Firstly, I really want to apologise if it seems that I have been blowing my own trumpet so much on this blog. There are two aspects to this:
1. Firstly a story. My Mum and I were watching a recent interview with Donald Trump for his presidential campaign. We could not help giggling and at times gasping outright at his unbelievable bragging. Seriously, how could someone be so full of himself?!
And yet it also struck me that in constantly describing myself as outstanding, that is how I might sound. So apologies if I have been sounding like a younger, female version of Donald Trump in proclaiming my own outstandingness.
2. Secondly, more seriously, I believe the Spirit of God is truly ministering to me about humility. Just a couple of days ago I felt the Spirit of God chastising me on this subject in this gentle but firm way, and it truly struck home. One of the consequences of being so busy recently with work is that I have truly been struggling to find time to commune with God. My times of prayer have felt more like I’ve talking at God rather than truly engaging in spiritual intimacy with Him. And this was the first time in a long time that I felt the Spirit of God truly manage to cut through to me.
Once again, yet again, I would like to thank anyone who has been praying for me, if indeed there is someone out there doing that. Seriously, I honestly think that prayer is such a profound expression of love. The Bible says “Greater love has no man than this, than to lay down his life for his friends.” John 15v13 I believe that when you pray for someone, that is one way of laying down your life for them, because you are giving of the time that makes up your life to bless your friend. And labouring through prayer so that someone else should be like Jesus is once again the best gift that you could give them. So thank you, I sincerely thank you, if someone is indeed out there praying for me.
And yet, having made that big preamble, this might well be the one story on this blog where I most come across as bragging or being full of myself. This one story is important for so many reasons. It is totally foundational to the way I approach relationships. And to be utterly candid, I sincerely was outstanding – that is, I was outstanding by my own standards. Actually, one of the big things that this story teaches me is that I have very, very low tolerance of relationship pain. I am utterly, utterly sure that the “endurance” that I have been congratulating myself about which lasted not even up to two full years is the same endurance, or even just a fraction, that some people put into their relationships for even decades, without making a big song and dance about it.
This is a story that I have wanted to tell and I have thought necessary to relate ever since I started writing this blog, essentially. And yet I have truly struggled to know how to tell it in a way that is gracious, that communicates all that is necessary without relating what might not be necessary. This story concerns someone else, and I sincerely want to be fair to him. While I do sincerely maintain that my behaviour was outstanding, I also want to make it clear that absolutely nothing that happened was his fault; if it was anyone’s “fault” then it was my fault.
Why I need to tell this story: I need to tell this story for the sake of transparency. This story involves those words “the will of God” – and I was the one who uttered the words. The short story is that I told a man that I believed that it was the will of God that he and I should get married. He did not agree. Which is why we did not get married. This is why I need to tell you this story, to let you know that in my “past” as far as it exists, I have uttered those words. The issue is that it is always quite controversial to utter those words to someone else (they usually come from a man trying to win a woman.) The reason that it is controversial is because it can amount to manipulation, invoking what God supposedly wants, (according to your conveniently self-serving opinion of what He wants) to try to force someone else to do what you want them to do. It often becomes an issue of what you are hearing from God versus what I am hearing from God and who is deeper in God and…because of the strong possibility of manipulation, using this “Will of God” line to try to convince someone to marry you is largely frowned upon in authentic Christian circles. Ironically, some guy tried to use this very same line on me a few years ago – “A marriage between you and me is the will of God Tosin!” – and I immediately told him where to go, without even bothering to pray about it! So by admitting that I myself have used this line, I’m being very transparent!
Why I want to tell you this story: I want to tell you this story to vindicate myself! Not in relation to the story itself – (or even the possible accusation of manipulation) but rather in relation to another post that I wrote here on this blog. A few months ago I wrote a post where I casually said that I had asked 3 guys out and they had turned me down. And ever since then I have been itching to vindicate myself! I’ve been a little paranoid that people might look on me as someone who people turn down, and I do (after all!) have at least a bit of pride, so this story is told to vindicate myself on that count! So let’s go there first of all: the simple truth is that in all candour, guys seem to fall for me quite easily. (I’ve not discussed this at length with lots of other women so for all I know this might be perfectly normal). It took me ages to work out why and it has definitely not been because of any deliberate effort on my part to make them notice m). Now though I believe I know why! To be honest this is part of the reason I have had to write this blog, to give guys a way of subtly finding out whether or not they and I could be compatible without having to openly declare their interest in me. If I have asked out three guys, then please believe me that many, many multiples of that number of men have displayed romantic interest in me or asked me out – including at least two of these 3 men – yes, baby! (I’ll leave you to work out/guess which ones!) Another thing though is that I’ve never really been in a position to actually go out with any of those men who expressed interest in me, and I’m guessing that many of them did not have any intentions of a serious relationship – once again, I suspect that this might be perfectly normal!
