Did God really mean. . . ? ☆

OK.  I admit this is sort of a rewrite of the question a couple posts ago, “Did God really say. . . ?”  But, I have to also admit that both questions are inherent in many of the “answers” thrown at us from every direction.  And, I also must admit that the pendulum has swung 180° from when I was much younger.

When I was a high school senior, a sophomore girl was “sent to stay with her aunt.”  This was a euphemism for “she’s pregnant.”  When she returned, her little boy was raised by the grandparents and treated like he was the girl’s little brother.  Apart from all the whispering among students, nothing was said at school about it.  No lectures on teenage pregnancy and how to avoid it.  No admonitions on what happens when people go “all the way.”  I guess it was assumed this was a rare occurrence and not worth much mention.  And, no, this was not in the 1800’s. 🙂

When I was young, there was really not much preparation about what to do with rapidly rising hormone levels and what it meant in terms of relating to the opposite sex.  I’m not so sure it is much better now.  There is so much input now, that young folks simply do not have a place to put it.  The public ways of expressing that relationship have certainly mushroomed.  Experience and emotion prove too difficult to control.  The consequences of unfaithful activity wreak havoc on lives daily, and we have no way of knowing just how today’s actions will impact these same lives years from now.

The words faithfulness and fidelity have taken a big hit.  Of these two words, Webster says:

  •                  Firm in adherence to promises.
  •                  True and constant in affection or allegiance to a person to whom one is bound by a vow or ties of love.
  •                  Firm in observance of duty.
  •                  Worthy of confidence and belief.
  •                  Adherence to what is right.

I think most people would say these things have worth, but unfaithfulness is thrown in our faces daily.  We see broken promises all around us in all sorts of relationships.  Unfaithfulness, affairs,and  immoral and illegal acts are the subject of 90% of movies and TV programs.  Unfortunately, these things are often presented as things which are just an inevitable part of life.

But, what causes the deepest pains in people’s hearts?  The unfaithfulness and infidelity of someone we love deeply – broken trust and bad judgment in the heat of emotion.

One side of our society’s mouth supports faithfulness and fidelity.  The other side is curved into a snide smile – particularly with regard to celibacy prior to marriage.  The boundaries of what constitute “having sex” are stretched more and more – maybe to ease the conscience.  But, if the boundaries are of smaller and smaller consequence, why do folks feel guilty when they are identified?

When God gave Moses the 10 commandments, they appeared to concentrate mainly on outward action.  But, Jesus exposed the real meaning of them by specifically addressing two of them.  He said that hatred in the mind and actual murder are related, or that lust in the mind after someone is an act of adultery.  So, something does not become sin only when the body acts?  Oh, oh.  (Matthew 5:21-22; 27)

Why all the pain in face of infidelity?  Because God built the human heart to have the intention of glorifying Him in thought, word, and deed.  Pain results because the human heart still has an expectation of fidelity and trust and faithfulness because of the infinite expression of God’s faithfulness from the beginning.  Has God changed His mind?  In light of the common thought that humans just cannot control or resist raging hormones and unbridled imagination, has God adjusted His thinking?  Are His instructions for moral conduct different in the 21st century than in the 1st simply because of changes in the mind of humanity?  A big NO to that!

So, how can a single person live out faithfulness and fidelity in the midst of a society which laughs at them, but is also broken by their lack?

In my very first blog post here under “I Corinthians 7 – a new look – Part I” I wrote:  “I believe that every word of Scripture is ‘breathed by God’ to teach and train us in righteousness.  (II Timothy 3:16-17).  So, I think the shortness of instruction in I Corinthians 7:32 and 34 to unmarried men and women is exactly what God intended to say to us.  Both have the freedom to be more concerned about the Lord’s affairs because they do not have a spouse.  That is unequivocally true!  But, with all due respect, trying to encourage singles with only these words may fall short.  What do we do with our hearts?  How do we conduct our relationships with faithfulness?  Who serves as our sounding board?  Who is as fully vested in the decisions we must make, and helps us make them?  How do we have meaningful conversations without having to make an appointment?  How do we handle intimacy when even simple things are not ours to enjoy, let alone deep things?  How do we satisfy the need to be touched?  Who chooses us?  Who puts romance in our lives?  These are places where unmarrieds live every day!”

I hope this blog stimulates you to find answers to these questions and to share specific questions you may have.  Talk to you later. 🙂

Let’s talk “singleness” ☆

A couple posts ago my title was “Did God really say. . .”  I’ve been trying to write another post on “Does God really mean now what He said. . .” and have decided it sounds too much like a sermon.  While Bible study is a passion of mine, and I want more and more of its truth to soak into my soul, my intention for this blog is to share my heart.  So, join me today for a cup of coffee and a chat.

