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

 

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.

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

A Recap, A Lesson, A Drag Queen.

My gosh…You know those moments when you’re in a situation which tests you so much you just don’t know whether God is teaching you or the evil one is trying to break you. That’s pretty much where I’ve just come from. But first let me recap.

I apologise for my time away. It basically parallels how my relationship with God has fluctuated. There were so many times when I was sitting at my laptop begging for inspiration which just wouldn’t come. I accepted that saying it’ll come when it comes.

In the time I’ve been away I’ve been very close to God and I’ve felt completely separated from him. I’ve learnt so much about him. I’ve had to describe why I believe in him and his ways, praying that I was speaking with Heaven’s accent. I’ve felt completely invincible as I was able to feel the swaddling cloth of his protection and the Holy Spirit glowing like the sun within me.

I’ve also felt alone and abandoned. I’ve felt like a hypocrite. I have felt like I rejected his kingdom. I felt like I knew everything and that I made myself invincible. I felt like I barely knew God and I felt as though I was embarrassed to shout Jesus’ name. I fell back into the hooks of the one sin which breaks me every time.

So I gave myself until Thursday 19 June 2014 to clean up my act and get back to where I need to me, and I must say I wish I’d done it sooner but I knew that would be the best day for me. I feel that contentment of when you’re in the Spirit and you know God is smiling at you. I had my Prodigal Son moment and now I’m back and he’s throwing a feast for me.

So that was me today, strong in Spirit, praising God, having that 24hr conversation I love to have with him when my good friend and housemate brought home her friend who says he’s bi-sexual but I sense much heterosexual masculinity in him, and her new friend, a heterosexual cross-dresser. Literally I prayed ‘Lord help me’.

I’ve never met a cross-dresser and he’s so much different from what I’d anticipated. I was apprehensive at the beginning but eventually I found myself sitting very comfortably close to him. He told me the story of his cross-dressing and I just had to remind myself of the 4 words I go by when I approach those with same-sex attractions; Respect, Compassion, Dignity, Love.

We proceeded to watch a comedian and my friend warned me before each instance of blasphemy (as comedians tend to be these days). Whenever I hear comedic blasphemy I withdraw into myself, protecting my God and my faith (as if God needs tiny me to protect him). This time I prayed. I repeated the ‘Our Father’ and ‘Glory Be’ in my head. Initially my first thought was ‘hey, you don’t need to tell them I’m Christian’. I know, I’m so embarrassed for myself. But this time I chastised myself and when she warned me again I kept quiet. I didn’t laugh, and I began to pray.

When it was just me and my new acquaintance sitting together I prayed again, because I thought it was too much of a coincidence for me to meet one of the types of people I’m most adamant to stay away from the day after I resolved to return to God. We sat there, just the two of us watching videos on YouTube and I thought to myself, ‘if someone had told me 2 years ago that I would be sitting alone, very close to a cross-dresser and feeling comfortable’ I would’ve vowed to never leave my parents’ house.

I asked the Father many things and I hope he shows me the answers. I also thought of my strong Christian friends from our little Bible study group. One would have begun on the ‘you must repent’ angle, one would have taken out her subtle Biblical books/companions and the other would have begun a well meaning discussion on…something…she’s unpredictable. The thing with me is I try to approach everyone with love which I feel is good but it may be my downfall one day. We must love unconditionally but we must also live and evangelise. Given the opportunity and the right starting point and I like talking about all the sides of God and the Bible and my beliefs, but in other situations, which unfortunately for me is most of them, I’m truly apprehensive. It’s something I pray to God about. If you have tips please make sure to share them.

So yes, here I am, different from when I left but still relatively the same. God, I believe, is still teaching me things and he has me on a path. I’m not sure where that path will take me or what his plan is but hey, isn’t that what makes it fun?

Dear Heavenly Father,

It’s good to be home. It’s so reassuring to know that you are always ready and waiting to welcome me back when I stray. Thank you for your love, and your light and especially for Jesus. Thank you for giving us a brilliant example of LOVE in human form. I pray that you shine your light upon the path I’m meant to follow and shut every door not meant for me. I put my life in your hands, for you alone are the Holy One, you alone are Lord, you alone are the Most High, and for that I am forever grateful.

