Thursday, September 20, 2012

Hidden and Broken

"Now Rachel had taken the household gods and put them inside her camel’s saddle and was sitting on them. Laban searched through everything in the tent but found nothing." 

Genesis 31:34

Shame always leads to hiding.

Like Adam and Eve, it grieves us to think that even a moment of disobedience has the shocking ability to separate us from deep communion with God.

So, we take cover--refusing to be seen.

We keep secrets--we hide--because we don't want anyone to know that we are clutching hidden comforts. We make excuses so divert people's attention away from them.

No one else may ever find them, but it doesn't mean they aren't doing us damage.

They make us feel safe...but at what cost?

'Without knowing fully what we are doing, we hide the things we secretly love and admire under our skirts, like Rachel, sitting primly and righteously on our camels, wondering why we are not whole, why we still suffer, why we feel unreconciled to the God we profess."

-Leslie Williams

Ask yourself:

What am I hiding? What "household gods" (idols) am I wanting to take with me as God calls me to leave where I am at and journey somewhere entirely unfamiliar? (Not that I truly WANT to take these things with me into a new season--just that the thought of leaving them behind scares me so much).

I know I am not whole. But what keeps me from being so?

What is MY secret?

Is it lust? Gluttony? Self-hatred? Non-sexual fantasy?

Am I willing to name it? Am I willing to release it?

"Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them...everything exposed by the light becomes visible—and everything that is illuminated becomes a light. This is why it is said:

'Wake up, sleeper,
rise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you.'"

-Ephesians 5:11-14

Be honest with God about what lies hidden in the shadows of your heart, mind and habits.

Allow the power of Jesus to illuminate your life: Take the bold step to tell a sister in Christ about your secret. Ask her to pray for you and with you.

Kill the darkness with light.

It's the only way to be free and whole...

"So admit your sins to each other, and pray for each other so that you will be healed."

-James 5:16

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Singleness Survival Kit: Item #3

Item #3: Podcasts

Not gonna lie, I'm slightly addicted to the spoken Word via podcast. This is probably a laughable understatement to those who know me, but I fully admit to being I'm a total nerd...especially when it comes to the Bible. I absolutely love studying and learning about Scripture through listening to inspiring preaching and teaching. While I have a whole list of favorites, there are a select few gems related to the blessed state of singleness. Fantastic resources to encourage and inspire us in the wait...

-"Redeeming Ruth" series: Mars Hill Church
-"Song of Solomon" series:  Mars Hill Church
-"Single in Christ: A Name Better than Sons and Daughters": Desiring God

For the sake of this post, following the same format as the two previous survival items, I'm gonna stick with one podcast and share some meaningful quotes/my personal reflection on each. Introducing Carolyn McCulley, a wise, fun, passionate lady discussing the beauty & challenges of singleness at the 2004 Desiring God conference (the theme was Sex and The Supremacy of Christ).

Check it out: "We're Not On Hold".

On the proper view of singleness:

"It’s easier to think about being single in terms of being graciously endowed to serve the church in our season of being unmarried than it is to think about it as a gift [like] 'I didn’t want this to begin with and I want to exchange it!'...

But there’s a purpose for the gift [which we read about in 1 Corinthians 12:7]: 'To each is given the manifestation of the spirit for the common good...'"

What this means for me:
Repent of my self-pity and  the self-centered perspective that only thinks of my own lack of contentment/fulfillment in my single state. Focusing solely on my own feelings of discouragement towards this "gift" keeps me from recognizing that my singleness is a gift given to me TO BE GIVEN AWAY. I have the time and availability to pour myself out and focus on blessing others in a way that I couldn't if I was married right now. I have to trust that the Holy Spirit has apportioned this gift to me for the good of my fellow believers--that I am in the best place/position as a single to fill my unique role in the Body right now.

On "You won't get married until..." statements:

"Married people...look at singles and say 'You’re not gonna get married until you get content in your singleness.' But it’s not really accurate theology, because God doesn’t require us to attain any state before He gives us a gift. It’s all of grace. It’s all unmerited."

What this means for me:

I can't DO enough, perform, attain a certain level of character or somehow scheme my way into getting married. Yes, I've written about this before, but it's a HUGE revelation for me. Everyone steps into marriage imperfectly and we all fall short of being able to please God with our own "righteousness." If I could somehow earn a spouse through achieving perfect contentment in singleness, as McCulley says, it would cease to be a gift. (And besides, how many married people do YOU know that were 100% content to be single before they got married? We should seek to be content in the Lord, it's true, but shouldn't use it as a backwards attempt to get what we "really" want).

On preparing for parenting:

"Am I participating in the work of evangelising and discipline the next generation? Am I being faithful to love the children that are already in my life while I trust the Lord with the desire to be a mother? In other words, am I willing to invest in other people’s blessings while I wait on my own?"

What this means for me:
Do I sit around and lament about my Mommy-longings or am I actually using the lessons I know about parenting & pouring into children and youth to positively influence those young people around me? In college, I loved studying Marriage & Family and Developmental Psychology. I've got a whole slew of theories from these courses (not to mention at least a half dozen books on the subject), but have typically failed to seize the opportunities where I can put them into practice now ("I'm not a parent yet..." is the logical excuse). But there are nieces, nephews and kids from church that God has placed in my life--I want to be a better steward of shepherding these little ones!

On God's silences in answering our questions/prayers:

"When we’re tempted to wonder, 'Can I trust God with my hopes?' we need to remember that what we can see of our circumstances is not all that’s there. We need to remember that God’s silences are not His rejections. They are simply preparations for a greater revelation of Him."

What this means for me:
Here, McCulley is paraphrasing Henry Blackaby about our view of God and His apparent lack of response to our prayers. The biggest issue here is FAITH. Can I believe that God not only hears my prayers, but is acting and working out circumstances that I can't see to bring my best and highest good to pass? Do I really believe that God is faithful to be trusted with something as fragile and essential as my heart? I have to believe that just because I don't see the answers to my prayers yet doesn't necessarily mean that I will be single forever (God "rejecting" me and my desires). Could it be that the longer I wait for His answer, the more glory that answer will bring to Him? We always value more dearly something we paid a great price for. The waiting is costly. Do I believe the revelation of His glory, power and faithfulness as a result of the waiting will be worth the cost?

On pinpointing the "reason" why we're single:

"We’re not single because we’re too old or too young, too fat or too skinny, too loud or too quiet. Not because we’re in a church where there’s hardly any single men. Not because we’re in a church with a lot of single men who decided that we’re not important anymore and who overlook us. We’re not single, ultimately because of any sin in our past. We’re single because that’s God’s provision for us today."

