I’ve been awakened the last few mornings by a songbird. Ordinarily I enjoy slowly emerging from sleep as a cool breeze wafts through the window and the birds sing their happy morning songs. This particular bird, however, sings only the same note. One note only. Over. And over. And over. Maybe it’s the only song he has. But at 5:30 a.m., it gets annoying really fast.
This morning I was laying in bed listening to this bird, it occurred to me that sometimes I am like this little guy. I say the same things over and over again, to the Lord, to my friends, to anyone who will listen. “Why? Why am I not married? Why don’t I get what I want? Why doesn’t the Lord answer my prayers? When? When will it be my turn?” And while I don’t want to minimize the difficulty I experience at times, and the fact that the Lord is big enough for all of my questions (even the ones I ask over and over again!), I have to ask myself if my song is all about me and how I am never satisfied. I sing the same note every day, when, if I would only take my eyes off myself for a moment and look around, I would see so many things to praise God for, so many reasons for thanks and for joy. How would my attitude change if, even if I didn’t feel like it, I raised my voice in praise and thanks to the Lord for the amazing things He’s done for me?
Now when I wake up in the morning and that lovely little bird is chirping outside my window, I hope I won’t be tempted to complain or to bemoan the things I dislike about my present circumstances, but rather I will be reminded to sing a song of praise, to open my mouth with encouragement for those around me. I can be a song of joy or an annoying chirp of selfishness. Which will it be?
It’s easy to tell what most occupies my thoughts and feelings because that is my most frequent and passionate topic of conversation. I love my job, and I spend a lot of time there, so sometimes when I’m talking with my friends, I have to hold myself back because I realize that they probably aren’t all that interested in the finer points of classical ballet technique. More often than not, though, my conversation starts with, “So, have you had any dates lately?” and ends with whining about still being single. I’ve found that at my lowest points, I have become completely eaten up by the difficulties of singleness that I have no room left for communion with Christ. My desire for marriage has become a gilded statue that I’ve set up in my heart, and when I retreat into my thoughts, the first thing I do is kneel at that shrine of desire. I’ve got to take down that idol and put the Lord back on the throne, and that involves going to the cross and dying to desire.
Here’s the kicker: desiring marriage is natural and completely legitimate, but I need to ask myself these questions. Is it something that is impinging upon my faith in the Lord? Is it causing me to doubt His goodness or sovereignty, His grace or mercy? Is it something that I desire above holiness? Is it something I desire more than God’s glory in me? Then I have to die to that desire. Not in the sense that it may never be fulfilled, though that is a possibility I should consider. But in the sense that I need to get rid of the things that are holding me back from full fellowship with the Lord, from knowing, loving, and serving Him wholeheartedly. Singleness becomes a burden when I carry it myself and hold onto it instead of rolling it over to onto the Lord. I need to allow Him to consume my desire so that I can be consumed by Him.
“How do you do that?” one might well ask. Certainly I don’t have this one nailed down. But I guess the best thing I can say is that surrender involves trust. It is easy to sit in church and sing “I surrender, I am Yours.” But is that only because I think He will give me what I want? Or maybe because the music is inspiring? Real surrender means I am His regardless of where He takes me and what He gives or doesn’t give me. It means my marital state is His too. Because if I say “I surrender all” and I mean it, then I am His to do with as He wills. He is in charge of my life.
So fancy words and high-minded ideas of surrender aside, what it boils down to is a moment by moment battle with my mind and heart. Every time I find myself thinking about/obsessing over/fantasizing about a future mate, I’ve got to take that thought and desire and tell the Lord it’s His. Verbally, if need be. I’ve got to tell Him every day that I trust His plan and accept what He has in store for me that day. I must elevate my desire for God above my desire for marriage. I do that by spending time in His word, in worship, in prayer. It’s not easy. My flesh fights it. I would so much rather make myself miserable pining over dreams of a romantic future than tell the Lord I love Him and want Him to use me for His glory. He didn’t promise it would be easy. He did say it would be good. Lord, consume my desires so that I can be consumed by You.