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 Thirst

World Youth Day (WYD/JMJ) 2011 was the start of my relationship with Jesus. It was also the first time God began my journey of healing which is still ongoing to this day.

Years earlier, in 2009, my family was struck by…well I’m not sure what it was but we lost 4-6 family members in the space of six months. One of those people was my grandmother. If you’ve ever had a grandparent who made life so much better by just existing and showing you what unconditional love looks like then you’ll understand why we adored this woman. This made losing her so suddenly that much harder. After her passing I went on a vendetta against God. One thing you have to know about me is that I’ve never doubted God’s existence.  I had this understanding that God loved me, that he didn’t want to see me hurt or damaged so I in turn went out of my way to hurt him.

I would embrace whatever darkness and evil was in me. I was intentionally mean and cruel to others. I would go to church and spend most of the time daydreaming about things no one should be thinking about in the presence of God. And yet, in spite of my cruelty God didn’t give up on me. Instead he gave me a friend who saved me from myself and unknowingly set my journey of healing in motion.

Then came WYD 2011 in Madrid and I fell in love with the country and the people. The atmosphere was amazing and really touristy for the most part when we weren’t going for daily mass. But one night we had Adoration, and for those who don’t know this is where you sit in the presence of the Body of Christ and just keep Jesus company. If my facts are right it’s inspired by the moment just before the Passion when Jesus asked his disciples to keep him company and pray with him. So we’re sitting in Adoration in a massive church with hundreds of other pilgrims while an amazing band played music. A couple of the others fell asleep, some people were praying and I was just sort of sitting there.

In that moment, and I will always remember this, the Holy Spirit revealed himself to me for the first time. That wave of peace which exceeds all human understanding (Phil 4:7) hit me and I began to cry. Looking back it was as though the Spirit was saying “I’m sorry. I know you’re hurting and I’m sorry. I know you feel alone and broken and unwanted and I’m sorry but the Lord God, the lover of your soul is here with you, hurting with you and you will never be alone”. I balled my eyes out because I hadn’t even been saying anything, I can’t remember what I was thinking or if I was praying but I remember that feeling because I’ve felt it a number of times since then.

I’ve heard people talk about accepting Christ, being born again etc and I believe I was born again when I was baptised as a baby (there’s a story in there for another day). That was 100% the moment I accepted Jesus. God address the stagnant faith in my heart and I underwent my conversion. I realised how I’d been stuffing things into the God-shaped hole in my soul and how my grandmother was my idol. God began a great work in me that day, it was my River Jordan Baptism Dove descending moment and since then I’m a completely different person.

My WYD experience was my first Upgrade/Leveling Up as a Christian and since then they’ve been several more. I just look back on it and I can’t wait to go on another pilgrimage like that. I hope everyone can encounter God like I did that day because it’s one of those moments which changed me. Like my first Christian crush (ie an elder in the faith whom I look up to and admire) Judah Smith always says, once you meet Jesus and accept him into your life, you’ll never be the same again.

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 Sacrifice!

One of my favourite seasons is coming up; Lent.

It is a time of sacrifice and solemnity and sharing in the fasting done by the Lord, Jesus Christ, in the desert for 40 days. I feel like at this time every year I am closer to God, if you know what I mean. I know he’s a part of me and he lives within me but there are times when I feel like he’s literally standing right behind me or walking beside me and constantly keeping me company and laying a hand on me and my heart.

From a young age I’ve been eager to learn more and grow in my faith and Lent is one thing that I’ve always enjoyed. Even the struggles were always a reason to smile when I knew I could exceed my own expectations of myself and make my Heavenly Father proud all at once.

It hasn’t always been easy. I remember last year I gave up meat and I have to say that was one of the most difficult sacrifices I’ve had to make. It was such an intense challenge for me but I do feel that praying about it and remembering that Jesus did way more before me, for me, helped strengthen my resolve and even now I still love meat but I can go without it.

That’s one thing I really appreciate about Lent and any little sacrifice we make for the Lord. It helps to ground us and remind us of what’s really important. Is my love of meat my idol? The struggle says yes but combating that and succeeding tells me my love for God is way more and the strength he has given me demolishes anything that threatens my spiritual growth.

