The Many Shades of Singleness, Part 1

road (2)(Part 2 and Part 3 of this series.)

Recently, I’ve become aware of past controversial comments made by Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, on Christian singleness.

In previous years, Dr. Mohler has directed heavy criticism at kingdom singles. He has labeled as sinful the practice of delaying marriage by those who lack the “gift of celibacy”.

Singleness is not a sin, but deliberate singleness on the part of those who know they have not been given the gift of celibacy is, at best, a neglect of a Christian responsibility. The problem may be simple sloth, personal immaturity, a fear of commitment, or an unbalanced priority given to work and profession. On the part of men, it may also take the shape of a refusal to grow up and take the lead in courtship. There are countless Christian women who are prayerfully waiting for Christian men to grow up and take the lead. What are these guys waiting for? (Link)

Hailing from a Baptist paradigm that appreciates marriage’s Biblical shine (and having actually read the qualifiers in Mohler’s comments), I get what he was aiming for.

Nevertheless, if you ask me (and I know you didn’t), he’s left a lot out. Mohler’s comments are only a sliver of the much bigger message that Christian singles really need to be hearing. And that message is difficult, because not every single is created equal. God in his sovereignty is painting with a great many shades.

We singles are…complicated. A diverse bunch. Far more than is commonly recognized. We land somewhere on a spectrum best described so: I want someone, yet at the same time, I’m not sure I do. But I totally do! Yet…am I sure?

Some are tired of being judged entirely by, and being asked only about, their marital status. They feel unseen for themselves. That matters to millennials.

Others feel they lack the tools or a conducive personality (e.g. introverts) to move towards marriage.

And still others have tried to find a mate, spent countless nights bedside in tears praying for someone, and…nothing. They’ve put real effort into finding someone – and been resisted so serendipitously and relentlessly that they can only conclude God is the one keeping them single. Relationships buckle. Peace evaporates. Parties are called to move away. Or…nobody notices.

One friend, a passionate youth pastor who has served God far harder than some marrieds, lives in a formidably atheist country where kingdom singles are slightly more plentiful than unicorns (to say nothing of quality). Others live in rural areas, where they start wondering whether God has left them to the rules of probability.

This is the reality for singles at the street level. Needless to say, it might be a disservice to fall short of honoring these stories. Lack of pursuit is hardly the sole generator of singleness.

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Christmas is Bigger Than Your Opinion Of It

catIt was during a December that my family fell apart.

I do appreciate that the blow had enough grace to wait until the 27th before coming out of nowhere, but is there really ever a “good time” for such things to happen?

Anything that’s ever harmed family tends to feel highlighted, called out, by the approach of Christmas. The season has a way of reminding you of what you’ve lost (or never had to begin with). I know what it’s like to rely on the charity and love of non-family during the holidays (for which I’m very grateful), to struggle with the emotions, to feel left out of the joy because you’re dealing with things that (it seems like) nobody else is.

So I’m the last person to tell anyone to “just get over it and celebrate”.

That’s not my approach at all. The Bible defends, even celebrates, our grace-given ability to honestly approach the throne of God with our pain, fear, and disappointment. Psalms is full of it. Jeremiah vents to God even though he knows exactly why God is inflicting his nation. Even Jesus does not try to hide his sweat and blood from his Father. He cares about our hearts. He has big shoulders. He will always listen to our tears.

BUT.

But.

Sometimes, I think, there are days when a swift kick in my own butt really is warranted.

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Is Your “God’s Love” Tank Critically Low?

meterI pray that the right people see this.

I’m thinking tonight of the main characters in stories that would tear your heart out. Ordinary Christians, drained by disappointment and hardship. They no longer feel any love or peace from God. He seems all but absent. Just when hope seems to be rising, life kicks them again. They’ve been faithful for years, slogging through Scripture and the spiritual disciplines, staying a “good Christian”. They could recite the Biblical reasons behind suffering until the cows come home, but it’s no longer lifting their hearts so much as a whit. And then the cows kick them.

Seeing a brother or sister struggle in this way is one of the things that truly knocks down the door of my apathy and sets me ablaze. I get angry at Satan. I get – well, I would say “fearful” if I didn’t know fear was a sin, so I don’t do that – but certainly deeply concerned for the person. They stick on my heart. I don’t want them to be separated from God. I want so badly for them to know, to rediscover the love of God.

But…it isn’t easy.

My own experience says that, and surprisingly, Scripture says that. It grants that cultivating a relationship with the Unseen is counter-intuitive and hard. Especially once you step back and see all the obstacles arrayed against it, the spiritual opposition, the inertia from our unsaved days, the shiny lies about where we should be looking for our joy.

Start with this: do not accept the way things are. There is no Scriptural basis for the idea that God’s love and joy should be limited, blocked, or withheld from us. Indeed, other than salvation, an ironclad peace and joy in any circumstance is the greatest treasure of the kingdom, the very thing Christ died to give us! The Bible does not speak of this stuff in terms a scarce trickle, but of plenty, abundance, overflowing. He meant you to have it “to the full” (John 10:10).

So, you ask…why is it not flowing?

Ultimately, it must be God doing the answering. I do not know your particular situation, which could be varied as the stars are many, and I don’t have a lot of power in myself anyway. But I can offer my own story, and some Scriptural thoughts God has taught me.

1. You can’t do it alone.

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