(Part 1 and Part 3 of this series.)
Years ago, my college group attended a weekend retreat (at a hot springs!) without knowing the topic. The speaker hadn’t announced it beforehand. Later, we discovered that that was because the speaker himself didn’t know his subject until he got underway; God only revealed it to him then. That subject was marriage. And it didn’t take long to see why God in his wisdom had waited for the reveal: at the end of the retreat, numerous attendees, as they shook the speaker’s hand in gratitude for solid teachings, admitted that if they’d known the topic beforehand, they wouldn’t have come.
At a different young adults’ group I briefly attended, the pastor offered a choice of topics for the next series: one of Paul’s epistles, or relationships. Paul’s epistle won. By a landslide.
And a friend recently asked, “Can we quit making the first question we ask someone after we haven’t seen them for a long time, ‘Soooo, do you have a guy’?”
Why do so many millennials land anywhere from disinterested to fiercely opposed to marriage?
The answers, I suspect, reach double digits. I myself never numbered among the matrimonially disinterested, but over time, I’ve come to appreciate fellow millennials’ increasing desire for singleness. It stems from not a few understandable stalks. And as I said last week, blunt criticism of singleness, from even respectable evangelical figures, will never be as effective as understanding and encouragement.
One stalk, I think, could be described as a lack of affirmation.
Every once in a while I’ll get triggered by an Internet meme, and ’tis the season for this one…
Or this one, along similar lines…
You get the idea.
I don’t know how serious people are being here, but let’s break down the labels contained herein (I won’t use the three-letter F word, you heard it enough in junior high):
I could see how the first three are negatives in your eyes. 1) is a problem. I pray for people’s freedom there. 2) and 3) are worthy of change – perhaps not necessarily evil (James 1:9), but we do 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 (though how you got there can still hurt). 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 go the distance with. Who wants to be jerking in and out of relationships like a 15-year-old learning a stick shift? Perish the thought.
I know, I know – “it was just a meme, Brandon. I posted it for a joke.”
But are you sure?
Religious holidays tend to get so buried by superficialities that we forget their meaning. We have to fight for the meaning of Christmas. But there is a rich history and tradition behind almost every holiday, one which can breathe new life into our reach towards God.
Take March 17, or St. Patrick’s Day. It’s not about luck, beer, the color green, or mischievous small legendary para-humans.
You know the handful of pioneering saints who carried the name of Jesus on such vast scale that we sit envious in church hearing about them? St. Patrick was one of them. Enslaved for six years by Irish pirates, Patrick returned years later to Ireland as a missionary. Through him, God transmitted his gospel throughout that island nation, making Patrick one of the pivotal figures in the Christianity’s spread to Europe.
There is a prayer that’s attributed to this fifth-century saint. Though this prayer is often recited by those who follow the Catholic faith, there is little in it to which Christian need not adhere.
The second to last verse, in particular, is an expression of such profound union with God, proclaiming the speaker so utterly surrounded by Christ, that I am left speechless at its holiness:
Christ with me,
Christ before me,
Christ behind me,
Christ in me,
Christ beneath me,
Christ above me,
Christ on my right,
Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down,
Christ when I sit down,
Christ when I arise,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.