Greater Expectations

Posted By on November 3, 2010

By Anna Sofia Botkin

I just turned 25. Oddly, it seems a lot more than one year older than 24. The realization that I have lived a quarter of a century brings new awareness of the preciousness of time, the reality of aging and death, and the fact that life unfolds at a speed and in a way that I can’t control. I’m past feeling like my life is stretching out endlessly before me — I’m a good third of the way into it (Lord willing) and the ticking of the clock seems to grows louder.

I think these feelings are normal; observation has taught me that it’s at some point around a young woman’s twenty fifth revolution around the sun that she experiences a messy head-on collision with certain rock-hard facts of reality. Often it’s her point of disillusionment – the point when she finds out that the world is not what she thought. That life did not deliver what she expected. That things didn’t happen according to her plans. That she didn’t get her way and that her dreams didn’t come true. And to cap it off… she doesn’t get another shot. This is the big moral test in every girl’s life, and I am no exception.

It’s at this crisis point that a young woman’s true faith and motivations emerge, sometimes in ways that surprise everyone; over the years I‘ve seen many whom I counted as friends and allies change course dramatically and walk away from the principles that they fought alongside me to defend — namely, the tenets of biblical daughterhood.

The reasons are many and varied:

It got too hard. The level of self-sacrifice turned out to be more than they bargained for.
It did not produce the desired result (a husband).

The stigma of being an adult daughter who still lives at home with Mommy and Daddy became too much to bear.

The barrage of probing questions about why they were so “different” became too wearisome.

There really was no vision for life at home. For them, home was never really home, just a port to be stranded in, waiting for the soonest ship.

The feeling that God did not hold up His half of the bargain – He didn’t deliver what they assumed was coming to them for their good deeds.

Rarely do the reasons spring from an honest reexamination of their convictions on biblical womanhood, but rather a disappointment with what those “convictions” yielded.

Sometimes before we start to question what we believe, we should question why we believe – is it because it’s easy, it’s convenient, it’s socially acceptable to the crowd we’re in, it’s eventually going to pay… or because we know it’s true? If we believe something because we know it’s true, then we will keep believing — even when it becomes hard, inconvenient, socially unacceptable, and appears to be costing, not paying. It’s good to stop and question why we believe – yes, even if those beliefs have been in a published form for five years, permanently set into the stones that make up the bedrock of a so-called “movement.”

This month is also the fifth anniversary of the release of my sister’s and my first book, So Much More. Many speculated that time and experience would dampen our idealistic notions, and change our convictions. Some have asked if I still agreed with the naive 17-year-old me who started that book eight years ago. After all, haven’t I changed?

Well, yes, I have: By God’s grace, my grasp of the Scriptures and the issues is firmer, my communication skills have been sharpened through combat with an onslaught of criticism, and an acquaintance with hundreds of young woman and their unique situations from around the world has broadened the scope of my vision and taught me to have more compassion. But one thing I hope never changes — that I never grow out of — is a child-like faith in the plain teachings of Scripture and youthful zeal in proclaiming them.

I have changed, but the Bible hasn’t, and I still believe it means what it says. Time and experience have further proved to me that God is a much better Author of a woman’s destiny than she is. Her plans will go awry. His can’t.

This week I have been reflecting back on the expectations I had for my life: my goals, my plans, my hopes and my dreams. I don’t know if it’s possible for my present reality to have deviated more from my past fantasies. As a teenager, I projected for myself an early marriage (at say, 18) and a quiet, private life, as my three biggest fears were writing, public speaking, and being on camera – in short, anything that would expose me to public scrutiny. So, how do I feel about the fact that seven years have elapsed since my speculated marriage date, that my little brother, four years my junior, just got married, to a good friend of mine five years my junior, and that my life has been characterized by the three things I used to dread above all?

First of all, my feelings have nothing to do with it. Gratitude or bitterness are not really feelings but decisions, decisions that have nothing to do with the circumstances themselves, but with how we choose to perceive to them.