What this means for me:
God is sovereign. He is in control of my life. If He didn't want me to be single right now, He would provide a spouse at this very moment. But as a child of God who is diligently seeking His heart and His will for my life, if my ring finger remains bare, I trust that it is not because I made too many mistakes or that I am "too much or not enough" of something. The Lord will give me my "daily bread" as I need it. In McCulley's words, God being the Author of our lives "means we can rule out worldly ways of thinking about why we're single." It's always a temptation to get insecure and question--to sucumb to the worldly ways that tell us to "fix ourselves" out of singleness. I am learning to daily reject those lies and chose to be thankful for the provision He has for me today--whatever that looks like.

On Romans 8:28 in action:

[Quoting Don Raunikar] "If and when God decides you can best serve him as a team member with a life partner, you won’t need to change (what you‘re doing)…HE will work out the circumstances…This favor of the Lord is what God extends to His children in arranging the circumstances for them to meet their life partners."

What this means for me:
McCulley points out that in the stories of Ruth and Rebecca in the Bible, it was God who brought each of those women their spouses. They didn't have to hunt. They were simply living faithfully to the Lord and serving others and then BOOM! God did the work. HE organized the situations of their meeting and falling in love. Raunikar wisely says "We can trust God to arrange those circumstances." I don't have to get nervous like John Mayer's lonely paranoia in Love Song for No One: "I could have met you in a sandbox/I could have passed you on the sidewalk/Could I have missed my chance and watched you walk away?" My life is in God's hands. I didn't miss my chance...

(As an inspiring aside, last month, one of my single male friends reminded me that God is FAR MORE invested in seeing me and my future spouse come together than I am. It seems impossible, but God's view of marriage is much, much more significant than mine--He is more excited than I am to bring a marriage to pass!)

On waiting:

"Waitingfaith is a high form of worship…God delivers His servants in ways that have them exercising their faith" (Charles Spurgeon).

What this means for me:
Am I living my days in fear (anxiety over whether or not God is gonna "get it right") or in faith that He WILL? Am I making the most of this wait by using it to deepen my trust in the Lord and His goodness? Am I exercising my faith by believing even though I don't see circumstances changing?

If waiting is worship, let me do it with everything within me: Eyes fixed on Him, with a grateful & joyful spirit, ever proclaiming His name.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Singleness Survival Kit: Item #2

Item #2: "I Will Wait for You" by Janette...ikz

It took me a good week to watch this YouTube video after a friend posted it on her Facebook, with the tagline "This is sooooo awesome!!!" Not gonna lie, the title bothered me: Too "True Love Waits"ish for my taste. And besides, I saw that the video was actually a poem. Immediately, I got visions of a flowerly, overly optimistic 15 year old girl emblazooning cutesy words in curly script over a homemade montage of the sappiest scences from The Notebook. Just what I need, more Christian cliche...

Well, wasn't shockingly surprised (humbled) to find that it was not only slam poetry (very cool...), but it was some of THE most clever, articulate and genuine words I'd ever heard/read on the subject of singleness. Not only that, it came from the mouth of a Christian woman, with all kinds of humour, sass and wit to back up it's depth of substance.

Like Passion and Purity, item numero dos in my Singleness Survival Kit never gets old. I can go back to this again and again--and I am just as inspired and challenged as I was the first time I saw it. I'd encourage you to check out the video of slam poet "Janette...ikz" reading "I Will Wait For You" in front of a live audience at a P4CM poetry slam. The energy of the audience makes it that much more'll see what I mean :)

Watch it...

In this blog, I want to highlight the best of the best quotes from the poem--at least the ones that have been most impactful to me in navigating singleness.

Go ahead, shout a little "Amen" as you read these. You know you want to... ;)

“You know… I was tired of being alone,
And I simply made up in my mind, that it was about that time so I decided to drag him along for the ride, cause I was always the bridesmaid & never the bride..
So I was gonna make him ‘The One’.”

What this means for me-

Resist restlessness! There have been several periods over my young adult life where I either felt: a) exasperated (“I’m done with this wait, thing! I just feel so weary!” Sigh...) or b) anxious to take control and make something happen. When “It’s about that time” becomes a nagging thought, striving soon follows. This is where the settling starts--and the “brilliant” idea that somehow through my pretty face, inspiring spirituality or other clever little persuasive techniques, I can magically transform any willing (or unwilling) prospect into “The One.” False...

The conclusion that I’ve come to? I'd rather have a “pre-made” man. Let me clarify to say, while I full expect to do a lot of learning/growing together as a couple (ideally encouraging each other in Christlike-ness more and more everyday), I want someone whose process of growth/maturity began well BEFORE I stepped into the picture. I pray for a man of God who was taught to be so directly from the Father, not from my nagging or striving to somehow force him into that mold.
“Ready to sell my aorta for a quarter, not knowing the value of its use to me. Arties so clogged with MY will, it blocked HIS Will from flowing through me”

What this means for me-

Heartonmysleeve Syndrome: If such a thing exists, I’m pretty sure I have it.

In my flesh, I have been far too quick to give my heart away at little cost to the recipient. Jesus, teach me to view my heart as a treasure! To not “throw my pearls before pigs.” I want to live in daily surrender--submitting myself to God, seeking to have no will of my own, but only to want that which He wills for me. I am challenged to hold my dreams and desires with an open hand, without grasping or clinging jealously to what I (think I) want. Only with hands opened in surrender can the Lord place there what He wants to be. Far better than my own dreams suffocating in my tight, unrelenting grip…

“I will no longer date, socialize or communicate with carbon copies of you to appease my boredom or to quench my thirstiness I have for attention and short-lived compliments from ‘sorta kindas’”

What this means for me-

“Drop the man drama!” Reject the lie that you’re somehow wasting time if there isn’t someone in the picture or on the sidelines to flirt with/get attention from/have a crush on/strive to make something more. Believe that sitting back and WAITING for the right man is better than filling my mind with thoughts about and wasting my time settling for the “false companionship” of just any man. Carbon copy = fake. Pseudo-boyfriends, remember? They aren’t real! WAIT for the real thing...

“I will no longer get weighted down from so-called friends & family talks about the concern for my biological clock when I serve the Author of Time. Who is not subject to time, but I’m subject to Him.”

What this means for me-

So, you’re closing in on the big 3-0? So what??!! While I’m fully aware of the potential health risks associated with having children in your 30's and 40's and what "could" happen if I don't start having kids sooner rather than later, I trust that God is bigger than “what if’s.” I’m not going to rush or make decisions based on my age or this societal pressure of “You’re running out of time!” I serve a God who, over and over again in Scripture, blessed barren women with children--well past their prime child-bearing years. The Almighty who opened doors and opened wombs 6,000 years ago is faithful to do the same today--I am convinced of that! His timing may not be my timing, but seeing as He’s the one controlling it, I think we’re good… J

“But I won’t need to identify you by any special Matthews or any special Marks, cause His word will be tatted all over your heart.”

