Wait Gracefully

horse“Wait gracefully”.

This truth bomb was dropped on my head by Sarah over at Love/Power/Strength in response to a discussion here on my blog, and my ears are still ringing from the impact.

It’s just such a deceptively great phrase! And it applies regardless of what you’re waiting for.

Because there’s so many directions you can take the idea of “graceful”, at least in my mind. And because there’s an alternative: to wait gracelessly. I’ve done my share of that.

What could “wait gracefully” mean?

 

1. Graceful appearance

The outward appearance of our lives can be staggered, jerky, tumultuous and ungainly, or it can be smooth, tranquil, flowing, and confident – pleasing to the eye.

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An Open Question to Christian Singles

Over the years, we have all received guidance on how to life the Christian single life.

Some of it has been good. Some of it never should have seen the light of day. And there is a great deal, I am growing to suspect, that has yet to be said at all – and very much needs to be.

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The Second List Singles Should Make

listIf you’re single, you’ve probably been advised at some point to make a “list” of qualities you want in a spouse.

If you’re a Christian single, you’ve probably gotten this advice even more often, given that we Christians have added spiritual criteria to consider (must be in the Word, must be committed to church, etc.).

Lists are fun to make; they make that future feel right around the corner. And they’re valuable, with caveats. Having to sit down and ponder what really matters in a partner, what would best fit our soul and personality, and how God might want to sanctify our list – all good stuff.

But there was a pastor I once followed for about a year whose congregation consisted of singles of varying ages, and he suggested this:

Make a second list – of things you can live without.

Like, actually sit down and write that second list with the same pencil and paper.

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Pizza Lessons #5: Down the Barrel of the Gun

pizza4Every once in a while, on a pizza run, I’ll catch a glimpse of a future that worries me.

It’ll be some older male customer who’s living alone, in a tiny, isolated trailer way out on the edge of our delivery range, without a vehicle to his name. Some of these guys have a way of sharing a bit much about their lives, so I know they aren’t getting any visits from people. Just alone, filling their later years with television. Some of them by choice, some of them because of past choices.

I’ll just be real vulnerable for a second: that’s a future I’m afraid of.

I often worry about ending my life alone and broke, driving people away through advanced curmudgeonry. It sounds like overthinking, but my personality does tend that direction, and I worry about it a bit. I’m putting quite a bit of effort these days into avoiding that future.

Now, your typical response might be, don’t worry, Brandon. That won’t happen.

But maybe there’s an even better response.

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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 keeps its 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.

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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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