So this year Lent has crept up on me again and I have to say finding something to do is turning out to be a challenge with painful results.

I really enjoy my sleep so for this year I will be waking up every day at 0615 to pray the rosary and spend time with God. I will also be giving up secular music for only Christian Music where I am in control. I might even throw in singing a hymn every day along the way. Both of these are probably going to have me in tears by Day 3 but hey, He’s worth it.

I’m sharing this as I ask you all to pray for me, I will probably need all the prayer I can get in the beginning. My prayers are with all those partaking in Lent and all those who don’t observe Lent but make their own sacrifices for the Lord. Never forget the strength he has given you, with it you are invincible.

Dear Father

we thank you for this day and the gift of life. We thanking for sending Jesus to die for us. We thank you for the love you send us and have shown to us, love which we will never be able to comprehend but love which we cannot live without. Forgive us for the times when we forget our worth and waste the gifts you give to us. Help us to polish our armour for we are soldiers for you, ambassadors for your kingdom, we are priests speaking your truth and saints living for you. Show us how to begin and hold us by the hand as we go on. 

In your holy name we pray

Amen

Only You

(if possible, please listen to this as you read. Thank You)

“Have you come to a decision about your church situation?”

I was asked this question by a dear new friend of mine. As most of you will know I’ve been struggling with people criticising Christians and, narrowing that down, Catholics.

I went silent on my blog while I was back home with my family. It was fulfilling, enriching and reminded me of everything I love about the church I was born into. I have tried the others and I’ve enjoyed myself dearly. Everywhere I went I saw and met people who had dedicated their lives to Jesus. Some made me feel so at home, as though I were someone they’d all grown up with. Others never really made me feel like I’d ever fit in and when I bump into them now they act as though they’ve never met me. Maybe they feel like I abandoned them, or I’m a traitor or just another one who will be thrown in the fires of hell.

I’m back in a place where I’m being judged and occasionally I feel attacked. Even though I’m not brave enough to go door knocking or evangelising in the streets I’ve grown enough to even seriously mention Jesus in a group of people whose spiritual affiliation is completely unknown to me. I felt terrified that I’d be ridiculed to put my relation to Jesus out there and the great thing is nothing happened to me. I didn’t feel attacked and I relaxed a bit more on my heart and the tiny cross inside I grip to so tightly.

I know that as a Christian part of who I am is meant to be someone who goes out and calls people to God and I’d love to do that but, with Jesus as the roots to my tree, I need to grow and branch out a bit more. I don’t want to hide my faith under a blanket or only whisper my prayers in public. I want to be loud and proud about what I believe in. Now, this has nothing to do with my church back home. Everyone back home is so focused and ready to praise God at the slightest suggestion, and they do it in a way you can really feel.

The thing I love is how all the people I’ve encountered over the past year, with flitting through group after group, just adore God and everything about him.

So the next time my friend asks me that question I’m going to give her this answer;

My time at home reminded me of everything I love about God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit, as well as my family, friends and myself, and yes, especially everything I love about the Catholic church, and all the Christians in it and those in other churches too. It will be a sad day when I put what church someone belongs to before Jesus and my relationship with him. He will always come first and I’ll leave judgements like that to Him. When I was growing up, up until I left for university and even when I go home, my friends and I were able to praise and worship and pray together. We are Catholic and Methodist and Pentecostal and Anglican and who knows what else. We all love God and we love Jesus and we put him first. As long as that’s the foundation to their faith, then we’re all in this together.

Dear Father,

Thank you for loving us. Thank you for love and your light and for family and friends. Please be our guide in all our struggles and may we remember to put you ahead of everything because only you can save us. Only you can heal us. Only you can fix us. You and only you.

Amen

Who do you choose?

I think, when it comes to sin, there’s that one that we all struggle with. It’s different for all and each of us but everyone struggles with something; whether it be lying, stealing, lust, envy, sexual immorality, whatever.

