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Posts Tagged ‘singleness’

There once was a handsome young man named David.  What happened to me through knowing him probably had something to do with growing up – with turning 20 and getting my own car and being exposed more to the general world than this homeschooler was used to.  He walked into my life when I was 19 years old and I immediately went into such a daze that I didn’t even remember his name, but I remembered his smile.  We found ourselves shortly thereafter attending the same Bible study.  I was so thrilled to see him there, and that he gave my elbow a little pinch when he recognized me, that I felt sick the rest of the night…  C’est la vie.

Because I met David, I realized I wasn’t 16 anymore.  And not-16-year-old women shouldn’t be looking for the qualities of a 16-year-old boy in a man they’re thinking of dating, or marrying.  I began to remake my list, but I didn’t even know what being a grown-up meant.  What was it to be an adult?  How was it different being an adult, marriage-ready man from an adult, marriage-ready woman?

Responsibility, a sober view of the world, selflessness – these are some of the traits I came to realize were important.  Discerning them wasn’t as simple as checking off a list like: no, he doesn’t drink; yes, he has a job; yes, he says he’s a Christian.  A drink here or there doesn’t prevent realizing that we get one chance at this life and that everything we do has consequences.  (At the time, I was met with a lot of young men who didn’t take the consequences of alcohol very seriously.  But they were breaking into my mind the possibilities.)  In David’s case, irresponsible men can have jobs.  They use them to fund and further irresponsible lives.  And though true Christianity has to do with imitating Christ, who made Himself nothing, saying we belong to the Church is only a tiny part of participation in that kind of life.  People can lie.  People can be deceived.

Because I met David, I learned to be patient in developing relationships.  I wanted more, more, more of people whose company I enjoyed.  I wanted to rush, rush, rush to see where it was leading with this man.  But it had to be OK some weeks at Bible study to just see him and ask how he was, waiting for the deeper conversation here and there.  That way I was learning more about him than just my urgent questions.  When you’re friends with someone, you get all of them, not just the parts whose relevance you can foresee.

Because I met David, I had my first opportunity to really make the choice between going with my feelings and going with my principles.  I had been in a low place spiritually, but this choice began to wake me up.

Because I met David, I discovered how sick hope could make me.  I hoped the charming bright-eyed conversationalist would line up with my principles – if not right away, then later (*soon* later, but I didn’t know about assuming “soon” back then).

Because I met David, I began to face some facts about marriage, among others: that it would be two broken people working together, helping each other.  I was still inspired by the idea of matrimony, but I started to realize that I wouldn’t marry a perfect man, that I didn’t deserve one either, and that being good myself didn’t guarantee that the man I married would always have been good.

Because I met David, I realized that the call God makes on Christians is not, “go be friends with potential husbands and men with no risk to your own heart, but be sure to steer clear of anyone not interested or unworthy” – no, God says, “love your neighbor” and especially to love those in the Church.  So even though David chose not to pursue me seriously, and even though I was disappointed, and even though I was still attracted to him – I couldn’t just run away.  I had to keep being his friend, keep desiring good for him, while also surrendering my plans for him.

Because I met David, I still kind of believe that I have beautiful eyes and a great smile (particularly when inspired by a man’s attention).  I took a break for a while from being on the watch for a potential husband.  I realized that even playing it safe with relationships can hurt.  I stopped believing in fairy tales and started believing in love.

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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I have been pondering the relationship between singleness and widowhood (or widower-hood) for about a year and a half, maybe more.  Several friends have lost spouses and been willing to share bits of their post-marriage life with me.  My grandma has way less experience with singleness than I have, but entered it when my grandpa died over a year ago.  In some ways these people can mentor me.  They can look on single life with the wisdom of more years than I have.  In other ways I get to encourage them, with the perspective of someone who’s had plenty of time to think about the consequences of singleness.  I can point them to finding their identity in Christ rather than in their relationships.  I can share with them that I know relationships with every other single person suddenly got more complicated.  I can pray for them as they seek God for what to do with their new-found time.  I can pray for them as they wait on God for remarriage (if that is what He is leading them to do), just as I pray for my single friends waiting for God to bring them their husbands or wives. 
 
One way or another, there is more commonality between widows and single people than between those who are married and single people.  We always-been-single people have less acute grief, but, if we desire marriage, still have a sort of long-term sadness over the years we have been alone. 
 
