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June 17, 2012

singleness redeemed

"You must be recently single." The remark came from across the table, taking me off guard. A coworker's spouse, making small talk at our staff party, put me on the spot with his comment.

His questions assumed that if I were single, I wouldn't be that way for long. Perhaps it was meant as a compliment, or as a polite aside for me, so that I wouldn't have to explain why I had no date. I still think of his remark from time to time.  

To the unbeliever, I suppose that singleness is something to be avoided, especially at my age. The singles you do meet are often a bitter, hurt or cocky lot who make disdainful comments about the opposite sex.

Another day, I mentioned to a coworker that I wasn't taking a date to the Christmas party, and that I never had. His "Really?!" was then followed up by a polite nod and no further inquires as to whythough I think he was curious.

After noticing that I always go to the party alone, one of my coworkers mentioned to me that I could take my brother along"no one would know he's your brother." He probably thought I'd feel better taking someone along. Maybe I would.

My singleness is not something I discuss with my coworkers. This is probably for a few reasons, such as out of a sense of privacy or out of embarrassment that I have no one to bring. But the overarching reason why is this: unbelievers don't understand singleness as believers do. In secular circles, how often do you meet a young adult who seems normal in most other ways, but who has voluntarily chosen celibacy?  They have no "slot" for someone who is indefinitely single. Someone who isn't on the prowl. Someone whose appetites are filled with things that sex and human relationships were never meant to provide anyway.

That's what's so unique about Jesus, friends. He redeems. He satisfies.

Christ's work is to redeem all those things that sin has made awry, bringing the Father glory in the process. Creation groans under its current bondage to sin, until it is fully redeemed. I think there is some dissent among Christians as to whether singleness is a result of the fall of man, or whether, in a perfect world, singles would have existed. To be honest, I am not quite sure where I stand on that. But this I know: to the believer, singleness is a season that can be a joyful one. Christ has redeemed singleness and makes it something purposeful and beautiful.


As the years creep by and I am still single, I have a few things on my mind in regard to life in this season. Here they are, in no particular order.

Marriage is not the goal.  
While it is wonderful to see godly marriage celebrated, I wish we saw godly singleness celebrated more, too. Some well-meaning Christians imply that the single's greatest goal in life is to be married off. They don't ask "How are you with Jesus?" They ask "Have you found a man?" This makes it difficult for us to focus on that which Scripture presents as our ultimate goal. We all (married or single) should be of one mind: our goal is to live this earthly life in a way that brings glory to our Redeemer. Christ has redeemed singleness to bear bring glory to Himself. In this season, we can do that in a way that married people cannot. Indeed, some people choose singleness out of devotion to Christ. So we must fix our eyes on the ultimate goal God has for His creatures.

Singleness no intimacy. 
When David mourned for Jonathan, he said: "I grieve for you, Jonathan my brother; you were very dear to me. Your love for me was wonderful, more wonderful than that of women" (2 Sam. 1:26). They knew a deeper relationship than David knew with his wives. I've learned that God can give us deep, intimate friendships with human beings other than a spouse. Of course, it is not sexual intimacy, but it is intimacy nonetheless. Psalm 68:6 "God sets the lonely in families...."

Singles suffer. 
(We need a period after that subheading to establish it as a fact. But don't miss the next subtitle!) A few years ago I read a series called "Singleness Suffering" by a lovely blogger named Fabs. She identified some of the suffering that singles often face: loneliness, the pain of freedom, losing control, the pain of rejection, lack of physical intimacy, misplaced shame and losing dreams. Not a happy list, right? Fabs' exhortation was to acknowledge the pain, but not waste it. Press into Jesus in times of suffering. If you're single, I highly recommend reading or listening to Fabs' insights. Her challenge remains with me: "Don't let your suffering be wasted." Use it to develop intimacy with Christ.

Singles suffer, but so does everyone else on earth. 
I've learned, too, that every season of life on a fallen earth has suffering. To wish away the suffering of fallen singleness is to ask for the suffering of fallen marriage or fallen parenting. As a single, I will never know the pain of an unfaithful spouse or a prodigal son. That suffering is reserved for people in a different season. So, I will let God determine when or if it is time for a new season for me.

I am sure that some of you, if you have gotten to this point in this post, are thinking: "Julie doesn't know what she's missing out on. Marriage is better than singleness." In many cases, you are right. Marriage was God's idea, after all, and a good one at that! But for many singles, marriage is not really an option. If I have learned anything, I have learned that it cannot be forced. Therefore, the Bible must be searched for truth to frame this season of life. The knowledge that Christ has redeemed singleness has enormous ramifications on everyday life as a Christian single. As we look around at a world scarred by sin, may we see (above the debris and pain) the redemptive work of God.

June 04, 2012

from recent readings

My bookshelves (and now, my storage boxes) are heavy with books that I wish to read. My journals are lined with notes from the few books I have read.  Here are a few tidbits, in no particular order, from books I've read lately.

Kisses from Katie by Katie Davis

Showing maturity beyond her years, Katie Davis runs a far-reaching ministry to needy children in Uganda. This is her first book. Her life choices have challenged me and many others to give up on mediocre Christianity and act on what the Word says. She has given up much to show Christ's love to the hurting children of Uganda. See the book here or read Katie's blog:

"People often ask if I think my life is dangerous, if I am afraid. I am much more afraid of remaining comfortable. Matthew 10:28 tells us not to fear things that can destroy the body, but things that can destroy the soul. I am surrounded by things that can destroy the body...but I am living in the midst of the uncertainty and risk, amid things that can and do bring physical destruction, because I am running from things that can destroy my soul: complacency, comfort and ignorance. I am much more terrified of living a comfortable life in a self-serving society and failing to follow Jesus than I am of any illness or tragedy. Jesus called His followers to a lot of things, but I have yet to find where He warned us to be safe. We are not called to be safe, we are simply promised that when we are in danger, God is right there with us, and there is no better place to be than in His hands." —Katie Davis

"I've noticed something about people who make a difference in the world: they hold the unshakable conviction that individuals are extremely important, that every life matters.... They aren't determined to revolutionize the world all at once; they're satisfied with small changes. Over time, though, the small changes add up. Sometimes they even transform...the world." —Beth Clark (in the forward to Kisses from Katie)

Walking from East to West: God in the Shadows by Ravi Zacharias

Beautifully written, Ravi's memoir captured my imagination nearly instantly. Ravi ambles through his life story, beginning with his growing-up years in India and following that with his move to the West as a young man. I could almost taste the Indian sweets as they melted in his mouth, feel the jolting of his bicycle through throbbing Indian crowds, and hear his bat cracking his cricket ball across the playing field. As is his style, Ravi engages not only the reader's imagination, but his mind. Ravi highlights the goodness of God in bringing together all the necessary elements to bring him to Christ. This master of Christian Apologetics builds a case for trusting the Lord even through the telling of his life story. His book can be purchased here.

"Apologetics is not just giving answers to questions—it is questioning people's answers and even questioning their questions. When you question someone's question, you compel him or her to open up about his or her own assumptions. Our assumptions must be examined." —Ravi Zacharias

Hearts of Iron, Feet of Clay by Gary Inrig

This is Inrig's readable and interesting commentary on the Biblical book of Judges. I used this to supplement my reading of Judges as I taught through the book in Sunday school this year. Inrig uses lots of interesting illustrations and makes the message of Judges hit home in our North American context. Get the book here.

"There is an enormous difference between a direct and an indirect relationship to Scripture. An issue comes up in conversation, and two people give exactly the same answer. But on the lips of one, the answer is hollow. He is peddling secondhand convictions, something he has heard from [others]. The other person says the same thing, but his answer rings with the authority of personal conviction. He has been in the Word himself.... That Christian knows the fresh dynamic experience of walking with Jesus Christ. Beware of secondhand convictions.... Don't neglect the Word of God!" —Gary Inrig

"Ours is a cut-flower civilization. While a sign of life remains, we have cut ourselves off from our biblical roots, and the petals are beginning to droop and fall." —Gary Inrig