Living Single

Today I want to unpack a little more what I meant when I said yesterday, "Do not limit yourself to work minimum wage jobs 'waiting on the Lord to bring the man of your dreams.' What are your dreams for today? What is God putting in your heart today? Do that! Pursue that wildly and confidently." I think about this a lot because I have spent a very good portion of my life "saving myself and preparing myself" for marriage. This is not to say that I sat home making potholders and pining away for all the ways in which I could be a good wife and mother. No. I mean to say that I wrote lists of what I wanted in a husband when I was 15 and was disappointed to find that at age 19, there were still no prospects around. By age 24, I'd given up hope of being married and just decided to pursue a life of radical singleness, which, for me, meant I spent a lot of years yearning for contentment in the way I understood it at that point.

I got my college degree (two in fact!), spent a chuck of life in Central America, traveled a lot, budgeted to the penny, served my church, tried desperately to be the sort of undistracted single person that Paul says is possible. I describe those years of my life as years with blinders on. I was determined to keep myself undistracted from the siren call of marriage and motherhood.

When my pastor preached a sermon including a biblical definition of contentment, I felt that my world was about to be radically changed and the old radical was nothing more a wannabe. He described contentment like this: Doing what you're able to do with what you have available to do it. Until that point, blinders on, I'd just done what I was able to do. Just put my hand to the plow, kept my eyes on the goal (being undistracted), determined, resolute. After that definition I realized that though I was doing what I thought I was able to do, I was not using all of what was available to me!

Unpacking that first statement above, I want to talk about what we single women tend to say and the way in which we can tend to walk. Here's what we ask often: How can we do everything that we want to do in life and not become too good for any possible prospective spouse?

First, let's look at Sarah. The Bible says she did what was right in the sight of the Lord without any fear. In the same way we do the right thing without fear that we're shortchanging or outdoing what God has planned for us. That is our radical calling! To find a woman who is living a life free from fear is to find a happy, content, vibrant woman. She is radical in the sense that she is a rarity. This is undistractedness according to Paul (I Corinthians 7)!

Second, instead of thinking of all the ways you're limiting the pool of men who won't be scared off by your wisdom, knowledge, and college degrees, instead think of the limitless God you are serving. Do not pursue wisdom for the sake of wisdom, pursue it for the sake of the gospel. In the same way, do not continue in ignorance, skirting issues and feigning stupidity, because you are afraid that a guy won't be attracted to someone who equals or surpasses him intellectually. The gospel has the power to change us and we should never limit the ways in which it will change us. Desire after wisdom. Dig deeply for it.

Thirdly, in a practical sense, it is tempting to do one of two things,

1. Gather everything you think you will need for the rest of your life so that you can live a comfortable, middle class American lifestyle (career, house, dog, car, savings account, etc.) as a single person

or

2. Put off everything you want in life in hopes of a marriage someday (dishes, home, job, etc.).

In the first you are over-prepared for the life you now lead, single and unattached! Let yourself be unattached! Untie yourself from the pride of life that says if you do not have these things you are unstable and uncared-for. Live risky and flexible, and let the Lord surprise you in the ways in which He will provide for you.

In the second, you are placing your hope so securely in marriage that you are missing the opportunity to serve and practice hospitality today. Visit a thrift store and buy some plates. Make whatever place you inhabit a home, inviting and warm. Are you working a job you hate in hopes that someday you'll be rescued by a customer who turns out to be the man of your dreams? No. Search your heart and find out what desires you have that can be fulfilled today and then walk through every open door in your path until a door closes.

Too often we all are too concerned that we are going to fudge this master plan of God's if we misstep or take a risk, but God is so sovereign and so good. He isn't waiting for you to walk through the wrong door so he can slap your wrist and send you right back out of it. All things work together for good for those who love God.

So love God! Love Him and love what He's doing in your life today! Instead of being so preoccupied with lining your ducks up, prepare yourself for the surprise of His love toward you in unexpected places and ways.

_________________________

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While we're on the subject of controversial thoughts on gender roles and other things that upset the fruit basket, I want to talk about something that might hit a nerve today (whether you're a guy or a girl).

The comments on that Wall Street Journal to which I linked the other day contained some telling commentary on the reasons that some very good men may not step up to the plate (and not only concerning marriage, I think this is applicable in many areas, with many people). "Why should we," one comment read "step up, when we know that [women] can buy their own house, have children through other methods, provide, and fill all the needs you say you want men to fill?"

While I don't agree that simply because one person went beyond the bounds that scripture lovingly places on us (Psalm 16), another person ought to shrug their shoulders and abdicate, I hear the angst in this man's comment. Even the guys who want to be a husband and a provider feel unnecessary on the trajectory of a woman's life! I think this raises two points that may seem contradictory, but I believe if lived out in gospel centrality, will result in a kingdom life.

