How do I respond to “those” singleness comments????? ☆

question markYou know the ones.  they start with “Why are you. . .?  When are you. . .?  You’re not yet. . .?”  There is a great variety of comments and questions which are recounted on a lot of lists online under titles such as “10 things not to say to singles.”  As I have scanned that well-covered category this week, it seems that the questioners are all reading the same book.  People in Nebraska ask the very same questions as people in New York.  Go figure.

When younger, the questions usually are “When are you getting married?” or “Why are you not married yet?”  As years go by, they change a bit to “Why is it that you have never married?”  If I had even a quarter for the number of times I’ve been asked those questions, I’d be very wealthy.  And if I had THE definitive answer to those “why” questions, I’d be even richer.

I like a response I read awhile back.  “My prospective husband took a detour and he refuses to ask for directions.”  Well, if that’s possible, mine has been wandering around the wilderness for 40 years just like the Israelites in the Old Testament.  What can I say?

Even though many singles are choosing to live together, the common expectation is still that college age men and women will find their “significant other” and hopefully marry one another in a lifetime commitment – that covenant to love and cherish each other as long as they both shall live.  While there are many marriages which illustrate that, we seem to mainly hear of the ones which do not.  Few walk down the wedding aisle thinking that their marriage will fall apart with relational death.  What happens?

My observation:  The hard work which goes into a committed, faithful, covenant marriage often fails because the hard work of committed, faithful, and yes, covenantal singleness goes undone.  Fidelity is a word which gets much lip service today, but actually living it out is deemed impossible.  In particular, sexual freedom is viewed as an entitlement, and little thought is given to inevitable physical, emotional, and spiritual consequences.

In reality, all these consequences meld together because the physical connection is but a visual part of the “becoming one flesh” which Scripture talks about.  This process is meant to go infinitely beyond “urges” and “needs.”  Animals illustrate those basic things; but we are to transcend those.  The physical act is meant to connect the emotions in mutual love and respect, and to point to an even deeper reflection of our spiritual relationship with the God Who put all those complex gifts into our lives.

How in the world can I relate to all this as a single person who believes that this “becoming one” – body, soul, and spirit – is a freedom one is only to have with a spouse?  Is remaining celibate an impossible task?  More applicable for today, is remaining celibate a laughable and unnecessary goal if one is unmarried?  Is it a respected ideal only if one is called to be a Mother Teresa?

There is universal respect for the discipline it takes to be skillful athletes.  Olympic skaters, gymnasts, swimmers, skiers, and cyclists wow us with their finesse and speed.  What we see, however, is just the tip of the iceberg.  Their public successes come only as a result of all the behind-the-scenes work on tiny details.  Same with pianists, by the way.  A Chopin Etude may eventually take less than 5 minutes to play in concert.  The preparation may be 100+ hours of slow, steady practice.  A concert lasting an hour may consist of 250 pages of music – traditionally memorized if you are a pianist.  All these skills are seen as objects of celebration when done successfully.

So, why do we see fidelity and discipline in the life of an unmarried person as any less a celebration?  It is a puzzle, isn’t it?

For those of you reading this who are walking this journey with me, I’m here to say, “Good for you!  You encourage me just as I hope I encourage you!  God’s blessing of His spiritual fruit be yours in abundance – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control!”  Galatians 5:23 goes on to tell us that none of these things are against any law in any situation!

Well, this post has started my mind on a quest for more good responses to singleness questions.  More to come! 🙂

Genesis 2:24; Mark 10:8; I Corinthians 6:16; Ephesians 5:31

Lonely? Take “SPOUSE!” ☆

I don’t know about you, but it seems that there is a super abundance of advertising for medications on TV these days.  And while they are miracle aids for a myriad of ailments, most of the ads seem to be taken up with the dire possible side effects.  I’m sort of waiting for one which says:

Take this for XYZ, but be aware that your legs might fall off in the process.

Now, I admit there have been times in my life when it felt as though marriage would bring total and complete happiness which would erase loneliness.  It was magnified each time I attended weddings of friends and family, and then attended baby showers for the same – and then weddings and showers for their children.  Even knowing in my head that marriage isn’t always warm and fuzzy, it didn’t help to be told that, when every fiber of my heart screamed out for that experience.

