As I sit here with my cup of coffee this morning thinking about the massacre in San Bernardino yesterday, the title seems most apt. For some unfathomable, as-of-now unknown reason, two people thought that brutally killing a number of others was an answer to something. 99.99% of us cannot even begin to wrap our minds around what that answer might be, and it does no good to ask “why?” We live in a broken world which continues to crumble. If we ever needed peace and innocence, the time is now! And so, on to the article which has percolated in my head the past 3 weeks.
OK, OK. I admit it. I am in love with the “wild” Japanese snow monkeys – especially the babies when they are in full fur and are running around like fluffy furbies. A photographer named Kiyo has captured hours of these creatures in all annual seasons and stages of life from tiny babyhood to the elderly. The monkeys in Jigokudani Wild Monkey Park are used to tourists getting right up in their faces with cameras, and yet they are not tame. They run, play, love, raise babies, and doze in hot springs while remaining wary of their human visitors. Most of the mothers are incredibly tender with their tiny offspring, becoming disciplinarians when necessary to teach them monkey politics. They rarely smack their kids – although an occasional bite happens. They also use very stern facial expressions to let a baby know when he/she has overstepped boundaries. Babies throw tantrums during the weaning process, and Mom just sits waiting for it to end, while training them to find their own food. The adults are small – not even 2 feet tall, and the babies are small enough to fit into even my cupped hands – and I have little hands! The year-old youngsters are about the size of a fuzzy loaf of bread with legs. They learn to hang on for dear life to Mama’s fur while she bounds through deep snow. I am especially drawn to their tiny faces which show a huge variety of little emotions.
Now of course, the epitome of innocence is found in people babies! Few can resist the little facial expressions, arm and leg motions, and little noises coming from such tiny living packages. They are quite simply, innocence personified! We do everything we can to protect these precious little ones. We make sure they are clean, warm and fed, and have a safe place to sleep. Now, sometimes Baby does not seem to appreciate all that, and moms and dads can attest to the decibels of noise which can come from these little lungs making sleep impossible.
Our protection of their innocence continues for a number of years into toddlerhood and elementary school. Where lines begin to blur may be when they enter middle, junior, and high school. Hormones begin to blossom, and while we do not want them to experience adult issues prematurely, the value of their innocence may begin to erode. Too often, we cave into what our society blasts at us with daily regularity: “we have to face the inevitability of the hook-up culture beginning at younger and younger ages.”
Our society seems to be under the impression that God is not able to comprehend the depth of physical and emotional passion and that innocence has a shelf-life. The Bible is just an interesting book written centuries ago and its admonitions to us about male and female relationships are outmoded and useless. Kids will do what they are going to do. Without realizing it, we’re unplugging innocence as futile and worthless. In moral issues, to use terms of an adult such as innocence and purity – and heaven forbid – virginity – becomes a laughing matter. Society fails to see that inexperience is not automatic lack of knowledge and understanding!
Inexperience is not automatic naivety!
So, when is it time to pull the plug on innocence? Is it when a child becomes 10? 12? 16? Certainly by 21? Society decries exploitation and trafficking, particularly of children and young folks, and winks at sexual activity between folks of the same ages during school events. How can we continue to live with double-mindedness? When will we say, “Enough!” When will we realize that only God can fix our messed up lives? When will we understand that . . .
God has already pulled the plug on innocence!
God is absolutely crazy about babies! He sent His son, Jesus – Emmanuel – “God with us” – in the little body of a sweet baby boy. While we do not know many details about His growing up years, we do know that He is exactly like His Holy Father. Hebrews 1:3 tells us Jesus is the “radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of His being.” Other Bible verses tell us that God is holy. Webster’s definitions say of “holy:” “unimpaired innocence and virtue; pure in heart; acceptable to God.” Adam and Eve fixed it so that no human could have that acceptable relationship with God on their own. But even that spiritual death sentence brought the blessing of Jesus into the world to make it possible for people to know God.
God pulled the plug on innocence when Jesus screamed from the cross: “My God, my God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Mark 15:34)
God plugged innocence back in with Jesus’ resurrection from death and His gift to us of forever pure, holy, and, yes, innocent life with Him. Spend time this season pondering innocence and its rightful place in our lives.
Blessed time of remembering Jesus’ birth!
I’d love to know what you think about this. I don’t know yet what the next post will cover, but it may be some sort of sequel.
