I Don’t Think God Has A Plan For My Love Life

He got my hopes up.

I was cautious, but I was hopeful. Hope is a tough one for me. It’s a word that circles around me; one I wish I could grab more often than I do. Usually I smile at hope as it fires past with someone else in tow.

But this time it was me. And I liked him. And he liked me back. Hope grew.

Who or when or why doesn’t really matter. But I will tell you that I was impressed by his heart and wit, couldn’t stop staring at his mouth, we had history and values in common, and he called off our camaraderie with no explanation at 1am via text message while I was on vacation.

Yikes.

It’s Valentine’s Day, so thoughts turn to romances old and new, steady and broken, whether we like it or not. It doesn’t really matter anymore if Saint Valentine wasn’t an archer, that this is a holiday made up by corporations to bridge the commercial lull between Christmas and Easter, or that naked babies arranging your love life from the clouds is an absolutely terrible idea.

We all have these stories. We all have stories of hope.

I’ll bet whether you’re committed or single, young or old, you know the sensation of giving up your cynicism about something or someone. You’ve felt a cautious hope lighting up inside you for a person or opportunity that seems really good, almost too good, but not quite so good that it’s impossible. You risk a little bit. You see reason to proceed. You hope a little bit more. You delight in this act of opening up to something new.

And it goes on.

Until it simply doesn’t.

Some people try to tell me that this is God’s plan. They write their stories, about all of the twists and turns that lead to marriage or the romance they have now. They assure me that I’m not behind schedule because I’m single, that God doesn’t operate on our schedules anyway, that I should focus on becoming The One for someone else, that God’s timetable is perfect if I just accept it. They have good stories full of true bravery and hope and yes, I can see God in it.

But I don’t think God has a plan.

At least, I don’t think God has a plan in the way that we talk about God having a plan.

See, people tend to talk about God having a plan like it’s linear and like it’s going to get better as it goes along. When this conversation plays out, singleness is a “stage” or “season” preparing me for some sort of glorious future that involves marriage.

Whenever it’s set up like this, marriage is the happiness offered to me at the end of the plan if I just stick it out. This leaves many of us constantly worrying about whether or not we’re “on plan” currently or feeling shame and questioning God when things go badly.

Because if God has a plan like that for my love life, it really sucks.

If God is charting and manipulating my relationship journey so I, The One, can finally meet you, The One, and then everything will be fine, then I want off this boat. Not because I want to quit difficult things or avoid challenges or stop growing or don’t trust God. It’s not even because I don’t think that romantic longevity is possible; I think it it absolutely is.

But this “plan” thing seems like it’s totally crazy making. It involves me saying that a large section of my life will only matter once I have a ring and some holy vows to mark it. It eliminates the stories of suffering or pain that happen in marriages, even good ones that last. It requires me to pretend like getting dumped by someone I was beginning to trust, someone I saw as a friend and colleague, doesn’t suck. Whether or not I get married some day will not change the pain of that experience. And the suggestion that God’s plan was behind that pain rather than a human decision makes God out to be kind of sadistic.

And the suggestion that God’s plan was behind that pain rather than a human decision makes God out to be kind of sadistic.

And, let’s get real, I don’t think that happiness is something I have to wait for or even find ultimately in a romantic relationship. I am not living in some sort of false enjoyment of life until I have a husband to make it real. This is my real life, now, and it is disappointing and it is good. And my faith in God is what helps me distinguish those two things.

When we only offer the “God has a plan” narrative, the one that says you must simply plod through all the hard things until they are magically revealed to have been good things or that they led you to good things, we are removing ourselves from reality.

My experience with God offers me a deeper centering in reality, not escapism. I don’t remember any stories of Jesus telling people someday their pain would make sense, that in the future they’d get something that would be better than healing in the moment.

Jesus stood with people.

He saw, touched, healed, and planted himself very much in their lives by inviting himself to dinner. He didn’t fix every single detail of their disappointments, but he didn’t offer people platitudes that his Father created their sufferings for some personal glory.

He walked around calling evil for what it was, driving it out, and weeping with those who experienced the death of hope.

And that, to me changes everything. I haven’t quite sorted out exactly how God works with us without controlling every detail, but it brings me comfort. It’s so much more powerful that trying to follow a map or hoping that other people are following their maps so that we can get past this mess and just get married. If there’s no map, but there is an incarnate God who will stand with us and for us, we can have peace even when things fall apart. We can simply engage with reality and ask God to meet us, wherever we are.

I don’t need a God with a blueprint plan if I can have a God who is with me.

Speak Up! Do you think God has a plan for your life? Does it help you through hardship? How do you experience God’s presence?

[Photo:  tmarsee530, Creative Commons]

  • http://twitter.com/mattschaar m@

    Perhaps, in some way, because of Christ’s willingness to fully embrace humanity, we can view God as a good and noble general. He knows the strategy and the enemy in intimate, deep ways; yet he is unafraid to take arms and stand alongside his troops as a sign of solidarity and like-minded hatred for his foe.

    What makes him incredibly good though, is that he already knows the battle has won, and despite the fact that many of his troops will suffer and fall, he continues to fight for the sake of what he knows must be done.

    Maybe that’s why C.S. Lewis wrote about God, allegorically through the character of Aslan: “Safe?….Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good.

    • http://www.cross-platform.org John Hanan

      That is absolutely my favorite line throughout all of the Chronicles of Narnia.

    • Emily_Maynard

      Oooooh, I don’t know, Matt! Doesn’t goodness imply safety? I can’t think of anyone who could be truly good if they are not also safe. What do you think Lewis meant by that word “safe?”

      This line started bugging me in recent years, actually!

      • http://www.cross-platform.org John Hanan

        Personally when I think “safe” I think “free from trouble”. And since Christ promised us trouble if we followed Him, that means He’s not safe.

        • Emily_Maynard

          Whoa, interesting, I had never thought of it like that, John!

      • http://twitter.com/Douglas_AmongUs Douglas H.

        Okay, once people start discussing C.S. Lewis, I pretty much have to jump in. This is a hard quote. That’s the idea. But if you look at the context, which is a conversation between children and a couple of beavers, the Pevensies were afraid of meeting Aslan because he’s a lion, and a lion means, to them, something wild and dangerous. So, when faced with the awe Mr. and Mrs. Beaver have for him, they wonder if he’s safe. What they really mean is: is he ‘tame’? Of course, ‘tame’ is the last thing Aslan is, and Lewis says this later on.

        But you’re absolutely right, good implies safety, of some kind; it implies protection and health and hope.. And Aslan, in that sense, is safe; he’s the safest place around. The rest of the story proves that. I think actually the difficulty with the idea of him not being ‘safe’, in one sense that we might want, reflects the difficulty we have when we talk about God having a plan. What kind of plan, we wonder? Because if it’s good, then what does that mean for what I’m going through now. Of course, the question becomes: what do we mean by ‘good’? And I don’t have an answer for that.

        Please don’t misunderstand me. I’m not speaking from a place of knowledge or superiority. You’re story hit me, hard. Like you, I wonder if the story will turn out better. Because I so desperately want it to. I want to know that there’s something else going on. Some plot that I’m in, something greater than me that I haven’t or won’t screw up. Because if it’s all dependent on me, I don’t know if it will go anywhere, I don’t know if I can make it go where I want to, I don’t know that I alone can achieve the things I want.

        It seems like recently that hope has become harder and harder and thing, less like a warm security blanket and more like a hard-edge diamond that cuts us when we clutch it close. Some days, I just don’t know what to do with it. Some days, I’m just tired of waiting for things and want them to be here now, because living without knowing for sure feels like it’s killing me. And, on those days, it feels like a comfort to think this is one chapter, one page, and if we can but turn the page we’ll realize it was all worth it and waiting for us.
        I don’t have the answers. I hope you find them. Let me know when you do.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Katherine-Harms/602268732 Katherine Harms

    You seem quite bitter about the way people struggle with words where God is concerned.

    • http://www.alise-write.com Alise Wright

      I don’t think that asking people to be more thoughtful about their use of words means that someone is bitter. Encouraging people to listen more than to talk is wisdom.

      • Emily_Maynard

        Thank you, Alise, for saying this and modeling it.

    • http://www.cross-platform.org John Hanan

      “The difference between the almost right word & the right word is
      really a large matter–it’s the difference between the lightning bug and
      the lightning.” – Samuel Clemens

      • http://twitter.com/allyvest Ally Vesterfelt

        One of my favorite quotes, John! So very true.

    • http://twitter.com/NatalieTrust Natalie Trust

      Katherine, I’m trying to appreciate where you are coming from, but honestly I can’t figure it out. At the begining you say God has a plan but not a “project plan”. At the end you say that you hope Emily finds her better half. I feel like it would be a HUGE God project to go around ordaining meeting your other-half moments.

      Oh and P.S. Saying someone seems bitter as you begin to share from your heart isn’t very productive to the whole conversation.

      • Emily_Maynard

        Natalie, I love you. Thank you for all of this.

    • Emily_Maynard

      Thanks for commenting, Katherine. I’m really sorry I came across as bitter to you.

