Struggling with Singleness and Cisterns

“All glory be to Christ,” my Spotify playlist sings as i sit down to start writing this post, and even though i’m going to show some frustration throughout, i trust that my conclusion stands the same way this intro began: “All glory be to Christ.”

Here’s where i’m coming from right now: i have been single for fifteen months now (minus a dinner-date back in February), and if you count the time since i’ve been in a committed relationship, it’s been closer to twenty months. In the past two years, i’ve only had six months in which i was actively pursuing a woman for marriage, and now both of those women are happily married to other, excitedly godly men.

I hate discussing this topic about myself, because i ultimately feel like it comes across whiny and unattractive (which is not at all what i want to come across as), but this is also one of my biggest struggles, so you can let me know in the comments field if this came across whiny when it’s all said and done.

But more to the point, i’ve started up the book of Proverbs for the second time this year (quite a change from last year when i’d almost be through it for the eleventh time by this point), and a passage in chapter 5 kicked me in the face. “Drink water from your own cistern, water flowing from your own well” (5:15, HCSB). I know what it’s talking about, and i know that i can’t do it: a guy can’t drink deeply of marital-sexual love if he doesn’t have a wife. For this reason, i decided to skip the commentaries, because they’re only going to talk about what it meant in the original time when it was written, since, “Among the Jews it was believed that marriage was a duty, ‘so much so that he who at the age of twenty had not married was considered to have sinned’.”[1] And, since i—as a 25 year old man—am single, i don’t want to hear about the joys of marital love as opposed to ungodly expressions of “love”[2], because all expressions of love are ungodly for me in my current situation. So, instead i turned to John Piper’s website, Desiring God, and read this highly recommended article: My Wedding was Supposed to be Today.

I went to church with the author of this article for a short period of time in the past two years. And i would highly recommend giving the article a read before continuing through my post, especially if you are resonating at all with what i’ve shared so far.

. . . You read it yet? . . .

. . . Now? . . .

. . . What about now? . . .

. . . Well anyways . . .

Post-reading the article, i told myself, “Find 25 things in these two verses (Proverbs 5:15, 20).” The first thing i noticed was that verse 15 is a command: “[you] drink water from your own cistern.” If it’s a command, then i have to obey it or i am in sin. If i don’t have a wife, i don’t have a cistern to drink from, so how am i supposed to not be in sin? It’s not enough to just avoid drinking water from other sources; i have to also drink water from my own cistern.

BUT YOU’RE NOT MARRIED!!! HOW CAN GOD EXPECT YOU TO DO THIS!!!??!!! Thoughts of God’s unfairness rush through my mind. Thoughts of God’s not fulfilling my desires rush through my mind. Thoughts of God’s not being as glorious as He truly is rush through my mind.

STOP THINKING THIS WAY!!! I’M NOT A BLASPHEMING UNBELIEVER ANYMORE!!! GOD (amidst internal tears) PLEASE SHOW ME WHAT THIS MEANS FOR A SINGLE GUY LIKE ME!!! And i sat still for fifteen or twenty minutes, listening to worship music and reflecting on the passage: “Drink water from your own cistern, water flowing from your own well . . . Why, my son, would you be infatuated with a forbidden woman or embrace the breast of a stranger?” (Proverbs 5:15, 20).

As i reflected on the passage, the following quote from the article shared above hit me superbly close to home:

“While we wait, we will be tempted to settle. We should not draw comfort from the assurance that God has someone for each of us to marry. He may not. Even if He doesn’t, or even if that person comes into our lives ten years late (by our schedule), that does not give us the right to rebel, disobey, or run away. None of us is entitled to marriage. I am not entitled to marriage.”[3]

Total transparency: i think about giving up on finding a godly wife pretty regularly now. So reading those sentences, and then watching it get tied to Solomon,

“Heartbreakingly, this lust-following idol-worshiper is the same man who, in his youth, ‘loved the Lord, walking in the statutes of David his father’ (1 Kings 3:3),”

really hit close to home. I can’t throw away my standards because i’m lonely and frustrated.

But, in my reflection on the text, i still needed the answer to, “How do i apply this command to drink from my own cistern as a single guy?”

The alternative to drinking from my own cistern is found in verse 20: settling for an adulteress. Adultery-tainted water is poison and instead of giving joy (life) will bring sorrow (death).

And then i got it. Jesus said the following in John 4:14: “But whoever drinks from the water that I will give him will never get thirsty again—ever! In fact, the water I will give him will become a well of water springing up within him for eternal life.”

He is the One i am supposed to be drinking deeply from—through prayer, Scripture reading, church fellowship, and meditation. Christ is supposed to be (i hate my idolatrous heart) more exhilarating even than marital love, which should cause ungodly love to be utterly disgusting. If i’m truly drinking from this cistern, i trust God that i will eventually—in His perfect timing—meet someone who is also drinking from this same cistern of Living Water.

If a person is not drinking from this cistern—even as a so-called believer—they are a foreigner, and are not worth my time, because they will ultimately draw me away from the truest Cistern. If i can’t find satisfaction in Christ, i will settle for someone similar, and thus embrace the bosom of a foreigner. This is why i must drink water from my own Cistern, and not be exhilarated by an adulteress; why i must heighten my standard rather than letting it grow lax; why i must praise Christ with everything in me, even when everything looks frustrating and shallow externally.

Lord, help me! All glory be to Christ. Bless those also who study Your Word and share their meditations—those who help me to fix my eyes on You.

Soli Deo Gloria.

Solus Christus.

[1] Marcus Dods, The Expositor’s Bible – The First Epistle to the Corinthians, (New York, NY: A.C. Armstrong and Son, 1903), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, Under: “Chapter 11. Marriage”.

[2] Sex ain’t love and love ain’t sex, but for the purpose of this article i am referring to sex as love.

[3] If the author reads this, i hope she forgives me for making the God-pronouns capitalized… Extreme pet-peeve of mine.

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