What I Wish I Knew When I Was Single

This month, I'm running some posts from the archives, as we are making our way back to America. I'll be popping in every so often to update you on our transition back home, but until then, enjoy the re-runs! I thought this one was especially appropriate, as our 5th wedding anniversary is this week! If you want to hear the latest, you can always sign up for my monthly newsletter here. - whitney

(This was originally published February 13, 2014.)

Valentine's Day is tomorrow, and I've found myself remembering my first Valentine's date with Andrew five years ago. Oh, how much I have learned since then - about myself, relationships, and God.

When Andrew and I started dating, it was clear pretty quickly that our relationship was a sure thing. We dated six months, got engaged, and then married about 4 months after that. And I have to admit, I was in a big rush to do it all. I had waited a long time {or what seemed like a long time to a 22-year-old} to be in a relationship, and I did not want to mess around.

But there are a few things I wish I'd known when I was single - and not just single, as in not dating, but pre-marriage. Maybe some of these will be encouraging to those still waiting for their Mr. Right, or for those in the middle of the dating season and anxious to see things move on.

I wish I had enjoyed the season.

When I was unattached and moaning over my single status, an older woman told me that this time of anticipation was actually good and would never happen again. I'd never be able to dream again about meeting the right guy, never enjoying the first rush of love that happens in the beginning days of romance, never have all those "firsts" that come with love and engagement and marriage.

I'm definitely not advocating fantasizing about the perfect relationship. But there is something to be said about the value of anticipation.

As I said before, I was in a big rush. Once I'd made up my mind this was the right guy, I didn't see much reason to wait. I wanted to get on with life, get married, in a hurry!

But I think I also missed out on enjoying the season I was in. There was a lot about Andrew that I didn't discover til after we were married - good, wonderful things, but maybe I should have spent more time pursuing him and letting him pursue me.

When we rush through seasons of life, we fail to engage with the present and truly appreciate how it molds and changes us as humans. Michael Buble may sing that the best is yet to come - and that often is very true - but if we're only focused on what's next, we miss out on the richness of the present.

I wish I'd listened to married people more.

This is definitely not a command to singles, let married people dictate your life and tell you how to do things. Every story is different, and every relationship is different.

But when I was single, I didn't pursue friendships with married people and learn from their relationships what marriage is really like. And when Andrew and I were dating, we tended to be closed off and focused on each other much of the time.

I wish we had found older couples to mentor us and guide our relationship into being more Christ-centered and less focused on us. Allowing others to speak into our lives requires a certain level of humility, and as a young twenty-something, that was something I sorely lacked. And when difficulties struck in the first year of marriage, it was challenging to open up to other couples, when that foundation of friendship didn't exist previously.

No couple is an island to themselves. They are responsible to each other and committed to one another alone, but how they relate to and interact with each other affects all their other relationships. It's reckless to think we have all the answers. This is why God describes the community of faith as a body, with Christ as the head, and all the other parts dependent on one another. We need other believers to speak truth and even correction into our lives when needed.

 In North Carolina for training at Samaritan's Purse before heading out to Cambodia

In North Carolina for training at Samaritan's Purse before heading out to Cambodia

I wish I'd known my husband makes a terrible god.

I went into marriage expecting Andrew to make me perfectly happy, satisfied, and fulfilled - and expecting I could do the same for him. If you'd asked me about that, I would have denied it. But deep in my heart, I did view my new husband as a god who would make my dreams come true and make me a better person.

And then reality set in, and my idol quickly crashed off his pedestal.

I'd like to say here, for the record, that my husband is a man of faith, love, and compassion. I can't imagine being with anyone else, and I am crazy about him. I respect him more than anyone else, and I know he is the right man to be my husband and the father of our children.

But he is a sinner - just like me. We both desperately need Christ to give us new hearts daily and to change us from the inside out. And I knew this in my head when we were first married. But I still believed in my heart that Andrew could "save" me from loneliness and shaky self-worth.

You know what? Andrew makes a wonderful husband, but a terrible god. We disappoint each other; we don't always give each other grace; we struggle with sin and have to repent to God and to each other. If I had continued to seek my identity and self-worth in him, I doubt we would still be married.

But God has used our relationship to show me that, despite what an incredible man Andrew is, God alone is my Savior. He alone can answer the questions in my heart, give me an identity in Christ, and make me a complete person. God is the only one who never disappoints or makes mistakes. And when I find fulfillment in my relationship with him, it frees me to love my husband and be a conduit of God's transformative grace in his life.

These are just a few things I've learned in the past five years of dating, marriage, and Valentine's Days. And I hope they encourage you to find your hope, not in a relationship or a person, but in Jesus - the only true source of eternal love.

What would you add to the list?

P.S. For more thoughts on the value of hindsight, read what I wish I knew before moving overseas.