Well Done, Faithful Single

victory(This post originally debuted last summer, but I’ve picked up a great many followers since then, including not a few singles. I’d like them to hear this. Even if you’ve read this before, I hope it might make for a better-than-usual Monday.)

No preaching today, Christian single.

We’re taking a break from all the well-intentioned talk of God’s plan, trusting him, or anything along the lines of You need to do X before God marries you off. You’ve heard all that. Sometimes I wonder whether the church realizes just how holy your choices have already been.

If you’re single and still pursuing God, still in church, still serving and trusting and living to the fullest right now, I want to say – well done. God is pleased with you. He sees you. You deserve a party. Anyone who stays faithful through the denial of a heart’s desire is deserving of vigorous kudos. Because that’s holiness.

I’m sorry if your circle has failed to tell you this. They mean well. Even if they tell you to be content, find your satisfaction in Jesus, celebrate singleness as a Biblically valid lifestyle, and then turn around and reserve all the parties for newlyweds.

But any chump can get married. All it takes is someone who’s vaguely compatible, a justice of the peace, a slip of paper, and a convenient failure to really think about whether the union is a good idea.

On the other hand, someone who looks at a Savior who keeps saying no, yet still pronounces “I trust him” to the watching world? That’s a rare gem. One who has learned something about that Savior.

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All the Wrong Reasons?

homeI have a confession to make: there have been times I’ve doubted the Prodigal’s motives when reading this piece.

Part 1: Be Careful What You Wish For

Part 2: Sex Isn’t Making Anyone Happy

Part 4: He Runs to Us

Part 5: Goodies and Godliness

“When he came to his senses…” (Luke 15:17a)

Biblical commentators make much of the phrase “came to his senses”. Jesus seems to be describing a soul gone mad from sin, detached from reason, and only just now waking up.

Most skeptics think that Christians are the ones detached from reality. Hearing voices, imaginary friends, etc. They say reason leads away from faith.

They’re using the wrong wisdom. When 1 Corinthians 2:14 says “a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised”, commentators identify the natural man as unregenerated, governed by carnal motives – labeling even earthly wisdom as carnal and prideful. It can’t reveal God.

Sure, that’s a convenient thing to say to a skeptic. It sounds to them like circular reasoning.

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Sex Isn’t Making Anyone Happy

crowdPart 1: Be Careful What You Ask For

Part 3: All the Wrong Reasons?

Part 4: He Runs to Us

Part 5: Goodies and Godliness

Well, I wasn’t planning on two posts this month with the word “sex” in the title. But it is February. And hey…you clicked. Ha.

Anyway…

This is for obedient Christian singles fascinated with this mysterious thing called sex. Call it an occupational hazard of virginity.

It’s kind of understandable. When an entire civilization stampedes past on the street in pursuit of something, you’re bound to crane your neck that way. Throw in an entertainment industry that’s found its golden calf cash cow in sex and you’ve got a powerful allure. “Wow,” we find ourselves going if we’re not careful. “Sex really does look like the answer. Wish I could get that.”

Now, I’ve never had sex.

But I’ve seen what it does for people.

Three years on an Air Force launch truck trying to block out “the guys” detailing their tech school experiences and favorite porn.

Three more years as a teacher, watching a few of my students bring their babies to class, where they’d promptly tear up any of their mothers’ homework they could reach. Cute little buggers.

Three additional years (cumulatively) at a local pizza place which, like any minimum wage job, attracts a lot of tough cases.

I do not want to sound judgmental, but years later, here’s the scorecard. Those airmen were beset with divorce and cheating. How many worst-of-humanity stories seem to center around sex? My former students are still neck-deep in a hard, impoverished existence. The minimum wage scene? Those guys can’t hold down a job, existing perpetually in the town’s scummiest trailer parks with few tools for reaching escape velocity from their addictions and debt. The turmoil crisscrossing these stories is not appealing.

But the one thing they all had more of than me?

Sex.

Lots of it.

Whenever they wanted.

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To the Single Who Doesn’t Care About God’s Love

berries(Last singleness post for a while.)

There’s a part of me that has struggled to care about God’s love.

You probably know what I mean. We would rather things just go well than be forced to lean on him.

This week is a prime example for singles, especially. Valentine’s Day comes and we singles feel missed, not only by the season but by the church. My church has handled its singles with grace, but not every church does. Irritated by what it perceives as our self-pity, the church swings open its arms with a beatific smile and goes, “Jesus is your boyfriend! Singleness isn’t something to be endured; God’s love is all you need!”

You know they’re right somehow. You feel vaguely guilty. And you do care about God’s love. You do.

But…

“You don’t understand,” some part of you still says. “I’m tired of being alone. I’m sick of the 8,967th article telling me to be content while the church reserves its celebrations for weddings and births. I know you are able, Lord. Wouldn’t it be simpler to just gave me someone?”

Some part of us doesn’t care.

It’s okay to admit that. It’s not like God doesn’t know. Admitting it is the first step to fixing it.

As I’ve opined before, it’s okay to call singleness a legitimate hardship. Doing so diminishes neither singleness nor God. It just reminds us that even comfortable first-world Christians have their disappointments and that God is making us mature, and more fully his, through trial. The mature church should note this and keep striving for a balance of exhortation and empathy, so expertly struck by its Wonderful Counselor.

