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Posts Tagged ‘Relationships’

If you haven’t heard the new single by American Idol winner Kelly Clarkson, I highly recommend that you do so. The song is hard-hitting and profound, and I definitely teared up when I first heard it (and still do). Take a look at the lyrics to the first verse:

There’s a place that I know

It’s not pretty there and few have ever gone

If I show it to you now

Will you try and run away

Or will you stay – even if it hurts?

Even if I try to push you out – will you return?

Something I’ve been struggling with recently is the terrible reality of just how sinful I am. This isn’t a forced feeling; a fabricated sense of self-deprecation brought on by years of sermons and my general demeanor that is prone to self-criticism. While those things are certainly in place, it does go deeper than that. Most recently, I found myself going once again against my better judgment and following a path that lead me to sin in a certain way. Now, of course I sin everyday, but often when it catches up to me, the guilt is hard to bear. I do desire to follow the Lord and seek His ways, but I can just be so selfish and self-serving that when I fail, it takes me a good few days to even start to feel hope again.

Of course, as it pertains to this blog, most recently I have found myself feeling terrified that I will never meet anyone who will actually want to put up with all of me; my spurts of anger, my oft-inappropriate statements of honesty; my deep longing to be loved that has led me to look for it in harmful ways – and that’s just the surface of it. The thing is, I honestly am thankful in some ways that I have made certain choices, as it has opened me up to be far more forgiving and understanding than I would have been otherwise, and than I used to be. I also know that because of it, I would be absolutely fine extending forgiveness to my future husband with his failures – which of course he will have. For some reason, though, I often wonder if maybe I’m too bad for it. That I could never deserve anything remotely “good” – and I’m sure that it’s based on my poor understanding of grace. I get so exhausted from trying to be holy (and yes, I know that’s sort of an oxymoron) and just want to live sometimes – without guilt. I don’t want to feel stuffy and repressed. I also don’t want to be all over the place. It does seem to be a daily, tiring, incessant battle between will and spirit – and while that most certainly is a Biblical framework of what our life on Earth is like, I get so discouraged when I see people that are “good” get to marriage…although that isn’t always the case, either.

I think all of us yearn for one person that we care about to say, “Yes – I choose you! Your imperfections, your anger, your jealousy, your lustful tendencies – and I’m here to walk alongside that battle with you!”. The difficult part is getting to the point of exposing ourselves and all the burdens that we carry to someone else. It’s perhaps made even more poignant when we don’t have anyone to expose ourselves to – and that might be one of the most painful experiences of the single life; that it can feel like our real selves are never really appreciated in the passionate way that we desire them to be.

Christ  has shown us the ultimate example of this exchange – by making us beautiful by His choice to become sin for us. To take on the role on the very thing that entices us, drives us, destroys us – and gives new Life through it. I don’t think that this advocates a sense of “Jesus is my boyfriend/girlfriend” mentality, because to be frank that seems a bit silly and people are created for intimate relationships with each other – Christ ideally being at the center of them. But I do think that once we have an understanding of who God is and how He loves us, it is easier to feel that we are worthy of love from other people – because we deserve neither. I absolutely, 100%, do not have this down right now, and I don’t think any of us fully will until we see Him face to face. However, it can only be helpful when it comes to how we view ourselves in relationships. Sometimes we have to flat out just hope that things will happen as we would like – that we’re “open” to the experience of falling in love and letting ourselves known and be known. I’m hopeful that despite all of my crap, someone will find that “nobody’s a picture perfect”, as Kelly would say – “but we’re worth it”. That me, and you, and everyone else, is to the core worth loving, despite ourselves.

 

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This will undoubtedly be a little controversial, but it’s important and thus, oh well.

The issue of Christians dating non-Christians is one that either gets overlooked or overemphasized, depending on the nature of the community that we’re in. Like a lot of other biblical principles, it’s easy to sometimes avoid it altogether, or wrap it up in the box of But-Grace-Covers-It-and-God-is-Love, tie a ribbon on it and never think twice again. Or it’s so shoved down our throats that we start to feel guilty if we even talk to a non-Christian guy, because what if we (gasp!) were attracted to him?

