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Posts Tagged ‘Boundless’

Today I’m going to discuss something that has been an issue of contention within my own heart, and also a huge topic of controversy when it comes up in general discussion. My thoughts have changed quite a bit when it comes to this issue, and honestly I think it is one of the things that I’m most confused by when it comes to Scripture, and specifically Paul’s writings in 1 Corinthians.

When I think about the “gift of singleness”, I think of what it was like to be a child at Christmas and receiving a Gap sweater instead of the doll I wanted. I felt like I was getting the short end of the stick, and that my mother really didn’t understand how much I desired the doll. My young heart misread her intentions, and felt like she was purposefully not giving me the doll because she wanted to teach me a lesson, or simply because she didn’t want to see me happy. Obviously, I know now that that wasn’t the case at all, but that apparently the doll had been in high demand and she obviously hadn’t been able to get hold of it. That wasn’t her fault, but the feelings of frustration and loss were still there.

In all honesty, I approach singleness in the same way twenty years later. I feel like I’m being handed the short end of the stick when it comes to lifestyles, and that I’m being given a gift that, while perhaps is more useful for the time period, is not what I really desire. The result is that I feel the Lord is purposefully doing it to make me squirm, or to test me into trusting Him when I’d rather just scream. The thing is, discussing the “gift” of singleness needs to go beyond my own personal feelings if I’m ever going to be able to look at it objectively. With that in mind, I’d like to go into a deeper discussion of why Paul’s statement on this is so controversial and why I either agree or disagree with general Christian thought on his writing. In order to do that, though, I need to reference the particular writing which causes the controversy. Here it is:

“I wish that all of you were as I am. But each of you has your own gift from God; one has this gift, the other has that. Now to the unmarried and widows I say: it is good for them to stay unmarried, as I do. But if they cannot control themselves, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion”. 1 Corinthians 7:7-9.

To be bluntly honest, sometimes Paul really gets on my last nerve.  I find that this verse, and also this one, leads to my feeling frustrated and slightly confused as to whether my desires are things I’ve created on my own or ones that the Lord has given me. When Paul starts off, he does say that obviously we all have our freedom in Christ and that if we are not called to singleness, we should marry. I personally went through a stage after I first became a Christian where I thought that some people were given the “gift” of singleness in order to best glorify God and that if you were really truly holy, you would want to be single. However, once I discovered Boundless.org, I got to read articles and books that claimed that lifelong singleness is really something set aside for those who feel that they can go their whole lives without sex, companionship, and children that marriage brings and not feel bitter about it (see the context of this quote in this article). I do think that Paul is alluding to at least the sex part of this issue in 1 Corinthians 7. Obviously, God created marriage and it represents the sacred relationship between Christ and His church, so as an “institution” marriage should be revered and honored. However, I think what Paul might be suggesting is that people who do not have the “worries” of marriage are better able to serve the Lord.

I both agree and disagree. Considering I’m writing this blog, I come from a position that is much more on the side of Boundless. I personally believe that if you have a desire to be married and all the things that traditionally come with it, then it is better to get married than not to. I also think it is something that God is calling us to.  I especially believe that some of what Paul is saying leads to people being afraid of marriage and using it as a way to support their fear of commitment and real intimacy. However…

In our culture, the process of falling in love and getting in married and lifted up as the ultimate life experience. In the church and outside of it, we are all bombarded with messages of “If I only had this…” and “You’re missing out on this if you don’t have it!” and, perhaps the most poignant, “You’re not worth as much without this”. All of these messages, compounded with the desires that we are already experiencing, feed off each other and result in destructive self images and even more dangerous perceptions of God. We are led to believe that our Father is withholding something good from us to purposefully make us have a less-than-stellar life. So we go around His way and seek what we think is what will truly give us life – which in this case is relationships and marriage. Adam and Eve, anyone? When we as Americans Christians are so focused on thinking that the other person will fulfill us, our thoughts and devotion is indeed removed from God and placed onto another fallible human being.

Falling in love and getting married does not mean that you have received a special blessing from God that sets you apart from everyone else. While marriage is a huge blessing and a wonderful thing, it is also in many ways devastatingly intimate; our real selves are exposed and we really realize we have nothing to hold on to but God Himself. Western culture, egged on by the false representations given to us by Hollywood and music, only likes to think about the thrill of it all; the chase, the rose colored glasses that love gives. Real Love, however, is brave enough to take the glasses off, see the filth and grime that is our souls, and love despite that. I’m not at all saying that Paul is suggesting that the “grace” of singleness is to remove us from this situation, as we are called to love even when we feel and receive nothing in return. However, I do think it speaks to the fact that committing to marriage does mean that we need to be prepared for everything and anything, good or bad. For many people, the bad costs them too much, and they divorce. In Paul’s mind, perhaps he was thinking that if there are people who go into marriage with a mindset of self service, they would be better off staying single. I have to say that I would agree with that.