For example, let’s do a retake:

How do I feel about the fact that God has given me seven more precious years to spend with my family and prepare for the future; that I have been able to play a part in my little brother’s transition into adult life which culminated in his marriage to a dear friend of mine (now a dear sister of mine); and that God has brought me many unsolicited opportunities to serve Him that have stretched me and helped me overcome my horror of vulnerability? I should be on my face before God, thanking Him for His overwhelming goodness to me.

God did not give me what I expected – He gave me far more. He has blessed me above and beyond what my little human mind could have imagined.

This year my heart is overflowing with gratitude that my plans didn’t work out, that I didn’t get my way, and that my little dreams never came true.

Maybe when we ruminate over life’s unfulfilled expectations we should stop and consider that God’s “withheld” blessings might not have been withheld at all – just presented in a way we did not expect. Let’s hope that we’re not so fixated on what we had on our wish-lists that we scorn the better gift.
My desires to one day be a wife and mother are still alive and well, but they must bow to God’s will. They may be fulfilled soon, or much later on… or they may not be fulfilled at all. If our desire to be placed in marriages really springs from the belief that we will be more useful to God thus, then we won’t feel let down if He decides to deploy us somewhere else. He knows where we will be the most useful to Him.

At 25, I’m reminded of the bigger picture: marriage is just one front in the context of a much larger war. Whether I get married or not, the war goes on. My life is defined by the fact that I am God’s soldier, not by the fact that I am 25 AND STILL NOT MARRIED.

I’m grateful for another year to stand by my post as a daughter at home, to:

Build strength into my family and make them as powerful as possible

Invest into the relationships that God has put into my life right now: my brothers, my sister, my parents, and others in the community.

Prepare my heart and attitude for the greater sacrifices that marriage and motherhood might bring

To learn new skills to add to my armory

To read more books

To explore more fields of learning

To have more of God’s word written on my heart, imprinted on my mind, and ready on my tongue

To be more joyful and optimistic

To be more like the unmarried woman in 1 Cor. 7:34, who is “…anxious about the things of the Lord, how to be holy in body and spirit.”

To be an even stronger witness as an adult daughter who still lives at home with Mommy and Daddy

Standing at the threshold of my 26th year, God has given me the grace to repeat the hardest statement ever made by any woman:

“Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word.” Luke 1:38

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About The Author

Anna Sofia and Elizabeth Botkin are the authors of "So Much More" and "It's (Not That) Complicated," producers of the documentary "Return of the Daughters" and the Reclaiming Beauty Study Course, and administrators of www.BotkinSisters.com. More importantly, they're the daughters of Geoffrey and Victoria Botkin, and live and work with their family in central Tennessee. They'd love to hear from you at ae AT botkinsisters DOT com.

Comments

10 Responses to “Greater Expectations”

  1. erica.sersen says:

    Beautifully written.

    The part that spoke to me was:

    “Maybe when we ruminate over life’s unfulfilled expectations we should stop and consider that God’s “withheld” blessings might not have been withheld at all – just presented in a way we did not expect. Let’s hope that we’re not so fixated on what we had on our wish-lists that we scorn the better gift.”

    It really made me think- is God really withholding this one desire from me, or does He truly have a better plan? After all, He is Sovereign, and that reason alone should cause me to trust in His direction.

    Thank you so much for such an encouraging post!

    May God bless you…

  2. Kristi says:

    Your sweet attitude and perspective – a breath of fresh air – thank you for writing this – your heart was beautifully expressed by your words.

    “My life is defined by the fact that I am God’s soldier,”

    Amen!

  3. kcar38 says:

    Thank you so much for this precious and wise post.
    You have so eloquently reminded me that God’s ways are not our ways. May we continually seek to be in the center of His will and thank Him for that blessing.
    You are a beautiful woman. Thank you again and may the Lord continue to work through you to His glory.

  4. bandersenz says:

    Very well written. Forthright and honest. Love this paragraph:

    First of all, my feelings have nothing to do with it. Gratitude or bitterness are not really feelings but decisions, decisions that have nothing to do with the circumstances themselves, but with how we choose to perceive them.

    Young or old, no matter. Words of wisdom and encouragement. We all need that. Thanks so much, now, here’s some encouragement for you.

