A Single Window Pane ☆

When I first moved into my 1920 vintage home, the kitchen had those crank-out sort of windows.  They didn’toutside looking in work so well, because the cranks kept falling off and eventually would not work anymore.  One of the windows would fly open in the wind and I had to nail it shut.  First big expense – double-paned windows.  A week and BIG chunk of change later, I had windows I could open and shut with ease and the double panes helped with my heating bill.  Rain would slam onto the screens and the outside pane but keep the inner pane dry.

Fast forward a couple years.  Moisture began to gather between the panes of those expensive windows.  Thanks to the warranty, another big chunk of change for labor, and I had airtight windows again.  I guess you could call that “labor panes.”  Sorry!  I couldn’t resist that.

So, why the thoughts about windows today?  Because for a few weeks now, I’ve been bumping up against a single window pane of the mind which causes emotional pain.  Advice for marriage and family abounds.  Some of my long-visited Christian websites have either discontinued their pages for singles, or have buried them under pages labeled “for women” with fewer and fewer articles for those without a life partner.  And, generally the articles there tend to be written by now-married women who focus on “what to do while waiting.”  Articles abound on “how to raise children” and “10 little things to brighten your husband’s day.”

Venturing onto pages “for men” is usually a different experience.  While there are articles for “5 things your wife wishes you knew,” it is rare to find any mention of singleness on men’s pages.  Maybe it’s because fewer men than women walk through life as a onesome.

I’ve come to realize that singledom, especially in the church, is an invisible village.

Sermon series for God’s design for sex and marriage are popular.  Onesomes are told to pray for their married family and friends, armed with increasing information on what marriage should be about.  I’m quite happy to do that.  I respect marriage highly.  I’m not blind to the endurance of many in this challenging place.  Why, however, is it not just as important for those who are married to understand more about the challenges of living as a Godly single, and to pray for us as well?  I’m here to tell you that being single takes a lot of hard work, too!

In the absence of attention at church-level in general, I’m aware that there is definitely an elephant in the room – and it seems to be me.  Well, at least, it is those of us who do not have a life partner at present.  Most unmarrieds who come to the church are those who have had the experience of having had a spouse.  Sadly, marriages end by death and divorce, both very painful situations.  I’m also here to tell you that never having had a spouse can also be a very painful situation that very few acknowledge, bringing loneliness most folks just don’t get!

I’m saddened greatly that most churches do not think about a sermon series – or even one sermon – on what it means to live a Godly single life.  There is an urgent need for even middle and high school students to know how precious their emotions and hormones are to God, and that He is very interested in helping them develop self-control and contentment.  College men and women are thrust into a world where many of them are on their own for the first time, and if they have not learned the value of faithfulness and self-control at a younger age, they may have trouble seeing the value now.  The term “single” is not generally used until they are post-college age.  Once again, they are on a huge learning curve of how to be self-supporting and responsible adults.  Too often, too many do not have a practiced discipline in their moral lives and may not see a need to gain one now.  Why not?

They have not been told how important and valuable their moral lives are to God, themselves, and those around them. 

Read this:  “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God?  You are not your own, for you were bought with a price.  So glorify God in your body.  (I Corinthians 6:19-20)

The temple in Scripture is described as a visually spectacular place, full of color and lush fabrics, and gold, silver, and gems of every type.  Of course, its real purpose was not to be spectacular, but to be a place where people gave back to God from their crops and livestock, acknowledging their shortcomings – sin – and receiving forgiveness.  While the Temple does not exist in Jerusalem today, its memory does.  And, certainly the reality of Jesus’ sacrifice in my place for my sin exists!

In the process, He considers me as a beautiful temple which is furnished by the Holy Spirit within me!  How can I help but live my life glorifying Him as best I can!

However, I still find myself as a sort of Lone Ranger shouting a message few want to hear.

Are you listening?

Lessons from a bird and a moth. ☆

It was a sunny Colorado day; just the pleasant sort of day for errands.  I was getting groceries out of my car when I heard a little commotion behind me.

There was a moth banging over and over into the garage window – and on the other side there was a bird simultaneously banging over and over into the glass.  Now, the moth’s intent was simple.  “I just want out of here!”  The bird’s intent was simple, too.  “I just want moth for lunch.”  I watched for a couple minutes and neither of them gave up until I scared the bird away by walking out of the garage.

