Chosen and cherished . . . are you? ☆

Remember times on the playground when you waited on tiptoes to be chosen for a team?  Since Ifriends‘ve always been a bit sports-challenged, I was generally one of the left-overs.  I don’t remember being particularly upset about it.  It was just the way it was.  Other memories of being chosen for a desired job, or a scholarship, or a nice dinner out or other special occasion, bring a smile to my face, because I cared very much.

.I have never been chosen by anyone as a life partner, though – a husband. (Wow!  Did I just write that for all to see?)  I wanted to choose someone a number of years ago thinking we were on the same page – but he didn’t choose back.  Ouch!  That crippled my soul for a long time as I fell into the trap of “What’s wrong with me?”  It took years for God to rescue me out of that “slimy pit,” “to set my feet on a rock,” and “put a new song in my mouth.”  (Psalms 40:1-3)

Webster says of the word “cherish:”  deeply loved and valued; to treat with tenderness and affection; to nurture with care; to protect; to hold dear.  That raises a couple massive questions.

“Who do I get to cherish?” and “Who cherishes ME?”

Being cherished, in my single experience, is spending time with another in deep conversation which speaks soul to soul.  It includes things like soft touches on the arm or shoulder as you walk by someone in a group of people.  It includes hugs and friendly hand holds and warm eyes.  It includes someone you love saying your name in a caring manner.

It also includes limits when the other person is married.  “Emotional mistress” is never a term I want to apply to myself!

 In 2001, one of my brothers was very ill with liver failure.  Our every-third-year family reunion was in June, and we all gathered at another brother’s home in Iowa.  Dear Wally and my sis-in-law drove from Florida, and even though he ended up in a couple of hospitals on the way, his smiling face is etched in my mind as he helped spread joy and laughter at being together.  Even though hugging and calling each other endearing names was not something my family particularly did as I was growing up, that reunion was full of both.

In July, 2001, I traveled to China as accompanist for a community chorale, singing the Mozart Requiem and a number of American songs for very responsive and friendly audiences in Beijing, Suzhou, and Shanghai.  When I returned home, one of my first calls was to my brother who was in a Florida hospital waiting for a liver transplant.  I told Wally I loved him, and his instant words, “Thank you, sweetheart,” are as clear in my mind now as they were then.  Those words are a cherished and much treasured memory for the rest of my life as I imagine his smile in heaven now..

Of course, since my focus here in this blog is as a Christian single, I choose to go to Scripture to know the ultimate answer of Who cherishes and chooses me.

  •   * God chose us before the foundation of the earth to bless and glorify His name.  (Ephesians 1:4)
  •   * God lets His chosen ones live with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience [cherishing] for one another.  (Colossians 3:12)
  •   * God equips His chosen ones to work in faith, labor in love, and stand firm in hope.  (I Thessalonians 1:3)
  •   * The clearest earthly expression of choosing and cherishing is meant to be in marriage.
  •   * Marriage is meant to reflect Jesus’ future relationship with His chosen, the Church.  (Ephesians 5:25-33)
  •   * God’s love is everlasting and His choice is unfailing kindness.  (Jeremiah 31:3)

I confess, however, that sometimes the ultimate answer doesn’t quite seem to satisfy the “I want someone with skin on” itch.  How about you?  .

Really good resolutions for us all! ☆

resolutionsAre you a list-maker?  Do you get great satisfaction in crossing off things accomplished on your list?  The real question is – do you make New Year’s Resolutions each year even though prior lists have gone the way of the dodo bird?

