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.”

The Taaaaaaaaaaaaaaall Tree ☆

In another post I recounted my experience with Shenanigan, an irresistible cocker spaniel puppy which crawled its way out of the tall grass and immense trees in the Rockies as I spent nine days all by myself in a beautiful setting of mountains and fragrant pines.

One windy afternoon as I gazed down a mountainside, I noticed a curious thing.  As the wind roared its way down the slope the trees were thrown fro and to in total disarray.  Many of them bent nearly to the ground under the powerful gusts and I was amazed that they didn’t break off and take flight.  Indeed, I felt much like those gnarled trees.  I was struggling with crushed dreams and shattered hopes, and felt battered and bruised by life events.  The effect of the wind was relentless.

Then, my eyes fell on one very large, very tall pine tree which simply stood straight as the wind beat against it.  Its branches barely moved while the trees around it were doing backflips and jumping jacks.  The wind kept aiming its ferocious strength at this tree from every angle, but it simply stood strong and unshaken.

As in times past, God softly spoke to my heart.  “Let Me help you become like that tall tree with deep roots which sink deeply into the ground giving strength and refreshment to your soul.”  Ahhhhh, yes.  I wanted that!

It has taken a long time for me to realize that God is far more interested in the condition of my heart and my relationship with Him than He is in my present comfort.

(You might want to read that sentence again. . .)

  • .*  He does cause His good to work in every circumstance of our lives.  (Romans 8:28)
  •  *  He has good plans for us, regardless of how things look and feel.  (Jeremiah 29:11)
  •  *  He honors faithfulness to Him like a fruitful tree planted by a water source.  (Psalm 1:1-3)
  •  *  He rescues those who feel totally alone in their desire to follow Him.  (Psalm 73)
  •  *  He lifts our eyes above the shame society tries to heap on us for remaining faithful to Him.  (Romans 5:5)

And, just as it took years of slow growing for that tall pine tree to become strong and unflappable in the wind, it takes time to develop deep character.  Paul speaks of the progression from suffering to Godly hope in Romans 5:1-5.  This sort of suffering is not confined just to pain, but is a state of patient waiting for God to do His work in us.  This patient waiting leads to steady persistence, which leads to unique strength of character, which leads to Godly hope which does not put us to shame!

Society heaps its derision and scorn on those who choose to remain celibate in singleness because it would seem to be foolish to follow this Scriptural mandate.  Instant gratification continues to be the rule of the day.  BUT, fidelity in body, soul, and spirit continue to be God’s rule of the day from now into infinity!

While I was writing this post, I ran across a phrase which unfortunately describes too many singles who profess belief in Jesus Christ but who do not practice celibacy:  “sexual atheists.”

(Well, guess what the subject of the next post will be.)

 Blessed is the one who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in him.  They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream.  It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green.  It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.  (Jeremiah 17:7-8 – NIV)

Stand firm, my friends.

Polyfidelity??? Polymonogamy????? Polybaloney!!!!!!! ☆

question many directionsSome time ago I watched a Dr. Phil show in which a married man loudly and boldly defended his activity with a mistress using a word, polyfidelity.  His wife of 19 years sat mostly in silence while her husband declared his love for her – and for the other woman.  He ignored the pain in his wife’s eyes which was evident to all who were watching.  He was convinced that his “faithfulness” to both these women would last a lifetime.  Dr. Phil’s marvelous comment was something to the effect of, “I have another word for polyfidelity.  It’s called cheating!”  Score one for Dr. Phil.♥

Now, polymonogamy is another oxymoronic term which has been around for several years.  Online definitions are a bit hazy.  It seems to describe someone who is convinced he/she can have multiple sexual relationships with more than one person and say they are monogamous since their attention is completely on whomever they are with at the time.  Another thought I find is that while one person in a marriage is faithful to their spouse, the other wants to have multiple partners.  The oxymoron part comes out with the prefixes, “poly” and “mono.”  “Poly” means many; “mono” means one.

Let’s see what Webster Dictionary says about fidelity, monogamy – and baloney:

  •        * Fidelity:  Adherence with faithfulness to the marriage covenant.
  •        * Monogamy:  Marriage with but one person at the same time.
  •        * Baloney:  Nonsense; foolishness.

As our society gets increasingly defiant about acting within the confines of faithfulness, we see multiplied increase of terrible body, soul, and spirit injury.  No matter how much people talk about freedom in all areas of morality, we see the same people being terribly wounded in the process.  I believe it is because in their heart of hearts, they still see value in faithfulness to one spouse.