So yes, this blog post is about one of these men. Of the other two, for one of them, on reflecting on it I remembered that actually I was the one who (ultimately) turned him down. A year after it all initially happened suddenly my (new) mobile phone number became the most important thing in the world. This was back when I was so clueless about all these things (I still am hugely clueless). Back then I had not formulated the two year rule and I still could not categorically articulate what should make me go forward in a relationship. However I certainly knew enough to know that what he had displayed of himself was not what I wanted in a relationship, so I kept my mobile phone number to myself!
Actually, it was precisely because of this that I sat myself down and asked myself why on earth I had gone to the extent of asking someone out if I was not desperately impressed by who he was. The answer is that, well he was a Christian and I had thought…I had assumed…
In practice those assumptions just did not prove true. So it was because of this that I sat down and thought through the two year thing – so I would know for sure that I did definitely deeply admire someone before trying to move forward in relationship with him. At the time, to my own ears I thought that I was being “unrealistic” by insisting on outstanding character. But now I appreciate that it is the very least that I should insist on for myself.
For the other guy, the way it worked at the time was that he thought that he had turned me down and I totally agreed with him. However, the one time that he and I accidentally bumped into one another after it all, from his demeanour it became clear that he had decided/realised that actually, I was the one who turned him down. There were some things that he had discovered about me in the meantime (and I knew exactly what these things were, when he discovered them and how he discovered them!) So yeah, another way of phrasing it is that I deliberately left him with a limited view of myself and I let him make his assumptions and I let him turn me down because of this. Shrug. It’s kinda hard to explain why I did this. It’s like this: once again I had not formulated the two year rule by then, and even while I was interested in him and expressing my interest I was still evaluating him (because I did not know any other way) so when he made completely ungrounded assumptions about me, and created an opinion of me based on those, and a decision about whether or not to enter into relationship with me, I let him! This was my one way of finding out what he was really like as a person. I am more than happy to walk away from someone who would just make assumptions like that. That said, perhaps I am being unfair to him. Perhaps those assumptions were not completely ungrounded. But still, I have absolutely no regrets about the way I acted towards him, and things I may have said versus things I may not have revealed. Shrug! (Ironically I often shrugged while interacting him him – and so these continue!) I could say a bit more about this second guy, but I think that this should be necessary for now!
Which leads us to guy number 1; the guy to whom I said “it is the will of God!”
Part of me wants to give the full account of the thing – that was certainly my intention in setting out to write this post tonight. However, perhaps that is not necessary. Perhaps all that is necessary is to explain that I genuinely gave a thousand percent in trying to encourage him, trying to be positive. I said and believed that this was the will of God, and in accordance with that I was so determined to obey God and it was all so humbling – oh my goodness!
And as an absolute coincidence, things came to a head (that is, I dropped the “Will of God” line) almost two years after I first met him or started to get to know him. What I had grown to know about him in the course of those two years definitely influenced my actions even while I was saying: “This is the will of God.” That two years was an absolute coincidence of course because I only then formulated the two year theory perhaps a decade after it all happened with him. But now looking back I’m realising that that was my first taste of “the power of two years”.
You know what? I honestly think that it was because of my obedience in that one incident in my life that God has given me the wisdom that makes up this blog – if indeed there is any wisdom on this blog. To be honest I am so grateful even just for the understanding of the two year thing – this stunningly simple idea – to check someone out for two full years before involving yourself in relationship with them. Even this idea, as simple as it is, is something for which I am so grateful, and by itself it makes that whole “Will of God” incident worthwhile. Actually, I’m sure that someone could well deceive me over the course of two years if he was sufficiently determined. However, thankfully no-one has been that determined yet. It tends to catch people unawares, so that by the time they know they are being assessed I will already have seen a lot of their character. Also, to be honest, to pretend takes so much effort, that if someone wanted me enough to put in that effort to deceive me for two full years then it would probably be easier for him to invest that same effort to actually develop excellent character rather than to try to deceive me for two years. Also, it of course works both ways – perhaps over the course of two years he might discover that I am actually not what he is looking for at all!
