“So God led the people around by the way of the wilderness by the Red Sea.” Exodus 13:18 Blink and you miss it in that verse nestled right before the crossing of the Red Sea… More
Visiting new churches is difficult, no matter if you are a married or a single. I have mentioned this a time or two, and I know from friends that have kiddos that it’s especially hard to pull them up from the friend group to search out a new church home.
Recently I felt a bit uncomfortable with the comfortable nature I was feeling at my church of three years. The only tension I was finding was in seeing how comfortable the walls and rows had become with being right where they were. It bothered me so deeply that I decided to take a pause from my church and explore other options. Friends who are at other churches that I’d heard about or listened to their podcasts in the area suggested I check out their churches.
But I have to be honest here, I lost every bit of accountability the moment I walked out of my home church. If I didn’t show up that Sunday? Well that’s okay, no one would know but me…and God of course. And so for the past two months I have sort of coasted through this tension of my spiritual walk in finding a church based solely upon my expectations and not what the church is there to do-disciple and minister to the lost.
As I shared with a friend last night when he asked what he could pray for me on, I think I already knew where God was leading on this. Because as a single, we desperately need community rooted in the walls of the church. We need that accountability and that connectedness more than we need the church to live up to some expectation we have set for her.
For me what I didn’t recognize was a season of tension in my selfish expectations and the needs of the church right where I was at. I made it about me rather than about those around me. I directed it all inward rather than outward and upward. I pulled away from friendships and relationships out of a selfish need I discovered was rooted in lies, rooted in doubt and worry, judgement. Instead of taking it to others, I simply pulled up stakes and walked out.
When you are single, whether you are a leader in a ministry or even a pastor, you need that circle of relationships, you need the church and it’s community. You need the care and relationships that can sometimes be difficult and not what you expected, but it’s what God has placed there for you at that exact time. And it can be tense, it can make you want to turn and walk away. But more than anything, that’s when we need to cling even more to Him and His people. To the community. Even when we don’t feel like showing our weaker side, our doubt, our worry, our fears and our hurts. We like the comfortable when it comes to how we do church and community. We like the sheen of fine a bit more than we realize or admit. We worry about what will be said about us, instead of what we are living out of His Word.
It’s a difficult thing to admit you lived into your fears, doubts and anxiety. To admit you were selfish in your expectations. But it’s even more difficult to live it without community. Without the church.
“But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them.” Acts 16:25 (NKJV)
In the aftermath of traveling (by foot and ship), preaching to hardened hearts and skeptics, converting those whose hearts were opened to the gospel, and casting out demons in Christ’s power and authority. Even just one of those exhausts me in reading about it. In the midst of all this, Paul and Silas were met with opposition which took a violent turn into floggings and imprisonment. All of this after being directly guided by the Holy Spirit to go to this exact place.
And what are Paul and Silas found doing at midnight, of all times, in prison ? They are praising God and singing hymns. And the prisoners are listening to them, as one would a beautiful piece of music, with delight and intent.
I don’t know about you all but I whine and complain about minor inconveniences in my daily life. Like a busted water pipe, missing a workout, a car not starting, traffic, stress at work. I don’t automatically and with voice raised sing hymns and praise God in the midst. I admit that freely because it’s not my natural tendency.
But it should be as a child of God. Just like Paul and Silas.
They were specifically and unjustly being punished for their faith. For preaching the gospel we know today and Christ which we call Savior and King. They were experiencing true persecution, and not just inconveniences we too often feel in our every day life. And yet, they were rejoicing in the God who had led them there by His Spirit. More than that, those in the jail were listening y’all.
People are listening, watching as those of us who are believers react and respond to life, circumstances, situations and inconveniences. They see what it is we truly place our hope and faith in when we face the dark of midnight.
Paul and Silas were living testimonies that circumstances don’t define our hope, our joy, our faith, the gospel, Christ Himself. Not a bit of it weighed them down as they were bleeding and chained in that prison. They knew where God intended to have them, to use them, to spread His truth and His word at just the right time, that no one else would be fit for that time and those men in prison.
Maybe you’re not called out to international missions, but you are called as a believer to carry the gospel with you each day, in each interaction and circumstance. And how you respond to the stressors of this life could be the only glimpse of Christ a person might have, and that you were called to be in that place at that time, even if it’s an inconvenience to you, it could mean eternity to someone else.
Because when you continue to read in chapter 16 you see a jailer and his family believing and receiving Christ as their hope and redemption. That is worth the inconvenience of your time and your life.
I write and delete quite a bit when I am writing on singleness. Because I fear what I say will be misconstrued or even so boldly taken as offensive. But what I struggle with more is the tension I feel within the church more and more for singles. My heart is for them, because I am one of them. It’s something I have grown into wrestling with over the years and now find as I look around the landscape a desperate need for us within the walls of the church and in the community.
