Singleness: the ongoing struggle

I’ve been wanting to write a post about singleness and contentment for a while and it’s funny that I’m writing it now when I’m really frustrated by my singleness and contentment is out galavanting somewhere else.

One of my closest friends has disconnected with our network of young women because she’s had enough of hearing about dating and being a ‘Ruth’, that it actually drove her into depression. If she’s pursuing all these things then how come the Hagars of the world are getting all the guys?

I’ve been in a similar place when I see women who choose differently with regard to chastity or modesty and they’re the ones metaphorically ‘bringing all the boys to the yard‘. It can really get a girl down. Plus I’ve had my hopes dashed more times than I dare to count by unrequited affections. In that respect God’s shown me that I still have a lot to improve upon. There are things He needs me to work on while I still have that freedom.

What concerns me though is how in our women’s network there’s constant talk about getting married and finding a husband. There’s plenty of independence in there as well. A lot of encouragement for building yourself up and taking the bull by the horns so you don’t have to start doing that post marriage.

One thing I appreciated about my growth in church was that we knew and were reminded that marriage is a sacred covenant between one man and one woman (Gen 2:24; Matt 19:4-5), but we were also taught that not everyone’s going to get married and that’s okay. Amongst Catholics there’s an understanding that people will either be priests, religious (nuns, brothers, friars, etc), married or single. Three of these vocations will mean a life of celibacy and serving God (1 Corinth 7:7-8) the latter of which is possible in married life but this is why it’s a vocation, it’s a way you’ve been called to by God.

It’s now that I’ve come to network with more Pentecostal, Evangelical, non denominational etc Christians that I’ve been perplexed by the emphasis on people finding a spouse. There’s plenty of spiritual teaching but dang if someone doesn’t mention a spouse at least once during a session there’s something up. It makes me wonder why this is the case. I know other denominations don’t have priests or people serving from a religious order, but why is it so alien to have someone led to a life of singleness?

Not everyone in the Bible got married. A lot of them just dedicated themselves to God until they went to heaven. This is the whole thing about priests and the religious. The 12 Apostles didn’t get married (or if they did it wasn’t recorded in Scripture), they just lived and died for the faith. I’d love that level of being enamoured with the Father so much that it stilled that occasional ache for my other half (wherever he is).

I’m not saying the Catholic way is the way everyone should go, that’s between each person and Jesus, but I do think the other denominations could learn something. We’re all pursuing that same satisfaction in the Lord (Psalm 42), chasing holiness and if we can help each other along the way that would be great. We’d be showing each other a lot of grace.

19/10/16 I’ve since made a Spotify playlist for the days when singleness doesn’t feel like a blessing. If you’re interested here’s the link Content & Beloved

 

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I am Satisfied in….?

I am rarely ever completely satisfied with what I have. There’s always someone I can look at and think “Why can’t I do my hair as well as she does? Why can’t my skin be as smooth as hers? Wow look at those legs. If I had those legs I’d be a whole other woman”. It even creeps unapologetically into spiritual life; “Why can’t I pray like that? God, why don’t you ever give me those kinds of blessings? Well, I guess God just didn’t want me to have a solo career as a Christian soul singer/rapper/poet.”

It’s funny because it looks right into one of the basic features of being human; we are rarely ever completely happy with what we have when we are aware of the blessings of others. Now I have to point out, there is a difference between admiring the work of God in someone’s life (for example how he used a friend in teaching an atheist about the truth of the Gospel which leads to them being baptised) and potentially secretly envying them (for example wishing he had used you to take down the whole group of atheists and turn them into a Gospel street-preaching-choir). I mean really, everyone wants to be that person who leads a billion people to God…or maybe that’s just me.

