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Posts Tagged ‘gift’

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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