While In Single’s Prison, Do Your Time Well
I’ve probably gained more insight from my relationships with my friends in prison than they have from me. A while ago I was writing to my dear friend Curtis, updating him on the status of my current dating life, or lack thereof. Found in his reply, among his many words of wisdom, he dropped a phrase that I’ve heard a million times. It’s something that I’ve even told others, yet at times have struggled to apply to myself: To find the right one, you have to become the right one.
I know this. However, the more I thought about it, especially coming from Curtis, the more it made sense. He was living this out. Just in a different way.
You see Curtis is going to be getting out of prison this year, and he just got moved to his last destination, a minimum security prison, where it would be easy for him to relax and simply watch the clock. This is probably what I would do. I’d ride out my last few months on autopilot, waiting for the moment that the guard opens my cell for the last time, and I get the heck out of there. But that’s not the desire of Curtis’ heart.
Instead of counting down his remaining trips to the chow-hall, he is treating his last year in prison just like every year prior. He’s starting new outreach ministries. He’s playing music in the chapel. He’s studying for his electrician’s license. He’s doing a number of things besides thinking about getting out.
The day will come when he’ll be handed a pair of civilian clothes and led to the front gate, but in the mean time, his focus is on bettering himself and deepening his relationship with God.
Why? Because he knows his freedom does not come from the outside. Yes, being out of prison will be a wonderful thing for him, but his freedom comes from his relationship with Christ alone, not from some future scenario.
I think single people can take something from his example.
What if, instead of us proactively trying to find the right one, we proactively focused on becoming the right one? Just like Curtis, how much could we better ourselves if our focus was on the here and now and not on the future? How much freedom would that bring?
The need to find a partner, much like the need to get out of prison, is a tell-tale sign that our fulfillment is coming from the wrong source. Yes, a marriage will be great one day. Yes, the prisoner should want to get out of prison. But the overall yearnings of one’s heart should be fulfilled only by Christ. That should be our heart’s only need.
The irony here is, once that is in place, it actually makes you a healthier candidate for a more quality relationship.
Don’t Demolish the Fruit Tree
Timothy Keller described it like this: Imagine a starving person that came upon a beautiful fruit tree. This guy is not going to take a second to notice its beauty. He won’t be able to stand back and enjoy it for what it is. He will simply devour it. Stripping it of its fruit and ruining its beauty. Yes, he will temporary be relieved of his cravings, but the tree will be left demolished… and he’ll be hungry again soon.
But what if a contently full person approached the same magnificent fruit tree? His appreciation for it will be much deeper and robust. He won’t ask, “What can this tree do for me?” He could marvel at the trees grandeur. He can knock off a cobweb or two. He can post a selfie with it. He will be much happier with the fruit tree than the starving man would. Why?
Because his fulfillment came from somewhere else, not the tree.
If our fulfillment is coming from God, when the right person shows up, either today or five years from now, the odds of that relationship working are tremendously high. No one will be putting the weight of their soul on another human bean, and hoping for fulfillment.
Your relationship with your future spouse will be immensely more meaningful and beautiful if you don’t need it when it arrives.
You’ll be able to enjoy it on a level the starving man never could.
The right one will show up, even if that person is already in your life, and it will make sense why you’ve been single for so long. You’ll be in the middle of making yourself a better candidate, and more devoted follower of Christ, when all of the sudden you’ll look up and go, “Wow. Now THAT is a beautiful tree.”
Working on Your Future Relationship Now
But for the time being, we’re in a holding pattern. And that’s perfectly ok. The good news is though, you can still work on your future relationship now by following Curtis’ example: Work on yourself. Deepen your relationship with God. This will do wonders for your future relationship.
I don’t know what this looks likes for you, but I know what it does for me.
I want to lead a godly home and a family that pursues Christ one day. So in the mean time, I can make sure that a passionate pursuit of Christ is commanding my life now. If I want to lead a godly marriage in the future, I need to make sure that Christ is in the center of everything I do now… If this is you too, get this part down BEFORE you meet your spouse.
I can fight to get out of debt so any future relationship I have will enjoy the freedom that comes with being debt free.
I want a relationship that enjoys an active lifestyle like biking or hiking, so I can work on getting into really good shape now.
I don’t want to weigh down my future relationship with all of my social needs, so I can work on building healthy relationships now with a network of friends.
These are goals. They’re all measurable and achievable for the most part. I certainly don’t live them out perfectly, but will never stop trying.
I don’t know what it looks like for you. Maybe you have toxic relationships that need to be fixed before introducing someone new into your drama. Maybe you have jealousy issues that will potentially damage your future prospects. Maybe you struggle with an addiction to social media, affirmation, a substance, or spending money.
Or maybe you just want to get ripped for your honeymoon someday.
Whatever your short comings or whatever your goals, the good news is that you can start working on your future relationships now, by becoming a better you today. (Man, that sounds like a Joel Osteen tweet).
You Can’t Remove, You Can Only Replace
Its often hard because our hearts need to be attached to something. We need to be living for something, earning something, transfixed with something. Some people live for drugs, others live for power, influence, and money.
It’s easy for us single people to live for a romantic solution.
A Scottish theologian named Thomas Chambers, in his book The Expulsive Power of a New Affection, illustrates that the human heart is such that one can never simply stop a yearning, an addiction, or fascination… one can only replace it.
If a single person wants to stop needing a relationship, the only way to break that need is to set the heart on something else.
You’re not going to be able to remove your need for a relationship, if you find yourself in this predicament. You’re only going to be able to replace it with a passion for something else.
So in short, try needing an intimate relationship with God more than you need a romantic relationship with a person. Try needing to better yourself more than you need to find a partner. This is easier said than done. It takes time, effort, failure, and the renewing of your mind… but it can be done.
Focus on being the quality person you are looking for. Focus on growing closer to God than you ever have before. Remember, we don’t want to destroy the fruit tree when it shows up. We want the fruit tree to be a wonderful and beautiful thing, but not a source of fulfillment.
And one day, as your eyes are fixed solely on Jesus, and you’re running towards God the way a child runs home after school, you’ll look to your side and there will be your perfect soul mate, running in the same direction, towards the same God… Grab their hand and keep running.