Singleness- A Discussion

 

Welcome to our discussion on living life a a single in the Christian world.  What does joy, fulfillment and contentment look like?  Join us for a 20 minute conversation surrounding this issue close to our hearts.

Have questions?  Please hit the “Ask Stacie” tab.  I would love to hear from you!

“Please God, Anything but Single!”

I remember the first time I discovered the poem “The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost.  I was 9 years old and living in Japan as a military kid.  Something about this poem captivated me:

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.-  Robert Frost

At 10 years old I could not have understood that the road less traveled would feel adventurous, difficult and lonely.  Almost a decade later I found myself with an infant faith in Jesus, calling me to His narrow way:

Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many.  For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.- Jesus (Matthew 7:13-14)

In a hand written letter to God, I surrender my life to Jesus, committing to the road less traveled.  I only had one stipulation.  I could not do it single.  I would do anything God asked.  I just could not do it alone.  I would need a partner in marriage.

I found my letter tucked away in a book years later.  I was 35, still single and all I could do was thank God that He was faithful to what I offered, in spite of my footnote.  He had been gracious to that 19 year old young woman, longing for love and connection.

desert-279862_960_720The Experience of Single Life

My struggles were the same as most young women making their way in the world without a husband.  I lived on one income.  I had little to no savings.  I struggled with feeling like I was wandering through life.  I saw most of my friends get married, have children and buy a home.  I had none of these.  I worshiped in a church where everyone seemed to be on the same road of raising a family.  Most sermon stories didn’t apply to me and it seemed I was expected to only serve with children.  I did a lot of things alone: grocery shopping, meal times, car maintenance, sitting in church services, paying bills, grieving a broken heart, resolving conflict, gaining and losing friendships, crying, traveling, moving, praying and sleeping.  I could go days without hugging another human being.  If you are single, maybe you get this.

I was blessed with a caring, loving family and good friends through these years.  The body of Christ became His grace to me and I found sweetness in these relationships.  I was never fully alone, but if truth be told, there is no relationship equivalent to marriage.

I didn’t know why this was my path, but I knew God’s response to my questions.  This was the good life God was giving me.  God’s goodness was keeping me in the absence of a deep longing and this road was leading to LIFE.

A Good Life?

Chances are, if you reading this it is because you are single or have a close friend who struggles with the unmet longing for marriage.  There are a hundred issues, questions, blessings and struggles that come with being single.  But I have become convinced that there is only one thing that will anchor you to find life during this season.

Can you know the goodness of God when you live in the absence of a deep longing?  Stop and read that again.  When I want something so much it aches, is God still being good to me when He says “no?”  Does love look like allowing me to live in the absence?

Everyone grieves the absence of something.   A woman grieves the husband she may never have.  A man grieves the income he may never have.  A wife grieves the children she may never have.  A widow grieve the health that is long behind her.  Death. Sickness. The Christian life is a dance of grieving what is not yet in our broken world, but rejoicing in the presence, power, and person of Jesus.  This rejoicing is not just a bland affirmation of a belief.  It is a vibrant experience of fullness.

Two Roads

There are only two roads to travel on this journey.  If the goodness and intimate friendship you have with God does not anchor your heart, then the absence of a longing will be become unbearable.  You will live in the frustration, exhaustion, fear and never ending consuming thoughts of how to get your longing met all on your own.  You will have displaced a good and kind God, with an idol of your own; marriage.

And when your idol fails you, disappoints you and leaves you again to your own devices, you will again find yourself longing for an intangible something.

Or you can take the road less traveled.  This road bends the heart and knee to the goodness of God.  This road leads to an intimacy that merely church-ing your way through life can not even comprehend.  This is the road that gets rocky, but does not abandon you to fall.  This road leads to true life, deep relationships, a faithful walk with Jesus, partnering with God in His work in the world and experiencing a life that few will ever know.