The news of the recent hacking of the Ashley Madison website has sort of died down in recent days, but the internet continues to buzz with articles about the “what now.” The CEO has stepped down. It has been suggested that a couple of suicides are linked to the list of names revealed. There are incidences of extortion cropping up as some seek to use another person’s ill-fated decision for their financial gain. Many marriages are being further torn apart as names are made public. Reputations are at risk – and not only in the USA. According to numerous online articles, names are included from the UK, Asia, and Europe.
No matter how we look at it, it is a sad commentary of our world-wide society!
What made this website so alluring to so many folks? I think there are at least three areas to consider:
- Appearance of anonymity
Entitlement: How many times have we heard, “You deserve . . .” Some stay unemployed because they “deserve” the exact job and salary of their dreams and will not accept anything less. Fewer people start out in modest living spaces because they “deserve” to have homes, cars, and other possessions which are often way beyond their means. We frequent fast food businesses and use our microwave ovens because we don’t “deserve” to have to wait to eat. We “deserve” to be happy NOW, to be satisfied NOW.
It doesn’t help that we have to deal with desires and hormones daily as magazine covers and advertisements use varying levels of sexual messages to entice us to buy just about anything. TV and the internet provide visuals which are next to impossible to erase from our minds. We have come to believe that we “deserve” to do anything we want to do with our minds AND our bodies.
Opportunity: The website in the news is not a new one. It started in 2001. And, it is not the only one. Nor is it the only avenue to explore if one entertains the thought of straying from marriage vows. I think it is also safe to assume that a number of those who registered may have not been married. For them, it provided a “safe” place for a play date. Perhaps it was just one of a number of sites intentionally visited. Availability provides heady opportunity.
Appearance of Anonymity: Just as we sort of think that everything we read in the newspaper and hear on the news is accurate, we fall into the trap of thinking we can be anonymous on the internet because a site promises unbreachable security. It is unfortunate that entities such as large stores, banks, and governmental agencies – AND websites – are magnetic targets for some who seek pleasure in the pain of others. The allure of breaking codes and creating havoc to millions of people is an enticement some just cannot resist. But, let’s face it. Everything we do online is always floating around out there!
A One-way Mirror
You’ve seen them; those crazy one-way mirrors which show us our image on one side and allow us to see through on the other. This hacking/exposure fiasco has served to show us that hiding in the depths of most of our souls is, at least, a hint of what is right and wrong, moral and immoral. On one hand, refraining from sexual activity outside of marriage has become an outdated, old-fashioned idea which many choose to ignore. On the other hand, publishing the names of those doing this has served as a finger-pointing situation because we really do know it is unacceptable – and, well – wrong!
We simply cannot always trust our feelings. Just because something feels good or right does not make it so. We need some sort of objective measurement. It is no secret to anyone reading this blog that I believe that objective measurement is found in the Bible. Even in the Ten Commandments which are shunned by some as outdated gives us short – even terse – advice on a number of things destructive to society, including, “Do not commit adultery.” That is as unmistakable in its meaning now as it was then!
Jesus addressed the source of many of our societal woes when He said, “it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come–sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance, and folly. All these evils come from inside and defile a person. (Mark 7:21-22 NIV)
Well, that about covers it all, doesn’t it? We cannot always avoid the thoughts, BUT we can avoid entertaining and acting on them. Once again, a verse I’ve used often in this blog tells us that with every temptation comes the promise that God will provide a way out of it! (I Corinthians 10:13)
Oh yes. Don’t you feel sorry for those women whose name actually is Ashley Madison? 🙂
My guess is that until a few weeks ago, most of us had never heard of Ashley Madison. Then, it seemed that name was popping out all over the place. First Josh Duggar, and then an infamous list of folks leaked into public view.
Actually, Ashley Madison is not a new site. It’s been around since 2001. The name sounds innocent enough, but even a cursory search brings these self-descriptions:
- * Infidelity site
- * Online personals and dating destination for casual encounters
- * Married dating and extramarital affairs
- * Site slogan: “Life is short. Have an affair.”
Well, no attempt to cover up the real purpose here. Of course, it is not the only website dedicated to helping folks stray from their wedding vows. If you google™ the words, “encourage adultery” over 500,000 entries show up for exploration, including other explicit websites encouraging infidelity.
There seem to be two main thoughts which demonstrate a crazy double standard:
- Cheating on one’s spouse is a rather popular, expected, and even accepted activity.
- If it is so commonly accepted, then why does its public exposure become such a shame-filled event?
Suddenly, morality which is laughed at as a general rule becomes a big deal!