      I certainly don’t begrudge people the difficulties of human language when we talk about the mysteries of God. I don’t expect any humans, myself OR others to always get that right. But I think that the way we talk about these things, the sort of comforts we offer each other in times of trial, should be considered carefully. And ‘God has a plan’ seems to me to make God more cruel than lovable, which is why I wanted to open it up for dialogue.

    • Ruthie Dean

      Don’t call single girls writing about singleness bitter. Ever. Emily did a great job here and even if you don’t agree with her, she shared her heart and she deserves to be applauded, not critisized. Sure, you can disagree with her words, but don’t attack her character.

      • Emily_Maynard

        I hope even more than writing about singleness, I was writing about the narratives that we tell ourselves, that tell others, and the way we think about God. I could have written this same piece in any relationship status, because I think this hoping, losing, and finding peace with God is a continual process throughout life.

        Thank you for seeing past the “single girl” stuff, Ruthie. I appreciate you standing with me here.

        • http://lightovercomesdarkness.com/ Rev Wendy Wolf

          You intention came through clearly to me, Emily
          What story am I living in?
          Am I in the present and whole in God, NOW?
          I love your wisdom. Excited about your sharing/writing.

          I hear that good writing gives folks a context to think
          I appreciate your pondering openness.
          I enjoy the response community you attract, and their sharing, so honestly.

          Blessings on your continued road, Wendy

  • RinaMaduro

    Yes! I really think God has a plan for my life. I can agree with you about “I don’t think God has a plan in the way that we talk about God having a plan”. We have to keep in mind that not everything in life will go the same way for everyone.
    To tell you the truth, I don’t know exactly how God’s plan is working in my life. The last years of my life went completely different than I had hoped/expected. But looking back, I am satisfied. Yes, there were hard times, though moments, but God helped me trough each of them and is still doing that. And what I can know for sure about God’s plan for me: For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Jeremiah 29:11 NIV And here it isn’t described precisely how, when,…. but He has a plan.
    With God’s presence, I can be content with how my life is.

  • http://www.wineandmarble.com/ Hännah

    Amen.

  • http://twitter.com/RedefineFemale Redefining Female

    I believe and KNOW God has a plan: To draw each of us to Himself–yet like you said, He does that without controlling every detail. I think we focus so much on finding “the one” or figuring out if God is going to lead us to “the one” that we miss out on knowing HIM as the One in our lives. It doesn’t discount our desires for a person in our life, but neither does He.

    Also, life can be messy after marriage too. If we use God as our means to finding someone–as if all of our problems will disappear once we get married–then we are going to be disappointed, and more importantly, we are grossly underestimating all that God wants to be to us. We will miss out on knowing the God who is with us, like you said.

    Finally though, I do believe that God knows the desires of our hearts, and if we give Him our desire to be in a relationship that He will answer in His timing. (that can be another thing we underestimate, His power to answer our prayers)

    • Emily_Maynard

      Thanks for sharing! I think I’m in a great place right now because God and so many people I love are with me. It’s amazing.

  • http://twitter.com/HeyAileen Hey, Aileen.

    I also tend to kick off the catch phrases and common-answer narratives. I didn’t grow up in an evangelical world, and instead of embracing the Christianese lingo, I’ve kind of taken a stance of poking fun at it (hopefully not at the expense of others in emotional moments; I try to be aware).

    When it’s a friend, I at least ask where it’s coming from – did God give you those words for me; is there anything more specific that’s been given to you to share? Or, in love, can you recommend which book of the Bible I should read over and over again for awhile? Maybe a hug would be best?

    When it comes down to it – I don’t know if God’s plan for my life has annotations for what kind of coffee I’m drinking right now, or if my furnace is going to make it through 2013. But I like @twitter-18620903:disqus ‘s comment – I haven’t had the opportunity to get behind a battle analogy in…probably ever. But I like it.

    We know the absolute goal: His kingdom come, His will be done on earth. Our leader knows the mission best, and we vow to follow. A plan is in place for the war, and we are absolutely confident we will win. But the enemy has a hand in deciding where and when battles will take place. Sometimes we’re extremely prepared. Sometimes we’re overconfident and only think we’re ready. Sometimes we’re exhausted, and just can’t put up a fight. Some are captured. But God’s perfect plan is in place, and we will follow Him to that end.

  • http://www.cross-platform.org John Hanan

    I have come to think of God’s plan in our lives as a tree. It starts small, but as it grows is continually fed by an ever-multiplying network of roots. It is constantly growing, but only once it’s reached maturity over time can it produce fruit. I don’t know if we’ll ever know which roots proved to be unnecessary, or if they’re all necessary and only the synergy between them all is what allowed the tree to grow. And while the fruit is good, it’s not necessarily perfect. Pruning needs to happen sometimes, and we still need to watch out for worms. But the goal is not the fruit, and it’s not making sure that certain branches go in certain places. It’s the complex, sustaining growth along the way that eventually allows the tree to thrive.

    I don’t know if there are multiple plans for multiple things, or just one giant redwood that we can’t even see the top of. But I do know that as long as the tree is planted by good water, and we’ll allow God to tend it, it’ll grow just as He intended.

    • http://twitter.com/NatalieTrust Natalie Trust

      But how do you know where to find the good water, when does God step in and tend to it? What if it doesn’t grow as He intended?

      • http://www.cross-platform.org John Hanan

        Well Psalms 1:3 and Jeremiah 17:8 kind of back up the water metaphor.
        Essentially, if we trust in God and meditate on His words, that’s the
        good water. As for when does God to tend the tree, sometimes that just
        happens. Circumstances change, opportunities arise. Not all of that is
        God necessarily, but I think He is far more active in our world than we
        give Him credit for, working behind the scenes. Pruning happens when
        things aren’t quite right, but here again I think it’s largely behind
        the scenes. And sometimes a good caretaker will purposefully allow a
        sickness to occur in a tree, because it will ultimately make it
        stronger.

        The key is in allowing God to do it. Sometimes I think
        we know exactly what God is doing, and we fight it because it doesn’t
        match with our own notions of how things should be. And because He’s
        given us free will, He’ll let us wrest control from Him and try to do it
        on our own. But because we don’t know the tree as intimately as He who
        created it, we tend to foul it up.

        If you’re asking how we can
        identify when and how exactly God’s doing each of these things, I don’t
        have an answer for you. All I know is that I can take part in growing
        His plan by trusting Him.

        • http://twitter.com/NatalieTrust Natalie Trust

          Thanks for your sharing more of your thoughts, John. I’ve really wrestled with this whole notion of “God’s plan for my life”. I have used that phrase as a fall back when my life has been out-of-control, and also when life has been good. I’m beginning to think that perhaps I have been incredibly arrogant to assume that I know anything about God’s plan for my life. Not sure. I think I’ll blog about this soon.

  • http://twitter.com/noggingrande Joe Watkins

    “I don’t need a God with a blueprint plan if I can have a God who is with me.”
    This is so important and plays itself out in all areas of life including relationships. Thank you for this.

    • Emily_Maynard

      Thanks, Joe. Isn’t it interesting how this view spreads from our faith? I know I’ve detached from reality because I wanted to use some cosmic plan as an excuse to avoid my life. I’m so grateful to find friends in this process who are working out their theology and lives alongside me.

  • http://www.leighkramer.com/ HopefulLeigh

    “But this “plan” thing seems like this is the most ineffective,
    roundabout way to accomplish anything good. It involves me saying that a
    large section of my life will only matter once I have a ring and some
    holy vows to mark it.”

    YES. So much truth here, Emily. I remember especially struggling with God’s “plan” when I finished grad school. A husband hadn’t materialized, nor had a job, and I was scared I’d screwed up my life somehow. I finally realized there was nothing wrong with my life trajectory. I stopped worrying about making the “right” choice and started focusing on making the most of my life now. I make the best decisions I can, knowing God will use whichever path I’m on. Could God use me if I was married? Absolutely but He’s doing more than I ever could have imagined possible, just as I am. Marriage won’t redeem my singleness. It’ll simply be the next chapter. If it doesn’t happen, then I have no doubt my life will continue to matter. Adventure awaits no matter what.

    • Emily_Maynard

      “Marriage won’t redeem my singleness.” Thank you, Leigh. I don’t see things in your life and writing right now that need to be “redeemed” by much of anything. I love that you encounter all relationships and aspects of your life with attention and grace. Your life matters. :)

    • Jennie Kerns

      Thank you for commenting Leigh. So, very encouraging! . “Adventure awaits no matter what”

  • Ruthie Dean

    For me, what revolutionized my view of God’s plan that seemed to pretty much suck when I was single–was this truth, this idea, that GOD SEES ME. He sees our pain, our broken hearts, our anger, our hopelessness. I think about Mary when she found out she was pregnant with Jesus, instead of saying GOD HAS A PLAN, she said, “I will praise the God who sees me.” He saw her fear, her shame, her brokeness, her confusion.

    • http://twitter.com/allyvest Ally Vesterfelt

      I love that, Ruthie. Thank you for that image.

