Whether you call it “Valentine’s Day” or “Singleness Awareness Day”, today brings a deluge of roses, chocolate, and all things red to the market. You’ve seen it before.
You’re young, you’re Christian, and you’re single. You’re pulled from ever side; from a hyper-sexualized culture on one extreme and a church expectant with morality on the other. They all feed voices into your mind and heart, but so do your parents, your friends, your music, the billboards, TV commercials, your facebook feed… how do you know where to step when the path is made of so many shifting pieces?
I grew up in a Christian family, spent a year and a half at a Bible (“bridal”) college, am twenty-two, and “single” (couldn’t we find a better word?). When I was still a teenager, I began reading all the books I could find on the topic of relationships, to prepare myself to teach a discipleship group I was leading. I found most of what I read to be inadequate, and even destructive. Maybe you have felt this, too?
I have searched Scripture, pop culture, Christian books, and the experience of those around me for answers pointing to something bigger. I’ve also read myths, fairytales, interviews with nuns, and witnessed the exciting lives of many brave single woman missionaries. And I have found some things that are pretty sky-rising exciting.
create something new
Christianity should never be about building a culture of reaction to the world, but it often is. We often think, for example, that purity is the absence of promiscuity. I believe that is a lie setting us up for failure.
In my communications classes at college, my professor would indulge class rants on cheesy Christian media up to a certain point. Then, he would challenge us to critique not with words, but by creating.
I decided then and there that “critique by creating” would be a watch-word for how I shape my life. What do I see in this world that makes me weep? How am I going to live the difference I want to see around me?
Personally, I want my singleness to be a statement of the beauty, goodness and sufficiency of Christ. I want to declare with my life that my God is creative, and that I can boldly take on new adventures through Him. I want to declare that every sacrifice (yep, even if that includes missing out on having a boyfriend) is worth it for the sake of Christ.
G. K. Chesterton beautifully speaks to this as he talks about using white chalk on brown paper:
“One of the wise and awful truths which this brown-paper art reveals, is this, that white is a colour. It is not a mere absence of colour; it is a shining and affirmative thing, as fierce as red, as definite as black. When, so to speak, your pencil grows red-hot, it draws roses; when it grows white-hot, it draws stars. And one of the two or three defiant verities of the best religious morality, of real Christianity, for example, is exactly this same thing; the chief assertion of religious morality is that white is a colour. Virtue is not the absence of vices or the avoidance of moral dangers; virtue is a vivid and separate thing, like pain or a particular smell. Mercy does not mean not being cruel, or sparing people revenge or punishment; it means a plain and positive thing like the sun, which one has either seen or not seen.
Chastity does not mean abstention from sexual wrong; it means something flaming, like Joan of Arc. In a word, God paints in many colours; but he never paints so gorgeously, I had almost said so gaudily, as when He paints in white.”
If you believe in Jesus and are single today, then you are called to faithfulness, you are called to chastity today. It’s a flaming hot life. You, and I, single ladies, we are not living in a vacuum or locked in a tower (humming “when will my life begin”). You are called to much more.
Maybe words like “chastity” and “celibacy” make you uncomfortable. Maybe you’ve lived your life wanting marriage and kids (good things), and you feel the least God could do for you is give you someone to date (because, after all, those are good desires).
Do you know what God wants for you?
Your sanctification. He wants to make you like Christ. All of His children, whether divorced, married, widowed, dating, single, or in a “confusing relationship”, are called to sanctification. And that very much includes all your sexual desires, all your longings to attract and be attractive.
I found this out by studying 1 Thessalonians 4. (I had just arrived at a Bible college and felt at the time like I was getting a crash course in dating)
“It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control your own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the pagans, who do not know God; and that in this matter no one should wrong or take advantage of a brother or sister. The Lord will punish all those who commit such sins, as we told you and warned you before. For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life. Therefore, anyone who rejects this instruction does not reject a human being but God, the very God who gives you his Holy Spirit.”
This is serious stuff, I thought as I read it. I still think that. God is very, very concerned about how we obey him in this area. The Greek word for “take advantage” could be translated “overreach”. The idea of overreaching, of putting out my hand to pick something off a branch that was never mine to touch in someone else’s life, became a vivid picture in my mind.
Girls, it’s hard. Hard to possess your own body with honour and dignity. It’s hard to live like Jesus. It’s hard to love the men in your life fully without making that a cover for secret emotional (or physical) lust.
But this is what it takes to paint a white-hot picture, and this is God’s will: your sanctification.
It gets harder. Just a few weeks ago, it broke through to me that obedience that is done out of duty is not obedience. If I am keeping my body or thought life pure for marriage because I “should”, but without any joy in the action, I am not obeying God.
The greatest commandment is to love the Lord our God with all our hearts, all our souls, all our minds, and all our strength.
Your season of waiting must be white-hot with an all-consuming love for God, or it is sin.
You must live as a woman with dignity and honour and self-control, because you love God with all your strength. You must be emotionally surrendered to Christ continually, because you love Him with all your heart. You must be satisfied in the goodness of Christ because you love Him with all your soul. You must be taking every thought captive and replacing lies with truth in the area of relationships because you love Christ with all your mind.
Friends, are you with me in feeling like this is impossible? You are a sinner to your core, and I am too, beyond what either of us will ever know. I simply do not love God with all my heart, soul, mind and strength.
Please hear me when I say that there needs to be no condemnation and no fear for you in looking your sin in the face. It brings freedom. If Christ lives in you, all the sin of your heart is forgiven in him. His grace is deeper than your depravity, each day, each moment. Please see the hope in this, sister.
Jesus Christ did not die for your eternal life only – He bought you, body and soul, out of a life of futility and darkness into abundant life and light! He covers your sin of infidelity as you come to him, but it is also a place the Holy Spirit longs with all his heart to change. God earnestly desires your joy, dear heart. But you’re going to have to accept that the way to joy follows no humanly crafted path.
Want some good news? I know I do. God can and will change the desires of your heart, if you let him.
He will give you a hunger and thirst for righteousness that only He can satisfy. Through that hunger, He will work out his will in your life: your sanctification.
These commands are not judgment sentences on my life or your life: Christ Himself has taken our judgment for all eternity. These commands show us the big life God has prepared for those who love Him!
David said the commands of God are an open field to run in. One of my favourite prayers is a verse from Song of Solomon, Draw me and I will run after you. It makes me think of moments in Congo when streets were deserted because of coming rain. I would pull my hair loose and dance and laugh (loudly) all the way down red roads, under waving palm trees and the billowing clouds. It’s a feeling of freedom bordering on madness; and you can run wild, with laughter, into this commandment to love God. The farther you run, the deeper into joy and wholeness you will find yourself, and though you run every day of your life you can never reach the end – that is how big the command is.
Sister, the greatest comfort is in knowing you will never, ever, ever in a million years love God as you must on your own. So let Him teach you, let Him draw you, and you will joyfully claim the greatest law as the sure promise of what is coming in your life.
dream big things
So what should we seek to desire as Christian singles? Marriage is a good and holy dream. But it is only one! Hope for it, dream for it, but dream other things too. Dream things that would be impossible without the Holy Spirit being truly alive.
The prayer we have been taught to pray every day is not, “God bless my future unknown husband and help me find him quickly” (although that could be a legitimate prayer). Every day we are to cry out, “let YOUR will be done and YOUR kingdom come in my life as it is in heaven.”
What would it look like, if the kingdom of God came in your family? In your town? In your school? In your workplace? In your church? What would it look like for shalom – wholeness (nothing missing, nothing broken) – to be shown in a thousand faces of art to this depressed world? What would it look like for you to be given freedom from the concern of what others think of you, and boldness to act in accordance to truth? What would it look like if you believed your prayers made life or death differences in those around you? What would it look like if your primary goal in every interaction is to bring others nearer to complete maturity in Christ as a unique man or a unique woman, instead of scouting for potentials?
I am preaching to myself. I am asking these questions of myself, with amazement. What sort of life am I missing out on, are you missing out on?
Girls, God doesn’t owe us a single thing. He doesn’t owe me a husband, a boyfriend, or even a friend. Some well-meaning voices in the church have so bestowed in us a feeling of entitlement that we have become blinded to the truth. Wearing a purity ring, following courtship rules, saving your first kiss till marriage, dating only the guys that match your list – none of this should ever be taken as a guarantee that God will give you a good man someday.
Dream bigger things for your relationships within the church and for your friendships with other singles. Write out a statement of what you want your relationships as a single to be characterized by (this was super helpful for me!). Ask God to show you how to love truly, without possessiveness. Dream of the day when the fruit of the Holy Spirit is visible in each of your interactions with another human being because you are walking daily dependant on Him. Pray for love that is patient, kind and longsuffering – yeah, especially for those people you can’t stand to be around.
I know, I know. It doesn’t sound like a lot of fun. Not compared to having a special someone who affirms you for all your acts of love towards them.
But if Christ lives in me, and lives in you, He will satisfy us, He will make his love known to us. He will win our hearts. Dear Christian girl, does your life show what you sing in church?
I believe that the truest way to deep joy is to follow what the Creator says. Our hearts are divided among many loves, and fed with many lies. Lean hard into Christ and the life he offers, and your heart will be united, day after day, into a love that satisfies more than you ever knew it could.
feed your imagination – intentionally
Before I read any books on dating, I had devoured the Lord of the Rings trilogy. And when I was battling out the different Christian views of “egalitarianism” or “complementarianism”, the stories of George MacDonald completely captivated my imagination for a larger picture of manhood and womanhood. In Bible school, as I wrote a hermeneutical paper on the 1 Timothy passage of women keeping silent in church, I spent time pondering the story of the Bible, and the key roles women play in it. The words of Jesus and the images of the Bible healed places in my heart that no commentary had reached.
C.S. Lewis said of stories, “Since it is so likely that (children) will meet cruel enemies, let them at least have heard of brave knights and heroic courage. Otherwise you are making their destiny not brighter but darker.”
Through personal experience, I believe the same is true right here. Since you are absolutely going to hear the lie that any compromise is worth the thrill of sexual fulfillment, since you will definitely be told in a million ways that your life is about your own happiness; bathe your imagination in tales of true love, true self-denial, and hardship that buys true joy. Otherwise you are making your life not brighter, but darker.
And I don’t mean watch Disney. Those story lines are too easy. Tolkien and MacDonald (and many others) showed me a world where love was complex. Hopefully I’ll be able to write more about that later.
Wherever you are hearing stories, ladies, whether it is in music, role models, movies, Netflix, blogs, books; ask yourself, what is being portrayed here as beautiful? Is it true?
Never forget that you have been given the dignity of choice. Constantine, in the novel The Help, drills this into Skeeter:
“Ever morning, until you dead in the ground, you gone have to make this decision. You gone have to ask yourself, Am I gone believe what them fools say about me today?”
She kept her thumb pressed hard in my hand. I nodded that I understood…All my life I’d been told what to believe about politics, coloreds, being a girl. But with Constantine’s thumb pressed in my hand, I realized I actually had a choice in what I could believe.
You have a choice. You don’t have to believe what them fools say about you today. But how will you know which are the voices of fools, when you have never listened for truth?
the last word 🙂
Rosalie de Rosset, a professor at the school I attended, has written:
Will it be hard to choose dignity over the ease of cultural adaptation; will it take discipline to ruthlessly look at all your attitudes and motivations, to live an undivided life, to free yourself from the array of distractions and cages waiting to entrap you at your doorstep? Will there be losses along the way? Will you be tempted to take the ghostly path? Yes. Is it worth it, you will ask yourself, perhaps often. On the heels of that question, ask yourself another – is He worthy? Perhaps, you will need to know more about Him to be able to answer, which brings us back to the importance of theology, the importance of sitting at Christ’s feet in conversation. Answering that question is at the core of every life, one I answer every year with greater passion.Yes. Oh yes.
You, girl, are loved.
By a pursuing God who has vowed to hound you through all your days until you wake to the reality of His love. As you walk this journey and surrender to His will, you will find joy.
God bless your journey.