I really enjoy the preaching of Judah Smith. His style speaks to me because even though I’m Catholic and I like that cool, calm and structured way of worshipping, when I go and speak to anyone about anything pertaining to the Bible or Gospel or God, all the characters turn into gangstas. I don’t know, I think in my mind when I describe them in this way I understand what I’m saying a lot better. I’m not quite polished at using that fancy rhetoric, and especially when I’m speaking to someone who has minimal knowledge about anything involving my faith I find it connects better. I’m not trying to make the Bible sound hip and I’m not drowning it in glitter because have you met Jesus? He’s already the coolest guy I know and the Bible’s an awesome read. That’s where I feel Judah and I are similar. We are both wannabe gangstas, he’s just more popular than I am. Anyway, I’ve been reading his latest book ‘Life Is____’ and it’s great. At one point he wonders how happy we would be if we had no information about our friends and neighbours, and I think that has some truth to it.

The other night I went for Bible study and I was feeling good, ready to share my testimony and tell everyone how God had blessed me that week. I was practically buzzing and my heart was singing silent psalms of praise to the Father. As we went around the circle the tone of my heart was pretty solid until we arrived at one person. She told us about how she had been in communion with Jesus during the weekend. She described how she had locked herself in her room and actually forgotten about the outside world because she was just enjoying being with Jesus, talking to him, singing, revelling in his presence. And little me sat up in my seat wondering why God never called me to do that. I wanted that too. It’s happened before with so many other situations where someone wins a prize or brings out the big guns during fellowship bringing everyone in awe of God, and sometimes I think to myself and wonder why my blessings are always so much smaller than everyone else’s. Ironically before I even knew about their blessings I was feeling pretty good about mine. I was feeling invincible. I felt adored by God. Jesus was my anchor and the Spirit was my sail.

My friends and I often acknowledge how humans are rarely ever happy with what they have. We always want someone else’s hair or eyes or complexion or height when God’s already given us a pretty sweet deal if only we looked into ourselves a little more rather than at others.

God is just and after Jesus he really doesn’t have favourites. He is a just and fair God even when we don’t always see or acknowledge it. Besides, no two relationships are identical. The way I relate to God is different from every other people and it mainly consists of an occasional tug-of-war, one-sided arguments, sulking, and lots of smiles and laughter. My day of communing with God may look different to yours because we are different children at different stages of our spiritual development.

Keeping this in mind I’m going to try a bit harder to be thankful in all and every situation he throws my way. When it’s my turn to win a ruler and a friend’s turn to win a bicycle I’ll be happy with my ruler and happy for my friend and their bicycle. It’s just another thing Jesus has to help me sort out; to first be satisfied with him and then be satisfied with everything he gives me. After all he knows best.

The SuperChristian

Are you superChristian? Image source: https://peacefulchristian.wordpress.com/
Are you superChristian? Image source: https://peacefulchristian.wordpress.com/

One of my good friends is Muslim (I only state this so early on because it’s something important to the point of this post). We connect on a number of levels; we’re both from Southern Africa, we work together on our uni’s YouTube channel, we live at the same college, we’re both obsessed with anime…we click. For the summer holiday I went home while he stayed at uni.

When I got back we were both happy to see each other. We were chatting when he suddenly exclaimed with the Lord’s name and that upset me. Immediately I told him not to disrespect my man JC and he asked me what was up with me, had a gone to Christian Camp during the holiday? This wasn’t relevant but I asked him to respect me and so he said he would. Later that week we were in a meeting for our uni’s media team (the one which runs the YouTube channel) and somehow the conversation shifted to the point where someone said something about Jesus. My friend laughed, added to the joke and looked at me. I wasn’t pleased but I wasn’t prepared to make a spectacle of myself. My friend, bless his heart, isn’t always able to read social cues and out-loud stated that they were making ‘JC jokes’. I think the others in the room could tell I wasn’t pleased so we resumed the meeting. I thought because he is ‘a man of his own faith’ he would be compassionate but he persists so I just remind myself of Galatians 6:7 (Do not be deceived: God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap), not in a malicious way but in a God doesn’t need me to fight his battles for him.

Weeks passed and this friend fancied a girl. He told her how she felt and when he explained it to me he described her as ‘super Christian’ who wouldn’t date anyone who wasn’t Christian. In my mind I totally relate with her; if anyone wants to go out with me God himself must ordain it first and if we’re not on the same page with that then I can’t commit myself. What got me though is how, when someone actively speaks their faith, I assume he calls them super Christian or asks if they’ve been to Christian Camp (I wish! Who doesn’t love Christian camp?).

