Archives For singleness

Link Love

April 23, 2014

The Real Problem with Female Masturbation I’m linking to this because I’m so grateful these subjects are being talked about more and more. I spoke at an event a few weeks ago and was astonished to find that most of the followup conversations I had with the women there were on sexual issues that they had never been taught about. It shouldn’t have shocked me, but it did. Friends, leaders, women—we MUST create space for these conversations. We must shush the prude in us that doesn’t want to say those words aloud and bend down in the dirt with our sisters to give them the living water.

Nathan Bingham and Mathew Sims both had great articles up this week on whether it’s a sin to retweet or share a compliment on social media.

There has never been a time in my memory when I have not wrestled with depression and condemnation. I am less prone to worry, anxiety, and panic than I ever was, but Simon and Garfunkel’s Hello, darkness, my old friend, is a common refrain in my life. Zach Lee is one of the pastors at my church and for as long as he’s been there, he’s been honest about his struggles in this area. I’m grateful for his words here and hope they encourage you if you share the weakness.

If you were on Twitter at all this week #ERLCsummit was trending. I was a bit surprised as it was the hashtag from a small conservative conference meant to train Southern Baptist pastors and leaders in ministry. I watched many of the talks on the live-stream because they were on sex, homosexuality, pornography, and marriage—and I think we’re in times when it’s more important than ever to be thinking biblically about these issues instead of culturally. The reason the hashtag was trending so high, though, was because of the backlash it was receiving from the self-described progressive Christians. While I do think there was some unfortunate phrasing and less than apt metaphors made by some of the speakers, I was grieved by the reactions of some progressives. That said, I appreciated Wesley Hill’s response as well as Chelsea Vicari’s Women, Sexuality and the Southern Baptist’s ERLC Summit. Every time a Twitter-storm happens on these issues, I’m reminded of what a great—and limited—tool Twitter is. And I’m freshly aware of our need to be in season and out, to live life face to face with real struggles and strugglers. 140 characters is not enough to disciple someone in truth.

Some time ago someone asked me, “Do you even want to be married?” My response surprised me: “No. I mean, I want to love Jesus. If living single with those girls in that house makes me love Jesus more than being married, no, I don’t want to be married.” I’ve thought about it so many times since then because the truth is, I DO want to be married and I DO think marriage would be good and hard in the right ways. But the deeper truth is that today I DO love my singleness because it is a gift from the Lord and I honestly see it as such. I appreciate Ben Stuart’s thoughts here.

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A month ago today was to be my wedding day.

I was never the girl pouring over scrapbooks of wedding ideals or scrawling my crush’s names in margins on notebooks, I am far too pragmatic for such things. I wore a ring and I planned a wedding.

But today I am not wearing a ring and passed through March 16 with one long sigh and then sleep.

I suppose sometime the shame will lift, the feeling of failure will abate, the questions I ask of God and myself will be quelled. But for today they hang heavy, shrouding all of me. I am strangely okay with the hiddenness of today—though I long for the joy that comes in the morning.

He must increase, I must decrease.

. . .

Sayable has always been a place of vulnerability and transparency. If you know me in flesh, you know I am no over-sharer—quite the opposite, I must be mined for information. But here, on Sayable, I have no shame, or haven’t. The whole point of Sayable is to say; yet the past months have been a time of shame, fear, questions, and quiet, and this has bled into all my writing, especially here.

Some say, “No need to go public,” and some argue, “No one needs to know anyway!” But this past week I read yet another account of a man fallen from ministry and think to myself, “If we cared less about what people thought, and more about ministering through our weaknesses, I wonder if we’d ever get so high we had a place to fall from?”

The thing about ministering through weakness is you have to go straight through it, diving, like the poet Adrienne Rich said, into the wreck. But diving through and into is painful and revealing and I’m afraid I may still fall in the meantime.

There is no great theology to be found in the todaying of my life. It is the punctualness of my inner clock, waking to the same shame and sadness, the fear that because God is enough, all I ever get will be God—and will He be enough? Really enough? I know He will be, but if I don’t ask the question, I won’t remember the answer four-hundred times a day, and I need to remember the answer.

What is diving if not one long fall? Knowing I am caught and held, amidst the wreckage, among the damage, to find the treasure.

I came to explore the wreck.
The words are purposes.
The words are maps.
I came to see the damage that was done
and the treasures that prevail.
Adrienne Rich

divorce

When I was 13 years old my parents had the sort of fight where you run for cover. I don’t remember anything about it except that I fearfully went to one parent the next morning asking if they were going to get divorced. They promised me they were not.

Ten springs later I was living in Guatemala and the words, “The divorce is finalized,” came over the phone from one of my parents. I dissolved in tears when I hung up the phone, set my face like steel, resolved to never make a promise I couldn’t keep—to a husband or to my children.

It is now ten years from then and I hope I have a bit more perspective, and empathy, toward both of my parents. Divorce wasn’t their first choice—and it hasn’t been their last. Even today they are facing off in court again—divorce is rarely in the best interest of everyone, but we only count by ones when we shatter, each shard collected, regarded, and disposed.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Every time I want to speak about divorce I hesitate for a few reasons, one is that I have no idea of the complexities of marriage. I have a better idea today than I did last year, but even the complexities of my broken relationship cannot compare to the one flesh union between two flesh entities.