One piece of singles advice I used to get regularly was, “Have you made a list of what you want in a husband?”  And then, “Have you prayed over your list?”  Another piece of advice:  “Write letters to your potential future unknown husband telling him what is on your heart.”  It didn’t dawn on me then that these pieces of golden words were almost always given by folks who had already walked down the wedding aisle.  I took every word to heart and when it seemed that nothing was coming of all the effort, I assumed it was because of some great deficit in my character.  Or worse, I assumed that God was teasing me with some sort of golden carrot just out of reach.  Why else would He not be “giving me the desires of my heart?”  (Psalm 37:4)

I have to say that I did write a number of letters to that future ideal husband, baring my heart and soul.  When I discovered it was bringing more pain than hope, I stopped.  They sort of fell into the genre of romance novels.  There was always a “happily ever after” in both, and reality was that more often than not “happily ever after” didn’t happen – at least not the way I wanted.  Both letters and books left my heart in a great empty closet which was full of sorrow and broken dreams.

So, where is my heart today?  Well, some days I live with great contentment and joy.  Other days, loneliness weighs heavily making it hard to breathe.  As I read journals from years past, I can climb right into those empty spots and cry.  What is different today is the realization that no matter how permanent something feels, it isn’t!  Now, I can tell myself, “Have a good cry and then go wash dishes.”  Having spontaneous lunches with good friends also helps, by the way.  They put me back into the real world.

Now, on to the title of this post.  What is a really good list of resolutions for us all?  It can be found in Philippians 4:4-9.  The apostle Paul is writing to his beloved church in Philippi, telling them (my summary):

Rejoice!  Pray!  Reflect God’s character in your daily life!  Do not wallow in worry!  Give thanks!  Rest in God’s indescribable peace!  Fix your mind on things which are true, honorable, good, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and ponder-worthy!

This is challenging, isn’t it?  I know the more I determine to think about things of good report, the more I see the muddy elephant which sloshes through the room of my mind with reckless abandon.  That is where I realize I am in the midst of a great war.  Elephantine thoughts versus the much broader concepts of joyful living which can transform elephants into gentle giants.

Let’s hear it for the Gentle Giants!

Blessings to you, my friends!

4 hugs a day for survival? ? ? Really? ☆

“We need 4 hugs a day for survival, 8 hugs a day for maintenance, and 12 hugs a day for growth.”  hug

This quote from renowned family therapist, Virginia Satir, sounds nice, doesn’t it?  But, if the statement is true, my guess is that there are a large number of “living dead” folks running around – unmarried and married.  I love Webster’s definition of a hug:  “to press closely within the arms.”  Who doesn’t want that?

Here are some titles gleaned from an online search:

  •        ♥  10 reasons we need at least 8 hugs a day.
  •        ♥  7 reasons we should be giving more hugs.
  •        ♥  4 benefits of hugs for mind and body.
  •        ♥  9 compelling reasons why you need hugs every day.
  •        ♥  “Lord, I need a hug.”  (book title)

We know that touch is imperative for the tiniest among us.  If babies are not held often, their emotional development is arrested.  You hoo!  I think it happens to the rest of us, too.  I don’t think we ever outgrow that need!  Can I hear a very loud, “YOU’RE RIGHT!”  Truth be told, too many singles go for weeks, even months without even a good side hug.  Now, I know that many married folks don’t spend a lot of daily time hugging – and I think that is a crying shame!  The opportunity is there, though.  Built-in hugging sounds good to me.

Personally, I am fortunate to have a very huggy church family, so I get caught up on that activity on Sunday mornings.  However, I barely make the “survivor” mode.  That’s 28 hugs to account for 7 days.

About 15 years ago, I began to invest in monthly massages – mainly to deal with the knots in my shoulders – but realize that it also benefits the health and welfare of body, soul, and spirit.  Of course, the fact that it just feels wonderful doesn’t hurt.  I certainly have never made it up to the 12 hugs a day Satir thought was necessary for growth.   I doubt many have.  We are a hug-deprived society, methinks.

While the word “hug” does not appear in scripture, we see the concept as a loving and protecting gesture, especially for the tiny ones among us.  We get the touching image of the shepherd holding little lambs close.  (Isaiah 40:11)  Most notably, we see Jesus taking little children in His arms and blessing them.  My guess is that Jesus laughed and played with children frequently.  (Mark 9:36; Mark 10:16)  Another notable example of hugging is in the story of the prodigal son, where the father throws his arms around his returning son and kisses him.  (Luke 15:20)  Of course, the Song of Solomon is full of intimate touching as the writer expresses an ageless love song.  Now, the word, “touch” is used often, but not so much in context of warm affection – until we read of Jesus touching folks.

