If there was a degree in waiting, I’d have a PhD! ☆

Not too many folks like to wait and we do not generally block out time in our calendar for it.  It just seems to happen doesn’t it?  And, at times, it turns into waaaaaaaaaaaaaiting!  It can seem interminable when tryiwait hereng to figure out how to navigate a twosome world as a onesome.

My friend Noah Webster defines “wait” like this:

  •      * To watch, observe, take notice.
  •      * to stay or rest in expectation and patience.
  •      * To stop or remain stationary until the arrival of some person or event.

Aren’t those great ways to change our perspective from time wasted to actively participating in life’s timetable?  We tend to think of waiting as being forced to do nothing when we could be productively involved in some more enjoyable activity.  Most often, we do not choose waiting with joy and patience and self-control – three of those fruit of the Spirit we read about in Galatians 5;22-23.  We do not see it as “resting in expectation and patience.”

In terms of unwanted singleness, so much energy can be used up looking at the object of our wait that we miss out on the goodness waiting can uncover.  Unfortunately, we are surrounded with messages of instant gratification.  Lyrics to songs tell us things like, “if it feels so good, how can it be wrong?”  We are groomed to rely on feelings and emotions as accurate and adequate guides for decision-making.

There once was a man who was enjoying a pleasant spring evening on his balcony.  Across the courtyard he saw a beautiful woman who was also out enjoying the evening, totally unaware of an admirer who couldn’t keep his eyes off her.  “I must meet her,” he told himself, and asked around until he found out who she was.  He was married.  She was married.  But that didn’t seem to matter as his emotions and body worked in tandem to put an affair into action.  This was not a man unaware of what life history lessons said about faithfulness between husband and wife, and the terrible consequences of adultery – unfaithfulness of a physical nature which starts in the mind and heart, acting itself out in the body.  The choice was his to keep watching or to use concepts of self-control and obedience he knew well as a skillful leader.  He wrote in his journal often about the steadfast character of his God and his deep desire to delight in God’s ways.  At this moment, however, all that dimmed as he chose to follow his cascading feelings, even going so far as to carry out a plan to kill the woman’s husband so he could have her all to himself.

Sounds like the plot of a good movie, right?  Well, it comes straight out of II Samuel 11 as a vivid illustration of a king named David who let his feelings override his good judgment and knowledge of righteousness.  He took advantage of Bathsheba who was probably flattered at the attentions of such a renowned king.  Later on, she because the mother of Solomon, another renowned king who followed God in wisdom and faithfulness – until his eyes, mind, and feelings began to wander and he ended up with 700 wives and hundreds of other playmates.  Wow!  (I Kings 11:3)

So, if these two men, used mightily by God in the foundation of our faith, could not keep temptation from overwhelming them, how in the world can we?  Psalm 119 is a good place to start:

How can a young person live a clean life?  By carefully reading the map of your [God’s] word.  (Psalm 119:9 – MSG**)
I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.  (Psalm 119:11 – ESV**)

These verses are the start of what Paul calls “fleeing immorality.  He writes:

Run from sexual sin!  No other sin so clearly affects the body as this one does.  For sexual immorality is a sin against your own body.  Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God?  You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price.  So you must honor God with your body.  (I Corinthians 6:18-20 – NLT**)

Sigh!  It must be time to reaudit the basic class:  Waiting 101.  See you there!

** MSG – The Message; ESV – English Standard Version; NLT – New Living Translation

Celibate and Celebrate – 2 words for every single to ponder! ☆

Did you know that June is National Celibacy Awareness Month?  Actually, it’s right up there with Adopt-a-Shelter-Cat Month and National Iced Tea Month.  I kid you not.  I’m not sure who puts these titles on the calendar, but you can look them up for yourself.  I say this just to point out that celibacy is an element of discipline where society takes what God values as a sacred treasure for the unmarried/single person and turns it into a laughable and unnecessary concept.  Now, as for “celebrate,” everyone views that as meaning a good time.

The Online Etymology Dictionary says of “celibacy:”  formed from Latin caelibatus “state of being unmarried, from caelebs “unmarried” probably from [an ancient linguistic] root kaewelo – “alone” + lib “living.”   It eventually also came to mean, “not engaging in sexual relations.”

The words “celibate” and “celibacy” actually do not appear in scripture.  Biblical words are ones such as “unmarried” and “virgin.”  The meaning is clear no matter what translation you read, however.  Those who find themselves in these circumstances are to refrain from expressing their sexuality in sexual acts.  The reasons why have been debated through the ages.  Just as “Because I say so,” is a frustrating response to a child’s “Why?” so “Because God and the Bible say so” is not an easy reason to respond to with joy and celebration for the single person who is struggling with intense physical and emotional longings.  And yet, ultimately,.the latter is the foundation of our discipline.  It is the “Why!”