Unfaithfulness, commitment, and pre-marriage celibacy become subjects of great debate, generally painted with broad “impossible and unnecessary to carry out” strokes. But when these things are exposed in the lives of public figures, we are disappointed because we hold them to a higher standard from ourselves.
The Ashley Madison hacking incident has become a mirror exposing what is really going on in hearts and minds of people from all walks of life. It has shown us that we’re all on a level playing field. No one is immune from being tempted to do what we know to be wrong. No one! Folks from every walk of life are worried their name is on the list. Of course, those who are Christians in the public arena are especially up for public ridicule if their names do appear.
There are numerous articles summarizing what the great needs are for a husband or wife. Well, newsflash these are needs for all men and women, married or single! It’s just that we onesomes miss out on the built-in other person to help bring these things to life. Now, I’m also realistic enough to know that many married folk miss out on the fulfillment of these things, too, because we are a broken human race.
Anyway, these articles all seem to cover the same topics.
- Wife: love, affection, protection, security, commitment, appreciation, value, compassion, partnership.
- Husband: respect, admiration, peace, commitment, acceptance/participation, sense of purpose.
While sexual satisfaction is also a part of these needs, the lack of the above is what really sends men and women outside the covenant of marriage to gain a sense of fulfillment and understanding.
Let’s face it. Adultery is not a new thing.
God addressed it through Moses when He gave the Ten Commandments. (Exodus 20:14) We have no record that the people asked Moses, “What is adultery?” They already knew well the temptations to worship false gods, speak loosely of the God Who created them, to not set aside a special time to worship Him and to rest, to murder, steal, lie, covet things not belonging to them, AND to commit adultery.
So, why is it that we are surprised when a website such as Ashley Madison leaps into public view?
Because we think we are better than we are!
We forget that no matter now perfect and good we try to be, we cannot achieve perfection and goodness on our own.
That does not stop us from trying, however.
Oh my! I’ve barely begun to scratch the surface of what I want to say. Keep looking for some sequels! 🙂
Apologies to a movie with roughly the same name where an interesting set of escaped convicts in the 1930’s try to find a lost treasure while being pursued by a relentless lawman. For many, finding their “soul mate” is a much desired treasure to be found on a path with many obstacles.
A friend told me a couple weeks back that a number of people are talking to her about having finally found their “soul mate,” and for some of these, this did not appear to be their spouse. They were puzzled about what to do. Hmmmmm. Started me thinking about that term.
So, where did it come from?
Most www sites talk about it in connection with Greek mythology, and I found the shortest, clearest summary on Dictionary.com:
Though the phrase soul mate gained steam toward the end of the twentieth century, the idea goes all the way back to Plato’s Symposium, written in 385-380 BC. In Symposium, when the two dialogists discuss love, Aristophanes tells Socrates that human beings used to have four arms, four legs, and two faces, and they were happy and complete. But Zeus was jealous and split them in two with his thunderbolt, and now humans spend their lives searching for their other half. This idea of an “other half” has been with us ever since.
Now, google™ tells me there are at least 800,000 results for “soul mates” and I did not attempt to explore them all. But, the ones I did scan – even the ones which hold on to the theory of “soul mates” – warned of the heartache which can come from holding this belief to an extreme, and most call it a theory – a speculation, a conjecture, a guess. The theory of “soul mates” falls into the category of myth, and the simple definitions most found for “myth” are fable, legend, fairy tale, allegory, illusion, invention, untruth, and the list goes on. Myths are stories which usually involve beings with more than human powers trying to explain mysterious events or religious beliefs.
So, why is finding one’s “soul mate” so tantalizing?
Now, obviously, no one today is looking to literally connect with another set of arms, legs, etc., as described above. But, my guess is that the person one chooses to marry is often considered largely because they just seem to “fit together.” They enjoy the same things. Mutual love brings them to the conclusion that they are “meant for one another.” They feel as if they “complete” each other. Others look at them and think they are “perfect for one another.” I think that our current view of marriage too often falls into the “I’ve-found-my-soul-mate” category. And, too often it brings disappointment.
So, what happens to the ones who haven’t happened on to their “soul mates” yet? I live in Colorado. What happens if my “soul mate” lives in Maine, or Peru, or Bangladesh, or,, heaven forbid, has died ? ? ? Well, you get the picture. How am I to know if or where to look? Does my singleness totally depend on whether or not I find “the one” and if so, what do I do with my heart desires in the meantime? Will I never be “complete” if I don’t find the soul mate?
