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

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Singleness Thought of the Week: Marriage Dreams vs. Realities

“Life would be so much better if only I could get married!”

That thought has crossed my mind many times during this extended season of singleness.  When I’m feeling lonely, I blame it on my single status because if I were married, I’d have a husband to talk to and spend time with.   No more loneliness.  Problem solved.  My feelings of insignificance and lack of direction?  All would be eradicated by marriage and motherhood, of course.  And frustrations over the lack of sexual fulfillment?  Well, that’s a no-brainer, isn’t it?  Marriage would eliminate that difficulty completely.

Awwwww!  Don't they look happy?!

As I continue along this train of thought, before long, I begin to imagine an ideal existence, full of long, absorbing conversations over candlelight dinners, fun-filled trips to Disney World with rosy-cheeked children in tow, and torrid sexual encounters under the marital bed sheets that seem eons more satisfying then this dry, lonely, boring singleness I’m trapped in.

I'm sure you recognize how ridiculous that description of marriage is, but don’t you do the same thing sometimes?  Don’t we singles tend to believe that our lives would be happier in every category if only God would provide a spouse?  But although marriage was designed by God to meet sexual needs, provide companionship, and give us purpose and meaning, what we imagine marriage will be like and what it actually turns out to be are two completely different things.  That’s because marriage doesn’t always turn out the way God designed it to in this sinful world.  The sins of our spouse, our own sins, and difficult situations like financial troubles all affect our marriage.

When married friends have tried to share these truths with me, I have often become incensed.  “They’re just trying to talk me out of wanting to get married”, I often muse.  “Well, it won’t work!”  But no one can talk anyone out of wanting to be married.  God implanted that desire in us.  And marriage is a good, godly desire.  It isn’t good, however, for the reasons we think it will be good.  It isn’t good because it will perfectly meet all our needs, desires, and expectations.  Marriage is good because it is an opportunity to love sacrificially, displaying the relationship of Christ and the church.  It is good because it is an effective means of sanctification God uses to mold us into the image of His Son.  In short, marriage is good because of what we give to it, not what we take out of it. 

In his book Our Unmet Needs, Southern Baptist pastor Charles Stanley describes the sometimes selfish expectations we singles have regarding marriage,

"Who wants to get married for the sole purpose of being used by the other person to get all of his or her needs met? Who on this earth could remotely feel that it is either possible or equitable to spend one's life solely for the purpose of meeting another person's needs? And yet many people who say with a tone of desperation in their voices, 'I need to get married,' are looking for precisely that - somebody to meet all of their needs for them. The need to be married is a me-centered need in most cases."

One thing that has discouraged me from wallowing in self-pity in my singleness and that has also helped me hold the desire for marriage loosely in my hand, is spending time with married women.  God has truly blessed me by surrounding me with mature, godly, married women who have been honest about the joys and travails of marriage.  They love their husbands, are thankful for their marriages, but still do not see their state as being inherently better or happier than mine.  I’m reminded of a quote by Lisa Anderson from the Boundless Show, a Focus on the Family broadcast discussing topics of interest to single Christians.  In one segment, Lisa, who is single, tearfully stated that singleness was hard because she was no one’s most important person.  But I can think of many married Christian women who could say the same thing.  Though they are married, the most important person to their husband is, at times, himself.  This is not to say that marriage is bad but that putting someone else’s needs before our own is a learned behavior that is forged over years and years of marriage.  It doesn’t automatically materialize after the words, “I do.”

What’s the point of this post?  Not to talk us out of marriage but to encourage a more, God-centered, realistic view of marriage.  One that will allow us to joyfully accept it from God’s hand if He should provide it, or graciously accept singleness if that is His purpose for us.  It may not seem like it at times, but God has truly provided all we need to glorify and be satisfied in Him today.  If we truly needed marriage today, He would have provided it.  “No good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly.” (Psalm 84:11)

I’ll leave you with a sermon quote from evangelical pastor John MacArthur.  And don’t disregard it as I often have with the thought, “Well, that’s easy for him to say.  He’s married.”  Pastors see more than their share of good and horrible marriages so they know what they’re talking about.

"Please, if you're single, do not look at marriage as the solution to your trouble. It probably is the multiplication of it. Marriage intensifies human weakness because it puts you under such intimate scrutiny. Sometimes young people say, 'You know, I have strong desires sexually and if I can just get married.' That is not in itself a sufficient reason to get married. Even after marriage there is no guarantee that your elicit temptation will go away. And the fulfillment you find in your marriage doesn't satisfy...listen carefully...doesn't satisfy unrighteous longings.

Some people say, 'Well I'm lonely, I need to get married cause I'm lonely.' And they get married and often are far more lonely after married than before because somebody so close becomes so indifferent, and that's crushing.

Marriage, you see, is the solution to only one thing, just one, and that is this, the will of God."