The “how” is a bit more difficult to apply.  We may think that “sexual freedom” is a fairly new concept.  But when Moses spoke God’s word through the 10 Commandments in Exodus 20 which included “You shall not commit adultery,” the desert wanderers did not have to ask, “What is that?”  They already knew, because adultery was an expression of their bodies and souls when restraint and self-control were ignored, and they knew it caused great pain and suffering.  These were people who had seen God’s rescue from slavery and life-saving provision in the desert.  They also saw vivid consequences of God’s displeasure when they lived outside his instructions.

Over and over, though, they were given clear words on living a life pleasing to God.  Verses such as Numbers 15:37-41 gives some possible clues to the “how.”

  • * Use something to remind yourself of your resolve to be faithful to God.
  • * Look at it – think about it – focus on what it symbolizes – and obey.
  • * Do not chase after your emotional, physical, and visual inclination to immorality.

OK.  This seems to be a basis for the “just say no” phrase which popped up in the 1980s as a tool to discourage drugs, violence, and premarital sex.  Purity rings sprang up on many fingers as a reminder of promises made.  Do these things work?  For some.  For others, the requirement of their promise proves to be too stringent.  Too many of us continue to follow what promises to bring good feeling rather than miss out on pleasurable things.  “Why in the world,” we ask, “would God create us with bodies and souls which scream out for sexual expression at times, and then tell us not to go there if we are single?”  But, even though we do not get as clearly defined instruction as we would like, these verses in Numbers still give some good basic steps into “how” land.

So, how do we follow the above concepts without going crazy?  As Christian singles, it is imperative that we look beyond the moment.  All through Scripture, desire and fidelity in marriage and singleness are used as tools to point us to God who is the ultimate answer to our intimacy needs – now and in the future.  One of the fruit of the Spirit which comes at the end of the list in Galatians 5;22-23 is self-control, letting us know that the self can indeed be controlled when we partner with the Holy Spirit to influence, govern, and restrain in important areas of everyday living.  The self can take an active and responsible role in developing holy habits as a result of the sprouting of that hardy spiritual fruit nourished by God!

He can help us turn around and walk away at the first hint of temptation to immorality.  He can give us the boldness to control where that computer mouse so quickly can navigate us.  He can bring Scripture to mind when we are about to step into a lust-producing situation.  He can help us train our eyes and ears to see and hear what leads to God-pleasing living.

We can take delight in the Lord, and He will give us the desires of our heart!”  (Psalm 37:4, NIV)

Well, as usual, I’ve barely scratched the surface of this subject.  I’m sure there will be a sequel. 🙂

In the meantime, a book for your consideration is Your Single Treasure by Rick Stedman, Moody Press.

Handling the ‘opossums’ of single life ☆

1 baby opposomThere was a small grove of trees about 1/4 mile from the farmhouse I grew up in.  It was the original site of the first home my forefathers built when they homesteaded the property in eastern Nebraska.  One day after school, a friend and I decided to ride our bikes to the grove to pick gooseberries and look around for anything interesting, like old dishes or other relics of yesteryear.  We were suddenly stopped in our tracks by the sight of an animal lying on the ground.  It was mean and scary looking, and my friend said she was sure it looked like a picture she had seen of an animal that jumped out of trees and killed people.  Well, we dropped our gooseberry-picking sacks and pedaled like crazy back to the farm house, looking upward at the tree branches all the while.  After trying to explain what we had seen to my mother, she loaded us into the car and drove back to the grove to investigate.  Wouldn’t you know it?  The creepy critter was gone!  Of course, now in my adult visual memory, I realize it was an opossum playing – well – possum.  Imagine the story he told his little possum-lets that night about how he scared two big girls just by doing nothing.

Let’s face it.  Sometimes things just are not what they seem to be.  Feelings and imagination can inflate something way out of proportion sometimes making it seem like an unsolvable problem.  That’s how I viewed being single for too long a time.  When I was in my 20s and 30s, questions that friends and family asked often were ones such as “How’s your love life?”  “When are you getting married?”  “Why are you not married yet?”  No one wanted to figure out answers to those questions more than I!  And, of course, I added another crazy-making question:  “What’s the matter with me?”  ‘Opossum’ questions with no good answers.

Career-wise, I felt quite fulfilled.  Teaching freshman music theory and piano on a university campus and accompanying and playing solo recitals was very satisfying.  But, there was always that thought that it would be ever so much better with a husband, especially one who was also a pianist with whom I could pair up for piano duo recitals.  Then, one day, the career dream came to a crashing halt.  A growing promise of achieving tenure suddenly dissolved, and no amount of asking questions brought answers.  All I could do was stare at a dream clothed in a lifeless ‘opossum’ suit.