Here, you find the truest meaning of your life: God invites you to partake of His divine presence and participate in His divine purpose.  He is up to something in the world and you are called to be part of it.  You were meant for more than the four walls of a home and marriage (both of which are good).  You were meant for a grand life that touches the entire world around you.  You were meant to reflect God’s goodness in a way for which you alone were created.

But how can we reflect His goodness to the world around us if we lose sight of it when He does not bend to our demands?

Over the years, I have learned to live in the truth of the road not traveled:

For the Lord God is a sun and shield;
    the Lord bestows favor and honor.
No good thing does he withhold
    from those who walk uprightly.
O Lord of hosts,
    blessed is the one who trusts in you! -Psalm 84: 11-12

I love when God is a sun to me, lighting me up in my world.  This garners the favor and admiration of others.  But I know what it is like for God to be my shield.  This is when I feel hidden from the world for my good and for His purposes.

Now, as a wife, mother, neighbor, friend, daughter, sister and pastor, I still strive to walk the road less traveled.  I love my wonderful husband and my precious daughter, but they are not my life.  My world is bigger than the four walls of my home and my calling is larger than my finite heart can contain.

Which road will you take?

*Do you have specific questions about this road?  Just hit the “Dear Stacie” tab in the menu and I would be happy to share your question with a response.

The Anger in Forgiveness

 

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“Why should I be sacrificed on the altar of his growth?!”  I remember the day I said these words out loud to God.  I was angry.  Angry and hurt.  I didn’t think I could get that angry.  Now it seemed like God was taking his side.

For an entire year a young man in my Christian community had publicly insulted my weight and femininity. His sideways, passive comments were lobbed in front of our friends and although we tried to ignore the jabs, we all knew what he thought of me.  I was fat and unattractive.  In private, friends tried to assure me, “He’s wrong.” “Stacie, you are pretty.”  But these comments went to the heart of my insecurities.

At the end of the day I was left to struggle with his words.  The worst part was that deep down I believed he was right.  I knew enough theology to know that God saw me as precious and beautiful, but the rest of the world?  This man was just voicing what everyone thought and no one was willing to say.  I was undesirable.  So, there I was, hurt and angry.

Growing Anger

Months passed.  I sank into sadness and isolation, functional on the outside and withering on the inside.  Prayer became a plea for God to rid me of this person and help me feel better about living in a world where I was less than everyone else.  Wasn’t God angry too?  Then came a pivotal conversation.  A trusted friend stepped into my world and offered his help, with one condition.  I needed to confront the person hurting me, share my injury and forgive.  Nothing could have seemed more unwise to me.

Although I had read the passages in the Bible about forgiveness and confrontation (Ephesians 4:32; Matthew 18:15), this had to be an exception.  Isn’t is unwise to confess hurt to someone who has only shown that they can and will hurt you?  I was pretty certain he had no idea of his effect on me and I was determined to make sure he would never know.

But then the Scripture became inescapable.

Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. 32 Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. -Ephesians 4:29-32

I was not allowed to attack back, scream and rant in anger.  I had to go to him for HIS good. I read and re-read and screamed through Ephesians.  Someone else’s behavior never lets me off the hook for acting for their good.  I am never off the hook of love and forgiveness.

My choice seemed terribly simple.  I could either die the slow death of withering from the inside, wallowing in anger, hurt, and bitterness, or I could obey God and move toward my enemy’s good.  Two paths that felt like death lay before me and God would only walk with me down one of them. God would sacrifice me on the altar of his good.  I wish I could say I had spiritual strength, faith and foresight.  What I would do next was merely obedience and little else.

Forgiveness Deserved?

I knew pride, resentment and ugliness were rooting deep in my heart and I was desperate for their death.  I was desperate enough to submit to God and confess in deep repentance the ugly truth: I didn’t care about his good.  I didn’t want to love this person.  I didn’t want to forgive.  I wanted him to pay.