What this means for me-

Some people find it cheesy when they encounter "those Christians" who are constantly talking about God--His grace, His love and His glory. Well, I must confess that I probably am one of those crazy people who doesn't consider it either impractical or "overly spiritual" to always be talking about Jesus. And seeing as I tend to talk about Jesus more and more in this way (can't have a conversation not related to God, God's heart or how He is working) the more I get to know Him, I find this to be an extremely attractive trait in potential men.

To be perfectly honest, I've closed eHarmony match profiles without a second glance if that person never mentions a single thing about God/Jesus in their profile, other than the note at the top that states "Religious Views: Christian." When these men are asked questions like "What are you most passionate about? What do you like to do in your spare time? and What books have you read recently?," I'm thrilled to see answers like "Sharing my faith, helping the homeless and the Bible." Sounds cheesy, but I want a man who claims passion for Kingdom business over sports, working out or his career. Like Janette...ikz says so well, it's not hard to spot a man of God--He will be boldly proclaiming the works of his Savior and speaking constantly of the love of his Father.

"So even if you call me to a life of singleness, my heart is content with YOU – the One who was sent. YOU are the greatest love story ever told.”

What this means for me-

I think it's healthy and necessary for the single person serving the Lord and committed to following His will (whatever that means) to honestly and truly surrender the prospect of marriage. We assume we deserve it--that it is somehow our "right" to get married. We assume that because the desire is there in us, that it simply HAS to be fulfilled (more on that in my next post). But of course, when left unsurrendered, even desiring a godly thing like marriage can become an idol. We falsely believe that the craving and restlessness of our hearts and souls will somehow be satiated by the constant companionship of an earthly lover.

But the Truth is, nothing will satisfy me like Jesus. His love is perfect, His presence is constant and He understands and knows me far more deeply than even a husband ever could.

Yes, I want to be married, but I pray that I will never be fooled into thinking that there exists a greater, more fulfilling love than that of my First Love...


Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Singleness Survival Kit: Item #1

"He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us."

-2 Corinthians 1:4

While nothing can replace the comfort that comes from the presence of the Spirit with me daily, there have been three specific things that have been of IMMENSE encouragement to me in my journey of singleness. The Lord has used these things to creatively express the precise revelations I so desperately needed to understand regarding this stage in my life. They have been his vehicles for providing His comfort to me during what can often be difficult and confusing times. I hope that as He has comforted me with them, that they can be a comfort to you. These three things are merely simple truths from Scripture expressed by other Christian women who have stood where I stand. Yet, for all their simplicity, they have affected my perspective profoundly. They are my "singleness survival kit" :)

Item #1: "Passion and Purity" by Elizabeth Elliot

Never, ever, ever will you ever need another book on navigating Christian singleness/dating/marriage...

I realize that's a VERY bold claim, but trust me--as a girl who has read DOZENS of books on these topics (both Christian and non-Christian)--this one is a gem to which no other book even comes close. EVERY topic you can think of is covered--boundaries, emotions, what men/women look for, discerning God's will, submission, masculinity, femininity--it really does have it all. It is full of Scripture, not to mention very practical, first-hand wisdom from an amazing woman of God who definitely has the credentials (authority!) to back up the intense things she writes of in the book. (Elizabeth Eliot, for those who don't know, is the widow of Jim Eliot who was one of the most famous martyr's of the 20th century. The Elliot's were missionaries in Ecuador in the 1940's and 50's).

I am insanely encouraged and convicted every time I read this book. This woman has an AMAZING love story--full of so much beauty and joy, yet so much sadness and struggle at the same time. She got married just before turning 27--which was definitely a "wait," considering this was back in the 1950's (when the average age of marriage was MUCH younger than it is now), so she definitely understands the plight of the Christian single gal very, very well. Passion and Purity contains many passages from the journals she kept during her singleness, as well as hindsight commentary after she was married. And, as she notes in the book, it's amazing how very little has changed in terms of the thoughts/struggles that single women had in the 40's/50's versus those of single women today. There truly is nothing new under the sun...

Here are the key quotes from this book that express the most profound singleness revelations for me personally. Along with Eliot's quotes, I've included my own internal processing and necessary response to each.

On our concerns that God won't get it right (bringing His perfect mate for us into our lives)

“Does it make sense to believe that the Shepherd would care less about getting His sheep where He wants them to go than they care about getting there?”

What this means for me:

Trust God’s character and good intentions! If I am following Him and seeking His will consistently, would He lead me astray? He desires to see me get to where He wants me to be! God longs to see His will accomplished through my life--far more than I do. I can cast my cares on Him BECAUSE He cares for me.

On the plight of a single man and a single woman hoping to get married

“Had our cause perhaps escaped His notice? Would He bother with us, when He was busy with who knew how many other worlds?”

What this means for me:

I am God’s child. He sees my circumstance and has NOT ignored my pleas (though I admit that I have often acted like the annoyingly persistent widow...). I can be assured that the Lord has heard every prayer I have prayed. And not only has He listened, but I can be confident that He is presently ACTING on my behalf (Philipians 2:13; Romans 8:28; Ephesians 3:20).

As Tim Keller says, “The story of Joseph shows us again and again that with God, silence is not absence…often when things look like they are going the most wrong, God is most working for our good.” Hagar experienced this. She was the first person in Scripture ever to give God a name. Her name for God is true for me too: He is the One who sees me.

On waiting and being patient in the unknown

“I do know that waiting on God requires the willingness to bear uncertainty, to carry within oneself the unanswered question, lifting the heart to God about it whenever it intrudes upon one’s thoughts.”

What this means for me:

I have to be humble enough to accept that I have no idea what God will bring about. His ways are not my ways. I can choose to go my own way…and see how that turns out. Or I can, like Abraham or the disciples, follow the Lord’s call simply to “Go” and follow Him into the unknown. Because I belong to Him (I am not my own), I need not know how He will bring everything about--or even where/to whom He is leading me. To wait is to TRUST…and to surrender time and again whenever I feel impatience creeping in.

On choosing how we will react to the position in life where God has us (she is speaking specifically in this passage about accepting singleness--whether temporary or permanent)

“Look at the choices:

Rebellion--if this is the will of God for me now, He doesn’t love me.
Rejection--if this is what God is giving me, I won’t have any part of it.
Faith--God knows exactly what He’s doing.
Acceptance--He loves me; He plans good things for me; I’ll take it.”

