by Bridget Gee
Sophia is the Greek word for Wisdom, and Propel Sophia seeks out the voices of truly wise women and asks them to share worked examples of how they express faith in daily life. Pull up a chair at Sophia’s table, won’t you? There’s plenty of space.
I cried three times before noon on my 28th birthday.
Which is weird for me because I love my birthday.
I woke up that morning surprised by this mild identity crisis I was having.
Where had my twenties gone?
I felt like I had nothing to show for it. I imagined that I’d be married and started on kids by then. Instead, I was a single woman in ministry working additional part-time jobs, still struggling to get by. I didn’t feel like my life was turning out how I wanted. What was there to celebrate that day with an attitude like that?
In reality, I had just come out of a season of depression. I had been running on fumes for a couple years and was finally starting to feel like myself again. But I’m not sure I knew who I was anymore. Did the old dreams I had for myself even make sense? I really could have thrown myself a pity party that day, it was my birthday after all. Instead, I was faced with a new curiosity.
God began to ask me this question:
Who will you be when you don’t get the thing you want most?
So often, when we don’t get the things we want most, we turn ugly. We become entitled, angry, and disillusioned. We lose hope. We lose trust. We lose connection with our Creator. When we build ideas of lives around small dreams that aren’t guaranteed, we will absolutely be trapped in cycles of disappointment.
I have always wanted to be married. I’m a romantic and there’s nothing wrong with that. At times though, this desire makes me ache because I put marriage on a pedestal. I thought I’d be securely arm-in-arm with a partner before turning 30.
There’s a lot of messaging in our culture that tells us we should be married with kids by a certain point. The storylines we follow are filled with climactic confessions of love and end with weddings. Most of us imagine our lives will turn out the same way.
American church culture peddles much of the same narrative to women. We are taken more seriously when we are in marriages, and we are often offered narrow and unimaginative roles in the local church—roles that echo housewife and mother.
I never expected to make it this far as a single person. And the experiences I have had as an unmarried woman in ministry aren’t something I expected to face either. It’s rough out here.
So what happens if you are never a wife or mother? And what if you don’t want to help in the nursery or kid’s church? How do I get to flourish in my giftings as a part of my church community?
Believing the narrative of my culture coupled with the church experiences I’d had left me bereft of a place where I belonged.
Thus, the identity crisis at age 28.
But thank God! Without him, I would have gone on wanting the same old dream for myself believing I was missing out on something crucial to abundant life! God was merciful to help me see that my dream was too small. I could have continued aching for an idol—in my case, marriage.
But idols don’t deliver. Not for long, anyway.
It was God’s mercy that I woke up sad on my 28th birthday. I needed to be shocked out of my narrative, to loosen my grip on the idol I’d been clinging to for so long. God wanted to take me on a new journey with him, to a place I belong.
There are so many stories of people in Scripture who were busy living their lives when God interrupted and invited them to go on an unexpected journey. In fact, the whole story of God’s people revolves around this idea that God’s invitations lead them to a place they belong: with Him in a promised land. Their job is to simply trust him along the way.
Trusting God is hard when our futures are unknown. But I am resolved to be someone who trusts God no matter what. God helped me trade my idol of a married life for a life of trust in a God who loves me, even when everything feels so uncertain. I’m so grateful that God invited me on a different journey than the one I was expecting. My life is turning out to be far greater, more beautiful, abundant, and full than I could ever have dreamed. The journey has been full of unknowns, but as time goes on, I continue to have tastes of belonging and promise and deeper wholeness.
And I haven’t cried on my birthday since.
Bridget Gee is the spiritual formation coordinator for InterVarsity's Study Abroad programs, where she directs European pilgrimages for students, staff, and partners to experience contemplative and historic followings of Jesus. She is the host of Soladarity: The Singleness Podcast and author of the new book Single, Just Because. Visit her website or follow her on Twitter.