Friday, May 22, 2015

The Compelling Example of Nancy Leigh DeMoss

Nancy Leigh DeMoss is engaged!!!!

Nancy, who has never been married and has been faithfully serving the Lord for years as a single woman, made this exciting and unexpected announcement on her Revive Our Hearts website Monday, May 11th.  Upon hearing the news and taking into account Nancy's age (she is 56), I immediately posted a link to her site on my Facebook page with the caption, "Nancy Leigh DeMoss is engaged!  Praise the Lord!  There is hope for us all!"  The news that God has providentially provided a godly husband to a woman who has been single well past the point when most women marry is indeed encouraging, especially to women like you and me who are still waiting, still praying to the Lord for a spouse.  

Now, full disclosure:  I don't agree with Nancy's theology on singleness.  Nancy is a believer in the "gift of singleness", an interpretation of 1 Corinthians 7:7 that says God assigns singleness and marriage to everyone as gifts, regardless of their desires or efforts to the contrary.  I don't believe that 1 Corinthians 7:7 or any other passage in the Bible indicates that God imposes singleness on anyone (the prophet Jeremiah being the only exception).  I believe from Genesis to Revelation, marriage is declared to be God's design, the reason He created us male and female, established by Him for the good and benefit of not only believers, but all of humanity.  And although not everyone marries, certainly no one is commanded to marry (the prophet Hosea being the only exception), and singleness in Christ is also considered good and honorable in the plan of God, God gives us the free choice to marry, assuming we have the opportunity to do so.  Indeed it is my belief that the lack of opportunity to marry is not the result of God forcing singleness but the result of sin:  the sinful, marriage-dishonoring society in which we live, the sins of others (i.e. men who do not have the gift of celibacy that the apostle Paul had but who neglect to pursue marriage), and our own personal sins (i.e. not preparing for marriage, putting career before marriage, rejecting suitors for superficial reasons).

How exactly would the “gift of marriage” work anyway?  Can you imagine this scenario?  A man wakes up to find himself mysteriously walking down a slope.  He looks down in shock at his change of attire and thinks, “Who put this tuxedo on me?!  Where am I going?”  Then he looks down the end of the aisle and sees his pastor standing next to a lovely woman waiting for him.  “Whoo hoo!!!!” he exclaims, “God must be giving me the gift of marriage!  All these years I thought God had given me the gift of singleness but, lo and behold, I’m getting married today!  Praise the Lord!!!”  Or what about this scenario?   A woman beautifully dressed in a flowing white wedding gown is standing in front of a church, looking woebegone.   When someone asks her what’s wrong, she sadly declares, “Oh, I wanted to be single for the glory of God.  That’s been my hope since I was a small child.  But for some reason God has saddled me with the gift of marriage.  I’ve never wanted to be married but apparently this is what God wants so I guess I just have to accept it.  Two weeks ago, I broke down and brought this stupid white dress…..”

No, no one gets married that way.  Men and women desire marriage, they prepare for it, they look for opportunities to marry, and when they find an opportunity they take it.  In a way, it’s kind of like finding a job.  Even during times of economic downturns and recessions when work is scarce no one would argue that it isn’t God’s desire for all people to work at some task.  A person having trouble finding a job wouldn’t say, “Alas, the Lord has inflicted me with the gift of unemployment.”

But enough of my rant.   Today I'm willing to set aside my disagreements with Ms. DeMoss.  Ultimately it really doesn't matter if God imposed singleness on us or if He allowed it to happen under His sovereign control we are.  Single, year, after year, after year, with no prospects in sight.  And it seems to me we have a choice how we will respond to this circumstance.  We can grow bitter and angry at God, hate our married sisters and brothers in Christ, and become completely ineffective in our Christian walk as we withdraw, brood, and sulk.  Been there, done that.  We can make marriage a daily, even hourly goal, putting profiles up on every dating website we can find, praying about every single acquaintance we meet, church hopping and attending every singles gathering we hear about, and badgering our friends to introduce us to their mail carrier's unmarried nephew.  How's that working for you?  Or we can do what Nancy did.

How has Nancy’s response to unexpected singleness been unique and inspiring?  Here are some highlights:

Trust in God

Throughout her adult life, Nancy has placed herself under God’s provision and care, hedging around herself four specific passages in the Psalms:

“The Lord is my Shepherd.  I shall not want.” – Psalm 23:1

“Those who seek the Lord shall not lack any good thing.” – Psalm 34:10

“The Lord will give grace and glory.  No good thing will He withhold from those who walk uprightly.” – Psalm 84:11

“None of those who trust in Him will be desolate.” – Psalm 34:22

At no time has Nancy ever said her life as a longtime single woman has been an easy task, a cake walk.  She is well-acquainted with the unique challenges of singleness, admitting to instances of deep loneliness and intense longings.  But instead of sinking into despair, Nancy memorized these passages, believing them with all her heart, and they have helped her maintain her bearing.  These passages are powerful.  They reveal a God who is completely worthy of our total trust in Him and whose very nature is to provide all we need to glorify Him and be satisfied.  It is so tempting to view our singleness through worldly eyes and believe that God has forgotten us, or that He is not a God who provides, or that He is incapable of properly caring for us and our needs.  I am so grateful to Nancy that she has not succumbed to that temptation, leaving me a glorious path of total trust and hope in God to follow.