That said…

It takes little more than a glance at Facebook, or a day at work hearing people’s stories, to see that many Christian singles aren’t happy. Too many don’t know how to get there; too many leap from relationship to relationship, stuff their shelves with romance novels, or just settle into unfruitful funks.

I do not say this in judgment. I used to be full-on funky (not in the 60s way). Over the years, God has slowly gained sweeping victory over this territory of my heart, but it didn’t happen overnight. Every Christian, in some measure, is still somewhere on the trail to a prizing of God’s love above all.

For those still back near the trailhead, I would ask this: have you unknowingly agreed with the lie that God’s love is not enough?

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Godly is Sexy

“Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.” Proverbs 31:30

godlyA well-known verse. But would you be interested in a male paraphrasing, overheard from an old Air Force colleague of mine?

“For every sexy woman, there are five guys in her wake who got sick of her crap.”

Crude, perhaps. Highly generalized, certainly. And you have to wonder whether all five of those men were as crap-free as he made them sound. (You’ll notice I called the guy a colleague, not a buddy.)

But if you’re rolling your eyes at a male reading of Proverbs 31, you might be surprised to learn that the chapter was written to men. Women have grabbed it and run with it as a means of educating their youngers (praise God for it), but the audience of the entire book of Proverbs is actually men. Read the book sometime; notice all the invitations for sons to learn discernment, to avoid the adulteress and the dripping faucet, to live as a pillar of wisdom.

And those words are needed.

“Desiring a healthy and vibrant sex life in marriage is a good and even wise thing. But for the Christian it’s not ultimate. As a single Christian man, I desire a spiritually healthy marriage before a sexually healthy one, though I trust the former encourages the latter. Therefore, I’m willing to trust God and wait, not because I want to have the most euphoric wedding night with someone I’m perfectly sexually compatible with, but because I want a healthy, God-honoring marriage after the wedding night with the person to whom I’ve just committed my life.” – Hafeez Baoku

I love it when I stumble across an article that speaks to what I’m pondering. It’s a God thing. Got to be. To him be the glory.

We need to be thinking about the after. When real life and boredom assert themselves over a marriage, it needs to be about more than just tan lines and muscles and things that happen after 10pm, because there’s still a 7am to deal with. Get over their surface. Get under their surface; ask God to reveal who that person really is.

That’s going to require a revolution on our part. A renewing of our minds.

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When “Not Good” is Very Good

When we were young, our parents said “no” to save us. No, you can’t stay up all night watching scary movies. No, you can’t have that sucker that’s bigger than your head. No, you can’t hang out with that gang of boys reenacting Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles down the street. (Wish I’d listened before I got a nunchuk to the head.)

But there’s also the sense that parents say no simply to teach us that this ain’t Burger King and you don’t always get it your way. We all know what a kid becomes when he’s given whatever he wants: a spoiled brat. As a teacher, it wasn’t hard for me to spot the kids who’d never heard a “no” in their life. It was more often the “denied” students who exhibited respect, work ethic, and people skills in the classroom; it was those who’d been given less that actually had more.

And I like what I’ve become through my singleness.

We singles often think that God calls us to singleness mostly to help us dodge bad matches. That’s part of it. But let’s be honest: God could bring us a compatible person at any time. That he does not, suggests another purpose. (Sound Biblical theology is silent on the question of “one match for everyone”. As Steven Furtick has pointed out, such theology would require one who misses their match either stay single for life or marry the wrong person and thus cause a chain-reaction dislodging of God’s will for the entire human race.)

I want to say loud and clear: I don’t necessarily believe all singles are being kept there by God. Some are single because they choose it, or because they rarely groom themselves. But it’s undeniable that God has called some to this track. And when we see his hand in such a way, we have an opportunity to uncover an uncomfortable, but powerful, truth.

Like a coastal shelf carved by waves, sometimes God says no simply to refine our character.

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You’re Not a Loser for Starting the New Year Single

I can’t even right now.

Every once in a while I’ll get triggered by an obnoxious Internet meme, and ’tis the season for this one…

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Or this one, along similar lines…

15823721_1461205303918169_6763993051163477286_n

I saw others, but you get the idea.

I don’t know how serious people are being here, but let’s assume worst case and break down the items contained herein (I won’t use the three-letter F word, you heard it enough in junior high):

things

I could see how the first three are negatives in your eyes. 1) is definitely a problem. Knock it off. 2) and 3) are worthy of pursuing a change – I wouldn’t say they’re evil, exactly (James 1:9), but we want to meet our bills and take care of our bodies. May 2017 be the Waterloo of these obstacles in our lives. (Though even if not, our worth in Christ remains untarnished…far, far from Loserville.)

But…single? How does that fit into a set of negatives?

There is nothing wrong with singleness. There is nothing unhealthy, inferior, or inadequate about being single. It’s a station in life. You’re probably at that station because you take relationships seriously and are holding out for someone you can actually go the distance with. I mean, who wants to be jerking in and out of relationships like a 15-year-old learning a stick shift? No, thank you.

Now, that waiting may still not be the station you want, and boy can I understand you there. I eagerly await married life as much as the next guy, and I’ve struggled to appreciate this station. But next to the other “low” qualities we’re trying to shed, singleness sticks out like a sore thumb. You are not a loser for being single. Ever.

I know, I know – “it was just a meme, Brandon. I posted it for a joke.” Perhaps I overreact.

But are you sure?

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