What do you think when you hear the word, “faithful.”  My guess is that it’s in the framework of marriage, because if someone is “unfaithful,” our minds go to broken vows – those words said by a man and woman to each other in a wedding ceremony.  So, how do the words, “faithful” and “single” connect?  Like the word, “intimate,” “faithful” is now generally used to define sexual actions toward a chosen one – in the boundaries of marriage.

So, if I am single, unmarried, unattached, alone – whatever you want to call it – how am I to be faithful?  Why is it that the enemy of our souls chooses to flaunt just one aspect of our sexual being as the one thing which expresses who we are? Well, it’s because he is smart.  He chooses a deeply engrained element which is bound together with ties to our body, soul, and spirit.  We like what feels good physically; we like to think about what makes us feel good; we like to experience that oneness of spirit with another person.  God built those things into our being to be an expression of His glory.  So, of course, satan is going to take something precious to God and twist it.  He tells the lie that it is irresistable and that God couldn’t possibly really mean what he says about faithfulness and fidelity, not only in this area, but in all of life.

On one hand, discipline is admired; on the other, it is spurned as outdated.  We watch olympic athletes with admiration when they swim and run and leap and ski and skate their way to a gold medal.  What we see, however, is a result of hours and days and years of practice in small things which grow with use.  The performance would not happen without preparation and practice.  Same with faithful singleness.  It’s hard work!

Over the past few weeks I’ve been refreshing my memory on a set of variations by Mendelssohn which I first worked on years ago.  It feels really good to use aspects of discipline learned as a piano major in college.  I thought I knew how to play the piano before going to college.  My piano professor let me know right away that simply pressing down piano keys wasn’t enough!  Hours of slow practice of one or two measures, endless scales in octaves, thirds, fifths and even sevenths, and octave etudes were required.  What was difficult and often boring – and certainly not fun at the moment – grew into a foundation of tremendous enjoyment when applied to pieces written by Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, and Brahms.  Using the discipline became 2nd nature.

The same is true in faithfulness training.  Think of the Old Testament story of Joseph.  Genesis 39:6b-7 says: Now Joseph was well-built and handsome, and after a while his master’s wife took notice of Joseph and said, “Come to bed with me!’” (NIV)   Joseph refuses because of the trust placed in him by her husband – and by God.  Joseph considered sleeping with her as a sin against God.  (Genesis 39:9)  When she entraps him and he flees, her false accusations land him in jail.  Read his amazing story and see the overarching umbrella of faithfulness modeled for all time.

Job makes an interesting statement in chapter 31:1:  “I made a covenant with my eyes not to look lustfully at a young woman.” (NIV)  The Contemporary English Version (CEV) says, “I promised myself never to stare with desire at a young woman.”  Ahhhh!  There’s a hint to a step of the discipline involved in becoming faithful.  I have choices in what I see, hear,and experience.  And, it’s not only men who need to learn this discipline.

Well, my cup of coffee is empty, so I guess it’s time to go take a walk.  More thoughts next time. 🙂

 

 

Living in the tension of unfulfilled desires ☆

rubber band tensionJust what are desires, anyhow?  My friend Noah Webster says:

  •                           * Deep longings, earnest desires.
  •                           * Natural longings for that which is excited by enjoyment or thought.
  •                           * Eager wishes to obtain and enjoy.

(Was Noah W. really my friend?  Well, he would have been if he had lived long enough.  Meanwhile, I certainly appreciate his efforts to make words more understandable.)

Desire for deep relationship was planted in the human heart by God at creation.  Right from the beginning God says, “It is not good for man to be alone.”  It’s interesting to note that before Eve, Adam had total access to God Himself.  We know they spoke together, and walked together “in the cool of the day.”  (Genesis 2:16; 3:8)  However, in light of this incredible relationship with Himself, God saw Adam needed something else – a counterpart, Eve.  Obviously, if Adam and Eve had not become a family, we would not be here.  The emphasis for us, however, is that God is a relational God, and He made us to be a relational people.  I find it very interesting to note that God did not fill that desire in Adam’s heart with Himself – but with Eve.

I fear that too often this phrase, “It’s not good for man to be alone,” is at times taken as “It’s not good for man to be unmarried,” becoming a sort of promise of marriage to all who desire it!  At least, it is a verse which was often quoted to me as I shared the desire of my heart for a Godly marriage.  For years, I expressed my deep disappointment to God for what I thought was His total disregard for my feelings – the sort of desires of the heart David talked about in Psalm 37:4.

As the years stretched by, I let God know I thought He was toying with my affections.  Someone gave me an illustration of a hungry dog jumping and jumping and jumping for a tasty morsel held just out of his reach.  He finally gave up and lay down – still hungry.  I knew that my comparison of God to the one who was holding the dog treat was exactly how I was picturing God.  And, I also knew that this was untrue, no matter how strong my feelings were.  Soul ache, physical desire, and spiritual truth were on a collision course.

Then came the day when I began to understand that the desire for intimate relationship is a God-given gift and is meant to be an arrow pointing us to Him.  For some, this includes marriage.  For some, it does not.  But, God’s will for married AND unmarried folks is that we “Love God with all our heart, soul, and mind, and love our neighbor as ourselves.”  (Matthew 22:37-39)

*  The desire for intimate relationship is God-given:

  •                      – Emotional and physical desires fall under the larger umbrella of intimacy.
  •                      – Intimacy falls under the larger umbrella of relationship.
  •                      – Relationship falls under the larger umbrella of God.
  •                      – Every relationship is an opportunity to model God’s love.
  •                      – Desire for relationship is a longing for eternity!

OK.  That’s the spiritual language.  Now, what do I do with the physical and emotional desires for a husband?  I’m still working on that.  I used to pray that if I am never to marry, God would remove the desires because they were just too painful a reminder of what was not in my life.  He may do that for some, but He certainly did not do that for me.  I finally came to thank God for the very desires which brought pain, because they were a reflection of His creation in me.  They were indications that my heart and soul and body were responding as He meant them to.  I just needed to figure out how to find joy in the “lacks.”

The mind plays a huge part in taking the lead in maneuvering through life.  There are many times when I have not acted rightly in imagination and in what my eyes have seen and my ears have heard.  My longings and desires have often morphed into yearnings, distress, despair, grief, and mourning for unmet wants.  The Psalms have long been my go-to patterns for talking to God.  Somehow, David and the other Psalmists gained an intimate knowing of God which included love, joy, peace – and distress, grief, and anger.  They discussed everything with Him without trying to make their words sound more religious and respectful.  They were transparent in their expression.  I decided I wanted that sort of transparency before the Lord.  I’m still working on that – for the rest of my life!

How about you?  I welcome your comments.  So far, I’ve gotten a ton of spam which fortunately WordPress identifies so I can delete it.  I can assure you I will do a lot of jumping for joy at real comments.  🙂

Did God really say. . . ☆

A current TV ad for credit card application shows a man on the phone with his pet frog in his hand.  The man on the other end of the line is assuring man #1 that they do indeed have fraud protection.  And to clarify, man #1 says, “you are saying frog-guh protection, aren’t you?”  Man #2 says definitely, “Yes, I am saying fraud-duh protection.  Both think they are understanding the other.  Makes me laugh every time.

In Genesis 3:1-2, the enemy of our souls slithers up to Eve and says, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden?'”  The woman says to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.'”

Eve quotes God correctly in that He did say they were free to eat from any tree except one – the tree of knowledge of good and evil.  But, then, she doesn’t stop there.  She says God told them they were not even to touch it.  Now, Genesis 2:16-17 does record God’s words about not eating, but does not record that he said not to touch it.  The serpent knows he has her hooked.  I think it is quite likely that she added something of her own.  She deviates from the truth.  I think we call that a lie.  You can read Genesis 3:3-7 for the immediate – and lasting – consequences.

Today, we see the effects of Satan’s words all around us.  “Did God really say we are to limit full expression of intimacy to marriage?  That is just plain silly, and certainly not reasonable.”  While there are no verses which say specifically, “If you are unmarried, do not have sex,” there are plenty of verses which make that message clear.  Look at Galatians 5:19.  King James Version uses words like, “adultery,” and “fornication,” to differentiate intimate acts of those who are married from those who are unmarried.  Other translations use words like, “sexual immorality and impurity,” “moral corruption,” “immoral ways,” and “not being sexually faithful.”  Some even have the gall to use phrases like, “impurity of mind,” “mental and emotional garbage.”  Oh oh!  You mean I can live my whole life without, say, physically stealing something, but just thinking about doing it is like doing the act of stealing?

Jesus addressed that in Matthew 15:19 when He says that murder, theft, false testimony, and wrong use of sexuality really begin in the heart, and that inward commission of these is as powerful as outward commission.  And then, He says specifically in Matthew 5;27-28 (NIV) “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’  But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”

I don’t knowsmiley face group about you, but I have to admit that I have coveted what was not mine.  I have hated someone at times.  I have had lustful thoughts.  And, I have done all those things without another person knowing about it.  Well, one Person knows.  The One Who created me.  The One Who learned obedience in the arena of suffering.  (Hebrews 5:8)  He alone can help me live in the tension of unfulfilled desires.

More thoughts next time.

Singleness – more than a title ☆

Bachelor

merriam-webster.com says of “bachelor:”  “a man who is not married, especially a man who has never married.”  As I rambled through a number of sites defining this word, there didn’t appear to be anything unappealing or unattractive attached to it.  “Bachelorette” was coined to define an unmarried woman, especially a young unmarried woman.  Either a bachelor or bachelorette may or may not be looking for a marriage relationship, leading to adjectives like “eligible” or “confirmed.”

I hunted for other words defining the unmarried male, without finding any.  Now, I’m not saying that in any way the life of the single man who desires a Godly marriage is any easier than that of a woman.  But, for the unmarried female – there are a few unattractive descriptions.

Spinster

OK – I’m going waaaaaaaay back now.  I have to admit, though, that when I was a kid, this was still a common description of an older woman who had never married and was childless.  Of course, the childless part was still understood because, for the most part, not engaging in sexual relationships went without saying.

Originally, “spinster” simply meant “a woman who spins,” as it was an occupation a woman could do while still at home with her parents in order to bring in some income.  Then, it became narrowed down to “unmarried woman.”  In former times, women often stayed in their parent’s home until they had opportunity to marry.  Then, the term was narrowed down even further to describe a “woman beyond marriageable age, having negative qualities such as fussy or undesirable.”  (dictionary.reference.com)  Oxforddictionaries.com adds this:  “From the 17th century, the word was appended to names as the legal official description of an unmarried woman.”  It later became a “derogatory term, referring or alluding to a stereotype of an older woman who is unmarried, childless, prissy and repressed.”

Harrumph!  I may be unmarried and childless.  But, I refuse to accept “fussy, undesirable, prissy, and repressed!”

Old Maid, Maiden Lady, and Various and Sundry Other Terms

merriam-webster.com says of “old maid:”  “a woman who has never married and is no longer young.”  And then, it adds, “a prim fussy person.”  As a kid, I remember it was also a term used for popcorn kernels which remained unpopped.  And, of course, there was the game of Old Maid where you didn’t want to be left with the black queen card because it didn’t have a matching mate.  Now, the term “maiden lady” was a shade better than “old maid,” as it was applied to someone who still had a shadow of hope for marriage.  Other terms I remember hearing were things like “unclaimed blessings,” “left on the shelf,” “unchosen ones.”  Well now, I refuse to accept terms like those either.  I am abundantly blessed by God, paid attention to by Him, and certainly chosen by Him.  Paul affirmed this in (NIV) I Thessalonians 1:4  “For we know, brothers and sisters loved by God, that he has chosen you. . .”

Singleness – More than a Title

So, I guess “single” is as good a term as any, isn’t it?  My friends are a bit surprised when I tell them that when I think about who I am, the word “single” is always the first word to come to mind.  They just know me as “Mary.”  My life is full of activities which foster relationship with friends and family.  I have a number of needlework hobbies which help my imaginative streak.  I’m a pianist and organist, and staying on top of those little black dots on the page keeps my brain active and alert.

But, do you remember Scrooge’s travels with the 2nd ghost of Christmas present as he looks through the window of his nephew’s house and sees the merriment of the family inside?  Now, I’m definitely not a ‘bah humbug” sort of person, but I have to say that once in a while, I feel like the outside one looking through a window of unmet desires.

God’s Words

I take great comfort from these words from Moses to Joshua as he was about to take the children of Israel into the promised land.  (NIV) Deuteronomy 31:8  “The Lord Himself goes before you and will be with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you.  Do not be afraid, do not be discouraged.”  And, Jesus said in closing words to his disciples:  (NIV) Matthew 28:20b  “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

I choose to use my singleness as an arena for getting to know God in deeper and deeper ways.  Is it possible to find contentment in the midst of unmet longings and desires?  Yes!  Is it easy?  No!  “Is it worth the pain?  Yes!

How about you?  What can you share with others in your journey?

