Bible College Spinster

A couple weeks ago, I talked about how I’d like to start posting monthly writing samples. Blogging has always been practice of the craft for me and this week I’m stretching out a little. This is the start of what may be a blog series or may be a larger project. I’m not sure where this is headed, but I’m sharing it anyway. Enjoy!

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I knew pretty early on that I did not want to get married right out of college.

During jr. high youth group one night, they split the guys off from the girls and panel of women talked with us about purity. As part of the introduction, they each shared how they had met their husbands.

“We met in our biology class in college.”

“He lived on the floor below me in our dorm.”

“We were introduced the first day of our freshman year.”

I distinctly remember thinking, that is a boring love story. I want to meet someone in a cool way. After school. After backpacking through Europe.”

Backpacking through Europe was the epitome of adulthood in my thirteen year old mind. I had just read Maureen Johnson’s 13 Little Blue Envelopes and knew that was the goal after college. NOT getting married. I wanted to live a little first.

And that was that. Until I encountered the horror of a freshman girl’s dormitory.

I never had questioned my dating status, let along my marital status until my first night at college when the question was thrown out:

“Do any of you think you’ve met your husband here yet?”

I am not. Kidding. This was the first night.

And from there it just felt like so many women were in a scramble to find that perfect fit somewhere on campus. For the most part, it wasn’t a race. I have plenty of friends who found their person in a normal amount of care and time and their wedding celebrations were such a pleasure to be a part of.

But there were some couples that were slightly more concerning. Some of them resulted in rushed marriages and even more rushed divorces.

Looking around in the aftermath of those years, it’s been interesting to observe longings that have surfaced in my life as well as in the lives of my friends through the first years of marriage into the early parenting stage from some of them.

photo-1459876488407-12ece558ba10I never thought I would get to 24 and be one of my only friends left rowing in the single boat. And I’d be lying if there weren’t moments I look around and wonder if I missed something—took a wrong turn or acted on introvert impulse when I shouldn’t have.

But I’ve been here long enough to know that the grass just isn’t going to be as green as it is on Fixer Upper. I’m thankful for that.

Honestly, I’m still trying to get back to Europe, let alone get down the aisle.

So much “spiritual” reading I did outside of the Bible was concerned with being a good girlfriend, or wife, or even mother. But I’m not using that info. Not really. I’ve found in this season a yearning to just learn how to be a person.

As part of this writing experiment, I’m trying to find out how to wring this season dry. I made it through bible college without the husband and baby I was promised with my diploma and I want to live into that well.

I’ve felt for a while that the church in general is not sure what to do with a woman in her mid-twenties who is unwed without prospects…Maybe not the church in general. Maybe it’s the church in West Michigan.

And as much as I want to be comfortable in that, I feel like I’m kind of alone here.

So I write this for you. To let you know you’re not alone…. or maybe just to confirm if I am. So in these posts, I’ll be unpacking some observations and throw out some thoughts.

I don’t want to spend this season waiting for what is next. What is here is next. And I’m owning it—The life of a Bible College Spinster.

Trust and Tubing

I have live in Michigan my entire life. Born and raised in the Great Lakes State and not once have I been tubing until this year. Sad but true  and to be honest, I have never felt like I was missing out on much.


I felt forced into it. I was leading on a church trip, house-boating on Dale Hollow Lake, and one of the students found out I was a tubing virgin. This was apparently a crime, so I was soon caroused into my swimsuit and forced into a life jacket that was a bit too big. If not uncomfortable. Standing at the stern of the houseboat, waiting for the speedboat to come pick me up, I couldn’t think up one decent reason for plunking out of this. 


But it was too late and the student I was going with just had to tell the driver that it was my first time tubing. And that was met with a devilish smile and a “Oh, we’ll make sure it’s a good one then.”


Crap.


That was along the lines of what I was thinking as I swam out and climbed onto the tube. Or at last it had four letters and the same general meaning. I crossed arms across the tube with the student, white-knuckling the handles. She assured me doing it this way would help us keep each other on. I didn’t think the ninety pounds of her was going to keep all five foot ten of me on anything.


And then the boat took off. And it was fun at first. Speeding up, turning onto the main lake. And then we actually started going.


Crap.


This was not what I had signed up for. I felt rigid on the tube, trying my best to keep my knees on the flying circle and my swimsuit bottoms on my hips. My jaw kept beating onto the tube no matter how hard I tried to hold my head up. My teeth were clenched, which probably didn’t help the repeating blows. My toes felt like they were going to be ripped off my feet as they bounced into the water with each run over the boat’s wake.


Did you know giving a thumbs up does not mean that you are doing okay? That it actually means you want to go faster? Because I did not know that. It also didn’t help that some punk kid on the tube next to ours yelled to the driver, “You drive like a lady!”


Crap.


My arms were about to tear out of my sockets and I imagined flailing off the tube and not having arms to swim with. We flew continually back and forth over the wide wake of the speed boat. I began to slip over the side of the tube. I could hardly work my way back to safety as we whisked all over the unforgiving water. I could hardly feel my arms. I think I pulled a muscle in my neck. I think I peed a little. 


They probably don’t recommend this in any manual in small group leadership, but all I could manage to shout to the girl next to me was, “I hate you! I hate you. I. Hate. You.”  I couldn’t think of anything else. This was becoming a test of survival. What ever it took, I had to stay on this tube or else I was going to die!!!!!

And then the ninety pounds shoved me off the tube.


I hit the water with a smack and skidded a bit before coming to a halt. 


Checking immediately to make sure my arms still worked, I then shoved them beneath the water. Where they there? I felt around my waist. My bottoms had begun to fall, but were in a reachable, fixable distance down my legs.

And the boat turned slowly to come retrieve me.


My arms began to relax, turning to rubber, humming with soreness as I began to paddle back to the boat. Relief filled me as I realized I was going to live to see lunch. My life was not over!


There was great comfort–after the melodrama had cleared–in realizing that the driver and another passenger in the boat had been keeping an eye on us all along. Their intent was not to throw me off the tube (Though I strongly suspect  that yes, in fact, it was…), but to take me on a ride.


I felt like a cheese-head as my ever-connecting brain began to knit the parallels here. See, I have recently come off of a year of, well, crap. A lot of loss and struggle, but God was present in it all. Tough to find in the moment, but in hindsight, so ridiculously present, I can’t believe I missed it. For a lot of that season, it felt like I was holding on for dear life as I was jostled, beat up, and thrown around. I was tired and scared. But I made it. Because God was watching. Because he cared. And it didn’t just end when I didn’t like where the ride was taking me. It didn’t end because of his lack caring. No. He cared too much about me and my character and my relationship with him. He wasn’t putting me through that season to throw me off into hopeless oblivion. He was taking me on a ride. 


He promises he will not put us through more than we can handle. He does not promise he wouldn’t bring us up to the screaming edge of the cliff, but he has told us we will not topple over the edge. It is in those moments, looking desperately over the cliff’s edge that I begin to see God clearly. Because I’m not distracted by me or my wants. I am given a full view of his love. I am shown how deeply and vastly he desires relationship with me, desires my trust.


So it is safe to say I am never tubing again. But I am thankful for the living metaphor. The feeling and the reminder that I can trust even when my arms can’t take it any more. When I’m flying off into the unknown, not even knowing if my pants are on right. God’s got it. Both in the physical and the metaphorical… though I think the pants are my responsibility…