It makes me wonder about the experiences he’s had with other Christians. Did they not actively speak their faith, or call him out when he disrespected it? How must they behave that it’s odd for him to hear a Christian stand by their beliefs and how many other people must feel the same way?

Lately I’ve been thinking about a quote from St Francis of Assisi, “Preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary use words.” I use this as a bit of a mantra in my day to day interaction with both Christians and non-Christians but my friend’s words have made me wonder if I’m not putting that across. I think I’m still a bit of a spiritual adolescent eating mashed potatoes and mushy peas (ref Hebrews 5:12-14) and I pray for God to show me what kind of ministry he wants me to do. I was offended by the idea that I had to have gone to a camp to want to actively implement my faith but at the same time I think it may have been the wake-up call I needed.

Prepare your slippers ladies and gents! Image source: http://oz.wikia.com/wiki/Ruby_Slippers
Prepare your slippers ladies and gents! Image source: http://oz.wikia.com/wiki/Ruby_Slippers

I’m not a super Christian. I’m just a child of God, heir to the kingdom, ambassador for Christ, Proverbs 31 woman in the making. I’m only just learning the importance of remembering bible verses and being able to spit them out in conversation. I’m imperfect but Jesus has made me so much more than I knew I could ever be and he’s still working on me. I’m just a bride of Christ, doing what I can to emulate my hero (Jesus duh!) and if an outsider can’t see that or thinks there’s something weird about me wanting to be that then I need to pull up my socks and brush the dust of this world off my sparkly red slippers.

I’m going to a city lined with gold, transparent like glass (ref Revelation 21: 10-21) and I need to make sure people know Jesus has given me that and hopefully (God willing) my friend will be thirsting for a free ticket to ‘Christian Camp’.

Gracious Grace

I’ve been reading Judah Smith’s book ‘Jesus Is____’ as of late and I have to say, it’s brilliant. I am biased though because I have a deep appreciation for Judah’s way of preaching. God revealed him to me last year when I was going through a dark patch and he does have an aura which speaks to my heart. He’s a brilliant example of a man of God.

The book explores the various things that Jesus is, e.g. love, merciful, etc.. In a chapter of his book he discusses grace and how Jesus is grace. Grace is one of those aspects of faith which had surrounded me my whole life but until I was out of my comfort zone and the word was being tossed at me I had to investigate what this grace thing is. I suppose for each person grace has a different definition. Even for me the meaning evolves and fluctuates depending on what’s going on in my heart.

For now I’ll define grace as knowing and acknowledging that Jesus’ sacrifice for us, and his love for us, means we have been forgiven our sins eternally through his mercy. Your definition may differ from mine and that’s alright, why not share it in the comments. While I have this definition God’s grace has been blooming for me fairly regularly and sometimes I even realise it.

I was reading ‘Jesus Is____’ yesterday and I had a bit of an epiphany. Remember that sin I said I struggle with? That one sin which pops up when I least want it and I’m foolish enough to slip away from holding Jesus’ hand. I slipped again last month and looking back I felt nothing, I didn’t feel guilty, I didn’t feel happy, I didn’t feel dirty, I didn’t feel clean. I just felt average, and that terrified me. Usually I end up feeling disgusting and filthy. I feel guilty and hated and dark and like I’ve just dragged Jesus’ name through the mud.

I was so used to condemning myself and making myself feel like trash. I would pull an Adam & Eve and try hide away from God because I just wouldn’t feel worthy. I felt like he would strike me down at any moment because I was wasting his time and wasting oxygen by praying for forgiveness. I hated myself as much as I hated my sin.

Reading about grace yesterday made me realise something. Over the past few years my relationship with God has grown and improved so much. Heck, I was praying at the bus stop and I’m sure I made the people around me very uncomfortable but I didn’t care. There’s still a lot of growing room and I look forward to the years to come, but looking at the old me and how I am now my heart is glad for how far I’ve come. I’m still only an adolescent spiritually but even that is a blessing because I’m not an infant any more.