  • ♥  He touched those who had contagious diseases, such as leprosy, fever, etc. – forbidden in the Old Testament.  (Matthew 8:3; 8:15)
  • ♥  He touched those who had died in order to renew physical life.  (Luke 17:4)
  • ♥  He touched the blind, deaf, and mute.  (Matthew 9:29; 20:34)
  • ♥  And many people touched Jesus and even His clothes knowing that His love and healing would result.  (Matthew 14:36; Mark 3:10; 5:27-31)

So, fellow hug-deprived persons, let’s work our way up to growth – 12 hugs a day.  That’s 84 hugs a week!  Ha ha!

But you, dear friends, carefully build yourselves up in this most holy faith by praying in the Holy Spirit, staying right at the center of God’s love, keeping your arms open and outstretched, ready for the mercy of our Master, Jesus Christ.  This is the unending life, the real life!  (Jude 1:20-21 – MSG)

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 . . .

 

Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s Eve . . . ☆

. . . and don’t even get me started on Valentine’s Day!single bells

There are so many online articles about singleness and the holidays:

  • “18 reasons being single during holidays is great.”
  • “I hate to admit it, but being single during the holidays sucks.”
  • “Scared of being single during the holidays?”
  • “A single’s survival guide during the holidays.”
  • “You’re single during the holidays.  So what?”

Well, you get the message I got as I hopped around a search engine and chose titles from 166,000 possibilities.

In her book, Revelation of a Single Woman – loving the life i didn’t expect, Connally Gilliam relates a story to which a good many onesomes can relate.  She attended a thoroughly enjoyable New Year’s Eve party, and was in the midst of warm loving friends.  Then, the countdown came:  five, four, three, two, one – kiss your spouse.  Suddenly it crashed in on her that he was the odd one out in a party of an odd number.  The host eventually stopped kissing his wife to come peck her on the cheek and wish her a Happy New Year.♥♥

One of the most challenging things for me personally during holidays is that each of them signals the fact that my life has not turned out as I anticipated.  Marriage and family were always in my hopes and dreams.  Planning traditions with a spouse was always included.  The arrival of each holiday tends to chime loudly that another year has passed with no husband in sight.

Now, when I was younger, an uncle used to regularly ask me on holidays – “so when are you getting married?”  Well, as if I knew the answer to that one!  Thankfully, he stopped asking.  In fact, the last time I was asked anything resembling that question was a few years back when I was on a chorale trip to Greece.  The setting was a train on its way from Athens to Thessaloniki.  A very attractive young man from the isle of Crete sat in a seat facing me, and after a long conversation he suddenly asked me if I was married.  When I said, “no,” he looked at me intently for a few seconds and said, “There’s still time.”  I do not even remember his name, but his face remains in my mind – and my photo album – and he will never know just how I have savored those words.

Let me hasten to say that, for me, Thanksgiving and Christmas are two of the most delightful holidays I have now.  I spend 2-3 days with a brother’s family, and am totally engulfed in love and laughter with him and my sis-in-law, their two children and niece/nephew-in-laws, and a couple of great-nephews.  Participating in Christmas Eve services in my church, driving to Denver on holiday mornings and being welcomed with hugs and a steaming cup of coffee are just the beginnings of the sort of love which drives away the “what-ifs” and “if-onlies.”  We draw names, and I love being able to concentrate on what special thing to get for my name.  Even during the rare times when bad weather messes up plans, I can fall back on any number of invites.  A few times, a host of singles have gotten together to share dinner and a grab-a-gift time.  I remember one Thanksgiving when a bunch of us gathered around a very eclectic meal which included tuna casserole and chips and dip because deep snow kept the people with the turkey and dressing snowbound just a few miles away.

