Today’s post is brought to you by Carol Tanksley, M.D., D.Min. I happened to be searching the internet for encouragement, and I found an article by her. I went from one article to another. I then discovered that she didn’t get married until age 48! I had to know the whole story. So I reached out, and she graciously took the time to write her story for me to share with you all. I hope it encourages you today.
“Behold, I am the Lord, the God of all flesh. Is there anything too hard for Me? Jeremiah 32:27
I thought it was too late. I’d completely given up. If you’d asked me if I wanted it, I’d have told you I wasn’t looking. As a woman in my mid-40s, I truly believed I’d be single for the rest of my life.
Oh, I’d wanted it in the past. I remember a Valentine’s Day when I was in medical school when I, along with the other single girls in my class, got together for a meeting of the “Lonely Hearts Club.” By the time we graduated a couple of years later, many of my classmates had a ring. (And I’m not talking about a class ring.) But I wasn’t one of them.
A couple of anything-but-serious boyfriends dotted the next few years — one of them I really wanted to be serious. He left for a prestigious summer program, and I got a letter a couple of months later that he’d hooked up with his high school sweetheart. She got the ring, not me. That one broke my heart.
Around 40, I gave up. What decent man would want me? Any man of a similar age who was still unmarried would probably be too weird for a healthy relationship. And I didn’t think I could handle a man who’d been married before. In my 30s, God had dealt with me about a lot of my past trauma, and I was now envisioning a life that could be good even without a husband. I was starting to see how God might want to use me in ministry. I felt that if I’d become this whole 15 years earlier, I’d probably be married. That left me feeling a bit sad, but I was truly making the best of it. People who knew me would have said I appeared happy, and I mostly was.
But God has something up His sleeve. I was now going to seminary and fulfilling the project requirement, and I chose to do a teaching seminar for the Christians in the small town where I was living. I needed to get the word out, and a friend suggested the local gospel music radio station. The 15 minutes I’d expected with the station manager to talk about a spot announcing the seminar turned into over an hour – about a whole lot more than a simple radio spot.
In his email telling me when the spot would run, he called me Little One, and I thought, “That’s personal, not professional.” I brought him an apple pie as a Thank you. My heart was hooked! I’d never felt anything like this before. We started seeing each other, and the night after the first time he kissed me, I doubt I slept an hour.
But this was certainly not the man I’d imagined whenever I’d thought about a husband. He was thirteen years older than me. He’d been married before and had two grown sons. He smoked. He’d been raised a Christian, but after many years living anything but a Christian lifestyle, he’d only come back to God a couple of years before this. How could God possibly be choosing this man for me? I also had my own hang-ups from a very dysfunctional growing up. Was I healed enough to successfully engage in an intimate relationship?
I knew what my heart wanted. As crazy as it looked from the outside, I wanted a life with this man for as long as he might live. But I needed to hear God’s voice. I needed to know what He wanted more than what I wanted. Was this just my crazy emotions? I’d seen more than my share of love-is-blind scenarios to know that the blinders come off soon after the wedding, and I didn’t want that. But if God was bringing me a gift, I wanted to accept it.
So I fell face down, ugly-crying, spread-eagle on my bed. I told God, “I know what I want. I think I’m in love, and I believe this man loves me. I wasn’t looking, and here he is. But I need to know if this is from You. So as best as I humanly can I acknowledge my emotions and then lay them aside so I can hear Your voice. If You are in this, You’ll enable us to handle any problems that come. But if you’re not in this, it will only lead to destruction regardless of how much I might want it. So please show me red light or green light?”
And I stayed there on my face until I received clear direction from the Lord; green light. I could only trust that green light to the degree I’d laid my own emotions aside. Over the next couple of months, I had to return several times, asking the Lord, “Red light or green light?” And every time, the green light was clear.
I continued to pray. I said Yes when Al asked. I marinated in the Song of Solomon.
And on October 25, 2008, at 48 years old, I became a married woman. My wedding night was good, very good, in every way. Our life together had challenges – not because he was the wrong man for me, but because of illness. For seven and a half years, I got to experience what it means to be truly cherished, and in that, I am a most blessed woman. All the things I had worried about God worked out. Al stopped smoking. His boys and their families welcomed me in, and they are my family now since he passed away.
I don’t mean to paint my singleness as a small thing. I lived single for 48 years, and I’m living single again. Maybe one day I’ll write a whole book about the life Al, and I had together. But at the risk of sounding like “three key points and a story,” here are a few important things I learned that I would tell anyone who finds herself single or certainly single longer than desired.
- Learn to be happy. If you can’t learn to be happy single, you’ll never be happy married. A man will not complete you; only Jesus can do that. Do the hard work to mature your own emotions.
- Live Fully Alive. Singleness is not a waiting game. Become. Explore. Learn things. Gain skills. Make a difference now. The more you become, the more you will have to bring to a marriage, should that be God’s plan for you.
- Embrace the whole package. Don’t settle for too little, but be open to God surprising you. Don’t marry a man you think you can live with; marry a man you’re sure you can’t live without. He may change, but don’t marry him hoping to change him! Love the whole package; in my case, that meant loving Al’s grown kids as much as he did. And if you can’t love the whole package, don’t get married.
- Stay on your knees. It’s fine to ask God for things; Jesus said His Father loves to give us good gifts. But please don’t stop there. Learn to acknowledge your own feelings and then get quiet enough in God’s presence to actually hear His voice. And don’t move forward unless you do.
I don’t know what God has in your future. But I do know that He will be with you right now if you let Him. He won’t love you anymore – or less – if you get married. Let Him make you, right now, the person He wants you to be. Embrace wherever you are. And you can go into tomorrow knowing He will be with you then too.
Carol Tanksley, M.D., D.Min., is an author, speaker, personal coach, licensed OB-Gyn physician, and ordained Doctor of Ministry. You can find out more and connect with her on her website www.drcarolministries.com.