So that’s what I REALLY wanted? Who knew! ☆

gift certificate(NIV) Psalm 37:4 – Take delight in the LORD, and He will give you the desires of your heart.

What a great verse with a marvelous promise.  Right?  If you are like I am, though, you tend to jump to the second part of the sentence first and sort rewrite the verse. “If God will give you the desires of your heart, you will take delight in Him.”  Now, that is sort of what I call the “reversed standard version” rendition – a total distortion of what God wants for us.

When I was in high school, my farmer dad gave me a driving lesson on the trusty green and yellow tractor and gave me the task of raking a field of hay.  He had raked the first row, and it looked like a fairly simple thing to follow.  Off I went, and to my surprise when I finished, I saw a field full of more and more crooked rows.  What Dad didn’t think to tell me was to keep my eye on the row AND focus on a fence post or something at the end of the field to keep me on a straight course.  Every little bend in row #1 was magnified in subsequent rows.  What Dad wanted was a field of straight, even rows.  The way to achieve that was to look beyond the obvious of following row #1.

I had three main desires of the heart:  a) a marriage to someone who loved me and God; b) a career as a pianist on a college faculty where I could do what I greatly enjoyed, accompanying and performing recitals; and, c) teaching students to dig deeply into the rich heritage left by those who provided music spanning the centuries.

Wouldn’t you know it?  Today, none of those specific desires, dreams, goals – call them what you will – have happened.  I admit to some hollering at God about that over the years.  But, slowly and surely He drew me to the first phrase of that verse: Delight in the Lord” letting me know I was trying to go through His process backwards.

“Just learn to be content and God will bring you a spouse.”  Have you heard that one?  Is contentment what it means to delight in the Lord?

“Look at these huge disappointments as opportunities, not problems.”  Is working on an attitude change what it means to delight in the Lord?

“You have so much going for you.  Stop whining for the one thing you don’t have.”  (Yes, someone actually said that to me in response to my heart cry.  Not particularly helpful then – or now, frankly.)  Is picking myself up by the bootstraps and doggedly slogging through a bumpy life what it means to delight in the Lord?

I learned a tremendous lesson one year when deep depression hit.  Paul’s little letter to the Philippians has a deep undercurrent of joy throughout, and I decided that for the whole year, I would only read that book.  Over and over I read it, stopping when something especially took hold of my thoughts.  At times, I camped out on one verse for a week at a time.  I didn’t tell anyone of this Philippians journey, so imagine my surprise when a year later someone told me they saw deep joy undergirding the struggle they knew I was experiencing.  Light bulb moment!  (NIV) Hebrews 4;12 – For the word of God is alive and active,  Sharper than any double edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow.  It judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.  In the midst of the depths, I was just beginning to understand what it is to delight in the Lord!

“Delighting in the Lord” was simply spending time with Him with the intent to know Him as well as I possibly could in the midst of every ounce of circumstance surrounding me, good and bad.

I now realize that my former definition of the desires of the heart was my expectation of what I hoped would happen.  God’s definition goes far beyond my expectations!  He wants a level of contentment in my heart which transforms my expectations into His intent for my life.  I lost those original expectations primarily due to circumstances totally out of my control!  A beloved man walked out of my life leaving me stripped emotionally.  While I pursued a teaching career on the college level for six years, school politics, tenure decisions, and a host of things I still do not understand, totally changed the course of my life.

Do I still long for a Godly spouse?  Absolutely!  Do I still want to express music through my fingers at the piano?  Absolutely!  Do I still want to teach others to enjoy not just music, but the truth of God’s word?  Absolutely!

So, my friends, I say to myself as well as to you:  Take delight in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.  Get more deeply acquainted with Him, and He will put His desires in your heart, making them your desires as well.  Contentment is just one expression of our mutual desire.

S-I-N-gle and other S-I-N words ☆

nametag single

“Sincere, singing, singular, and oh yes, single,” is the title of another post on my blog.  I mentioned that some well-meaning Christians may think it is no mistake that the word “single” starts with s-i-n.  This only applies to English, however.  I looked up the words for “unmarried person” and “sin” in Spanish, German, and French, and there is no similarity between the two words in those languages.  Go figure.

Sincere:  not false or fake; without pretense; free from adulteration.

One suggested origin of this word is from Latin, sine cera – without wax.  The story goes that some dishonest sellers of clay pots would cover over cracks with a mixture of clay and wax. The unsuspecting buyer would not know of the flaw until the pot was used with heat and the wax would melt.  I like that story, although now as I search that term, it is mostly discredited.  It encourages me, though, that God likes sincere jars of clay – cracked or not.  (II Corinthians 4:6-7)  By the way, I think the phrase, “without adulteration” is an apt definition we can ponder as Christian singles.

I’ll gladly apply that s-i-n adjective as a positive reflection of God in the life of singleness.

Singing:  to utter sounds with musical inflections or melodious modulations of voice, as fancy may dictate, or according to the notes of a song or tune, or of a given part (as alto, tenor, etc.) in a chorus or concerted piece.

Well, that’s how Webster.com describes it.  We know it as a mostly uncomplicated expression of the emotions of the heart, usually uttered by our mouth – happy or sad, joyful or sorrowful, fast or slow, leaping or standing still.  God likes our singing when we do it to His glory and honor; our level of skill is immaterial.  Of course, this applies to the whole scope of our lives, not just music.  (Colossians 3:16)

OK.  I’ll apply that s-i-n word as a possible reflection of Jesus in the circumstance of singleness.

Singular:  Webster uses words such as:  distinct; separate; individual; that of which there is only one; unique.

Peter calls us “a peculiar people” in I Peter 2:9.  That’s the King James way to say “chosen people,” “holy people,” or “purchased, special people.”  No matter now you phrase it, we are a singular people.  “A man after my own heart” is how God described David in Acts 13:22.  Now, that is a trait worth pursuing for a lifetime, isn’t it?

Time to apply that s-i-n- word as a positive reflection of the Holy Spirit in the state of singleness.

SINGLE:  One only; individual; separate; having no companion.

The word “single” is not one which is actually used in Scripture to describe a person without a spouse.  In I Corinthians 7:32, Paul uses the term “unmarried” for a man who does not have a wife.  In verse 34, he uses “unmarried” and “virgin” for a woman who does not have a husband.  Why both terms?  In Old and New Testament times, a man was most likely un-married only by way of death or divorce.  Very few men fell into the never-married category.  If a woman was no longer married because of death or divorce, she was un-married.  If she had never been married and had remained pure sexually, she was called “virgin.”  Today, the word “single” is used to denote anyone who is spouseless regardless of their sexual activity.

‘For some of us, words like “lonely,” “isolated,” “unfulfilled,” “unhappy,” “disappointed,” “dissatisfied,” or “discontent” come to mind as we ponder our state.  My personal experience in each one of those places is one of misery and pain.  As I continue my walk into the future, I choose to let each of those adjectives turn my focus to God for His compassionate work in my heart.  Instead of focusing on what I do not have, I ask Him to show me what I do have:

  • * A loving Heavenly Father..
  • * Jesus, Who is my Emmanuel and Savior, AND the ultimate model of the single life and joyful anticipation.
  • * The Holy Spirit Who is inside and beside me at all times working transformation in me.
  • * The ageless word of God which discerns the thoughts and intentions of my heart. (Hebrews 4:12)
  • * Brotherhood and sisterhood with others who walk this challenging path.

So, I guess I’ll add that s-i-n word to my current life, and praise God for His indescribable love for me – and for you!

 

Sincere, Singing, Singular, and oh yes, Single ☆

There are many English words starting with the letters s-i-n.  And, some folks, I suspect, think it is no accident that “singleness” starts with those letters for a reason.  In fact, if you Google “Is it a sin to be single?” or “Is singleness a sin?” you could spend a lifetime speed-reading through millions of entries.

In an article a few years back, Cameron Courtney quoted Dr. Al Mohler:  “I’m going to speak of the sin I think besets this generation.  It is the sin of delaying marriage as a lifestyle option among those who intend someday to get married, but they just haven’t yet.”  There are a number of Christian websites which encourage early marriage as the only norm, and some even as a sort of mandate from God.  Boundless.org is one I have followed for several years which is geared toward “ministry for Christian young adults who want to grow up, own their faith, date with purpose and prepare for marriage and family.”  Prolonged waiting is questioned.

In 2009, I wrote a response to the boundless editors for an article by Candice Watters:  It’s good to wait.  While I never received a return response from either boundless or Candice, it felt good to speak my mind.  Candice started her article:

“In my campaign against intentional delay, have I diminished godly waiting?”

I wrote, “Yes, Candice, yes.  You have!  Unfortunately, you are not the only one.

