I wanted beauty for ashes (see Isaiah 61:1-3), but I hate waiting. Our instant, high-speed, overnight-results culture has certainly played a role in this. We get impatient waiting one minute for the microwave! But I have had some extra-long waits in my life that could have sent me crashing into despair were it not for God’s love.
Beauty for Ashes: Longing for Transformation
As a child, I was actually more patient than I am now. I never felt beautiful, but I suppose I clung to The Ugly Duckling story. I wore glasses, was a bit pudgy and had bad hair. I even thought my lips were too big. I would look in the mirror and practice holding them in. It was difficult to do that and hold in my stomach simultaneously. When I started wearing makeup, I would cover my lips with foundation and draw them smaller with lipstick. I was just waiting for the morning I’d wake up a swan.
The Art of God’s Love
By the time I was a teen, I had become a Christian. At a Vacation Bible School session when I was a kid, there was a storytelling artist drawing a huge picture with big pastel sticks. It was a beautiful scene, but suddenly he drew a big, ugly, black squiggle in the middle of it, seemingly ruining the picture.
This was where he explained how sin ruined paradise, and ruins our lives. But then, using beautiful colors, he added more, transforming the black squiggle into a gorgeous tree that was the highlight of the whole picture. He told us how God not only forgives our sin through the death and resurrection of His Son Jesus Christ, but also redeems it, causing new growth that makes our lives even more beautiful. I understood and believed the gospel (the REAL beauty for ashes story!) at that time, but it would be awhile before I realized all that God gave me when I believed.
Musical Theatre Dreams
While I waited to become beautiful, I went to work on my personality by pursuing my love of musical theatre. Only princesses can afford to be shy, so I studied music, drama and dance in high school and college. It was certainly more rewarding than waiting around to be asked out on a date. After my mom died when I was 19, I drifted away from church. The theatrical scene seemed to fill the void.
I began landing some leading roles in community and semi-professional theatre companies, and the applause from audiences was like a drug to my affection-starved heart. Unfortunately, this also led me to hanging out with drinkers and partiers. Without being in fellowship with other believers, I was too weak to be an influence on my theatrical/party friends, and they ended up influencing me for a time. I even began hatching a plan to move to New York for a stab at Broadway. I worked clerical jobs to save up money.
Lonely and Frustrated
By the time I hit my 20’s, I had slimmed down, gotten contact lenses and was having an occasional good-hair day. But apparently, I was still far from stunning. My dating life was nearly non-existent. Even though the biological clock was not an issue yet, it was quite frustrating. Most of my dates were through personal ads, or because some guy was impressed with my karaoke performance at a yuppie bar.
When I did go on a date, usually there was not a second one. The few times I had a boyfriend, it always either ended or turned platonic within about three weeks. Starved for affection, I would behave too eagerly and scare the guy off. I never came anywhere NEAR getting married. As I approached 30, this began to concern me more. Rejection after rejection eroded my self-esteem to near-zip. I was waiting to be loved. And waiting. And waiting…
Prince Charming and the Biological Clock
My desire to marry grew strong as I approached 40. The biological clock was ticking me off! I bounced back and forth between two extremes. Either I tried too hard to manufacture relationships, or I sat back and waited for God to drop Prince Charming on my doorstep. I was pretty frustrated with God for making me wait so long.
The emotions came to a head one day on a solo bicycle ride when I got a flat tire. I was about two miles from home and the only way to get back was to carry my bicycle and walk. A passing cyclist offered to let me use his cell phone. I thought, it’s not like I have a boyfriend or husband I can call, so I declined. It was getting darker, and the mosquitoes were descending like vultures. I was sure the muggers would soon be coming out, so I thanked the man and continued carrying my bike.
Passers-by just looked at me like I had something growing out of my forehead. Probably a mosquito bite! I plodded onward, praying for protection, strength and enough daylight. By the time it was completely dark, I was back in my neighborhood. I was thankful to be safe, but as my exhaustion started to hit me, I complained to God, crying about my lack of a spouse.
I trudged along with my bike bouncing against my hip and tears streaming down my face. I told Him if I were only married or even dating, there would have been someone to help me. At least I would have had someone to call. I was tired of being strong alone and always having to do everything on my own. I pleaded my own agenda: Why did I have to wait so long? I arrived home exhausted and upset, having forgotten already how God had been with me and answered my prayer on the bike trail.
Here’s the kicker. ALL those things I was waiting for, I already had! From the very moment I had believed that God sent His only Son, Jesus Christ, to earth as a human who died for my sins and was resurrected, I had eternal life. I also had a relationship with God, but God was waiting for ME to come closer.
God’s Beauty for My Ashes
God gave me beauty for ashes in the best way – by working it out from the inside. God gave me flawless love. On that bike ride, God had been my protector, my strength and even my healer (the mosquito bite went away!). He was also my provider, having already given me a house, a garden full of flowers, roommates, finances — all things I’d once expected to gain only upon marrying.
As I made little steps of obedience, God worked massive changes in my life. God restrained me from moving to New York, which soon led me to a job in a large church music ministry. That ended up growing and refining my skills and training (both clerical and creative/artistic) in ways I could never have imagined. All of that prepared me for what I’m doing now in my work with two online ministries: Kids Talk About God and Faith Profiles, which were founded by my husband.
Yes, “husband.” I can use the h-word now. I did finally get married – at age 42! He is a wonderful Christian who genuinely thinks I’m beautiful – because he sees me through God’s eyes. God’s love is the best and He certainly knows what’s best for me. So now I can say that I’m SO glad God made me wait!
Do you feel stuck? Is there something you’re waiting for, but it never seems to happen? Talk to God about it. Ask him to either reveal a plan of action to you, or give you a deep peace over where you are now. Then, stay tuned in to God by reading the Bible (his love letter to us!), praying and spending time with mature Christians. God wants a relationship with you, and it’s the most important one anybody will ever have. He sent his son, Jesus Christ, to make the way for this to happen. He did this because he absolutely loves you!