I certainly do not have any of the answers, let alone all. As mentioned above, I deeply desire to be married and I do believe that the Lord will call me into it – I grow the most when I am daily being in community with others, and marriage is the ultimate iron sharpening iron experience. I’m also just going to say that the thought of staying celibate and not having any children for the rest of my life honestly makes me a little bit nauseous. However, I do think it comes down to how we are willing to trust God and where we can learn the most from it. I don’t know why I don’t have the one thing I desire more than anything except God Himself, and to be told that it’s a “gift” to feel as lonely and overlooked as I do sometimes makes me want to scream. The thing is, God has told us to cast all of our anxieties on Him, for He cares for us, and that He will never leave us or forsake us.

I hope this post made sense, and if it didn’t, it’s probably because I’m still confused! I don’t know why some people are single and others aren’t. I don’t know why men aren’t asking the women in their church out. I don’t know why the women aren’t responding when they do. I guess my only real source of consolation is that whatever the “gift” of singleness looks like, be it longtime or temporary, God is always the ultimate Giver. Based on His standards of the Ultimate Gift (salvation for all achieved through Christ’s death and resurrection) I want to feel confident that He knows what He’s doing.

I think, though, that the path to truly obtaining that confidence is probably really known as that thing called life.

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A watched pot never boils.

This phrase always frustrates me, mainly because I’m quite an impatient person. When it comes to cooking, I  I get very frustrated when I’m staring at that pot waiting for the water to boil…because I just appreciate instant gratification, to be honest! I’ve learned to just give up and walk away in defeat. This, of course, can relate directly to that whole being patient while waiting for “that person” to show up.

Obviously, trusting God with each area of our lives is so important and helps us to shape our perspectives on life. Having faith in the Lord in this particular area has always been difficult for me, because I do care so much about it. That being said, one of my least favorite phrases is that which states, “When you’re least looking, he/she will just show up!” Basically, I think this is crap.

To start with, I truly believe that none of us get to that point where, as single adults looking to get married, we “stop looking” for a meaningful relationship. If you are not interested in marrying or have the gift of celibacy – which I will focus on in my follow up post – then that’s a different story. But for those who desire marriage and want to pursue it, surveying the scene, as it were, is one of those things that just happens. At my church, dozens of single young adults meet each week and have a mingle sesh after Bible study groups finish. Although I am an extrovert and love meeting new people, this part of the night is one of the most stress inducing for me. The entire time, I find myself trying not to bite my fingernails or anxiously pull at my hair as I watch the scene of mingling and flirting unfold before me, all while I stand there probably looking ridiculous. I feel crippled, despite my desire to make people feel welcomed and appreciated. The truth is, I do secretly hope each time that maybe someone will approach me, or I’ll get into a conversation that just seems to tie me together with some poor unsuspecting brother. It’s even worse when I’m actually interested in someone – poor sod! No matter how much I enjoy spending time with the women in my small group (and I do, immensely – they’re basically my surrogate sisters), no matter how encouraged and excited I feel about the Lord, I enter said mingle sesh with anxiety and hope. I’m by no means “not looking” – and I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one.

I think the main thing that I’m trying to express, albeit very imperfectly, is that when people tell you that you just have “to not look and it will just happen!”, it smacks of condescension that is beyond aggravating. Additionally, it is usually the case that the people telling you this are the married ones! Now, I’m not suggesting that we all go around admitting how much we actually are “looking” for other people (although that might be somewhat freeing). I do think it is important that I learn to be content in all circumstances through Jesus Christ, and He has called us to nothing less than that. The thing is, that’s not the same as feeling like I have to get to this strange state of “I’m not looking” so that I can actually meet someone and it will be all great. That is unhelpful, inconsiderate and in many ways dangerous advice to Christian singles. What it really comes down to is that there is a lie in this statement that suggests that we have to act or be a certain way before the Lord blesses us with something that is meant to further our holiness. Dangerous, dangerous.

