Tuesday, March 4, 2014

One Lie About Singleness (and Marriage, Too!)

So, I am going to climb up on my soap box for a bit.  I'm not getting up there to speak down to anyone - but to try to make my point clearly.

In a recent conversation, a friend told me why she entered counseling.  She casually stated that she was talked into going to counseling by a friend who told her that she didn't have to go, but that if she didn't go, she would never get married.  She would always be alone and always stuck with her sin! It was as if her friend was telling her, "Go fix yourself and then God will bless you with marriage."

I got a little excited when I heard this.  Angry is the better word for it, actually!  While it is true that counseling does help us see ourselves (and sometimes our sin) more clearly, her friend was telling her that she needed to fix herself before she could get married. And I think a lot of people think this.

I want to tell you, this is not so!  Obviously, God is calling us as women to grow more like Christ.  And for some of us, counseling really is a must. But we seek wise counsel in order to grow and mature, not to work to earn a mate.  The bad idea here is that marriage is a reward or guaranteed outcome for that growth or maturity.  Marriage is NOT a reward.  Marriage does not come when we get our lives figured out.

Marriage is a gift of God.   It is NOT a reward (nor is it a goal we use to motivate ourselves to get help when we need it).  If I had waited until I deserved marriage, I would never have gotten married.  I know women who waited until their 40's to marry - not because they were unworthy of marriage, but simply because God hadn't chosen to give them a husband.  I know women who have married at 20 (me included) who then went on to struggle with selfishness and maturity and had lots of growing to do.  Our worthiness did not determine our marital status.

The problem here is not mainly wanting to earn marriage or deserve marriage.  The problem is our view of God.  Do we look to God for karma (giving us what we deserve) or to be a Santa Claus (giving us what we want), or as a Father (who gives us grace)?  As singles, if you look to God for karma, you will try to improve yourself in order to earn a spouse.  If you look to God as Santa Clause, you will create a list of what makes a perfect spouse and demand that God give you exactly what you ask for.  But if you approach God as Father, the giver of grace, you will run to him with your needs, desires, pains, joys, and requests - eagerly trusting him to meet your needs, even if he doesn't give you exactly what you request.

I recently heard a single woman quote John Newton:  "Everything is necessary that God sends.  Nothing can be necessary that he withholds." We must learn to trust God, that in our singleness or our marriage, He is good and He is working out our story to HIS glory.  Do we have a right to demand anything from God?  If karma or Santa is our standard, then sure.  You can demand a husband.  But if God has redeemed us as His own, if he has paid such a heavy price for us, then we are daughters of the King!  We are His!  What rights do we have to demand that He give us anything.  He has given us all things already - salvation!  redemption! restoration!

I am not saying that we don't struggle with being single, or being lonely while married, or any number of struggles that we as women have.  But please, stop trying to earn a different situation and rest in the situation you find yourself in - being the daughter of the King of Heaven!  Have grace for yourself... remind yourself that your current situation isn't a reward or punishment.  You don't have to earn anything from your Father the King!  You just need to trust Him.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Singleness: Resources

Lately, I have been spending a lot of time processing singleness.  It has been a while since that was my situation, but some of my closest friends are single and I have two lovely young daughters who are single!    I want to share some resources with you.  Let's get a good conversation going and encourage each other to honor Christ in whatever situation we find ourselves!!  And for the record, very few of these thoughts are going to be original to me.  I will try to give credit where credit is due!

My friend Johanna asked me to read a book called Redeeming Singleness.  I am only half way through, but it has challenged my thinking in some pretty crazy ways.  Specifically how in Old Testament times there was no place for singleness.  Women needed marriage for protection and the nation needed marriage for growth - children!  But Jesus came and all of that changed.  With the foundation of the church as the body of Christ there was, for the first time, a way for a single person (never married, divorced or widowed) to be cared for, loved, and provided for by other believers.  Jesus could have chosen to be married, but he remained single.  Why?  Perhaps because we are all, in the future in heaven, going to be single again!  I will keep reading the book, but pretty interesting stuff, to be sure.