    • Emily_Maynard

      This is SO beautiful! Thank you, Ruthie. Wow.

    • http://twitter.com/katelyn_skye katelyn skye seitz

      Love this. Thank you for this reminder Ruthie.

      Also, when we are asking this question of “Does God have this plan for my life”,
      I wonder…are WE seeing God? Are we wanting God? Or do we just want his plan?

      I think it is a temptation to worship the idea of a plan instead of a Person.

      My God is more than a game plan for my life to get me somewhere.

      I want to be seen. He sees me.

  • http://twitter.com/j_rein Jonnelle Rein

    While I fully appreciate everyone quoting to me Jeremiah 29:11 (and do believe that it is true – because all of Scripture is true), after a while it’s like chewing on aluminum foil. As a I approach 40 and still single, people have stopped saying things like that to me because they figure I must be “called.” I have never felt “called” to singleness nor do I think I made some mistake along the way to derail me from some ‘plan.’

    I appreciate this post very much. Thank you for your honesty and offering a new/different perspective – one that I had not considered before.

    The truth is – the plan should be to grow in Christ-likeness – married or single. If we are not growing in love and grace, sharing truth, and serving in humility, then we need to look at the Plan again. (High highfalutin words because I struggle with that a lot! And even that sounds like chewing on tin foil.)

    • Emily_Maynard

      Jonnelle, thank you for sharing this. I totally agree with you about the flippant way we throw out Jeremiah 29:11. I studied Jeremiah this year and it’s a crazy beautiful and difficult story, but it certainly can’t be reduced to that one verse.

      I think for me, more than anything, it speaks to this idea that God IS good. And that I can trust God’s goodness and presence even more than I can trust that some sort of specific path is laid out. Maybe it’s easier for me to say ‘God’s goals for me are good’ rather than plans?

      Thank you for processing in this space. You’ve helped me see this issue more broadly.

  • Marvia

    Girl! Thank you. I needed this. Your post reminded me that I am already a whole person because Christ has filled every emptiness. I have His Shalom – nothing missing nothing broken. I have been loved most ardently by the Father from forever. We are loved not because of our relationship status.

    Marriage isn’t the end all of our lives. It’s not the highest calling either. It doesn’t mean we finally arrived. I live that we can fully live out our lives now. We don’t have to wait for partnership just to feel we have accomplished something good. Our lives matter no matter what our status.

    We are loved simply because God chose to love us. He keeps on loving us through fire and beauty and falling and crashing and making mistakes. He loves us as we are. No need to perform for or earn His love. It never changes.

    • Marvia

      By highest call I mean to be made more like Christ. To know the height depth breadth and width of His love. To know Him and to be loved by Him. To hear Him whisper your name and remind you that you belong to Him forever and always. Nothing we do is going to make him love us any less. It kinda reminds of the song Nature Boy – the greatest thing you’ll ever learn is to love and be loved in return. God loves us most ardently and has from the beginning. His love is the best love because it is intimate and unconditional. It heals us, restores us, satisfies us, sanctifies us, and enlarges our hearts to love others with grace.

    • Emily_Maynard

      “No need to perform for or earn His love.”
      Isn’t that beautiful and captivating? Thanks for commenting, Marvia!

  • http://www.bethanysuckrow.com/ Bethany Suckrow

    Wonderful piece, Em. This is true of romantic relationships, but also true of so many other things in life, like grief and loss. Was it “God’s plan” that I lose my mom and my father lose the love of his life? Going through the process of grief and hearing all the ridiculous answers people give to one another’s pain has shown me a lot of poor theology. I have no better suggestions of what to say, but I think that’s the thing God wants us to understand – our cheap platitudes are often an escape from really hearing people and investing in the joy and sorrow of their lives in a real way. God is calling us to something deeper.

    • Emily_Maynard

      Thanks, B.

      Love this: “I have no better suggestions of what to say, but I think that’s the thing God wants us to understand – our cheap platitudes are often an escape from really hearing people and investing in the joy and sorrow of their lives in a real way. God is calling us to something deeper.”

      That’s where I think I’m at for now, too.

    • http://lightovercomesdarkness.com/ Rev Wendy Wolf

      Beautiful Bethany,
      Sad for your loss.
      Blessed by you wisdom.

  • Kris Overtoom

    We are talking about the same God whose path for the Isrealites out of slavery from the Egyptians involved them turning around from a straight line, heading back a bit to Egypt so that the Red Sea prevented any hope of escape from Pharoh’s pursuing army, right? And His plan that involved them wandering 40 years in the wilderness? None of that totally makes sense.

    I do believe that God has a plan for my life, but that it is not as much about processes or job objectives as it is about relationships. His ten commandments ultimately are about relationships and how to break them, not about how to become a wife/husband, parent, good worker or the best you can be. Knowing that ultimately, in all the hard times that God is in control and that He knows what is truly best for me and my loved ones gives me comfort. There is no magic formula for experiencing Him, though praying and reading the Bible and conversing with Him about it is a start.

    • Emily_Maynard

      Kris, thank you for this. I like the way you define the “plan” as a relational rather than simply action based. Also I loved this line “There is no magic formula for experiencing Him, though praying and reading the Bible and conversing with Him about it is a start.”

  • http://twitter.com/bwitt722 Brianna DeWitt

    The “God has a plan for your life” line is one of the things I find to be least helpful whenever I have questions about any part of my life–whether it’s my relationship status, what I’m supposed to do in life, etc. It can come across like it’s invalidating my feelings of sadness, loneliness, or doubt. It’s not that I don’t believe God is in control of my life and everyone else’s, but I’m trying to do better at simply LISTENING when people have things they need to talk out, and I hope they’ll do the same for me.

    • Emily_Maynard

      Thanks for sharing, Brianna. I agree that it seems kind of flippant to say “God has a plan,” even if the person has good intent. I’m grateful that you’re working on listening. It makes a difference.

  • Shelley

    after posting this link on my wall a friend sent me this. Its an intersting persepective that goes with Emily’s post with a slightly different angle

    http://storylineblog.com/2013/02/14/how-to-love-valentines-day-even-if-youre-single/

    • Emily_Maynard

      Shelley, thank you for sharing this! I appreciate Don, but I still had a hard time with it because of the way he says “It was all worth it” because of what he has now. I think that’s a lot of pressure to put on another person, for one, and it just makes me wonder “what about all the other women he’s known and cared for? were they NOT worth it?” Or what if HE says “it was all worth it to her,” but she can’t say the same back? This narrative breaks down.

      I think it’s possible to celebrate people, truly and deeply, without doing this. I think it’s possible to talk about how great your life is at the moment and how much you adore someone without the “it’s worth it now” pressure.

      I’ve certainly dating and broken up with various people, been elated and hurt, but I guess I don’t believe that someday none of that will really matter. My life is always worth it. The people I’ve dated, cared for, and deeply loved are ALWAYS worth it, even if we’re not currently romantically attached. “Worth it” is not defined by a current state of happiness, but by attention to my reality and to the value of every human I encounter.

      What do you think?

      • http://www.wineandmarble.com/ Hännah

        This is the clearest way to say it, and Emily communicates my sentiments on this so well:

        “My life is always worth it. The people I’ve dated, cared for, and deeply loved are ALWAYS worth it, even if we’re not currently romantically attached. “Worth it” is not defined by a current state of happiness, but by attention to my reality and to the value of every human I encounter.”

        My choices to risk and love, to open up and be vulnerable, to move on for the sake of my personal values but still let my heart be tender toward someone–this has always been worth it. I’m a better human because of it. I’m a better woman because of it. I’m a better Christian because I’m able to understand more people of different sorts better, and know myself more truly as well. Of course it’s “worth it.”

        However, that doesn’t mean that being alone or feeling the effects from love lost isn’t painful. It’s okay to hurt. That’s not bitterness–that’s sincerity and vulnerability.

  • http://twitter.com/alyssambell Alyssa Bell

    This is vulnerable and beautiful.

    “My experience with God offers me a deeper centering in reality, not escapism. I don’t remember any stories of Jesus telling people someday their pain would make sense, that in the future they’d get something that would be better than healing in the moment.”

    Thank you for this reminder and challenge: true, filling satisfaction is can not and will not be found in a someday-someone. Our lives are beautiful and meaningful and just plain ole’ full in Christ.

    • Emily_Maynard

      Thank you for reading, Alyssa!

  • http://twitter.com/annagravier Anna Gravier

    Thank you for this. In a lot of ways, this is balm to my hurting heart, but I’m also a little bit conflicted. Having just gone through a break-up, I have found some comfort in thinking through the ways that God has worked things out to be better as a result of the break-up: we’re not winding up in the same place post-graduation, so some heartache now and the process of learning to be friends is better to me than an ugly break-up at graduation after which we never talk again. Don’t get me wrong, it sucks to end a relationship, but I can still see some good…God’s plan if you will…come out of it.