Just to relieve you of any piqued curiosity, I will start off by saying that I do not think that, as a Christian who fails but still wants to glorify God, it is best to date someone who isn’t also in the same boat. I don’t even necessarily think that  it’s “because God says so” even though, if we’re honest, that should be enough of a reason.  I think it because I have experienced it firsthand. A few years ago, I entered into a relationship with a really great guy, who I met in the kind of way that people do in movies (read: a meet cute). Granted, we didn’t have a ton in common, but I was in an unstable time in my life, fresh off a year abroad fraught with unhealthy decisions and even worse lingering thought processes as a result. In my head, I knew it was “wrong”, but I figured it couldn’t hurt to just give him a shot. I did, and we ended up dating for about three months, which although not long by other standards, was not just a walk in the park either. Ironically, after months of feeling guilty and even more separated from God that I already felt beforehand, we broke up. There was a realization that we would just never really understand each other fully. And believe me, despite my sense of relief, it still hurt – a lot. I felt like a failure.

When Jesus explains that to marry an unbeliever is to be unequally yoked, my mind of course immediately goes to images of an egg splattered unevenly in a frying pan and I’m consistently confused. And then I have to reign myself in (pun awfully intended!) and focus on the real meaning. In marriage, and really any type of relationship, we are called to carry each other’s burdens. When two cows are held together by the same yolk, there is an even amount of weight, ideally, on each shoulder. Neither cow is expected to fully carry the weight of the other, but the burden of both is shared. It is in this context that I believe it is most easily understood (thank goodness, since of course, that was the initial point of Paul even using the example). If we put ourselves in such deep connection with someone who does not share our faith – and our hope – then, undoubtedly, either ourselves or the person we’re in relationship with is expected to carry a heavier burden. Perhaps we, as a Christian, feel the need to always invite that person to church, just to satisfy our inward twinge that we’re still doing “Christian things” despite this (that was me). And the other person carries a large burden in this case too – they probably feel inexplicably unable to be good enough as themselves. That certainly will not lead to knowledge of the Gospel.

So there’s the lack of ability to carry each other’s burdens (which, we are told, fulfills the law of Christ) but there’s also something else: with this set up, codependency is inevitable. Often, if a Christian woman really cares for a man who isn’t a believer, she is often more likely to engage in behaviors or make decisions before which  previously she would have hesitated. For a man, if they’re dating the non-Christian woman, maybe it’s because they don’t feel like the women that attend church with them are the right mix of sexy and cute (can’t speak to the guys perspective all that much, so apologies if that’s way off!). The result is that one, and often both, members of the couple seek to get from the other what that person can never give them. It’s a painful and sometimes humiliating cycle, especially when observed in hindsight.

We all have battles to fight as we navigate our way to marriage, and fighting against the temptation to fall for someone who even just gives us the time of day can often be difficult to resist. In my experience, I’ve had a lot more non-Christian men seeking me out than Christian ones, and as hard as it is to admit, many are the thoughts I’ve entertained of what it would look like to date them. Perhaps part of the solution is for more Christian men to ask the women of Christ around them, and for women to be receptive. And another part, I think, is recognizing what marriage is for and how the relationship between a man and woman can really only be fulfilled through the institution. Marriage is a representation of Christ and the Church, yes, but also of Christ, the Father, and the Holy Spirit. They are all in sync with one another, fully loving, and fully aware of the Other in their entirety. There is no one pulling too much weight, or anyone left abandoned. It is intimacy bound together by the mutual everlasting comfort and joy of knowing another.

I’m left to think that a relationship which does not have at its center the Person of Jesus Christ, if He is present to one of the couple, is at best lonely and at worst, lacking a giant essence of God’s character. God’s desire for His children to not be married to unbelievers is not a rules-based hope for humanity, but one steeped in His interest in our welfare and joy.

Believing that, of course, is certainly half the battle.

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So, before I get into this, I am going to be completely open and admit that yes, I am addicted to the Bachelor/Bachelorette franchise. I just started watching last year and understand it’s basically a piece of crap show with people getting hurt and embarrassing themselves on national TV, but yet I’m hooked. It’s probably because I do have a slightly obsessive interest in the way that people get together. And let’s be honest: it’s ridiculously entertaining.