    Once, when I had misplaced/lost an heirloom piece of jewelry, I found myself frantic with worry about what will happen if I never find it and how I will have let my family down for not keeping my responsibility toward it. What would I say, how could I face them? Finally, after praying “to find it” instead of giving it up and honestly admitting that if I don’t have it, then God had a better idea for it and somebody else needs to have it and will be blessed when they find it and how thankful they will be. I truly could see a vision for the other person, rather than myself! It was then, that my piece was found and it was ME who was reaping the benefits of the blessings of thankfulness. You can never go wrong holding on to your faith and trusting.
    Thanks again for posting. We have given copies of your book away and even now have two waiting for their time to be “found”.

  5. OtherKaren says:

    I thought about these thing some when I as 25. I thought about them a lot more when i was 30 and still not married. I think about them still now that I am 43, married, and nursing my 3rd wonderful little baby.

    As far as whether staying at home was a good idea or not, rest assured, single women “on their own” are asking themselves whether *that* was a good idea or not. And from my own experience, I can say I came to wishing I could have moved back home (I didn’t think my parents would like that. But then I never actually asked…) After a while of being on your own you realize family are the only friends who stay around. It was very depressing going to work and realizing my co-workers (none of whom I was friends with) were the closest thing I was going to get to a face-to-face conversation all week. My friends from college were in other cities. It was hard to get to know anybody at church. My friends in this city were also single and tended to move often, and I found that most women when they move out of your city also move out of your life. Not so much true for men, but afterwhile I realized I was treating men friends the same as women friends, which led to my falling in love with them and them taking me for granted. So I eventually realized I probably should not try to be friends with men, or at least to keep them at a distance. And that left…mostly just some very needy women, whom I hope God used me to help, but I can’t say I see a difference I made. Anyway, all that is to say, I see a lot of potential difficulties with living at home, but they are the sort of difficulties of living with other people which you need to be ready to handle in marriage anyway. But it would have been so nice to be living with my parents and at least have the continual reminder that somebody loved me instead of wondering if I died, how long it would take anybody to even notice.

    I have been wondering for a long time now what is the use of singleness. I don’t think I have many answers. But I do think the Biblical daughterhood movement has as many answers as anyone has, and from what I’ve seen, if God gives you a husband you will be far better prepared for him than other women your age, and if not, your life will have been used far better than other women your age.

    I think four of the best times of my life were the day I was married, and the days my babies were born. But somehow even more wonderful in my memory than those times was one day before I had met my husband when I felt utterly frustrated and alone and yet in the middle of my pain I was saying “Yes, Lord, You are worth more than this,” and it was the most wonderful time with God, not in spite of the pain, but because of it.

    I read a story about Cleopatra once, that she had a pair of pearl earrings, the biggest pearls in the world, and matched. Apparently pearls dissolve in wine. So she dissolved one of her pearls in a cup of wine and offered it to Mark Antony to drink, to show how great her power and wealth was, that she could just waste something that precious. After reading that I thought, even if my life (my preparation for marriage, my desire for motherhood, my intention to bring up a family serving God) was wasted, well, the greater the waste, the greater it shows God’s glory. Do you know anyone who can throw rubies around like they are worth nothing? God says a virtuous woman is worth far more than that. The more wonderful you would be as a wife and mother, the more the world has to stop and take notice (of course they won’t *say* so!) if God “wastes” your life by not using you for that, and you still worship Him. Now that must be Someone worth serving!

    But though God lavishes beauty and goodness on unappreciative mankind in a million ways, He also delights in putting things in just the place they were made for, at a time when nobody expects it, and He does do things like make barren women mothers of children. As such a one, you can bet my hope is to raise my three sons to be strong, godly men who look for godly women and don’t hesitate to propose!

  6. I think it’s good and healthy to look over your life and review the decisions you’ve made, and ask some tough questions. Sometimes you’ll come to see that you’re content with your decisions, and other times you’ll realize that you could have done things differently. But either way, you can never go back and change it. You can only take note of what you’ve learned and live from this point on. Unfortunately we never have the benefit of hindsight in the present. It would be nice though.