    At the same time, I can totally identify with this you when you say, “It requires me to pretend like getting dumped by someone I was beginning to trust, someone I saw as a friend and colleague, doesn’t suck. Whether or not I get married some day will not change the pain of that experience. And the suggestion that God’s plan was behind that painrather than a human decision makes God out to be kind of sadistic.”

    I don’t really know what to make of all of it, but thank you for affirming that we, as single women, can pursue great accomplishments and relationships now, without having to wait for a ring to make us “real grown-ups” or make sense of our past experiences.

    • Emily_Maynard

      Anna, thank you for sharing this story here. I am so sad that you’re in the midst of this mess. It always sucks to end a relationship, even if it’s the best thing to do.

      Keep wrestling with this, though. I don’t have all the answers, but I’m grateful for people like you who are asking real questions to God and with each other. Best to you as you finish school and heal! You are a real grown up. :)

      • http://twitter.com/annagravier Anna Gravier

        Thanks for providing the space to share. =)

  • http://mashenahope.blogspot.com/ Nicole

    beautiful.

    I”m typically content and happy with life as single woman. (God’s blessed me abundantly through it!) but on the days when it is lonely or hard or i want to yell about it being unfair – what gets me through is reminding myself of the fact that marriage is not a “reward” – it is not at the top of the hierarchy of gits and earned once you pass all the other levels. my singleness is not a reflection of my sinfulness, or a sign that I have not yet developed some strength of character, or that I am too sarcastic/independent/fat/stubborn/intelligent/progressive for a Christian man to be interested. In sum: it is not a reflection of any “less than” or “not good enough” state. Just verbally or mentally reminding myself of that gets me back to my life now – the beautiful one God has given me and gets me focused on what God has for me today, now, with the circumstances as they currently are.

    • Emily_Maynard

      Nicole, thank you for sharing here. I’m grateful for all the reminders that my life matters right now, as is, and not just in the context of my future.

  • http://MegLivingInsideOut.net/ Meg Davis @InverseDream

    I agree with you. God is with us and understanding how He organizes the details of our lives is a struggle.

    I can say confidently that I am one of those people who know God has a definite plan for my life. And yeah, I’ll be the first to admit to having seasons of “God, I can’t believe you let this happen to me when I’ve been faithful to you.” In those times, I’ve sat and pouted with a bad attitude and a closed bible.

    And you know what? God made time for that in His plan too. How it all works out, I don’t know …

    Living singleness to the full, yes. Trusting and hoping? Terrifying. Knowing God is good? Fighting to believe it, yes.

    I’m finding it worth it. For He is a rewarder of those who seek and your steadfastness in that makes me admire you all the more.

    Love you E. Keep speaking out.

    • Emily_Maynard

      Love to you too, Meg!

  • Brooke

    I think this is one of many struggles that we all have with the will of God. I am a pastor of college students who ask me frequently “what is God’s will for my life”. They ask this with regard to careers, relationships, etc. I can’t tell you how many of them have asked me how I knew I wanted to be a pastor. And I think I shock them when I reply by asking them how they knew they wanted to be doctors or go into business.

    We tend to over mystify how God works in our lives. We tend to believe that there are right and wrong choices rather than a few great options. I think we treat the will of God like a math equation to be solved instead of a canvas to be painted on. While God may give us some specific instructions from time to time, I think more often than not he just gives us the brush and says paint. Paint anything. Paint everything. Make your life what you want it. I have put desires in your heart, pursue them.

    Do I think there are some non-negotiables we can find in scripture? Yes. Namely, marry someone of like faith.
    Do I have specific things I’m waiting for? Yes.
    Do I think there is only one person who can meet those standards? No.

    I’m 26yrs old and I’m from the Midwest. Most of my friends are married with children at this point. The most comforting thing for me is not that God has a mysterious plan to make me ready for marriage (though he may). The comfort for me is Immanuel. God who is with me through everything. God who has promised that his will for my life (which I believe is that people come to know him better through my life) can and will be accomplished regardless of my marital or parental status.

    • Emily_Maynard

      THIS is why I wanted you to add your voice, Brooke. I love all of this and I love you!

      “While God may give us some specific instructions from time to time, I think more often than not he just gives us the brush and says paint. Paint anything. Paint everything. Make your life what you want it.” PREACH (and wear goggles, cause this paint is FLYING)

    • http://lightovercomesdarkness.com/ Rev Wendy Wolf

      I agree with Emily, Brooke
      I so love the part she quoted
      can I quote you ?
      : ) Wendy

      • Brooke

        Quote away! I’m glad that you appreciated my thoughts.

    • http://jacquelinegardner.wordpress.com/ Jacqueline Gardner

      Loveliness, Brooke! (and Emily, too!) Reminds me of another Prodigal post written by Gary Thomas on the myth of “the one.”

      http://www.prodigalmagazine.com/sacred-search/

      The church I grew up in was full of hardcore-tulip-touting-calvinists, but it’s pieces like this that have softened my perspective on God and how much authority he actually gives us when it comes to making life decisions. I think at first we pushback…’cause that shit is scary. Me? Actually making decisions for my own life? Ohmigosh. It always felt more comfortable to let God decide, then praise Him if I liked the outcome and blame Him if I didn’t. It’s a victim mentality, really. One that only turned me paranoid and paralyzed. That’s not to say that God isn’t involved in our lives, but rather to kneel in the dirt, get our hands dirty and join Him in the whole working-it-out process, trusting that He does the growing and working-it-together for our good. =)

    • Jennie Kerns

      “I think we treat the will of God like a math equation to be solved instead of a canvas to be painted on. While God may give us some specific instructions from time to time, I think more often than not he just gives us the brush and says paint. Paint anything. Paint everything. Make your life what you want it. I have put desires in your heart, pursue them.” —This quote brought me to tears because I have treated life like it’s a equation and weighed decisions way too heavily. I adore the paint analogy :) Thank you for commenting Brooke!!

      • Stacey D

        That brought me to tears too! And is this my favorite fellow singleton Pi Phi Jennifer? We have to quit running into each other like this!! :)

  • Matt Paulsen

    Thanks for sharing. The whole hope thing is tricky. It had been a while since I had dated someone where I actually thought it could go somewhere. I could just feel the hope growing and growing and it was exciting. Then, over a couple conversations it was all of a sudden over.

    I don’t know that I had experienced pain like that which I didn’t feel like I “deserved”. It yielded to a lot more honest conversations with God and a better understanding of Job.

    • Emily_Maynard

      Matt, I’m so sorry for that sudden drop off in hope that you describe. I’m glad that I’m not alone. Thanks for sharing here. This community is a huge part of hope for me.

  • http://twitter.com/masonae Ali Mason

    Uh. YES. Thank you for writing this – it’s so what I needed to hear. If God asks me not to worry about tomorrow, it’s because He’s standing with me right now. In a time in my life where I’ve worn a lot of bridesmaids dresses and my social media feeds have blow up with married life hashtags, the reminder that God’s “plan,” whatever that looks like, doesn’t have to be linear is the best possible reminder. So thank you thank you thank you.

    • Emily_Maynard

      Ali, I love this picture of God standing with you. I hope you feel known and blessed in your life right now. xo

  • http://lightovercomesdarkness.com/ Rev Wendy Wolf

    Love this post!

    Emily sad for your loss. Broken hearts, and dashed expectations, Suck!
    Appreciate your being so honest about it – this helps validate so many other’s experiences, such a healing for the Body of Christ.

    From my perspective:
    We are whole in God or we aren’t: with or without a relationship.
    Marriage doesn’t change us, in the LONG run. Rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic doesn’t help.

    In the big picture of our lives, our set-point: we are living in the Fruit of Spirit, our connection with God is our Light, our Food, our Water – or it isn’t.

    When God is not our Beloved:
    - When we are SINGLE, there is Hope for something else – but it is an idol. Something OUT THERE, at another space and time, that will fulfill us. Emily I appreciate that you seem to really know this – if not happy in God Now, won’t be happy in God then.
    - When we are MARRIED, God-bless our spouse, because they can not fill God’s shoes. In the long run this strangles many marriages, and many of the people in marriage – as we throttle each other, trying to get our needs met, from someone who is not our Source, and doesn’t Have the Resources to Sustain us… no matter how much they Love us.

    God supplies our need spiritually (riches in glory). And if not, married OR single – we are in NEED: Hungry, thirsty, and bumping around in the dark.

    Oops getting preachy – I am passionate about this : )
    thanks for listening to my perspective
    - wendy

    • Emily_Maynard

      Wendy, thank you for sharing your perspective here! I really like what you said about our hope being in God, never other people.

  • http://twitter.com/Piano_Jo Jo Inglis

    Emily this has challenged me. I agree that saying God has a plan is a cheap shot when people are facing difficult situations. I think we sometimes see His plan in hindsight as a result of changed perspective (not always).
    I have been unemployed for a while & in some conversations have thrown in ‘God has a plan’ to kill the dialogue because it is easier and also sounds spiritual. But it would be more honest to say ‘I’m uncomfortable here, can we change the subject. Your article is helping process the thinking.
    Thank you!

  • Julia

    Your post reminds me of something I read in ‘The Will of God as a Way of Life’. The author discusses how we often think of the will of God as something we have to figure out, some cosmic puzzle, and if we don’t figure it out, we’ll be outside of God’s will and our lives will be a mess. He says, in thinking this way, we miss the mark. He talks about how we often have choices (where to move, what to do with our lives, whether to marry or stay single) that are all God-honoring, so whatever we end up choosing becomes God’s will for our lives. God always knew we would choose this particular path, because He is all-knowing, but He in no way coerced us, or else we would not have free will. Does this make sense? I say this because you talk about the common perception that God’s plan is this linear thing, and I agree with you that things are not as clear-cut as they are made out to be.

    This, to me, explains His heart about the relationship thing. As humans, we all make choices. Sometimes, people leave us without us wanting them to leave, and it is heartbreaking. While I know He redeems our pain, it can take a lifetime, and because He gives every person the freedom to choose what to do in their lives, we are often faced with pain. I believe God weeps with us in those moments. I don’t believe God ever desired for us to sugar-coat our pain — the life of Christ demonstrates this.

  • http://tellmewhytheworldisweird.blogspot.com/ perfectnumber628

    Great post! For me, the idea of “God’s plan for my love life” meant I had to pray a lot and obsess over my ability to hear God, whenever I had a crush- I was responsible for figuring out whether the guy in question was the one and only right answer for “God’s plan”- and if the relationship didn’t work out, then it must be my fault for not being able to hear God. SOOOO that’s a lot of fear and pressure.

    I wrote a response to your post over on my blog: We’re a lot better off if God has no plan. As always, I really enjoy your writing!

  • Jordan Taylor

    “But this “plan” thing seems like this is the most ineffective,
    roundabout way to accomplish anything good. It involves me saying that a
    large section of my life will only matter once I have a ring and some
    holy vows to mark it.”

    Thank you, thank you, thank you. I’m a sophomore at a Church of Christ college in Nashville, where the jokes about the “Mrs. degree” and “three swings and a ring” are rampant and oftentimes true. It’s a struggle going to a school where the majority of the girls you know are either engaged or married by the time their senior year rolls around. I don’t really know why this is the culture Lipscomb has, but it does!
    As for me? I’m 20 years old. I’ve never dated. Never kissed. Never flirted for Christ’s sake. And I’m here in a flood of girls that are already engaged and/or in marriage-ready relationships. It’s slightly funny, sometimes sad, annoying and honestly a little scary. Too many times nowadays, this girl that before college said she was never getting married (child of divorce. it explains a lot) questions and wonders what’s she going to do if she doesn’t find a guy now in college. Is there hope for me at all?
    And I’m not the least bit romantic/lovey dovey; yet this culture I’m in has made me question if I am supposed to/ have to get married. Before college, I’d have said no. Now, I feel like it’s my duty or something. It makes me feel like I’m not worth anything til I find that special someone. Life just isn’t life I guess without someone beside you. Since when does YOUR life start when it involves someone else? It makes no sense to me.

    You have pointed out something I think I (and other girlfriends my age) need to read/realize:
    Life doesn’t start at marriage.
    “And, let’s get real, I don’t think that happiness is something I have to wait for or even find ultimately in a romantic relationship. I am not living in some sort of false enjoyment of life until I have a husband to make it real.”
    That hit me hard. I think we Christ followers live in a bubble that gives the notion that we’re only complete, only happy if we’re married. We cannot experience happiness until we put a ring on it. If that’s the case, have I been faking happiness my whole life?!

    One of my favorite quotes is from a Sarah Dessen book: “the truth about forever is that it’s happening now.” I refuse to sit around and wait on a husband and a cookie cutter life to make me happy. That may work for some- and hey, it might happen in the future- but for now, I’m going to simply be happy because of who God’s made me to be. I’m not waiting for an “until”-whatever that until may be- to live my life. I believe God has a plan, but I trust Him enough to know that it’s going to work out how He’s intended it, whether I know every detail as it happens or not. :) My love life may happen one day, but I’m not betting on it for my happiness right now. It could happen tomorrow, or in 10 years, or never- but it’s not going to be indicative of how happy I’m going to be today.
    So thank you for your words, they hit girls like me that just don’t know what to do about this fangled thing called love right in the gut! :) (sorry that this is so long…I’m a wordy person).=)

  • http://twitter.com/AlisaPZimmerman Alisa Zimmerman

    This was a great article, Emily. I had a conversation this summer with some friends about this very concept. We’ve seen too many people rush into marriage because they feel they need that someone to complete their life. Why do we turn to people to do what only God can?

    God’s taken me on some great adventures so far and I’ve never had a date in my life. So I’m just gonna keep following him and see where that takes me. It’s nice to hear someone else express the same idea. Right before I read this, I actually wrote a blog post about how I still love Valentine’s Day
    ( http://t.co/ni20kyz ) even though it brings out some resentment in my peers. This article showed me that I may not be as alone as I thought. I love God’s little “coincidences.”

    One last note, check out the song “Single” by Natasha Bedingfield.

  • http://twitter.com/BekahValencia Rebekah Valencia

    Wow, Emily, this paints things in such a new light for me. I remember having a similar realization about Jesus and the hardships in life. I was reading the story of Lazarus and I got to the part where Jesus wept. I remember hearing multiple reasonings for why Jesus cried, but I think that he just hurt for Mary and Martha. He knew he has a plan for them, but it hurt him to see them hurting.

    And that changed the way I look at how Jesus is with me in this life. Yes, he has a plan. I do believe that. But I, likewise, don’t see him offering me that simple platitude. I see him weeping with me through my heartbreak and pain. I know he has a plan, but I also know it hurts him to see me hurt. And that has made such a difference knowing he loves me like that.

  • http://www.facebook.com/carrie.l.martens Carrie Martens

    Honestly, I am incredibly grateful that the circumstances and choices in my life have led me in a different direction than marriage. I used to think of God in the “God has a plan for my life” kind of way and it was agony. It was meaningless and depressing to consider that God has this one plan that I needed to wait for or discover and it locked me into a holding pattern. And then I heard the words of my Aunt in my head telling all of us nieces that if we got married, great, if not, great. But that we should never ever meander our way through life waiting for a husband because we were created for more than that. And so I took that to heart and started exploring where God might be calling me to be, actually paying attention and I’m so glad I did because God has appeared to me and surprised me in ways that I could never have imagined and in ways that would not have been possible if I hadn’t taken my eyes off “the plan” (which is often more societal pressure) for my future and learned to practice awareness in the present.

  • JustPlainBee

    “Jesus stood with people.” I love this thought. A little over a year ago, I finally got out of a marriage that had been quietly destroying me for 16 years. I should add that my husband and I were both Christians, children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren of Christians, graduated from a Christian college, and were virgins on our wedding day. So when it went irretrievably downhill, there were a LOT of people standing around telling me to repent / forgive / stick it out / be humble / trust Jesus / act loving even when I didn’t feel loving / any or all of the above.

    And when I quietly and kindly said, “No, this marriage is really dead, and I really need to give it a decent burial and also get into therapy”, I would have absolutely LOVED to have someone stand with me. Sit with me. Cry with me. Acknowledge that this was a loss on so many levels I couldn’t even count them, and that even if God did have an overarching plan for my life, this particular season of life still sucked.

    God was there, and I’m doing better. But oh my goodness … what a blessing it would have been if some of His children had been there too.

    • Julia

      I’m so sorry you went through this, and that people were there offering cliches instead of support. As a sister in Christ, I stand with you. I don’t know the pain of divorce, but I certainly know in all of our pain we, as followers of Christ, must learn how to simply be with each other. God will help us work out the rest. Blessings to you. Glad to hear you are doing better.

  • ingka

    Hello, interesting discussion. If I could share my thoughts, for me, I do believe God has a plan for me and everyone. Because if He doesnt than I think my life will have no purpose. But I dont think the plan is just about meeting the right person, or having the right career or getting a big house etc.. His plan is far too grand.. like its beyond our own understanding. We can only plan until a certain points, trying to consider every pro and cons of every kind of situations in every kind of decisions that we try to make in our lives. But whether we are going straight or round in circles, in the end I think ultimately one of the plan is to bring us closer and closer to God, is for us to realize that God is there and we need Him, coz in every corner of our lives, God always shows that He is faithful, merciful, loving and that He’s still in control. So whether we are married or single, have big house/ small house, great career or not, etc., one thing I always realize is that He is forever be amazing, loving and wonderful God. And I’m very grateful that He still loves me. Even when the situation is heavy/ hard, I still believe that He is still in control and that He still love us no matter how bad the situation is. And sometimes (I really mean sometimes, not trying to generalized everything) when bad situation happen, sometimes (again i stressed the word) it happens because of the bad decision that we made in the past. But then again, even though if it was a bad decision or if I have to learn my lesson the hard way, it doesnt matter, i believe it wont ulter God’s plan in my life. Because in the end I believe God is still in control, and God still love us (so thankful about this).