What does help is for someone to simply say, “I hear you!  It is hard!”

That gives encouragement to walk through that tunnel into the light of “OK God.  Now what are You and I going to do together?”

As you might expect from me when thinking about such weighty things, I went to Noah Webster’s great book – called the dictionary. 🙂

Of the word “lonely,” Webster says:

  •        * Sequestered apart from company or neighbors; in want of company.
  •        * Having a feeling of depression or sadness resulting from the consciousness of being alone.

Of a similar, but slightly different word, ‘alone,” he says:

  •        * Quite by one’s self; apart from others; without a sharer.
  •        * Unique, rare, matchless.

Now, the first definitions are quite similar in that they stress the apartness both represent.  Re. loneliness, the thing which strikes me is that loneliness and depression can walk hand-in-hand into deep dark places which may seem to have no door out.  And, for the single person, loneliness may take a variety of shapes and sizes according to the circumstance.  What can seem like adventurous opportunities for some can be intense trials for others.

The boundaries of loneliness can be outweighed by the freedom of aloneness. 

I have to admit, I’ve had a foot in both camps at times.

Buying a house on my own was a very daunting experience, and walking through “what have I done?” without another having the same vested interest, moved into “Wow, I can pound nails and paint wherever I want.”

Watching my brothers and their families at a family reunion and realizing that not one drop of my DNA goes any further than me was overwhelming at the time.  Being blessed by nieces and nephews and their children (and even a couple of great-great nieces) has brought immense joy to my life.

Continuing to have a deep desire for companionship in marriage, while experiencing an equally deep and true contentment in where I am in life because God has brought me to this place in His plan and timing.

Living with paradoxical loss of what I’ve never had, while reveling in the deepening relationship with God made more precious by opportunities for friendships and travel adventures – and even this blog!

Singleness often provides a sort of human petri dish for loneliness, doesn’t it?  But, it can also be a place of healing for unmarrieds and those around them.  Once again, Scripture has some words helping to bring life to those who are alone and lonely.  True to the 2nd definition above under “alone,” we have an infinitely unique, rare, and matchless God who loves us for those same qualities because He made us that way!  Psalm 139 is full of truth affirming that.

Psalm 139:13-14 – For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.  I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful.  I know that full well.

II Thessalonians 2:16-17 – May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word.

I Timothy 6:15-16 – . . . God, the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see.  To him be honor and might forever.  Amen.

Thank you for joining me on this amazing journey!

New International Version – NIV

 

Leftover singles! What?? Really??? ☆

When I think of leftovers, I tend to think of those little packages in the fridge which are reminders of meals gone by, and which, if not used soon, tend to morph into green fuzzy penicillin specimens.  But, a few weeks ago, I happened uponman and woman a totally new meaning of the word.  Leftover men and women!

I thought I had ferreted out all the negative names for singlehood.  You know the ones:  spinster, confirmed bachelor, old maid, unclaimed blessing. . . well, that’s enough of that!  But, leftover singles?  China actually recognizes this as a term to define men over 30 and women over 27 who have not married.  Perhaps they are finally realizing the negative effects of the one-child-per-family laws enacted in the late 1970’s for population control.  In 2014, the restriction was loosened to allow a second child in families where at least one of the parents was an only child.  This second child must be applied for, however – so more bureaucracy ensues.  You can search out that term for many articles on this, mainly called “leftover women,” even though there are apparently many more unmarried men in China than women.

For this blog post, my intent is not to decry China’s policies.  It is, however, to comment on the shaming qualities in such labels as “leftover women” and “leftover men.”  Fortunately, I haven’t found it applied to singles from other cultures.  But, I have to admit that the term sort of fits the emotional lives of too many of us who remain unmarried for extended periods of time.