Godly Perspective

Sadly, I have often adopted a worldly perspective on my singleness, believing myself to be a total loser because no man has ever given me a ring.  I have also felt like an abnormal oddball because I’m not having sex, like seemingly every other human being drawing breath on this earth.  But this is a patently unbiblical view of who I am.   Nancy once said, “Whether you are single or married, joy comes from learning what God’s perspective is.  And then accepting that perspective as my own.”

Who am I from God’s perspective?  I am His child, foreknown and loved by Him before the foundation of the world (Romans 8:29-30).  I am doubly owned by Him, both because He created me and because He redeemed me with His Son’s precious blood.  I am not my own, I belong to Him (1 Corinthians 6:20).  I am here to reflect Christ to this dark, sin-filled world (Galatians 2:20).  From God’s point-of-view I am not a loser and He expects me to be a celibate virgin since I’m not married (that is as it should be…..not abnormal at all).  Nancy is a great example of a single woman who constantly viewed herself from God’s perspective.  She looked to God’s Word to define her, not society, saying “I’ve come to believe that a lot of frustration with single women….is the result of having a limited perspective. ‘God, lift me up above this limited perspective of this world and help me to see my life as a single woman from your point of view.’”

Godly Focus

I was touched by Nancy’s demeanor and attitude when she announced her engagement.  It was not with the usual sinful bravado that we often see in our culture, “CHA-CHING!!!  Look at my bling!”  Nancy stated in her announcement that her life verse has been “Mary’s response to the angel in Luke 1—‘I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word’ (v. 38). My heart's desire in this journey has been only to know and to do whatever would bring Him the greatest glory.”

The beauty of that statement is that Nancy’s soon-to-be change in status has not at all altered her life’s desire:  To bring God glory.  She has focused on bringing Him glory as a single woman and now, there will simply be a change in roles as she focuses on bringing Him glory as a married woman.   This is a reminder to me that ultimately, my goal really is not to be married.  It’s normal to desire that and perfectly fine if I can attain it, but my real goal, my ultimate goal in life is to bring glory to God in whatever state He allows me to be in or puts me in.  Happily, this is a goal that I can live out TODAY as a single woman, I don’t have to wait to be married to glorify God with my life.  Nancy Leigh DeMoss is a shining example of that truth.

It’s not that Nancy has shunned marriage, in fact one of the main components of her ministry has been encouraging women to embrace their God-given roles in marriage and honor the institution that God established.  She has desired marriage just like any normal woman but, as she stated when announcing her engagement, “Marriage simply has not been on my radar.”  Instead of being depressed by that reality, however, Nancy has chosen joy over misery, resourcefulness over despondency.  “Throughout my life, my goal and my greatest joy has been to tell the great redemption Story of Jesus and His love”, she says.  “I’ve often said that my desire was to be a ‘wedding coordinator’—to help the Bride get ready for the Wedding. For decades, I have done that as a single woman, wholly devoted to Christ and His kingdom.”

Nancy and her fiance, Robert Wolgemuth

Displaying Femininity

Nancy displays the qualities that God sees as precious in a woman, the gentle and quiet spirit He esteems.  Somehow she has found a way to strike a balance between elegance and modesty, softness and durability, gracefulness and resilience.  As a single woman, she is by no means a feminazi, a scornfully independent woman eschewing the need of any man……and yet, there is a spiritual toughness about her I have come to admire.  We are bombarded by messages in the media that a lady doesn’t truly become a woman until she becomes a wife and a mother.  The heroine in the Hollywood movie finds her “womanliness” the moment she melts in the arms of her leading man.  The woman on the Pampers commercial holds up her diaper-clad baby girl, beaming at the child as if she is her whole reason for existing.  Nancy reminds us that we single women are truly women because that is what God created us to be.  We don’t become women when we marry or bear children, and even if that never happens for us, we are expected to display the beautiful distinction, the femininity, God created us to display to the world for His glory.

I am so happy for Nancy Leigh DeMoss!  She has been faithful as a single woman and I’m sure she will be equally faithful as a married woman.  I don’t know what God has planned for me, but Nancy inspires me to be a single woman whose heart’s desire is to bring Him the greatest glory!

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