New Year’s Eve is not so much of a struggle for me personally these days, either.  Sometimes the evening is spent with friends, sometimes as a quiet evening at home doing cross-stitch, sipping something hot, movie watching, and hearing fireworks and hooting and hollering at midnight, and thanking God for another grace-filled year.

Now, Valentine’s Day generally brings more vulnerable and poignant memories and reminders that my life simply has not turned out as it was “supposed to.”  I no longer romanticize what I’m sure marriage might have brought to my life because I have many close friends who keep my ideas realistic even in the best of relationships.

My guess is, however, that there are many areas of relationship which are taken for granted by my married friends.  Conversations, meaningful glances, even slight touches, jokes.  Things which they would miss if they didn’t have them, but which they don’t necessarily take special notice of at the time.
Having someone to do things with spontaneously, traveling short or long, spending time doing home repairs/decorating with someone with the same vested interest, having opportunity for deep conversations, sharing spiritual values, taking care of and being cared for.  These are things which many singles long for which are just out of reach.  At least, they are certainly on my list of longed-for things which has not changed over the years.  What have changed are my responses to these things and an ever-deepening confidence that God knows and cares!

(NIV) Jeremiah 29:11-13:  “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.  Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.  You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”

♥♥ Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., page 12

A question for Christian singles: Is sufficient, enough? ☆

Kalambaka, Greece monastery Picture from a 2009 trip

In my last post, I mused:  “There have been times when I have said to God, ‘You’re sufficient, but it just doesn’t feel like You are enough.'”  Please tell me I’m not the only long-term single who has thought that? 🙂

The words mean pretty much the same – yet for me they express a big difference.  Back to my friend, Noah Webster:

  • ♥ Sufficient:  Equal to the end proposed; adequate to wants; enough, ample; competent.
  • ♥ Enough:  Satisfying desire; giving contentment; adequate to meet the want; sufficient.

When it comes to God’s being sufficient, the main Bible verse has to do with the Apostle Paul’s pleading with Him to remove some sort of ailment, perhaps a problem with his eyes.  He asked God three times to heal him.  God’s reply:

  • ♥ “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (II Corinthians 12:9 – NIV)
  • The Message says:  “My grace is enough; it’s all you need.  My strength comes into its own in your weakness.

I am reminded, though, that when God created Adam, gave him the incredibly fascinating job of naming all the creatures, AND having God’s total attention as they walked the depths of Eden – that He saw there was a need in Adam’s heart which no animal could satisfy.  And, instead of filling that heart-hole with Himself, He created Eve.  As I’ve Googled© my way through a myriad of subjects, I discover that there is a common prayer for those of us who experience protracted singleness.  “If marriage is not Your plan for me, please take this desire away from me.”  For most, God in His grace and goodness does not say, “OK.”  Instead, He comes to us as He came to Paul, showing that He wants to use our vulnerability as a work of art reflecting His sufficiency and power.

Our vulnerability is like the dark outlines of a cross stitch which suddenly bring depth and definition to the crafted piece.

I’m also reminded of a set of verses read during many wedding ceremonies:

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12:  It’s better to have a partner than go it alone.  Share the work, share the wealth.  And if one falls down, the other helps, but if there’s no one to help, tough!  Two in a bed warm each other.  Alone, you shiver all night.  By yourself you’re unprotected.  With a friend you can face the worst.  Can you round up a third?  A three-stranded rope isn’t easily snapped.  (MSG)

Most refer to God as the third strand in that marriage rope.

When I think of my life, I often see myself as one of those strands with God being the other one.  Now, that’s a good thing!  But, there’s a third strand just out of reach.  I sort of twist and turn and stretch out to reach for. . . what?  A companion; a best friend; a spouse to grow older with; a life partner; someone to care for and to care for me; someone to laugh with?  Well, you get the picture.  That third strand blowing in the wind.  And God has not filled that desire with Himself – or a husband – at least for me.