© Copyright 2015

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Singleness Thought of the Week: When Sinning Singles Prosper

“Truly God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart.
But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled, my steps had nearly slipped.  For I was envious of the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.” – Psalm 73:1-3

A friend of yours has just announced she and her boyfriend are engaged.  Yes, yet another friend…..

She’s now doing everything you’ve dreamed of doing since you were four-years-old and putting pillow cases over your head, pretending they were bridal veils (Admit it. You did it, too).  She’s shopping for wedding dresses, talking to caterers, attending a variety of showers held in her honor, and posting irritating Facebook countdowns to the big day.  And here’s the kicker:  She’s been living with her boyfriend for months, cooking his meals, ironing his clothes, and having more sex than a married woman.  She’s been doing all the things that God reserves for marriage, living in total rebellion to Him, and still she gets to plan her wedding.

Meanwhile, you’re reading Passion and Purity for the 67th time, avoiding all movies not rated G, confessing every lustful thought to an accountability partner, trying hard to display the sexual virtue befitting a single Christian woman. 

And it hasn’t gotten you diddly squat.

No wedding, no marriage, no sex, no nothing.  What good is all this purity and virtue if it’s not getting you what you really want – marriage?  And why is God blessing those around you who persist in doing all the wrong things?  And, let’s face it, does anyone really care how sexually pure you are once you turn 39?

White.  How ironic.

When I’ve struggled with these thoughts, I’ve tried meditating on the following verses:

“But when I thought how to understand this, it seemed to me a wearisome task, until I went into the sanctuary of God; then I discerned their end.” – Psalm 73:16-17

I’ll be blunt.  No matter how successful and enjoyable a sinner’s life is here on Earth, it will never make up for the horrific eternal fate that awaits them if they die without Christ.  Trust me, sinners in hell now are not reminiscing about all the great sex they had or how beautiful their wedding was.  They are in torment.  We Christians – yes, even we sexually-frustrated, single Christians – are shining lights in this dark world (Matthew 5:14), reflecting the brightness of Christ, the only Savior of the lost.  Our purity isn’t simply a voucher entitling us to a godly marriage.  It points to the spiritual reality that the symbol of earthly marriage represents:  Christ redeeming a sinful people for Himself, the church (Ephesians 5:27-33).  It points to the message of the gospel.

Think about it.  You may be the only witness to Christ that the lost friends around you will ever see.  Don’t waste opportunities being envious of the blessings they have.  They probably notice your unflinching sexual purity in the face of years (even decades) of singleness and find it peculiar.  This could be a platform you use to share the “hope that lies within you” (1 Peter 3:15).  That hope is something sinners in hell would give all their prosperous days on Earth to have now, and something we should never take for granted.

“Whom have I in heaven but you?  And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.  My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” – Psalm 73:25-26

© Copyright 2015

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Singleness Thought of the Week: Searching for My Love Story

“Don’t worry!  God’s writing your love story.  When it finally unfolds, believe me, it will be worth the long wait.”

“God’s weaving a special love story just for you!  It’s just taking Him a long time to finish it because it’s really complicated.”

“Look at the beautiful way God brought Isaac and Rebekah together!….or Ruth and Boaz!  He’s going to bring someone into your life in a beautiful way like that.  You just wait!”

People mean well when they tell me these things, assuring me God has that “special someone” out there “just for me”.  He’s “right around the corner” and “God’s waiting for the perfect moment” to spring him on me “when I least expect it”.  And, I must admit, it’s an intoxicating feeling to think that God is writing a special love story just for me.  One that will put Cinderella’s to shame.  One that will cause friends and relatives to gasp in delight at its retelling.  One that will hold the grandchildren spellbound someday.

Oh, yes, I’ve read When God Writes Your Love Story by Eric and Leslie Ludy.  Every titillating word of it.  I’ve listened in amazement to Christian couples telling stories of how God brought them together, salivating at the gloriously romantic details, wondering what equally thrilling story God is writing for me.

But is God writing my love story?  If He is I haven’t seen any evidence of it.  That doesn’t mean He isn’t writing it….but….it also doesn’t mean that He is.  Honestly, I have no idea what God is doing on the love front for me.  What’s even more concerning is there’s nothing in God’s Word that says we’re all guaranteed a love story.  God definitely choreographs some.  The Song of Solomon is a detailed account of a beautiful story of love and marriage that God clearly wrote – it’s an inspired book of the Bible.  But for every story of Isaac and Rebekah, Ruth and Boaz, or even Jacob and Rachel, there’s a story of Jeremiah, John the Baptist, and Stephen.  Every person doesn’t get a love story.  Furthermore, I know of only one story for which God promises a happy ending:

“He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” – Philippians 1:6

God is weaving a glorious story for me.  One of redemption.  Ephesians 2:4-7 lays it out:  “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—  and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.”

Romantic love stories are wonderful, beautiful, godly gifts, but in longing for my own love story, have I lost sight of the most important story God is writing for me? 

 © Copyright 2015