I thought I’d do reviews on each season after they come out, complete with observations and lessons, if you will. Since my blog is based on love and the path to marriage, it’s certainly quite fitting! These particular posts will of course be silly in nature, but if you have watched the season, then you’ll probably understand. If not…well, you undoubtedly have more brain cells than me!

Observation #1: Don’t trust men who sell wine for a living.

Ben Flajnik, runner-up from Ashley Hebert’s season last year, is a winemaker from Sonoma, California who needs to wash his hair. He tends to cut women off when they’re trying to explain themselves and not listen to a thousand warning signs regarding one person. He often looks confused when he’s trying to be serious. Like so:

At the beginning of Ben’s season, I was genuinely excited to see what would happen on his season and who he would end up with. However, with each episode, I got more and more uninterested and was thoroughly disgusted at times with his behavior and attitude (but alas, I still watched). Obviously, I don’t know Ben in person and God still created and died for him, but I’m guessing that someone who spends probably 75% of the time inebriated on the job probably doesn’t have the best judgement – and let’s be honest, if I was a winemaker, you’d best believe I’d spend a few times a day “sampling the stock”. Love me some vino.

Observation #2: Pretty models always win.

Courtney Robertson, the model and “winner” of the season, was obviously the one “American loves to hate!” – Chris Harrison, Host of Da Bachela. She said all sorts of awkward things like “How’d that taste coming out of your mouth?” “I got the rooooose” and of course, “winning!”. Homegirl looks to Charlie Sheen for catchphrases. But needless to say, she of course captivates Ben first with her beauty (“Now THAT is a pretty girl”, he salivates as he first met her) and then with her weirdness. And at the end, despite the fact that she is used to getting her own way and of course knows how to play a part well, she gets the guy. Of course, both she and Ben do seem to have the best “connection” of all of the women there, so I actually do think it might last a long time. Maybe they’ll give Kim K a run for her money with a whopping 73 days.

Observation #3: Pretty models are insecure.

Poor thing. Seriously, insecurity is an issue with all of us, and I did feel for Courtney throughout the season when she expressed her feelings on camera. I can’t laugh at it though, because I struggle with it, and it’s always a good lesson to see the repercussions of trying to find your worth through anyone or thing besides Christ.

Observation #4: When a guy you’re interested in doesn’t like you, just make lots of friends instead.

It cracks me up that at The Women Tell All episode all of the girls started yelling at each other in their drunken state, and then days later on Twitter they’re all “Heeey girl! Love you!!”. I get it, it’s a high pressure situation, but these women were super catty and honestly give us all a bad rep. I went to a women’s college and honestly came across minimal cattiness while I was there, so it’s not all as it seems. (Then again, if you threw a dude into the mix, I’m sure it would come out). Still, all in all I’m glad that the girls did seem to get over their jealousy and insecurity and just learn to get along. In the wake of any heartache, female friends very much make it better. At least, if they’re good friends.

Observation #5: Standing up for Christ in a relationship will always be difficult if it’s one sided.

In particular, Kacie B’s experience on the show makes it clear just how difficult following Christ can be once our hormones and feelings are activated. It was quite obvious that Ben basically sent her home once he realized how biblically grounded her family is, specifically when it came to living together before marriage. Kacie is a believer, and it was actually refreshing to see her experience all types of emotions, including anger, and not just succumb to being the “good girl” (although she is overall perceived as that). However, since her departure from the show, Kacie has admitted that she really does want to be with someone who shares her faith and values, and that sometimes having feelings for someone who doesn’t can become messy quickly. I’m going to do a post soon on the issue of being unequally yoked soon, but for now, I think this is definitely a good lesson to learn.

So, that’s it folks. I’ll definitely do this for Emily’s season as well, which premieres on May 14th (not that I’m counting down, or anything). I’ll leave you this video as a farewell – as a warning, it does have censored nudity due to the skinny dipping fiasco, so just as an FYI.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bh1dS4JFp4w

 

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A few weeks ago, I embarked on something that I had never thought I would try: speed dating. I had obviously heard of it before, but always put it aside as something only older people do, for whatever reason. I have tried online dating for a while now, and to be quite frank, I don’t think it’s really for me. I really hate the whole process of trying to get to know someone over the Internet when meeting in person can often answer so many more questions, plus there’s the whole chemistry thing (although I do NOT judge someone purely just by that…or try not to!). So when I signed up for the event last month (I used 8MinuteDating for the record) I really, really didn’t know what to expect. For this particular company, you register first and automatically get on a waiting list; once you’ve been confirmed as registered you are then officially signed up. I found out a few days before that I was confirmed, and I had all but almost forgotten about the whole thing when I got the notification email.