A year ago, teacher and author RC Sproul, Jr. lost his wife to cancer.  He’s been blogging on and off about the experience since then.  Today he said this: “The wait that I have has now multiplied, because I am without her. This past year has been not just the hardest, but the slowest of my life. I wake earlier than I wish, and lie awake at night while wanting to sleep. The things I once looked forward to no longer appeal. Isn’t half the blessing of a blessing having someone with whom to share it?”  And as I read that I thought that he was well expressing something that I’m coming to understand.  Maybe he noticed it because it was a change from what he was used to, and I have not noticed it so clearly because I just gradually came into experiencing life this way. 
 
But life and waiting seem expanded because the waiting itself keeps me awake, distracts me.  Time is going slowly for me – but too fast when I look backwards.  I’m grateful my days are full.  Grateful that most of the time waiting doesn’t distract me completely from living.  I’m grateful even for the earlier mornings or the later nights when I am praying about the loneliness and the waiting. 
 
I don’t think that it is wrong to notice that some activities aren’t as appealing when you’re single.  It isn’t necessarily discontent – though it could be, and it is worth guarding against! 
 
This is the life that God has given me.  Let us rejoice and be glad in it!  Let us be honest about what it is and isn’t.  Let us present to God the desires of our hearts.  Let us not grow weary in doing good.  Let us embrace waiting, and fully grieve things that are truly sad.  Let us celebrate the things that are true blessings! 
 
Two of my bestest friends got engaged this month.  The two friends who honored me by allowing me to be a bridesmaid in their weddings have each come to Colorado to visit recently.  These circumstances are giving me opportunity to rejoice in the blessing RC Sproul, Jr. talks about: the double blessing of sharing a blessing with someone else.  I’m the voice of “awww!” when a husband holds a door open; when a fiance chooses something that her beloved prefers even though it isn’t her favorite; of celebrating the good plan of God in bringing people together and building love and unity between them.  I’m laughing and giggling and sharing with them my perspective of the value marriage has.  I know marriage is hard work, but it is a privilege.  It is a work of faith in a trustworthy God.  It is rewarding.  It is mysterious and amazing! 
 
This practice, of encouraging my almost-married and newly-wed (relatively) friends, may be rubbing off.  It may be hard for me to stop noticing love and forgiveness and cooperation and complementing gifts and servant-heartedness and fruitfulness – and pointing them out: amongst longer-married people, and between friends, and in the Church.  I’m excited!  God is revealing to me more and more that He desires His people, His image, to be recognized in our love for one another!  I pray for it and seek it and delight in it!   
 
To God be all glory,
Lisa of Longbourn

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I have a friend, my age, who is married.  To most 25 year olds, this is not surprising.  But I mean what I say, that I have ONE friend who is married and my age.  So she holds a special place in my row of confidants.  Loving her has never been hard, and envying her is unthinkable.  Her story is beautiful, and I treasure it.

The tale her life weaves is different from mine, and that is good.  She was married 4 and a half years ago, but she remembers before.  More than once she has encouraged me to embrace the days God gives me, as He gives them.  Before she was married, she spent time on tour with a Christian conference, interning with a youth ministry, and on a mission in Thailand.  She doesn’t regret ending those things to become a wife and a mom (a busy mom – 5 kids!), but she values them for what they were to her, and values them more for being special to that season of her life.

Just this month, out to eat delicious Italian food and celebrate that significantly frightening birthday of mine when I turned 25, she repeated her exhortation.  This time she made clear that she doesn’t think the only way to make the most of one’s singleness is mission trips.  Her life isn’t the only way.  Her story is hers.  In fact, she said she rather likes having me live close!  “One day you’ll look back, and this time will seem short.  You’ll wonder why you worried.”  I didn’t tell her I worried.  Good friends don’t have to be told, I guess.

But I pondered for a moment.  The waiting hasn’t been short.  I don’t ever want to forget that, because that cheapens this time.  For years I have been enduring hope, striving for hope – and patience and faith.  This has to be for a reason.  God is doing work in me; I haven’t stalled in this in-between season of singleness.  And He is doing work around me, through me.  Living at home, I have an impact on my family.  Being single, as my friend said, I get to spend more time with friends.  And who knows what God is up to with the man who will be my husband some day.

Though her time of singleness was short and cram-packed, mine is long and also full.  I don’t want to call this time fleeting, not only because of all that it contains, but because of what it represents.  There is a sacredness to waiting, something to be attained through practicing it. Without delayed gratification, there is no hope.  If one has everything one wants before you think to desire it, there is no desire.