What was revealed to me was, even as a mere adolescent, God’s grace is constantly on my life and in my heart. My self-condemnation was me not believing I had grace. I was stuck in the idea that I had to force myself not to sin to make God proud. I’m not saying not trying not to sin doesn’t make God proud but I was trying out of my own power and not letting him lead me. When I sinned and I didn’t feel anything I believe that was because I knew I wasn’t condemned. I was disappointed in myself but I knew God would be with me and I didn’t need to worry about it. He doesn’t condemn me so who am I to condemn myself?

I don’t know, I guess that’s just a little testimony for me. Before I couldn’t comprehend the concept of grace or why it was there. When I was merely aware of it I believed it just meant I was forgiven and still needed to do the right thing to make God happy. Now I’m at a place where I try to give Jesus the reigns and I follow him. Sometimes I fall but he holds out his hand every time and like a child I run to grasp it.

Grace and peace, brothers and sisters.

Edge of Desire/I Will Wait

What better to bring me back but a matter of the heart!

I’ve never been that kind of girl who’s been planning her wedding since she was a child. I didn’t dream about my Prince Charming, coming in and sweeping me off my feet. I did crave the relationships born out of pure friendships. I did crave the presence of a boy who would give me his football (aka soccer) jersey to wear with pride. I craved having someone to tell all my problems to who wasn’t my mother or my brothers or my father or my dogs.

From a young age however I made the personal decision that I wouldn’t date anyone just to pass the time. When my time to date arrived I’d be looking for a husband. Now when you make this decision before your 16th birthday you’re bound to stumble and end up falling for probably not the best person out there. That’s exactly what happened. I fell for a guy who visited my church often. Eventually he started attending my church for me. I was so happy to have someone pay attention to me that I blinded myself from all the warning signs until it was too late and I was close to ending myself (there were a lot of unaddressed, underlying issues). As with all the events in my life I learnt to return to God, he was there with me through it all and I knew he would be there with me at the end of it all. I found my solace and sanctuary in the Lord God and I felt whole. More complete than I’d ever been before.

When I left home for university I was focused. I knew what I was going for and I was taking my God and my heart with me.

The university environment made it impossible to ignore the coupled groups around me. I was genuinely content with being single and sticking to being coupled with Jesus. He’s the ultimate love and he fills me with joy.

Lately however I’ve been feeling more alone, more isolated from the seemingly coupled majority. I am a virgin and I’ve only kissed one boy in my life and I’m proud of that. Perhaps it’s an attack on my person because I’ve been feeling the pressure lately. I’ve started a Pinterest board where I pin ideas for my wedding. I know what style dress I want at my wedding, I’ve started looking at bridesmaid dresses, and wedding cupcakes. I’ve begun making references to how I will and will not raise my children. I’ve written letters to my future husband…and yet I’m still single.

I don’t hate my singleness and I have no intention to waste it. When my heart hurts I crack open good ol’ Philippians 4 and tell God what’s on my heart. I watch videos like Janette…ikz’s ‘I will Wait’ and Joseph Solomon’s ‘Worth the Wait’. I rejoice at friends who are getting married or are just in happy relationships. I pray for my future husband frequently. My heart was even genuinely glad when my beloved Justin Timberlake got married and now he’s going to be a father!

Yet I feel like I’m still slipping into the desires of my flesh. I’m looking at a dear friend of mine with eyes and a heart filled with expectation even though I know my feelings aren’t reciprocated. I suppose what troubles me most in this situation is the fact that I feel like I’m at risk of giving away my heart to someone who hasn’t asked for it but I’m that desperate that I’m prepared to make him take it. At the same time I’m disappointed in myself because I’m giving my heart to an outline of the man I want, not the whole package.

I vowed years ago that I wouldn’t give my heart to someone who wouldn’t lead me to heaven and didn’t love God/Jesus/HolySpirit more than me. Lord give me strength so I don’t waver in that!

I’m not sad and I don’t regret my decision to wait for the man God made for me. I am genuinely content living my life with my God. At the end of the day marriage is meant to reflect Jesus’ love for the church, so Jesus will be my foundation no matter what path God sets me on. He’s been kind enough to allow me to see heavenly couples who are best friends and support one another on their spiritual and earthly journey. I’m especially grateful for being able to grow up in a household led by a couple exactly like that; my parents.