Now, God has heard this soliloquy many times – which just means that I talk to myself a lot – and He listens.  I have become very aware that He does know the tenderest desires of my heart, and rather than ignore them, He provides ways to live with them in the tension of lack of fulfillment.  His grace is indeed sufficient – and enough – even when – or more specifically, especially when it does not feel like it.

So, I live on daily, sometimes telling God that I feel like I’m doing all the work when out in the yard pulling weeds, or cleaning house, or making repairs. . . I truly appreciate having Him to talk to any moment of any day.  I’m sure my neighbors think I’m a bit dotty because I sometimes talk to myself and to Him while doing these tasks outside.  I also continue to wish there was a flesh and blood person to greet the day with and to debrief every so often in the evening over a cup of coffee, and to travel with, and to . . . Well, again, you get the picture.

He is indeed equal to providing the needs and wants of my life.  Now, I’m on my way to another refresher life experience course called “Satisfying of Desire and Giving of Contentment” inspired by Webster’s definition above.

So, where are you in all this?

Fall in love with – – – your vacuum cleaner? What??? ☆

I thought perhaps I had heard it wrong, but when I heard the advertisement a 2nd time, I realized they really were talking about falling in love with a certain maker’s vacuum cleaner.  Hmmmm.

We “fall in love,” “fall asleep,” “fall short,” “fall to pieces,” “fall in place,” and “fall apart.”  Usually, “fall” is something which happens by accident or unexpectedly.  Now, in terms of “falling in love,” most of us can understand exactly what that is without really being able to define it.  Perhaps it happens unexpectedly, but most often it is a sought after commodity.  Matters of the heart are often understood without putting words to the meaning.  But, I’m not quite sure what to say about “falling in love with a vacuum cleaner,” other than saying it takes a term which is fraught with tender, sensitive meaning and demotes it into a meaningless phrase.

“Love” is a word which is also used in a variety of ways.  We love color, food, spring, and favorite clothes.  We elevate it when we love our pets.  It becomes even more precious when we love our family and friends.  It is even more cherished when we love God with the realization that He loved us first and draws us to Himself.  And then, we “fall in love” with someone who really meshes with our souls.  The depth varies according to the number of shared interests or level of attractiveness.

So – there it is.  When I reread “we fall in love with someone who really meshes with our souls,” I realize that is a sort of given in our hearts from childhood on up.  At least for girls.  Can’t say just when guys begin thinking about having a family.  It continues to inhabit our hearts through college years and early 20s+.  For most, a significant other walks into our lives.  But, for some, it just doesn’t happen quite like we expect.  And then, if years stretch out into decades, our expectations may wither.

One of the biggest challenges for me was the decision to buy a house.  I was living in yet another apartment near a college campus, the first floor of a small house this time.  Then, one night I was awakened by loud bangs next door and my first instinct was to look out the window.  Not the smartest choice, because reality was that there was a real, live gang fight going on within yards of my apartment.  Time to find another place to live!  I called a realtor from my church and told her I wanted to look at houses mainly for my own education.  I did not think buying was anywhere near possible.  To my great surprise, I discovered that it was quite probable that monthly house payments would be less than rent would be in a less gang populated area.

And so, I took the big step thanks to an FHA loan for first-time home owners – and actually made a lower down payment than would have been necessary to buy a car!  It was not an easy step.  Buyer’s remorse set in big time at taking on the biggest debt of my lifetime.  And, buying a home in my ideal daydreams always included walking hand in hand with a husband.  Doing it on my own just didn’t seem right.  It truly felt like the close of a life chapter.

I’ve discovered, though, that through the process of dealing with things like new roofs and water in the basement – just two of the joys of home ownership – God is utterly faithful.  Somehow, funds have been available for needed repairs on a house which is almost 100 years old.  That is definitely a God-thing!.

Still, the biggest challenge I face is having to make every decision alone!