    So dont worry or dont be sad (really in a sincere way) if things didnt work out the way it should. even if we still dont know why it happens or even if its because we make mistakes, thats ok (i mean as long as we repent of course). we are only human. and God knows that very well right? our God is a very creative, a faithful and a loving God. His plan doesnt end even when our world is turned upside down. Am I making any sense? I’m really sorry if my english is bad.. not my first language you see. =____= but yea.. thats what i thought anyway about God’s plan.. thanks for reading..

  • jess

    Thank YOU Emily, for putting to words what many of us singles and even people who are married have felt. A really helpful repositioning of perspective

  • Headless Unicorn Guy

    Some people try to tell me that this is God’s plan. They write their
    stories, about all of the twists and turns that lead to marriage or the
    romance they have now. They assure me that I’m not behind schedule
    because I’m single, that God doesn’t operate on our schedules anyway,
    that I should focus on becoming The One for someone else, that God’s
    timetable is perfect if I just accept it.

    And everyone who tells you this all got married themselves at 18?

  • Prions

    I don’t need a God with a blueprint plan if I can have a God who is with me.

    Love this.

  • lindsholifield

    So. Much. Goodness.

    Okay, so I was listening to the radio and heard that song by Sara Evans, which I am totally going to quote right now: “So I confessed my sins to the preacher/ About the love I’ve been prayin’ to find/ Is there a blue eyed boy in my future? / He says, Girl you’ve got nothin’ but time / But how do you wait for heaven / And who has that much time?” And it made me think of this whole conversation around God planning my love life :)

    I have always hated the idea that I’m just in a season where I’m being “prepared for marriage” … like that’s ALL I’m here for. And at the same time, this conversation scares me, because when I stick with the “God has a plan for my love life” scenario, I can just tell myself that I’m still single because God hasn’t brought the right person yet.

    • Emily_Maynard

      hahaha, that’s totally one of my favorite karaoke songs! Yeah dude. This isn’t “preparation” this is my real life! Would you tell someone who lost a spouse that their marriage was “preparing them for widowhood?” Hell no! Life, right now, matters.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_EF5UF6A7DKDRLEOUHW56IV7WXU SarahC

    Emily,

    Gosh, it’s great to be an Armenian.

    At 40, which seems ancient to you now, my husband’s cancer disappeared in what seemed a miracle. My faith was not strengthened by that because, as I explained in our congregational devotional for Lent that next year, for it to have been would be to say that it would have been weakened if Bill, whom I’d met in church, had died. And, within 12 months, Bill was dead–of that same cancer, back with a vengeance. I didn’t accuse God of creating this plan, but was very angry about nonintervention.

    After 18 years alone, during which I reared our sons against several odds to be faithful Red Letter Cs, I’m in a close platonic relationship with an atheist. He says he’s been convinced that I act from kindness rather than always money or power, which he’d believed were the sole human motivators, and he’s done more “good works” in these 3 years than in the 40 before. [I hope Rob Bell is correct, because I'm not sure Tom will live the 30 years needed for conversion at his current pace.]

    I’m seeing a life with themes, but a plan?? I believe that God’s only plan for me is to follow Jesus as closely as I can, to hold onto eternal things, to reach out to new experiences and people, to find the good or bad in every circumstance. I’m supposed to encourage the former and redeem or combat the latter.

    I did love being married–it made me better as well as happier–so I wish that you and one of the men who might be practically perfect for you connect.

    Sarah

    • Emily_Maynard

      Sarah, thank you for sharing your story here. You are a woman of valor!

      I hope more good and blessing comes out of your friendships. And I hope that some cool dude and I connect, too. ;)

  • Liesl Palmer

    Yea Em!!! This was awesome- I’m so proud of you. :) Thank you for writing sentences like let’s get real, I don’t think that happiness is something I have to wait for or even find ultimately in a romantic relationship. I am not living in some sort of false enjoyment of life until I have a husband to make it real.
    Amen, sister!! :)

    • Emily_Maynard

      You model this truth so well, Liesl! Thank you for reading. :)

  • http://twitter.com/gawhitfields Sarah M Whitfield

    Hi Emily! I just love your articles and they speak to my soul. I completely agree with you and one of the things I’ve learned through my singleness is that for me personally, God used my singleness to finally grab my attention to look to Him for everything in life no matter what it is. I dated throughout high school, college and even was engaged to a great guy my senior year of college. I broke the relationship off because I just felt it wasn’t right even though he was fantastic and I potentially knew I might be making a drastic mistake. I moved to Atlanta and started my life post college. One thing I constantly remind myself whether I ever get married or not is to fulfill what God has called me to do in my career, relationships and life. So when it gets lonely and hard I hug my golden retrievers tight and remind myself that God is good no matter what and remind myself that the goal is to fulfill God’s plan for my life.

    • Emily_Maynard

      Sarah, thank you for sharing here! I’m proud of you for making such a difficult decision, especially when it’s off the social norm. I hope your Atlanta life is fantastic, it’s one of my favorite places to visit! :)

  • Grace

    Thank you so much Emily, I think this is really helpful and I really agree with you!

    I have struggled hugely in the past with the idea that if God has a plan for my life, I must worry and stress about every single decision lest I stray away from God’s plan and miss out on everything he has planned for my life, and every way he wants to use me. This worry usually centres around my decisions about relationships for me. It was fantastically freeing when a friend said to me ‘I don’t think God always cares what you decide. It’s about how you glorify him in that decision and in its outcomes.’

    As a lifelong singleton, I have been quite hurt by the church’s obsession with the ‘marriage is the answer to all your problems’ philosophy. Not to mention Hollywood’s promises that ‘the one’ will turn up on my doorstep and life will never be disappointing again. I am still working through these lies, learning to see singleness as the incredible gift that it is, here, now, not just as preparation for the future. God has done amazing work in me over the last 4 years. Often he has taught me through pain, disappointment, and me having to repent of my bad judgement and false expectations. God did not cause this pain. He has been more faithful and more forgiving than I ever thought possible. As the God of restoration, he has made whole again that which I thought was permanently destroyed.

    I am very encouraged by your post having been convicted that God’s plan is not a draconian blueprint that I must follow to prevent falling away from his grace. Discovering the truth has freed me indeed: God is with me, through everything, quick to forgive and faithful… his truth remains when all around us fails. Thank you for reminding me of this again today :)

    • Emily_Maynard

      Thank you for sharing, Grace!

  • http://felicemifa.wordpress.com/ Margaret_at_FeliceMiFa

    The only thing I’m convinced of is that any plan of God’s is inscrutable.

    I lived many easy, productive years as a single person, and it’s not until I fell in love with someone who lives not-near that my season of confusion and discomfort began. Don’t get me wrong, my relationship is good and strong but it did not take away every trouble as some seem to imagine one might.

  • God’s Servant

    We believe that God had an intricuit plan that included the death of His son, that would not only be for the good of mankind, but would glorify His son as well, but we don’t believe He has a plan for us that includes what is good for us?

    The Bible tells us that God loves us the same way He loves Jesus. We’re told that he not only loves us, but wants to give us good gifts. I won’t go as far as to say that marriage is always part of God’s plan for all of us, but I will reiterate what the Bible says, that He does have a plan that ALL things work out for good to those who are called according to His purpose.

    We ought not limit our faith, and thus limit what God can do for us, by thinking that He doesn’t plan what is good for us. Do others’ decisions sometimes make life difficult? Yes… Do our decisions sometimes make life difficult? Yes… Is seeking marriage sometimes something we can do freely that sometimes interferes with God’s plan? Yes… God is a caring father standing by, allowing us to fall and learn what not to do, but is always there to take us in His arms and protect us when needed if we’ll trust him.

    Maintain the knowledge and trust, those elements of faith, that even if things don’t go exactly as God originally planned, because of free will, His plan will be accomplished. I’m reminded of the story of Esther when she is told by her uncle, “How do you know that God has brought you to this moment in your life for such a time as this? If you don’t go before the king, God will save His people in some other way, but you and your father’s house will be lost…”

    “So then, faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not yet seen.” Heb 11:1

  • Jeremy Clayton

    You’re basically the coolest person on the internet. I grew up in what sounds like a similar environment to yours. Being taught the conventional courtship model, “Guarding your heart” etc. It really messed up the first four or five years of my adult life. Particularly with a certain young lady who was, shall we say, saving honesty for marriage. That’s what it really is, isn’t it?

    Anyway, I’ve arrived at so many new views about what relationships are, and what the bible actually says about dating, (which is, of course, NOTHING!!!!) and it’s really great to read your articles, and know that someone else out there has had similar experiences, and arrived at similar conclusions.

    Just wanted to give a word of encouragement. Your article about guarding your heart was the most encouraging thing I’ve read in a good long time. Please keep it up. God bless.

    • Emily_Maynard

      Jeremy, thank you so much. Your kindness is so encouraging and I’m glad you’re finding your way, too!

  • http://www.facebook.com/jeremy.clayton.353 Jeremy Clayton

    I do think God has a plan for my life, and it does include who, if anyone, I will marry. But that doesn’t make life a Disney movie. I mean, it was also God’s will that everyone in my family got the flu this season.