So, as usual, I began to relate these two little critters to my single life.

Moth perspective

  • ** I’m in a place I don’t like and I want to get into a better place.
  • ** I’m feeling very hemmed in and want to be freeeeeeeeee!
  • ** What in the world is this wall I can see through which keeps me from being freeeeeeeeee?
  • ** I want the grass and sunshine I see and not this gloomy garage!

Bird perspective

  • ** I’m just flying along being birdy and realize it’s time for lunch.
  • ** Should I go to arches of gold or hut of pizza?
  • ** In the meantime, here’s a tasty looking moth.  Here I go!
  • ** Bammety bam bam!  What in the world. . . . .?  (Repeat 10 times.)

I’ve often acted just like those little creatures.  How many times have I complained to God that I’m tired of where I am and tired of being alone?  Too numerous to count, I’m afraid.  For instance:

  •  ** It just seems that if I were married, I’d have a built-in companion to do stuff with.  Crash!
  • ** We’re attracted to each other.  We can work on the spiritual stuff later.  Bang!
  • ** Surely God wouldn’t deny me the desire of my heart.  After all, He promised.  (Psalm 37:4)  Wham!

I’ve discovered that my perception is often flawed.  Sometimes something looks good on the surface, not so good under.  When I was about 5, my mother was making bread.  I saw the rising dough and decided to snitch a piece because surely it would taste as good as cookie dough.  So, I took a small blob and ran outside to enjoy.  As Charlie Brown of Peanuts fame might say:  Aaaarrrggghhh!  In other words:  raw bread dough does not taste good!  It isn’t in its finished state – baked.

It’s all in the timing!

OK.  You get the picture.  The one who penned Psalm 73 hit it right on the head for potential birds and moths like me.

  • ** I know God is good – – – – – but I’m stumbling around here by myself.
  • ** Everyone around me seems to have things so much better – like money and companionship.
  • ** They are healthy and happy and trouble-free.
  • ** Now, I do see that they act in ways I choose not to – even violently with evil intent.
  • ** Oh yes, they have potty mouths, too.
  • ** But, they still have friends and are having a good time.
  • ** I thought following God would be happier and more comfortable.
  • ** Instead, I’m lonely and tired and don’t feel good.
  • ** Is following God worth it?

I find some comfort in the fact I’m not alone in the hard places!  I’ve learned a lot of tough lessons in the process of going from young to seasoned singleness.  Following Jesus is full of challenges – but the commitment is worth it!  If I could go back to talk to my younger self, I would say, “God’s word provides the guidance I need even – or especially – when I don’t get it – or even want it.  Meanwhile, keep talking to God about what your heart is feeling!  He can take it.”

Fortunately, the Psalmist brings us to a glorious conclusion in verse 28:

“But I’m in the very presence of God – oh, how refreshing it is!  I’ve made Lord God my home.  God, I’m telling the world what you do!  (The Message)

CELIBACY – Gift? Choice? Discipline? ☆

wait hereA number of years ago as I closed a college women’s Bible Study, one of the students said to me, “I’ve never known anyone before who has the gift of celibacy.”  I can still see the admiration in her eyes – and can still feel the absolute gut-wrenching punch I felt inside.  I drove home in tears with this question:  “You didn’t do that to me, did you, God?”  I was in my early 30s.

I’ve wrestled with that question for what for some readers is more than their lifetime of years.  Earlier editions of Webster’s Dictionary define celibacy simply as the unmarried state, or as a vow made not to marry, particularly for religious reasons.  Somewhere along the line it also came to mean abstinence from sexual activity.

I find it interesting that while the Bible never uses the term, celibacy, it is well understood that abstaining from intimate physical relationships is the recommended way of life for those who do not have a spouse.

Gift?

Many Bible scholars use I Corinthians 7:7 as proof positive that Paul calls this way of life a gift.  “I wish that all of you were as I am, but each of you has your own gift from God; one has this gift, another has that.” (NIV)  He appears to be speaking of the practice of abstinence from physical intimacy in and out of marriage – limited abstinence by agreement of husband and wife if married, total abstinence if not married.  For the unmarried person, Paul goes on to say in verses 8-9:  “Now to the unmarried and the widows I say:  It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I do.  But if they cannot control themselves, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion.”