What this means for me:

If I am truly the follower of Christ I claim to be, there can be no room for options 1 or 2. As Henry Blackaby says: “Two words in the Christian’s language cannot go together: No, Lord. If you say, ‘No,’ He is not Lord.”

When it comes to my singleness, though it might not be forever (and I can’t claim to know that--see previous quote), it IS what has been given to me now. I will not wallow in self-pity about it and speak lies about the Lord’s character (that He “doesn’t love me”) simply because He is not giving me my present desires. And as far as rejection, where else I am going to go? Like Peter said, Christ has the words of life! How can you turn away and choose another path once you’ve tasted Truth?

So what will I do? Believe that He is sovereign and that His plan is better than mine. Receive the Truth into my heart that He loves me more than I can comprehend. And though I might not understand it now, I will trust that where He has led me truly is the BEST thing for this season.

On not seeing/understanding the big picture of what God is doing and how He will work everything out

“As I was writing in the journal I knew that the picture I was painting was far from complete.”

What this means for me:

When Ephesians 3:20 says that God can do much more than we could ever ask or imagine, it means that our perspectives are incredibly limited. We truly “see through a mirror dimly" (1 Corinthians 13:12). Only God knows the bigger picture. He is the Author of my life story. I will trust Him with the details, the characters, the plot and the ending. I will not claim to know more than I do about my future. I will trust that He is working in the unseen realm. I will choose not to get impatient when circumstances appear not to be coming together as I hoped they would. I will not pout even when things look as though they are completely unravelling. I will stand in faith.

On surrender

“What hindereth thee more than thine affections not fully mortified to the will of God?”
(Eliot quoting Thomas a Kempis)

What this means for me:

When my own (unfulfilled) longings and desires (even godly ones) become my primary focus, I am not walking in God’s will. My path is veering AWAY from Him because I am living in sin (idolatry). These desires need to be crucified so that they can be resurrected (if the Lord so chooses). But resurrection can only happen AFTER death. And it can only be brought about by One infinitely more powerful than me. In Passion and Purity, Eliot quotes Addison Leitch, who profoundly noted that “When the will of God crosses the will of man, somebody has to die.”

Guess who that’s gonna be?

To me, both of those quotes ultimately mean that the longer I wait to surrender, the longer it will take me to truly walk in the fullness of intimacysooner I genuinely put to death my own will in favor of His, the sooner I will find LIFE, peace, purpose...and the Love I have always craved. My striving, my refusal to submit, only hinders me. It is only in seeking first the Kingdom that all of those things will be added.

Ultimately, Passion and Purity has been a call to re-orient my thinking. To re-submit to Jesus' Lordship daily. The subtitle says it all--the true "secret" for us singles:

"Learning to bring your love life under Christ's control"

(p.s. Passion and Purity is not just for the ladies! On the cover of this book is an endorsement from Billy Graham: "This book is definitely for men, too." Just sayin, male readers...) :)

Friday, June 29, 2012

A Man Who Understands

When summer wedding invitations flood your mailbox...

When the next big birthday creeps ever closer...

When you don't think you could possibily muster the emotional strength to view even one more relationship status change on your Facebook news feed...

Remember that you are not alone!

I'm convinced that the Lord has a special place in his heart for singles. I have no scriptural basis for that other than the fact that Jesus himself, God in the flesh dwelling among us, chose to live His life as a single.

Think about how crazy this is: Statistics say that the vast majority of Americans (over 90% for sure) will marry at least once in their lifetime. Marrieds, therefore, are clearly the majority. Yet, the Father ordained that our Savior would forgo this path, in favor of singleness (at least for his earthly life as it was 2,000 years ago. We think our wait for a spouse is long...He's still waiting for His bride!). Until the day of his death, for 33 years, Jesus lived as a single--a life that could be construed, in some ways, as easier than being married. Yet, as any adult single can attest, when you're actually living singleness, day in and day out, the intense difficulties and struggles unique to living life alone are painfully obvious...

I've never really taken time to truly consider Jesus' single state before now, but as I write this, the revelation is awakening in my heart and mind. Jesus experienced my singleness struggles firsthand! Not only does He SEE my loneliness/heartache/questioning during this time, he knows exactly how it FEELS.

I take amazing comfort in the fact that Scripture tells me that my Savior...

Experienced rejection (Acts 4:11)

Was tempted in every way I am (Hebrews 4:15)

Experienced loneliness and often did things alone (Luke 5:16, Matthew 4:1)

Questioned the Father's plan for his life (yet still chose to humbly submit to the Father's will) (Philipians 4:8, Matthew 26:36-46).

*Cool thing I never noticed before: In that passage in Matthew, Jesus prayed the same desperate prayer to the Father three times! Wow, even Jesus understands the urge we feel to pray the same thing over and over (how many pages of my journal are almost mirror images of others from the past, expressing the same exact longings/confessions of submission to God's will above my own?). There is something deeply reassuring about this...

Just when I think I'm alone in these feelings of rejection/sadness/loneliness that surround my singleness, I remember Jesus...

"He was despised and rejected by people. He was a man of sorrows, familiar with suffering. He was despised like one from whom people turn their faces, and we didn't consider him to be worth anything."

Isaiah 53:3

And thus I shut my self-pitying mouth...

My heart lesson today: Jesus cares about my struggles. Jesus understands my emotions. He has experienced what I am going through. But He will never abandon me in this.

He is walking with me. Comforting me. Strengthening me. Working His purposes in and through me, in ways far deeper than I can ever fathom.

"Bare heights of loneliness...a wilderness whose burning winds sweep over glowing sands, what are they to Him? Even there He can refresh us, even there He can renew us."

-Amy Carmichael

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Pride, Prejudice and Divine Irony

How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow?... 
What you ought to say is, 'If the Lord wants us to, we will live and do this or that.'  Otherwise you are boasting about your own plans, and all such boasting is evil."

-James 4:14-16

"Never say never. That's just stupid..."

Those were the wise words of Beth Moore in our last video study of the book of James. Although Beth wasn't necessarily talking about relationships, that simple "Duh!" quote can certainly serve as the caption for romantic lives of nearly all of my close friends/family members. And who knows...maybe even my own one day.

Oh, humility...

Thank God for friends who have the privilege of witnessing such moments of youthful folly and stubborn insistence when we throw out blanket "I'd NEVER..." statements. Years down the road, our pals point out that the very thing we claimed we would NEVER do, we have, in fact, done...or are presently engaged in. How sweet of them to remind us. Isn't that what friends are for? ;)

As for me, my own personal "never, ever" vows seem to never, ever fail to come back and bite me in the bum...