So, how does the “soul mate” theory compare with what the Bible teaches?
Some try to put the “soul mate” theory into what Scripture teaches right from the beginning of Genesis where we are told God created Eve from a rib from Adam’s side. Adam’s response when he first saw Eve was, “Wow! Bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh.” (Genesis 2:23) Obviously the “Wow!” is my version of what I think Adam must have said after his work of naming the animals was finished. Obviously, if there was only one other creature in Eden to whom he could relate and give himself totally to, they were obviously meant to be together. This seems to be the only option in Scripture in which there was only one solution to being together. But, there is nothing in the Genesis narrative which describes them as “soul mates.”
All through Scripture, the equation to describe God’s intention for marriage is 1 + 1 = 1
Genesis 2:24 That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.
Matthew 19:4-5 “Haven’t you read,” he [Jesus] replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘ made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh?'”
Ephesians 5:31-32 “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” This is a profound mystery–but I am talking about Christ and the church.
Even when folks stray outside their marriage engaging in sexual activity, “they [literally] become one flesh. (I Corinthians 6:16). They do not necessarily “become one” in soul or spirit. The oneness God intends goes far beyond what most of us think. Paul continues to take this far beyond the physical realm, saying in verse 17: “But whoever is united with the Lord is one with Him in spirit.”
Ah, now we see that mere body to body with another person – or even soul to soul – is not all there is for us. This oneness we all seek is ultimately spiritual. It is in God alone that we can really be “one,” be total, be complete. Jesus prayed that for us in John 17:20-21. “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. . .”
So, here’s my take on the “soul mate” idea.
Out of the billions of people who have entered and left the world, I am blessed to meet any number of folks who become close friends. While the “other half” and “one soul mate” idea is intriguing, I am not bound to that limitation. For those of us like me, a “onesome” still hoping for another “onesome” with whom to enter into a mutual marriage covenant, life continues to be a great mystery. The details of much of my future days remain hidden to me. It is my privilege to simply keep walking one step at a time in the path God puts before me. One thing I do know. God has not promised marriage to me. He has promised an abundance of living in Him, single or married.
Proverbs 3:5-6 “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and he will make straight your paths.”
You’ve probably had those times when you just ‘knew’ something was going to happen? Well, I had one of those a couple years ago when I pulled a jury summons out of my mailbox. I used to get regular summons once or twice a year and even served on a civil jury for an automobile accident case. Now, as the time drew nearer, I kept hoping my number would be excused. No such luck. As I walked to the court house, went through the metal detector, and joined about 300 others in the jury holding room, I still had that sense that a jury seat was in my future.
The jury commissioner began to call our numbers, and those folks had to come forward and take a sheet of questions to immediately answer. She got closer to my number – and then passed it. I breathed a sigh of relief – and THEN, she started calling numbers smaller and smaller until – you guessed it. My number was called. I got my sheet of questions, and realized this trial was a 1st-degree murder case. Just enough information was there to give me the shivers. Even so, I still had this very strong feeling that I was destined for the jury box.
About 150 of us filed into a relatively small courtroom, and since there were not enough spectator seats, about 30 of us were directed up to the jury box section. I ended up in seat #11. The case summary was laid out before us. Fifteen years before, a man had an argument with his nephew (FG), and the morning after, he drove out to a field where his nephew and many farm workers were picking onions. The man resumed his argument with FG and the man’s son (CZ) joined in. Then, CZ walked to his truck, took out a gun, walked back, and shot FG ten times. He ran to his father’s truck, sped away, and disappeared for fifteen years, losing contact with his local family. CZ had dual citizenship in the US and Mexico, and during that fifteen years he lived in Mexico, marrying and having children. He often crossed the border for work – using his real name. One fateful day, an inspector discovered he had a long-standing arrest warrant for murder. CZ was sent back to Colorado for trial – this trial in 2013.
It took 1½ days for jury interviews and when twelve and one alternate were chosen, sure enough. Seat #11 was mine for a possible ten days. We learned that if we found CZ guilty of 1st degree murder, the sentence was automatic life without parole; if 2nd degree murder, the court would decide the sentence. Heave a big sigh of relief! At least, we did not have to wrestle with a death sentence!
After five days of testimony, we retired to the jury room for deliberation. Our job was to decide if CZ was mentally ill with a personality disorder as his defense claimed. If we did not decide he was mentally ill, we had to decide between 2nd degree murder (unpremeditated) and 1st degree murder (premeditated).
