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Singleness: Rip off or Gift??

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I recently stumbled across a hilarious meme on facebook with Napoleon Dynamite on his bike pulling his brother, Kip, behind on rollerblades with the meme saying,  “Me and my buddy leaving Bible college without a wife” and Kip saying “well that place was a rip off”. Although it's easy to laugh at Kip and Napoleon, many of us have actually felt this way. It is easy to believe these types of lies before about our singleness.

As a woman who did not get married until two weeks shy of being 36 years old, at times,  I struggled to believe the truth from God’s Word in regards to my singleness and God’s plan for my singleness. Just like Kip, it was easy to feel like life was a rip off... I watched all my friends and family play the dating and marriage game while I sat on the sidelines and lived, what felt like, plan B for the Christian life. I thought that if I was a good Christian who did what God wanted, that he owed me a husband or at least would give me what I desired. I had believed that once I reached a certain level of godliness or contentment that “Mr Right'' would come along and we would live happily ever after. I was told that I was too picky or that I needed to make myself more available to men. I struggled to believe lies such as “God is withholding good from me” or “Life begins once I get married." These lies began to affect my thoughts and everyday life. 

Sometime in my mid to late twenties, I had a friend tell me that she thought I was idolizing marriage. Although offended at the time, after much consideration, my friend was right. That was a turning point for me in my relationship with God and my understanding of Him.  I began to stop waiting for life to begin once I got married, as though the abundant life I was hoping for was going to be found in a man... I began to recognize and understand the truth- that true abundant life is found in a relationship with Jesus Christ! And that he alone is enough to satisfy me! Psalm 16:11 says “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” No human being will ever be able to meet all my needs and bring the joy and life that Jesus Christ will. Instead of waiting around to be married, I was able to invest in meaningful relationships with others, serve, and give of my time, talents and resources to further the Kingdom! God’s grace was enough to sustain me each day when I was single and it is the same continues to sustain me each day now that I am married!

As I began to grow in my theology and understanding of God, I also recognized that God was not being more good to my friends who were getting married because this was impossible for God to do. I was single because God is so good to me and this was his best for me. God wasn't withholding anything good from me as it reads in Psalm 84:11b “No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly”.  Paige Benton Brown summarizes this well in her article Singled Out by God for Good, when she says, “Can God be any less good to me on the average Tuesday morning than he was on that monumental Friday afternoon when he hung on the cross in my place? The answer is a resounding NO!” When I began to believe how good God was to me it started to change my attitude and my ability to celebrate and rejoice with others when they were getting married. 

Finally, after none of my formulas for reaching a certain level of contentment in God or obedience to God worked to get me a husband, I slowly recognized that marriage is not a gift from God to be earned... none of God’s gifts are. That is why it is called a gift! I learned that being single is not an inferior gift, as it talks about in 1 Corinthians 7. When I stopped trying to use contentment as a means to my end (marriage) and made God what I wanted, I actually found true joy and contentment in Him!

Although it was a fight to believe these truths, I thank God that he did not initially give me what I wanted and taught me all these truths over the years of being unintentionally single. Theses years gave me a greater intimacy and dependance on Christ.  And now, happily married with my second child on the way, I'm still having to remind myself that God is good, He satisfies me, He loves me, and His grace is enough while He uses marriage to make me more like Jesus just like he did through my singleness.

Posted by Lindsey Willsey

How to Ruin a Date Night

I’m not a professional Date Night-er, but after 22 years of having date nights of various kinds, I sure know how to ruin one. Ruining your next date night will have nothing to do with the place you eat, or how long you’re out, or even if you don’t go out. Ruining the next date night will hinge on what you talk about. 