There have even been times when I have said to God, “You are sufficient, but it just doesn’t feel like You are enough.”  I wasn’t trying to be disrespectful.  It just seems that living life alone is not the ideal situation, especially when the deepest heart’s desire is to grow older with a spouse – a companion – a best friend – a lover.  Christian onesomes live with the tension of unfulfilled desires AND knowledge that God knows every nuance of our lives.  His responses just are not what we always expect, are they?

I believe that everything in our lives is meant to draw us closer to God, whether unmarried or married.  We make a choice to follow Him – or not – in every circumstance.  We “work out our salvation with fear and trembling.”  New Living Translation says it this way:  “Work hard to show the results of your salvation, obeying God with deep reverence and fear.  For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases Him.”  (Philippians 2:12-13)

Hmmmm.  Perhaps the “sufficient but not enough” idea is the seed which will blossom into another post.  What do you think?

Resignation? Acceptance? Contentment? ☆

Resignation?  Acceptance?  Contentment?

These three words have been on my mind this week as I have wondered if they generally mean the same thing – particularly as they apply to the single life.  It’s obvious by now if you have followed this blog that I am a never-married single who chose early on to follow Scriptural principles in all areas of life, especially the single life.  However, let me say up front that I have never felt “called” to be single, and have dealt over and over with a deep desire for marriage which is based on mutual spiritual beliefs and intimacy – body, soul, and spirit  While facing the distinct possibility that marriage may never happen for me, I’ve traveled through the states of all three words with varying degrees of heartache.

Resignation:  submission to a feeling that the way things are cannot be changed; a deliberate giving up; unresisting acceptance of something as inescapable.

For many years I struggled with the “what” and “why” questions:

  •      *  What if I had made different decisions in my 20s?
  •      *  What if I missed someone significant because I was distracted by any number of life issues?
  •      *  Why is God ignoring my deepest heart cries?
  •      *  What am I doing wrong?
  •      *  And the biggest question of all:  What is wrong with me? ? ?

Keeping hope alive was a painful proposition.  Romans 5:1-5 gives a list of life experiences – mainly tough stuff – and includes the words, “hope does not disappoint.”  God heard from me a lot about that phrase because it seemed that there were brick walls directly behind what I perceived as open doors with great regularity.  I tried major online matchmaking sites.  I traveled to singles groups within a 50 mile radius.  I tried any number of suggestions from friends – including blind dates – to no avail.  The results were disappointing.  And so, somewhere over a period of years, I quietly slipped into the state of resignation.  Frankly, it was far less painful than trying to keep hope alive.

In a post early on in this blog, I wrote of the realization that:  “My quiet resignation was not confident acceptance of God’s good intent in my life.  It was belief that, for some reason, God was withholding the one earthly desire I wanted the most.  Being resigned did bring some emotional relief, and I was quite settled in it until the Holy Spirit gently peeled away layers of bitterness and distrust and showed me how dishonoring [my] resignation was to God.”  (Covenant is for Singles, too)

Acceptance:  receiving what is offered with satisfaction, acquiescence, approval

I believe that for me, resignation was a type of unwitting and unspoken vow over my life which made daily living feel less distressed, but which was keeping me from a significant relationship with the Heavenly Father Who made me – with desires intact for intimate relationship.  Moving from resignation to acceptance was hard – sort of like walking from a dark room into the sunshine.  Just as it takes the eyes time to adjust to seeing things clearly without pain, it took time to look at this acceptance as a covenant with God, partnering with Him in His faithfulness – with less heartache.