    As for your desire to be married, I think God designed most men and women with this desire. I think when it comes to marriage though, we as a culture would benefit from rediscovering “the old ways”. Previous generations were much more proactive about helping singles find suitable mates, because marriage was seen as the very normal progression into adulthood. Today many people are taught to just wait on God to provide them with a spouse, and I see that these teachings are leaving many who desire marriage to spend years and even decades spouseless wondering why God hasn’t blessed them as they had hoped. I truly believe that while marriage is a special and holy relationship created by God, that it is also a very practical part of life, and in turn getting married requires some practical action steps on our part as well. I know putting effort into seeking a spouse sounds very anti everything we’ve been taught over the last few decades, but that’s why I said I think it would benefit us to learn the old ways. (Although I’m not necessarily talking about arranged marriages.) Previous generations have some wisdom that I think we should tap into, and that we’d be better for it. (This is my first time posting a comment on LAF, so I don’t know if you consider suggesting book titles spam but) a few books I’ve found extremely helpful on this topic are “Get Married: What Women Can Do to Help It Happen” by Candice Watters and “Getting Serious About Getting Married: Rethinking the Gift of Singleness” by Debbie Maken. These books were a blessing to me. Anyway, I’m hoping that God continues to use you in wonderful ways, but that he also blesses you with your heart’s desire for a husband 🙂

  7. rejoicealways says:

    I have to agree with Mrs. Pen and Paper. I’ve never heard anyone actually ‘say’ that, but I know previous generations (our church still does today) will have gatherings for the youth of the church. I think we need encourage godly marriages and I don’t think it’s a sin to ‘seek out’ a godly spouse.
    Also, maybe I should read more of your articles (sorry little time), but I don’t know where the biblical mandate is to stay at home until you are married. I don’t think it’s a bad thing, I think it’s a good thing to develop your talents in the home…but…?

  8. I will be 24 this December, and I too, have reviewed my life, realizing that certain goals I had set weren’t fulfilled. I thought I was ready for marriage at 16. Unlike many other young girls who willingly choose to stay at home, I have been chronically ill since 13 years of age and didn’t have much choice. I had always said that all I ever wanted to be was a wife and mother, even when scorned for saying so. Still, the pressure to “go out and get a job” like “normal” girls was great and I struggled against my feelings for many years, the result often catastrophic. I had no desire to make my own way in the world, but I knew no different. I would begin a job and not be able to complete it because of my illness. Most times, I would take on jobs like nannying, which were more comfortable to me.
    My illness prevented me from doing many things and I eventually stopped trying to work and accepted my lot, but I wasn’t content. I contracted mononucleosis for the third time in April of this year and had even more time on my hands. Purely out of the blue, I decided to google “stay at home daughters” and found Visionary Daughters, LAF, and so many more! I was stunned. Whereas I had no choice but to stay home, these girls consciously chose to do so! I was amazed and in awe. Over these past 7 months I have learned what true Biblical womanhood is all about, and I can now be content in my role in the home, doing what I can in my small way. This knowledge has been a healing balm to my tattered soul. I don’t know if I’m an exception, or if there are other girls who feel compelled to do as their peers do when something deep within them says otherwise, but they have no direction.
    I’m not married and I confess that fact has caused panic to rise in my throat many times, especially since I’m not able to leave my home very often, but then I remember that God is in control and the panic lessens. I wasn’t ready at 16. I wasn’t ready 7 months ago. I’m still learning; growing; being shaped and molded.

  9. Breanna says:

    Thank you so much for that post.I can not imagine being 25 and not married.I am only 17 and greatly struggle with patience with not havig a boy-friend,let alone husband.

  10. Georgia says:

    “My life is defined by the fact that I am God’s soldier, not by the fact that I am 25 AND STILL NOT MARRIED”.

    I think you answered your own question of why you are not married yet.
    Maybe God did not call you to be a militant christian. Possibly a potential christian husband might be uncomfortable with this. Didn’t God call on the man to be the protector? Search your heart and spirit and see if God wants to correct this.