Obviously, the stories of “I wasn’t even looking and he just showed up!” do exist. I think that for most of them it’s certainly not the whole story, and I actually want to suggest that this is just a disclaimer, promoted to ensure that the person does not get exposed to accusations of “desperate!” or even worse in the Church, “not content with God alone!” The truth is, Jesus gives us people to fulfill needs, desires, and relationship with. It is okay to want them, people. Perhaps if we start being more open about the fact that we’re “looking”, we might find our way to other people who are freed by the possibilities that this opens up.

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“Men and women can’t be friends”. – When Harry Met Sally.

I first saw this classic film only a year ago, and despite a few moments of questionable things within it, I greatly enjoy it and do have to admit that I think I agree with this statement – for the most part. For those who haven’t seen it, the basic plot line of the movie is that two friends, Harry and Sally, meet when they drive to New York City to start life after college. They part ways after driving together, and meet up several times over the course of twelve years, during which time they eventually become friends. Ultimately, as one might expect, they fall in love and get together at the end. The above quote is said by Harry during their initial drive to New York, to which Sally adamantly disagrees at the time. I think that the plot’s progression serves as a way to prove that Harry’s point is well founded – and that is what I’m exploring here. As it pertains to this post, I think it’s important to discuss how  close friendships between men and women in the Christian community – and elsewhere – can lead to a lot of heartache, confusion, and dashed hopes that otherwise could have been avoided.

To begin, I obviously think that healthy, life-giving, and respectful friendships between men and women are to be encouraged and sought after in the Church. It’s important to have friends from different walks of life and both contribute and learn from them. There’s a reason that there are both men and women in this world – God shows His glory through each and so we need to explore how that is done. However, I do think there needs to be more boundaries when it comes to relating with single members of the opposite sex. If left unchecked, some of these friendships turn into what I’ve heard been called “friendlationships”. You know what I mean; a guy and a girl hang out day in and day out, have inside jokes, meet each other families….so much so that people assume they’re dating when they’re actually not. In general, my opinion is that these scenarios occur because of the lack of three key points: 1) intentionality 2) open communication and 3) limiting amount of time spent privately with a person of the opposite sex. Let me explore these three things a little further.

1) Intentionality. This one’s the most important in my opinion, as everything else is bound up in it. I’ll start off by saying that I do have quite a few male friends, and at this time they are only “just friends”. There is nothing legalistic or weird about these friendships; we greet each other warmly and engage in good conversation. We spend time together in groups, and I cherish my friendships with them.To be fair, I have hung out with a few of them on a one-on-one basis, and while I think that’s okay to some extent, it is the continuing on in this way that can be very dangerous. When two members of the opposite sex are investing in each other  but there is no intention of anything beyond a friendship, it’s a recipe for disaster. This situation does seem to happen often – I know of quite a few people who seem to spend so much time together that people ask if they’re dating – and either the person know or they’re being set up for misguided expectations. For both men and women, there are things you can do to avoid this situation. Men: if you’re interested in a woman, ask her out. To do something alone, like coffee, or ice skating. Then ask her out again if all goes well. At some point, it is best to let her know that it’s a date and not “just friends” hanging out, because otherwise, she might make excuses and not take the experience seriously. Also, it’s very flattering to have someone be upfront and honest in these situations – please, please respect her in this way. If you continue to spend time with her with no commitment, you’re being selfish and disrespecting her. (I’m sorry for the harsh words, but it is a serious issue). Now, for women, we have a similar problem in this scenario, and that is that we let these friendlationships go on and on because we’re too scared to lose the friendship over it! Quite frankly, we’re being wusses. We would rather settle for an ambiguous are-we-dating-or-not friendship rather than being alone, but we feel flattered. But we’re also settling for a false representation of what a relationship should look like.

2) Open communication. To follow up on my last point, this is of course imperative. I already touched on the fact that both parties need to be able to communicate about the situation in a loving way. Men, if you’re not interested in a woman and you’ve spent one-on-one time with her consistently, be honest and tell her that. It won’t be easy and chances are your friendship will be negatively affected at first, but it really is worth it in the long haul. Ladies, communication can help so much in these scenarios. I know it’s scary, but I really, really think it’s necessary to confront your guy in question and ask him where you stand. Again, this is really only applicable if you’ve found yourself in a situation where you’re spending copious amounts of time together alone. Obviously, you don’t want to do this to all of your guy friends (so awkward!). I do think that there’s nothing wrong with approaching the guy and asking him to lead; to respect you by figuring out what this whole friendlationship is. If the guy freaks out or gets angry, let him. He clearly doesn’t respect you enough – or perhaps even like you enough, to step up to the plate.