Long story short: After much discussion, we decided he was not mentally ill because the testimony – even by his psychiatrist – and CZ’s actions simply did not fit the particular personality disorder presented by the defense. Then, no matter how we examined the testimony and the evidence, we concluded we could not deem it unpremeditated.
As we looked at the very neatly dressed, not a hair out of place, now 36-year old man who sat very quietly through seven days of testimony and lawyer defense and prosecution, it was very hard to picture that he could have committed such a horrible crime when he was 20 years old. But, our impressions were secondary to our primary task of objectively sifting through the details we had gathered for seven days. In the end, even though there were tears, none of us regretted the very difficult decision we had to make. We gave him life without parole.
So, what brought on the reason for this post? Right now (August 2015) in Denver, the jury for the James Holmes’ theater shooting trial is in the sentencing phase. I have often thought of them during the weeks and weeks of trial phase, and prayed that this jury was filled with wise and toughly compassionate folks who could disagree without heated conflict and focus on the truth brought out during the trial with well-articulated conversation. Now, they must decide between a life sentence or the death penalty. What a weighty responsibility!
Surprise, surprise, surprise! This post has nothing to do with singleness. But, it does have everything to do with how we live our lives making daily decisions about how we will respond to the hard things life throws at us. Time to contemplate some very important words written 2,000 years ago by a man named James:
James 1:2-6 Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way. If you don’t know what you’re doing, pray to the Father. He loves to help. You’ll get his help, and won’t be condescended to when you ask for it. Ask boldly, believingly, without a second thought. (The Message)
Has anyone ever said that to you when hard times come into your life? My guess is your answer is a resounding “yes.” Just over the past few months I’ve heard it said to – and by – folks going through terrible health issues, financial problems, grief, or relationship fractures. It is meant to encourage – I guess – but it implies that if we just try hard enough and pull ourselves up by the bootstraps, we’ll get through whatever, because God thinks we are up to the task of “handling it.”
Well, guess what! God knows we are NOT up to the task of handling a great many things – and we know it, too, don’t we? The daily news is full of stories of people who yield to unbearable situations:
- ** Depression abounds, and some resort to suicide.
- ** Finances disappear, and some resort to crime.
- ** Relationships falter, and some resort to unfaithfulness.
- ** Catastrophic illness occurs, and some resort to soul-killing resignation and bitterness.
- ** Murder happens, and some resort to destructive revenge.
So, where in the world did this phrase come from? Is it really in the Bible, which would make it true? The internet has a number of articles and sermons which affirm this phrase as actually coming from the Bible. Well, it doesn’t! It just sort of sprang up as a re-combination of the words from this verse:
No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it. (I Corinthians 10:13 – NKJV)
Let’s face it. When unbearable temptation comes upon me, God does not promise that my unbearable circumstance will change. He does promise to always make it possible for me to respond to it in constructive fashion.
This faulty phrase also blatantly states that it is God who actually gives me the unbearable stuff. Can we really think that God looks at “Joe” or “Sue” and decides to put incurable cancer into their bodies because “they can handle it?” Does He decide that a percentage of folks can “handle” desperate poverty, so He makes that happen? Does He decide that “Mary” can “handle” long-term singleness, so . . . well, you get the point.
You knew I had to apply this to singleness, didn’t you?
Some think that protracted singleness is unfair and just too heavy a burden to bear and they will take any way to make marriage happen. Sometimes that works out well, sometimes not. Some come to see God as One who withholds and not One who provides. OK – I plead guilty to having these thoughts at times as I have committed to live life according to Scriptural principles – and have always been single.
- Doing life alone is too heavy to bear!
- Living a celibate life before marriage is unfair and just too heavy to bear!
- God doesn’t care about my feelings, and that is indeed too heavy to bear!
Living with these three elements in the context of a Jesus-follower-life can be difficult. But, I have experienced the truth of God’s provision in the midst of the varied mix of unanswered desires and joy-filled living.
- ** There is promise of God’s always being with me!
- Hebrews 13:5 . . . God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” (NIV)
- ** Jesus shares every aspect of my life – heavy and light!
- Matthew 28:28-29 Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. (NIV)
- ** He considers all my feelings to the depths!
- I Peter 5:7 Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you. (NLT)
So, my dear friends – unmarried and married: Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take. (Proverbs 3:5-6 NLT)
As I’ve spent time fleshing out several ideas for posts here, I kept running across this May 2015 online apology from “the church” to “singles.” Author John Pavlovitz makes some good points worth considering, which I’ve sort of combined and summarized. My comments are in purple – my fave color.
