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 Legitimacy of Singlehood

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.

Oh That Single Life We Weave

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.

The Adulterous Single

I thought a commandment didn’t apply to me.

Yep, one of the TEN COMMANDMENTS.

It’s the one about adultery. Because I’m a single, I definitely felt like that just didn’t apply to me. I’m good on that one God, because obviously, doesn’t apply! That was my exact thoughts. Mark it off, I’m good.

But here’s the thing on this. I don’t have to be married to commit adultery. Obviously the very literal line of thinking leads to sexual immorality, whether it’s pre-marital or any of the other related immoral acts related to sexual relations. The one that hit me though was that I have a propensity to an adulterous heart. A heart that puts so much above my covenant relationship with God. A heart that will easily lean into work, people, stuff with more love and focus, giving itself away above my first love, that love with God.

Ouch.

Adultery does apply to me as a single individual. It applies to all of us, regardless of our marital status. It is a heart issue, it’s a covenantal issue. One that starts with God and my heart, not at the altar with another individual.

Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.

Proverbs 4:23 (ESV)

Never has that verse become more vivid, breathing and real than looking at it in the context of my adulterous ways in relationship with God. Everything I do flows from my heart. Every action, thought, word…every bit of it, and if my heart isn’t committed and pursuing the love of God in all things? Well that’s where the convenient opportunity of adultery slips in. When I am not guarding that fickle heart, being on consistent watch of it’s consumption and output, then it’ll easily wonder to other, lesser loves. It’ll pursue side pieces that catch it’s eye rather than God Himself, the One Who has proven faithful and good, over and over again.

As much as I’d like to believe I have that adultery thing on lock-down as a single gal, the truth of the matter is that I am far from it, and it does apply to us all. My adulterous heart should be the guarded heart, giving life to the relationship with God and not to the other pursuits that so easily ensnare and entice me from my first love.

Rings, Babies and a Steadfast Spirit

Ever have one of those times where you know you are being utterly ridiculous and yet you find that you just dive head first into it? Just me? Oh good.

9fdc122dc2de2dd09e55c2c0b7f97beb--funny-engagement-quotes-engagement-announcement-funnyI have a multitude of friends who are currently pregnant right now, like it’s crazy how many women I know expecting in the next three months. It’s that stage of my life where the weddings have subsided and the pregnancies have come flooding in. And I am so overjoyed for each one, to see God use my friends to raise up the next generation. Unfortunately I found that feelings and emotions of being left out, a reminder of the lie that I am alone kept bubbling up at times.

When I saw a woman I was distant friends with post that she was now engaged it caused all the emotions of being left out and doubting God to just flood out of nowhere. I am truly happy for her, but in that moment, I made it about me. I made it about the lies that are fed to us over and over again, to doubt God and to step outside of His promise for our lives. I was shocked at how suddenly it felt like a tide of just utter bitterness, jealousy and outright frustration with God Himself came pouring out of me. Y’all, it wasn’t pretty and it definitely wasn’t the marker of a  friend or a guarded heart.

It was a flashing warning light that an area of my heart had been breached and was undergoing attack. That I had allowed it to go unmaintained and unchecked because so easily I slip into this comfort zone of life and put myself on autopilot. For a bit I sat in that mood, in that temperament of just irritation and doubt. As I turned to the consoling nature that social media likes to tell us it is, a verse was at the very top of a post and it dug right into the real issue-a clean heart and a steadfast spirit.

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.

Psalm 51:10 

Jealousy and doubt had wormed in and shaken my spirit. I had allowed them in because I wasn’t resting in the steadfast spirit God establishes. Nope, I was resting in the comfort of my own strength (which is just weakness with an ego in the flesh) and my own way. I was deliberately choosing to doubt instead of trust in what I know to be true. To trust in WHO I know to be true.

And it’s hard y’all. It’s hard not to live in that jealousy and doubt, to not just walk away and do it in my own way, but He’s shown again and again He is faithful to what He has promised-which is my good. Not what I define as my good, but the very best that He knows there is for me. But I have to make the choice, over and over again, to seek Him to create that clean heart in me and to renew that spirit of steadfastness. I have to be dutifully firm in the spirit He has created in me. Unwavering when so many things seek to buffet me about.

It doesn’t mean I don’t get excited when friends share their news of an engagement or an expected arrival of a baby, or the purchase of a new car or a thousand other things. Because that is God’s goodness for them in their lives, and He’s got some pretty amazing things planned for me as well if I but remain steadfast in spirit. It means I deliberately choose to not doubt in those moments, but take them to Him with an honest heart.

The Single Writer Rant

Can I tell y’all something? I get a bit agitated when I read Christian single columns or books on dating. That’s my thing right? Like that is exactly what I’m working on a book proposal for, and I hate reading on the subject?

Yes, yes I do.

Here’s the reason why it bothers me so much.

Because at *almost* 36 years of age, I have a very hard time finding a substantive book on dating/Christian singleness that isn’t fluffy junk or preparation for marriage only written by another single Christian. Oh don’t get me wrong, there’s some good stuff out there and I am a big fan of several authors on the matter. The problem lies in when I scroll to their bio (on internet articles) or flip the back cover open. Every single one of them says “married to…” or “wife of…”

Yes I want their expertise and knowledge on this stage of life…but what if this stage is ultimately my landing spot? I want to know how to live in this place of life from someone whose navigating it themselves as a single. My ultimate goal in life isn’t marriage, and most days I don’t think about it. There are days I long for it, and pray about it, and my future husband, yes. (Y’all he needs your prayers, cause I’m obviously quite a handful) My ultimate goal in life is to live in obedience to God, moving ever closer to Christ and who He would have me be.

And so I bring my rant to you the church, to the fellow writers and singletons in the church…let’s step into our lives fully, and talk about them. Let’s be honest enough with ourselves and with our people to learn and grow from one another. I wouldn’t let a fresh out of college kid tell me about the navigation of retirement, so why sit back and let marrieds tell us about our single life? I bring it to the publishers, the editors, the curriculum people…singles in the church and out of the church need their voice in print, in studies, in in-depth richness that pursues more than a marital outcome, but a life shaped and molded for Christ’s use.

A One-Woman Man

Y’all, I normally don’t post mid-day and rarely link to other sites to get you over there but singles, this one stuck. I wanted to share this post over at Desiring God with you as a means of conversation and dialogue, among both women and men.

Because it is needed y’all.

So here it is. 

I’d love to open up the comments below and get your feedback, your thoughts and well…just your opinion on this. It’s something I am currently writing about in the book and definitely feel the need to place on the table with singles (and marrieds too y’all…)