3) Time. It’s the seemingly most obvious one. Basically, as much as possible, avoid spending loads of time where it’s just the two of you together without the aforementioned intentional communication in place. If you see each other two or more times a week without anything spoken of to “seal the deal”, as it were, you’re playing with fire. Of course we all like to feel wanted, needed, and appreciated. However, it does become an issue when there is no commitment that goes along with it. How you spend your time reveals a lot of where your heart lies – and if you’re choosing to go along with what feels good or comfortable without a commitment, you’re selling yourself short and depriving yourself of the selfless, God-honoring gift that committing yourself to someone represents (I am absolutely guilty of doing all of these things).

So, to sum up, I would say that “friendlationships”, while appearing to be a solution to the confusion of dating, often make the path to marriage all that more strained and murky, especially for Christians. Additionally, having a string of friends of the opposite sex where you’re both being co-dependent on each other might have dangerous consequences in the future, not the least of which could be what happens if you come across a friendly person once you’re married. If you have the foundation of commitment already in place, that might make those temptations a little easier to resist. And honestly, we do everything through Grace anyway, so knowing that you have a God who fought for you AND intercedes for you is so encouraging! One last thing though: Christ made a commitment to us, and it led Him to the cross. In fact, that was the point of His commitment. Commitment never involves a promise of an easy life. However, it does involve a look into what true Love is and how it’s played out, every day. That, I think, is worth the pain of all the times that come before it.

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For the longest time, I have in some ways been slightly afraid to pray boldly and specifically for a spouse. I do think that part of this comes from a sense of shame for wanting to be married in today’s culture and even within the church, where so often women especially are encouraged to be totally content and satisfied without even the desire of something like marriage.

However, I think it also might have something to do with the fact that when it comes to prayer, I fall short. I don’t pray as much, with as much fervor, or with as much discipline, as I would like to. In addition, I also think that on some level, I’m afraid to pray for something lest it not come to pass. This has much more to do with my struggle to have faith in God then it does in being an excellent prayer warrior.

I want to remind myself of the following verses:

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” Matthew 7:7

“If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” Matthew 7:11

Cast all your anxiety on on him because he cares for you. 1 Peter 5:7

Now, reading these verses and truly taking them to heart can lead to a sense of entitlement, which when joined with our general selfishness, can result in disastrous outcomes. God never promises any of us anything, not even our next breath. I find myself, however, just assuming that the things I want (a good job, a husband, etc) will happen, simply because I want them. Despite this, there is a general fear in my life that such things will not happen….because of my disobedience or because of my conception of who God is. That is where the issue lies.

A few years ago, I read Candace Watters’ book Get Married: What Women Can Do to Help It Happen. You can check it out here: http://www.amazon.com/Get-Married-What-Women-Happen/dp/0802458297/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1321480538&sr=8-1 . I highly recommend it, even for any male readers, as it raises some very good points. One of them is focused in the chapter aptly called “Pray Boldly”. Watters discusses the importance of being able to approach the throne of grace with boldness and hope – knowing that marriage is a God-ordained institution and for most of us, He wants us to pursue it. By knowing that our Lord is not a kill-joy God dangling hope in front of us for the fun of it, and that He really wants to be intimately involved with every aspect of our lives, it is much easier to ask Him not just to prepare us for marriage or “deal” with our desires, but to practically intercede for our brothers and sisters. Essentially, that we can literally go before the throne and ask for someone to come into our lives and our friends/family as well! That was very freeing for me, as before I had thought that to do that would be a sign of lack of faith in God. It even helps with the idea of prayers regarding a specific person – also something that I had been taught to be uneasy with. However, the more I thought about it, the more it made sense to pray about someone I’d noticed recently rather than daydreaming about them – it’s a lot more profitable and it turns the attention on God’s sovereignty and goodness rather than our wish-fulfillment type of thinking.

I’m pretty sure quite a few people will disagree with me on this, as it does seem like a rather radical way to approach prayer in this area. Yes, God does not promise any of us a spouse, but I do think that exercising bold faith in any area that is delicate and most desired gives Him glory. I definitely am trying to do this more even when I want to get to know a man better but feel limited by my insecurities or by my desire to have him lead and he is not interested. It seems crazy, but I’ve even started to pray that He would open the other person’s hearts and eyes to someone like me – but I also certainly start off with the understanding that His ways are not my ways. I really wish they were sometimes, but so it is.