Psalm 73 was a camping out place for a long time.  The Psalmist affirms God’s goodness and his intent to follow God faithfully.  But, he contrasts his health and comfort with those who are not following after God.  He is sick, cold, hungry, and poor; they are well, warm, well-fed, and wealthy.  He laments in verse 13:  “surely in vain I have kept my heart pure.”  But then, he discovers that God is not so interested in his present comfort as He is in his present relationship with God.  He concludes that those human relationships are fraught with disappointment, but the ultimate satisfaction comes only with persistence, perseverance, and intentional following after God’s counsel and guidance.  He says in verse 26:  “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”  (NIV)

Contentment:  rest or quietness of the mind in one’s present condition; satisfaction

It has taken a long time to get to a consistent place of contentment, but I can honestly say I am truly contented – most of the time.  I still talk to God about the desires of my heart – which still include a spouse to grow older with.  At the same time, there is a growing realization that I can be satisfied even with permanent singleness.  I learn more daily about enjoying the world around me, relishing time spent with folks who care about me, nurturing time in God’s word and prayer, taking time to grow in skill in a number of hobbies, keeping my fingers nimble at the piano – and indulging in Agatha Christie Miss Marple DVDs.

Well, those are the thoughts for this week.  How about you?  Where are you in all this?

The Definitive Answer to “Why?” ☆

why question mark“10 things to say to singles.”  “10 things not to say to singles.”  “14 principles for single living.” “5 things to do while single.”  “25 things to do to prepare for marriage while you are single.”  “35 things to be grateful for if you are single.”  “53 things to say to your spouse.”

OK.  We’ve all seen articles with titles like these, haven’t we.  Quite frankly, I seldom read them anymore.  They just don’t scratch the itch of onesomeness issues.

The Church tries to parcel out good advice to singles by saying, “Just don’t. . .”  Folks may talk about some of the negative consequences of “doing,” but rarely do they stress positives of “not doing.”  Of course, the title of this post is said tongue-in-cheek.  I’m still working on my definitive answer.

I said in my last post:  “. . . the Church has said “don’t” for centuries.  But the question of ‘why’ has not been answered adequately in order to build a good enough reason into single hearts to comply, [especially in the area of sexual activity.]

Everyone loves a baby.  Their innocence and sweetness when they smile and coo just touches deep places in our hearts.  People acting inappropriately toward a baby or young child brings out the “mother bear” in most of us.  In particular, we teach our little ones about good and bad touch and we work hard to keep them out of harm’s way.  So, what happens when they begin to mature physically and hormones start to kick in with hyperactivity?  Are they stilll not precious and do they still not house a treasure in their bodies and souls?  Are there not still reasons to consider good and inappropriate touch, particularly to areas of the body we consider private?  Is there an age where these considerations automatically stop?  Why should something which obviously brings a great deal of pleasure be limited to marriage – especially when we feel like the bull in a rodeo which is penned into a small stall.  Every fiber of his being wants out – to be free – to express his intensity.

So, what is a good enough reason for Christian singles to wholeheartedly comply with spoken cautions about our actions?  For some, the possibility of surprise pregnancy is not enough to deter.  A variety of health issues is not enough to deter.  “Because Scripture says so” is not enough to deter.  Shame is not enough to deter.  Waiting for a more fulfilling physical and emotional life is not enough to deter.

I wholeheartedly agree with Paul’s words in I Corinthians 7:32-35 which speak of freedom from concerns, undivided devotion, and the opportunity for unhindered attention to the Lord’s affairs.  This is exactly God’s desire for us in singleness.  However, I also know from personal experience that these things are not automatically built-in when a single commits him/herself to moral faithfulness.  Personally, I often find myself living in the midst of a great many concerns, divided attentions, and a feeling of loss and dissatisfaction at not having an intimate human life companion.  I have even at times hollered at God, “I know You are sufficient – but I do not feel as if You are enough.”

So, what have I found which helps answer my “why?

  • * God loves me with everlasting love and draws me with unfailing kindness.  (Jeremiah 31:3)
  • * Celibacy has never been the cause of anyone’s death – no matter how it may feel at the time.
  • * God knows my desires and He also knows my frustrations when they are not fulfilled.
  • * Jesus was tempted in all things as I am, and because He never gave in to temptation, He provides for me a way out of my temptations – every time.  (Hebrews 4:14; Hebrews 2:18; I Corinthians 10:13)
  • * Temptation’s strength is not determined by what I give in to – but by what I resist – and I can resist!
  • * The Holy Spirit gives me power to live with self-control, patience, and persistence.  (Galatians 5:22-23)
  • * I can utilize self-control in many things which are harmful to relationships.  Why would I not expect to use it in sexual areas in sight, hearing, thought, and action?
  • * I can use unfulfilled desires as a sort of “fast,” as a reason to help me deepen my relationship with Christ.