Then I came across an article from Desiring God:
This article presents the idea that singles have a huge advantage in serving the kingdom.
"With God’s help and leading, you have the freedom to invest yourself, your time, your resources, your youth, and your flexibility in relationships, ministries, and causes that can bear unbelievable fruit."
It may sound like a cop-out, but the truth is marriage and family distracts me - a lot. Probably more than it should.  Paul says that he wished that all of the Corinthians were single (1 Cor. 7:6).  Why is that?  There is freedom in having to attend to only my own needs - but I am not free to do that.  Nor am I free to invest in a large group of friends.  As a wife and mother, my family has to come first.  As a single woman I was able to invest in a larger group of friends and activities.

All of these thoughts are great, except for the fact that they do not address some of the issues generally attributed to singleness. Mainly loneliness. If you have not read Wesley Hill's book entitled Washed and Waiting, I highly recommend that you do so immediately. It will be the best twelve dollars you have spent in a while. Wesley is a believer who struggles with same-sex attraction. He gets into the details of that, which I won't get into right now. But the reality is, in seeking to honor Christ with his life he is looking at a life of singleness which involves loneliness and chastity. Those are huge subjects to tackle. A discussion of singleness cannot ignore either of them. One quote describes the struggle:
 “The love of God is better than any human love. Yes, that’s true, but that doesn’t change the fact that I feel---in the deepest parts of who I am—that I am wired for human love. I want to be married. And the longing isn’t mainly for sex (since sex with a woman seems impossible at this point); it is mainly for the day-to-day, small kind of intimacy where you wake up next to a person you’ve pledged your life to, and then you brush your teeth together, you read a book int eh same room without necessarily talking to each other, you share each other’s small joys and heartaches…One of my married friends told me she delights to wake up in the night and feel her husband’s foot just a few inches from hers in bed. It is the loss of that small kind of intimacy in my life that feels devastating. And, of course, this ‘small intimacy’ is precious because it represents the ‘bigger intimacy’ of the covenantal union between two lives.” (see page 105) 
Another great point that Mr. Hill makes is about community.  So many times Christians present the idea that marriage is the best form/picture/expression of community.  But we see in Scripture that the church, the body of believers in Jesus, is the best/truest form of community.  Community in Christ is accessible to everyone - not just married people.  We cannot deny that marriage is a intimate form of community - when it is good.  But we also cannot deny that a bad, disconnected marriage can be even more lonely than singleness.  I could give you a zillion quotes from the book - but instead - READ IT! (Here is the link to amazon: click here)

And finally, the resource I am MOST excited about is a recent seminar from Tim Keller's church, Redeemer Church in New York City.  It was titled S1NGLE - God's Gift:  Our Plans.  I think this is one of the best resources you are gonna find on the subject.  Click here for the website. There are three separate videos on the site.   Watch the first video - an interesting presentation of stats about singles.

Then watch the middle video.  Three speakers (including former Redeemer intern Jordan Tanksley and current Redeemer intern Jessica Hong and author Wesley Hill) share their experiences.  Have you ever been asked "Isn't it about time you settle down and get married?" or heard comments like "I just don't understand why such an amazing woman/man like you isn't married yet?"?  The speakers discuss all aspects of singleness: loneliness, chastity, family expectations, dating a non-believer,  identity, defining ourselves as daughters and sons of God (not our marital status), worth, friendships, and community.  This is SUCH a good collection of speakers!!  So very helpful.

Then in the third video Kathy and Tim Keller speak.  Always a challenging, thought provoking thing.  They challenge singles about struggles, what our biggest problems are, circumstances, trust in God, sexual satisfaction, spirituality, expectations for the future, and personal story.  Please, oh please, watch this video.

Let me know what you think!