Another reason I hesitate is because this is a deeply personal issue. The complexities of one couple’s marriage cannot compare to the complexities of another couple’s. There are histories, stories, theologies, broken and beautiful things coming together in a grand clash of a lifetime together. There is no easy way to navigate these things. How could one person speak with any sort of authority on these matters?

I shared a bit of my story there to extend an olive branch to those who think I could not understand the complexities of marriage. While it is true that I could not understand it for myself, I can understand it deeply and profoundly as the adult child of divorce—and one who has watched my siblings respond in different and distinct ways. Are we the story of everyman? No. But neither are each of our stories, as siblings, the same. We each experienced divorce, brokenness, abandonment, abuse, fear, hurt, betrayal, death, disappointment in different ways. I only have my side of things, my story.

Beneath the deeply layered stories of divorce, there are true things about marriage, and what makes the gospel so profound is that it makes all the sad things come untrue. The world is broken and breaking, and afterward we are, as Hemingway said, strong at the broken places.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

One of the great weaknesses in our world today, even within the Church, is the brokenness of marriage, how it is fractured and divided and fracturing and dividing. But at the crux of that brokenness, we are strong in that place because the great metaphor of Christ’s love for us is marriage. From the very first glimpse of his bride, the first Adam loved her, and the second Adam has done no less.

When we understand the sanctity and holy depth of what marriage is to God, we understand this fractured piecemeal one-flesh difficult thing is simply a broken reflection—and cannot give us the whole picture of Christ’s love for His bride.

That comforts me today because I am the child of divorce and I am the child of broken promises and I am the breaker of promises—but none of that touches the deepest reality of what marriage means to Christ. He doesn’t break His promises; He never leaves His bride; His plan has always been to take what is battered, bruised, soiled, and spotted, and to present her perfect, without blemish.

There are many miraculous metaphors for  life in Christ, dead men brought to life, lame men walking, but none so profound, I think, as the miracle of taking what is broken and making it wholly whole.

If your marriage is buckling under the weight of life and all its complexities today, if you have broken promises to your children and your spouse, if you are the child of divorce and fear marriage (as I do), never forget that if you are His child, He is taking what is broken and making it whole. Today, right now, He is refining and cleansing.

Let these words comfort you today:

…As Christ loved the church
and gave himself up for her,
that he might sanctify her,
having cleansed her
by the washing of water with the word,
so that he might present the church
to himself in splendor,
without spot or wrinkle
or any such thing,
that she might be holy
and without blemish.
Ephesians 5:27

Congregant Caricatures

March 6, 2014 — 3 Comments

The thing about caricatures is you always know who it is just by looking at it:

caricature

And yet, you know you can’t trust the likeness.

Right?

A caricaturist zeros in on several points on a person’s face. Maybe it’s a slightly larger nose, or a bit of a crooked smile, or maybe something as pedestrian as deeply blue eyes or a natural blush. The caricaturist’s aim is to exaggerate and minimize what sets the face apart. His aim is not to make ugly, but often times a caricature looks ugly. If you’ve ever had one done you know the righteous indignation that accompanies first sight,

“I don’t really look like that!” you say, and of course you don’t.

But you kind of do. Not really. But sort of. Enough that you’re recognizable, not enough that anyone who knows your face well would say it’s an exact likeness.

Within culture at large, and Church culture especially, caricaturists abound. In some ways, they’re the comedians of the inner circle; the Jon Acuff and Jen Hatmakers. They zone in on the ridiculous and ludicrous parts of the Christian life and family and help us all laugh at ourselves. They satire, and they’re good at it, and we laugh at them because they’re helping us laugh at ourselves.

When Caricature goes badly is when a sly artist studies a theology or movement solely to find the weak or shallow parts. Then they pound out a blog post heard round the world for a split second and then life goes on as normal. A moment of fame while everyone points and laughs at the funny man in the picture, asks how could he be so silly and stupid and ugly, and how could he not know he’s so silly and stupid and ugly.

Ha ha.

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Here’s the other thing about caricatures: we know the elongated nose or tiny eyes or stout neck are true about us; in fact, nobody sees our face in the mirror, under such a microscope as we do.

But when the caricature is passed around as truth for long enough, everyone starts to believe that’s our real face. That’s who we really are. But it’s not.

That’s not the person who wakes up in the morning, drinks their coffee while they read the bible, who packs lunch for her kids or drops the shampoo in the shower, who can’t find their keys where they left them, who buys coffee for the person behind them in line, who killed it at the meeting with his coworkers, who meets weekly with a guy who just needs prayer and a friend, who forgot to put gas in the car, who falls into bed every night exhausted and confident that they are doing exactly what God designed them to do and be and look like.

Who cares about a caricature when there are real people to be seen?

If you are tempted to zero in on a particular face of a movement and draw for the world a caricature they won’t forget, what you need to remember is at the end of the day we throw those caricatures in the garbage. Nobody really wants to look at them, and especially not the subject of the drawing. Why? Because it’s not true. It’s partially true, which makes it not true.

If you want people to listen to what you have to say, really listen, not just rally around you, or press like on your Facebook post, you have to sit with them and be true with them, and be truthful about them.

I asked an artist one time, a man who paints likenesses that almost breathe with life, how he made the paintings.

“Do you take a photo and paint from that?” I asked him.

“Oh, no,” he said, “I make the subject sit in front of me, hours and hours and hours. How could I paint them life-like if I did not see them living?”

If you came here looking for gossip, this is not where you’ll find it. I alluded to a few things in my recent post on Same Sex Attraction and Delaying Marriage, so consider these thoughts just a continuation of that post.

First, I want to say that I bear no ill will toward my parents in any way. Hebrews 12:10 says, “Your fathers disciplined you as it seemed best,” and whatever that verse means for you, for me it means I can trust my parents did what they thought best. They did not intend harm toward me or my siblings in the schooling or spiritual choices they made for our family. That does not mean we were not harmed, only that I know they were doing what they thought best.

Second, I want to say that God is not a wasteful God. He does not pile up the scraps of our lives and bemoan the loss. He is a careful artist and potter, shaping and shifting, knitting and building, crafting those made in His image to be more and more like Him. He is careful and attentive. He does not waste experiences or difficulties or joys or pains. Every single moment of my life has been held in His capable hands. I see that more today than I ever have before and I trust Him.

Now, let’s talk about homeschooling and sex scandals

If you were a part of the homeschooling revolution of the 80s and 90s, then you were most likely a child of someone who came of age in the 60s and 70s. These were the hypnotic, drug hazed years of rock n roll, hippies, bra-burning, Woodstock, and the Jesus Movement. These were people who knew how to sin big—and who came to Jesus big. For most of our parents, even if they were not part of those movements, they were influenced by them—for better or worse.

As any parent, and especially ones new to faith, would do, they protected their young often to the point of over-protecting. They banned rock music, R rated movies (or PG13 if you were my parents); they monitored clothing choices not only for modesty, but also for looking too much like the world; they monitored friendships—especially friendships between boys and girls (more on that in the aforementioned post).

Folks, I have stories I find laughable now, but then? In the moment? Rage inducing stories. It was tough to be a child in that atmosphere. We were ruled by the fear of what might become of us. There was little grace in our communities—in fact, it wasn’t until I was in my late 20s that the word grace ever entered my vocabulary as something other than a girl’s name.

These parents intended to protect, and they did, but drawing boundary lines close around your daughter still does not protect her from herself. Naming things as off limits to your son does not keep him from delving into the darkness in his own heart.

You can monitor modesty and measure hemlines, but you cannot moderate the temperature of your child’s heart. You can eliminate songs with beats, but you cannot temper the beating of your child’s heart for artistry. You can talk about not defrauding the hearts of boys or girls, but you cannot control the trigger in their hearts that jumps when they feel chemistry.

The problem is, for many and most of these homeschooling parents, they tried to do just that.

Full disclosure for a moment here

I was not simply a homeschooled kid. My family brushed shoulders with some of the upper echelon of the homeschool movement of the 90s. My parents produced an award winning book for homeschoolers and I spent most of my youth surrounded by the most deeply entrenched in the movement. We were taking over the world, one homeschool convention at a time.

Within these homeschool circles, because there was much protection, there was much trust with likeminded individuals (I remember being disciplined and rebuked often by other parents in my family’s circle), and kids were free to roam among their likeminded peers. There was a common habit of putting the older children in charge of the younger children—but all of us still just children. And all of us bit with the curiosity that forbidden fruit offers. I had my first encounter with sexuality when I was 10 years old. I cannot even remember all the times my peers were either accused of sexual curiosity, abuse, or simply “going too far.” It was epidemic—and still never talked about.

Natural curiosity lies abed in everyone. We all want to know about things. All sorts of things. How they work, if they work, who knows how to make them work, and if they’ll work for us. For many of these homeschoolers though, the questions about sex and relationships were squelched—even the good ones.

You can protect your kids from almost anything, but if you don’t teach them that their greatest threat is self and the sinfulness that lies inside them, they’ll be surprised by it every time.

Curiosity kills the cat—and sometimes the mouse too.

In the past few years more and more allegations of sexual abuse or assault within conservative movements has come to light (SGM, ATI, BJU, PHC, and far more).

Friends, we should not be surprised.

I believe that much of the sexual abuse and scandal that’s coming to light these days is directly related to the sin of legalism. It was Eve telling the serpent, “God said we could not eat or touch.” There was so much fear surrounding the other things in life (music, clothing, doctrine, even food), that to broach the subject of sex just seemed almost other-worldly.

We added to the gospel, to the truest things God ever said. We got knowledge of good and evil, but for many in the homeschooling movement, we prided ourselves on keeping the knowledge inside and the evil locked safely out. We never let ourselves realize the heart contains all the knowledge and evil it needs to have things go very, very badly indeed.