So, what happened to the gift?  Is it returnable?  Is it acceptable in some cases, not in others?  Is it one of the more specialized gifts termed as spiritual?  Are the effects instant if you accept it?  When and where do I get it?  What if I am one of the “burning” ones?

Hmmmmmm.  I wonder.

Choice?

Now, my stance on Scripture is constant.  I believe II Timothy 3:16-17 implicitly:  “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.  So, that’s how I handle my frustration at times when I wish the Bible went further in some of its explanations – especially for the onesome.  Even though verses specifically for the single are few, they say exactly what God intended to say on the subject.

Our lives are rarely without choice in some form.  We choose to make God the center of our lives.  we choose modes of conduct, such as to steal or not steal, to envy or not to envy; to respect or to disrespect; to be faithful or to cheat.  We choose what to eat, wear, say, and do.

My personal opinion is that celibacy is a choice God leaves up to me.  Now, sometimes choices are made willingly – or unwillingly.  Both depend on what we conclude are the right things to do.  Why in the world would I choose celibacy when every part of my being desires that close connection with another person?

  • *  Well, first and foremost, I believe it is what God requests of me in order to serve Him faithfully.
  • *  I believe that physical intimacy involves giving of the deepest parts of my being to another.
  • *  I want the deepest parts of my being to be entrusted to my husband, not just anyone.
  • *  I want my husband to whom I give the deepest parts of my being to have mutual spiritual values.
  • *  I want to avoid distraction of physical/emotional complications caused by short-term intimate social relationships.
  • *  And so, I choose celibacy.

Discipline?

Personally, I believe a celibate life involves both well-considered choice and intentional discipline!  Self-discipline is one of the spiritual fruit mentioned by Paul in Galatians 5:22.  While this verse does not specifically connect it to intimacy issues, there are a host of scriptures which tell us to avoid unfaithfulness of all sorts, including sexual issues.  Where I used to rant and rave at God about the battle of hormones vs. faithfulness to Him, I find that disciplined practice brings a solid consequence of more consistent contentment with where I am now.  Let me illustrate.

I am a pianist.  I began piano lessons when I was about 4 years old because I would stand at the piano and pick out tunes I heard – mainly hymns.  My mother helped me begin to develop the gift of music.  Along with that came a bunch of choices.  I discovered along the way that my tastes moved toward traditional baroque, classical, and romantic composers:  Bach, Mozart, and Beethoven.  Hearing music by composers like these just blessed a depth of my soul unlike much of contemporary music.  And then came discipline.  I decided to major in piano performance in college.  I thought I was pretty good as an incoming freshman piano major.  And then, I met my piano professor!  He took me way back to some basics I thought I had far surpassed.  I had to learn every piece at a snail’s pace.  BORING!  Then, one day I discovered that when I could play pieces from memory up to tempo, it was almost as if I could read them in my mind.  Learning them very slowly to begin with brought freedom from memory lapses, and great confidence and fun in performance.  I learned that discipline, while is often not fun, brings great reward!  I’m sure great athletes think the same.  What we see in public is born out of thousands of hours of private repetition and practice and study.  Discipline enhances the gift and the choice.

That is exactly how I feel about the discipline of celibacy after practicing it throughout my life.  It helps manage my thoughts and actions.  Choice of what I watch on TV and how I exercise my love of reading is managed by the discipline of knowing what causes me to move into areas of intimacy which simply are not available to me at present.  You know all those Hallmark movies, especially at Christmas?  Girl always gets boy, even in the most impossible of circumstances.  Even those I have to watch with discernment, because sometimes they feed a yearning in my heart which is not one God has chosen to fulfill – so far anyway.  There’s nothing wrong with the movies.  But, discipline has taught me that I need to discern the vulnerability of my heart to choose whatever I read and watch and think about in order to cultivate the quality of my life.

So what do you think?  Gift?  Choice?  Or discipline?  For more of my thoughts on this, see the first posts of this blog:  “I Corinthians 7 – a new look.”

Casual glance, casual dress, and, oh yes, casual sex. What??? ☆

I’m back to my fave book, the dictionary, for a summary of the word “casual.”

  1. Happening or coming to pass without design.
  2. Happening without being foreseen or expected.
  3. Relaxed and unconcerned.
  4. Careless or offhand.
  5. Occurring by chance.
  6. Seeming to be indifferent to what is happening.