- Sometimes, unintentional segregation happens with the understandable attention given to marriage and family in sermons, programs, and activities. The majority of pastors and ministry leaders are married folk. I have often contended that when people marry, something happens in their brain to wipe out their memory of being single. 🙂
- Sometimes deep needs and unique challenges are overlooked in program planning. Singleness covers a very wide range of ages and life stages making this admittedly difficult!
- Sometimes singleness is seen as an affliction to be cured or a problem to be solved. It is neither. While marriage is desired – and attained – by most, it cannot satisfy the deepest longings of the soul. It’s important for married and unmarried to share their challenges without fear of judgment or lecture.
- Sometimes singles are seen as halves waiting to find their other half, biding time until the right half shows up. Until then, they may be subtly treated as “less than” in social and leadership situations.
- Sometimes singles are given incomplete and unsatisfying advice, Singleness is not something like adolescence. You don’t grow out of it. Your status may change, but it is not simply a matter of maturity or immaturity.
Now, I appreciate this apology, and I find others springing up across the internet.
BUT, I have yet to see substantive articles addressing THESE main areas:
- Churches have marriage sermon series and classes; how about the same energy for successful singleness?
- How can the church address celibacy as a blessing for the unmarried which provides attractive, compelling – and attainable – reasons to reserve intimacy for such time as they are married. Churches are good at admonition; not so good at encouragement – that is, if it is addressed at all.
- How can the church help singles celebrate their age and stage? Of course, the range is wide and diverse!
- How can the church better address the culture of casual sex and living together without the commitment of marriage as less than God’s intent. “Just don’t” is not enough!
Now, I understand that I am in a minority of my peers, although it is hard to say since as an older, never-married onesome, people like me have simply faded out of church attendance at all. There are many who are widowed or divorced and far fewer who live in faithful protracted singleness who attend.
Above all, the most important thing I can ask of my church is to help me become transformed in my spiritual walk. Unmarried or married – God tends to our hearts one-on-one without looking at our ring finger.
Romans 12:1-2 So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you. (The Message)
Personally, I do consider my wonderful church to be my family. At the same time, I experience a very real loss at not having a husband and family to enjoy ministry and grow older with, within this wonderful church family. I need people to hear and understand that!
How about you? Let me read your comments!
Solitary confinement is considered to be the toughest, most extreme form of prison punishment. People are put into a small hard-surfaced space for up to 23-24 hours a day, with no personal human contact. Even their exercise time is alone. Depending on the prison, they may have very limited opportunity for any stimulating experiences, TV, radio, education, hobbies, and reading. The length of time may be days, weeks, months, even years. Research shows that if a person was not mentally compromised before this experience, they will almost surely be, following lengthy isolation which was thrust upon them.
So, how does this relate to singleness? Well, when a person is single for a lengthy part of his/her life, it can sometimes feel as though they have been put into a box labeled “alone.” And, many of them simply did not “choose” this solitary circumstance. It may feel as if it is a room which becomes smaller and more confining the older they get.
God addresses the solitary part right away in Genesis 2:18 after He had made a huge variety of animals and birds and a man who was given the incredible job of naming all these creatures. How interesting must that have been? But, when all was said and done, God saw that it was “not good that the man was alone.” Now, given that He did go on to provide Eve for Adam – you know the rib story – over the years many have taken that verse to mean that it is not good for man to be unmarried. But, the meaning is far wider than that. No one can survive in a healthy manner totally and always alone.
Being isolated and alone for long periods of time changes who you are!
Unfortunately, many singles go through a period where they make the choice to exaggerate their aloneness by removing themselves from places where they feel their singleness is exaggerated. And, unfortunately many onesomes feel that church is a place where this happens. When marriage is held up as the “normal way to live,” they may wonder, “what about me?” Now, I love seeing little folks running, laughing and playing, and love seeing moms and dads with their growing families. I love seeing little glances couples give one another, and seeing them hold hands as they stand for prayer or singing or scripture reading during worship services. In fact, for me, it is often just those simple things which warm my heart with joy – and which bring tears at the same time. For some singles, going to church alone is simply too hard, and so they find other things to do with their Sundays. In short, many isolate themselves from anything which is uncomfortable when it comes to relationships.