I have faith in the plans he has for me, and for each one of you who’s ever felt the same as me. Maybe you’ve found your other and you’re happily married or planning to marry. Maybe you’ve gotten frustrated from having to wait and you’ve settled for less than you know God would want you to have. Maybe you’ve been hurt and you’ve turned to other ways of satisfying the desires of your heart. That’s okay, but remind yourself about the Almighty, looking down upon you without judgement. Is what you have right now the sum of the grace he’s gifted us with or are you tired of waiting on the edge of desire?

Dear Heavenly Father,

Thank you for who you are. Thank you for letting us love you but more importantly thank you for your unconditional love for us. Lord, forgive us for the times we stumble and settle for less than you have planned for us. Forgive us for the times we take our lives out of your hands because we’re tired of waiting for what you have in store. Remind us of the grace and peace you have left for us, within us. 

For the couples Lord I pray that you may be the foundation upon which they base their love.

For the singles Lord I pray you may help us guard our hearts and only give them to the people you have destined us to.

And for those who you have called to a life of singleness; I pray that you may fill their hearts with Jesus.

For all Lord, quench our thirst, grant us your peace and patience, and may everything we do be for your glory.We are nothing without you Jesus. You are our everything.

Amen

The Ten

We’re no strangers to the Ten Commandments.They are the basis of the laws given to men by God, edited by men (and taken overboard by men) which Jesus came to rectify. He gave us an even better commandment which pretty much encompasses the original unedited Ten given to us by God.

The other day I was looking at the ten commandments and I feel I had a bit of a lightbulb moment. Each of these commandments is under attack in this modern world we live in, and we are slowly becoming lulled to their significance (think Samson and Delilah; the evil one is making us numb to wrong and tiring us out until we slowly brush the truth under the carpet and blame it on someone else). Below I’ve tried to list what I observed about the world and a select few of the commandments:

Okay. Idolatry. Not so much in the tradition statue sense with a pigeon god or something but I define idolatry as putting something before God. It can be sleep (cough  cough, not pointing any fingers), it can be a tv show, it can be your job, or your family or your significant other. Each of these may deserve a measure of attention but remember God comes first and he should be at the centre of everything you do, not Walter White or your Titleist clubs.

It’s become so common for someone to use our Lord God’s name in vain. Back home in my country the cable television network actually censors the disrespectful use of the words/names God, Jesus, Jesus Christ and simply Christ. When my aunt who lived in England moved back home she exclaimed how sensitive people were for them to censor every random us of God, etc. It worried me that normal television wouldn’t honour God’s name and even now when I hear someone use his name in vain I wince internally. It just doesn’t feel right.

I don’t even understand how the world has become so lax when it comes to death and killing. My country isn’t involved in any wars at the moment but a lot of the major countries are and so many people salute soldiers who go out to war. Now I have so much respect for anyone willing to lay down their life for someone else, or just protecting their fellow man. Allow me to use the example of Osama Bin Laden. I was not a fan and I never will be, but I was so shocked when the world blew up in rapturous applause at his death. Celebrations emanated throughout the nations and it made me think “ok so there’s one less bad guy in the world (yay!) but since when is it ok to celebrate killing?” Whether its that or it’s the death sentence, I can’t support killing.

You pop in a dvd and while you’re making popcorn or chatting with a friend, in the background you may not hear the reminder not to pirate media. I’m guilty. I have downloaded far too many songs because I didn’t have the money to pay for them. I know prominent church officials who will talk about a movie they downloaded or a CD they copied. We all know it’s wrong but once we start we forget that we’re actually stealing. We’re thieves. We’re as bad as the thieves on the crosses beside Jesus. We might even be like the unrepentant one if we don’t own up to what we do. But it’s so much easier to just copy something, or torrent it or…no, stop making excuses. I’m a thief and I’m embarrassed each time my mother asks me where I get all my music because I know the answer isn’t one she’d be pleased to hear.