But hope and desire were not made merely to serve romance.  Experiencing hope and desire and something about time that I still don’t understand – these train me for my walk with God.

We use words like thirst to describe how our souls long for God because God made us to sense need for water.  “God deals with us as with sons” – “for what son is there whom a father does not chasten?”  If God had not given us fathers willing to spank us, how would we know to relate to God this way?  So also, this yearning time, and stillness time point me to the yearning I ought to have for God.  Do I put my trust in His action?  Am I catching my breath every day thinking that He might come?  Is my imagination captivated by His promises?

This turns back again and says more.  I’m not the only one waiting.  God is waiting.  Just as He chose to love, and chose to suffer, and chose to be tempted, and chose to be born and to die, He has chosen to wait.  Eternal God has put Himself in time.  And time is not yet full.  In exercising waiting and containing myself to hope, I am learning about God’s hope and God’s waiting.  He has patience.

There is a praise song that alights on me like a vision of radiance.  “We will dance on the streets that are golden: the glorious Bride and the Great Son of Man…”  Think of the joy with which the Bridegroom will dance among His Bride, with which He will feast with her.  If that will be his joy, this strangeness called time will be part of his payment.  He knows that future and is waiting with eager expectation for the day and hour only His Father knows.  Somehow to think of God’s joy makes me want that more than I want it for myself.

Jesus is no Peter Pan, who lives only for the moment, forgetting past and future.  No, to live with an eye on the future that can only be reached by walking the present, that is grown up.  It is mature and sober.  But the joy it produces is most free and most giddy.  There is nothing unsure in the joy, even the excruciating joy of this waiting.  Peter Pan might enjoy the moment, but that is all he has; he must be ready for a turn of events.  The joy of Christ – and His Bride with Him – will be everlasting.

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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I was looking around my room the other day, thinking about the meantime.  There are a lot of things single people can do, which they can’t do (at least as much) once they’re married.  And these things don’t reflect badly on them as potential husbands and wives. 

A single person is in the perfect position to start his own business.  They have free time, small expenses, and no responsibility to be successful.  Starting a business is a learning experience, and if the business takes off, a person has an independent income for as long as they want to continue the business.  If things don’t work out, a person with the initiative to start their own business has the coveted work ethic employers are looking for, and shouldn’t have trouble finding a job.  Or, if no new responsibilities or opportunities arise, at this stage of life one might try again, starting a second or third business. 

Commonly, unmarried Christians will take advantage of their freedom, and explore the possibility of a call to singleness, through missions.  Week-long trips, month-long, or even longer missions are uniquely suited to the unattached.  They provide great spiritual formation, opportunities to build friendships with likeminded people, and possible paths for the future.  World travel is greatly encouraged, but it can be argued that mission trips do a better job exposing young people to real life in other cultures than tourism does. 

Money being freer during single years, I have invested a lot in building a library.  The contents are for rereading, referencing, sharing, teaching, and – ahem – reading for the very first time.  The books on the shelves encourage and challenge me, teach me and inspire me.  Some of the books are almost a part of me.  Time is also freer at this stage of my life, so I have done a lot of reading – something I anticipate tapering down when, God willing, I start a family. 

Staying up late into the night.

Doing devotions before bed.

Not cleaning my room.

Serving friends through babysitting, fellowship, home improvement.

Building relationships with siblings and parents.

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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Autumn’s Eve Pigfest

 

Sunday night, the day before Autumn, I hosted my second ever pigfest.  We held a potluck autumnal feast that looked fantastic laid out on the table.  And by the end of the night we had discovered that it tasted fantastic as well. 

 

Our discussion went like this (remember devil’s advocacy may be adopted at any time): 

 

Proposition 1: Slavery is biblically acceptable. 

What is slavery?  What is the slavery in the Bible?  Does the Bible accept slavery, or merely regulate it; is there a difference?  Is there slavery today?  How does debt come in?  Are there advantages to slavery (especially indentured servitude) to an economy, a society, or an individual slave?  What makes slavery unacceptable?  What role should the church play in a society that utilizes slavery?  In history, has the church been successful in enforcing the Bible’s limits to slavery? 

 

Proposition 2: Unmarried adults should be allowed to adopt children. 