I dragged one of my friends with me to chill out at the bar just in case no one showed up and it was a weird situation, and so she came in with me and we went to the bathroom to “freshen up” – aka calm me down before I hyperventilated. The first man I saw was obviously approaching sixty years old, and I decided at that point that all bets were off and that I needed to leave right away. I hung around the bar for a little bit and after seeing a few other people that looked to be in my age range, I went back in and started to chat to a few people. Two and a half hours later, the event was over, and it was actually pretty fun and something I would definitely consider doing again. I do, however, want to go through some of the plusses and minuses of this method of meeting people, because there are a few important things that came up for me. I’ll start with the negatives.

1) While it’s an obvious feature, you don’t get a lot of time to get to know the people that you are dating. It’s only eight minutes, which is helpful because it’s a good amount of time, but if you really are interested in talking to someone, it can feel a little short.

2) You don’t know who will show up. This of course can be a good thing as well, but there is definitely a chance that there are people there who are not looking for the same things you are. For me, I wasn’t sure that other Christians would be there, but I wanted to try it out anyway.

3) Cost. For 8 Minute Dating, it was about $40.00. For me, that’s a little bit pricey for just a few hours, especially considering the fact that if you want to buy any drinks, it’s extra.

All in all, the negatives weren’t that bad, all things considering. On to the positives.

1) You get to meet people in person instead of creating an image of someone over the Internet. This was huge, as very quickly it was easy to see who I naturally meshed with versus who might’ve just “looked good on paper”. It was fun getting to meet people and see who I got along with.

2) Along the same lines, I got to chat to a lot of people that most likely I never would under any other circumstances. All of the guys were very sweet and nice, and only one was questionable in terms of his expressed intentions. They were interesting and fun, and I’m definitely glad I got the chance to meet eight different people in one setting.

3) It’s good dating practice! I enjoyed the experience because it allowed me – and the guys, as well – to relax and get to know the other person in a casual environment. There was no pressure built up resulting from imagining who this person was beforehand, so it opened the conversation up to flow as naturally as possible. Even though I am an extrovert, I sometimes do struggle with being a good conversationalist especially around men, so I really appreciated the opportunity to practice this.

So, overall, it was a good experience. Did I meet anyone “special”? No. But I did meet some very nice guys, and did go on a few dates after the experience. Would I try it again? Yes, definitely. I’m going to see if my church would be willing to sponsor a Christian-based event, because I think it would a) be extremely popular and b) help draw men and women from the church out of their shells a little bit. I think the key to this, though, would be the fact that dating doesn’t have to be full of pressure! Obviously, if I’m interested in dating a Christian man, I would feel better speed dating with a room full of them. So if you’re interested in this kind of thing and live in Boston…let me know! I want to know your thoughts :).

Have any of you been speed dating? If so, what are some of your favorite/not so favorite things about it?

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As soon as Christmas is over, leaving often an anti-climax feeling in its wake, New Year’s Eve takes over with a vengeance. Eggnog and Christmas trees are abandoned and replaced with tacky streamers and bottles of champagne. There’s talk of parties, resolutions, and of course that somehow all important midnight kiss. In general, New Year’s Eve is a fun affair mainly because it’s something that the whole world (well, anyone who follows our calendar anyway) celebrates. One of my favorite parts about New Year’s is watching all of various cities ring in the New Year their own way – Sydney, Paris, London. It makes the world feel a little smaller.

I’ve always felt fairly indifferent to New Year’s, but in general have yet to experience a very bad one. Until last year, all of my first night celebrations took place in the living room of my house with my parents, watching the ball drop and then quite unceremoniously heading off to bed once the obligatory “Happy New Year dahling!” calls were made. To ring in 2011, I spent it at a friend’s house, and it was definitely a step up. This year, I’m hoping for something even better, but we’ll see.

For this post, I want to talk a little bit about resolutions. It is rather sad that making a list of resolutions is essentially considered silly, since you’re bound to break them anyway. To me, it strikes very much of an almost defensive tactic, to stive off disappointment if what you hoped for does not happen. (I plan on writing a very in depth post all about deferred hopes, so stay tuned for that!).

