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.

Peter’s Concerns

Then He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, be killed, and rise after three days. He was openly talking about this. So Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him. But turning around and looking at His disciples, He rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind Me, Satan, because you’re not thinking about God’s concerns, but man’s!”

Mark 8:31-33 (HCSB)

Growing up in the church, this story of Christ talking about His imminent death wasn’t one covered often on the flannelgraph. We’d have the mini-loaves and fishes demonstration, the healing of the blind man, but there wasn’t a discussion on this story that is a turning point in the disciples’ relationship with Christ.

It wasn’t until I was older that I read this story, and was taken aback at how Christ called Peter Satan. I mean, this guy had his issues, for sure, but he was a tad bit mistaken and Christ called him the devil?

For years I struggled with this story, three verses wedged into Mark and the rebuke of Peter. I just couldn’t grasp why Peter’s concerns over Christ’s revelation of His death would be worth such harsh language from the Messiah.

Now I get it though…I see where Christ was frustrated because the disciples were still concerning themselves with the temporary. They were honed in on human concerns, such as bread for their boat trip, than they were for the ministry Christ was revealing throughout their journey. They had been front row for the casting out of demons, the healings of many, the raising of the dead girl, and even the teachings to the multitudes.

And they just weren’t getting it.

They were anxious over food. Over losing Christ.

Yet, don’t we often do the same? Even in our utter dependence on Him, in our valleys and our mountains we concern ourselves with the temporary of this earth. We find ourselves worrying over a test, money, or our marital status, all of which are things to be concerned over in our human thinking. But Christ reminds us here that these aren’t concerns to God. They just aren’t. That’s not to cast off these are trivial or meaningless.

They are temporary. Fleeting. Momentary. Earth-bound.

Christ calls us to the eternal. Being concerned with love, compassion, mercy, justice, patience, redemption, salvation. He calls us beyond bread to Living Water. To have cares and concerns that reflect His heart and His concerns. We know He is sovereign in our temporary, but we must also be diligent to keep the eternal as the priority.

What if Ruth was your call to ministry? To minister to other women, to hearts that were seeing Christ in you? 

I’m reading through the familiar story of her life with a new perspective, new experiences and a God who whispers His truth revealing into my heart at just the right moment…

For me it’s not about Boaz, the widowing or the marriage bond of in-laws. It’s about the women, Naomi especially. God chose to work in her, setting her in a foreign land and then losing the things that would have defined her in context of her land and time. The same we do here, now. Husbands. Children. She was those things. And then she wasn’t.

She was the living God lived out to Orpah and Ruth. She was the God of Israel to women of Moab. One responded and one didn’t. One looked to her life, her God and wanted it so much so that she abandoned all she knew to cling to Naomi, to be in the presence of the God she saw in her. The other went back to what she knew, and we aren’t really sure of her story after that.

But we see the impact of Naomi, of her story. Even in her bitterness she didn’t stray from God. She oversaw her daughter in law, now calling her daughter. She cared for her and her future, a future that didn’t look so great but only asked for faith. Faith in the God Who took her to Moab complete and brought her back empty. Naomi’s faith shone through, even as Ruth sought to glean from a harvest. A harvest God had provided, and knew long before we be pivotal in the story of the lineage of Christ.

Ruth was exercising faith in the simple things because she had seen it lived out by Naomi throughout the good and the very bad. She simply asked to collect God’s provision, and Naomi encouraged her to go and do.

I cannot help but be joyful at this new perspective, of Naomi’s ministry to Ruth, to living out the God of Israel before women who were foreigners, who ended up being family. She loved and lived, even in bad circumstances. She mentored and fostered love in the household in order to bring about God’s provision that He set about far before Naomi could fathom.

I don’t know about you, but it makes me realize the relationships we have with other women is pivotal to our own with Christ. God will use even the bad for His glory and our good. He’s in the small, He provides, if we but be obedient in the simple, the daily steps of faith. It’s a call to minister even when we don’t feel like we can, when we don’t see how any good will come of it, and to allow those women into our lives who desperately want the Jesus they see in us.

 

For Such a Time as This

There’s something to be said for Nike’s slogan of “Just Do It.”

The last few days I have pondered career path and steps. It’s been almost a year since I changed job streams and I have to consider what that has taught me, brought me, and fought within me. If someone tells you it’s easy changing your entire path of career, they are lying to you. It is hard. Change is difficult and we all know that, but when you’ve pursued something and poured your life into something for a decade and then leave it? Yeah, it’s like a marriage ending (or what I would think is a marriage, I’m single after all).