These are a few of the ones I feel strongly about, and I’m happy if there’s anything I’ve said that’s made you think a bit. I’m not proud of myself or a lot of the things I do but I try to pray about it as often as possible. The world we live in is a comfortable place but if we become too numb to all the things going wrong, we’re putting ourselves in a dangerous situation.

Dear Father,

we thank you for this day. We thank you for your unconditional love for us. We pray for forgiveness Lord, for the times when we choose the temporary beauties of this world over the everlasting glories of your heavenly kingdom. For the times when we grow numb to our faults, may you remove the scales from our eyes and awaken our hearts, so that we remember your will Lord. As you have spoken we are in this world but we are not of this world. We ask you to please remind us of the strength we have through your Holy Spirit, for we choose you Lord, each and every day. You are our fulfillment and we give you praise. We love you.

In your blessed name we pray.

Amen

By Our Love…?

“It’s no longer a question of ‘if but a question of when”

This was spoken by a popular YouTube channel which deals with news and current events. The speaker was describing how the world has changed its attitude towards homosexuality and how, inevitably, marriage equality will be allowed in all 50 of the US states.

Am I intolerant and hateful if I agree with equal rights but not equal marriage?

I’m not one who supports the Westboro Baptist Church or murderous anti-gay cries but I am a Chrisitian and I know where I stand on this all important issue.

I have a few disadvantages in the way I was born; I’m a woman, I’m black, I’m from Africa and I’m stubborn, amongst other things. While someone on the outside looking in may wonder how any of that matters in this ‘free world’ of ours, unfortunately it does. I am at a disadvantage in certain ways. While I understand how my role and personality fits into my identity culturally, in the rest of the world I am less likely to find a job as easily as others may.

Even my personality can be abrasive at times, unless you give me a chance and get to know me. It is because of the steps I’ve taken to reach full satisfaction in who I am that I feel everyone deserves love. Everyone regardless of who they are or where they come from deserves love. Where then do homosexuals and homosexuality and especially gay marriage fit in?

I was raised in a country where homosexuality is illegal so when I came out into the Western world and I found myself surrounded, I genuinely felt like I was under attack. Since then I have calmed and I’ve resumed my ‘Love the World’ mentality.

We see marriage and consummation of love for the first time in the book of Genesis with Adam and Eve. A man and a woman from whom the world emerged. Many people will say the bible contradicts itself when it comes to so many laws and beliefs. Two things Christians know for certain 1) homosexuality is wrong (love the sinner hate the sin) and 2) we will be known by our love for everyone. Where then does our love for our homosexual family go?

There is a war waging in this world, and a war in my own heart because I want to love everyone and give them human rights but marriage is a spiritual right, a heavenly blessing from which love culminates and life emerges. No every marriage doesn’t end in children or even a stable family but that’s how it’s meant to be.

A man and a woman are like a lock and a key; differently made but together we fit to open a door to heaven. It can’t work with two locks or two keys.

This won’t be the last time I address this topic, it’s a difficult one which haunts and challenges me daily, but I guess for now I concentrate on love.

Love one another as our Lord Jesus Christ has loved us. However, even when Jesus was being struck and torn, and betrayed and beaten and bled, He never lost his course. He never forgot what he came for. He never lost who he was.

In this world it’s so easy to give up and go with the flow of the world. In my dorm room of 10 people there’s possibly only 3 of us who are still virgins. I don’t know about the other 2 but for me it’s because I am keeping my body for my husband or for the Lord if I never wed. It’s hard sometimes and I want to give it all away and get drunk and be wild but that’s not who I am. That’s not how I was made or who I was made for. We each have a cross to bear so don’t be weary and place it down,  carry it with pride and when it stings and cuts at your sides, or when the masses spit at you and mock you, don’t forget, you’re not alone.

We all fight this battle together,and it will be a battle where we pray for our oppressors and those who persecute us, and  we will fight for the glory of God and love will be our sword.

Romans 12:2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, in order to prove by you what is that good and pleasing and perfect will of God. 

John 15:19 If you were of the world, the world would love its own. But because you are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.

John 17:14-15
I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one.