So You Heard Me Say Marriage Is Bad

It’s pretty common for readers to hear “marriage is bad” when I say “single is good.” Here’s something to clarify.

I think I know what happened because it's pretty common around here.

I SAID/WROTE something about singleness.  I said it is good or I love it or more people should consider it or it's amazing for my relationship with God.

But YOU HEARD/READ I hate marriage or I hate men or I think everyone should stay single or some other terrible thing.

So let's get this out here for the record, and for me to link toward for future misunderstandings.

I DON'T HATE MARRIAGE

Marriage was God's idea and I am super into God.  If it's His idea, then I don't hate it.  All of my closest friends are married and they have great marriages - marriages I would do anything to support.  Not wanting something is not the same as thinking it is bad.

For example, I visited a pool the other day with my son.  I did not feel like swimming, so I did not swim.  He swam, I didn't, and it was good. See? Not wanting something is not the same as thinking it is bad.

I DON'T HATE MEN

Quite the opposite actually.  I love men.  (Also, I am attracted to men - because some of you were wondering.) And as much as I love and cherish my female friendships, I prefer the company and conversation of men, generally speaking. 

I know and care about many great men.  I just don't want to be married to one.

I HAVE NOT SWORN OFF MARRIAGE

I prefer singleness right now.  The benefits are not something with which I'm willing to part.  But I won't speak for 40 year old me, or 50 year old me - how rude and presumptuous!  Plus, who knows what God has planned, and I certainly won't speak for him.  

Glad we got this cleared up.  

If you have questions, please don't hesitate to send a message or comment.  I want to hear All. Of. The. Thoughts. on this topic because I am compiling my scribbles on singleness into a fun little book.  Your engagement is fodder for my scribbles, so I appreciate every comment (even, and maybe ESPECIALLY the negative ones.)  

*This is an old picture. It's from just before I took a year to be intentionally single.  I've made some crap decisions in this life, but I look at this picture and I want to give this girl a slow clap because she's about to wise up and let God make the decisions. She's about to do something  a little differently. People are going to misunderstand her and think she's nuts and wonder what is wrong with her, but she's going to smile and lean into God and love this life He's leading. I love her.*

Waiting For Ai

Passing By The Thing You Want And Trusting God Has Something Better

When Joshua led the Israelites into the promised land and they were defeating the cities in the area - clearing out the neighborhood so that Israel wouldn't be corrupted by the inhabitants - they first went to Jericho. God specifically told them not to take ANYTHING from Jericho.   They were supposed to burn the whole place down and take nothing for themselves.

One man didn't listen.  He took silver and gold and a cloak, and Israel paid for his mistake. When they went against the next city, Ai, they were ran off and they lost 36 of their men.  When the sneaky man with the loot from Jericho was found out, his family paid - the whole family and everything that belonged to the man was destroyed.  Harsh.

Once he was gone, God led them to defeat Ai.

And then something weird happened.  God told them that they could take the livestock and the spoil of the city as plunder.

They were forbidden from taking from Jericho, but invited to take from Ai.

A bible scholar, or a historian, or maybe even someone who paid more attention while reading the story might be able to tell you what the difference was between the two cities.  They might understand why taking from Jericho was dangerous and taking from Ai was okay.

But really, it doesn't matter for me right now.  I needed to see this story in a new light.  I needed to see how sometimes God asks you to give something up - to pass by silver and gold and fancy clothes.  Sometimes He says "Give that up" or "Pass that by" or "Let that go" with no explanation - no promise of something specific He would give in return.  He doesn't say "Destroy everything in Jericho, I'll let you take what you want from Ai,"  He just says, "Destroy everything in Jericho."

