The Choice

forkI saw this on my Facebook feed yesterday (thanks, Christy!) and had to share-and-quickblurb.

“What if God said to you: ‘You can be part of my own awesome, immeasurable aims that are bigger than your ability to understand, and you will experience confusion and waiting…OR I can limit my activity in your life to only that which makes sense to you, and your life will feel much simpler. You pick.'” -Gary Morland

Oh, man.

Oh, man.

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The Many Shades of Singleness, Part 3: Hating Marriage

CALLEN_PHOTOS-21.jpgFor this particular shade of this series (here’s Part 1 and Part 2), I felt it best to turn to someone from the “never marry” side of the singles’ world, someone with a different story and perspective, who could speak credibly to those with a reluctant view of marriage and a, shall we say, greater enthusiasm for singleness.

To that end, I’m excited to introduce my blog’s very first guest poster, Sarah J. Callen. 

When Brandon first asked me to share about singleness, I began racking my brain for the best way to communicate about this topic. Then a simple solution hit me: share your story. I hope my story will leave you encouraged if you’ve been hurt in the past, give you compassion for those in a different stage of life than you, or just give courage to share your own, even if it’s messy.

Growing up, I never wanted to get married. The entire institution of marriage was wholly undesirable and having kids was completely out of the question. I met Christ when I was 16 and dove into church culture, but my hatred of marriage remained. I was certain I was just going to be like Paul and choose singleness so I could serve God, not realizing the depth of hurt I was trying to cover up using this Christian justification.

Some of my friends got married right out of high school and I had plenty of weddings to attend all through my college years and, while I was happy for them, I still didn’t understand their desire to marry. Why on earth would you want to put up with another human being for the rest of your life? Why would you sign up for something that had a high probability of leaving you in worse shape than when you entered it?

You see, at a young age I decided that marriage was a bad thing.

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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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Head Beliefs vs. Heart Beliefs

brainheartThere are some life skills I’ve picked up that have pretty much made the adult me.

The ability to apologize. You wouldn’t believe how far that takes you with people.

The ability to laugh at oneself. Which, naturally, makes me a one-man comedy.

The ability to say no to purchases I don’t need. No TV/Netflix, used cars…it adds up over the years.

But probably the most valuable life skill is the ability to articulate the hidden lies I’m believing.

I submit that we have two kinds of beliefs: head beliefs and heart beliefs. Head beliefs are the ones we’re aware of, the ones we’ve explicitly processed and given mental consent to, like the existence of gravity, or the depth of God’s love. It’s easier to articulate those beliefs, though we don’t necessarily act according to them.

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Sharing God’s Mission to Love Others

womenI posted last week about a sensitive topic that’s been on my heart for a long time but eluded my words: that it’s a little awkward for us to be teaching people to “stop comparing themselves to others” when we ourselves hold a considerable amount of power over whether they feel the need to compare.

We all have a part to play. Whenever we choose someone else’s companionship or potential over another, we make a comparison. Everyone’s got their A-lists and D-lists, and I’m no exception. I’ve been rejected, and I’ve done some rejecting. And when people learn, in their youth, that they are being compared to others by others, it is only natural that they’ll join in. Lonely people can tell you this better than anyone.

To be sure, our lives are jam-packed and we don’t have time for everyone or everything. But even that feels like an excuse at some point. I know I’ve missed opportunities to show the love of Christ. It makes me wonder what the kingdom would look like if we really celebrated everyone as an image-bearer of God.

What is the Biblical solution?

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Are We Driving Others to the Sin of Comparison?

the_most_terrible_poverty_is_loneliness2c_and_the_feeling_of_being_unlovedThe woman who gazes at a hated reflection and wishes she were thinner and prettier.

The poor man who wears himself out pursuing the worry-free life of a millionaire.

The failed applicant who lost to someone with a longer resume (or better connections).

The scrawny sophomore who sits at home envying the senior jock who seems to go nowhere without an entourage.

All these people are comparing ourselves to others. It’s a rampant problem in today’s society. I needn’t rehash the costly and damaging things people do to attain the standards society promotes.

Much Christian teaching these days, directed at millennials in particular, has recognized the insecurity bred by this phenomenon and offers an answer: to “stop comparing yourself to others and find your satisfaction in God“.

There is truth to this. Even the world manages to stumble haphazardly upon this truth as it blindly gropes its way across the landscape. “A broken clock is right twice a day” and all that. And I would hasten to add that there are good reasons for some of the comparisons we perform. Job hunts are comparisons. We want the best person for the job. We would not hand a pulpit to an uneducated layman (or Satanist), or an engineer’s desk to a botanist who doesn’t know a wrench from his rear end.

However, at the end of the day, there are still lonely and undervalued people out there. There’s a missing piece to the puzzle: us. We have a role to play. And I suspect that we have allowed the competition aspect of life to spill its banks, become more prevalent than it should be.

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Pizza Lessons #7: The Old Man

pizza5(For the previous parts of this series, click here, here, here, here, here, and here.)

 

The other night, I pulled up to a house for a late delivery run.

The house and lawn were run down. They all look that way in March, of course, as the snow melts. But the interior didn’t look much better, dirty and unkempt, as I peered through the curtain-less sliding door.

I knocked and saw the lone occupant – an elderly man with a beard that would make ZZ Top raise their guitars in salute – rise slowly from his chair. He was using a cane.

This’ll be a stiff, I thought, steeling myself to be fine with no tip. Customers of this profile were often cantankerous. Sometimes, you could argue that life had given them reason to be. Yeah, you could argue that if you lack the money to tip, you lack the money to order pizza in the first place, and maybe that argument works for the folks who order thrice a week without ever tipping. But sometimes a man’s gotta live, you know? So I was good either way. (And just to be clear, I never ask for tips. Bad form.)

The door opened. The man’s eyes crinkled with a shy warmth. A small cat had padded in front of him to the door, almost as if guiding him there.

I greeted him enthusiastically, quoted the price, and he presented a hundred dollar bill. “I’m sorry I don’t have smaller bills,” stammered the man. “I told ’em that when I called…can you make change?”

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