I had been manipulated, lied to, and now, ignominiously--via e-mail, "I think we should just be buddies"--dumped. Pain, uncertainty, and rejection overwhelmed me until, as I cried myself to sleep again one night, I recalled a phrase that brought momentary comfort.
"The Lord will hear when I call to Him." It was Psalm 4:3, my psalm. Each child in my second-grade Sunday school class had received a slip of paper with a different Bible verse to memorize. Our teacher instructed us to repeat the verse until it was fixed in our memory and promised us that it would always be our very own to use when we most needed it. A sort of verse kept behind glass: Break in case of emergency.
So that night, I used my special psalm in desperation. Please, Lord, take the hurt away and don't ever let it return. I will pay any price for that guarantee. I will wait as long as it takes. Just let the next guy be The One.
Six long years later, still single, celibate, and waiting, I could only assume that God had taken me seriously. We had a pact. Granted, it wasn't exactly the covenant God made with Noah or Moses. He hadn't actually done any speaking or promising. But if He wasn't making me wait for The One, surely I would have met someone, anyone by now.
That was just one of the flaws in my thinking. And I'm not alone. Many people treat God like a divine matchmaker, believing that He has one soul mate destined for them. All that is required is to sit back passively and wait for the assigned match to appear. But God isn't a yenta. And we are awfully dull prizes if we sit around putting our lives on hold while waiting for The One.
Waiting around for a divine match can also put an unreasonable amount of pressure on any potential relationship. The longer I felt God was making me wait, the higher the stakes were raised. During the first year, any kind, intelligent man would have sufficed. But by that sixth year of unbroken singleness, some combination of JFK Jr., Bill Gates, and Prince William had better walk through the door.
Which is why I was initially so confused when I met my current boyfriend. He was funny, charming, and smart. But how could a man who wears turquoise polo shirts, mocks my college sports team, and dislikes mashed potatoes be The One? Sure, a small part of my rational mind argued that my "pact" with God wasn't exactly binding; there was no reason to assume that this new man was my future husband. On the other hand, if the matchmaking arrangement was all in my head, why had I gone years without a hand to hold or a shoulder to lean on? To justify all of the lonely weekends to myself, I had to believe that this man was my reward.
So I stood dumbstruck in a cold parking lot on our third date as my chosen prince explained that he would really like to spend more time with me, but he should probably tell me that he was seeing someone else. "It's OK, though," he assured me--"we've said we can also see other people."
"I don't know what kind of matchmaking service you're running, but this is unacceptable. I held up my end of the deal, and, frankly, I expect a little better than this. The One is not supposed to be some guy who fits me into his amorous schedule when his other girlfriend isn't around. The One is supposed to get down on bended knee and say, 'I have been looking for you my entire life, my sweet. My heart leaps for joy to know that I have found you.' Or something similarly Shakespearean."
Even after so many years, it was very easy to fall back into the trough of pain and rejection, to wallow in self-pity and lash out at God for abandoning me and our deal. But after a self-indulgent amount of sniffling and late-night brain-anesthetizing television watching, I examined the "pact" for the first time. What was this deal essentially? A win-win situation for me. I didn't have to put myself at risk and cope with any of the hurt that is a part of all human relationships, and in return God would present me with my future husband. Hmm. I thought of my date--just a nice guy who found himself in the confusing situation of meeting a woman who intrigued him while he was still dating someone else. Not exactly a capital crime.
I decided to give both my date and God a second chance. I prayed, issuing no commands and negotiating no deals, but simply asking for guidance. "Lord, I don't know if he's The One. And it doesn't really matter right now. Just help me through this. Please help me to enjoy this and remember that, regardless of the outcome, I will be your child, I will be loved, I will be all right."
And then, abandoning my tired passive role, I set out to court my date. It was a pleasure to finally cook a romantic meal, find a screening of a classic Hitchcock movie, to match wits in trivia games. In turn, he impressed me with his candor, his gentle touch, and his matchless wisdom in deciding (albeit belatedly) to make me his one and only.
God does hear me when I call to Him, but I no longer think that He has one perfect match reserved for me. And that's acceptable. Because while my pact was imaginary, I will always have the pact God made with all of His children: "Lo, I am with you always, even to the very end of the age." Or relationships.