This points out something I think many people miss when thinking about singlehood.  Being single in the 20s and 30s is not the same as being single in the 40s, 50s, and – well, you get the message.  Many of those living in protracted singleness have discovered, for the most part, that they can make it on their own because that is simply what they have had to do.  They buy a home and learn how to face buyer’s remorse by themselves.  They manage to leave a car lot with confidence they have made a good decision.  They pay their bills in timely fashion on a single income.  And, especially, they dig deeply into their souls and spirits to discover just who they are in relationship to God and others,

When I was in my 20s, buying a home was not even on my radar.  That was something only done with a spouse.  Lengthy years spent as a onesome was not on my radar, either.  Being unchosen was unthinkable.

What can I say?  Life has a way of dealing realistic blows with regularity.  What’s a single to do?   Even realizing that there are many more unmarried and never-married older singles these days, the reality is that those of us who choose to develop holy habits of fidelity – body, soul, and spirit – seem to be in the minority for the most part.  Count the never-marrieds beyond college in your church, and my guess is that you will not run out of fingers on one hand.  The most common excuse is that churches are too family oriented.  The next one is that “no one spoke to me.”  The next, “church is a very lonely place when you are alone.”

While I can relate to each of these thoughts, I’ve discovered the value of intentionality in becoming part of the family, speaking first, and seeking out those who can be friendly “walkers-beside” in life.  I’m very fortunate in being part of a church which has always stressed strong Biblical preaching/teaching, and which encourages those who are unmarried, and, in particular, women, to be leaders.

I have to really work on being the one to speak first to others because I am basically a quiet introvert.  I actually work on that when I’m making an important purchase.  For instance, when I had to buy new tires for my car last summer, I told the salesguy to treat me as though I was his favorite aunt.  (It actually helped to get a better deal than I expected!)  As for church, I’ve discovered that just as Jesus often asked questions, it’s good to be prepared to ask people about themselves.  That almost always works.

Loneliness is a larger issue, much too large to cover in a couple sentences.  That’ll take another blog post.  I know it is not limited to the single; many who are married experience painful loneliness.  But, there are areas of loneliness which I believe are unique to being single.  Stay tuned for more thoughts on that. 🙂

Meanwhile, I take solace in Scripture.

The LORD appeared to us in the past, saying:  “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.  (Jeremiah 31:3 – NIV)

Depression – long, slow, painful suicide of the soul ☆

This post comes upon hearing the news of Robin Williams’ suicide.

He had often openly shared his struggle with deep depression, among other things.  As for his spiritual life, he considered himself somewhat religious, talking about having “some sense of God during rehab.”  Watching him act, I recall seeing deep sadness in his eyes even when he was at his comic best.  Did this “sense of God” help him in daily life?

Just about everyone experiences some level of depression in their lives, and a significant number suffer from clinical depression of various intensities.  Even Christians are not immune!  A very gifted pastor and prolific author wrote:

“Heaviness of heart is a killing thing, and when it abounds it threatens to turn life into a long death, in which a man seems to drop away in a perpetual drip of grief.  Tears are the distillation of the heart,  When a man weeps he wastes away his soul.  Some of us know what great heaviness means, for we have been brought under its power again and again, and often have we felt ourselves to be poured out like water, and near to being like water spilt upon the ground, never again to be gathered up.  There is one good point in this downcast state, for it is better to be melted with grief than to [have hardness of heart]”  Charles Spurgeon – Treasury of David – notes on Psalm 119:28

So, I guess there are a number of us in good company.  Personally, no one knew 20 years ago that I would come home from work, walk into the back door of my house, and weep from the sheer relief at having made it through another day.  Just physically putting one foot in front of the other was a terrific drain of energy.  People would tell me to ‘smile’ when it felt as if there were 10-pound weights on the corners of my mouth.  And, no one knew I had felt “melted with grief” for many years.  Going into counseling gave me a diagnosis of clinical depression, and a very gifted psychologist and my primary care doctor worked together for relief.

When I shared with Christian brothers and sisters I was given a variety of responses which I know were meant to be helpful.

  •     “Read all the verses on joy in the Bible daily out loud.”  They didn’t realize I already had tons of notes on ‘joy.’
  •     “Have you prayed about it?”  To which I felt like saying, “Duh!”
  •     “What sin is God trying to point out in your life?”  Well, if that was it, He was not being very clear about it.
  •     “Just wait.  It’ll pass.”  Meanwhile, what?  It felt interminable.