Mrs. Bible scholar/Historian/Person who pays more attention might correct me, but I'm thinking the plunder from Ai was even better.  I bet that if they had known what they were about to receive, passing by Jericho would have been a breeze.   But they didn't know.  What they did know is this: God was taking pretty good care of them.  These are the people who ate manna in the desert and quail when they whined about the boring manna, they saw Joshua part the Jordan, they had JUST seen the walls of Jericho fall because they walked around it and made some noise.  They knew God is awesome.  They knew God can do anything.  But that one guy just could not trust that God had something better, so he slipped some trinkets and a jacket into his coat.

I just passed by something.  I lingered beside it knowing God was saying no.  I attempted a negotiation - "I won't take the whole thing God, how about this little piece of gold, maybe the silver, and how about this coat - I'll never find another one like this - maybe just the coat Lord?"  But I had my marching orders - don't take anything.

So I didn't.

And that's pretty scary.  But I have my own stories of manna and quail and parting waters and thick walls falling.  He is trustworthy.  All of the time.  And if He says to leave the coat and Jewels in Jericho, I'm leaving them.

I'm leaving them, and I'm waiting for Ai.

What To Do When You're Being Scolded

HOW TO HAVE GRACE FOR YOUSELF

HOW TO HAVE GRACE FOR YOUSELF

It was worse than yelling - it was a mean whisper, spewed through clenched teeth. 

I knew it was bad as it left my tongue, but I couldn't reel it in so I watched helplessly as it struck him - as he hid his head behind his leg. 

I tried and botched an apology. 

"I did it because you . . .," is what I told him. 

"You deserved it," is what he heard. And his face stayed behind his leg. 

I am mean, I thought. I'm a bully, I thought. I'm the worst, I thought.

So I took a breath and I tried again.

"That was really mean - the way I said that. I bet it really hurt your feelings. It would hurt my feelings if someone talked to me that way." Pause. A nod from the backseat. "I'm so so sorry. Can you forgive me?"

He said he would, and he lifted his head, and he asked for his burrito. 

He seemed to be over it, because he is loving and forgiving and seven. But I wasn't over it.

I scolded myself, worse than yelling, mean whispers spewed at my own soul through clenched teeth. Until a quiet thought stopped me. 

"It's been a hard couple of days. Your feelings are hurt - anyone's feelings would be hurt. I'm so sorry. Can you forgive you? Can you let this go?"

I decided I could, and I lifted my head, and I reached for a taco. 

*Yes, know better. Yes, do better. Also, know you're not perfect. Also, have grace for your own mistakes. If it helps, picture yourself as a child before you scold and whisper and spew at you ♥*

I'm Done Burying My Talents

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I cringe every time I hear the parable of the talents.

Something weird happens in my stomach.

My face is all crinkly right now just thinking about it.

I'm the servant who buried the money.  I badly want to be the one who invested and multiplied the master's cash, but I'm not.  I took his talent, held it tightly in my fists, put my tail between my legs, and sprinted off to find a good hiding spot.

God gave me a great talent for rationalization (still waiting to see how that can be put to good Kingdom use).  I can convince myself - and probably you - that the very best thing to do right now is to put this coin deep in the dirt, where no harm will come to it, where it will be waiting for the master when He returns.  But the real reason for the digging and the hiding and the burying is FEAR.  Same as the guy in the parable.  He was afraid.  I am afraid.  He is me. I am him.

I have written since I was about six years old - I started with poems.  And I kept writing.  Poems, stories, songs.  A lot of them I keep - tucked away in a drawer or in a box or in a file (I recently ran across a floppy disc with writings from my junior high years - those may be lost forever - it's probably for the best).

I have twice now reached over 20,000 words trying to write the same novel, and twice I have let it dry up.

I made a blog, wrote on it for an entire year, and shared it only with my mom.

I have been afraid for a very long time.  But I'm doing life a little differently now.  I'm getting my hands dirty, I'm digging up talents and starting to invest.  It is scary.  And also a little exciting.  I kind of want to do it more.

Burying is easy and investing is hard.

Burying is the coward's way out.  Burying is not humble.  Burying is selfish.