There are always some of us who have done all the “right” things:  gotten out of our comfort zone, gone to singles events, are active in a thriving church, have gone online.  We have sat through month-long sermon series on “God’s Design for Sex,” and “God’s Design for Marriage.”  We have longed for sermons which affirm us specifically for choosing to live a godly life while relational desires remain unmet.  For those of us who have never married, we find ourselves in a separate compartment from those who are widowed or divorced.  A godly, contented, never-married mentor is very difficult to find.  In fact, I have personally found none.  To become one is a daunting task.

I certainly did not intend to delay marriage!  But, that is reality lived with daily.  While all my desires are definitely intact, the years of waiting have allowed God to carve away at my expectations to draw my focus strongly to Him.  I can finally say I am grateful even for the place to which this painful waiting has brought me.  It is refreshing to finally see some books which actually speak to the “protracted single” which focus on our lives with Jesus rather than on just “preparation” or “waiting” for marriage.

Today, I have allowed everlasting waiting to sort of morph into everlasting living!  It’s much more fun.

While boundless intentionally targets young singles, there are currently some excellent articles which address “waiting” which are well worth reading.

More thoughts on the title of this post next time.  Sincere, Singing, Singular, and oh yes, Single!

Give me an “a;” give me an “l;” give me an “o-n-e.” ALONE! ☆

I was in Beijing, Chinatiananmen square with fellow community chorale members on a concert tour.  We were in Tiananmen Square – which is far larger than it appears to be on TV!  The guide on my bus was like the Energizer Bunny.  She just kept going and going and going – lickety split!  She paused at an exhibit of a very old and ornate throne, and I saw my chance to run through a little open space to get a picture of it.  When I turned around, my group was gone!  In the space of about 5 seconds, I was alone in Tiananmen Squiare, along with 1,000’s of my closest Chinese friends.  Scared doesn’t even begin to touch what I felt.  And then, my racing heart began to slow down as I experienced the sure and present awareness that God knew exactly where I was.

I started trotting back and forth about a two-block length of the Square, scanning the crowd for someone – anyone – who looked familiar.  One of the men in my group was 6’7″ tall, and suddenly I saw his head reaching for the skies about a block away.  No trotting now!  Full running, not taking my eyes from this skyscraper guy’s head for an instant.

What did I learn from that acute alone experience?

I learned that even in my physical aloneness, I could trust in the God who created the universe to be over, under, and beside me, and I must keep my eyes on Him at all times.

(NIV) Psalm 139:3-6  You discern my going out and my lying down, you are familiar with all my ways.  Before a word is on my tongue, you, LORD, know it completely.  You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me.  Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.

For a single person living alone:

  •     * It is God Who knows when and if you get home safely at night.
  •     * You can talk to God out loud and no one will think you might be just a bit dotty – in a holy sense, of course.
  •     * You can take necessary road trips and have your married friends call you “brave.”
  •     * You can trust God to help you make the big decisions you always thought you’d make with a spouse, like:
  •                   Buying a home and all the responsibility that home ownership entails
  •                   Buying a car
  •                   Taking big trips

Now, lest you think I’ve totally arrived at this contentment thing about being alone, let me assure you that I still struggle at times.  And, it can be the simplest of things which bring acute pain.  Here are just a few of many:

While I know married folks don’t just sit around having meaningful conversations, at least the availability is there for that sort of spontaneous interaction – and I miss that.

Watching some couples walk hand-in-hand across the parking lot to their cars after church reminds me that even the simple pleasure of holding hands is just a small but poignant example of relationship which is not mine at present.

Awhile back, after several hours of pulling weeds and trimming bushes.  I told God that I had certainly enjoyed our long chat, but it felt like I had done all the work.  My guess is that He smiled, because He understood.

And then, I read a verse which showed me that Jesus knows exactly the depth of being alone.

(NIV) John 16:32  A time is coming and in fact has come when you will be scattered, each to your own home.  You will leave me all alone.  Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me.

At no time will I ever experience that total aloneness Jesus expressed when He felt forsaken even by God on the cross.  (Matthew 27:46)

And, I also know that the word “alone” doesn’t just mean “quite by one’s self,” or “without a sharer.”  My friend Noah Webster gives this definition:  “Unique, rare, and matchless.”  Not only does that last define who I am in Jesus Christ, but defines a unique, rare, and matchless God who will never leave me nor forsake me!  (Deuteronomy 31:8)

Be encouraged, my friends!