Through it, as I have referenced through many posts over this last year, I have found what I do does not define who I am. I let it for ten years of my life. Actually probably more like ten and 10 months. 🙂 (Work in progress y’all). I discovered through the course of that decade a calling to ministry far beyond what I could have ever dreamt up back in college on my own. It has to be a God thing, and it has to be His work and not mine.

But y’all, I have a confession here. It’s my safe space among a supportive and nurturing community (and a couple of friends who call me on my junk). I have been running from the call. I have been excusing, distracted, and down-right defiant about it. I do well at stubborn, ask my momma about that. Instead of allowing growth in me, choosing to hustle on this call of obedience I slid into comfort and coveting. I’d look at what others were doing and wonder why I wasn’t there, or getting that opportunity.

Jealousy and coveting are not good looks on anyone, and especially on my heart. Yuck.

As I was talking with a friend recently about some major shifts in his ministry, I kept spurring him on, wishing he’d see from this side of the view that God has given him this for such a time as this in his life. I poured words of affirmation and encouragement into him, seeing first hand the work God is doing through him in the ministry He’s placed him in now. The heaviness I saw in my friend just under a year ago has changed, and maybe that’s all a show, but it’s difficult in our friendship to hide that kind of weight.

I thought more and more on the conversations we had exchanged the last few months, and the recent revelation of a potential new shift in his ministry and I rejoiced. He was made for this, after years of work and toil this is where God had brought him. That’s when I turned that perspective on myself. Reminding myself that I too had a call to ministry. One that gets rough, hard and doesn’t look like much to those around me. But it’s there.

Actually it’s here. Now. It’s for such a time as this. So instead of allowing the beaten down attitude, the comfort of stagnation and the excuses of distraction to continue, we push on. We take hold of the promise of the prize before us, and we continue to run. We run not in our power but His, knowing this calling isn’t one of our strength but of His might.

So we just do it. For such a time as this.

Are They Having Fun Without Me?

That question didn’t plague me until my mid-twenties. Never more did it haunt my thoughts than when I thought about all the other women in the singles ministry at my church.

You see for most of my life I preferred the company of boys. I grew up in a neighborhood full of them, and with a seven year age gap with my sister, I found the boys much more apt buddies. As life progressed for me throughout those awkward middle school (cause let’s just admit we are all awkward in middle school, okay?) and even through most of high school I migrated to being one of the guys. I could count on one hand the number of female friends I had, and down to one or two fingers the besties I would find in the female genre.

I just preferred guys. Things were easier, there was less drama, and they weren’t competing for attention at that point (at least not that I chose to see). Even into college I had two close female friends, and a multitude of male friends. Some of my closest friendships from college were with males, and it didn’t help matters that I was working and majoring in sports administration.

It wasn’t until several years later, as I settled into life as a young professional with a job and a home church that I began to crave that female friendship more. The desire was met by some amazing women in the singles ministry at the church I began to call home. Quickly I realized that all those years of being around the guys had not prepared me for the massive insecurity I felt among a group of women, in various age brackets and stages of life.

Nervously I tiptoed around the women to observe and marvel at how they navigated the large group dynamic, often squaring off to “call mine” on a single man within the ministry. I laughed at this in my naïve heart, not knowing that this is often the case in singles ministries as women are about a billion to 3 ratio to men. (*not scientifically proven, just from a multiple experiences y’all) There were nights though that I wondered if they were all off somewhere having fun without me. Simply because I wasn’t secure enough in my relationships with women to know any different or include myself in more conversations.

Anxiety would rise up as I sought to belong, “be in community” as they often preached from the stage, to know I had a place with these women. No where did fear, doubt and insecurity play a bigger and louder song on repeat than in those first months dipping into a ministry at a church. Admittedly this has happened since then as well, as I navigate visiting a new church, seeking out the home I wanted to call mine in a new city, desiring others who would welcome me and challenge me as that first group did many years ago.

Now I sit on the opposite side, desiring to create women’s ministry within my church as once again our ratio sits at about a billion to three males. I am one of a tight group of women who seek to serve and love others within our church because we are called and commanded to do so. My heart goes out to the new faces and new hearts that step through the doors each week, because I was once in those very cute heels myself. Wondering if I was being judged for what I had chosen to wear, worrying that women were saying “Oh great, another single female when there’s already a bajillion of us here”, or never being engaged in conversation simply because I am overlooked, because I blended.