Burying is listening to the evil little voice who wants to shut me up.  Investing is telling that voice to shut it.

But people don't want to hear what you have to say . . .

You're totally right, billions of people won't want to read what I write.  This is why I don't plan on tying the abstainers to chairs and clothes pinning their eyes open until they absorb my words.

But you really aren't that great of a writer . . .

So what?  Moses sucked at public speaking and Gideon only had 300 men.

Everything I have belongs to God.  This includes my words.  He gets the final say on what I write, where I write, and who sees those words - not me.  It is not humility to hide them in a drawer, it is pride.

On Robin Hood & Freedom In Christ

Finding Freedom In Christ While Still Living In The World

I just finished watching Robin Hood, the three season BBC series, and I am genuinely, pathetically depressed there are no more episodes for me to indulge in.  

Over thinker that I am, I over-thought this today.  Why did I love the story so much?  Why was I so sad to see it end?  Why did I identify so deeply with a story set hundreds of years ago  and why did I (seriously, I know how pathetic this sounds) feel like an actual part of myself was missing when it ended?

I think it's because this is our story.  A kingdom wracked with injustice.  Starving people hanged for stealing bread.  Slave labor in deadly mines.  Livelihoods destroyed over failure to pay an unfair tax. War. Drought. Famine.  And amidst the injustice, character is revealed.

There are those who rebel openly and fight against it - Robin Hood and his men.  There are those who rebel secretly and fight injustice from the inside - Marian.  There are the young and the sick and the elderly who can do nothing - who are at the mercy of the cruel if there is no savior to step in and fight for them.  There are those who have money and title, but who do nothing.  They fear the consequences of helping the poor.  Or they rationalize - helping will not solve anything - sticking their own neck would be foolish.  They stick their heads in the sand.  They protect only themselves.

And there are the villains - the ones who want more and more and more.  More money.  More power - at any cost.  The Sheriff of Nottingham and Prince John and Sir Guy.

We have those characters.  Here in the 21st century we have heroes and rebels and villains.  We have weak and powerless people being crushed by greed and neglect.  We have heads buried deep in the sand.  We have gobs of injustice.

It is our story.  It has always been our story.  It is the result of sin.  It is why Jesus came - to bind up the brokenhearted, to set prisoners free from darkness.  To set us free.  To set everyone free.

We are free.  Right now, we are free

In the series, Robin Hood lost his land and title because he refused to oversee an unjust hanging.  He ran to Sherwood Forrest, no longer an Earl but an outlaw.  In a run-in with a group of outlaws in the forrest, one of them said something that stuck with me -"We are dead men."  They had lost their homes, families, a place in their country, a reason to live - they were simply surviving as men already dead.  Robin challenged them to stop living as dead men.  He gave them a purpose, something to fight for, something to fight against - something to live for.  And later, when he was handing himself over to the Sheriff to protect an innocent woman- when his men said that doing so meant certain death- he said, "at least I will not die a dead man."

He was living free.  Daily willing to lay his life down to protect the innocent.  Entirely devoted to combating the injustices in front of him - never letting an opportunity to right a wrong pass him.  Stripped of everything that his society valued - labeled an outlaw - walking with a price on his head.  But in a way, more free than he could have ever been sitting in his manor, observing the injustices outside his window, and doing nothing.

For 36 episodes, I felt free too.  Living vicariously through a fictional character, I felt lighter, as though my own chains were no longer holding me.  Chains of practicality, of pleasing others, of meeting expectations, of meeting properly set goals and following carefully laid plans.  Chains of achieving, of seeking wealth, of designing a comfortable and contented life.  For 36 episodes, I was with Robin - living as a nomad in the forrest with one set of clothes - eating whatever small animal my friend managed to catch and cook over a fire - facing death every day - stripped of the life I cling to and welcomed into a life of purpose.  A life devoid of so much that I value, but so full of the freedom I crave.