OK.  That’s plenty of definition which I believe makes the phrase, “casual sex” an unfortunate oxymoron – two words which aren’t compatible, like “definite maybe.”  In fact, if you search online for “oxymoron casual sex” you’ll find a lot of articles secular and faith-based which discuss this for what it is:  a twisted view of something precious.

Now, I’m all for good communication about all aspects of life.  From what I read, most parents find it uncomfortable to have “the talk” with their kids.  In fact, if you are brave, and you want to laugh uncontrollably, go to monastery.com and read this hilarious response to her kids’ questions.  Just a note:  while she draws some spiritual ideas in her blog which i do not hold, “Sex is tricky” has got to be one of the funniest articles of the year.  Now, my guess is that most of us did not gain this intellectual knowledge in quite the same manner or intensity.

What in the world happens to us?  Well, when we are babies and little tots, people are really protective of us – of every part of us.  Cute clothes cover parts of our anatomy considered precious and private.  Little kids are taught not to just disrobe anywhere they please.  We teach value and respect for the body, especially because the mature mid-body areas have the capability of bringing forth new life.  Think about that a bit.  Not only is pleasure involved, but the possibility of bringing forth new life is an incredible gift – not to be taken lightly.

Shouldn’t we have a large measure of awe and respect for something so powerful?

So, what in the world happens?  Where, here are a few things:

Little children are thrust into a sexualized world at earlier and earlier ages through things like beauty pageants where they wear makeup, fake teeth, hair extensions, and are taught to move provocatively.  Little children, especially girls, may see this on TV and learn at a very early age that the way they look is most important.  Don’t get me wrong.  I love to see little girls and boys in dress-up clothes.  But, forcing them to act in sexualized adult ways is not cute.

How is it that school children in younger and younger grades are seemingly compelled to experiment sexually with one another?  What has happened to the respect for all parts of our anatomy which should have carried over from baby and toddler days?  How it is that so many folks from high school on up make intimacy so commonplace?  How did baring their bodies to each other become so commonplace?

TV and the Internet have certainly carved deep paths into minds of all ages, giving access to a whole bunch of input for people who may not have anyplace to put it.  Along with that, many of us do not get compelling teaching that sexual intimacy is reserved for those who make the covenant of marriage with one another.  We are not told that we are precious and are not meant to give ourselves away with reckless imitations of intimacy.

People want to be important to themselves and others.  They want to feel good.  No one denies that sexual intimacy is desirable – it feels good.  But, even the best things are often made better by restraint.  Eating a piece of dark chocolate cake is enjoyable.  Eating the whole cake is not.

The Message puts it so well in 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.

(Eugene Peterson’s translation of the Bible called The Message.)

One Shade of Black – The Sequel ☆

How we blow things out of all proportion, until a simple truth is no longer recognizable.

Isn’t that a great sentence?  I ran across it today in – of all places – a murder mystery.  I think it is the perfect summary of the sensational press for books and movies such as “Fifty Shades of Grey.”  Just take a look at movie titles and so many of them scream of seduction, infidelity, sexual crimes, violence, witchcraft, and making normal things abnormal.  TV shows make comedy out of sexual innuendos, affairs, teenage escapades, and activities which most of the general public still considers to be inappropriate.  And, yet, they also find them funny.  Go figure.

Going beyond the comedy are very graphic depictions of murder, kidnapping, violent crimes, crimes against children, and pornography of all levels.  The Greeks had a word for this:  porneia – the selling off or surrendering of sexual purity; promiscuity of any type.  Sound familiar?  And, that word is in the Bible!

So, what about Fifty Shades?

“To truly understand the success of Fifty Shades, one first has to revisit the book’s roots.  Despite a determined campaign of internet scrubbing by author E.L. James and her publishers, it’s still relatively common knowledge that Fifty Shades began its life as an online Twilight fan fiction serial called Master of the Universe.”♦♦

Author Kirsten Andersen summarizes the Twilight plot, and says Fifty Shades is simply the same teen story told for adults.  Both tell the stories of shy, innocent girls/women who are attracted to very attractive and magnetic boys/men who have an innate desire to hurt them.  The women agree to things they would not ordinarily agree to because of the intense attraction and the intense high from having a popular, incredibly powerful man seemingly interested in them.  That someone finds them that attractive, is enough to erase their inhibitions about intimate moral activity.

Let’s face it.  Heightened appetite for anything can overrule our best intentions.