In order to share with this man how he injured me I would have to be filled with the Holy Spirit but this didn’t feel strong.  It felt open, vulnerable and weak.  I didn’t even think I could talk without crying.  I prayed through Ephesians 4 over and over again, unsure of whether I could even be kind or civil.  I prayed for the heart I wanted, but didn’t have.  I prayed for strength and compassion. I prayed to expect nothing.  It could not be about getting an apology or seeing repentance.

At this point you may be tempted to think, “But he is wrong.  He doesn’t deserve kindness.”  That’s true.  But neither do we.  Why is it that when I wrong someone I want mercy, but when someone wrongs me I want justice?  The cross of Jesus shows how equally in need of forgiveness we all are and how graciously it has been offered by the One who has never been in need of it.

So, we talked. I cried.  Then, something miraculous happened.  He didn’t understand.   He did not apologize.  His words were stoic and formal.  He was caught off guard and at a loss for how to respond.  I didn’t get deep sensitivity or caring.  But it didn’t crush me.  I climbed on an altar, expecting to be sacrificed but found myself freed.  Like a tiny seed in my heart, something began to bloom.  I wanted this man’s good.  I wanted God to be kind to him.  I was able to forgive.

A Miracle

I have rarely in my life felt so protected, loved and cared for as I did the day I walked away from that conversation.  I had done as God asked, not just for his good but for mine.  My heart could break without breaking me.  God’s rebuke of me could be kind.  God saw my pride, self protection and rebellion.  I had dared to ask God to choose my good over another one of His other children, as if I were faultless.  Something in me was ugly, prideful and demanding.  Here in the ugly bits of myself there is forgiveness, mercy and grace.

Since that time Paul’s words on forgiveness live in me like light in darkness.

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  -Romans 5:6-8 

Forgiveness is a miracle.  It is one of the most amazing ways we as Christians can experience the miraculous nature of the cross in our relationships.  His forgiveness of us births in us the humility to forgive, even those who hurt us.  Forgiveness is still hard, but necessary.

Do you know what it is to be forgiven?  Do you need to forgive?

 

 

What singleness and miscarriages taught me about God’s love

 

 

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Something felt familiar.  I was laying in my bed, consumed by sadness, loneliness, pain and grief.  At 17 weeks pregnant we were faced again with a routine appointment that revealed a heartbeat that had stopped.  Again. Twice in one year.  Two babies. Two miscarriages.  My sweet husband, with grief of his own, had no way to take away mine.  It is one of those moments in life when the acute pain of sadness is isolating.  Yet, there was something oddly familiar about this moment that was anchored to experiences from decades ago.

As a young woman in my twenties I had become convinced that marriage would be a gift denied to me.  For years I found myself without pursuers and romantically alone.  So I slowly came to the conclusion that God intended me for singleness.  By my early 30’s I was no longer trying to love life and find contentment until marriage.  I was grieving the total loss of a deep longing.  God, who was all powerful and could give me anything, seemed to be saying, “Never.”

A deep longing never to be fulfilled was familiar.  But somewhere under the layers of tears I had learned long ago where to find hope and companionship.

IS HE STILL GOOD?

In singleness I attended the weddings of most of my friends.  I saw their happiness and imagined their full lives of marital enjoyment.   In the loss of my second and third child I celebrated the birth of 6 babies, all born in the same months I would have been due to have my own.

With an undeniable belief that God exists and that He is in control over our world, we can sometimes find ourselves stuck.  If He is there and if He is able to bring good things into the lives of others, why not us?  Sure, I can understand why God would shield us from sinful desires, but is He still good if He withholds good desires?  Has He forgotten us?  Does He not see?  How could this possibly be loving?

Like Mary and Martha at the tomb of Lazarus, the easiest answer is to assume God has failed us.  “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”  Two women who both make the same accusation.  (Luke 11: 12 & 32)  Yes, that’s it.  He helps everyone else, but doesn’t love me enough to help me.

