated that those who are married do better in every measure of well being than those who are not married. As a single, I bristled a bit at this study’s conclusions; after all, if I’m following the Lord, won’t He guarantee my overall well being, married or single? When I shared this with a friend, he assured me that the study was likely true in various aspects. But he also pointed out something equally true: what we lack as singles is often the ticket to other opportunities which are of immense value in God’s Kingdom. As the Apostle Paul pointed out, the unmarried person is free to use this time and energy to be devoted to the Lord:
“He that is unmarried careth for the things that belong to the Lord, how he may please the Lord: But he that is married careth for the things that are of the world, how he may please his wife. There is difference also between a wife and a virgin. The unmarried woman careth for the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit: but she that is married careth for the things of the world, how she may please her husband.” (I Corinthians 7:32-35)
We can’t have it all, and we may not have the “best” by certain standards or measures. So what should our response be? Oftentimes our tendency is to become despondent because life seems unfair, to sulk because the dream is not realized, and perhaps even to resent those who have had that dream realized. Though it is often a matter of perspective, it is true that we haven’t all been given the same opportunities in life. Perhaps others have ten talents and we have only five, as those in the parable that Jesus told (Matthew 25:14-30). But let’s not make the grave mistake of the person in this story who had just one talent and buried it because he was afraid his Master would not be pleased with the little that he had. In the end he faced the eternal wrath of his Master who called him unfaithful and cast him into utter darkness. It’s sobering to realize that God fully expects us to use what we have and to not throw away our opportunities because we’d rather have something different.
It sometimes seems like my life would be better if I had a husband and children — surely there is a very important role which a wife and mother plays in her family. Yet God has given me other opportunities than these. What will I do with them? When we stand before our Maker and He says to us, “Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord”, it will no longer matter to us that our faithfulness was labored in the trenches of singleness rather than the trenches of marriage. It won’t matter that we never had it all. Nothing of this earthly life will matter, except that we were faithful with what we had. “Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:8).
Let’s make sure that He will.