Christians often joke that some people are afraid to let God into their lives completely or have a relationship with Him because God may send them to a hut in Africa. I can’t honestly say whether anyone really suffers from that fear, but I do know that it’s not a fear of mine. Been there, have the malaria to show for it.

I told my parents around 4th grade that I was going to grow up to be a missionary and teach MKs (missionary kids) overseas. Missions has always been on my heart’s radar and a hut in Africa wasn’t out of the question. The place where I got hung up more often was on the issue of singleness. I might have gone sooner except that I maintained that I wouldn’t really consider long term missions unless I was married. Why? Good question, long answer. That may be another blog for another day, but suffice it to say that somehow I felt my worth as a woman was tied to whether I could attract a man, whether he was a decent man, and whether I could convince him to marry me. [And yes, I realize the flaws in thinking contained in the previous sentence. I’m simply relating that which was holding me back previously.]

I remember having lunch with my dad a little over 4 months before he died. He and my mom were in town for Thanksgiving and were leaving for a cruise soon thereafter. It would be the last major trip my dad would be able to do. Since he wasn’t much of a shopper, I’d offered to take him back home while the rest of the clan (mom, pregnant sis, et al) spent some time at Concord Mills. We stopped at Golden Corral on the way back to the house to rest because dad loved a good buffet. He’d spend 30 minutes just getting his multiple plates put together, always making the salad first (since “it won’t get cold”). I finished eating well before Dad even got his plates arranged, so I did most of the talking. I was relating that I was a bit saddened to note that I was a bit behind in life. When my sister had been my age, she had been married for 7 years and had adopted her first two children. Now she had another on the way and I wasn’t even remotely close to being married, let alone having kids. My dad’s response was unusually short and blunt, “Well, that doesn’t mean you’re any less useful to the Lord.”

Over 4 years later, that comment still brings tears to my eyes, but for different reasons. On that day it stung quite significantly. I hadn’t been implying that I wasn’t useful, I was simply conveying disappointment with my position in life. I didn’t argue with Dad, but I suspect I was markedly more quiet the rest of the visit. In hindsight, however, I must admit that the comment likely stung because it struck a chord. At that time I couldn’t even see the lies I was believing, but my dad pinpointed it with sharp-shooting accuracy. Did he know he was striking a chord? I guess I’ll have to ask him when I get to Heaven.

I have come a long way in the four years since that conversation with my dad (and I have the number for a great Christian Counseling Center if you need it). The progress has been slow at times. Our world (both society at large and the specific circumstances we find ourselves in) teaches us some messed up things about ourselves at times. Those lies can be very deep-rooted and nigh unto impossible to extract and replace with Truth. We can know God, know Truth, know that He loves us, and still fail to deeply grasp that reality. It’s the dilemma of the distance between our head and our heart. There have been times where I thought I’d never overcome those aforementioned lies relating to the need for a man in my life. Don’t get me wrong – marriage is still on the radar and is a desire of mine, but it doesn’t consume or define me in the way that it once did.

I’m sure there are many areas of my life that may still need to submitted more fully to God, but the area singleness vs. marriage was undoubtedly the one to which I clung most tightly. I lived in the fear that telling God I trusted Him meant that He would assign me to a life of singleness – that was my equivalent of a hut in Africa. It would be utterly unbearable.

I’m not sure when I let go, honestly, but I’m so glad I did. I knew it needed to happen, but I had visions of being dragged to this point kicking a screaming, being forced to kneel, and saying through clenched teeth, “Fine, I give up, you win.” God was much more gentle than that with me – so gentle, in fact, that the transition was nearly seamless. I remember thinking that I want to be about “that which He has for me,” but I had no idea that letting go of my deep-rooted lies about the necessity of marriage was included in that. Praise God that He knows me better than I know myself. I thought that dying to self would be so much more painful, but I have a very merciful Savior.