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.

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 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

“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