By Anna Sofia Botkin
I just turned 25. Oddly, it seems a lot more than one year older than 24. The realization that I have lived a quarter of a century brings new awareness of the preciousness of time, the reality of aging and death, and the fact that life unfolds at a speed and in a way that I can’t control. I’m past feeling like my life is stretching out endlessly before me — I’m a good third of the way into it (Lord willing) and the ticking of the clock seems to grows louder.
I think these feelings are normal; observation has taught me that it’s at some point around a young woman’s twenty fifth revolution around the sun that she experiences a messy head-on collision with certain rock-hard facts of reality. Often it’s her point of disillusionment – the point when she finds out that the world is not what she thought. That life did not deliver what she expected. That things didn’t happen according to her plans. That she didn’t get her way and that her dreams didn’t come true. And to cap it off… she doesn’t get another shot. This is the big moral test in every girl’s life, and I am no exception.
It’s at this crisis point that a young woman’s true faith and motivations emerge, sometimes in ways that surprise everyone; over the years I‘ve seen many whom I counted as friends and allies change course dramatically and walk away from the principles that they fought alongside me to defend — namely, the tenets of biblical daughterhood.
The reasons are many and varied:
It got too hard. The level of self-sacrifice turned out to be more than they bargained for.
It did not produce the desired result (a husband).
The stigma of being an adult daughter who still lives at home with Mommy and Daddy became too much to bear.
The barrage of probing questions about why they were so “different” became too wearisome.
There really was no vision for life at home. For them, home was never really home, just a port to be stranded in, waiting for the soonest ship.
The feeling that God did not hold up His half of the bargain – He didn’t deliver what they assumed was coming to them for their good deeds.
Rarely do the reasons spring from an honest reexamination of their convictions on biblical womanhood, but rather a disappointment with what those “convictions” yielded.
Sometimes before we start to question what we believe, we should question why we believe – is it because it’s easy, it’s convenient, it’s socially acceptable to the crowd we’re in, it’s eventually going to pay… or because we know it’s true? If we believe something because we know it’s true, then we will keep believing — even when it becomes hard, inconvenient, socially unacceptable, and appears to be costing, not paying. It’s good to stop and question why we believe – yes, even if those beliefs have been in a published form for five years, permanently set into the stones that make up the bedrock of a so-called “movement.”
This month is also the fifth anniversary of the release of my sister’s and my first book, So Much More. Many speculated that time and experience would dampen our idealistic notions, and change our convictions. Some have asked if I still agreed with the naive 17-year-old me who started that book eight years ago. After all, haven’t I changed?
Well, yes, I have: By God’s grace, my grasp of the Scriptures and the issues is firmer, my communication skills have been sharpened through combat with an onslaught of criticism, and an acquaintance with hundreds of young woman and their unique situations from around the world has broadened the scope of my vision and taught me to have more compassion. But one thing I hope never changes — that I never grow out of — is a child-like faith in the plain teachings of Scripture and youthful zeal in proclaiming them.
I have changed, but the Bible hasn’t, and I still believe it means what it says. Time and experience have further proved to me that God is a much better Author of a woman’s destiny than she is. Her plans will go awry. His can’t.
This week I have been reflecting back on the expectations I had for my life: my goals, my plans, my hopes and my dreams. I don’t know if it’s possible for my present reality to have deviated more from my past fantasies. As a teenager, I projected for myself an early marriage (at say, 18) and a quiet, private life, as my three biggest fears were writing, public speaking, and being on camera – in short, anything that would expose me to public scrutiny. So, how do I feel about the fact that seven years have elapsed since my speculated marriage date, that my little brother, four years my junior, just got married, to a good friend of mine five years my junior, and that my life has been characterized by the three things I used to dread above all?
First of all, my feelings have nothing to do with it. Gratitude or bitterness are not really feelings but decisions, decisions that have nothing to do with the circumstances themselves, but with how we choose to perceive to them.
For example, let’s do a retake:
How do I feel about the fact that God has given me seven more precious years to spend with my family and prepare for the future; that I have been able to play a part in my little brother’s transition into adult life which culminated in his marriage to a dear friend of mine (now a dear sister of mine); and that God has brought me many unsolicited opportunities to serve Him that have stretched me and helped me overcome my horror of vulnerability? I should be on my face before God, thanking Him for His overwhelming goodness to me.
God did not give me what I expected – He gave me far more. He has blessed me above and beyond what my little human mind could have imagined.
This year my heart is overflowing with gratitude that my plans didn’t work out, that I didn’t get my way, and that my little dreams never came true.
Maybe when we ruminate over life’s unfulfilled expectations we should stop and consider that God’s “withheld” blessings might not have been withheld at all – just presented in a way we did not expect. Let’s hope that we’re not so fixated on what we had on our wish-lists that we scorn the better gift.
My desires to one day be a wife and mother are still alive and well, but they must bow to God’s will. They may be fulfilled soon, or much later on… or they may not be fulfilled at all. If our desire to be placed in marriages really springs from the belief that we will be more useful to God thus, then we won’t feel let down if He decides to deploy us somewhere else. He knows where we will be the most useful to Him.
At 25, I’m reminded of the bigger picture: marriage is just one front in the context of a much larger war. Whether I get married or not, the war goes on. My life is defined by the fact that I am God’s soldier, not by the fact that I am 25 AND STILL NOT MARRIED.
I’m grateful for another year to stand by my post as a daughter at home, to:
Build strength into my family and make them as powerful as possible
Invest into the relationships that God has put into my life right now: my brothers, my sister, my parents, and others in the community.
Prepare my heart and attitude for the greater sacrifices that marriage and motherhood might bring
To learn new skills to add to my armory
To read more books
To explore more fields of learning
To have more of God’s word written on my heart, imprinted on my mind, and ready on my tongue
To be more joyful and optimistic
To be more like the unmarried woman in 1 Cor. 7:34, who is “…anxious about the things of the Lord, how to be holy in body and spirit.”
To be an even stronger witness as an adult daughter who still lives at home with Mommy and Daddy
Standing at the threshold of my 26th year, God has given me the grace to repeat the hardest statement ever made by any woman:
“Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word.” Luke 1:38