Isn't that what Jesus does?  He strips us of the life we cling to - if we let Him.  He welcomes us into a life of purpose - if we let Him.  I wish I could be like Robin Hood - letting go of the old life easily and bounding into the new one with endless passion and energy and faith.  But I am not like him.  Jesus strips and I cling.  He welcomes and I balk.

And sometimes, I sit in my pj's and lose myself in someone else's story instead of getting dressed and living my own.

I'm setting a new goal - to live free.  I'm laying out a new plan - screw my plans and follow Jesus.  I'll let you know how it goes.

*I wrote this piece about 4 years ago. I am grinning wide as I re-read the end because living free is still the goal, etched deep on my heart though I'd completely forgotten what started the initial spark.  I have spent the years since writing this moving closer, stumbling lots, toward a stripped down life, which I will write some about - eventually.*

Want To Save The World? Let It Shine.

You Don’t Shovel Darkness Out Of A Room. You Turn On A Light.

Earlier this week I heard a radio preacher say you can't shovel darkness out of a room - you have to turn on a light.  That's all he said on the matter, but I haven't been able to stop thinking about it.

It's so obvious.  I don't shuffle like a zombie into the bathroom in the morning and try to beat the darkness into submission.  I don't plead with it to go away.  I don't scream at it when it won't comply.  I don't throw my pretty candles at it or drag my soapbox in to persuade it to depart.

I turn on the freaking light.

This world is dark.  God is light.

We see the darkness and the brokenness and the emptiness.  We see pain and hunger and despair and death and we want to FIGHT it. Beat it into submission.  We want to convince everyone to join together to eradicate the dark.

The world has more than enough resources to sustain its human population.  Yet a child just died of starvation.  And another one.  And another.  Every four seconds.  A real human child died because he was deprived of what my dumpster is full with.

Insert a million other problems - darkness problems - brokenness problems - relationship problems.

I want to fix them.  I want to get out my soapbox.  I want to find money to throw at them.  I want to shame everyone, myself included, into spending themselves for this cause or that cause.

And I am exhausted before I even get started.

Because I'm trying to fight the darkness with a shovel instead of just being a light.

How cool is it that God says we get to be a light?   The biggest problem this world has is darkness and we get to be a light - we're basically superheroes. Basically.

We stay plugged into the source and we light this place up.  That's it.  It might be exhausting sometimes but I won't be depleted. I'm connected to the source of everlasting light.

Maybe being a light means picking up a shovel sometimes, or standing on a soapbox, or spending myself - time, money, energy - but those things aren't the weapon any more than a battery-less flashlight is a weapon against darkness.

We hold the greatest weapon, and I'm gonna let it shine.

Don't Chase Wind

I Have Dreams And Plans But I Don’t Chase Wind

I have this giant, ever growing, list of creative projects. Some are ongoing things, like my "Essay Per Week" project this year and my "Biweekly Spoken Words" project (man is that one slipping through the cracks!) and my "Fail 12 Times This Year" project. 

Others will require me (because of the way I work) to focus intensely on one at a time. Things like three different color books, a book of silly poems for kiddos, a short non-fiction book on singleness, a children's book series, a series of novels . . .

I have been in the process of rearranging my life a bit - making more time for these projects, because I believe it's where God is asking me to focus.

But sometimes I look at my list and realize how it keeps getting longer and I realize how I keep getting older and there is just no way I will keep up. 

I realize some of these projects will require things I don't have, like money and certain collaborators. 

I freak out a little. And I freeze up a lot. And I stress about which to do first. I worry about which ones will never get done. 

I wonder about dying tomorrow and leaving them all undone and whether anyone will care, and I decide they probably won't, so why bother doing any of it in the first place. (My brain sometimes runs away to terribly overdramatic place.)

And then, thankfully, I realize I'm missing the point. 

Thank God for too-long lists, for passions and goals which exceed my time and talents, for projects to fill three lifetimes.