How is this worse than unmarried people working in orphanages?  Isn’t it better for a child to have one loving parent than none at all?  What are the legal implications when this is allowed?  Is this a selfish decision?  Does a one-parent household enable the parent to spend time with children, or are they raised essentially in an orphanage anyway, by being left to daycare?  If true religion is caring for widows and orphans, should single people be excluded?  How does having children as a single person affect other responsibilities or callings?  Is an unmarried woman less likely to get married if she has a child through adoption?  What about an unmarried father? 

 

Proposition 3: Cohabitation before marriage is the prudent thing to do. 

If everybody does it, how can it be bad?  Shouldn’t you test out a marriage before you make a lifetime commitment?  Are those advocating cohabitation in successful relationships or marriages?  Are they good people?  What is a Christian’s witness if he/she lives with their partner before marriage?  Many people applaud those who wait until engagement for cohabitation; is there any validity to that?  How long a cohabitation is advocated?  Does cohabitation actually sabotage the relationship, whereas starting with commitment (marriage) would enable the relationship to thrive and function?  Is marriage too big a hassle to interrupt a romance?  How should a pastor react to a couple who has been cohabiting?  Should he marry them ASAP or encourage them to repent?  Ought he to refuse to marry a couple living in sin?  Are they still living in sin after a wedding if they have not repented?  What role does a pastor have in a marriage?  Is it endorsement, witness, mere formality?  What about the law?  What makes a marriage? 

 

Proposition 4: We (the US government) should kick out illegal immigrants. 

Where would we kick them?  What would prevent them from coming right back?  Who will pay for deportation?  (It was suggested that the immigrants themselves should be forced to pay, if they can.)  Would this be good for the US economy?  Would it be tolerable for the US economy?  Has the population of illegal immigrants already hurt our economy (for example in the housing crisis)?  How does the lack of border enforcement reflect on our laws?  Are illegal immigrants typically otherwise law-abiding citizens?  What about language issues?  Isn’t America a melting pot?  Shouldn’t new immigrants be expected to assimilate just like immigrants from decades and centuries past?  Could we allow illegal immigrants to remain in the US if they followed a procedure for attaining legal status and citizenship?  Is there a risk to national security?  Since the waiting list for legally entering the US is so long, couldn’t we change that to make it easier to legally immigrate?  Why do we have limits on immigration?  Do other countries limit immigration?  Do they deport illegals?  Is it illegal to be in our country or illegal to get into our country?  Wouldn’t annexing Mexico solve our problem?  Would Mexico welcome that? 

 

Proposition 5: There are some situations in which extreme violence is justified. 

Who decides?  Is self defense the only situation?  What about defending others?  Defending innocents?  What about violent interference with the murder of unborn children?  Does defense only cover defense from murder, or can it be defense from torture or rape?  What about capital punishment?  Is it ever right to take a life?  Is it right to do nothing when lives are at risk – do I have the right to refuse to take a life or use violence if myself or other “innocent” bystanders are at risk of death?  Can I take an innocent life in order to save other lives?  Suppose a two year old is intentionally aiming a gun and pulling a trigger; should extreme violence be used against him?  Why is the Mosaic law so confusing: day or night, inside the threshold or outside, defending life, defending property…?  Does extreme violence refer only to violence leading to death, or to torture, etc.? 

 

Proposition 6: Reading books written in other languages and other eras should be done to encourage independent thought. 

Is independent thought desired?  Can translated works count?  How is that different from traveling to other parts of the world?  Does reading sufficiently immerse you in the culture to widen your perspective?  (It was pointed out that language is often imbedded in culture.  Language is formed to express a certain way of looking at the world, like the difference in description when emphasis is on texture rather than color.)  In what ways does your thought become independent?  Is this practicable?  What about those who don’t read?  Do movies count?  Foreign films with English subtitles? 

 

Proposition 7 (which was interrupted before actually beginning by the coming of 9 PM and the need to go home): Idealism ought to be valued over pragmatism. 

What on earth is idealism and pragmatism?  Do they always contradict?  Is it ultimately possible for them to contradict?  Which ideal? 

 

Some of my favorite things:  People were willing to play devil’s advocate.  The time before the debate enabled a lot of people to meet each other (and one family’s tire to be changed).  There was a lot of participation.  Pigfest format keeps a debate from wearing out the disinterested.  Everyone fit in my house.  One of my friends brought her two infant daughters.  It rained just as the party started, with the sun still shining.  Cleaning up wasn’t too hard.  People had a good time.  I’m able to remember the discussion half a week later. 