In the Blessed name of Jesus Christ,

Amen.

PS I just noticed God is presenting me with a lot of people I never would’ve let myself encounter before. I guess before I would’ve regarded them with negatively and yes, even hatred, but hey, it’s probably still too early to be guessing! Praying for your spiritual journey my brothers and sisters ❤

Lessons from God: For Love and Sushi

Our God never ceases to teach us lessons and I’m grateful for each lesson he throws our way. I’ve been struggling with how to love people in spite of the things I know about them. So my gracious God stepped in.

One of my housemates is Brasilian and she invited me to join her and her friends for homemade sushi. I’m trying to be more social and outgoing so I agreed to go (I mean hey, free sushi!). I was particularly nervous because I would most likely be the embodiment of the language barrier. Unfortunately not that many people speak Shona in comparison to Portuguese. I agreed to go and before we left I prayed for the night to go well and I put it all in God’s hands. The first test was walking through the streets at night in the dark. I continually had to remind myself that I’m protected by the Holy Spirit and nothing can touch me. I think I passed that test…I hope.

When we arrived at her friends house they were all very warm and welcoming to me, even though I was the only one in the house who didn’t understand Portuguese. One of the guys, who’s English was more polished than some of the others, made it a point to speak to me and make me feel welcome, and even once the whole house was filled with foreign tongues I felt good.

As the night progressed I began to observe each member of the group and my mind slowly ticked into realising that all the males were gay.

I’m sorry, it wasn’t until I left my home after 18 years of no exposure, that I actually met and interacted with people who were openly gay. I still remember when I met a lesbian in one of my classes and I panicked. Internally my cells were tensing and all my hormones were going into flight or fight mode. With time I’ve calmed down but loving people who are different to me in this way has been a challenge I haven’t given up on; I’ve struggled and I’ve prayed about it. I still felt uncomfortable when I made that realisation though, but I tossed it aside and reminded myself “they’re just people”.

With time I forgot and became too engrossed in trying to crush everyone at Mortal Kombat and tasting various authentic Brasilian drinks prepared by Brasilians. I felt pretty privileged.

When it was time to leave, it was back to walking through the dark streets.

Just before we left the first guy who had welcomed me looked at me with such intensity and made me promise I’d protect his friend (my housemate). There was no reason for him to be worried for her and he said it in a joking way, but the way he said it and the way he looked at me made me feel that I really wanted to be his friend. I could genuinely come to love him.

Once we were on our way suspicious rustling made me jump and grab on to my housemate until I was sure it wasn’t a person or a dog or a zombie coming to attack us. Further on the glow of a flashlight in one of the on-campus daycare classrooms made me even more panicked. My housemate laughed, calling me a scaredy cat but I wanted to protect her more than myself. Don’t ask me why, that’s just how I am. Again I had to remind myself of the power of God’s Spirit walking with us.

After a severe internal struggle I decided to call the security services and report what I’d seen. One of my mottos in life is ‘Evil prevails when good men keep quiet’ and my heart just wouldn’t let me rest until I had reported what could have been a thief potentially darkening the lives of the children who play in the room almost everyday.

As I lay in bed, reflecting on the night I couldn’t help but smile. I’d been so nervous and God had just gone and protected me, given me a great night and helped me step one step closer in loving all my neighbours. The people I had felt uncomfortable around were the ones who made an effort to assimilate me into their group. My shaky faith had had to grip on to the only one who always protects me. Then I had the audacity to wake up on Sunday morning and tell God that I was waking up so early for him. That night proved how much God doesn’t need me but I run to him every time.

I genuinely think he shakes his head and chuckles at me most of the time.

I’m grateful for every lesson though, and each time he catches me when I stumble. I’m going to continue working on love and I’m going to make sure my mustard seed of faith moves mountains and makes them dance.