Friends tried to be encouraging.  “You’re young; I know you’ll find another college teaching position real soon.”  And, “You’re young; I just know you’ll find a loving husband.”  Or, the opposite, “Have you ever thought that maybe you have the gift of singleness?”  Or, “Marriage is your idol and God won’t answer your desire until you give up your hopes for marriage.”  (That last always seemed to come from someone who was married.  My bolder older self now would ask, “Is that what you did before you got married?”)  Anyway – more thoughts born out of dying dreams which brought great pain and grief.  None of these ‘opossum ‘ comments spoke to the deepest part of my heart.

I hungered for God to speak to me personally and began camping out with the Psalmists who were transparent in their prayers, unafraid to express exuberant joy and gut-wrenching sorrow, deep contentment and burning anger.  Verses which spoke into the core of my soul were those like Psalm 40:1-3:

I waited patiently for the LORD to help me, and he turned to me and heard my cry.  He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out of the mud and the mire.  He set my feet on solid ground and steadied me as I walked along.  He has given me a new song to sing a hymn of praise to our God.  Many will see what he has done and be amazed.  They will put their trust in the Lord.**

I admit that all my waiting was not patient, and it was a loooooooong time before contentment replaced frustration – most days anyway.  Do I still hope for a Godly marriage?  Absolutely!  Do I hold a baby with a twinge of wondering how I would have been as a mother?  Definitely!  Do I long for a like-minded companion at the end of the day when it would be nice to sort of debrief?  Unquestionably!  Would I like someone to have deep conversations with without having to make an appointment?  Certainly!

Meanwhile, I’m learning more about the love of God which is meant to free us to live an abundant life when we remain in Him!  (John 17)

So, what ‘opossum’ moments have you experienced and what fully alive moments have blessed your life?

**New Living Translation

Conquering “dandelion” thoughts – a singleness challenge ☆

dandelionIn a world which throws sexual messages at us at every turn, it is a challenge for a Christian unmarried person to keep sexual thoughts from multiplying like dandelions.  You know that if you don’t nip those yellow flowers in the bud, they turn into soft fluffy puffballs which fly away in the wind and settle down to raise thousands of other little puffballs.

It takes effort to conquer the mighty but tiny dandelion, and much more effort to conquer thoughts which affect our lives – body, soul, and spirit.  Paul tells us in II Corinthians 10:5, “we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”**  In the surrounding verses, we see that he is speaking of warfare which rages around us all the time with the aim of keeping us off-balance with numerous distractions.  For the person who is committed to Godly living, the battle is especially fierce.  And a strategic battlefield is between the ears.

What happens when soul ache, physical desires, and spiritual truth are on a collision course?  We are built by God for relationship, intimacy, and faithfulness – to God, to others, and to ourselves.  But we do not always make wise choices for caring attention.  We are related to Adam and Eve who, when given one instruction, chose to disobey it and were thrust into a world in which there were increasing rules and regulations which were impossible to keep.  It’s as if God put a little fence around one tree, and A & E couldn’t be satisfied with their incredible freedom to enjoy the rest of Eden.  They decided instead to climb over the fence to the one tree, making the horrid discovery that it was a one-way fence.

Scripture gives strong admonition to practice sexual purity which we understand to include fidelity for married and unmarried alike.  Especially, for those of us who are single, it means guarding our thoughts and hearts to reserve that part of our lives to glorify God.  As our bodies develop, so do desires for sexual expression.  To pray fervently that God will take away those desires is futile.

He chooses instead to let us partner with Him in learning how to live full and satisfying lives – within His restrictions.

We have to decide what value we place on intimacy and fidelity.  Are they precious treasures to cherish or commonplace commodities to dispense without restraint and self-control?  Do we follow the path of feelings which, while strong, are not always reliable short-term guides?  Or do we measure everything by the long-term truth of God’s Word?

While there is no one Bible verse which explicitly says, “Do not have sex if you are unmarried,” there are plenty of verses which talk about honoring the marriage bed (Hebrews 13:4), fleeing sexual immorality (I Corinthians 6:18), ‘acts of flesh’ to avoid (Galatians 5:19), and that a significant part of living a holy life is to steer clear of sexual immorality (I Thessalonians 4:3).  In other words,

God’s agape design for us is, if you are single – no intimate sex!  Is it easy?  No!  Is it possible?  Yes!

I remember hearing a story about a couple on a secluded beach at sunset, making the decision to satisfy their physical desire for one another.  One of them said, “Let’s pray first,” and then prayed, “Dear Lord, forgive us for what we are about to do.”  That brought them back to the reality of the situation and its importance, and they decided to leave the place which was putting them into temptation’s path.

So, how in the world do we “take thoughts captive?”