    My best friend’s wife left him this summer, and divorced him shortly after. In the end, she was a horrible person, and he, to my knowledge, did nothing to deserve the treatment he received. He has earnestly searched his own heart as well as scripture to find the mistakes he made along the way. Beyond that, he has accepted what happened as God’s will.

    There’s legitimate comfort in that. I know that my friend loves God, and I’ve seen in his life that he is called according to God’s purpose. Based on that, scripture tells me, and him, that ALL THINGS in his life will work together for good.

    But that’s not how we treat God’s will when we’re looking for the fabled “One”. Then, “God’s Plan” or “God’s Will” just become pharisaic euphemisms for MY plan, and MY will. This isn’t the only area in which Christians fall into this trap. The phrase “God’s Will” has been used as a blank check for any and every agenda imaginable by Christians since who knows when?

    • Molly

      So, according to you, God decided that your whole family should have the flu and that your friend’s wife should leave him? Why do you have such a terrible view of God? If your family got the flu, it’s because someone received the bug from someone who carried the virus then brought it home to your family who then spread it to your whole family. If your best friend’s wife left him, it’s because she chose to leave him, with a valid reason in her mind. It may very well be his fault, in her mind. Maybe she no longer had any passion for him or found passion and a connection with someone else. These are choices we make that cause these things, not “God’s will.”

  • HowTrue

    well after being married for fifteen years and having my wife cheated on me, it is very hard finding love again. most of the women out there today just can’t seem to be committed to only one man anymore like they did in the past, and have a need to date so many men at one time too. very hard to find love again, for many of us serious men that are looking. i feel as if God is punishing me, after seeing so many very fortunate men and women that have their love life and family together. then again there are much more women nowadays that are nothing like the women that we had years ago, when they were very committed to their men and accepted them for who they were.

  • MJ

    “I don’t need a God with a blueprint plan if I can have a God who is with me.” – I can confidently say a hearty “Amen,” to that! If God’s presence isn’t good enough in singleness it won’t be good enough in marriage. And if HIS presence (concern, love, involvement) isn’t enough, how could any flawed mortal? Thanks for sharing your struggle.

  • Beth

    This is great! Thanks Emily. Oh and I describe myself as an “outgoing introvert” too–that made me smile to read.

  • Being Very Honest

    i certainly do blame God for me not having a love life nowadays, and why did he make so many very lucky men and women find happiness with one another with a family today? i seem to meet all the very nasty women that just don’t know how to talk to us men anymore, and with so many LESBIANS nowadays that certainly will add to the problem. can’t take the blame for this one, since i did not do anything wrong. nowadays much more women are certainly looking to be with another woman instead of us straight men, and God seems to punish the people like us that want so much to have a love life now. even the straight women today like to curse at us men that are trying to start a normal conversation with them, and then again many of them must be gay too.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Kathryn-Matheny/1345134650 Kathryn Matheny

    I love this article ! I love how you Exposed the illogic of alot of ignorant Christians ! Does God have a plan ? I don’t think he has a specific plan for anyone . I have no calling etc i just decided I love photography and can make this a career . I have no idea if its gods will or not but I’m pursuing because I enjoy it not cuz it’s gods plan or will . I believe that Gods will is that none perish and have everlasting life I don’t believe in custom fit pre made plans – just no clear cut evidence. I don’t care what some claim that doesn’t make anything true

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Kathryn-Matheny/1345134650 Kathryn Matheny

    I’m 37 I’ve never dated . I was told all kinds of Nonsense such as God called me to be single – doubt God has plans for anyone’s love life . I look at divorce and really can’t reconcile the idea of God being such a horrible matchmaker or God really isn’t a matchmaker which makes more sense

  • Peter Jenner

    i started going to a church at 31 years old.m name is Peter.i was already a committed believer in Jesus and had been for a while.after a few years in this church i fell in love with a divorced woman whose unbeliveing husband had left her for another woman and divorced her.she wanted a second chance at marriage,this time with a fellow christian.long story short, we married despite our “pastor” telling us we would go to hell if we married.the marriage quickly failed.there was a baby involved which never really go to know her father-me.that was 19 years ago.my wife divorced me and i blamed her for quite some time.now i see discouragement as a evil that affected her.i got involved with another woman in church 12 years ago who was unhappily married to a unbeliever.i hoped God would have a plan for our lives.even though this time i really was committing adultery.that relationship failed too.she left her husband when her kids grew up but as it happens she never wanted to commit to me.now i am 53 years old with no family of my own.i see this world as a mad place pretty much.i struggle to believe that God ever had a plan for my life-i mean a plan to make me believe i am here to be of any good use to him.you see,it is’nt all about marriage for me.it is about believing that God wants to use me for good and me feeling like i was’nt just born to suffer but to be redeemed and then through this showin other poeple like myself that God can help them too…

  • TellingTheTruth

    i certainly feel as if God is punishing me for having a love life that i can’t find for a straight man like me, that would want so much to find the right woman to share my life with. it is so very amazing how God could be very good to many men and women that were VERY FORTUNATE to have met one another and have a family that i certainly would have wanted too. God can be very mean to certain people like us, and we are certainly no different than the ones that have their life all together. then again, there are much more nastier women out there now than there ever was before since they like to curse at us men for trying to start a normal conversation with the one that we would really like to meet.

  • Lilly Molle334

    Hello Mr upesa

    well done! my problems are gone My woman came back last night, i thought it’s a joke she came to say good bye to me ,then i waited ,suddenly i saw preparing food,bed and hide under bracket, i couldn’t believe any thing i see, i decide to sleep at the gouge to see what happens next ,only see her come and slow her self on me start kissing and then i realize you are the true spiritual man, its now 2 weeks since she came home ,! i appreciate your services, be there for us please. thank you.if you need his help contact email adress upesalovetemple@gmail.com

  • Reality

    I don’t think “YOU” have a plan for your love life.

    • AJ

      have to certainly agree, just too many Gay Women adding to the problem today.

  • Rose Marylove

    HOW I ALL MOST LOST 250.00USD

    Hello friends.My name is Nathaniel. I’m from from Atlanta, but am in California.Been living in California for years now.I never believed in all spell caster.i Have been scammed by many different people.I lost hope in them.My ex left me.I was devastated.I lost my job.My best friend saw my situation.Then he introduced me to Dr matamah.i Was told his work is free.Never believed until i got in touch with him.He did a spell for me. i recover all my money and My ex came back in less than 72hrs.I was recalled at my place of work.Was even promoted immediately.I couldn’t believe there is a real DR out there who does free spells.I only paid in appreciation after the spell had worked.He doesn’t charge anybody until the spell has worked.You all shouldn’t be deceived by all these scammed that are there for money.DR maamah doesn’t charge.You can only pay for the items and he will start the spell-casting.Try him and see what am saying.These are the few things he does
    *HE BRING BACK LOST LOVERS IN 24hrs.
    *REMOTE CONTROL OVER LOVERS.
    *ALL TYPES OF VOODOO SPELL CASTING.
    * IS YOUR HEALER TO SOLVE YOUR PROBLEMS? THIS IS YOUR CHANCE TO BE HELPED QUICKLY.
    *GET RIDE OF ANY WITCHCRAFT, BAD LUCK & CURSES.
    * EXPERT IN DISTANCE HEALING
    *COURT CASES EVEN IF ONE IS CONVICTED[IF THERE'S A CHANCE OF APPEALING]
    *IS SOMEBODY JEALOUS WITH YOUR RELATIONSHIP?
    *UNFINISHED JOBS BY OTHER DOCTORS-IF NOT SATISFIED-COME TO HIM.
    *ARE YOU BEING FORCED INTO A DIVORCE?
    *HE PREVENT BAD LUCK AND JEALOUSY.
    *TO WIN HORSES AND GAMBLING.
    *HE CAN STOP SOME ONE INTERFERING WITH YOUR RELATIONSHIP.
    * DO YOU WANT TO HAVE CHILDREN OF YOUR OWN
    *DO YOU WANT QUICK MARRIAGE PROPOSAL?
    *HE CAN CLEAN PEOPLE HOUSES,BUSINESSES AND PROPERTIES FROM BAD LUCK.
    *DO YOU NEED EXCESSIVE SEXUAL POWER AND STRONG ERECTIONS.
    * WOMEN, COME FOR THE TAMPON. IT WILL HELP YOU NOT TO LOSE YOUR RELATIONSHIPS BECAUSE IT MAKES YOU SWEET, WARM AND TIGHT.
    You can get in touch with him through THIS EMAIL ADRESS{GURUVOODOOSPELLCAST@YAHOO.COM}.OR CALL HIM ON +2348103508204

  • Lindsey

    The idea that “God has a plan” for my life is certainly one I have been thinking about more and more, lately. I have so many friends who sit around and wait for a “word from the Lord” instead of making their own decisions to act. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely think there is a time and a place to ask for wisdom from God, but I also believe that we ultimately choose where we go in life. Yes, I believe that God has a plan for me, but I’m not so sure it’s as specific as we all want it to be. Every choice is ultimately up to us.

