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Jen Pollock Michel

( author + writer + speaker )

Found Wanting: "I want to not want marriage anymore."

I am curating stories for a blog project called, “Found Wanting.” (If you’d like to submit a guest post, learn more here.) During Jesus’ earthly ministry, it was not uncommon for him to approach the sick and sin-sick with this question: “What do you want?” In John 5, he speaks with a man lying next to the healing waters of Bethesda, a man who has been an invalid for 38 years.

“When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he said to him, ‘Do you want to be healed?’"

The man seizes an excuse. “I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up.”

Was it too much for this man to hope for healing?

What is too great a risk to invite the responsibility for walking again?

There can be fear in desire: fear that we will want what God will always refuse to give; fear that we will not want whatever God, in his sovereignty, chooses to give.

Ultimately, we are profoundly afraid of ceding into the hands of God our trust.

I’m grateful for those willing to share their stories of desire here. I'm neither applauding nor condemning their stories: rather, I am amplifying their desires - and reminding each of us that to be human is to want. In my book, Teach Us to Want, I claim that:

“Desire takes shape in the particularities of our lives. We cannot excerpt desire from the anthology of our stories. Our desires say something about us – who we have been, who we are and who we are becoming. They tell a part of the story that God is telling through us, even the beautiful and complicated story of being human and becoming holy.”

To catch up on the series, read these featured stories: Amy Chaney, "I didn't want to be a coach's wife." Beth Bruno, "I've wanted beauty." Wendy Stringer, "I didn't want to move to suburbia." Steve Burks, "I've wanted to produce entertainment." Faydra Stratton, "I didn't want a child with Fragile X." Brook Seekins, "I never wanted to be a missionary in Africa." Sarah Van Beveren, "I have always wanted to be strong." Holly Pennington, "I didn't want to find out what I wanted." Larry Shallenberger, "I wanted to know what I wanted." Hannah Anderson, "I didn't want - because I couldn't afford to." Megan Hill, "I want your blessing." Bronwyn Lea, "I wanted a boyfriend, college scholarships, permission to sleep over at the popular kid's house." Jennifer Tatum, "I've wanted to be a woman of faith, but . . ." Sarah Torna Roberts, "I didn't want to be broken." Suanne Camfield, "I want a bigger house." Courtney Reissig, "I wanted a baby." Cara Meredith, "I've wanted it all."

An anonymous writer shares her story of desire on the blog today.

* * * * *

I want to not want marriage anymore.

The desire to share my life and establish a home with a man has persisted through my 20s. I believe it arises from many things: witnessing my parents’ own happy marriage of 30-plus years; witnessing friends’ marriages that clearly provide support, love, companionship, and the possibility of children; living in a marriage-and-family-centered Christian subculture in which I want to more seamlessly belong; and, most bedrock, being a person made in God’s image, and thus being made for deep relationship and intimacy. In the past few years, the desire has become acute.

Acute is a fitting word here. It’s often used to describe a sharp pain or dire circumstance. At the same time that my desire for marriage has grown over the past few years, I have experienced three romantic setbacks nearly one after another. Each has confounded my heart, even as my mind has found ways to rationalize their necessity. The most significant setback was a broken engagement to a Christian man whom I loved yet couldn’t ultimately live life with. It seems that as my desire for marriage has grown, so has the pain that surrounds it. It is now a bruised desire.

There is the bruise of ending a relationship with a specific person, but there is also a bruise underneath it, in the place where the spirit resides. For the Christian—who believes that God knows us better than we can know ourselves, that he desires to give his children good gifts, that he is intimately involved in our lives—there is a spiritual wound when one feels she’s been led into situations that harm rather than heal. Of course, there is so often a chasm between what we feel and what is objectively true. But if God is for all of us, his children, then certainly we can say he is for us in the places of ourselves where we long, where we intuit, where we imagine, where we are able to give and receive love.

The bruised desire for marriage has led me to question the goodness of God. This is where theologians and pastors might chime in and say, “That means it’s an idol.” I don’t know whether that is true. Perhaps it is true insofar as an unmet desire for marriage has blocked my view of the other gifts that God has given. Or perhaps, instead, it’s a desire God has given me to keep me leaning and depending on him, even while some days I don’t know if he can be fully trusted.

All I know is that the bruises need to heal. And as long as my heart is kept tender by unmet desire for a good thing, it seems it will be poised for pain and further tempted to doubt God. If it’s a desire that God wants me to let go of, I hope I can do so. Even if so that it means it can be restored again, surprising me with its bloom in the unlikeliest of springs.

* * * * *

The writer works at a Christian nonprofit in the Midwest.