You’re not ready yet.” That’s the answer the Holy Spirit gave me as, once again, I went to God in prayer, needing to find out why I wasn’t receiving what I’d asked him for. After the Holy Spirit said that to me, I sat still and contemplated that answer. At least he hadn’t said no, I consoled myself. But couldn’t he have said yes? He hadn’t said to wait either. I sat there confused for a while. I’d been taught that God answers prayer in three ways; yes, no or wait. The answer I just got didn’t quite fit in with the waiting scenario. He’d said I wasn’t ready. So, God was waiting on me to be ready in order for him to grant me my request.

That was a bit hard to swallow. I could have lived with any of the three answers he could have given me; after all, they didn’t require anything on my part. If he’d said yes, I’d have received my answer; if no, I would have been sad, granted, but sooner or later I’d have moved on; if he’d told me to wait I would have known that he’s still busy preparing it for me. But this answer put the ball right back in my court. It meant I was the one responsible for not getting my prayer answered.

I’ve discovered something about Christianity in the few years that I’ve been saved. There’ve been many times that God has corrected or plain chastised me. During those times, like a sulking child, I would withdraw from him, to my own detriment of course. Yet time and time again, in the end, I would go back to him with my head hung in shame. I’ve learnt that there’s no getting around it; God is always right. You would think I’d know that by now, but well, sometimes I just wish he could be wrong, in order to have my own way, that is.

This time was no different. After I’d done all the rationalising and justifying, I went back to the Master and asked; “Father, what do you mean when you say I’m not yet ready for marriage? I am at the right age, in fact, I’m over the age I’d imagined myself getting married at. I have grown spiritually, I believe I’m mature in character and mind-set…” on and on I went, trying to convince God that I was ready for him to bless me with marriage.

In the midst of that, the Holy Spirit just dropped an illustration into my mind and it silenced me. I pictured myself trying to download something from the internet, using an outdated operating system on my computer. As soon as I hit the download button, a message pops up; “busy processing…please wait”. I imagine the corners of my mouth going up, forming into a smile; I’m about to get what I want. The message changes to; “downloading”, my eyes start sparkling, I’m nearly there! And then… “download failed”. My face crumbles. Oh no, what went wrong? I read the error message; “please upgrade your operating system then try again.” (I know this is not technically correct, I’m not a web expert, but you get the picture.)

As soon as that scenario ended another one came up, this one close to home. I’m currently using one of the earliest smartphones that came on the market. At times I want to access some files on the internet and when I try to, I get the message that the files I’m trying to access are too big for my device and I should save the page I’m trying to access, then when I’m on a computer I can look it up again. Do you see where I’m going with this? Here’s the thing; God wanted me to upgrade before he could bless me with marriage.

It didn’t matter that I thought I was ready; the fact is that God saw that I was not. What followed was a process of learning, the likes of which I’ve never been on before. And it continues to this day. It has seen me devouring every book I could lay a hand on, on preparation for marriage. My e-reader is filled with books on dating, courtship, premarital resources and the like.  

The amazing thing is, while I’ve been busy reading up on marriage, God has been working on me. He’s brought up some issues in my personal life that have nothing to do with marriage. He has revealed to me areas of weakness, idiosyncrasies and mind-sets that are stumbling blocks in my maturity as a Christian. It’s as if he’s saying to me, you want marriage yet look how much work you still have to do in your own life; how will you cope with a spouse when you’ve got so many issues yourself?

When I enquired as to how I can upgrade myself, the Holy Spirit told me to seriously engage myself in the Christian disciplines of studying the word of God, fasting, praying and getting together with other believers. But Lord, I argued, I’m already doing those things. But after some serious introspection I realised that for a while now, I had been doing them out of a sense of obligation. That does happen you know. We can get so used to God that we do things for the sake of getting them done. Prayer, worship and fellowship can turn into a routine, where our hearts are really not in it.

So I rededicated myself to the said disciplines, but this time in spirit and in truth, just as the Bible admonishes us in John 4:23-24. I must admit that in the beginning I would go about doing this with the mind-set that I’m doing it so that I can get married. But as time went on, it turned from being just about marriage, to being about my relationship with God. Whereas I’d initially studied along the lines of being the ‘perfect’ wife; going through all the popular teachings on this subject; I realised that I was going about this thing the wrong way.

While it is true that I want to marry a godly man who loves and fears the Lord, it dawned on me that I don’t have to impress the said man in order to get married to him. My mission should be to be the best person that I can be for God. Then when this man prays to God for a wife, God can look down on earth and see who can be a match for him and, what do you know, I might just be the right one! This reminds me of the teaching in 2 Timothy 2:15, where Paul says we must do our best to present ourselves to God as one approved. Not  by man, but by God. That really changed my perspective on the marriage issue. 

What this has taught me is that God is more concerned about our spiritual growth than with anything else in our lives. Even after he has granted our requests he will still expect us to grow spiritually. So we don’t just grow in order to get what we want. In the event that he does not give us what we ask for, for whatever reason, we are still expected to grow. I’ve come to realise that in this Christian journey, there is no constant. You are either growing or stagnating. It took me not getting what I want, in order to see this. I must say that I am enjoying this season of upgrading and recommend that we all partake of it, as it will result in a more fulfilling, richer and deeper relationship with God.