I am absolutely one of those people who never, ever makes a resolution list. I don’t think I ever have. In many ways, I think it’s because it’s hard to imagine that things will ever change. This does tie into the hope thing, but it also has to do with not having a clear grasp on certain practical things that can be changed about a situation. I’m going to use a personal example about something that really did help and also changed my perspective on things a little bit.

When I studied abroad in Scotland three years ago, my dear friend Emily brought me into a local drugstore and marched me over to the makeup section. To give some context, I had been moaning and groaning about my lack of “self esteem” and how I felt I was unattractive. I didn’t wear an ounce of makeup, struggled with bouts of acne, and my hair was, and still is, flat and unappealing.  I had never really been told I was beautiful by anyone, and so in my decidedly self pitying stage, I took that to mean it would always have to be that way. Emily brought me over first to the Revlon section, where I picked up my very first foundation. From there, we also got mascara, eyeliner, and lip gloss, and some of my favorites of which can be found here, here, and here. I vividly remember looking at myself in the mirror and placing the foundation on my skin, and afterwards exclaiming loudly, “My skin looks freaking AMAZING! Why have I never used this before?!”. As anyone who knows me well would attest, that one particular visit to Boots brought out the makeup fiend in me. While I do not recommend going the route of the makeup hoarder (those ways are still apt to creep up on me), I do think that getting exposed to the world of cosmetics has made me realize a little bit more of what I can bring to the world. I generally feel prettier, more confident, and more hopeful when I’m wearing makeup than I do without. I feel a little flirtier, too, for better or for worse. Obviously, wearing makeup does not guarantee anyone a date or a husband, but I do think it at least shows that one respect themselves. For women, this may mean that you pick up a tube of black mascara (BLACK MASCARA LADIES! NONE OF THIS LIGHT BROWN STUFF. BLACK) a tube of lipgloss (I’m loving the new Revlon lip butters myself, though, which double as a chapstick and a beautiful wash of color that actually is very moisturizing) and you could even try blowdrying your hair instead of letting it airdry. Men might invest in a nice button-down shirt and cologne.

I want to acknowledge that God obviously does care more about our hearts than how we present ourselves, but I do think that putting a little effort into how we look can greatly affect how we view ourselves. Ladies, the truth is that men are visually driven. There’s nothing wrong with catering to that – within reason, decorum, and godly principles, mind you. When I get ready and put my makeup on in the morning, I do it mainly to feel confident about getting about my day – but if I’m brutally honest, I do it because I never know who I might happen to meet. I like to feel pretty. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. I do think it becomes an issue when that’s all I come to see myself as, which I have in the past.

As we think about the new year ahead, I think it’s fun to think of a few “resolutions” that are practical, fun, and in many ways, life-giving. I would like to run a 5k at some point in 2012. I also would like to go on at least three dates by the time summer rolls around. For you, maybe you’d like to read a great novel, or ask out someone you were previously afraid to. Maybe you could try accepting a date from someone who you wouldn’t normally consider. Whatever it is, New Year’s is a great way to think about ways we can practically step up our relationships with God and each other. It has also encouraged me to remember that even when I do “put my best foot forward”, so to speak, the Lord Jesus is still always in control. All of our efforts to be good enough are as righteous rags, but that is freeing in the deepest sense. Note that just because that is so, we are still not called to idleness and laziness, or despair. We can feel free to put our best foot forward because we know that God wants us to move forward with confidence in His Son. I only wish I could do that most days.

I hope you all have a very happy New Year, filled with parties and hopefully a little kiss at midnight as well! 😉 I’m very excited for 2012 and all it will bring, and especially to continue on this blogging journey, as I have been enjoying it greatly!

I’ll end this post with a little verse from a wonderful poem by Scotsman Robert Burns:

“And there’s a hand my trusty friend, and give us a hand o’ thine! And we’ll take a right good-will draught, for auld lang syne!”

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One of the most unfortunate things that I have noticed recently is something that I struggle with deeply. When people get married, or even start the process from singleness to being in a relationship to marriage,  a block occurs between a single person and a married one. It is very painful for both sides, and perhaps it’s more of an indication of what we are putting our trust in than anything else. For me, I know that I’ve been depending on a friend a little too much when I find myself almost overcome with a sense of loss once they get into a serious relationship that eventually leads to marriage.