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Note: These are just my thoughts and commentary on a bit of my own experience. I believe most parents who spearheaded these movements realize their error at this point—and most of us, the product of these movements, certainly realize it.

The solution is the whole gospel—and to flee whenever you catch even a drift of another gospel. There are “other” gospels everywhere—pet theologies, dogmatic arguments, dramatic treatises on any subject offering the real truth and real life, but Christ alone is it. Christ alone.

If you find yourself heading into a belief system that places more emphasis on any outworking of the gospel, than it does on the life, death, and resurrection of Christ, flee.

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It still shocks me a bit when friends confess same sex attraction.

What shocks me is not that they have same sex attraction, but that they have convinced themselves that I will be shocked at their confession. The truth is SSA is more pervasive within the church than most people know, or want to know. I don’t know the official percentages, but I know the personal ones—the myriad of girls & guys who through the years have offered their trembling secret to me. My home isn’t a half-way house, a place to get fixed up and moved on, but it sure has offered more than one cup of tea and listening ear to those struggling with SSA.

The confessions only seem to be on the rise, so tonight I have a few observations I’d like to make:

The longer marriage is delayed into the 30s and later, the more I have women especially coming and confessing SSA or the existence of a SS relationship in which they have engaged.

I don’t know how solid this hypothesis is, but I’d like to suggest that within the church right now we have the 30+ year old women who were pulled into the Passion & Purity, I Kissed Dating Goodbye, Courtship, True Love Waits church culture of the 90s. We were taught to guard our hearts against those dirty-minded boys who only wanted sex, or worse, to snatch up little parts of our hearts and scatter them about, or we were taught that our romances must have the *weight and certainty that Jim Elliot brought to his relationship with Elisabeth.

We locked down those hearts real good, yo.

In the lack of healthy male/female relationships, we perfected our female engagement. We did not create soul-ties with boys. We denied our sexuality because sexuality was bad. We filled our basic physical need for human touch and engagement with other females—not in a sexual way, but an asexual way, wholly innocent.

Healthy physical touch is a beautiful thing (you will never hear me say otherwise—I’m a firm believer in firm handshakes and even firmer hugs). The problem comes when we learn only to engage asexually. The further we grow into adulthood unmarried, that asexuality has a good chance of turning into a deeper comfort. Nearly every girl I know within the church who has engaged in a SS relationship did not begin with homosexual feelings, but reacted with it after being hurt in a heterosexual relationship OR being refused the opportunity to engage in a heterosexual relationship. I am not saying this is the case across the board, and I know many women who have experienced SSA since their childhood—I am only saying from my observation within the church, this seems to be a common thread.

Why?

Because we are soulish beings who have been sold the story of a soul-mate, and who better to fulfill the needs of a soul than a creature who gets me like I get me?

Very transparently, I don’t know very many girls in my demographic (33, single, Christian) who generally prefer or feel the same level of comfort with men as they do with women. We prefer women. “Well, of course you prefer women,” you might argue, “You should! The last thing we need is a bunch of women going around pursuing deep comfort with guys!”

But that’s exactly what I am going to argue for.

Anyone who knows me well knows that I do not advocate for gender specific friendships only. I do believe guys and girls can be friends, and I also believe they should pursue marriage if they start to really enjoy their friendship. What a great thing that is! Gospel centered marriages built on a deep friendship first, and attraction second? I cannot think of a better scenario.

I honestly believe that some of the reasons we are seeing a rise in SSA (not simply a biological attraction to the same gender, but an emotional one before the sexual one) within the church particularly, is due to a lack of healthy male/female friendship and a prolonged delay of marriage.

It might be a long-shot and I welcome discussion on this, as long as it’s helpful and not hurtful. This is a sensitive topic with widely varied levels. I say that because someone who has engaged for 20+ years in homosexual behavior and holds a deep, unwavering attraction to the same gender is not the sort of person to which I’m referring. I am primarily talking about the girls and guys who delayed marriage (for whatever reason), are paying the price of that extended loneliness, void, and lack of life-partner today, and expressing it sexually, emotionally and otherwise in SS relationships.

Thoughts? If you’re single and 30+, I’d especially love your thoughts. Feel free to comment anonymously and know that I will delete without hesitation any cruel or untoward comments.

*I love Jim & Elisabeth’s story, but it isn’t mine, and it isn’t yours. It’s a description, not a prescription. 

Related post on homosexuality: What God Has Joined Together

Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.
Proverbs 4:23

It’s a misquoted, misused, and abused little proverb that has given a lot of people a lot of heartache. Here’s all it means:

Life happens, it springs forth out of you and me and everyone we know. Life is beautiful and messy and complicated and confusing and joyful. And it can be all those things without all those things being wrong or evil.

So keep your heart, know it, put it daily before the Lord, because you will create beauty with it, you will mess things up with it, and you will complicate life with it. But our hearts are not eternal and these angsts of life are not either.

When you guard your heart, guard its greatest treasure, Jesus alone. And trust that He is doing all the guarding necessary too.

Completion

December 2, 2013

I’m trying to be careful to not write much about my relationship with a good man. I know the seeping envy that hearing too much of that talk can do to hearts. I am my brother’s keeper, and my sister’s, and I want to steward well.