I consider it a special grace when Scripture answers my accusing heart.  When Jesus finds out that Lazarus is sick and about to die we are told, “Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.  So, when he heard that Lazarus was ill he stayed two days longer in the place where he was.” (Luke 11:5-6)  He loved them, so he let Lazarus die.  He is up to something here and he wants us to know that whatever it is, it includes his love.

Although He can love us, be good and deny us what we desire, we should not make the mistake of believing that He does nothing.  Jesus loved Mary and Martha in their grief.  In their grief he offered two things.  First, he offered Himself. “When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled.  And he said, ‘where have you laid him?’ They said to him, ‘Lord, come and see,’ Jesus wept.  So the Jews said, ‘See how he loved him!’ But some of them said, ‘Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man also have kept this man from dying?'” (Luke 11:33-35) There it is, the accusation.  Did you catch it?  If he loved Lazarus wouldn’t he have kept him from dying?

JESUS WEEPS

Even in the deepest grief, my Spirit rebukes me when I am tempted to charge God with not knowing as much as I do about love.  Love finds it origin and anchoring in the character of God.  We start with Him to get our understanding of love.  And here at the tomb of Lazarus, love responds.  “Jesus wept.”  Let’s be clear.  Jesus is not weeping for Lazarus, as the onlookers suppose.  When Jesus does raise him from the dead, it is only to find one chapter later that the enemies of Jesus are plotting Lazarus’ death. (Luke 12:10)  I suspect that being brought back from the dead did not make Lazarus happier.  Now he gets to be the guy that dies twice in one lifetime.  Lucky him.

No, he is not weeping for Lazarus.  Jesus weeps when he sees his loved ones in grief and pain.

Let’s not underestimate how much we need this.  In pain, we may be tempted to cry out for a why.  I don’t know about you, but why wouldn’t help me.  If God had appeared to me after my second miscarriage and told me that countless lives would be saved as a result, I would at that very moment still feel crushed.  No, why doesn’t stop the tears.  What do I really need?  I need to not grieve alone.  I need God to weep with me.  Watching another friend be chosen by a good man and still feeling alone, I need a God who mourns with me and comforts me.  (2 Corinthians 1:3-5)  The comfort that comes in those private moments with Jesus is not an abstract idea, but a personally intimate time of healing and peace.

Second, Jesus offers to right the wrong.  I need a God who can make all things right again.  “Jesus said to her, I am the resurrection and the life.  Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.  Do you believe this?”  (Luke 11:25-26)  God, who came in the flesh and bore our sufferings, has promised to make all things new.  This is not the end of our story.  (Isaiah 35; Romans 8: 18-39)   Life is found in Jesus.

Somewhere in the middle of the tears, there is truth more profound and personally experienced than the grief itself.  God is there.  I am comforted.  I am not alone and it will not always be like this.  Although I now live in the aftermath of sins devastating effects,  I have found peace, comfort and joy sitting at his feet.  As much as God has blessed me through the encouragement of family, friends and other Christians, there is no substitute for Him and me when no one else is around.  It is here that I find rest for my soul.  (Matthew 11:29)

DOES SUFFERING MEAN GOD DOES NOT EXIST?

Finally, grief can make some question whether God is even there at all.  I find this odd. Grief is the irrepressible cry of the heart that says something has gone wrong.  Things are not supposed to be this way.  In grief we know most keenly that there is a way life is supposed to be and we are made most aware that something is not as it should be.

If God does not exist, there is no other way the world should be.  Grief is an illusion.

Only in the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Jesus of Nazareth can we find the answers to our deepest longings and know that our cry is an accurate reflection of reality. He validates our grief.  This is not the way life is supposed to be.  He weeps with us in our heartbreak and in the middle of it all there is beauty and rest.

How is there beauty and rest?  After the tears, there is a secret revealed.  Our deepest longing is for God Himself and to the one who seeks, this longing will never be denied. (Matthew 5:4-6)