Above all, I thank God for those friends who have listened to me throughout the years – sharing my desires and frustrations, encouraging me, not trying to “fix me.”  Giving these things a voice is extremely helpful!

For more thoughts on these things, take a look at the first posts of this blog, “I Corinthians 7 – a fresh look.”

What in the world is a “Christian sexual atheist?” ☆

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The Christian Post ran an article in the Spring of 2014 called “Sexual Atheism: Christian Dating Reveals a Deeper Spiritual Malaise” which highlights an alarming reality in today’s single society.  It uses information from a 2014 survey done by christianmingle.com called State of Dating in America.  While this was not limited to those who claimed to be Christians, a significant number of Christians participated.  It is worth your while to look at all 81 pages of this report which includes dating etiquette, deal breakers, expectations, and a host of other information.

Out of 2,600 singles from 18 to 59 years of age, over 80% believe that engaging in any sort of sexual activity with someone outside of a committed relationship is considered as unfaithfulness.  This includes flirting and texting suggestive messages and pictures.  But, even though fidelity is given lip service, about 25% would consider marrying someone who has been unfaithful to them, with a slight % increase of those who admit to having been unfaithful in a relationship.  So, faithfulness is important, but not so important that it is a limiting boundary in many lives. In the scale of faithfulness and temptation to infidelity, the temptation often proves more appealing – of greater value – more important – irresistible.

The Christian Post article says that 63% of the Christians surveyed indicated that they would have sex before marriage.  This is not terribly surprising to us given the world we live in today.  Sexual messages smack us in the face in advertising, movies, and online opportunities.  We all know folks who choose to live together outside of the marriage commitment, and sometimes children are also in the picture.  And, we are not surprised.

Some who say they have given their lives to Jesus Christ and are committed to honor and glorify Him are ones who admit they are sexually active outside of marriage.

What has happened to disconnect these folks from honest and straight-forward teaching on moral conduct and holy living?  Is this just a reaction to strict and discompassionate lectures of the past?  Is it just a reaction to the common command, “No sex before marriage,” with no solid and honest help to deal with a normal strong desire built into us by the God Who created sex and everything else?

What has happened to honest exploration of Scriptures such as I Corinthians 6:12-19:

  •      * I can do anything – but everything is not beneficial.  I have choice!
  •      * God created me to glorify Him in what I choose to do.
  •      * Immorality – sexual practice outside of its intended parameters – is harmful to the body.
  •      * Therefore – choose not to harm your body – the temple of the Holy Spirit – in this way.

A much more pressing issue is, the Church has said “don’t” for centuries.  But the question of “why” has not been answered adequately in order to build a good enough reason into single hearts to comply.

Just as “because I say so” is not necessarily a convincing statement to a defiant child, “because God says so” is not necessarily convincing to a person whose hormones are screaming for release.

Consider this quote from The Christian Post article;

“. . . nearly nine out of 10 self-proclaimed single Christians are, in practice, sexual atheists.  In other words, God has nothing to say to them on that subject of any consequence or, at least anything meaningful enough to dissuade them from following their own course of conduct.  It is the ultimate oxymoron.  A person who at once believes in a wise, sovereign and loving God who created them and all things, can also believe simultaneously He should not, cannot or will not inform their thinking or living sexually.  It reminds me of those famous red letters in Luke’s Gospel where Jesus says, “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord’ and do not do what I say?”  (Luke 6:46, NIV)  There is a disconnect between identity and activity.”

Well, my brain is off and running on this topic!  I hope this has spurred some new thinking for you.  Your comments most welcomed!

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