The truth is this fall has been one of shaping, shifting, breaking, filling, hurting, misunderstanding, loving, trusting, and hoping. I have a feeling marriage is all of those same things, only fuller and harder.

My hands have been so filled with good things over the years that I have found it difficult to open them and choose another good thing. Paul said singleness was better and that soothed me for a long time, pacifying my desire for a partnership and love. It soothed me so well that I found such deep substance in my singleness after my cries wore off. Not always perfectly—there were still times I longed for someone, anyone really, to be mine. But most of my time I enjoyed my freedom to think, be, say, do whatever I felt full license from the Holy Spirit to do. I felt full.

Fullness is good until you find yourself trying to fit just one more thing, especially if it is of particular importance to fit in, like a boyfriend or fiancee or husband sort of importance. Then that nasty full feeling makes you feel your selfishness and gluttony in sickening ways. You come face to face with how very much you’ve been building a kingdom that looks like Christ’s, but using your own cook and cleaner and interior designer. His kingdom, my throne.

Last week in a meeting with a couple who’ve taken us under their wing and love, I was asked, “What do you want? Deep down, what do you want?”

The answer I gave was cushioned and caveated by “When I let myself,” and “But I don’t think it’s possible,” but deep down what I want is just a life of simplicity. One where I am not standing behind a blog façade, where I greet my neighbors over the fence, and can peaches and keep my front door open and unlocked. That is what I want.

The next question he asked was: “Why can’t you just do that?”

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

All this week I’ve been paying very close attention to what I want, really want, and here’s why: because I know and trust the Holy Spirit within me, I know that my deepest wants and desires bring Him joy, and if they bring Him joy, they bring me joy.

There are so many things on the surface that compete for my joy, things that pacify me, or tide me over, but the truth is God created me for His glory, so something about what I love naturally brings him joy.

I know this is meandering and may not make much sense, but I want to help myself and you understand that what we want deep down is not marriage or love or partnership or singleness. Those things are good, but they all come with a price. What we want deep down is for our joy to be full—and Christ wants that too, He said so. What brings us joy and completes that joy is to remain in His love.

I have not remained in His love in recent years. I have known His love theologically, but there has still been a part of me that has eschewed His love and groped instead for the cross—and not His cross, but mine. The cross I thought He was asking me to bear by being single or ministering beyond my capacity or choosing a life I didn’t necessarily want, but thought He wanted from me.

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Life is simpler here at home. Oh, there are complex things here, but the life people live is simple, robust and yet unencumbered by so much of what I have found myself surrounded by in recent years. Here I remember who I am in the deepest parts of me and I am loved and my joy is made full.

It is joy that fills us to complete, not duty, calling, or the expectations of others.

What do you want?

I suppose I don’t know very much about being married, or even being engaged, or being in a relationship, but I know a pretty good amount about being single. And I’m knowing it from a different angle than ever before. The past few weeks I’ve been thinking about a few things I’m so grateful I did in my singleness that prepared me for the season I’m in now.

I’m grateful I never lived alone. Since 2000 I have had 34 roommates. That’s not because I’m a bad roommate either, I promise! It was just life circumstances, the nature of moving often, having roommates who married, graduated, or moved on. I’m grateful for every woman with whom I’ve lived. Each of them came from vastly different lifestyles, the daughter of missionaries, the daughter of hippies, the daughter of a broken family, the nearly-perfect family. Girls who struggled with mental illness, spiritual brokenness, had strong faith or weak faith. I do not have a single regret from living with each of these women. The person I am today is in part due to each of them.

Singles, live with roommates. I understand you want to have your things just as you want them, have your own space, and more, but there has been no better preparation for the season of dying to self I’m in now than living with so many different people.

I’m grateful I wasn’t friends with only singles. In this season I find myself running often to my married friends (Shout out to Meredith, Jeannie, Maggie, and Nancy!) for advice, counsel, accountability, and more. If I had isolated myself to only being friends with those in a similar season of singleness, I would not have a cache of married men and women to seek help from. Being in a relationship is a joyful thing, but it is also a hard thing. There are things in this season I never expected to struggle with. Having someone who’s been there take my face in their hands and say, “Hey, this is normal,” is so good.

Singles, seek out married friends. Do not isolate yourself or relegate your friendships to other singles. Do not seek out only friendship of those in the same exact season as you. This is hard and will take sacrifice on your part, but I promise you: someday they will be the ones sacrificing for you.

I’m grateful I learned to embrace this gift for this day. Years ago I read a quote by Elisabeth Elliot,

“This gift for this day. The life of faith is lived one day at a time, and it has to be lived-not always looked forward to as though the “real” living were around the next corner. It is for today we are responsible. God still owns tomorrow.”