Most folks think of singleness as being a period of waiting – waiting for the next romantic relationship, waiting for that special person to marry, who also wants to marry you. It is also considered preparation time for marriage. Now, there’s nothing wrong with that. However, I can tell you that “waiting” has a whole different feel when you are 20 or 30 than at 50 or 60 and beyond. The Apostle Paul and I would have an animated conversation about a couple verses in I Corinthians 7.♥
Paul: (NIV) Now to the unmarried and the 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. (verses 8-9)
Me: I agree. But I need more details. Is there some sort of “marriage pool” for eligibles? You make it sound so easy.
Me: Uh, I can’t hear you. I’m burning here. (Repeat this last exchange over and over until you realize Paul doesn’t have an answer for you.)
Let’s face it. Just deciding by yourself that you will marry is not enough. Wanting, desiring, longing, wishing, hoping, and even praying are not enough. Going to singles activities, joining a singles group, going on-line to meet others who want relationship, and making yourself as attractive as possible, may not be enough either. After a number of years, energy may wane. And, let’s also face it. It takes two to choose one another!
For many, it feels like solitary confinement which isolates, separates, and disconnects.
So, what is the alternative? Solitary refinement!
Solitary refinement integrates, joins together, and connects, as well as frees from entangling and hindering things – “sin” is what Hebrews 12:1 calls it. And I John 5:17 expands on it by calling it any un-right-ness. Solitary refinement focuses on love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control – otherwise known as fruit of the Spirit. Solitary refinement even rejoices when waiting is interminable, when broken relationship brings deep heartache, when God brings spiritual surgery using suffering as a scalpel. “Consider it pure joy” is the way James 1:2 says it. Faith-trials and testing bring perseverance, maturity, and completeness.
Solitary refinement brings freedom to serve the Lord in both body and spirit, bringing undivided fidelity to Him. Note how strongly Young’s Literal Translation says it: I Corinthians 7:35 “And this for your own profit I say, not that I may cast a noose upon you, but for the seemliness and devotedness to the Lord, undistractedly.
In other words, God through Paul is telling us that He does not want to confine us, but to refine us!
♥ For more thoughts on I Corinthians 7, go back to the very first posts in this blog.
It was a sunny Colorado day; just the pleasant sort of day for errands. I was getting groceries out of my car when I heard a little commotion behind me.
There was a moth banging over and over into the garage window – and on the other side there was a bird simultaneously banging over and over into the glass. Now, the moth’s intent was simple. “I just want out of here!” The bird’s intent was simple, too. “I just want moth for lunch.” I watched for a couple minutes and neither of them gave up until I scared the bird away by walking out of the garage.
So, as usual, I began to relate these two little critters to my single life.
- ** I’m in a place I don’t like and I want to get into a better place.
- ** I’m feeling very hemmed in and want to be freeeeeeeeee!
- ** What in the world is this wall I can see through which keeps me from being freeeeeeeeee?
- ** I want the grass and sunshine I see and not this gloomy garage!
- ** I’m just flying along being birdy and realize it’s time for lunch.
- ** Should I go to arches of gold or hut of pizza?
- ** In the meantime, here’s a tasty looking moth. Here I go!
- ** Bammety bam bam! What in the world. . . . .? (Repeat 10 times.)
I’ve often acted just like those little creatures. How many times have I complained to God that I’m tired of where I am and tired of being alone? Too numerous to count, I’m afraid. For instance:
- ** It just seems that if I were married, I’d have a built-in companion to do stuff with. Crash!
- ** We’re attracted to each other. We can work on the spiritual stuff later. Bang!
- ** Surely God wouldn’t deny me the desire of my heart. After all, He promised. (Psalm 37:4) Wham!
I’ve discovered that my perception is often flawed. Sometimes something looks good on the surface, not so good under. When I was about 5, my mother was making bread. I saw the rising dough and decided to snitch a piece because surely it would taste as good as cookie dough. So, I took a small blob and ran outside to enjoy. As Charlie Brown of Peanuts fame might say: Aaaarrrggghhh! In other words: raw bread dough does not taste good! It isn’t in its finished state – baked.
It’s all in the timing!
OK. You get the picture. The one who penned Psalm 73 hit it right on the head for potential birds and moths like me.
- ** I know God is good – – – – – but I’m stumbling around here by myself.
- ** Everyone around me seems to have things so much better – like money and companionship.
- ** They are healthy and happy and trouble-free.
- ** Now, I do see that they act in ways I choose not to – even violently with evil intent.
- ** Oh yes, they have potty mouths, too.
- ** But, they still have friends and are having a good time.
- ** I thought following God would be happier and more comfortable.
- ** Instead, I’m lonely and tired and don’t feel good.