Paul addressed a Greek audience in I Thessalonians 4:3-5 when he said, “God’s will is for you to be holy, so stay away from all sexual sin.  Then each of you will control his own body and live in holiness and honor–not in lustful passion like the pagans who do not know God and his ways.”  (NLT)  Now, the pagans he was talking about were those living in a Twilight and Fifty Shades mentality.  They were coming out of a culture which made sexual activity common place even in their religious temples.  Their appetites had been groomed to accept overindulgence as the norm.

Once you acquire a taste for something, it’s hard to stay away from it.

God knows the strength of our passionate feelings.  He created them – and they are good.  Our tendency is to single out sexual intimacy as our entitled right, and that is so much less than God wants for us.  Just look at the list of Spiritual Fruit in Galatians 5:22-23:  love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.  And, there are no lows against any of these!  Imagine our lives if we took full advantage of all these things which are part of our inheritance in Jesus Christ!

Is it possible to learn self-control of body appetites?  Absolutely!

Is it easy?  Nooooooooooooooooooooo!

The pattern has been set.  The enemy of our souls has taken a God-given desire and turned it into an addictive frenzy which will not subside any time soon.  I’ve discovered the truth of Psalm 119:11 which is a life-long pursuit – that of hiding God’s word in the heart to keep sin at bay.  Now, understand that I am certainly no Pollyanna.  Just ask my friends.  This verse brings responsibility into focus.  And that is not easy!

I wrote to a very good friend recently, “Sometimes I feel like I’m in the deep end of the swimming pool because my experience is far below my knowledge – – – thankfully so!”  He wrote back, “Our culture has gone off the cliff, especially in our handling of our sexuality.  When you think of sexual desire simply as another bodily function like eating, why not indulge with whomever you want?  It is and will be a lonely walk for those living under clear biblical teaching.”

How true, how true.  So, fellow onesomes, stand firm!

  •   The Brutal Telling, Louise Penny, Minotaur Books 2009, page 179
  • ♦♦ Just search for “why is 50 shades of grey so popular” for interesting insight to some of what guides our culture.

What do I do with deep longings which feel like losses? ☆

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about longings which feel exactly like losses – even though I’ve never experienced the longed-for thing.

Can you really lose something you’ve never had?

Apparently a lot of song writers think you can because when I googled™ that question, a whole flurry of song lyrics came up.

I remember the exact moment when I realized that not one drop of my DNA would go beyond me.  I was at a family reunion and watched as my married brothers gathered their children and grandchildren together for pictures.  While my personal desire to have children has always been tied to husband first, children second, the realization was still quite like a sledge hammer blast to the heart.  I melted into a puddle of tears and fled to a quiet corner to be alone.

That awareness has served to give me great compassion for those married folks who ache to have children, but for varying reasons, cannot.  Some go through the heartache of hoping with expectations which are dashed to pieces over and over.  It brings some couples together in heart-to-heart ways they would never had anticipated.  It tears other couples apart as each person deals with grief in different ways which shreds their relationship to pieces.  Other couples struggle as one spouse wants children, the other does not.  Each of these bruising experiences has its roots in that fateful day in Eden when Adam and Eve disobeyed God.  Not only did they live their whole lives suffering the consequences, but they passed that legacy on to every one of us.

Paul understands those effects when he wrote Romans 8:35-39.  He asserts confidently that the love of Jesus Christ cannot be shaken by trouble, hardship, persecution, famine, nakedness, danger, violence [sword], death, life, angels, demons, present, future, powers, height, depth, or anything else in creation.  Well – that about covers it all, doesn’t it?

There are times when I allow some of these admittedly huge things to hide God’s love from my sight.  There is a line in verse 4 of Charles Wesley’s great hymn, “O for a Thousand Tongues to Sing” which says, “He breaks the power of canceled sin, He sets the prisoner free!”  Think of it!  Even when we have Jesus as Savior and Lord in our lives today, we are living through the consequences of sins He died for 2,000+ years ago.

He wants us to live in the reality of canceled sin which has no power over us!

Read some more of Paul’s words in Colossians 2:14-15 from The Message:  God brought you alive–right along with Christ!  Think of it!  All sins forgiven, the slate wiped clean, that old arrest warrant canceled and nailed to Christ’s cross.  He stripped all the spiritual tyrants in the universe of their sham authority at the cross and marched them naked through the streets.