  • Lillya

    *sigh* I’ve never been in a telatio

  • Lillya

    *sigh* I’ve never been in a relationship and that is both depressing and scary. I wonder all the time, does God have a plan for my love life? It never really feels like He does. Then I think, does He have a plan for my life in general? If not for someONE, is there someTHING he created me especially for? Again, I never have felt the answer to be “yes, He does!”

    The end of the article asks how we experience God’s presence. I honestly haven’t ever really felt like God was sitting there with me talking, even when I went to church twice a week and prayed every night. maybe thats why I have a hard time believing He’s got someone/thing out there for me. How do you others experience Him? I would really like to know :/

  • Molly

    This is inspiring. I just wrote a post using the same word choices
    ( http://confusedcatholic.wordpress.com )
    I was curious if anyone else shared my view and I came across your article. It’s on the same wavelength as my post, which is so reassuring to me.

  • Lidia Mckinney

    My husband of 23yrs confessed that he cheated on me. young girl from his work place. he told me because he didn’t want to lie to me. he said i don’t deserved to be lied to. i was very heartbroken and sad. a month later he told me he broke-off with the girl and wants to save our marriage. i forgive him and still stay together for the sake of our two sons – age 11 & 12. recently he told me that he don’t love me anymore. he spent more time at work even on off days and weekends. we hardly see each other or talk much now. i feel he is avoiding us until i met Dr. ikhine the spell caster who help me to bring him back to us and now we are now living happily again contact him on agbadado@gmail.com or call him on +2347060552255 for your help

  • hannah promise

    I have been rejected by my husband after 8 years of marriage just because another woman and he left me and the kid to suffer. One day when i was reading through the web, i saw a post on how this spell caster on this address Dr ukpoyan a spell caster.have helped a woman to get back her husband and i gave him a reply to his email address dr.ukpoyanspellhome@gmail.com and he told me that a woman casted a spell on my husband and he told me that he will help me and after 2 days that i will have my husband back. I believed him because of his polite approach and sincerity and today i am glad to let you all know that this spell caster have the power to bring lovers back because i am now happy with my husband.

  • hannah promise

    want to say a very big thanks and appreciation to DR ukpoyan for bringing back my husband who left me and kids for almost 2 years within the space of five days after following all instruction given to me. i am very much grateful for restoring peace in my marital home’ i pray God almighty give you the strength and wisdom to help more people having similar problem like mine. for help you can
    CONTACT HIM on this email :dr.ukpoyanspellhome@gmail.com

  • hannah promise

    Hello Every one out here!!
    I want to share my testimony and my happiness with you all in this site, last year my husband left me for another woman in his working place and he abandon me and my 2kids, everything was so hard for me because i love him so much, so i saw the testimonies of Dr.ukpoyan how he has been helping ladies in getting there husband back so i contacted him and he help me to cast a return spell for my husband and in 2 days my husband left the other woman and he come back to me with so much love and caring. i will never forget this help that Dr.ukpoyan gave to me and my children.if you are here you need help to get you lover back you can contact him through this email dr.ukpoyanspellhome@gmail.com, i am proud to be on his testimony page?

  • Lidia Mckinney

    I never believe all these were truth until I got liberated by it… My testimony is too long to share here. Contact Dr. Ikhine if u need any help. He gives 100% in every spell casting and as a professional he make sure all goes right. specializing in the fields of Love, Money, Power, Success, Sickness, Pregnancy, Marriage, Job, Protection, Lottery, Court Case, Luck. etc. provide the information below INFORMATION NEEDED: Your Full Name:_________ Your Partner name:_________ Your Contact number:_________ Your country/Location:_________ The picture of both of you:_________ Your complete address:_________ With this information the spell will commence immediately and you will have to stay tune for more feed back from my shrine. Contact him via: agbadado@gmail.com or call him on +2347060552255.

    Wish You Good Luck.

  • Ero Lovespell

    Hi My name is ‘Bruno Rico’ just want to share my experience with the world on how i got my love back and saved my marriage… I was married for 7years with 2kids and we lived happily until things started getting ugly and we had fights and arguments almost every time… it got worse at a point that she filed for divorce… I tried my best to make her change her mind & stay with me cause i loved her with all my heart and didn’t want to loose her but everything just didn’t work out… she moved out of the house and still went ahead to file for divorce… I pleaded and tried everything but still nothing worked. The breakthrough came when someone introduced me to this wonderful, great spell caster who eventually helped me out… I have never been a fan of things like this but just decided to try reluctantly cause I was desperate and left with no choice… He did special prayers and used roots and herbs… Within 7 days she called me and was sorry for all the emotional trauma she had cost me, moved back to the house and we continue to live happily, the kids are happy too and we are expecting our third child. I have introduced him to a lot of couples with problems across the world and they have had good news… Just thought I should share my experience cause I strongly believe someone out there need’s it… You can email him via akhidenorlovespell@gmail.com Don’t give up just yet, the different between ‘Ordinary’ & ‘Extra-Ordinary’ is the ‘Extra’ so make extra effort to save your marriage/relationship if it’s truly worth it.

  • Henry Westwood

    please i want you all to read this testimony as the man was brought to the world to save people from frustrations from lost loves lost jobs i wanna post on this forum because i know there are many of you out there who are in the same problem i was i am Mabel writhe and i am from Canada cold lake in Alberta and i and my husband were married for fifteen years with three children our lives were flourishing my husband had a good job and i was a sales representative in his company then on the 10th of October 2012 my home started to crumble everything was going upside down and my husband left me and my children for a little girl and when i heard of it i was so devastated and when i go to his office to see him he told his boss he doesn’t want to see me no more and in the process i lost my job i and my children we were suffering and i was looking for solutions were ever it was to no avail i contacted so many spell casters who could not do anything and i decided to give up until i met a friend on 1st of may and he told me of a powerful spell caster who she met in Africa when she went to execute a project in Africa and she gave me his mail address as{agumaguspelltemple@gmail.com}, and i contacted him on 2nd of may 2013 and he told me many things i didn’t know before he let me into many secrets and he cast the spell and told me that on 4th of may my husband was going to come back to me i didn’t believe him i had my doubt, and as he promised my husband came begging me on the 4th of may 2013 and i contacted him and told him all that he said came true and he said i was going to get my job back and also get promoted and on the 6th of may i got my job back, i was promoted and i was compensated for the days i was relieved of my work i want to thank the greatest spell caster in the world Dr agumagu he told me he can bring back lost love, lost jobs,promotion lotto win,and many more if we have two men like him today the world will be a good place once again thank you sir, here his is mail if you want to contact him as he will answer you asap.{agumaguspelltemple@gmail.com},hope he help you out too.

  • Blenda Park

    This is a very joyful day of my life because of the help Dr.Shiva has rendered to me by helping me get my ex husband back with his magic and love spell. i was married for 6 years and it was so terrible because my husband was really cheating on me and was seeking for a divorce but when i came across Dr.Shiva email on the internet on how he help so many people to get thier ex back and help fixing relationship.and make people to be happy in their relationship. i explained my situation to him and then seek his help but to my greatest surprise he told me that he will help me with my case and here i am now celebrating because my Husband has change totally for good. He always want to be by me and can not do anything without my present. i am really enjoying my marriage, what a great celebration. i will keep on testifying on the internet because Dr.Shiva is truly a real spell caster. DO YOU NEED HELP THEN CONTACT DOCTOR SHIVA NOW VIA EMAIL: reunitingexspell@yahoo.com or call +2347051705853 or reunitingexspell2@gmail.com . He is the only answer to your problem and make you feel happy in your relationship.

  • Matt Frizzell

    Hey, this is a great article Emily. Very refreshing! I think if Christians were to read what the bible actually says they would discover that the idea of god having a plan isn’t in there. The Jer 29:11 verse was a specific promise for a specific people. Not a promise for all our lives. This is the biblical viewpoint:

    1. “God sends rain on the just and the unjust” (Matt 5:45). We all go through the same challenges. Coming to the faith doesn’t mean that every challenge is a special trial sent from god. But God instead uses these universal challenges to shape us into his image.
    2. “A man’s heart plans his way,
    But the Lord directs his steps.” (Proverbs 16:9)
    “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10)
    So what we see here is that we have a general plan (where we co-create with god) and he then brings us specific works to do. NOT a specific plan
    3. “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!” (Matthew 7:11)
    So the father does bring physical blessings. Yes. But he doesn’t promise everybody the perfect spouse, family, job and mission in life. With these perfect courtship stories we hear, the point is not that god will do the same for everybody. But rather, god brings good gifts. That’s it.

    So I would say most of the people on here trying to comfort you are just terrified of the fact that they may experience similar difficulties, so by encouragement they’re trying to reinforce their own ungodly, unbiblical views and are shielding themselves from reality. I’m not saying this out of bitterness, but rather love. Because I know that the idea of ‘gods plan’ actually shatters a lot of people’s hopes and it’s better to figure it out sooner rather than later.