1. Because of the age of many singles these days, individuals are forced to be the primary breadwinner in their "family" units like never before in history. While this may look different for some singles, ultimately the cost of living falls primarily on their own shoulders. As single women in particular this can feel very counter-intuitive to the created order: we know we are built to be nurturers and home-makers. (And by home-maker I don't mean that if you are not at home full time, you are not still making a home wherever you are. We do this naturally.) God calls it a Helper and I love that--I am created to help!

But because of my age and station, a single young woman on my own for a decade, I am in a situation where feeling like a nurturer and helper feels beyond my control. Who am I helping? It feels sometimes like the only person I'm helping is myself! I pay my bills, make my own food, drive my own car, etc. I'm not sharing this burden and no one is sharing it with me. This can cause resentment to grow in my heart as I might feel that the most (literally) fruitful years of my life are being wasted. I hear this time and time again from my peers, "Why would God create me to desire this and leave me feeling incomplete?"


I want to draw you back to Genesis again, the original mandate on man and women was not to be fruitful and multiply, but rather an implied mandate, spoken by God to God: Let us make man in our image. Your primary role is to reflect God. So when you cast blame for what you feel is a misguided calling on your life, please remember that first and foremost we are called to be image bearers. The delight of this is that as image bearers we are also helpers and nurturers and providers and all these things that God is innately.

He didn't mess up when he made you--he made you perfectly designed to reflect all of who he is. And in your singleness you are not gypped of that whole calling; it is there, in your life somewhere. Find it. Find the areas where you can bear that image and fulfill the whole calling of God.

2. The second point is directed toward the Church. In the uprising of secular feminism, there was an unfortunate drop of femininity and the Church did not remain unscathed from that blight. I am not making excuses for any identity crises that a single woman may deal with, but one of the difficult things about having to embrace the side of feminism that has us working and providing for ourselves, is that it becomes more and more difficult to feel feminine. This might be due to the lack of a man who appreciates the natural beauty of every woman, it might be due to a prolonged season in which we feel unappreciated, etc. I don't know exactly. I know that married women who do get to fulfill the calling of a woman in a more practical and tangible way may feel this as well, but I don't think we can deny that for a single woman, the cost of femininity is a bit higher.

Church, you are a bride! You know intrinsically what it feels like to feel under-appreciated and unloved, unbeautiful and overworked. Surely if there is anything we can understand as a body, it is the angst of a bride whose groom has not yet come to take her away! So I challenge you, Church, to step in and be the fathers and brothers, mothers and sisters, to single women. I'm not only talking of car issues and home maintenance issues, I'm talking about valuing and appreciating the unique calling on every woman's life to be a woman and a nurturer (as well as an image bearer).

Men, do not think for one minute that simply because we single women may "have it all" in terms of living in American culture, that we are not still lacking in your unique ability to be a guard and hero, a rescuer and fixer! Do not be afraid to bear the image of God to the single women in your life, afraid that she will suppose there is something behind your actions (A proposal must be in the works because you walked her out to her car once!). Women struggle with the hope of something more all the time, the fix for that is not to abdicate, but to show her what a true man is and does so that her standards are raised and not limited to crushing on every guy who does something kind for her. Get your hands dirty on her behalf!


Women, do not think for one minute that God is unable to fill that position in your life through the body of Christ. Do not begrudge the care of the Church and her desire to guard your femininity while the world is trying so desperately to wrestle it from you. Not every man is showing kindness to you because he is in love with you--appreciate his efforts to be an image bearer as well, without placing your hope for a future with him based on his simple kindness. Do not limit yourself to work minimum wage jobs "waiting on the Lord to bring the man of your dreams." What are your dreams for today? What is God putting in your heart today? Do that! Pursue that wildly and confidently. His word does not return void!

Finally, we live in a broken world and we are broken people and we are doing broken things to fix broken things. Pursue the Lord. What is He calling you to do today? How can you best reflect Him today? Pursue His kingdom radically and with your whole heart, receive His word and the Holy Spirit, serve and be served, show grace and receive grace.

day nine of 30 day challenge put down by one Jason Alan Churchill Thorburne Morris.

I knew the challenge would come and sure enough, my phone buzzed at 6am with the question: when are you going to write one of these for the girls?

I'm never one to back down from a challenge, even though I feel like my life is spent on encouraging women to come up higher, both in their estimation of men and in the embracing of their femininity without the blessing of a man around to appreciate it, so here goes:

I am a woman and I am single, so this qualifies me to write without caveat, but I'll give this one anyway: what I write here is learned through many years of loneliness, crashed expectations, the Bible, broken relationships and people watching. Please don't assume that I have arrived in victory in this area or that I do not struggle--singleness can be a lonely, lonely existence and it can also be a sweet, sweet opportunity. Marriage has many difficulties as well and I am not blind to the loneliness which can exist in marriage, but please don't assume that the difficulties are the same. They are uniquely different because the ministry is uniquely different. This is a blessing.