Case in point, as a high school student, I swore up and down that when it came to the search for my first job, I would never work at "The Whit" (the arena in our college town). Everyone, it seemed, worked at The Whit...and I, of course, was not just "everyone." Like any teenager, I craved uniqueness, but in the end, followed the crowd into the world of "food service first jobs." Every weekend, I served pizza, pretzels and popcorn to hungry hockey fans and concert crowds (mostly stoned, thence munchie-minded). I said I never would, so, of course I'd end up there.

Of course...

While I won't claim to have perfect understanding of God's character, I surmise that this divine irony is part of the Lord's clever ploy to keep us grounded. Being faced with situations like these, we suddenly realize we have far less control over our lives than we think we do. Because every time we have to eat our words, it works to break down our pride, tear away our prejudices and open our eyes to some much needed perspective...

Nowhere do I see the "never, ever" words boomerang back as often as I do when it comes to marriage. More precisely, the choosing of a marriage partner. Literally more times than I can count, I have watched and listened to couples tell "their story" and start off with one of the following statements...

-"I wasn't attracted to him/her at all. He/she totally wasn't my type..."

-"We were just friends. I NEVER thought we would end up together!"

-"I never wanted to marry a blonde/someone shorter than me/an American" (insert specific attribute that just so happened to be the very description of their spouse)

-"He/she is so different than I ever would pictured my spouse would be..."

It's fascinating to consider the reasons WHY we make such statements in the first place. We are quick to place people/circumstances in the "never, ever" category when they seem so....weird. Weird because they aren't what we initially desire. Weird because they don't fit an ideal we had in our minds. Weird because we don't think they would be what we "need." And again, we are shocked to find that what we once shunned has now taken us by surprise. Divine irony strikes again...

But should we be so surprised? Because behind every "I'd Never..." lurks a pride couched in false confidence and worldly wisdom. Walking in the arrogance of assumption and tossing out those kind of statements reveals two very common (yet false!) beliefs we cling to...

1. I know what is/is not best for my life
2. I am in control of what happens to me

These lies are the biggies I tend to fall prey to...(ahem) constantly. Enveloped in the infamous (and dozens of times revised) "list" of what I want in a future husband are these lies. Every time I revise the list, I pat myself on the back for my so-called "wisdom" in thinking/planning ahead. As I list, my subconscious overflows with thoughts of, "I CAN'T allow myself to get caught up in emotion when making such an important decision! I MUST be smart about the person I choose to marry by making sure that they fulfill all my criteria! I REFUSE to be caught off-guard and unprepared!"

Feel free to call me a control freak, but I'm just being real. Many a single guy or gal I know has such a list (whether formally written or just a mere vision in their mind) of desires to be fulfilled by that elusive FH or FW. A beautiful ideal justified by phrases like "I'm really NOT searching for perfection, I swear! I think my standards are totally realistic..." Which, they very well might be.

The problem isn't with the actual characteristics as much as what they represent. Looking through my own lists and recalling those of friends, 95% of the characteristics exist for my own selfish benefit. I want someone who is tall (so I can wear heels and feel comfortable), attractive (so I can show him off and be proud to call him my man), financially secure (so I don't have to worry about money), romantic (so I can always feel special and loved). Etc. etc. Everything that I want. All to make me happy...

Ugh, even reading that, the comfort-seeking, entitlement-craving Westerner in me seeks to protest: "Why shouldn't I desire those things? I'm a great person! I deserve a great person too!" I can even get all Christian-y about it the cliche and bust out a: "Doesn't God WANT me to be happy?" (Insert self-pitying tear and frowny face here...).

Yes, there is definite truth there! God is a loving, giving Father who takes delight in the joy of His children. He loves to give us good gifts! But the problem comes when we demand those gifts and dictate the exact specifications. For all the times we approach Him as such, we as believers need that kick-in-the-head reminder that Jesus Christ is NOT Santa Claus. And good thing too...because even with Santa Claus, there is condition. If we are good (so the story goes), we get the very gifts we asked for (our "list," incidentally). But if we've screwed up and made the naughty list, Santa doesn't offer much...just some dirty, smelly coal in our stocking. There's no grace with Santa. Only Jesus can truly give gifts with no strings attached...

The implication? I cannot earn my spouse. I can't plan/scheme/strive my way out of singleness. My choices themselves, for good or bad, aren't the determining factor to me receiving the gift of marriage. For as much as the world would convince me otherwise, it is not in my hands. My life is not my own...

If I truly believe that God is in control of my life, I have to believe He is in charge of this very important part of my life/future as well. Marriage is not something I can (or should even attempt to) conjure up in my own strength. I'm slowly, but surely, allowing myself to believe that I can't work (aka "strive") to achieve this. Marriage is a gift...just as singleness is. I need to learn to see both as such...

Throughout my twenties, I have struggled with the lie that I am still single because I am somehow lacking something significant. The truth is, I will ALWAYS be lacking something. This side of heaven, the mystical point where I am suddenly 100% the way I want to look, completely confident of myself and my abilities, totally emotionally healthy and entirely spiritually mature, simply does not exist. My perfectionistic self is wrestling with this crazy notion that the point of "arrival" I am seeking after will never arrive. I am imperfect...that's just how it is.

Instead of despairing about that fact, I want to allow it to give me the perspective I need. Because I am imperfect, I cannot attempt to earn the desire of my heart for marriage and family. And because I can't earn it, that means it can only be given in the form of a gift. And because it is a gift, I can't make demands on it's specifications. I simply need to receive it...

Maybe instead of investing my energy into listing out my own desires, I need to devote my time to preparing my heart to receive. To renounce rebellion and stubbornness. To learn to submit. To truly trust that God's gifts and plans are always GOOD.

Whenever I'm tempted "to list," I pray Psalm 37:4. Not for the Lord to give me the desires of my heart, but for Him to give me the desires of my heart. As in, Him planting His desires within me so that I come to desire them too. I pray that I would be open to whatever He wants for me, in whatever package it comes in. I pray that I will be humble enough to allow Him to open my eyes to something/someone different than what I always pictured.

With no prospects in my present line of sight (I do concede that God might be very purposefully blinding me to them right now) and absolutely no clue as to what God is up to, I very humbly admit that I have no idea what my love story will be. The motivated perfectionist in me wants to do what I can to somehow "make it happen." The creative visionary in me wants to dream up what my future marriage might look like and how it might all unfold. Yet, I cannot attempt to know. I confess that for all my years of seeking God and growing in wisdom, I know that He knows much better than me what I really need. I can simply stand in faith, knowing that HE is at work, unfolding His plan, in His timing. And as humbling as it is, I don't need to know the details until He chooses to reveal them.