I eventually stopped sharing with anyone, and plugged into the stage presence I had learned so well as a college piano major.  No one knew the depth of sadness!  I finally determined that for one year in my personal devotions, I would read nothing but the little book of Philippians over and over because it emphasizes joy.  I would read until a verse stopped me, and perhaps meditate on it for a week.  At the end of the year, I noticed no difference in my soul.  But, a number of people who had no idea of my Philippians project told me they saw deep joy building in me.  The light bulb went on that Hebrews 4:12 is true!  The word of God is truly alive and at work discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.  That was the “aha moment” which sent me into counseling and healing!

Praise God for His provision!  Am I totally depression-free?  No.  I’m very grateful for friends with whom I can be transparent, and for antidepressants to treat the physical effects.  While I cannot be grateful for depression, I am very grateful for the place to which it has brought me!  It helps keep my eyes open to encourage the fainthearted.  And I’m so grateful to pass on the great gifts given to me by friends and family, like that Paul spoke of in Philemon 1:7 – Your love has given me great joy and encouragement, because you, brother [sister], have refreshed the hearts of the Lord’s people.  (NIV)

None of us are alone no matter what circumstances try to tell us!

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.  Romans 15:13 (NIV)

♥  Quote from Treasury of David is in public domain.  Another online place where Charles Spurgeon eloquently addresses depression:  “More than Coping”

 

I know a lot about leaving. Cleaving? Not so much. ☆

Most singles, particularly those who are single into their late 20s and 30s and beyond, have a pretty good concept of the leaving thing.  They leave home to go to college or pursue a career.  They start to realize just how much toilet paper and toothpaste and groceries really cost, and start filling their mental appreciation boxes for their parents’ long-standing provision.

Leaving is both exhilarating and scary!

My guess is that cleaving is also exhilarating and scary.  I find it interesting that the word “cleave” in the English language has two opposite meanings.

  •           *  To adhere to with strong attachment; to stick like glue; to unite closely in interest and devotion.
  •           *  To divide by force; to part; to cut apart; to crack open; to separate.

The first meanings are what the Bible is talking about in leaving parents and cleaving to a spouse.  Unfortunately, we see too much of the second frame of mind in our society.  I’m sure people do not walk down the wedding aisle with the mindset that their dreams will dim and end in divorce.  But, for some, it just seems to happen when vows of love and fidelity are lowered in priority.  The hard work of fostering and nourishing relationship on deeper levels becomes too steep for some and promises are broken along with bodies, hearts, souls, and spirits.

So, how in the world does the desire for that “two-becoming-one” idea stay alive?  Because it is a God-given desire which has been buffeted and scarred in the fallen world.  And when I see couples who have stayed the course beyond the honeymoon, finding newer depths of treasure in their spouses, I am moved to tears.  These are the ones living out the profound mystery Paul talks about in Ephesians 5:30.  God reveals through Paul that the purpose of marriage is to illustrate the ultimate relationship of Jesus Christ and His bride, the church.  We need visual aids to understand the true significance of “leaving and cleaving.”

Very early on in the book of Genesis, we are introduced to the idea of a man leaving his father and mother and cleaving to his wife.  (Genesis 2:24)  Adam has spent some time with God in the interesting work of naming all the animals.  God sees that Adam needs someone to relate to other than animals, though, and creates Eve.  Then comes the leave/cleave idea.  Now, neither Adam nor Eve had an earthly father and mother to leave, but it is not recorded that they asked God what that was all about.  They did experience an instant bonding to one another – cleaving.  This first intimate bonding is not recorded for us.  It was a deeply private moment for the first couple and became a foundation principle – that a man and woman become one in marriage.

OK.  So where does that leave the single who didn’t have singleness on their bucket list – most of us, I suspect.  I’ve had a lot of time to ponder the “leaving and cleaving” idea, wondering if there is anything comparable for singles, particularly those who have never married, who end up making it on their own for most of their lives.  Well, it’s no surprise that there really isn’t anything comparable in the physical realm for us when we choose to “abide in Christ” in faithfulness and obedience to instructions set out in Scripture.  Simply “getting married” is not really the issue.  Marrying someone who has compatible spiritual maturity – along with a host of other important things which enhance the attraction and mutual love and enjoyment – is the issue.