To conclude, I have thought for a while about gathering a group of people together to pray for marriages to come about. I got this idea from Candace’s book and also from the fast.pray blog, which can be found at fastpray.wordpress.com. Would any of you be interested in that? It definitely wouldn’t be overwhelming, and would be open to men and women if interested! I’m confident that God will start moving in this area through such a group, as “the prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective”. – James 5:16

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I became  a Christian when I was fifteen years old, and one of the most formative things I did during the first few years of my faith journey was read Eric and Leslie Ludy’s book, “When God Writes Your Love Story”. This is not a post dedicated to the things that I find wrong with the book or an attack on the authors. However, I do believe that reading the book lead me into thinking that was, in hindsight, extremely self righteous and detrimental to my growth as a Christian and as a person in general.

I grew up in a non-Christian home with my single mother; I was an only child. Since I did not have a father figure in my life, I grew used to being independent and believing that women are just fine doing it all by themselves. However, from an early age, I had always wanted to be married and grow old with someone, even before I came to the Lord. When I read the Ludy’s book at first, I was totally encouraged and began to take everything it said very seriously. Honestly, a lot of the ideas that were presented worked well with me, as I didn’t have many prospects to begin with. I was an awkwardly shy teenager, so just “giving God the pen of my life” seemed perfect to me. I wouldn’t have to worry about anything ever again! I could just sit back, work on being “set apart” from everything sinful, and then some gorgeous guy with blue eyes and brown hair and a Spurgeon-like faith would show up at my doorstep.

I didn’t wear makeup, I barely brushed my hair in the morning, and dressed in sweatpants the majority of the time. Why would I need to do any of those things, since God would bring my future husband to me eventually anyway? I never swore, and would ask my friends pointedly not to say the Lord’s name in vain, because I just couldn’t stand to hear it. I made judgments about people who drank, had premarital sex, and just were so sinful! How could they even bear to live like that! There was no room for grace towards myself or anyone else.

Such was my way of thinking. Now, of course I believe that being set apart for God and distancing ourselves from such behavior as drunkenness and sexual immorality is EXTREMELY important and evidence of how God’s Spirit is at work in our lives. However, I do think that where the Ludys err in their message is not the call itself, but the attitude behind it. The whole book suggests attitudes of self-righteous thinking, with both authors deciding to give God “the pen of their lives” and only afterwards meeting each other and beginning their so-called fairy tale love story. As Christians, we are all called to surrender our lives to Christ and put Him in control of our decisions, thoughts, and actions, and I am not in anyway stating that this is not a worthy and commendable goal. I just think that the Ludys’ thinking – that surrendering their lives paved the way to give them all that they desire and more – is dangerous. We are to seek after God’s kingdom no matter what, and despite where it takes us. The Ludys believe that, too. They also believe, as suggested in the book, that Christians have to get to a certain “point” before they are deemed ready for marriage in God’s eyes.

The fact is, no one ever truly gets to that point! “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23) and “all our righteous acts are like filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6). Yes, we can trust the Lord and be transformed to His likeness, and are in fact commanded to do so, but to suggest that one has to feel like they have completely surrendered and everything is fine and dandy before they can expect to get married or even have someone pursue them is ridiculous and untrue. Grace abounds through the cross and resurrection of Jesus – we no longer need to try by our own merits. No one is ever truly ready for marriage. After years of trying to get to that point by ridding myself of ‘worldly’ music, only fellowshipping with believers, etc, I found myself in a place in turn ridden with self righteousness. No man could ever be good enough for me – I had to hold out for “God’s best”. I’m pretty sure I probably ruined quite a few chances at romance because of this, and don’t think I’m the only one. Who am I to think I deserve “God’s best” anyway??

I truly think that the Ludys – who as I mentioned before I do believe have a very real and transformative faith in the Lord – have been putting out a legalistic viewpoint of how to get to marriage. They don’t even seem to support marriage all that much, unless it’s something that God Himself orchestrates without anyone else’s help – including means like online dating. .

For now, I’ll leave you with this: Eric and Leslie Ludy married when Leslie was eighteen, and Eric was twenty three. Seriously! Their message that “you have to be totally in love with Jesus” in order to be considered worthy of a wonderful marriage is nothing but callous when applied to readers who, in their their late twenties and beyond, have considered themselves having a wonderfully personal relationship with Jesus Christ and yet still find themselves single. God must always be first in our lives, but that does not negate the importance of human connection. Do these readers still have “more” to do in order to get the earthly companionship that they crave and were in fact made for?

I think not. What do you think?

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