Late Marriage is Not a Curse

picmonkey_imageOK, this takes the cake.

I just ran across a blog post vigorously arrayed “against” late marriage. The author was praying for his release from any sin or curse that might be keeping him in the “cage” of late marriage. He went through everything imaginable…generational sins, unfaithfulness, betraying others, demonic sacrifices, everything but the kitchen sink. And then ended with visualizing the fulfillment of his expectation that he would marry soon. All in Jesus’ name, of course.

Double take.

I want to be clear that I do practice spiritual warfare. I’ll even admit that an idea isn’t automatically ridiculous just because it strikes me so. I’ve heard respected Christian authors say that great couples are opposed from before their meeting. So who knows, maybe a few people do have to fight that battle.

And I certainly agree that marriage sounds good. I’m the family type, always have been. Some people are simply built that way. Independence is overrated for me. (My readership is now skewing their heads quizzically: are we sure he’s male? Yes.)

But the assumption that late marriage is always a curse?

Can’t get on board with that.

I wonder what this blogger does with Paul, who chose lifelong singleness for the Kingdom’s sake. I wonder what he does with Matthew 19, where Jesus bluntly tells us that not everyone is cut out for matrimony. “His plans are for my good,” this blogger chants. But how do you know what’s good for you? Perhaps singleness is better. Perhaps Satan isn’t a convenient catch-all for every circumstance you dislike. At the risk of flipping your worldview upside down, what if it’s God holding you back?

I must be clear on another thing: I don’t believe every Christian single is being “held hostage” until they check off “enough boxes”, or reach “Expert Level” on being satisfied in God, before God marries them off.  That all-too-common theory knows nothing of grace, and it leads singles into an awful existence running around in circles rummaging for internal flaws so that God might “lift his hand”. A terrible motive for pursuing righteousness.

But…I won’t make a principle either. I do believe God does this with some people. He’s certainly entitled to. This blogger is obviously operating from a prosperity gospel mindset where his definitions of “good”, not God’s, are in effect.

Such richness is lost that way.

Waiting is transformative. It’s given me time to grow, to stabilize, to accomplish tasks for the Kingdom I couldn’t have otherwise, to get deeper into God’s Word and become a better potential head for a wife. I cannot tell you how valuable the wait has been. Thanks to God opening my eyes and ears to the realities of marriages around me, I’ve been able to beat back the ignorant albeit near-subconscious fantasies that singles buy into (marriage is a cure-all, etc.) and start plugging into the Thing that matters most. It’s forced me to reckon with God. It’s forced me to acknowledge that I’m not in control and that his ways are best; that he is my ultimate validation, strength, and peace; and that he really is enough.

That’s a shipload of treasures that would have missed the port entirely had I married when I wanted.

Believe me, I look forward to tying the knot someday. But I won’t try dictating to God what’s best, and I won’t claim that singleness is the absolute nadir of human existence, to be avoided at all costs. There are things far worse. Like living life without God. Thus the Gospel and its theology of hardship keep their place as the Main Thing, above every other consideration.

We Must Never Become Black Holes

holeI can’t express how stoked I am. In order to convey my illustration, I have to be geeky – I have to accurately explain the nature of a black hole.

“Hole” has always been a misnomer (leading to a lot of inaccurate artists’ renderings over the years, corrected only recently for the mainstream in 2014’s Interstellar). A black hole is an exotic star, one collapsed so far and grown so dense that its gravity out to a certain spherical distance is strong enough to restrain all light emanating from it. Since an object is only seen by the light it reflects to your eyeballs, that spherical region of a black hole appears, well, black to the outside observer. The star itself is still inside, but forever hidden from view because its light can’t reach you.*

For a long time, I was a black hole. Sucking everything in, emitting very little. God was slowly working on my strength, changing me from the inside, but it was a process.

Then, a few years ago, I chanced into a dating relationship. We had a good five months together before she called it off. That’s okay. It happens. (She’s engaged now.) But it was a revealing time for me. I got a chance to see how such companionship affected me, what it brought out, what it exposed.

Amongst the discoveries was this: while we dated, I started taking risks I hadn’t taken before. I found a greater enthusiasm for people, asking how they were, hearing their stories. And later, after the relationship ended, I found myself tempted to revert to my usual introversion. After some self-reflection, I realized why.

Emotional gravity.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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?

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading