Monday, May 14, 2018

Singleness and Identity: Who Are You, Single Christian Woman?

Check out our 2nd YouTube video “Singleness and Identity:  Who Are You, Single Christian Woman?”

Identity is a challenging issue for single Christian women over 30, especially in the evangelical church today, where marriage and motherhood defines womanhood.  

Click on the link below:

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Single, Unexpectedly is Now on YouTube!

Single, Unexpectedly is now a YouTube channel!  Check out our first video.  Click on the link below:

Is Singleness a Gift?

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

20 Years After "I Kissed Dating Goodbye" Joshua Harris Has Second Thoughts

Though I am much older than the target audience for the book and did not come of age during the purity/courtship culture that catapulted it to a bestseller, I have read the book "I Kissed Dating Goodbye" written by Joshua Harris at the tender age of 21.  Overall, I found the book to be helpful but apparently it has caused some harm to many others.

Harris is working on a documentary to face critics of the book as well as share how his views on dating, courtship, singleness, and the road to marriage have evolved over the 20 years since the book was published.  Here is a snippet of that documentary:

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Singleness Thought of the Week: Catholics, Protestants, and Singleness

Something interesting is happening in the Roman Catholic Church.  Similar to the Protestant Church, and indeed in every area of our society today, there are Catholic singles who are finding it difficult to marry, some remaining unexpectedly single into their 30s, 40s, and beyond.  You would think that in the Catholic Church, which celebrates the single state (making it a requirement for those who seek religious life in the clergy), older singles would feel right at home, but such is not the case.  That’s because even though the Catholic Church considers both Matrimony and the Holy Orders of celibate priests and bishops to be sacraments (a religious rite in which they believe grace is dispensed), simply being single (by circumstance, not by choice) doesn’t land neatly into either of these categories.  As a result, older Catholic singles are falling into a spiritual no man’s land in the Church, since they have no inclination to take a vow of celibacy and yet have little or no opportunities to marry.  This predicament has made some singles feel overlooked, unwanted, and invisible in the Catholic Church.  The Catholic Church itself is equally flummoxed by the increase in never-married singles among its laity, not quite knowing what to do with them.  Several singles have formally requested that the Church recognize unintentional singleness as a vocation or calling, thereby giving their singleness meaning and purpose.  So far, the Church has not responded affirmatively.  

These used to be all the single ladies in the Catholic Church....but not anymore

As a reformed evangelical, I’m at odds with much of the Catholic catechism and doctrine and yet, I feel a strange kinship with these Catholic singles.  We share some of the same concerns and frustrations even though we stand at opposite ends of the religious spectrum.  Ever since reformer Martin Luther ran off and married that nun, challenging people like Pelagius who exalted the celibate life over marriage, marriage has been the summum bonum of the Christian life in the Protestant Church.  This is especially true in reformed churches like mine, where there is constant talk of the importance of marital and parental roles, complementarianism, sanctification through marriage, marriage as a symbolic representation of Christ and the church, and so on. 

Many evangelical leaders and pastors would argue that the church values singleness as well as marriage, citing God’s approval of both marital states in 1 Corinthians 7 (which was written by the single Apostle Paul).  But although it’s true that they acknowledge singleness by choice for those who have the “gift of celibacy”, it’s really young singles that the church values – think of them as the “Future Married People of America”.   Church leaders love ministering to young singles (my church labels them “College and Career”) because their single status is seen as a fun-filled, action-packed temporary stopover before marriage.  Lessons for young singles cover such topics as how to get the most out of your short season of singleness, biblical dating and courtship, tips on becoming a suitable marriage partner, and sexual purity with an anticipating eye towards marital intimacy.  These are subjects most church leaders and pastors know very well from extensive study and experience and they enjoy digging into them in great detail.  In short, if you’re either married or young and marry-able in the church, there’s a veritable feast of spiritual food offered to you in the form of sermons, books, classes, ministries and seminars.

When you’re still single past the age of 30 or 40 in the church, however, it can feel as if you’re on the fringe of the Christian life.  The concerns that plague older singles….undesired celibacy, loneliness, feelings of rejection, and identity issues are prickly subjects, often having no clear solution, and pastors are loath to teach on them.  Plus – and this is an uncomfortable truth – but other than Jesus’s discourse on eunuchs in Matthew 19, there’s scarcely little in the Bible about unintentional singleness, and what little there is sounds negative and insulting, like the passages in Proverbs 30:21-23 about an unloved woman and Isaiah 4:1 about seven woman vying for one man.  