Since I’m single, I can really only speak from that point of view. I’ve noticed that specifically in my own thinking, whenever someone gets married, I automatically assume that they will have no need for me anymore. In fact, the person doesn’t have a need for anybody anymore, because they’re married! All of their relational needs are supposedly met in this one person. Of course, this is extremely unhealthy thinking, as I do recognize that there is no possible way for people to rely on any one person alone – except for Jesus. However, the most painful part for me when a friend gets married/starts dating seriously is that, if I’m being honest, I don’t really matter as much to them. It’s not a dig on my value as a friend, or on my responsibility to still be there for them, but the fact of the matter is that once a couple gets married, their spouse is the most important person in their life after God. In a very real sense, this leads little room for the same kind of friendships that someone may have had beforehand. That’s just the nature of the “leaving and cleaving” that we are called to do when we marry, and it is painful for the friends who are not “left behind”. It’s also very humbling. I’m not good at responding to this kind of humbling, and it often  results in my feeling bitter and abandoned…and consequently, at a loss as to how to react to the Lord in it.

As an example, if any of you are familiar with the 1990’s sitcom Boy Meets World, you’ll remember how viciously Shawn reacts to the reality that Cory is actually marrying Topanga. In the wedding episode, the old friends end up fighting right before the big day, and Shawn storms out, claiming he no longer wants to be Cory’s best man. They eventually end up reconciling, and there’s a little joke with Cory saying his vows to both Shawn and Topanga – before he gently has to tell his friend, “OK, Shawn. I have to talk to her now, okay?” It’s a funny moment, but also a rather painstakingly poignant one. The fact is that we cannot all be intimately walking with our friends once they get married – that is the very beautiful aspect of the covenant that is made! However, as the friends who up until that point were walking with either the bride or groom in a similar way, it is appears as a sense of exclusivity that does hurt. The issue, I think, is not that we feel those things, but it is in the way that we respond. God calls us to have hope, and not to be overcome with bitterness or jealousy. I so easily fall into a self-pitying mode when a good friend starts dating – because I essentially blame God for taking something away from me (in this case, a friendship). I really am joyful for the couple, but I just let sinful thoughts and desires sneak inenoug,h so that often, my turmoil is expressed to the person with whom I am called to rejoice. I think that as the single friends in this situation, we can respond lovingly by 1) Understanding that God is the true Source of our stability and friendship, and He knows what He is doing when He gives and takes away; 2) Coming to a realization that we are called to rejoice with our brothers and sisters, no matter what we’re feeling; and 3)  To remember that God Himself is no stranger to loneliness. He draws near to the brokenhearted. We’re allowed to tell him how we’re feeling, to let our feelings have our course. We also are still called to be friends, I believe, to the ones that get married. Just because someone gets married does not mean they don’t need other friends! I’ve seen this happen a lot with myself and with others – even talking to some of my married friends, who do feel like singles don’t talk to them at all, or at least to a much less degree, once they’re married. That is very sad, and selfish on our part.

I can’t really say much to the married people who might be reading this, but what I would suggest is maybe to seek out more single friends if you are not already doing so. Let them understand that they still matter – that you’re not different from them just because you happen to have a ring on your finger and a new last name. We are all sinners in need of God’s grace. And especially with singles, sensitivity is key (but also – most singles just need to get over themselves, so please don’t feel the need to walk on egg shells!).

The marital status rift leads to a lot of unspoken tension in churches today. Singles look at marrieds and are overcome with anguish over desire to have what they have. Married people, perhaps, feel isolated because of this, and therefore they tend to connect more with other married couples rather than singles. Either way, our pride and our desires get in the way. To be honest, I’m not sure how to proceed in mending this rift, but I do know that if God can solve the problem of the greatest rift to exist – that of our sin – then this surely is something that can and will be resolved. We are called to unity, not disparity.

For singles (DEFINITELY myself included), this starts with realizing that your feelings and needs cannot be the ones that are sought after first. It may involve a lot of pain, but so be it. “If a seed falls to the ground and dies, it bears much fruit..”

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