  • * At first hint of temptation, go into “flee mode” – what I call the “Joseph move.” (Genesis 39:11-12)
  • * Switch channels, choose books wisely, police yourself online – a living sacrifice choice. (Romans 12:1-2)
  • * Focus thoughts on something else – redirection. (Philippians 4:6-8)
  • * Make a “covenant with your eyes” – Job’s advice to avoid lust. (Job 31:1)
  • * Change “just say ‘no'” to “I can say ‘no'” – choice made with self-control. (Titus 2:12)
  • * Find a confidential buddy – burdens shared, joys multiplied. (Galatians 6:2)

And, the umbrella verse for all of life no matter what age we are:

Psalm 119:9  How can a young person stay on the path of purity?  By living according to Your Word.**

Amen!

** New International Version

I want ________ and I want it now! ☆

Let’s face it.  There are many words which fit here which have nothing to do with being single:  money, a better job, vacation, happiness, comfort, contentment, patience, and on and on.  But, since the circumstance of singleness has a bunch of things which we do not have – but want – it’s easy to jump right in with the restrictive things just out of our reach.  For those of us who choose to live according to Scriptural direction, the list may vary from those who do not, mainly because of differences in setting boundaries in the area of intimacy.  Everyone wants to be known body, soul, and spirit.  And, my guess is that at some time in our lives, every single person has said, at least to themselves,

“I want sex and I want it now!”

That got your attention, didn’t it?  There are times in our lives as singles when physical desires and emotions threaten to boil to the surface like an unruly volcano.  Having sex becomes a focus of feelings and thoughts.  Cold showers and jogging may distract for a short period of time.  For the Christian, it may seem like a cruelty that God would create us with such a strong desire for physical intimacy and then put limits on it.

It’s my understanding that during Old and New Testament times, marriage, particularly for the woman, came at a very early age.  Men and women generally went from their parents’ homes to a new home together.  Lifetime singleness was rare with Jesus, John the Baptist, and Paul being especially prominent New Testament examples.  There may be many more which just aren’t labeled.  Scripture tells us that the disciple, Peter, was married, but is silent about marriage status of the other disciples.  Mary Magdalene, Lazarus, Mary, and Martha are others who are never mentioned in spousal relationship.  I admit to some frustration at the brevity of specifics for singles, with Matthew 19:11-12 (following a discussion of marriage and divorce) and I Corinthians 7:32-35 (again in context of marriage) being the main references.

So, how is it that sex and celibacy have become the pivotal foci of discussion for Christian singleness?  How in the world can I live as a sexual being made that way by God, while living within the confines of “don’t?”  Scripture is full of admonitions to “flee sexual immorality,” and is especially clear in this passage from The Message.

I Corinthians 6:16-20 – There’s more to sex than mere skin on skin.  Sex is as much spiritual mystery as physical fact.  As written in Scripture, “The two become one.”  Since we want to become spiritually one with the Master, we must not pursue the kind of sex that avoids commitment and intimacy, leaving us more lonely than ever–the kind of sex that can never “become one.”  There is a sense in which sexual sins are different from all others.  In sexual sin we violate the sacredness of our own bodies, these bodies that were made for God-given and God-modeled love, for “becoming one” with another.  Or didn’t you realize that your body is a sacred place, the place of the Holy Spirit?  Don’t you see that you can’t live however you please, squandering what God paid such a high price for?  The physical part of you is not some piece of property belonging to the spiritual part of you.  God owns the whole works.  So let people see God in and through your body.**

OK. so how do I handle the “don’t” part?  Remember the “just say ‘no'” campaign against drugs in the 1980s-90s which expanded into the area of teenage sex?  For many, it probably worked, at least for awhile.  It meant engaging the mind to partner with desires with the aim of protection and safety to body, soul, and spirit.  But as most of us know, just gritting our teeth and saying ‘no’ is a painful and often unsuccessful way to live.  Remember Paul’s words in Romans 7:15-24 about his inner battle of “doing what I don’t want to do, and not doing what I want to do?”  Fortunately, he ends this passage recognizing the victory given by Jesus Christ, our Lord!

How do we partner with God in the mind part of this struggle to flee immorality?  What can the church do to help us live successful and fulfilled lives of singleness?  One of the fruit of the Spirit mentioned in Galatians 5:22-23 is self-control, which becomes powerful when joined with “taking thoughts captive” in II Corinthians 10-5.

I’m working on that in my life as well as in an upcoming post.  Stay tuned. 🙂

** Copyright Information:  The Message text may be quoted in any form (written, visual, electronic, or audio), up to and inclusive of five hundred (500) verses, without express written permission of the publisher, NavPress Publishing Group, providing the verses quoted do not amount to a complete book of the Bible and do not account for 25% or more of the total test of the work in which they are quoted.  Notice of copyright must appear as follows on either the title page or the copyright page of the work in which The Message is quoted, “Scripture taken from The Message, Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996,2000,2001, 2002.  Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.

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