I know those doubts and lies that our hearts want us to believe because our hearts are flesh. They deceive even on our best days. When our heart yearns for community, we will never feel more alone than in a room full of people. Our minds tell us that everyone else is having fun without us, and we weren’t meant to be in community. When in reality, we are all desiring after the ability to be known, by others and by God. We take those steps into church doors because of God’s whisper for us to be in community with one another, loving one another as we love Him.

So if that’s you…the one who believes fun is being had without you I challenge you to step out one foot more, lean in just a bit closer and cast aside the fear of remaining unknown. And if that’s you…the one who is already in ministry I challenge you to step out one foot more, lean in just a bit closer and cast aside the fear of rejection.

 

We are not having fun without you because we are without you in our midst.

The Awkward Single.

Last year around this time I was interested in someone…We didn’t know one another very well but had gotten coffee once to chat. Nothing too serious, no proclaiments of love or the brushing of hands over the table. Over the coming months, as I began dating someone else, I would bump into him on occasion…Nashville isn’t all that big y’all. Occasionally I would laugh at the little crush I had developed on him briefly last year, and how even in your 30s you can still get crushes.

I ran into him, after really not seeing him for about seven months, at the church I am now attending. One would have thought it would be awkward, seeing someone I had once (just a year before) been interested in. Eventhough I am single, and I believe he is too, there wasn’t awkwardness. There was friendliness that was not forced or disingenuous. It was a friendly catch up with someone I hadn’t seen in months.

It got me to thinking about how awkward it becomes when you develop this expectation with a person you have a romantic interest in that never comes to fruition. I see it play out, and have had it happen to me before, especially within the church, where the awkwardness drives the interactions, conversations, and often the individuals. It consumes their time and thoughts, and often detracts from their worship. It can mar relationships far beyond just the one there was an interest in and even push some to leave the church. Sadly over the years in ministry, and specifically being involved in singles ministries, it becomes cyclical.

Acknowledge the awkward, but don’t let it rule you. After all, you were made to be so much more than a person carrying around unmet expectations. When you love God, it becomes just a smidge easier to love others, even in the awkward, even in the strained. Don’t let an unrequited crush push you out of worshiping the God who loves you more than _________. Lay aside the expectations of finding your mate in ministry. The only expectation we should carry into church is the expectation of the presence of God with us.

My Dip In The Ocean

As I was looking through Instagram yesterday I saw a picture my friend Chris had posted of being in PCB for Big Stuf camp. The view of the parking lot and another hotel flooded me with memories from when I went to church camp there 14 years ago. As I started thinking about that particular camp, as it was my last in the youth group at my hometown church, I suddenly realized it was the exact day 14 years ago that asked Christ into my life.

This picture was taken 14 days ago this morning as my youth leader baptized me in the Gulf of Mexico as I could not wait to obey and follow my salvation with it. These moments have changed me, who I am, forever. I sit here now as a teenage Christian of sorts, reminiscing on those first moments of my coming to life in Christ.

I held a very defiant attitude about life for most of my childhood. Many say that’s a product of being the youngest child, but I definitely chose my reactions and actions purposefully for many years. I often call this the “You’re not the boss of me” mindset. Let’s be honest, I still wrestle with that from time to time. Now though, it’s a conversation I have with God.

For some of those teenage years I thought I did know Christ, having grown up in the church. Yet deep down, on that Friday night in a hotel in Panama City my heart told me otherwise. I had been having a conversation with one of my friends in the room with me about feeling some tug on my heart that I couldn’t explain. I remember seeing others in worship time and not feeling the same draw to worship, at all. (Many can debate this topic but I know my heart and how it is drawn to music. I knew something wasn’t right.)

I am thankful for youth leaders and their families because our minister’s wife took time to talk specifically with me about my heart in relationship with Christ. There was no shame in coming to question where my life was in the salvation story because head knowledge isn’t the same as heart knowledge. Just because one grows up in a church does not mean one simply is a believer. i had to come to terms with that to recognize my eternity was hinging on pride and what others would think of me.

Fourteen years later looks very different in a life following Christ, loving the way He does, and still at times battling the flesh that wants to be its own person. I will never regret that choice, because life is far greater knowing Him than being alone in this world. It’s not easy, but it’s worth it. Don’t be surprised if I get excited about church camps because for me, they changed my eternity. They are worth it. I pray every teenager has that opportunity. Investing in the lives of teenagers is vital and I am so thankful for each and every person who works in that ministry. It is another reason why I am involved in college ministry, as I was thrust into college right after my salvation and got lost a bit.

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