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