Paula and I have some basic date rules we try to stick by. Rule #1: No talking about work. Rule #2. No talking about kids. I know what you’re thinking, “What else is there to talk about?” Exactly. These rules provide a smaller list of conversation topics to choose from. And if you’ve been married for more than a year, you already know their favorite movie and band. It can seem like there is little left to discover. This can also seem harder the longer you’re married as work and kids take up a considerable amount of your bandwidth - and therefore need more conversation time 

So many date nights can turn into a staff meeting, where discussion revolves around who is taking little Joe to baseball and why we’re angry at a co-worker. I’ve ruined so many date nights discussing day-to-day logistics. Logistics may be important, but date night can be a sort of hallowed ground, deserving to be protected. I understand the reasoning behind doing this. We get small fits-and-spurts of attention from our spouse during the week, and even those moments can be interrupted by notifications and kids. Date Night is a moment where we can shave off the interruptions, but discussing logistics is where we ruin that time. 

Consider that your spouse isn’t the same person you married. Just as you have grown, so they have too. And we don’t even grow at the same pace, or the same time. So there is a tremendous amount of discovery to be had in our marriages. Every year, you’re married to a different version of the person that you were the same day last year. Date Night is a great space for conversations that lead us towards the discovery of our spouse. Find a different time to go over the calendar, arrange tasks, discuss work - but don’t ruin date night. 

Here are some questions that might lead you into moments of discovery with your spouse. 

  • “What do you need me to know about you right now?” 
  • “What has been the scariest thing for you lately?” 
  • “Where have you seen God clearly this last week?” 
  • “Where do you have hope for the future?” 

Questions like these will posture you for discussions that lead away from logistics (which are important) and towards being known and knowing deeply (which are more important). So, the next time you go out to get BBQ, or stay in to catch up on Netflix, devote some time to the same thing you did when you first met your beloved - figure out who they are and don’t ruin the date night.

When Friendly Fire Makes Us Bitter

"Left to itself, the victim narrative becomes the seed for bitterness. It can be a great burden to be sinned against. It's easier to sin and repent than be sinned against." Paul Miller

It’s far more gentle on our souls to damage others, feel conviction, repent, and move forward - than it is to absorb the damage of others. This gets more true the closer the relationship. I can easily absorb the jabs of others from a distance. If I haven’t met my adversary or have only heard their criticism under a social media post, but not so much when they are in my community group, or family, or even marriage. At that point, damage can feel debilitating. I’ve said many times, that the closer the proximity and the deeper the vulnerability, the more we risk the type of damage that will drive us towards bitterness. Consider David’s deep cry...

“For it is not an enemy who taunts me— then I could bear it; it is not an adversary who deals insolently with me— then I could hide from him. But it is you, a man, my equal, my companion, my familiar friend.” Psalm 55:12–13

There is no way you get through this broken landscape of a world without feeling what David feels in this Psalm. No way. And there is no way you can prepare for it. No way you’ll be able to make sense of it. You’ll even be tempted to shield yourself from ever letting it “ever happen again.” This is what bitterness can do. It can destroy and “defile many” (Lamentations 3:19-24) and refuses to be contained to your original adversary. You’ll find it easier to not be vulnerable and “known” than to be laid so bare to only have the same result and hurt again. 

So what do we do? Fix our gaze on who was ultimately laid bare and damaged by those he came to save. The greatest temptation to be bitter ever felt in human history was felt on the cross by Christ. God was laid bare. Naked and mocked. Shamed and rejected. Jesus had cause for resentment, and yet pursued those who would damage him. Our gaze will either be on our open wound, or on God who laid himself vulnerable before creation.  

Why does this matter? We can share our pain with Jesus (to a degree) as friends and lovers share intimate moments. We can experience the damage of a close friend and know that Jesus understands and has cried similar tears. We can walk “in the same shape” of Jesus as those who should have loved him instead killed him. 

As you process how much hurt you’ve been carrying, imagine the freedom offered you for doing worse. Imagine the freedom from the need to be a victim. Imagine the freedom to absorb the hits and yet bless in return. There is a better root than the one of bitterness. Let the gospel root grow in your soul, share the pain with Jesus, feel his embrace as one from an understanding lover, and move forward with confidence; confidence that you’ll be damaged again in the future, and yet Jesus will still faithfully be our portion and delight. We can trust him.