Now, where does singleness come into this?  Let’s face it.  The general opinion and action is that singles can be as sexually active as they want with little thought to the consequences because there is no commitment – covenant – in short-term relationships.  While we see some semblance of commitment when an unmarried couple chooses to live together for a longer period of time, the avenue of escape remains if it doesn’t work out.  It’s still a tough breakiup, but there are no particular legal ramifications – unless there are children.  In that case, many of the consequences fall upon the little ones’ shoulders.

Living out life as a single Christian who practices self-control in a whole host of things is not an easy stance.  Foolishness abounds.  Temptations abound.

But God’s promises abound as well!

Hebrews 4:14-16 – Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess.  For we do not have a high priest who is unable to emphasize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are–yet he did not sin.  Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. (NIV)

I Corinthians 10:13 – No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind.  And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear.  But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it. (NIV)

  • *  Faithfulness as a single person is the best preparation for faithfulness in marriage.
  • *  If unmarried, there is still faithfulness to God and to one’s own person.
  • *  This does not diminish fulfilling relationships with men and women which include far more than physical intimacy.
  • *  Setting appropriate boundaries in all areas of life is important – for unmarried and married alike.

So, stand firm, my friends, whatever your life holds!  God is in charge!

♥  drphil.com – “Twisted Love”

So, if I become contented while single, God will bring marriage my way? ☆

I remember the exact corner in my city where a friend and I were driving when she told me that God couldn’t fulfill my desire for marriage until I became contented as a single.  I was in my late 30s, and she was in her early 20s – already married to a doting husband.  I internalized that comment and struggled for a very long time with “what’s wrong with me?”  “How in the world can I be contented when it seems God is ignoring the deepest desires of my heart?”  “Surely I could find contentment faster if I had a loving husband.”  Today, I wish I had thought to ask her if she had achieved contentment as a single before she married.  Oh well.

Then a comment started coming which I really did not know what to do with.

Don’t you know that Jesus is your husband?

Hmmmmm.  I had to really think about that one.  I knew He was my Savior and Lord, but my husband?  I’ve enjoyed Bible study since college years, but have never run across that one.  There is a statement in Isaiah 54:5 which says, “for your Maker is your husband–the LORD Almighty is his name. . .”  But, if this verse is read in context, it has nothing to do with individuals, and everything to do with His chosen people – the ones He took on a 40-year walk through the wilderness.  The ones who lived through generations of judges and kings.  The ones who were taken into exile to Babylon.  The ones who returned to Jerusalem to rebuild the broken down walls.  The ones who made promises to God of obedience and faithfulness.  And, the ones who fell over and over into idolatry and unfaithfulness.  The relationship between them and God is described over and over in marriage and adulterous terms.  This is the context of that Isaiah verse.

So, what about Jesus being my husband?  Where can I find that in Scripture?  Once again, context tells me that any hint of Jesus in the role of husband has to do with Him and the Church.  Paul writes how husbands are to love their wives just as Jesus loved the church and gave His life for her.  (Ephesians 5:21-33)  The next time we read of Jesus in connection with a wedding is in Revelation 15:6-9 when the wedding of the Lamb [Jesus] has come.  Once again, this wedding is somehow between Jesus and the church – not between Him and individual women – and men.

There is little description of what this heavenly wedding and marriage is to be like.  Whatever it is, it must be so far beyond anything we can imagine that God knows we couldn’t handle the explanation now.  I do believe, though, the best is yet to come, folks!

Now, I do know there are many who have been blessed by the thought that Jesus is their husband here and now and takes care of them as a husband might, and I do not want to diminish that for them.  In my discussions, however, I have discovered that the ones who are really blessed by that thought are those who have been married at some time.  Personally, I cannot relate because I do not have a concept of what a husband is or isn’t since I have never been married.  I can relate to God as a loving Father, however.  More and more I have seen Him as my Provision, and especially, my Provider!  But, my husband?  Not so much.

The perspective of hindsight is mine in abundance now.  I’ve lost track of the friend who gave me that piece of advice in the first paragraph about contentment.  I wish I could tell her now that I really am contented with my life – most days – and it has not resulted in marriage – at least yet. 🙂 I’ve discovered that many of those dear married folks who talk about those “singleness contentment rules” were married young, and at the time probably were not thinking so much about contentment as they were the prospects of loving and being loved in a covenant spousal relationship.

As for me, I’ve found quite a passion for encouraging fellow “onesomes” AND sharing the depths of singleness with my married friends.  So, I guess I’ve found my present mission in life.  I’m lovin’ this blog in an attempt to come alongside others who are walking this singleness journey.

I relish your comments on challenges you face which you might like to see addressed here.

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)

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.

 

Conquering “dandelion” thoughts – a singleness challenge ☆

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Amen!

** New International Version

S-I-N-gle and other S-I-N words ☆

nametag single

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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