Arriving late to potluck has probably happened to you at one time or another in your church experience. You know the feeling. There’s food, but Sister Marva’s vegan mac n’ cheese or Brother Pierre’s diri djon djon (Haitian black rice) are gone and what remains doesn’t amount to much of a meal.
Dating in your 30s feels just like being late to potluck.
In this 4-part mini-course, we’ll explore various facets of this all too common experience.
We can arrive “late to potluck” for a variety of reasons - most all of them undergirded by good intentions. Perhaps we put our schooling first. Maybe we wanted to settle into our careers before thinking about marriage. Or perhaps we think God more highly esteems our ministry in church over the ministry of creating a family.
Whatever the reason, by the time you make it over to where the food is being served, there’s not much left. And to what is remaining, you might not be immediately drawn.
Albeit a disappointing or frustrating situation, getting upset about it won’t help a bit. While every effort has been made by those serving to have the food stretch as far as possible so that everyone may eat, it’s pretty universally understood that no one is owed a plate.
Similarly, God doesn’t owe us a spouse.
Though you don’t necessarily have to make a beeline for the fellowship hall on the heels of the benediction, you do want to get there at a decent time. There is time to greet church members you haven’t seen since small group or prayer meeting. You do have time to introduce yourself to the visitors who were seated near you. There’s also time to join in on the prayer circle. There’s even time to use the restroom. But you do want to make it down to the fellowship hall in good time if you want to eat.
And a good time to find a spouse is in your late teens and your 20s.1 At this age you have an advantage in finding someone “to do life with” simply by virtue of your numerous options for a mate in that season of life.
At my high school graduation party, I was surrounded by family and friends who joined my parents and brothers in celebrating this milestone with me. Questions I was often asked that day were “Where are you going to college?” and “What do you want to study?” To the latter I replied that I was going to major in Psychology and I added that I wanted to complete a Ph.D. by the time I turned 30. My loved ones were impressed by my plan and gave me lots of encouragement. However, one aunt of mine inserted an additional life event into my timeline that, to me, would throw off my goal of completing my academic career within my chosen time-frame. “You’re going to get married before your Ph.D,” she said in that adult I’m-wiser-than-you kind of way that makes teenagers dig in their heels in defiance.
School first, marriage later, kids maybe. That was the plan.
In my naiveté I thought love would be a distraction. Having accomplished my academic goals and now looking back many years later, I see that not being loved was an even bigger distraction.
I now cringe inside when I hear twenty-something-year-old women proclaim “I don’t need a man.”
Sitting in on too many heartfelt girl talks to count reveals just the opposite.
If you’re a guy reading this, I invite you to call our bluff when you find yourself in a conversation with young women from church who say “I don’t need a man.” So often that statement is a veil for our hurt and we need to be reassured by you that it’s OK to be real.
Guys, when young women say “I don’t need a man,” look them in the eye and genuinely tell them “Yes, you do. You need us. And we need you.” And then interact with the women in your world so honorably that we can believe you.
Yeah... My aunt was right. My faulty thinking lay in the belief that juggling academia and marriage would somehow detract from either or both experiences. Faced with this either-or proposition society places before us, I chose to feed my mind and starve my heart. I now understand I underappreciated the unique value and richness marriage adds to life - even for students.1,2
My friend Tina was really bummed to learn that the guy she liked decided to date someone else. We were studying abroad in France and boy, love was in the air. In trying to figure out why he hadn’t chosen her, she uttered words that revealed what stumped her analysis of her misfortune: “But I’m prettier than her.”
And she was.
Whether her assessment was somewhat vain or not, it was true. But it mattered little.
Too many in the 30+ year-old crowd find themselves single and as stunned as my friend. Somehow we’ve been taught that if we are smart, good-looking, well-educated, fit, financially stable, popular, from a good family, or very spiritual, we’d be first to be served at “potluck."
Thankfully, that’s neither how potlucks or finding a spouse works. It’s not about merit. It’s more about timing!
In part 2, we’ll look at our potluck “options” both real and ideal and how to navigate each.
Names have been changed