You’ve likely heard the statistics that people now-a-days are waiting to get married later in life (27 ain’t that late y’all) and there are more singles than in years past whether from never marrieds, divorce, widowhood.
So we’re prevalent in numbers and also in need. We are a subset based upon our marital status has left us wanting community, wanting a safe haven, a place to be. To walk out lives of faith with others. Sometimes that means with couples guiding the way, other times that’s in similar communities, and invariably it means living life with groups of the same sex because we are often drawn to what we know and do daily.
But when I look at the landscape of churches these days, I don’t see much modeled in the legitimacy of singleness in leadership. Yes, you’ll have a handful in the pre-school or nursery ministries, maybe even in kid’s ministry that are singles. You’ll have a couple of singles leading life groups that are for singles. But what you don’t see are singles in pastoral positions for the most part. (I put a contingent on there because I know of ONE) I don’t see singles in other leadership roles within a church staff.
To me it seems that we aren’t counted worthy in the church until there’s a band attached to our fingers. That we cannot be taken seriously as leaders, servants in the church, unless we have a spouse. I understand the difficulties of leading in ministry, and when you are single, the inherent loneliness that surrounds you in that. I have seen it first hand and heard from others.
It just makes me wonder what the undercurrent culture we are building in the church is saying to those of us who are single. That we aren’t worthy? That we only matter yea far and no further? That we can be responsible for babies and teaching kids, but don’t get us near a group of grown adults? Or that we’ll read Paul’s words in the Bible, learn from words given him by God and then forget that he too was single. Or that frankly Christ Himself was single throughout His ministry here with us. The Son of God brought forth here in earth was never married. In His 30s.
And yet, we can’t be bothered to consider how singles can impact the world with their faith just by pouring a bit more into them? That we’d rather discount their abilities simply out of the lack of a spouse. We’d discount their calling God has given them, their spiritual giftedness, simply due to their marital status.
Maybe this is my soap box currently. That the church has moved corporately in many ways to the family, without realizing the very definition of family was long ago crushed and restructured by Christ-brothers and sisters defined by faith and not blood. That we are all the Bride of Christ.
Singleness can be hard. Actually it is hard.
Yes I hear marriage is hard too, and I have seen first hand from friends and family that it is hard as well.
But some days, it is just plain hard.
You’re the one responsible for all the bills. You’re the one who has to figure out dinner, lunch the following day, laundry getting folded and live into this social life so that you might meet someone you’d sit across a table from on Taco Tuesday at Dave & Buster’s (oh that’s a post coming soon y’all, cause it happened).
You’re the one at night, after a day of just life, that comes in to an empty home and just want to bounce life off of someone else. Yes, friends are there. Yes siblings and parents are there. But it’s just hard when you’re single.
And we don’t talk too much about it. It sort of has a stigma attached to it that we get all this “free time” and what not, so we should hush up or we’ll be likened to a spinster. So we hush up and muddle on. Until we stumble…until we hit a bump or a quiet space and we just find it’s hard to be alone.
I don’t have a magic fix or application here today y’all…this thought of the hard single life has become prevalent in my writing privately at the moment, and my thoughts. When you’re 36 and single, you find the people around you are for the most part married up, having babies, and living their coupled lives. So maybe you’re single, recently so after the holidays (oof…another topic for another post), or maybe you’re just finding yourself at a place in life that your marital status as a single is just hard.
IT’S OKAY. It is hard. That’s what I am slowly going to start diving in around here. Giving you all a glimpse of single life (if you’ve not been privy to it as a married up for a bit) and talking through some of finer points of dating in your 30s (oh the joys and hilarity that ensue), navigating how your faith and singleness intersect and maybe dropping some truth bombs on what it means to be #wifematerial.
Y’all know I love some awards shows. I truly believe the tide of conversation is changing our landscape as we see the revolution of “Me Too” and “Time’s Up” on the forefront of Hollywood. Probably the most profound words I have heard in regards to the change of culture in our country were uttered during last night’s 75th annual Golden Globe Awards.
It held a different feel last night than the pomp and comedic nature it normally has, and for that I respect the presenters, attendees and winners/losers for that. You can change the conversation when it hits deep and it matters. So on this Monday, I wanted to share Oprah Winfrey’s words from her acceptance of the Cecil B. Demille Award for lifetime achievement-the first African-American woman to receive this award.
You can read her entire speech here from CNN. It truly is a new day.
I think we all can agree on resolutions in the new year…they tend to be made with good intentions and often we find by next week we aren’t really doing too well with them, and we give up. Several years ago I joined the OneWord365 community where you pick a word to be the theme of your year. That’s often one I find I can stick to as well until around April or May, then revisit in the fall. I may even venture into another word theme for the year as I keep having a word pop up on my heart and mind for 2018, especially as I reflect back on 2017, as we are want to do these early days of a new year.