Because if it was in my power to do it all, I would. I would set my goals and make my lists and check my boxes. I would travel from one checkpoint to the next, marking off each accomplishment and moving on to the next with only the finish line in mind.

Thank God for too-long lists because a short list, a list I could feasibly complete in my own power, would make me its slave. It would have me running around grasping at the wind.

Instead I am free, as intended. Free to follow. Free to abide. Free to be content in each day, whether in the middle of a project, deciding where to begin, or dreaming up something new. 

Free to unclench my fists. I might have hours left on this earth or decades - I can be fine with either when I stop pretending I can control it and focus on falling more in love with the one who can.

I Can't Care About All Of The Things

I Can’t Feel The Feelings For All Of The Things, And I’m Not Meant To

I am an advocate of spending yourself on other people, of using your talents and resources to make God famous and add goodness to the world, of foregoing pleasures and comforts so others might have clean water or food or medicine or some other thing we take for granted.

Caring = Good

Using Your Resources/Time/Energy For Things You Care About = Even Better

Every time we take what we have and aim it where we care, the world gets better.

BUT

Neither of us can care about all of the things.  You can't care about all of my things AND all of your things AND all of your children's and spouse's things AND your Aunt Betty's things.

We will all lose our ever loving minds trying to care about all of the things and then no one will have the energy to care about ANY of the things.  And then no one takes what they have and aims it where they care, and the world doesn't get any better.

SO

Care about your thing(s).  Spend yourself in your thing(s).  

If you're my friend, I hope you will support me in my things but that doesn't mean caring like I do.  It doesn't mean spending yourself in my thing - you have your thing, spend yourself there.  

Support me by listening or giving advice or sharing some of your resources every once in awhile (not because you care about my thing, but because you care about me).  

AND

I'll do the same.

We'll take what we have and aim it where we care.  We'll cheer each other on.  And the world will get better.  

 

Thoughts on Christian Singleness: From The Panel

Answering Common Questions About Being Single And Christian

Had an awesome opportunity to speak at my church in April as part of a panel of women.  I answered two questions related to singleness.  Those answers are below plus a bonus answer to a question we didn't get to on the panel.  

As always, I'm not currently fielding negative public feedback - please direct those comments to the future if I am lucky enough there to have a PR team (or at least a person).  Otherwise, go ahead and hold those comments in and try not to explode.  

QUESTION 1:

I’m waiting for God to bring me a husband.  What does that look like?

If you are waiting for God to bring you a husband, I would say to stop doing that.  Marriage is good and holy, but it is not required and it is not necessary. In Christ, you are complete just as you are.

The most important thing in my life is MY relationship with God, being fully surrendered to Him, trusting Him with my whole life – that I serve Him and love Him with my whole heart.  This doesn’t require marriage – it doesn’t require anything except God, which is handy because He is the one thing that cannot be taken away.

Paul said he knew the secret of being content in any circumstance.

I think part of learning to be content in any circumstance is finding a way to be okay with that circumstance being permanent.  So if you are struggling to be content in your singleness, a good place to start is figuring out a way to be content with the idea that you may be single permanently. 

My advice to every Single Christian person, which no one has ever taken by the way, is to take a year off of even considering dating and marriage.

Take whatever stress/fantasies/concerns you have regarding marriage and just toss it into next year.

Don’t even look at a guy and think he’s cute or wonder what your kids would look like – seriously, shut it down.

Take the year to focus on 3 things

1.  Your relationship with God.

2.  Getting to know yourself and your unique gifts.  During my year, I really examined some negative character traits I have and began working on those.  I also started a list of things I like.  As in, things I actually like outside of the influence of other people.  It’s harder than it sounds, but also incredibly revealing. 

3. Study marriage .  Read books, listen to sermons, study scripture about being married, and be around married couples who are willing to be open, honest, and vulnerable around you. 

Couple takeaways for me after studying marriage: 1. Marriage is an earthly institution and 2. It has eternal purposes - Your Holiness and God’s glory

Why study marriage?