I never forgot those words. I longed for years to really see each day as a gift and I can honestly say that in the months and years leading up to the most recent season, I did see my singleness as a gift. As I prepared to move into my present house this past summer, I was excited because I saw it as an opportunity to have some girls live with me in a discipleship context. There’s a natural discipleship that comes from living with one another, but I had intentions to do it even more deeply as I moved into this season—even for the rest of my life. I couldn’t wait. Why? Because I was learning more deeply what it means to ask myself, “What’s in my hand?” The most obvious answer was my singleness and I wanted to use it as fully as possible. I do not regret a second of that redeemed time. Did I do it perfectly? No. But I did (and do!) treasure my singleness.

Singles, what is in your hand? This is your gift for today and it is only for today. God still owns tomorrow. Embrace that.

 

Just some notes rolling around in my head. Hope they’re helpful to someone tonight.

My fiance asked me out for the first time on a Facebook message. Once he finally got my number, he texted me a few times with other suggestions for hanging out. Of course I turned him down every single time, though, because “Real Men Don’t Text” (and other junk I thought about real men…).

Girls, can I be straight with you for one minute? Whatever your idea of a Real Man is, it would be better for you right now to drop the man and just get real.

A real man is flesh and blood, made of dirt and the breath of God.

He was created in the image of God, made to reflect the many faceted aspects of God. He is merciful and just, he is gentle and fierce, he is strong and tender, he is like a father but he gathers his young like a mother, he is holy, he is sacrificial—these are the ways in which he reflects his Maker.

He is also made. He was created from the ground, the dust, the particles of the earth’s first rubbish. But nothing is rubbish to God and so He took something from nothing and made it good, real good. Real, tangible, touchable, malleable, fallible, but real. So real that you can stand beside him and know that all your realness, your curves, your imperfections, your flaws, your failures, are not more or less real than his. You are the same. And different. There is nothing else on earth as real as the two of you in this sense. Souls and bodies, minds and hearts.

It’s astounding.

As I learn what it means to be joined with a man, I am having to unlearn what constitutes real men and real women. In our relationship I am the internal processor, he is the verbal; I am the risk-taker, he is the solid, steady; he is romantic and nostalgic; I am no nonsense and overlook his many expressions of love. There are so many ways in which we are not what could be termed as Real Men or Real Women, but we are the realest man or woman in one another’s life right now. We are the realest expression of the image of God to one another—and also the realest mirror to our own selfishness.

The only way to be a real man or real woman is to be real in the very essence of what the word means.

Actually existing or happening. Not imaginary, not fake, false, or artificial. Important and deserving to be regarded or treated in a serious way.

You are real because you exist, you are happening. You are not fake or false or artificial. You are not wired for anything except to bring glory to your Maker—and even this is so vast and incomprehensible, how could it be contained?

You are important because you make much of the One who is Most Important.

You are a person, bearing the image of God, the Imago Dei—therefore I treat you seriously, whether or not you text first or email first or ask me out to coffee first or work from home or are a mother or a father or can bear children or will never bear children.

You are real because He took dust and bone and made you real.

Men and women, go. Be real.

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Live and Let Love

October 7, 2013 — 4 Comments

The thing about dying, I have heard, is your life passes before your eyes. All the choices you have made and all the ones made for you, a clear succession of days, weeks, months, and moments—encapsulated in a second. A rush of every fear, joy, hope, and terror you’ve ever felt.

The thing about singleness is that the best way to live it is to live it hard, to die, yes, but to live, really live. The unmarried person is concerned with how to please the Lord and the Lord is the shepherd of the widest pasture known. The thing about marriage, I’ve heard, is the best way to live it is to die a thousand deaths, over and over and over. To lay every dream, desire, and fortune at the feet of a tangible other—an other who has dreams, desires, and fortunes of his own. It is an invitation to come and die.

In all my years of singleness I saw the portion before me, wide open pastures of expectation and anticipation; sometimes riddled with fear of the unknown and sometimes full of risk and reward and sometimes frustration at what seemed to never be. I teetered on the edge so many times because one wrong move seemed to set the course for my life. Come live, my Savior said, come to me and trust me: LIVE. Open wide your heart, your abandon, your treasures, your lot, and live. Come live with me and be my love, like the poet said.

In only a few months of anothering, I see only the portion behind me. My life passing before my eyes, all my fears, regrets, joys, expectations, and I see God bidding me to come and die. I uncurl my fingers from the gold of what I have built and what I have trusted in, what works for me, and what dreams have come. Come die with me and be my love, the vows could say.

Why are you writing this on Sayable, you are asking me, I know. Keep this stuff between you two. Tell us only the joys and hopes, the good things we dream of our futures. But I cannot, my friends, because I promised you Sayable would be about the gospel and this is the gospeling done in me today. Today, this week, the gospel has asked that I lay down me, all of me, every part of me I have crafted and found pleasure in, the parts I have imagine that God Himself finds pleasure in—I lay it down.

Here is a small comfort: I imagine in those moments before dying, when your life is passing before your eyes, how much life can fit in a moment? It may feel a lifetime, but a moment is so small. What you realize you are losing is so minute, so temporal, and I find solace in that tonight. My rights? My dreams? My preferences? Mere vapors, here today, gone before tomorrow.

