Late to Potluck: The dating predicament of 30+ year-old single Christians. And what to do about it.
Art by sevelletheartist.com
Part 2 of 4
Hey, I Saved You a Plate
The ideal scenario for those of us who have arrived late to potluck is to have had someone in the kitchen save us a plate.
If you know someone is saving you a plate, you’re golden.
Sometimes being “saved a plate” is agreeing to marry a good guy friend “if we’re thirty and still single.” Although not full coverage marital insurance (and indeed there is no such thing), this unorthodox pact has had some success.
Other times love requires community effort.
While waiting at the Portland airport to board my flight back to Boston, I overheard an older woman relate this story to her girlfriends. "When we were kids, Lisa and I decided we wanted to be friends forever. We figured the best way to do that was to have her brother marry my sister. It took some time, but we helped make it happen. They’re now married with children.”
Now that’s what I call strategy!
But even if you’ve been saved a plate, you’ve got to show up and claim it. If you’re too late to the kitchen you may hear someone who wasn’t in the know say, “Oh, that plate was for you? So sorry… no one’s name was on it, so I ate it.”
The Dish that Saved the Day
The next best option is to hope that upon our arrival to potluck, one of the servers informs us that there’s a last bit of soup that can be warmed up and ready in just a few minutes.
If there happens to also be some leftover bread to go along with it, we just might break out in a dance.
Looking at the way we prioritize everything else above finding someone to marry, we as a church culture bank on a bowl of hearty, hot soup and bread to be there when young people finally decide to look for a spouse.
The following scenario better fits our dating reality and is one with which we are all too familiar.
The Mystery Casserole
Sitting amidst empty pans of the culinary goodness we missed out on is a lonely dish of mystery casserole. It’s barely been touched and while we’re really hungry, we’re also highly suspicious because we don’t know what’s in it.
Mystery casseroles are men who, despite the many70 single women in church, are themselves still single.† To us women it’s a curious thing and we think “What’s wrong with him? Why has no one snatched him up? What do the other women know about him that I don’t?”
The answer to “Why is he still single?” varies and lies buried beneath even more questions.
Is he a sweetheart that just somehow got overlooked? Is he still single because he’s emotionally unavailable?
Is he not married yet because he’s cautious? Or is it because he has ivory-tower expectations?
Whatever the reason, hunger will push us to be brave and try new things. Yes, so many things could go wrong.
But so many things could go right!
Maybe it’s time to give short guys a chance? Perhaps it’s not as awkward as we think to date a younger man or to give a much older man a try? What if him not having gone to college has a bright side? He has zero student loans! What if while he doesn’t have the cleanest past, he needs someone to be a part of his really bright present and future? What if he’s not so clueless on purpose and men just think in wildly different ways than women do? What if, despite its own unique set of challenges, dating a guy of a different ethnicity or culture also presents a unique set of joys?
It’s true, we don’t know what we’re getting with the “mystery casserole" man. Given that we ladies are nowhere near perfect either, I say let’s give these guys a shot.
One of the greatest hoaxes keeping so many singles from choosing a mate and I believe one of the key reasons we are wary about giving “mystery casserole” men a go is because we’ve subscribed to the thinking that “God has someone just for you.” We hope if we fast (a lot), pray (on as many prayer lines as we can join), and wait long enough, God will present us with our soulmate. We are sustained in our errant belief by testimonies of women who’ve waited and waited and waited and waited and then finally got married. While we join in on the celebration with our sisters who have found love (whether early or late), we do need to recognize that these stories of late bloom romance are exceptions and come with challenges that are better surmounted, by and large, or not experienced altogether by younger couples.1,2
“Where is he?!” I had never heard such pain in Patricia’s voice and was surprised at the vulnerability of her question. This woman is boss — she loves Jesus, is brilliant, capable, and fabulous. Her 40th birthday was around the corner and the ache of being single was not dulled by a phenomenally impressive career and many personal accomplishments. Her story is the alarming norm in our churches. Patricia would say that she’s not just late to potluck, she feels she’s arrived to an empty fellowship hall. That feeling is devastating.
And she’s angry.
She has been waiting for her soulmate and God has yet to make the introduction.
Or hasn’t He?
The concept of soulmates originated centuries ago by Plato in his dialogue The Symposium (385–370 BC). In it, he presents humans as a race originally having four arms, four legs, a single head made of two faces, and possessing such great strength as to threaten the dominion of the Greek gods. Confronted with the prospect of losing their tribute if humans were to be destroyed, Zeus came up with a creative solution: He would split the mortals in half. This would double the number of humans giving accolade to the gods while simultaneously punishing humanity for its arrogance. The cursed humans would experience a life of lonely misery as they traveled the face of the earth in search of their “other half” or soulmate.
“God has someone just for you” may be comforting, but it’s not Biblical theology. No doubt this is a hard truth to swallow. We can take comfort in Scripture, which teaches that knowing the truth, however uncomfortable, sets us free.3
At potluck you choose from what’s there. Yes, you may be in the mood for lasagna, but veggie burgers are what’s on the menu. While you had white collar marriage aspirations, blue collar love may gift you the doting husband you want and devoted father your children will need. Sometimes when we don’t “see” what we want, we blame God for not granting us the desires of our hearts. Could it be that our hearts’ desires are misguided to begin with?
When it comes to marriage, God isn’t playing favorites and He isn’t being unfair.
So how about we set God free? How about we not blame Him for the fruit borne of our own life choices — whether made intentionally or in ignorance?
“Then, what is God’s role in my romantic life? Where is God in all of this?” you may be asking. The beautiful thing is, you already know.
Whenever someone hushes the crowd seated in the fellowship hall, invites us to bow our heads, and says grace over the food, it is then that we hear it — the manifold ways God is involved:
We recognize His presence by calling Him by name to begin the prayer.
We thank Him for providing our sustenance, both spiritual and physical.
We ask Him to bless the hands who have given of their means to prepare the food to share.
We thank Him for the volunteers who organize and serve.
We thank Him for what we’re about to eat.
We ask that the food we consume be nourishing to our bodies.
We ask that we be strengthened by the meal so we can further serve Him in ministry to others.
And we thank Him for the gift of church family and fellowship.
He’s in it all.
It’s up to us, however, to show up to potluck in good time and get a plate!
In the next post, we’ll look at mainstream culture’s tempting solutions to our late to potluck predicament, why they fail, and what actually works.
Are you liking this series? Click the heart icon below, share with your friends, and include the hashtags #latetopotluck #exceedtheordinary #soulmates
Names have been changed
†Figure is simply for effect
3 "And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” John 8:32 NKJV