1. Good perspective for going into marriage if that is in your future

2.  Help you be a good support for your married friends even if you remain single – if you have the perspective that marriage is for God’s glory and for our holiness, you care about your friends’ marriage in a deeper way – you care about their marriage because you care about their holiness and you care about God’s glory.   

QUESTION 2:

I have never been in a serious relationship. However, I’m not pure.  I’m worried God isn’t going to bring me someone because of my past, or that he will bring me someone pure and I will be undeserving of him.  What does a healthy relationship look in this circumstance?

God wanted to be in relationship with you.  But you were separated because you were impure, you were not righteous, you could not stand before God.

To fix that -

Jesus lowered Himself to take the form of a man, he endured the temptations we face in this skin and then he endured one of the most horrific deaths imaginable.  He allowed himself to be captured, allowed his captors to whip him - He was mocked and spat on and finally hung naked for hours and hours while he slowly suffocated.

He did this to atone for your sin.  So His righteousness could be your righteousness.  So you could stand before God.  So you could have a relationship with Him.  So you could be pure.  

He did this so you could be called redeemed, a child of God, a saint.  

So if I'm wondering if my past is going to keep me from having a relationship with a human person, or how it is going to affect that future relationship- (a single-mom who has never been married - do that impurity math) – if I'm wondering this, I think I need to ask God to help me understand why I think I'm asking these questions.  Why do I think this will be a barrier to me having a healthy marriage relationship?  And if it were me, I think I would find one of 2 things:

1)    I think I'll find some pain or sin that hasn't been fully dealt with. 

OR

2)    I think I'll find there is something I am not believing about God's promises - something I'm not believing about my redeemed self.  Something I’m not believing about what God has done for me.

So if I’m asking this type of question, I think where I would start is with reading about what Jesus did for me.  Read about the betrayal and the mocking and the crucifiction and all the way through to the resurrection. Meditate on it.  Think about why He did that.

He didn’t do it for you to remain captive to thoughts about how you’re still not good enough.

And then fill your head and your heart with truths about who you are:

You are:

A child of God: John 1:15

Justified and redeemed Romans 3:24

Not condemned Romans 8:1

and on and on . . but I would start with those.

 

BONUS QUESTION:

What does it look like to be a single woman without a man being involved?

In general, single people have more freedom/flexibility/time (this is relative to life circumstances of course).  We choose how we use the extra time.  Just like in marriage, you have to choose to use the benefits of singleness to glorify God. 

TIME:  Singleness gives me a ton of alone time, should I choose it, which I love.  Every night after bedtime there are 2-4 hours I have completely to myself.

FREEDOM & FLEXIBILITY: A few years ago, I was able to spend two weeks in Iraq.  I’m going again in the Fall of this year (if all goes as planned).  I will travel as often and to wherever God opens doors for me and being single gives me the freedom and flexibility to do this.  Not that married people couldn’t do the same thing, but it’s a little more complicated within a marriage because you have another person’s plans/schedules/desires to take into consideration.  I have a child who loves spending a couple of weeks here and there with Grandma for now, and will hopefully love to join me on trips as he gets older.

I also think being single makes my relationship with God easier.  Since a spouse is an important and close relationship, there is a lot of time and energy that goes into maintaining and improving that relationship.  So the time and energy I would have spent on a marriage relationship, I have available (still have to choose to use it!) to me to spend on my relationship with God.

This is an observation in my own life, from my experiences, but it’s also what Paul says in 1 Corinthians  7:34.

"The unmarried woman is concerned about the work of the Lord, how she can be holy in both body and spirit. But the married woman is concerned about the affairs of this world, how she can please her husband.…"

There are benefits to both marriage and singleness, both are of God, both are good, both breed holiness, both can bring God glory – this idea of having more time/energy/freedom for a relationship with God is simply a benefit of being single and I, for one,  embrace it and find joy in it.