And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.
Luke 9:23-24

Try as I might, I’m not sure I can hold the identifier “Single Complementarian poster-child” at bay much longer. We’re a rare breed—some of us sold a barefoot and pregnant mantra since we played dress-up in our mamas’ clothing and learned to make a perfect omelet. It’s hard to let go of dreams as big as these.

For those of us who made it past 25 without a ring on our finger and a bun in the oven, more schooling seemed to be the only option. Slap an MA on the back of our name, we’re still casting sidelong glances at our sisters with misters. Many graduated with honors, fidelity, and an MRS, while most singles are pounding the pavement looking for a job to secure us some semblance of a future.

You ask why we’re a rare breed and I’ll tell you this: we’re not. Well, we are, but that’s just the nature of any conservative position in a swiftly tilting planet. But within the church we’re not all that rare. You don’t hear us talking much, though, and that’s something I’d like to talk about today.

Three reasons (of many) why single female complementarians may not be speaking up.

1. For too long the Church has relegated submission to what happens in the home and the sanctuary. The concept of submission to one to another (Eph. 5:21) has been glossed over in our rush to get to the juicy stuff in the following verses. Who wants to talk about something like submission to one another when there are husbands to be submitted to and wives to be loved? Well, I do. I want to talk about it because we don’t have a framework for life in Christ if we don’t understand being in something brings with it a certain amount of submission (sitting in a driving car, for example—you go where it goes.).

In the broad conversation we have often placed the discussion of submission firmly within the confines of marriage or our relationship to Christ, and not in regard to one another. This has created a generation of women who want to submit but are waiting to submit until Prince Charming comes along. In theory we’re complementarians, but we don’t have anyone standing in that gap, so practically, we’re egalitarians. It becomes difficult to talk about something we believe when because of brokenness in the family and an overwhelming absence of fathers, we’re not given a clear framework to practice it.

2. Speaking of frameworks, in the absence of the marriage we were nearly promised, we’re floundering a bit. I’m not going to make marriage out to be a cup of tea, but in marriage there comes a security and measure of certainty that simply doesn’t exist within singleness. Accidents and sin happens, yes, but if death comes in old age and fidelity is kept, there is the promise of a long-term security.

Godly singleness, on the other hand, is actually intended to be the opposite of long-term security. To be “concerned with the things of the Lord” (I Cor. 7:34) gives a wide berth, open pasture, and a degree of flexibility for the unmarried to discern what is the good and acceptable will of God. Our culture, however—and even in the church—lauds a security that will keep us constantly at odds with the things of the Lord. Single complementarians who have been primed for the simple security that marriage affords, might spend years trying to gain their footing in a world that wasn’t what they expected—even for the ones who understand Christ is their ultimate security. So where are we? Still trying to recover from the whiplash that is singleness in our 30s and on.

3. Single complementarian women simply haven’t needed to commit mental energy to contribute to the sort of study and scholarship necessary to defend a conservative theology of gender roles. Many married complementarian women are making radically different choices in the way their marriages look and so live with a constant awareness of the counter-cultural choices they’re making. But for singles unless their lives look radically different from those in the world—and a growing number in the church—they have nothing to defend. The biblical paradigm of singleness we’re given is one who is concerned with the things to the Lord, how she may please the Lord—this is a radical call in a tepid world, few rise to it fully, and even fewer defend it well. Without the pressure to defend, though, many won’t rise to the occasion of sound, biblical defense.

Don’t be discouraged. There is hope here and I think many complementarians are chomping at the bit to see a change in the conversation:

1. Change the culture of submission. Reframe the conversation. Speak of mutual submission, teach young people the value of covenantal living, helping and protecting one another in Christ. There are a few things we don’t have to wait for marriage for.

2. Change the expectation of marriage. Encourage it, yes, but don’t epitomize it or idolize it. Don’t allow those creeping cultural expectations to overtake what God is doing today. Today is a rich, rich day in the life of every person, single or married. Expect God to move today.

3. Encourage singles to be faithful with their concern for the things of God. It is no small thing to study to show ourselves approved. Christians ought to do everything within our capacity to help create a space for good scholarship and dialogue.

Proverbs 18:16 says, “A man’s gift makes room for him and brings him before kings.” Singleness is a special and beautiful gift, and we need singles to come before the rulers of this world, standing firmly for the gospel in an ever-shifting culture.

(Written this past spring, when singleness looked very much like my forever lot in life. But that’s another story.)

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I woke a few mornings ago and felt the familiar void. It is no stranger to me and I know it acutely. I feel the angst of it in my belly, the fear of it in my heart, and the curse of it every moment.

A friend sent me a link to an old sermon in which the pastor preached a strong and stalwart message about women being saved through childbearing (II Timothy 2:15), and I turned it off five minutes before its conclusion. “Why did you send it to me?” I asked my friend because we have been having ongoing conversations about these subjects and my soul balks at the customary consolation prizes of womanhood. For one who grew up hearing a woman’s highest calling was to be a wife and a mother, yet finds herself as single as the day she came squalling into the world, a future swaddled in babies sounds bleak.

