Editor’s Note: Below is a correspondence from a reader written to Dr. Dorothy Patterson, affectionately known as “Dottie.”
What advice would you give women who are transitioning from singleness to marriage? Unlike my parents, the Lord did not give me the opportunity to marry while I was young. I’m in my late 20s and my husband is in his late 30s. We are both college educated, were independently successful. Now, I find everything changing: my name, where I wake up in the morning, when I wake up in the morning, how I spend my time, where my priorities are, my focus on outside relationships/family/friendships, my ministry, my calling, my education. It’s shifting from “me,” “my”, “mine” to “ours.” It’s a good transition, but it’s hard. I feel lost at times, like I’m not sure who I am any more or what to do with myself. I know this is just a phase, but I would love advice on how to shift from being a content, independent, productive single woman to a Godly wife.
Dear Ms. Independent,
First, let me commend you warmly for embracing the very challenging biblical admonition to be content in whatever state you find yourself (Phil 4:1). Marrying later in life, after you have established a satisfying and prospering career, brings many changes. However, you will find those changes more easily made because of your willingness to be content in the path along which the Lord has led you in this preceding decade, during which you were following a different plan than had your parents and many of your friends, and continuing to trust Him as your direction changes. How blessed you are to have had these years to learn some important spiritual lessons:
- Obedience is a prerequisite for true contentment that will come only after you have bowed to the Lord and accepted His Word and way. When you refused to be unhappy or bitter as your friends married and established homes, you were expressing your confidence in the Lord to give you the desires of your heart in His own timing and according to His plan. In other words, you molded your personal desires under the chiseling and sculpturing of His perfect Hand.
- Putting your hand to the task before you with enthusiasm and excellence, determined to do your very best whatever your assignment. The natural inclination of the human heart is to ask why should I do this instead of what should I do, and when do I have to start instead of how can I get this done. You accepted your singleness and used those years to equip yourself and then to do your work with all your might and to the best of your ability.
- Yet you have been alert to see what God has for you to do, and you have been willing to accept his blessings even when they turn your life upside down and seem overwhelming.
You will remember that at the dawn of creation God presented His plan for continuing the generations and doing the work necessary to keep His kingdom on course. He created the man and then clearly stated that it was not good for the man to be alone—he needed a helper like himself—a faithful counterpart who would be bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh and who would work alongside the man to accomplish God’s purposes and work (Gen 2:18-23). Once sin entered the world this perfect plan (Gen 2:24)—one man for one woman totally committed to one another for life—came under attack.
Second, let me challenge you as the next chapter in your life begins. Here are some new spiritual lessons to be learned:
- Marriage is God’s perfect object lesson for revealing Himself. You will have a unique opportunity to sit at the feet of the Lord and learn more about who He is and how He works. As a bride, you will be in a position to model beauty with duty—the beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit and the duty of genuine commitment to the task. Your example is Jesus Himself, who humbled Himself and became obedient even to the cross.
- You will have a workshop to develop character qualities and become more like Jesus. Indeed you do die to yourself; you become more concerned about your husband and his needs; you submit yourself to his leadership and you devote yourself to helping him accomplish your familygoals. You accept his name and link yourself to him so that you become one in spirit and in purpose as well as in body. What neither of you can do as individuals you will now pursue as one—genuinely a new union for the glory of God.
- You will have the opportunity to link hands with the creator and create new life—continuing the generations to come by welcoming children, rearing them in the nurture of the Lord, and preparing them to take their places in kingdom service.
- You will be challenged to a new level of selflessness and of passionate love for another, including caring service and personal sacrifice. You have never before had such a public and potentially powerful arena in which tomodel a Christ-like lifestyle.
You will become, by the grace of God, clay in the Creator’s hands. Yes, all will be new. You will accept that new name linking your lives in a very public and even legal way one to the other. You will begin adapting your life rhythms, as will your husband, to what was a monotone to a harmonious melody. You will not wake up alone but with the one you love most by your side—so close you can feel the warmth of his body and hear his voice and know as never before that you are not alone—you have a soul mate. You will find new creativity, tempered with committed discipline, in weaving together two lives—schedules, activities, and priorities. You will learn to cherish “couple time” when just the two of you can talk and share and enjoy the comfort of just being in the same room and sharing your life journey.Your family will be enlarged—two sets of parents supporting your life and work and maybe additional siblings with whom to interact, and you will learn that your mother and father-in-law can be your mother and father-in-love. You treat your husband’s birth family just as you do your birth family, and quickly you will become a dynasty devoted one to the other and available to encourage one another in a wonderful extended family—more holiday traditions, more family events—all for one and one for all!
Your primary calling, as I understand Scripture, is now to become your husband’s helper and all that entails. He, in turn, has a primary responsibility to provide for, protect, and lead you. This is not your plan or his plan or the plan of the church—this is God’s plan. It does not require perfect people or perfect circumstances because it is from the mind and heart of God and is thus a perfect plan. You and your husband will have “our” ministry, “our” calling one to the other and to the Lord’s plan, the blending of education and experience to “our” legacy. No longer is it what I want for my life to be accomplished in my way but rather what our life together will produce according to our mutual sacrifices and hard work. Truly you go from mine and yours to ours and His (i.e., the Lord’s)!
To be content is a choice: Do the right thing and determine to please God, and He will give you the desires of your heart and the kingdom will be blessed through you (Ps 37:4). You will choose independently to link your lives in loving dependence on one another but using individual giftedness and commitment to Christ to accomplish the plans for your marriage. Your success as individuals will soon be overshadowed by the new productivity you will have together in all to which you put your hands. Godliness and all it entails is always a choice; it is something you do. Sometimes your heart must catch up with your mind and inspire your submission to the purposes of Christ.
I remain yours in the journey,