“Longings reveal something is missing in our lives yet our attempts to fill up the hole often leave us terribly unsatisfied.  I explore the question, “What if our longings are sacred, given by God for a purpose?” **

Longings come in all shapes and sizes.  There is no “one size fits all.”  More and more, I believe that my longings are truly designed to drive me deeper into knowing God with every ounce of my being.  Jesus alone is my Savior, is always with me, will never fail me.  No person on earth can fill those shoes.

So, what about you?  What are your longings?  I appreciate your comments, and invite you to read Janey’s thoughtful comment to the post, “really good resolutions for us all.”    I also see that I’m off on an internet trail of great thoughts from others about singleness and Godly longings.

** From website, “Deeper Devotion” by Elizabeth, a spiritual director

Appetite, hunger, AND celibacy in singleness . . . ☆

It’s the week after Thanksgiving, and if you are like the lion’s share of the country, you ended your Thursday with a full tummy and the thought that you wouldn’t need to eat for 3 days.  By the way, “lion’s share” is a term meaning “the most of.”  Watch any wild life documentary, and you’ve probably seen lions growling and biting and groveling for every bit of food they can get without concern for their furry family members. Of course, most of us didn’t wait 3 days, but were happy to see breakfast the next day.  Hopefully, most of us also stopped to ponder things to be thankful for in 2014.

Celibacy is often put into the same category as appetite and hunger.  Our body signals when it’s time to eat.  Our body also signals when it wants physical intimacy.  Just as hunger pangs increase the longer we do not eat, physical desire also increases when it does not receive release.  There’s just one gigantic difference.  One hunger leads to physical death if we do not eat again.  The other can lead to a variety of different places – frustration, anger, despair, or even contentment and self-control.  No matter how strong the urge,no one dies if they never express their sexuality in physical intimacy.

Not expressing sexuality in physical intimacy, however, has become a laughable, irrational, unreasonable concept to the lion’s share of the country.  And, too many of the lions are those who say they consider the Bible to be the faithful transcript of God’s mind in rules of conduct, yet they also agree that it is not reasonable – or even possible – to save physical sexual expression for marriage.  I have to admit that I have never seen a really good answer to “how does a single deal with intense sexual feelings without giving in to them?”  The church in general has opted to keep repeating, “Just don’t,” “Wait,” and “Take cold showers.”  None of these responses even begins to touch the core of the depth of desire many onesomes experience.

I admit that at times I am baffled by the lack of specific instruction in Scripture for the single person, especially the onesome in unwanted protracted singleness.  I have often read I Corinthians 7:9 with puzzlement.

  • *  KJV – If a man cannot contain, let them marry, for it is better to marry than to burn.
  • *  NIV – But if they cannot control themselves, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion.
  • *  NLT – But if they can’t control themselves, they should go ahead and marry.  It’s better to marry than to burn with lust.
  • * AMP – But if they have not self-control (restraint of their passions), they should marry.  For it is better to marry than to be aflame [with passion and tortured continually with ungratified desire].
  • * MSG – But if they can’t manage their desires and emotions, they should by all means go ahead and get married.  The difficulties of marriage are preferable by far to a sexually tortured life as a single.

A cursory reading of this verse makes it sound as if marriage was sort of like a peach on a tree available for the picking.  It speaks to the “unmarried and the widows,” so men and women were addressed alike.

But, what happens to those who “burn” with nary a future spouse in sight?

I admit to a few flames at times.  How ’bout you?

Well, this is where the whole area of self-control, restraint, and management of desires and emotions comes into the picture.

Thought and physical desire become partners.

  • *  Jesus speaks of lust and immorality beginning in the mind.  (Matthew 15:19)
  • *  Taking part in things not glorifying to our Holy God leads to sin.  (Acts 15:20)
  • *  Alcohol can lead us to drop our normal boundaries.  (Romans 13:13)
  • *  The body is meant for sexual morality.  (I Corinthians 6:13-18)
  • *  Sexual immorality is idolatry.  (Colossians 3;5)
  • *  Flee immorality!  (I Corinthians 6:18)

Are restraint and self-control feasible in terms of celibacy even in a sex-crazed society?  Absolutely!  We have to make difficult choices every day.  Why not in this area?

NIV – Titus 2:11-12   For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people.  It teaches us to say “no” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age . . .

 

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

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.

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!

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