First Corinthians 7 is the most popular passage to turn to for comfort on the single status but, as true as it is, it's not as comforting as you'd expect – I can’t put my finger on exactly why.  Maybe because even though there are advantages to being single for the kingdom (undistracted devotion to the Lord) and advantages to being married (companionship, intimacy), a person finding themselves single by circumstance can’t just flip a switch in their head and decide they prefer singleness.  Therefore, a single woman like me who can’t find a way to marry but still desires marriage doesn’t profit in either case.  I don’t benefit from singleness because I long for marriage and I don’t benefit from marriage because I can’t get married.

So now that I’ve thoroughly depressed you (my apologies), what’s my advice for all you fellow single Christian women out there?  Find joy in the tension.  Find joy in the uncomfortable limbo of not being where you want to be in this life and not feeling at home anywhere - not even in the church.  How?  By understanding that this is the tension all Christians should be living in.  Yes, God loves to bless His children with marriages, family, even wisdom and wealth (like Solomon) but He doesn’t want us to get too cozy here, wishing that this life would never end.  This life is not our final destination.  In fact, it is but a brief vapor compared to our eternity with Christ (James 4:14).  While here, we should be redeeming the time by growing in the knowledge of God, pointing lost friends and family to Christ, and displaying the truth of the Gospel in our lives (1 Peter 3:15).  All these actions pay dividends both in this life and in the eternal life to come.  So the true benefit of unintentional, sexually-frustrating, socially awkward, and sometimes painfully lonely singleness is that it keeps us from being too satisfied with this life for our own good (1 John 2:15-17; 1 Corinthians 7:29-31).

The Apostle Paul said in Philippians 1:21, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain”.  Our singleness helps us to live that truth.  Therefore do not curse it, do not despise it, do not hate it or regret it.  If you're child of God, even unwanted singleness will ultimately work for your good (Romans 8:28).

© Copyright 2015 

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Singleness Thought of the Week: You’re Single Because……

Hey, single sister, have you heard this one?

“Don’t worry if you’re single.  God is looking at you right now and saying, ‘I’m saving this one for someone special.’”

(Groan.)  Or how about this one?

“If you’re still single, it’s because God’s not ready to share you yet.”

How cutesy-poo.  And lame.  Or perhaps you’ve heard this one.

“Being single doesn’t mean no one wants you.  It means God is busy writing your love story.”

Uh huh……

I know they are kindly intended, and I probably found them inspiring when I was 20, but these sugary-sweet, trite singles clich├ęs just don’t cut it anymore.  Look, I’m fighting to be sexually pure against an onslaught of worldly temptations and my own burning desires.  I’m battling loneliness, bitterness, and envy.  I’m clinging to my eternal identity in Christ while Satan taunts, “You’re not a wife, you’re not a mother, you’re NOTHING.”  Hence, I need much more substantial encouragement than, “Jesus wants to give you a big ole kiss!”  And besides, God never promises that every single will be united with someone special or that He’ll personally write a love story for each of us.  Furthermore, marriage was His idea – He’s not at all threatened by His people having spouses.

Many well-meaning Christian friends and family realize these little sayings aren’t sufficient to encourage singles so they try to come up with more “biblical” reasons for our singleness.  They say things like,

“God wants to grow you spiritually before you get married…”

Which seems to imply that those who are married are already spiritually mature or that marriage is the reward you earn for reaching spiritual perfection.  Or….

 “You’re single so you can have more time to do the work of the Lord….”

Because married people don’t do any work for the Lord at all. 

"Honey, it's always darkest before the dawn of the wedding rehearsal."

No, as undoubtedly sincere as they are, when friends try to tell you why you’re single they usually end up putting their proverbial foot in their mouths.  That’s because God doesn't reveal the reason to us.  That doesn't mean, however, God has nothing to say on the subject.

In Matthew 19, responding to the Pharisees’ question about divorce, Jesus said, “Whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.”  Upon hearing this, Jesus’ disciples said, “If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry.”  They were probably expecting Jesus to vehemently defend the goodness of marriage but He shocks them.  He describes three reasons a person might remain single:

1.  “There are eunuchs who have been so from birth…” – this describes a person who is unable to marry due to a birth defect.

2.  “…there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by men…” – Jesus is specifically describing men who had been castrated (as was the ancient custom for those who served kings and queens in palaces) but it could also refer to singleness due to circumstances beyond your control.  For instance, singleness because no one ever proposes marriage.

3.  “…and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven.” – These are people who deliberately choose singleness to devote themselves to the Lord’s kingdom.

The disciples were probably familiar with the first two scenarios, but this was almost certainly the first time they had ever heard of the third.  To the Jews of the time, marriage was the only blessed and righteous state of an adult.  Barrenness was a cause for shame and singleness was abhorred (Isaiah 56:3-5).  Jesus reveals something incredible here – that even though God made us male and female, even though He gave us compatible body parts and complementary roles, even though He instilled in us the desire to be united one to another, and though He surely intended for most people to marry (to populate the earth among many reasons), there is a place for singleness in God’s kingdom.  Paul expands on this truth in 1 Corinthians 7 saying, “To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is good for them to remain single as I am.” 

In other words, singleness is good.  It is not a curse nor is it a punishment for sin.  It is not an indication God doesn't love you or that He has forgotten you.  It is not proof that God isn't sovereign.  It is not evidence of your lack of faith.  It is neither a tragedy nor an accident.  This would seem to be contradictory since the Bible also declares marriage to be good, but it’s not a contradiction.  Singleness is a proper station to display Christ to the world, an effective avenue to please and worship God, a valid means of sanctification, and an honorable status among God’s people.

Now, I understand your frustration, single Christian woman.  You never desired to be single.  Neither did I.  Given the choice, I never would have deliberately chosen singleness.  And I don’t know why God either chose it for me or allowed it to happen to me.  God may never answer my question, “Why?”  But it comforts me, sometimes even thrills me, to know God looks at my unmarried state and says, "It is good."

© Copyright 2015

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Singleness Thought of the Week: Taking Your Work as a Single Woman Seriously

You’re grateful to God for your paycheck.  It keeps food on the table and pays the bills.  You’re thankful for the coworker camaraderie and sense of purpose your job gives you each day.  But, honestly, this isn’t where you thought you’d be right now.  You thought by this point in your life you would have ditched the Monday morning rush hour commute and daily grind for the much more fulfilling, God-honoring job of full-time wife and mother.  It’s what you’ve always dreamed of doing and sermons and books based on Proverbs 31 and Titus 2 seem to indicate that being a stay-at-home mother is the most biblical role a woman can have.  But marriage hasn’t come and, consequently, neither has motherhood.  You’re stuck in this 8 to late job you thought would surely be a temporary transition to your real work as a woman, that of raising godly children and running a household. 

Next to marriage and motherhood – displaying the relationship between Christ and the church and raising up the next generation of believers – your secular job seems thoroughly pedestrian and downright unbiblical.  But by living your life as if it’s still waiting to happen, constantly craning your neck around your current circumstances to see what God has for you in the future, you’re missing all the opportunities He has given you to glorify Him today.

Consider for a moment that though you may never have imagined being a career woman at this age, God knew you would be.  In fact, in His sovereignty He has lead you to the job you currently have.  Also consider that you do not become biblical only when you assume a certain role or marital status.  You, single woman, became a biblical woman the moment you became a child of God, the moment the Spirit convicted you of your sins and you turned to Christ for salvation.  Therefore, nothing you do is truly “secular” and “meaningless”.  Everything you do, everything you are is holy and set apart for God’s glory.

Some say that secular work is a curse, the result of the fall.  They point to Genesis 3:19, “By the sweat of your face, you shall eat bread.”  In his sermon titled “The Conscientious Christian Employee”, evangelical pastor John MacArthur clears up that common misconception about work. 

“In Genesis chapter 2 we read this in verse 15, ‘And the Lord God took the man and put him into the Garden of Eden to till it and to keep it.’ The Fall of man didn't come until chapter 3. In chapter 2, God designed man to work.  Work is not part of the curse, sweat is part of the curse.  It is the intensity of work necessary to earn the bread that implies the curse, but work is a blessing.

Not only were we created to work but all of our work is a sacred duty…everything you do is with reference to your relationship to God…..Whatever you do, whatever kind of work you're engaged in, housewife to senior executive and everything in between, whatever it is it is a sacred duty….every job has intrinsic value not particularly for its own sake, but because when it is integrated into the life of a Christian it becomes the arena in which that Christian lives out his spiritual existence….it becomes the arena in which your spiritual faith is lived out.” 

I hope this gives you a new, godly perspective as you head to your job this Monday morning.  Yes, it is a wonderful blessing to be a stay-at-home wife and mother but if God has not opened the door to that opportunity, don't despair.  As a single woman in the workplace, you are not spiritually inferior or unbiblical.  You are not a second-rate example of godly femininity.  God has placed you where you are to be salt and light to those around you.  Your work matters to Him.

© Copyright 2015