 

Things I’ll do differently next time (Nov. 1):  Have more chairs.  Don’t aim for a main meal, but do lots of snacks instead.  Pray by myself ahead of time about my attitude and perspective.  Think more about proposition ideas I might offer and how to present them in the most discuss-able way possible.  Review the rules before we start. 

 

Considerations:  Maybe prescreen propositions.  Increase time from 15 to 20 minutes.  Enlist a new (louder, more aggressive) moderator. 

 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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The book I just finished, A Walk with Jane Austen, is about a regular Christian girl who wouldn’t want me to call her that any more than I would want to be called ordinary. But she is a Christian, single, no one born important. She loves Jane Austen, knows a lot about her books and life, wanted to go to England, and so she did. This authoress has her ups and downs, struggles wandering about England looking for sites associated with her heroine. There is romance and analysis of romance and longing for the love that lasts beyond the wondering.

Lori Smith, the Austen fan, writes, “I long for someone to care about the quotidian things, to know about the daily turmoil and disruptions.” Whereas in context she was speaking of marriage, I can relate to her as a writer. We’re obsessed. I’m not writing these things because I think they’re important, but because I think them in sentence form.

For example, I want to tell you that I didn’t feel like being in a hurry this morning, so I ran conditioner through my hair and styled it like an elf (inspired by Deborah Barone on Everybody Loves Raymond last night, and my dad noting that her ears stuck out of her hairstyle), straightened up a bit, and rather than making a lunch (realizing at the last minute that I have zero cash in my purse after Village Inn Tuesday night and not yet cashing my paycheck), I loaded my backpack with juice and water bottles.

On Saturday I think I might try to be silent all day, but now I’m conflicted, because I want to go to the abortion clinic and pray, and while I can do that without talking aloud, I can’t figure out what to tell my friends who also gather there and who already think I don’t know how to talk while they themselves are not known for their timidity.

When I was in third grade, my teacher praised a four-line long sentence, and so I began for spelling assignments to attempt one ultra-long sentence each week. I got some a page long, but they were horrible sentences, filled with commas that should have been periods, delighting in the recent discovery of semi-colons, and profusely employing conjunctions. I think they call them run-on’s. But the practice, of trying to fill a page with one connected thought without stopping for a period, has contributed to the writer I am today (see above paragraph). Perhaps it is what wants me to see the unbroken theme of a passage of Scripture, too.

My doctor is on break, and no doubt listening to the fluttering clack of keys as I type out thoughts as fast as I possibly can, interrupted by the discordant beat of the backspace key when I get ahead of myself. I wonder what she thinks. Once I told her I was writing a book, which was true, but I’m not sure I’ll publish it. A published author wrote the advice to aspiring authors that they should write a book, and then write another one, then another one. Forget about publishing the first one you finish, was basically their point. At the time I read it, I couldn’t imagine abandoning the first full-length, actually ended novel I wrote, but now I’m quite unimpressed by it (though I do love parts of it), that I may take the advice and write something else. I am so not-diligent.

The use of the word “so” just there reminded me. Last week a friend went to a Bible study expositing John 3:16. I know, we think there can’t be much there if everyone knows it and it hasn’t taken over the world yet. One of the things he said was that “God so loved the world” was not a statement of how much God loved the world, but how God loved the world. It refers us to the context, drawing a comparison (usually we would use like or as). Though this John 3:16 usage is older and more correct, I can see how it developed into its present form, and if one insisted interpreting a word literally, my sentence would still make sense.

Patients come in and, noting how quiet and secluded is my office, inquire what I do all day. If only they knew that I sit at my computer and type out my thoughts, goaded by the wise words of books and Bible, by recollections of conversations. Here, in fact, is where I wrote most of my book that may or may never be published. I might as well write in silence, and publish it on my blog. There’s little difference in the result, and I’m more satisfied to have my thoughts offered to the world even if few people take them.

I just stopped, stretched, and looked at the clock, wondering whether I have time to read Ephesians and get some semblance of an idea of what we’ll talk about at church on Sunday. And the clock reminded me of one of my favorite Mark Schultz songs, about life in corporate America. I sing it twice a week after church (Mondays and Wednesdays), when I’m almost the last to leave the empty parking lot, and I see how close I can get to 80 mph. Most of the time I get within 50 mph of the song’s 80, before I have to slow down for the corner and re-admittance into society’s roads and regulations. But in the song, he sings about an afternoon smattering of looking at the clock, spinning in the chair, and solitaire. Any minute now I’ll be busy with real work again, and I’ll probably stop writing and get back to Ephesians.

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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