Meanwhile, what’s a single to do?  We’ve already left.  To whom can we cleave – hold fast to, walk with, live with, delight in, love, cherish, and enjoy?  Of course, we know the bottom answer is GOD.  But, even He has planted the desire in our hearts for a flesh and blood person with whom we can live out our days.  It becomes a challenge which is designed to drive us to Him for our deepest needs for intimacy and relationship – while spending our days fully living and not just in interminable waiting.

Sigh!  It is indeed a mystery!

  The King James Version of the Bible uses the leave and cleave terminology.

 

Does the Bible really tell singles to “wait?” ☆

“Waiting” is one of those words which we use in a number of ways:

  •    *  Time spent in inactivity in anticipation of a desired result.
  •    *  Time wasted when only one bank teller window is open and there are 20 people in line.
  •    *  Having to sit through three red lights because of road construction.
  •    *  For the single person, time spent preparing for marriage as the only desired goal – and being disappointed by God’s timing – or by looooooooooooooong-term or permanent earthly singleness.
  •    *  In a dating situation, abstaining from mutual close physical activity which is inappropriate in singleness, appropriate in marriage.

Sound familiar?  I think most of us think of “waiting” as wasted time.  And, for the single, a great many might consider “waiting” for marriage as an outdated notion thought up by killjoys.  Our culture has been relentlessly pushing “if it feels good, it must be good,” messages for so many years that even some Christians of all ages have adopted that thought pattern.

“God can’t really expect us to live out expectations written to a totally different age and society can He?”

“He wouldn’t give us one of the strongest pleasures known to mankind and then put equally strong restrictions for its usage – and expect us to obey them – would He?”

Well, yes!  the use of unlawful sexual activity for lustful purposes is condemned from Genesis to Revelation – for the unmarried and the married!

While it is true that verses relating to unmarried folks throughout scripture do not use the words “wait” or ‘be celibate,” that is certainly the understanding.  Words used are ones like “flee immorality,” “don’t commit adultery,” behave decently” [in terms of sexual morality], “there must not even be a hint of . . .” and “honor the marriage bed.” ♥

So, what about ‘waiting?”  Once again, I cannot find that Scripture tells unmarried folks to spend time waiting for marriage, or even to assume that is his promise for our lives.  We do, however, have clear indication of what the object of our waiting should be!

“I wait for the LORD, my whole being waits, and in his word I put my hope.  I wait for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning, more than watchmen wait for the morning.”  (Psalm 130:5-6)

So, how does this help when physical desires threaten to overtake us and we are tempted to chew the upholstery off the sofa if we cannot express them?  Oh how I wish I could give 4 easy and effective steps to victory in the lust area!  I CAN say that God’s restrictions are meant to spare us the pain of guilt and shame which comes as a result of carelessly and hastily sharing the most intimate parts of our bodies and souls with the opposite sex.  He wants to spare us from the complications and heartbreak pregnancies outside of marriage cause.  He wants to spare us the fear and consequences of STDs.  He wants us to understand the “two becoming one” in the covenant of marriage alone.  (Mark 10:8)

I CAN also say that God listens with understanding when we holler at Him a bit.  He’s not surprised by anything, by the way.  We don’t need to pretty up any language for His ears.  So, pray, pray, pray, run, flee, talk to an accountability friend, AND realize that as strong as our passions and urges are, they do not last forever!

“I have the right to do anything” you say–but not everything is beneficial.  “I have the right to do anything”–but I will not be mastered by anything. . . Flee from sexual immorality.  All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body.  Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?  You are not your own, you were bought at a price.  Therefore honor God with your bodies.  (I Corinthians 6:12,, 18-20)

♥  I Corinthians 6:18; Exodus, 20:14; Romans 13:13; Ephesians 5:3; Hebrews 13:4.  All Scripture quotes – NIV.

 

 

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