In the meantime, I will "hold on hope"...and never say never as to what He might have in store.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Lead Me, I'm Yours

"What's an independent woman to do?"

A single girlfriend recently asked me this when it came to her apprehensions about marriage and questions as to why she wasn't being pursued by men.

It is the perilous plight of the strong woman: "Am I too strong?" my friend surmised, "Too independent?" Where is the line between seeking to cultivate a deep Proverbs 31 character and signifcant skill-set, yet not striving to be the leader of my own life, ministry or (future) marriage?

I totally relate to my friend's struggle. The consistent comment/compliment I have received from dozens of friends, family and co-workers over the years is: "You're such a strong woman!" Never once did I perceive it to mean anything derogatory or unattractive (nor do I think it was ever intended that way), yet I always harbored that secret thought: "What guy is going to want a woman like me?"

I don't say that out of insecurity, but out of genuine curiosity. Are there men out there who are actually praying for a strong woman to marry?

Because I'd think that it would be far less work for a man to find/marry a woman who is naturally dependant, quiet and laid back. You know, the girl who needs a man--or at least caters to his ego to have him believe that she desperately needs him (think Sarah Jessica Parker's scheme in Failure to Launch. She boasts a 100% success rate in reeling a guy in by "allowing" him to teach her something). Lest you think I'm this crazy feminist, allow me to say that I DO believe in interdependence. Even more signficant than that, I am a firm believer in the concept of Biblical submission of a wife to her husband (a rarity even in some Christian circles, sadly). But I digress...more on that later...

I've never been the girl who always had to have a boyfriend. In fact, sometimes I get to thinking that my strong woman persona has actually been the very thing that has kept men at bay. Despite seasons of giving into the worldly advice to "Dumb youself down" or succumb to false humility (i.e. hiding my gifts/talents, thus failing to steward them and give God glory in the process), I quickly realized that I can't go for long keeping up the impression of lack of strength, talent or intelligence. And I guess (as I've been told by a few male friends), the prospect of a person who doesn't seem to need anything is intimidating. Men quickly deduce that as a 29-year old single woman, there is little they can offer me that I haven't already done or learned to do, due to years of experience out of sheer necessity living in a grown-up world. (That's what THEY think, but Jesus and I know better. I am far from perfect and I have desires/needs that are designed to be fulfilled by a spouse. Though I must admit it is a battle to not awaken those things in my current state. In my singleness, I long for affirmation and affection more than ever...). Yet, through my seasons of struggle and in my times of lack, I have learned not to turn merely to a man, but to trust in God. A fact that I am so thankful for, yet can only hope it is a turn-on and not a deterrant to a potential husband...

Even my boss recently told me that, without a doubt, I will need a strong man for a spouse. Because of my own strength and spiritual maturity, it would take a man who truly knows himself and knows the Lord to lead me. Because, ultimately, despite all my "strength" (God-given, anway), that IS truly my heart: I long to be led. For the past several years, the Lord has so beautifully guided me and bluntly challenged me how to submit. He has trained me with Him, teaching me how to trust His character and guidance as the Lord and leader of my life. And although His leadership will always be the primary and most significant, I am confident that this process of learning to submit to Him, is most certainly preparing me to submit to my husband one day.

Years ago, I read Wild at Heart by John Eldredge. While the book encouraged me on so many levels, there is one story in particular that continues to impact me profoundly. It is an admonition of courage for the single man choosing a spouse...

"Most men, you see, marry for safety; they choose a woman who will make them feel like a man but never really challenge them to be one. A young man whom I admire is wrestling between the woman he is dating and one he knew butcould not capture years ago. Rachel, the woman he is currently dating, is asking a lot of him; truth be told, he feels in way over his head. Julie, the woman he did not pursue, seems moreidyllic; in his imagination she would be the perfect mate. Life with Rachel is tumultuous; life with Julie seems calm and tranquil. 'You want the Bahamas,' I said. 'Rachel is the North Atlantic. Which one requires a true man?'"

 What a challenge for the godly man desiring a wife! And how encouraging for a North Atlantic woman like myself... ;)

Preach it, Eldredge!

These days, despite my normal, "What if?" human fears ("What if all the good guys are already taken? What if I'm meant to be single forever?"), I generally tend to "err" on the side of faith. I believe that there ARE men out there who are praying for strong women after God's heart. Over the last year, the Lord has brought numerous godly men across my path, reavealing to me just a glimpse of the strong caliber and character that He is able to cultivate in men who are humbly and passionately committed to Him. And I have to believe that these men--as lovers of God and students of Scripture--know that strength in a woman is not necessarily synonomous with stubbornness or unsubmissiveness. Smart, strong men realize that a woman's godly strength has likely been cultivated by persevering through hard times, growing in faith and developing a daily dependance upon the Holy Spirit. Beautiful irony, isn't it? Godly strength stems from humility and submission.

And strength doesn't back down from a challenge--nor is it afraid to offer one. I might ask a lot of my man, but I hope he asks a lot of me. I pray that, like Jesus, my future husband would love me too much to leave me the way I am. I pray that he would see me as a gift entrusted to him by the Lord--one to steward wisely. That he would look forward to the day when, as a result of his loving leadership, he would present me back to the Lord as something far more beautiful and Christ-like than either of us ever thought possible.

No matter how strong I grow in myself and in the Lord, I believe I will never outgrow that deep desire within me, not to lead, but to be led.

It is no doubt my highest and most beautiful calling in the Kingdom...

"Wives, understand and support your husbands in ways that show your support for Christ. The husband provides leadership to his wife the way Christ does to his church, not by domineering but by cherishing. So just as the church submits to Christ as he exercises such leadership, wives should likewise submit to their husbands.

Husbands, go all out in your love for your wives, exactly as Christ did for the church—a love marked by giving, not getting. Christ's love makes the church whole. His words evoke her beauty. Everything he does and says is designed to bring the best out of her, dressing her in dazzling white silk, radiant with holiness..."

-Ephesians 5:22-28

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Guys vs. The Gospel

"The time and energy that married people spend on caring for and nurturing each other, the unmarried can spend in becoming whole and holy instruments of God." (1 Corinthians 7:33)

Have you been a good steward of your singleness?

For all the times I asked my students that question, I know that today, I desperately need to ask it to myself...

Because I know that there will come a time when I find myself face-to-face with the Lord, and He will ask me to give an account of how I spent my days here on earth. What will my answer be?

Should I be scared for that day of Judgment?