This is my call? To bear what I cannot bear? To hold up a bargain as impossible as Sarah’s to her husband. As impossible as God’s to Abraham? This womb is dead, or feels dead. Oh, I have plenty of years until it is pronounced medically dead, but the hope has died. It has died seventy times over and dies each day a little more.

It is 2013 and most of my good-church-girl friends married a decade ago. They are all declaring the babes in their wombs, “The last!” and I barely hope for a first. To them two or three is enough, the curse lasts far beyond pain in childbirth (Genesis 3:16) and they have seen enough of life to know promises about babies on schedules or Sunday-School attendance stars will not guarantee the safe arrival of their little ones to spiritual-adulthood. So it appears neither of us are saved through childbearing after all. We both limp with one hand held to God our helper and one hand anchored to earth our friend. Where is our salvation?

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

In an early morning class last week we read Romans 4 and I wept tears in the second row. I felt them coming on again in this coffee shop on a Saturday afternoon. A thorough study of Romans is not for the faint of heart, and not for those who feel they have somehow escaped the curse by either perfect children or singleness.

The end of Romans 4 is about Abraham’s body, his circumcision of flesh, and calling into existence things that do not exist: his seed. God, who is the only author of life and the only bider of time, has made a promise that even with hope against hope still seems impossible. A father of many nations? A boy from these loins? From the barrenness of Sarah’s womb? If pain in childbirth was the curse on all daughters of Eve, it would seem Sarah’s only curse was she would never feel the twisting beautiful pain of birthing anything.

Anything but hope.

My friend was also in class that morning and I sent a text to him: “This is it!” I wrote. “Maybe this is part of how we are saved through childbearing!”

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Even if we never birth a child, we birth hope. We are built to birth hope. It lies restless in our womb, expectant in our hearts, and unlimited in its gestation. We are crafted to see the future, to look at what is not and believe God will still do what He said He would do. We are made to birth hope into impossibilities. I think about my sisters, those whose deepest desires are to take broken places and make them whole; who have been hurt, neglected, broken, and cast away, and who still come back strong and desperate to see wholeness birthed in dark places.

I can’t stop thinking about it all week. And I think about it when I wake early a few mornings ago, feeling the familiar ache of the barrenness accompanying singleness.

Abraham’s faith was credited to him as righteousness. Faith in the hope against hope God was who He said He was and would do what He said He would do. Sarah, our barren sister, laughed at the promise and so Laughter was given to her for the rest of her days, a reminder that sometimes the only pain in childbirth we experience is 80 years without childbirth. A reminder that God is a God who saves and He saves by bringing life from dead things, hope from hopelessness.

Penned sometime this past spring. 

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Last week I wrote a piece on the reflection of Christ and the Church on dating relationships. To my surprise within 24 hours it was one of the most viewed posts in Sayable’s history. It seems the Church—and not just singles—is desperate for clear reminders of what marriage is at its core.

The more I thought about the core of marriage, especially in light of the recent legislative decisions, the more my heart began to break for my friends and family who are desperate to enter into marriage with their same-sex partners. I love these people and it pierces my heart when I hear them say earnestly, “Why would you want to legislate who I can love?”

Now, first things first, I am not interested in legislating love. I am, however, in favor of a more holistic and Christ/Gospel-centric love. I want to see past the “Do unto others…” surface love, and delve into the root of love, namely God’s love and all its implications.

Our love will always be dim until we behold Him face to face—and there is no chance of that on this side of the Kingdom. So yes, love who you will, but let us check ourselves for the quality of the love we experience.

Love, however, is a tricky emotion, so qualifying it is nearly impossible for any one of us, straight or gay. If I were in love, how could I explain how bright the stars look when he is around? or how brilliant the colors are? or how my heart jumps into my throat? I cannot. Goodness gracious, gladly I cannot.

So there must be something deeper than our definition of love on the table here, but what is it?

Throughout all of scripture God deals with His chosen people as a bride awaiting her bridegroom. Woven through the entire Old Testament and carried to near fullness in the New, God endears Himself to His people in various ways.

He helps her to see her helplessness without Him.
He helps her to see her beauty in His eyes.
He woos her when she plays the harlot.
He comes to earth in the form of a man, a Groom, and lays His life down for her, the ultimate sacrifice.
He promises to come soon to take her home with Him.

God, in beautiful ways, makes it clear to His people that He and they are wholly different from one another. Though man was created in God’s image—a likeness in part, a reflection—intrinsically they are not the same. This is not a simple love story, though, here is the most sacrificial love possible: this is two entities, completely distinct, absolutely different, and intrinsically separate—brought together to form an eternal union.

A homosexual union cannot be, by its nature, a reflection of Christ and the Church because Christ and the Church are intrinsically and holistically different from one another. For the Christian, the bride of Christ, a homosexual marriage cannot reflect that which marriage is intended to display: their union with Christ.

It is not about biology or parts fitting together, or feelings of love, or a fullness of emotion, or unalterable attraction—it is the definition of a love story, legislated by God, for the good of all men. It is the greatest love ever known. Earthly marriage between a man and woman is meant to be a profound mystery, but it is meant to be a mere illustration of what happens when two holistically different entities are joined together.

The kingdom is made complete.