Singled Out in Prayer

Over the month of July I was out of town almost every weekend, traveling for birthdays, weddings and concerts. While it was fun for the summer, it also removed me from my home church most Sundays. If I am honest, it was also a bit of a breather as I have been in some major wrestling on the state of the Baptist church as a whole and specifically the Southern Baptist church which I have been a part of for most of my adult years (and all of my childhood).¬†That’s at least a chapter in my second book for sure-how to wrestle in the Southern Baptist ring.

Last Sunday found my first weekend home in what felt like ages, so part of me was looking forward to being back at church and the other part was really just hoping to sleep in. The wrestling of my inner dialogue that many have on a Sunday morning hit full force but I made myself get my butt to a seat in our church plant service. I glance at the bulletin to see what Scripture we’ll be reading and see it’s the Armor of God in Ephesians…

WOOHOO! I missed the entire chapter plus on marriage!” was my initial thought. But then our pastor does the ole switcharoo. Preaching off script on marriage instead. The weekend prior I was at a wedding. The weekend before I was celebrating another birthday being single. Needless to say, my head and heart wanted to get up and walk out. My emotions were closing off and crossing my arms, thinking “well this won’t apply to me, should’ve stayed in my pajamas with coffee.”

This also fell after a conversation earlier in the week where it felt as though I was being single-shamed because I didn’t have a husband and kids to keep me busy and therefore could take on something. (For transparency’s sake, this wasn’t at my job) It may not have been the intention of the individuals but we all need some self-awareness of our words, even¬†especially me.

So as I sat in the building God built, alongside brothers and sisters, I started having this conversation internally that I have to admit was Spirit influenced. God was being very direct that you know what, His Church isn’t me-centered, it’s Him-Centered.¬†As it should be. And what if me praying for the marriages in that room was what He needed from me today. It wasn’t what I could get from Him but what He was asking of me, obedience in what can seem such a meaningless thing in the work of God but what He wants of me. Not to be me-focused, seeking Jesus-and out of life, but what I can do to serve Him. Giving up more of me so I can be fully who He knows I can be.

What would it look like to pray for every marriage I am around, that I know of? To pray over friends’ and families’ marriages that they would be God-centered, building a covenant relationship around love and respect, Biblical submission and leadership, authority and mutuality. That they would be the relationships I see as God-honoring and desire after the good things in those, rather than the Hallmark-saturated romance we are often using for relationships. How would the church look then? How would our communities and workplaces look?

Having that change of ‘tude made me grateful I had gone to church last week, that I’d been in a sermon on marriage and that even at the end our pastor made it a point to say he knew there were single individuals present and for us to be in fervent prayer for future spouses as well, just as he’d directed the spouses present to pray for one another. It was a reminder that I may not have a future spouse but I can sure pray for each and every one of them I know, and for my single friends as well to have spouses of the same prayerful focus.

The Imitation Game

“Therefore be imitators of God as dear children.” Ephesians 5:1

When we imitate God, we love those even when they hate us. We love them regardless of their actions, emotions or words. We love them in spite of how they treat us or how they reciprocate. It is a self-sacrificial love that we are called to give because He loved us when we despised Him, we turned our backs on Him and we ran to other things to satisfy us.

(Note: If you are in an abusive or unhealthy relationship, including co-dependency, please seek help. This isn’t a post on justification of staying in those relationships)

379876_10101402596078105_609126165_nI think about my childhood alot when I think on imitating others. I grew up with the baby, and regardless of my bratty ways, I wanted to be my sister. I looked up to her in so many ways, and tried diligently to imitate her, eventhough she had seven years seniority on me. I wanted to be right by her, follow her around and do what she did for several years. I was annoying about it, and very “kid-sister”ish. I bugged her and her friends. There were times she simply did not want me around because she was figuring out who she is, and who her friends were at that stage.

In looking at it through the lens of imitating God, He wants us around Him. He desires for us to take on His attributes and likeness. It’s not creepy or annoying to Him, it’s His purpose for our lives. Now, as a follower of Him, the pattern of my life should resemble that of His, not what it once was in my former self. I don’t conform to what I once was, this mold of what the world says I should be, but rather a freeing replica of Him-full of love, compassion and gentleness. Wisdom and understanding growing in me as I grow in His likeness.

People have remarked when they meet my sister and me how much we resemble one another. Shouldn’t there be a family resemblance if we are imitating God? It stands to reason that if I am in God’s Word, in relationship with Him daily, and seeking Him in all things that I should have some of the traits of my Father right?

Matthew Henry shares in his commentary that of all the things we should resemble of God, and the one we are able to pursue with fervor and full strength is that of “His love and pardoning goodness.” Our understanding and wisdom cannot fully be imitated of God’s this side of heaven as we cannot obtain perfection in those. But love? Oh love is what He has given us, He has poured out on us, and filled us with. I can be fully like God in one way, and that is by His love.

It is not withheld from me, so why should I withhold that from another who seeks it, who needs it? Go beyond loving those who love you. That’s the easy part. God showed us the difficult in loving others when they are your enemy, when they despise you or hate you. Let’s imitate who He is instead of who we want to be. We give Him the greatest glory in how we love by Him, through Him and with Him.