This year I wanted more of a prayer for my life. I am walking into this year knowing there are things I will accomplish and goals I want to set for myself. One in particular is getting certified to teach POUND fitness classes. I have been taking those classes for two year, growing to love it and the community it has brought. Another is to finish writing my book and have it submitted to literary agents. It’s a big goal but one I have carried year to year for a bit too long.
But the more I thought on this new year I couldn’t help but feel this pull to have a prayer for the year. For each month, each week, each day and even each moment. I desired to bring me back to the recognition of His Presence in moments, in situations, in my life in all things. I stumbled upon the words of someone as I was thinking through what my prayer would be, and it hit exactly where I was desiring to be in 2018.
Let me approach each moment as one God has appointed for His glory.
I don’t know about anyone else but that prayer, those words, were meant exactly for me to carry, to ruminate on, to pray fervently for throughout 2018. I want to cling to them and the moments He has appointed for me. Each and every one.
The hard ones? Yep.
The doubting ones? You got it.
The mundane ones? Um yeah.
The joyful ones? Oh yes.
And I have found that already I am running to those words as I begin to encounter moments where I can’t quite figure out why I’m in it, or how I should navigate it. Let me approach it knowing He has appointed it…not for me and my self, but for Him and His glory. It doesn’t mean all the moments will be good or #blessed.
It does mean I will need to look for Him in the moments, the days, the weeks, the months ahead, being proactive in seeking Him rather than retrospective of seeing Him when looking back. Because we aren’t too far gone from Christmas, and the reason for the season, Immanuel Himself. God with us. He is with me in all things, if I approach it with Him, if I pray to seek Him, preparing before any and every thing to know He is in control, He is good even when I fail at keeping my resolutions.
Do you have a resolution? A word for 2018? Or even a prayer or mission statement for your life? Or even a Scripture? I’d love to hear about it, so share below!
I heard him rattle of phrases such as Daniel in the den, Moses at the burning bush, David and Goliath. It’s that “Go Big or Go Home” mentality but with a spiritual twist on it. As believers we often point to the big works of God and want that for ourselves. To be plucked out of shepherding of the field to take down a giant. From unknown in the hard work of daily tending to on the largest stage of battle slaying a mouthy colossus of a man, showing him our God is bigger. Our ark to build for safety away from the sin-filled world around us.
Whether we want to admit it or not, we all want that big moment. To go from unknown to known. From feeling meaningless in our work for God to meaningful. When we get the small or seemingly mundane task, we fight against it. We wage in the tension of the small, our obedience in it because it feels like there should be more. We should be more. More known. We wonder if we’ve been forgotten by God in our small things. Are we not special enough to get the call for something big for God? Where’s our ark? Where’s our Isaac? Can we not be trusted with such big works for Him?
And so we give up in our daily, small works for Him. Our faith falters, we stumble in our egos and emotions. We question, doubt, we throw our hands up in frustration. We believe ourselves to be less than everything He’s said we are to Him, to one another. Or better yet, we strive after arks of our own building and battles that aren’t ours to wage. All as a means to make ourselves known more to God. To be seen by the One who sees all, who knows all-especially those whom He created…that’s us. Because we feel as though we don’t much matter unless He’s giving us something big to do, a platform or cause, a war to fight on His behalf that we’ve not been called to. We busy ourselves with work that isn’t ours all for the banner of being known, of mattering to God.
Mary and Martha come to mind…one recognized the immediacy of the task at hand-being with Christ, called to obedience in sitting at His feet, being in His Presence, knowing Him. The other? Well she looks a lot like me. Busying herself to matter to Him, all the while He’s asking me to come sit, be in His Presence. He’s whispering that I matter because He’s chosen to dwell with me, here and now. Not for what I can do big for Him but for simply meeting Him there, in my small, in my mundane, in my daily. Hour to hour, moment to moment.
That “Go Big or Go Home” mentality that calls us to this new year with new pages to write on our stories may look like small moments. Small yeses in the mundane, hourly obedience and living out the fruit of joy, peace, patience, kindness in the immediate things. So maybe that means sitting a bit longer at His feet, in His Presence rather than rushing to organize that conference or speak from a platform. Maybe that is what matters most to Him-your attention to Him and not to the stuff.
Regardless of what we do or don’t do, we matter to Him. We matter so much He came to be with us, to go before us and be the sacrifice in our place, to take on our guilt, shame, sin so that we could be in relationship with Him, with God, and the Holy Spirit. He chose us because we matter to Him…so maybe your obedience in the small, in the seemingly mundane is meaningful. Maybe today He just wants you, your attention, your presence with Him.