There was a time in my life when I didn’t care about marriage. I’m sure of it. Really. There MUST have been… When I was younger I knew it wasn’t time yet, but I still looked forward to the day I would have a husband, when I would have that part of my future determined and set. When my parents had my baby brother, I was nearly eleven years old. I don’t think I realized he wasn’t my own son – until I wanted to go outside and play… His baby sweetness consumed me and I knew I wanted to have children of my own. As the years of perpetual singleness dragged on, my empty arms ached, longing to be a part of marriage, a family, that elusive world I couldn’t seem to join in spite of the ease with which nearly everyone around me seemed to be entering it.
One of my favorite writings addresses this issue. By C.S. Lewis, it’s a 9-page article entitled, “The Inner Ring”, published in his book The Weight of Glory. He addresses the reality of our human desire to get into the group we are excluded from. We always want what we think we cannot have, want to be accepted by those who don’t accept us, want to climb over that fence that separates us from whatever is on the other side. At times, we think there is no way we can be happy until we cross that line. We strive and strain and turn ourselves inside out, trying to get into that elite group that eludes us.
The craziest part of it all, as Lewis points out, is that once we are a part of the group we wanted so badly to become a part of, it suddenly loses it’s magic. After all, the group accepted us, so it can’t be as great as we thought it was to begin with! We realize there is a better group that hasn’t yet accepted us, and so we begin seeking acceptance into the next group. The rings never end because each time we get deeper into the inner ring, the same thing happens all over again.
Lewis’ answer to this problem is that we should forget about getting into anyone else’s inner ring. We should do the best we can at what we have to do and soon we will be known for our excellence and be included among those who make decisions about the thing we do. In our spare time, we should hang out with people we actually like and do fun things with them. Then we will form friendships and without even meaning to, we will find ourselves at the center of an inner ring of our own.
I’ve been caught up in the tasks of planning my wedding, preparing to move to another area of the country, leaving my jobs and friends and church, settling into a new house, and learning to know and understand my fiance better. Yet today I opened my email and saw a newsletter from a website for brides that provides resources to help in the planning process, and I stopped for a moment. I stopped because I had a flash, my heart squeezing tight, remembering how it felt to be on the outside of this inner circle – the inner circle of “bride”. I remembered the longing, the feeling that I might never belong to the group, might never experience how it felt to be chosen, loved, and accepted, and might never get to pick out the perfect white dress.
Today I took care of some precious children I have grown to love, laughed as the little one threw her arms in the air twirling and dancing, calling for me to watch her, and then helped her older sister write a story for school. I listened as my precious niece sang me a song and felt the joy of anticipation that I get to spend time with her in a few weeks. Motherhood now looms before me, the next inner ring that I have not yet been welcomed into.
I have to laugh at myself. I must be still for a few moments tonight to soak it in, appreciate the tremendous blessing I’m currently walking in. I don’t want to rush through this beautiful time in my life without even recognizing that this is GOOD.
Tonight I’m thankful for love, even though I understand it is not the solution to every problem. I’m thankful for the children God has given me to love at this time, in this way. I’m thankful for hope – finally a hope I can sink into a bit – that I will one day have children of my own. I’m thankful for the home being prepared for me, for the family that Rick and I will create, to provide that stability and security I’ve been missing.
And I pray for all my dear friends who stand outside the circle, waiting for the day when the boundary will melt away and they will be welcomed in. If I could pull you in myself, I would. Instead, I will pray as so many have done for me.