I know that I struggle a lot. I pray and I try and I’ve been given signs that God is answering my prayer for distraction and strength, but more often than I’d like I choose my own sinful nature over God’s glory and grace. It hurts knowing that I’ve hurt not only my Father and my friend but the one who knows me and loves me more than I will ever know. I return his love by turning my back for something that will only last in the physical world, leaving me feeling disgusting and guilty afterwards. I’m fairly good at showing love to my neighbour but when it comes to that one sin (and I pray that I’m not the only one) I don’t always love the Lord Our God.

Yesterday I fell and I was feeling that disgust and disappointment in myself and just before I fell asleep I was apologizing profusely to Jesus. I could tell that I was being torn, my great desire to be the child of God I know I am or to say a ‘sorry’ go to sleep and maybe try again later.

I had a dream. In that dream I was at a university with a friend. A lecturer/tutor was handing out assignments and the assignment was to either write a letter to Jesus or to the devil. I chose Jesus (praise God!) and so did my friend. In my letter I apologized for what I did and I hoped that He could forgive me and help me be clean and come closer to Him. As my friend and I walked we saw that others had chosen differently and even those who had chosen Jesus weren’t being kind to Him. Some of them took the opportunity to mock Him and someone asked me why I’d chosen Jesus and I think I answered because He is the one I want (It should’ve been the one I need). I was then asked what I would’ve said if I’d chosen to write the letter to the devil and without much thought I spoke out of character and I said “F-you”. I never swear but if I was going to swear at someone it would be the one who causes such filth in the world.

I woke up later than usual and I’m still contemplating the meaning behind this dream but I’m glad that I chose Jesus. It got me thinking about the people who chose Jesus but were practically spitting in His face. Choosing the light or the dark is an easy move to make but what do we do once we’ve made the decision? Do we try to conform darkness within the light or do we pick dark because it’s easier with less pressure? I know I’m not perfect and I stumble and fall all the time but I think this has made me want to preserve the light a lot more. The dark will always be there but I’ll have to do like Paul says and run in the other direction when it confronts me.

So which will you choose?

I pray that you don’t simply pick an answer but you find your answer.

“God Is Not A Man”

Occasionally I counsel young people struggling with depression, anxiety and other such disorders. It can be both challenging and fulfilling. Recently I’ve been challenged to not hide my faith when I am providing advice. Some people agree, some don’t comment at all. You can imagine how negative people’s views of God/religion can be.

Recently there was a girl who started a discussion asking whether or not people believe that God answers prayers. The responses were equally divided. Some said yes, others said no, some said that He listens but may not always answer them. There was one girl who stated that God doesn’t exist and the Bible is lies. When I asked her why she replied “Because I said so”. The sad thing is that she is not the only one out there. My response to the discussion was that God always listens to prayers. Always. The problem arises when it comes to finding an answer to these prayers. You see, mankind has it in their minds that when you pray you get what you want, but I’m relatively sure that that isn’t what prayer’s about. Mother Theresa once said “More tears are shed over answered prayers than over unanswered prayers.” The answer to a prayer doesn’t have to be ‘yes’; sometimes it has to be ‘yes’ or ‘no’ or ‘not yet’, but mankind is often too selfish to accept an answer that isn’t ‘yes, of course! Let me do it now!’

As I mentioned in my last post God had no obligation to make us but chose to make us anyway. That is the foundation of my personal definition of grace. Why is it that when people think of God as being a just, loving being He must conform to what we want Him to be? Since when does an apple go to the chef and say ‘Hey buddy, I want you to make me into a pie’? The chef may indeed want to bake a pie and he may use the apple or he may use the cherries or the steak instead. Does the apple then say because it was not made into a pie then the chef doesn’t exist?

I’ve never doubted the existence of God. To me He was always present and watching and I was just trying to figure Him out. I am guilty however of trying to make God into a man. I wanted to understand God and so I’d try draw pictures of God with me sitting in His lap, or after my grandmother passed away I demanded that He bring her back because I knew that for Him it wasn’t impossible, after all He had breathed life into her to start with. So many other people try to get the concept of ‘God’ in a neatly wrapped package in their mind and they like to believe that they understand God. They like to believe that they have God in their pockets, ready to whip out when they need Him. Since when does God conform to what you (a mere insignificant pixel in the vast unending universe) want Him (the Almighty Father of Heaven and Earth, and Creator of the universe) to do for you?