Furthermore, because I was the one “driving” these three interactions, none of these guys apparently felt the need to put on a big show to wow me or win me over. Because of that, I easily and clearly saw a few things which I was then able to apply to other interactions, ones where the guys would be driving the action. It is because of this that I realised that in the conventional way, it is so easy for a man to win a woman, at least the way I would have done it. At the risk of sounding very cynical, all someone has to do is to be kinda charming, pay for a few nice meals, possibly carry a few babies! And then the real deep character issues, the ones that could truly make for daily or ongoing marital joy or frustration can be discreetly hidden away – until the marriage has been contracted and it is too late to back out. I mean things like “Would he be a glass ceiling? Would he deliberately cultivate a sincere atmosphere of communication between us? Would he constantly and sincerely pursue growth of character throughout our marriage?” It might well be possible to evaluate these things from within a relationship, however I believe that opening your heart to any kind of relationship before you truly get to know someone puts you in a position of vulnerability regarding who they might actually turn out to be. Furthermore I believe that the natural momentum within a relationship is to keep moving forward within that relationship, even if the relationship itself does not seem so promising. This is all the more true if like me you are a little older and your friends and family are enthusiastically encouraging you to “find someone”. So by simply observing and evaluating from outside I protect myself from that momentum.
Singleness as a gift?
So as it happens I am currently blessed with the gift of singleness. If all these things had not happened, and I had not come to understand what I now know, I might still be blessed with this same gift of singleness, but I would not appreciate it, or understand why it is indeed a gift. In that case I would probably be so upset and frustrated by now! This is why I am so eager to communicate to all my single friends: seriously, we are so blessed! We just need to appreciate how blessed we are!
Well God could alternatively have blessed me with the gift of an amazing marriage! By now I would not have minded that blessing! However, I believe that even where both partners are outstanding, there are a few extra ingredients that are necessary to truly make the marriage between them outstanding. Without these ingredients, then even between two excellent people, a potentially excellent marriage could still flounder. These are things like deliberately taking the time to construct a strong foundation of communication and friendship beforehand and building positive feedback into your marriage and also anticipating the pressure points of your marriage. Without these things a marriage might still be good, even fantastic, but I think that they can only help. The probability of these things all just happening in the right way and in the right sequence “just like that” is so slim – but God could have done it. That is the way miracles work! However, once again I might have had this phenomenal blessing in my hand, and I might not have appreciated what an amazing gift it was! I may have taken my phenomenal husband and marriage for granted. I would also not have been able to explain to other people how to do it. I would just have had to shrug and say “I dunno – it was God!” Also there would not necessarily be a confidence about it, because I would not know how far the miracle might extend, or where my own effort might need to kick in. Here’s the thing: where a phenomenal marriage does occur through following these principles of common-sense or wisdom stated here on this blog, or anywhere else, it is still completely a miracle, and it is still completely due to God. However, unlike that other kind of miracle, it is completely accessible to anyone (single); that is you don’t have to wait for God to choose to pour it out on your head – or not – because He already has. Rather there are tangible things that you can do to predictably see this miracle realised in your own life. I believe that provision for all of us for excellent character has already been fully made in the Bible. All we have to do is reach out and apply it to our lives.
On balance I much prefer it this way. By God’s grace when I do enter marriage I can be so confident that this is going to be amazing, and I can honestly regard my marriage as being outstanding from the very beginning. Undoubtedly challenges will come! However through it I can keep hoping, keep trusting that we will come through it. So in a really unexpected way God has already blessed me with the confidence that if I do get married it will be fantastic! Conversely, if I remain single then I can equally be confident that that remains an outstanding place for me , and I can be joyful about that too!
So regarding Mr “Will of God” was it then truly the will of God? Well once again I’ll leave you to draw your own conclusion about that!
(PS – I completely wish all these three men the very best in their lives, of course! I pray that God would bless them abundantly in absolutely everything that they undertake. Specifically concerning Mr “Not the will of God”, I also want to thank him for the effort he invested into our friendship; for the time I dragged him out to Victoria station here in London, and also for the time he prayed for one of my family members.)