- ** Is following God worth it?
I find some comfort in the fact I’m not alone in the hard places! I’ve learned a lot of tough lessons in the process of going from young to seasoned singleness. Following Jesus is full of challenges – but the commitment is worth it! If I could go back to talk to my younger self, I would say, “God’s word provides the guidance I need even – or especially – when I don’t get it – or even want it. Meanwhile, keep talking to God about what your heart is feeling! He can take it.”
Fortunately, the Psalmist brings us to a glorious conclusion in verse 28:
“But I’m in the very presence of God – oh, how refreshing it is! I’ve made Lord God my home. God, I’m telling the world what you do! (The Message)
I’ve been having “Kumbaya my Lord” flashbacks to church camp this week.
The original Camp Moses Merrill in Nebraska was located near the little town of Fullerton, and I remember several weeks spent there as a kid and then as a camp counselor.♥ It offered great places to hike, with the most daring being “Lover’s Leap” which overlooked the Cedar River and held a lot of American Indian and pioneer folklore.
While I remember evening bonfires with roasted hot dogs and s’mores, one memory stands out for the impact it had on my life for many years.
I was a 13 year-old high school freshman, and had enjoyed a week of Bible studies, hiking, crafts, and looking for arrow heads. The highlight of these weeks was a Saturday night “banquet” such as one could have in a rather rustic building. The girls wore dresses and the guys wore nice shirts, and the food served was a step above what we had gotten all week. Often we ate by candlelight, and then had a special service in the chapel where we were challenged to make Jesus the Lord of our lives.
Now, of course, as young teenagers, we were interested in finding dates for this special meal. There was a boy I really liked in many of the Bible studies and hiking groups, etc., and I dreamed he would ask me to the banquet. And, then it happened! I was ecstatic! But then, as I turned a corner around the snack shack, I ran into a group of laughing boys – including my Prince Charming. It seems that they were having a little contest to see who could invite the biggest number of “ugly girls” to the banquet – who would fall for the invitation, that is.
I felt as if I had been punched in the stomach. Ugly girl? Of course, no boy materialized on banquet night. I still remember the black and white dress I wore. I remember curling my blond hair and putting on my happy face and going to a meal which tasted like sawdust. I let those words, “ugly girl,” haunt my thoughts for way too many years. My guess is that many of you reading this may have similar little-big stories?
Fast forward a bunch of years – to 2015.
I was privileged to be accompanist for 28 years for The Greeley Chorale, an auditioned choral group which has gained fame with worldwide travels by singing in:
- * The American Pavilion on July 4th at the 1988 World’s Fair in Brisbane, Australia.
- * The jazz festival in Montreux, Switzerland.
- * The Mozart Requiem in the Votivkirche in Vienna, Austria and the Sheldonian Theater in Oxford, England.
- * Vespers services in St. Peter’s in Rome and St. Mark’s in Venice, Italy.
- * The huge outdoor amphitheater in Ephesus, Turkey – where the Apostle Paul preached a number of times.
Well – on to my point before I get totally lost in Memory Lane!
Being involved with Chorale brought healing in many, many ways as a musician/pianist and as a person loved by caring friends. Week after week brought heartwarming rehearsals filled with music which challenged me as a pianist and often gave rise to personal worship in my heart – even during the stop and start nature of rehearsals. Great choral music of all types was in our repertoire from show tunes to opera to American music to spirituals to large sacred works.
While I retired from that accompanist position several years back, they asked me to accompany two numbers in May 2015 to help celebrate Chorale’s 50-year anniversary. What a privilege it was to sit before “my people” again to play Randall Thompson’s Last Words of David, and Rene Claussen’s At the Name of Jesus.
After lots of applause and lots of hugs, I was thoughtfully tiny-stepping my way in heels through a snow storm to my car. Yes, it was snowing even though it was Mother’s Day weekend! But, I didn’t mind because the warm glow in my heart far outshone the freezing night.
And then it happened! A gentlemen came alongside me, took my arm, and said, “Let me escort you to your car.” We chit-chatted our way through a couple blocks, and he made me sit inside while he brushed an amazing array of snowflakes off my car, and then left with a friendly “Good night.” I had never seen him before, and will most likely never see him again. But, that one simple kindness made me feel beautiful!
A marvelous example of a little big thing which will always make me smile!
I think it is God who brought the long-ago camp incident to my mind as I drove home, just to let me know that it has no power over my thoughts any more!
Colossians 3:12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. (NIV)