The Father has given me a lengthened season of singleness (certainly longer than I would have liked...), yet I deeply trust His sovereignty and believe that He is purposefully strategic in all His plans for me. In what feels like a burden--and the very opposite of a blessing---I have come to clearly see that the Lord has bestowed upon me something wonderful and unique. As a 29-year old single woman, I have been given the rare gift of TIME.

Ever the social butterfly, my schedule is rarely void. Some days it seems like I don't have enough hours in the day to accomplish everything I desire to do. Yet, when I hang out with my "mommy and married" friends, I suddenly recognize that I have no right to say that I'm too busy. These friends are juggling jobs, caring for children and serving, supporting and seeking to please their husbands. Very few find the time to serve and love God to the degree that they would like to...

But what's MY excuse? There's no man to make happy, or mouths to feed at the moment. I have all the time in the world to devote to serving my Savior! In my present single state, the Lord CAN truly be the priority in my schedule and the sole object of my desire.

So, why isn't He?

A married friend recently confessed that she always struggled to live out 1 Corinthians 7 as a single. She recognized that it is a wonderful ideal--for single people to choose to remain "spouse-less" so as to devote themselves completely to knowing and serving the Father--yet she (like all of us) fell short of that goal.

"'The unmarried woman is free to focus on the things of the Lord,'" she jokingly paraphrased, "But for most of my singleness, the main thing I was praying about was the fact that I wasn't married!"

Hahahaha! I write that because that describes ME and my thoughts exactly (There really ISN'T anything new under the sun, is there? People are people...especially us single ladies!). Yeah, I'll be real enough to admit that those are significant things that I take to the Lord on a regular basis--my single state, my desire for a husband and my questioning of God's timing in the whole process. While the desire to be married is healthy, legitimate and (I believe) even God-ordained, I do know that I need to seriously re-evaluate my priorities. Big time...

Francis Chan spurred my most recent conviction of this. Last week, I went to a "Coffee Talk" at a local Christian university where Chan was being featured as the main speaker. I find it interesting that people always speak of Chan being so "radical," when really, he just lives out what the Bible says--even and especially when it's counter-cultural. It's insanely humbling that his answers to the questions people ask him are so simple and straight forward. (Biblical answers, he reminds us, usually are. We usually make them more complicated than they really are because they make us uncomfortable...)

One of the last questions that was asked of Chan during the talk was by a girl in her 20's who (like myself and many of my readers) was struggling with her desire to be married. Chan's response was brilliant (allow me to paraphrase)...

We spend way too much time focusing on marriage and family in the Church, he said. When we read Scripture, we see that urgency is associated with the spreading of the Gospel and advancing the Kingdom, not in building families here on earth. Christians spend so much time reading books and getting input about marriage/family that the focus of their lives has become about building a better relationship with their spouse than seeking greater intimacy with God. With an unhealthy, idolatrous focus on spouses and children (good things becoming "god-things"), we have often neglected our mission of making disciples and preaching the love of Christ to the world.

In 1 Corinthians 7, Paul encourages unmarried people to "stay as they are," and goes so far as to admonish married people to "live as if they have no spouse" (!!! Who says the Bible majors on "family values?"). Paul, like Jesus, always prioritized God over family. "God first, family second and THEN ministry," Chan quoted the little Christian cliche, "What does that even MEAN?" You cannot separate loving God from serving Him! Yet what you CAN do is teach and structure your family in such a way that your marriage/home life reflects what it means to live missionally. Is the purpose of your marriage to be a stronger, more effective team for advancing the Kingdom? Are you and your spouse bringing more glory to God as a couple than you were as singles? Are you teaching your children how to love and serve others, and to make disciples everywhere they go? THAT should be the purpose and goal of the family.

"My whole life is a mission trip," Chan said. 

As it should be...  :)

It's ridiculous how Satan uses something as GOOD as marriage (God's beautiful allegory for showing His supreme faithfulness, commitment and incredible love towards His bride) and twist it to become an idol. Obsession with marriage, a spouse or even the idea of a potential spouse, can easily disintegrate our true reason for existing on Earth. Being wrapped up in another human being--even our own spouse, even our own children--has the damaging potential to diminish our sense of urgency to spread the Gospel.

And it clearly does all the time. I see far more sermon series on "Marriage and Parenting" than I do on "Evangelism and Serving the Poor." Likewise, we experience far more divorce than we do revival...

God is pretty clear in Scripture as to who and what should be the priority of our lives: We are called to "Seek first the Kingdom." Everything else, by default, must be considered secondary...

"I want you to live as free of complications as possible. When you're unmarried, you're free to concentrate on simply pleasing the Master. Marriage involves you in all the nuts and bolts of domestic life and in wanting to please your spouse, leading to so many more demands on your attention. The time and energy that married people spend on caring for and nurturing each other, the unmarried can spend in becoming whole and holy instruments of God. I'm trying to be helpful and make it as easy as possible for you, not make things harder. All I want is for you to be able to develop a way of life in which you can spend plenty of time together with the Master without a lot of distractions."

1 Corinthians 7 challenges me like none other. It forces me to narrow my focus, always bearing in mind the urgency of the day. It reminds me to ask myself: Am I easily distracted by the cares of this world? Am I fixing my eyes on guys instead of on Jesus?

These are questions I must ask every single day. I know I can only make plans based on TODAY, recognizing that everything can change in an instant. The time and freedom that I have right now might last for two years or two weeks. All I know for sure is that the Lord's plan for me is still unfolding. I can't claim to know what He is up to or where He is taking me. Who knows how long my singleness will last?

But instead of dwelling on that question, I know there is really only one ultimate question I need to be asking about my singleness...

Am I truly making the most of it?

Monday, April 23, 2012

The Irony of Allure

They say you're never more beautiful than when you're in love...

Yet the seasons where I have been in love have been nothing less than dramatic (in the most negative sense of the word), typically because the love was unrequited (by him) or unwanted (inconvenient for me). In the wake of such heartache, it's always a struggle to pass the mirror without focusing immediately on my flaws. Seeing myself as a sexual person, let alone the object of a man's desire, is the last thing on my mind when it seemed the first thing to be attacked (via rejection). When I feel rejected, my beauty seems distant, even divorced from who I am.

Perhaps that first statement would be more accurate if it read like this:

"You're never more beautiful than when you KNOW you are loved."

The beauty of love comes not just from feeling something for someone else, but in experiencing someone else feeling that something towards you. To be the object of affection; to be singled out as special; to know beyond a shadow of a doubt that you are desired. As women, few things make us feel more alive.

This is the reason why girls with boyfriends continue to get checked out, asked out...even intensely pursued by other men. Knowing you are loved stirs a confidence within you which can't help but attract others. You walk taller; you smile more freely; you exude joy and peace because you are comfortable in your own skin. Basking in the love of a special someone, it's as though you actually are more physically beautiful because you suddenly believe that you are.