Because I am a complementarian I will always take the view that men and women are created equal, but distinct. The Bible is clear on this subject and it is a huge comfort to me that, as a woman, I will always be in submission and that I have the opportunity to give men the respect that God designs them to have. I don't begrudge them this: their burden is a heavier one to carry. In the same way, though, being a complementarian means I also take a step back in circumstances where other women might move forward. So what you're going to read here is my challenge to women who subscribe to that view of Biblical gender roles; if you know you're going to take issue with that, this might not be the post for you.

One commenter privately emailed me and asked this question: how can you expect the good men to rise up when all the women available make it easy for them to stay as they are?

And what I have to say to that is three-fold:

1. All the women available aren't making it easy, as evidenced by more than 90% of the conversations I have with frustrated single women about this subject. If you're a great guy and you want me to set you up with a great woman, ask me. I'll do it gladly. I know some all over the country.

2. Women, are you making it easy? If you are, stop. Please, for the sake of your brothers in Christ who are accosted by every advertisement and opportunity as it is, for the sake of your sisters who have guarded their purity, for the sake of yourselves, but mostly and most certainly for the sake of the gospel, stop making it easy. JR Vasser said last night in his sermon at my church, "Show the world what a covenantal God looks like by being a covenantal people."

The greatest testimony of God's goodness you can be as a woman is to reflect His goodness in His design of you! It is a perfect design, it does not need enhancement or surgery, it does not need hordes of new clothing, it does not need an immodest spirit to reflect His goodness. He made you this way on purpose. He made you to delight in the attention of a man, yes, but He made you in His image first and that is your first mandate. Before "be fruitful and multiply," before He gave you to man as a helpmeet, He created the imago dei. The Image of God.

He created you. Designed you. Purposed and intended you.

Don't throw that away on pocket change relationships where you'll leave broken-hearted and he'll leave with one more notch on his belt of conquests.

3. Women, are you not making it easy enough? Ah, you think I'm taking back my former point, I'm not. What I'm saying here is that we have no idea the influence a woman has over a man and what a risk it is for a godly and sincere man to initiate a relationship. Men were designed to initiate and we were created to respond, but the fall messed things up! As one commenter said: "The Genesis curse on men wasn't that they'd have to work it's that they wouldn't have the desire. That is to say, the curse was more intrinsically a predisposition towards laziness." And no woman in her right mind would tell you that we don't battle the "take charge because ain't nobody else" attitude. How is it that we are both hardwired to respond and hardwired to initiate?

It's the fall. But it's not the design. And when I think of this, I think of what a gracious God He is, to give us a physical and theological framework within which we can work out the effects of the fall. Battle that inclination in you to take charge, rush the process and take dominion.

When that process unfolds, whether you return the affections or not, be gentle, be kind, respond with faith and encouragement toward a man who takes a risk. Not because you want to marry him necessarily, but because he will someday be someone's husband and the scars of your disrespect will be hard to heal. If you know the guy to be a good man, be approachable, be a risk-taker, give the benefit of the doubt several times over, don't dismiss him on his clothing choices or his stammering jokes--as much as you battle the inclination to be in control, he battles the inclination to back down.

Encourage the men in your life, don't play favorites with the good-looking ones or the rich ones, the single ones or the adventurous ones. Of course you're going to find organic friendship with certain people, but don't suppose for one minute that your true colors won't shine through when you're giving the cold shoulder to nine guys and doe eyes to one. Give the nice guys a chance. Everyone says that, I know, but give them a chance. Some of the best guys I know are bespectacled and slight, a bit shy and awkward.

One last point:

If you are a single woman with no present prospects for marriage and you're reading this thinking "Ha! I wish I could be easy! Or I wish I had the opportunity to practice responding that way!" Stop. Look at the opportunities you have within the calling you walk daily. Singleness is such a unique, unique time of life, filled with the blessing of uninterrupted thought time, special ministry opportunities and more. You don't need to worry that you missed the call of God on your life or that He's forgotten you as you watch yet another friend seemingly have all her dreams come true. He has not forgotten you. He has designed and placed you in these circumstances specifically for you to display His goodness to a broken world.

Above all, reflect Christ. He showed no partiality toward us, loving us wildly and deeply, humbly and without reason. What a good, good God He is.

But where sin increased, grace abounded all the more,
so that, as sin reigned in death,
grace also might reign through righteousness
leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Romans 9:20,21

day four of 30 day challenge put down by one Jason Alan Churchill Thorburne Morris.