What if you open a gift, and Singleness pops out? ☆

Many articles call singleness a gift.  What do you think?  I think calling it a gift reminds me at times of Christmas gifts I used to get from my grandmother.  When I would discover she had my name, I steeled myself for what was to come, because several times, she gave me white cotton underwear!  “What sort of Christmas present is that?” my young mind would scream to myself as I tried to hide my embarrassment – and my present.

To me, singleness has sometimes felt like that sort of “gift.”  Reading Psalm 37:4 about “delighting in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart” didn’t seem to be working itself out in my life.  Of course, I was concentrating more on the giving part, and not the delighting part.  I still remember a time in my mid-20s when I realized that God is more interested in putting His desires in my heart than just fulfilling what I think I want.  Hmmmm.  Now, that’s a thought to ponder, isn’t it?

Actually, that’s an act of agape love.  Agape love is not necessarily shown by doing what the person loved desires, but what the one who loves knows is needed by the one who is being loved.  Now, God often surprises His children with things which bring them great joy – and other times, not so much.  Learning to accept these surprises with trust that God really does know what our hearts long for is a lifelong journey.

A couple of weeks ago a friend asked me what I wished someone had told me as a young single when I expressed my deep longings for a husband.  My reply was simple.  I wish someone would have simply acknowledged the pain they heard in my voice and saw in my eyes.  Too often, well-meaning words just left me with the message, “You shouldn’t feel that way.”  And, so I spent a number of years not sharing that part of my heart with anyone.  Not good.

It was many years before I was finally able to see that my longings had indeed been put there by God, and whether He brought someone into my life or not, it was my calling to learn how to respond to Him.  I have often thought of these words in Daniel 3:17-18.  My paraphrase:  “God is indeed able to deliver us from the blazing furnace and from the king’s orders to worship something other than God.  But, even if He does not deliver us, let it be known that we will not disobey Him.”

God is indeed able to bring someone into my life which will help ease this longing for a Godly spouse.  But, even if He does not, I am determined to trust Him.  I’ve decided I don’t want to have a life of perpetual waiting, but of living!

So, what are your thoughts?  Where are you in this journey?  If you are married and have a friend/relative who has been single a long time, how do you interact with them in this singleness thing?

I cannot wait to hear from you!

 

 

Covenant is for Singles, too (Part 3) ☆

Covenant is for Singles, too!

A marriage covenant is a public pronouncement of a couple’s honor and faithfulness to one another and to God.  Ideally, this involves careful and thoughtful coming to terms with their sexuality, giving them new opportunity to share that area of their lives in the God-ordained boundary of marriage.  It also brings their commitment into the public arena of fellowship with fellow believers.  There is no comparable public celebration for the single, however, especially for those who live in faithful “waiting.”

For singles, advice is usually summed up in abstinence and “don’t do’s” emphasizing over and over what we cannot have and still be pleasing to God.  Unfortunately, it overstresses that “it is all up to me.”  Patience and self-control stand toe-to-toe with desires and raging hormones.  Yielding does not show the strength of temptation.  Resisting does!  The path to I Corinthians 10:13 is arduous, but can become a cherished truth.  God does provide a way out of temptation every time, period.  It brings one into partnership with God, taking conquering temptation out of the “it’s all up to me” mindset.

While abstinence centers around the individual and his decisions, the practice of celibacy centers around relationship.  It always involves another person in thought, word, or deed.  While I personally do not feel “called” by God to be single, I am called to be faithful with my thoughts, words, and acts, and remaining celibate falls under that parameter.

The practice of fidelity as a single is the best training for fidelity in marriage.  And, fidelity is precious to God whether we are unmarried or married. Grasping that the practice of celibacy is a partnership with God which can lead to a covenant as a single is a way of opening the door for God to change the heart.

While a single’s covenant is not publicly celebrated in ceremony or anniversary, it is nonetheless very precious, and is a very serious commitment.  It is quite simply recognition of God’s love and faithfulness to me and my promise to be faithful to Him in all areas of my life.  This covenant is only possible with His working out its truth in my life in the deepest part of my soul, for His good pleasure.  (Philippians 2:13)

Do I have this mastered?  It is a life-long process, and I’m still on the way!

Prayer of personal covenant:  Dear God, I commit my deepest longings, desires, hopes, and dreams to You and bring them under Your covenant of faithfulness, acknowledging that I cannot be faithful to You in my own strength, but only with Your grace, mercy, and power.  I rededicate myself to You – body, soul, and spirit.  I will be honest with You about temptations and struggles, and trust You to transform my life in Jesus Christ.   Amen – so be it!

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