When speaking to people who have some form of anxiety disorder you can’t really present this sort of view to them in the same way that I’m doing so now. A lot of them find strength in God and others are enraged at this God who gave them an illness which makes them want to slit their wrists at every waking moment on a daily basis. It is hard though, I would never lie and say that it isn’t.
Often atheists will bring up the world’s various illnesses, whether they be war or poverty or high mortality rates, and ask how this ‘apparently all knowing, all loving God’ allows all the chaos and pain of the world to happen. Is He not able to make it better or is He simply not there? In regards to this let’s look back to the Old Testament. God made the universe and it was good and He made man and woman and all was good until sin came along. Sin and our own sinful nature is what has lead us to where we are. We know the difference between right and wrong and yet we choose to do wrong anyway and then complain when God doesn’t instantly fix everything for us.
So many people were given countless chances,for example in Kings, and it was through their own disobedience of God that they met death and dischord. He kept saving them and they would be good again for a while then fall back and they would be punished then saved then it would happen all over again. I’m surprised God hasn’t just become fed-up with us by this stage. Seeing that there could only be one solution to this, so that every person would be saved and God could punish sin at the same time, The Word was made flesh and dwelt amongst us aka Jesus Christ. Jesus came, the human embodiment of God, in order to give us another chance and to take our punishment for us. Here it may get a bit tricky; Jesus did die for us but He truly died so that God could spare us but still exact His wrath and so He did so upon Himself in the form of His only begotten Son. He did it because He wanted to, it was all according to His will. No other human has ever had to endure that and yet we still believe that for us to acknowledge and agree that there is a God He must first prove it to us by granting our every desire. If you want a genie go off into the Arabian desert and look for one but I’m going to stick with the God who I am completely incapable of comprehending.

Another argument that’s often brought up is the battle of religions; Christians against Christians, Jews against Christians, Jews against Muslims, Christians against Muslims, Muslims against the world, Christians against the world. Why believe in something that causes so much sadness in the world? I’ll address this from my point of view, feel free to disagree and comment your own understanding. I believe that God isn’t in these disputes. God has sent armies to punish people before but where there is hatred and rage in the heart I don’t believe that you leave enough space for God to work. It’s more likely that the voice of the Holy Spirit within you is silenced. God is in actions of love because God is love. Love starts with Him and ends with Him. Not everyone is given an easy life but it’s like a diamond which starts off as coal or a piece of rock which starts off jagged and coarse but is weathered into something smooth and shiny. It would be wrong to believe that because you’re going through a hard time God isn’t with you. He is, holding your hand along the way. In the moments where you don’t get what you want or you face some form of hardship it doesn’t instantly mean that there’s no God or that He hates you, look around, maybe it was someone else’s turn to receive a blessing and yours is coming by snail mail instead.

I don’t want God to be a man. I don’t want Him to be someone I can wrap up neatly in my mind. I don’t want Him to do what I want but rather what I need. I don’t want to view Him as though He were a meal from McDonald’s (Here’s your God, do you want a slice of peace with that?). If I made Him into a tangible being that I could fully comprehend then I might as well walk out the door, find the first guy saying things I agree with and go worship him. Sounds ridiculous right? So why do we feel that it’s ok to do that to God?

At times I sit in my room alone and ask, why do you believe in God and why do you believe that He is a good God? It’s similar to trying to describe to someone why you’re favourite song is your favourite song. You could explain the lyrics, the sets, the instruments, the notes, the key changes and the emotional psychological impact, but at the end of the day you can’t explain something like that. You just know when you know.

In a single sentence what I’m saying is that God was not made for man, man was made for God. Below I’ve added a link to a video I found recently, it describes what I’m getting at quite well.

May God watch over you, your family and all your loved ones and may we all marvel at His awesomeness and show love in our actions.

“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”- Hebrews11:1