The truth about me is that I am gentle, a good listener, kind, forgiving, good-natured, and a generally agreeable person. That is the truth about me that most of you see, especially on this page. But the real truth about me is that I am a deeply passionate and soulful aggressive when it comes to issues I feel are important. I think we all are. So I would like to preface this post with this little bit:

I am the sister of seven men in varying ages and stations in life. I am the daughter of a man who provided for his family. I am the friend of many, many, many good men. I have been in relationships with solid men of God who were careful with my heart and aggressive about their pursuit of me. I have been blessed to be surrounded by men my entire life who embrace the call of God on their lives to varying degrees, but mostly do it well and with great courage.

I don't know this man, but he looks nice. Well, his beard looks nice.

It is difficult to be a man these days. I am not unaware of the ploys that assault their manhood, their leadership, their provision, their callings and their self-respect. I am acutely aware of this, perhaps because I never had a sister, only many brothers. Perhaps because, growing up, their friends were my friends and while other little girls were indulging in the latest Barbie trend, I was part of the HeMan Woman Haters Club that met behind one of the boulders in our backyard. I was an honorary member and always instructed to turn my back when they had peeing contests, but I was still there.

I'm telling you all of this because I want you to know that I am not a raving feminist, nor do I have an ax to grind when it comes to challenging men to take their role. I respect men. I do. I think they're great. I think they're magnificent creatures with muscles and hairy faces and oil-changing abilities and the uncanny ability to walk in the room and send my heart into my throat. Yes. I am fascinated by men!

(Especially when they wear caps like this.)

That said,

Where have the good men gone?

This is the question that Kay Hymowitz asks in a recent article (gone viral in my circle of friends) in the Wall Street Journal. And I'd like to echo that question and perhaps ask it of you, my readers and friends.

I don't ask it under the assumption that you are not good men or that you have abdicated (for all I know, I have no male readers and I'm sending this question out into a void), I ask it in real puzzlement. I ask it after countless conversations with beautiful, godly, heartfelt, sincere, beautiful women who are single into their late twenties and now into their late thirties ask me: where have all the good men gone? And if you push me (not even too hard, I'm blessed in that respect), I will point out many, many good men who are still available. But I remain old-fashioned enough to believe that the man ought to make the first move, so all my pointing out will do is increase these women's discontent by the availability of good men who still aren't pursuing.

I truly, honestly believe that if you are single today, then you are called to singleness today. And I do believe that some are called to singleness for life, either with the knowledge that that is their calling, or the knowledge at the end of their life that that was their calling. But I do not believe it is the call of every man to singleness, nor the call of every woman.

So I am not exactly asking the question, "where have all the good men gone?" Because that is not really the question, for me. The question for me is, why are all you good men letting these amazing women grow old, childless, husbandless and feeling like the mandate to "be fruitful and multiply" will forever be beyond their grasp?

(Again, let me say, there is no ax to grind here. I am actually a very content unmarried person. I have an amazingly hospitable home, plenty of joy, excitement about my calling as a single person each day. This is not to say that there is not within me a deep, deep desire to be a wife, to submit to and respect a husband and raise children with him, but I am fully aware and excited to be doing what I am doing each and every day as an unmarried person.)

This is to say: rise up, men of God. Good men, godly men that I know! Rise up, take your place as a worshiper, a leader, a friend of God, a friend of the poor, and/or a teacher of the word.

Rise up, men of God, don't just be chivalrous (though thank you for your chivalry), be a pursuant. Chivalry is a beautiful thing, but it can become a passive thing when your role is to take leadership and pursue with passion and drive.

Do not get your fill of a woman's unique ability to be an emotional support and then leave her wasted and empty while you coast on her encouragement.

Rise up and begin living your passions and dreams, and be brave enough to include a woman in that picture--your strength will not be depleted by the right woman, it will be magnified (ask any successfully married couple, it's true!).

Stop wasting the best and most fruitful years of your life on video games and movies, spend it the way Christ spent on you: lavishly and selflessly.

I wish I could list all the men who are running through my mind as I write this, because I write it to you. You strong men of God, you mighty men of valor and you cohorts in the faith. I write it to you with the hope that you are wrecked in your soul of this world and that you are drawn to women who are representations of God and God alone, not a perfect body or an airbrushed face.

I write it with the hope that you are standing in the back of the room, jumping up and down, when that question is asked: where have all the good men gone? You are standing there with your arm raised high and your voice standing apart: Here I am, I'm here!

For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh
and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions
is not from the Father but is from the world.
I John 2:16

day three of 30 day challenge put down by one Jason Alan Churchill Thorburne Morris (who is also one of the best men of God I know, so this doesn't apply to him, unless he wants it to).