Each year, as New Year’s draws close, I make a list of “prayer resolutions.” For the past two years I’ve been adding to that list: “God, please let me fall in love this year.” I scrawl that at the very bottom of the page, as though it’s a last-second random thought. But the words shrink and the ink widens, giving away my hesitation and embarrassment.
Even in my private diary, I’m unable to reveal a desire I’ve been nursing in my heart: I want to fall madly, wonderfully, heel-poppingly in love—just as in the movies and the pop songs, just like my friends and my parents, who appear to form such happy halves of one.
I turned 26 this year. I’m at that stage in life where I straddle wedding and baby shower invitations. Every week, it seems, a new relationship status pops up on a friend’s Facebook page— “I’m engaged!”—and I dutifully “like” it and offer my exclamationed congratulations. Conversations with friends start revolving around wedding-planning stress or morning nausea. My bank account depletes as I shop for bridal shower gifts, fly coast-to-coast, and write checks for the wedded couple. And meanwhile … so too depletes my resolution to remain “single and proud,” with every one more friend I see walking down the aisle, blushing and beautiful behind a wedding veil.
I’m a 26-year-old who’s never been in love. Forget never been kissed, I’ve never even been on a date. And until two years ago, I’ve never minded … much. At age 11, I swallowed the doctrine of “girl power” and loudly proclaimed myself a lifelong bachelorette. I stubbornly quoted Paul on “the gift of singlehood” whenever someone tried to change my mind. But at some point in my 20s, that “gift” started feeling like a curse. My willful ego gripped that ugly feeling by the neck and tried to strangle it dead, but holding on too long gets tiring.
That’s why two years ago I finally slipped in that last prayer resolution to God: Let me fall in love. Please. The next two years, I allowed silly high school–level crushes that never got reciprocated, rejected unwanted advances by boys I couldn’t possibly like, and continued tagging along as my friends’ third, fifth, and seventh wheel.
All the while, my flesh-bound ego was deflating, hissing out whatever hope and confidence left behind my thick skin. So I adopted a white-socked black kitten and named her Shalom, hoping she’ll bring the peace and contentment her name promises. “I’m preparing to be a cat lady,” I would tell my friends jokingly, but the joke was on me. I was becoming a cat lady—only worse, I was an embittered, cranky, resigned cat lady.
After a week of smiling through two church friends’ wedding, a best friend’s engagement, and discussing wedding plans with my (younger) brother’s soon-to-be bride, I lay in bed one night weeping. Fat tears, saccharine with self-pity and salted with self-rebuke, drenched my pillow. I seesawed between whining at God and castigating myself for being that kind of pathetic, desperate girl I used to scorn.
I told God, Why bother even asking this year again when You’re clearly not answering? Isn’t this the most basic, innocent desire of all humankind: To love and be loved?
Then I remembered my daily bible reading in Deuteronomy, in which the Israelites await to enter the Promised Land, and Moses chronicles God’s commandments and covenant. I was reminded of God’s first commandment to His people: “Love the LORD your God.” God is a patient and faithful but jealous lover. He long-suffered the Israelites’ complaints and flaws, but His wrath burned when they worshipped false gods.
As I pondered on all this, God asked me, “You keep asking me to make you fall in love. But have you fallen in love with Me?” I couldn’t answer that without shame, because I knew in all honesty that God is not my first love. Instead, I am another bitterly complaining Israelite wandering in the deserts— ignorant of the God who is always present, distracted by pretty visuals, blinded by self-absorbed foolishness, and chronically dissatisfied with whatever God is already working in my life.
Oh, to think how God desires our love when we’re not worthy of His! How can His patience and ardor compare to mine? I repented that night with fresh tears. What can I gain from falling in “love” with a flawed, imperfect human man when I can’t even love my perfect, loving God first?
This 2014, “Love” is on my list again. But this time, it’s going on the top of my list with bold letters: “I want to fall in love with my God with all my heart and with all my soul and with all my strength and mind.” I’m not giving up on love; I’m recovering my one true love first.