“I always thought if I was married I’d be closer to normal” – Whoopi Goldberg 2014 ☆

Have you ever heard a comment and have the Holy Spirit sort of say, “Psst, are you paying attention?”  I had one of those moments a couple days ago.  In a TV interview, Whoopi Goldberg said, “I always thought if I was married I’d be closer to normal.”  As I Googled her for more info, I discovered that she tried to be “closer to normal” three times, and is currently not married.  While I enjoy watching Whoopi’s skill as an actress, I know any discussion we might have on spiritual things would be a lively one. 🙂

The moment I heard it, though, I thought, “Yes!  I’ve never said it quite that way, but that is exactly how I have often felt.”

In 1978 I attended a large single’s conference at what was then Garden Grove Community Church in Anaheim, California.  The week held marvelous speakers, good workshops, and a great time to rub shoulders with an eclectic group of singles.  After a few days, though, I grew a bit frustrated because so much of it just didn’t speak to my personal heart.  During a question/answer period with Robert Shuller, a man finally asked why there had been no workshops for those who had never married.  All the workshops were for divorced or widowed folks.  Dr. Shuller didn’t pause even for a second.  “There simply aren’t enough of you around.”  I was shocked.  Even though at the time I was only in my mid-30’s, I already felt very isolated as a single in what seemed to be a married world, and now, I discovered I was in an even more minority group within singles.

Did I want to have gone through the pain of death of a spouse or divorce?  Certainly not.  I did, however, want to know there were others who grieved the loss of what they had never had.  I wanted to know how I could relate better to God in all this.  Instead, I felt my deepest heart cries were being ignored and now I was being told they were not even significant enough to address.  I went through a long period of grief and anger against the God who said He loved the world so much He sent His Son to die for me so I could enter into eternal life.  (John 3:16)  I simply did not feel it!

Of course, now, there has been a huge shift in our society.  There are more never-married folks for a variety of reasons.  Seeing the pain of many shattered marriages has caused some to decide not to make that commitment to one person “for life.”  Having experienced the pain of divorce of parents has made an indelible mark on lives of the children who are adults now, who remember how they felt when they were small.  And, now, “friends with benefits” become easier if couples live together.  Even many Christians have shifted their thinking in these areas, particularly if their children and others dear to them not only live together, but have children without the commitment of marriage.

I believe there are many of us out there like me, however.  Some of us have “stayed the course,” fought temptation, and continue to live in the process of “working out our salvation with fear and trembling.”  Understand that this does not mean that salvation comes as a result of our good works and intentions, however.  Paul continues on in Philippians 2:12-13 that “it is GOD Who works in us to fulfill His good purpose.”  Hallelujah!  Even so, it’s good to hear an “atta boy/atta girl” from friendly cheerleaders once in awhile.  Right?

Unfortunately, though, many of us are not found in churches.  No matter how hard churches try to include everyone, many singles feel unrelated to as they age, and it is simply easier to not attend.  Numerous books and articles have been written asking how churches can better minister to singles, but I know of none which has transformed singles’ ministries on a large scale.  I have discovered, however, that consistent fellowship with other believers is part of the answer to “it’s not good that man be alone” talked about in Genesis 2:18.  The richness I find in friendship with a wide span of generations in my church is priceless.

In the past ten years, we’ve had two sermon series on “God”s Design for Marriage” and one series on “God’s Design for Sex” – which again mainly addressed marriage.  A few regular-attending single folks decided to skip those Sundays.  I sat through every word, even though I had to figure out what was applicable to me.  The rest I tucked away for possible future reference.  It’s still in storage, by the way.

Fortunately, my pastor is approachable, and I became “Miss Burr Under the Saddle” when it came to requesting at least one sermon on singleness.  I inundated his e-mailbox with a great many articles and quotes gleaned from the internet, and, of course, my own copious thoughts.  I have to admit, it took a couple years, but it did result in a “God’s Design for Singleness” sermon.  I still send him articles and, of course, have invited him to access this blog for the real scoop. 🙂

So, do I feel “closer to normal” now that I realize that may have been cause for a deep root of pain I allowed to grow in my heart?  Actually, yes!  God is still in the business of uncovering my real feelings which influence my relationship with Him others, and myself.  The longings for a spouse to grow old – or older – with are planted in the heart by God.  That is a normal thing!  He knows exactly what’s on my mind, and years of talking to Him about those longings have drawn me closer to Him and have removed most of the anger and replaced it with contentment – most days..

So what do you think?  Is this “normal” thing something you have struggled with?  It’s possible that something you share here may be exactly what someone else needs to read.

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