**For Evanne, who sometimes nudges me gently about my "other" writing. It's a bit old and you've seen it, but it still makes me smile.**
When you’re 22 and smart and pretty and fresh out of college, they assume all good things, including Mr. Right (or Him, shall we say), will come to you in time. How could they not? You’re the cream of the crop, after all.
And when you’re 25, and all your friends are starting to get married and you still can’t get a decent date, a few eyebrows raise, but they’re not really alarmed. You have time after all. And you’re doing so well in that new job after grad school—showing up all the other new employees, currying the favor of your boss, getting invitations to social gatherings. Yep, the world is your oyster—and, not to mix metaphors, you’re one of the pearls!
But then you’re 28 and still single, with no prospects and the mumblings begin. “Slow down on that career,” they say. “Go to church more, look in the grocery store, the park.” You have to be ever vigilant, apparently, be prepared to find Him at any time around any corner. So those habits you had—you know of leaving the house without makeup (and without a bra when you’re feeling really risqué) and in your old sweats and a t-shirt? Yeah, those are gone. You learn to shop in stilettos, workout in a girdle, walk in 100 degree heat in full makeup. You are ready!
But, oh Lord, Jesus, the night before your 30th birthday. It’s supposed to be a celebration, but Mama’s worry is escalating and even Daddy is talking about how he’d like to see all his kids happy and settled before he dies—depressing because Daddy is as healthy as that proverbial horse. You’re accompanied by the deadbeat you’ve only kept around so you wouldn’t be alone on your 30th, but you find it a little ironic that, while your family’s paying for your meal, you had to slip him a hundred to pay for his own. He’s out the door at midnight, when you officially become a 30-something single.
Which brings about the change in advice. You see, before 30, you were supposed to rely on your own wiles to catch Him. But now that you, in all your incompetent ignorance, have let this milestone pass with no husband and no possibilities, you need outside help. Divine intervention. They all tell you one thing:
Ridiculous, you think. I’m not going to pray for that when there are people who need so much more. I’m happy. Healthy. Good job. Lots of family. I’m not going to push my luck. And you stand by that, lying to them all like you get down on your knees every night and send up fervent requests, but smugly refusing to trouble the good Lord with such foolishness.
Until two weeks shy of your 31st, you’re alone—nary a deadbeat in sight—and bawling in your drunken stupor and somehow you end up facedown, and you figure “What the hell?” So you do it. Dear Heavenly Father God Jesus, send me a man!
And, BOOM! You don’t have long to wait. You find Him a month later, the one single deacon at your church—Hallelujah, Praise Jesus!—and he’s interested in you. Mama brims with excitement. Daddy’s relief is visible. And the deacon, he has a good job, an excellent reputation, and he knows how to treat a lady.
Well... sort of. Seems the deacon’s been so sought after that he thinks the world is his oyster. Only he doesn’t recognize the gem you are—he thinks he himself is the pearl. And he wants you to recognize it, too, crazy ass narcissist. You figure out, kinda quickly, that the deacon isn’t Him—he’s just an ordinary old him. But you hang in there for two years, three months, six days, six hours, and 17 minutes, before you say “To hell with it”—it and the deacon.
Very quickly, you learn it’s all your fault. You should’ve done more to keep that man—don’t you know good ones take extra work, you silly, approaching-spinsterdom twit! And the perception persists—until the deacon dogs out a few other good women and people are willing to afford you a little bit of forgiveness.
Which is when you learn something else. There is, apparently, an art to prayer, and everyone is surprised you didn’t know. You can’t just pray for a man, or that’s exactly what you’ll get, they say. No, you must pray for the man. Be specific as possible, your best friend explains. Pray on his financial situation, his race, his temperament, his hair style. Ask for exactly what you want.
And you figure, since you’re in for a penny…
So you pray, without ceasing. Down to the size of his shoes, ahem, and acceptable makes for his car. And…
Nothing happens. You wait and you pray. You pray and you wait. You cry a little. You curse a little. You act as maid of honor—the only maid—in your sister’s second wedding.
Then, something happens.
You realize that waiting to live is no way to live. You learn the difference between alone and lonely. And you make peace with your single self.
All before you’re 35.
You can face the world without a bra again! You can workout with a ponytail. And you’re back to a little powder, a brush of mascara, and a swipe of gloss. You look good, girl!
And now that you know life won’t end if you don’t get married, you can pretty much ignore the new guy in accounting about whom everyone is talking. Never mind that he gets the same positive buzz you did when you were a new employee. And never mind that he is cute—if you like ‘em tall, dark, smart, and with dimples--which you may or may not. You’re totally unconcerned with that now.
Even when he sends you, the VP of marketing to emerging markets, flowers. Sweet, but you’re unaffected. The fact that he’s been going to your church and your grocery store since he moved here? So? And how incredibly adorable he is with his niece (who lives with him because her mom, his sister, died of ovarian cancer—not that you looked into it)? Meaningless, to the new you.
Then he approaches you.
“I can’t,” you say. He isn’t at all what you prayed for.
“You can,” he responds, much too confident.
“You’re too young.” Only 29. You prayed for a mature man!
“Age doesn’t always reflect experience.” The suave devil!
So you pull out the big guns. “I’m single. And happy. And whole!”
But he smiles and says softly, “I know.”
Oh, Lord Jesus, please rescue you from this cocky youngster. You pray that from Monday right up until Sunday, when you arrive at church in your baddest red dress and your biggest red hat. You’re late and the choir is already deep into the chorus of the congregational hymn. “He might not come when you want him,” they sing, “But he’ll be there right on time.”
God would be a master of irony, you observe, as you tap Him on the shoulder and scoot past Him and His niece to sit down. He picks her up and sits her in His lap before placing an arm on the pew behind you. Very discreetly, you snuggle closer to His side.
And you admit, the Heavenly Father may not always send what you pray for but…
He sure knows how to send what you need.