To paraphrase John and Stasi Eldredge in Captivating, a woman's beauty truly shows (interestingly enough) when she is NOT striving to be attractive. Beauty, they say, is unveiled. It is not put on when we dress up or apply more makeup. How beautifully ironic that genuine beauty comes out naturally--through confidence, peacefulness and feeling loved--not through anything we can add to ourselves.

So the coveted "secret" to being beautiful is found not in working hard to become so, but in becoming what you already are.

“What if you have a genuine and captivating beauty that is marred only by your striving?” -Stasi Eldredge

I am both convicted and saddened that I have spent so much of my young life striving to fix my flaws and conjure up false beauty, only to neglect to unveil the beauty already inside me.

In my current state, I can't deny that the greatest temptations I'm fighting at the moment are striving and seduction ("I'll take S-Words for 300, Alex..." A lil nod to all you SNL Celebrity Jeopardy fans). I admit that I am very much struggling with my desire for male attention--the extreme irony of which compelled me to write this post tonight.

It's ironic, you see, because just a few months ago, in the midst of being pursued, I was all too aware that I was always being noticed by other men around me. While I did nothing to invite their looks and advances, the sexual attention seemed a constant companion. I wasn't aiming for eyes to be on me, yet I could sense just how attractive I was to so many men simply because I genuinely felt beautiful. Feeling truly sought after by one special man, I couldn't help but allow the beauty inside me to overflow freely to the whole world...

But that was then. Today, I am plagued by those aforementioned S-words (along with a slew of others...sin, selfishness, spiritual warfare...just to name a few). If I'm completely honest, at present it is a battle to believe I am beautiful. I strive and seduce in attempts to prove my attractiveness, which (incidentally) gets me nowhere because any attractiveness conjured is simply "put on." It is no longer my own beauty...

And when I'm even more honest, I can admit that that extra effort (striving) is only exerted because I am afraid. Afraid that I am not (beautiful) enough. I am convicted to the core, because I know that that fear can mean only one thing: Agape love has not yet been perfected in me. Because if I really knew I was loved, I wouldn't be afraid. The radically perfect love of my Father would destroy those petty fears. Soaking up His unfathomable desire for me, I would be able to surrender all my efforts to gain favor and turn heads. I would be content in knowing who I am. I would freely allow beauty to shine through me without shame. My prayer is that I would come to have deeper faith in that kind of Love.

Lord, help me sense Your relentless pursuit of me. Allow me to see myself the way You see me. Let me live as a woman who knows she is loved...

"For the LORD your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears..."

-Zephaniah 3:17

Wednesday, April 18, 2012


"We live in a generation of not being in love and not being together. 
But we sure make it feel like we're together..."

-Drake, "Doing It Wrong"

I never thought I'd be the kinda girl who finds transformative revelation in a rap song. Yet, this lyric haunts me. This has been much of my relational experience throughout my twenties--developing "friendlationships" marked by intense emotional investment, devoid of commitment. Relationships where we certainly acted like we were together, but we were "just friends" all along. So, when I share my dating/crush/relationships stories, it's not your typical list. Well-versed in the ways of the "DTR" and having experienced my fair share of heartbreak without actual break-ups, I know all about pseudo-boyfriends

"I am a whore, I do confess..." says Derek Webb in his brilliant spiritual allegory "Wedding Dress." Lately, I find myself singing that line under my breath...

Because I know it's absolutely true. While I have been dilligent to maintain my physical purity, I desperately wish that I had transferred that self-control into emotional abstinence as well. I have given myself away more times than I care to count. I have loved "uncarefully"--which is both beautiful and essential for living out true the true Agape love we are called to as believers. Yet, when improperly motivated and guided, "uncareful love" can easily become foolish. There is a difference between loving "uncarefully" and flat-out "carelessly." 

I know I'm being careless with my love when I completely disregard the still small voice that prompts me to hold back, to slow walk in wisdom. When my heart gets wrapped up in a person or situation (romantic or otherwise), the communicator in me runs around passionately wild and (often) unrestrained. Likewise, the relator in me so longs to connect with others that I begin to confess without contemplation. Lacking the proper restraint and reflection, the actions that stem from pure and well-intentioned desires quickly turn sinful, selfish and frankly, stupid. In neglecting some pretty significant fruits of the Spirit (namely patience and self control), I so easily toss wisdom to the wind. Wisdom like Proverbs 10:19 that reminds me that "Too much talk leads to sin. Be sensible and keep your mouth shut." Oh, snap. When I turned my back on wisdom, foolishness was all too happy to step in and take it's place. 

When I throw away those key Holy Spirit fruits, it's not like I'm completely fruitless...I've just acquired different fruits in my life. Rotten ones, unfortunately. I've discovered that the fruit of foolishness is heartbreak. And the thing that sucks is that I can clearly see my own foolishness in the whole pseudo-boyfriend that my heart is broken.

My hope is that my hindsight can at least save someone else from the heart-break of foolish decisions...

Because I know I'm not the only one with an affinity (clearly subconsciously) for the psedo-boyfriend. Nearly all of my girlfriends have told me stories. Note "stories" with an "s." We usually haven't recognized this negative pattern until several such "friendlationships" have been unintentionally collected under our belts...or more accurately, ushered naively (albeit excitedly) into our hearts.

What does "pseudo-boyfriend" look like, you ask? Well, here is the amalgam I've created from my own fake BF's, along with characteristics recently (and repeatedly!) mentioned by friends. (Sad but true fact: Pretty much every single girl I know has or is currently getting over a pseudo-boyfriend at the moment. Goes to show that even us smart girls can make some dumb decisions...).

Profile of a Pseudo-Boyfriend/Friendlationship:

-Constant communication (texting, FB, Skype, etc), deep conversations and confessing/counseling each other through emotional/spiritual struggles.

-Looking to each other for emotional fulfilment and companionship (investing a lot of time into getting to know and developing significant friendship with the other person). Of course you have other friends, but there is no denying that you both gravitate towards each other's company/listening ear more often than with other people.

-Romantic expression/tension--engaging in flirting, casual inuendo (don't act so holy, you Christians...) and talking about your mutual attraction to one another. This romantic element may or may not involve a physical relationship ("friends with benefits" definitely falls under the pseudo-boyfriend category in my opinion).

Hmmm...sounds like a real relationship, doesn't it?

So, now is the prime time to ask: If you have this kind of "friendship" with an attractive member of the opposite sex, why AREN'T you dating?

My recent revelation is that there is only one thing separates the fake version from the actual boyfriend. Forgive the anti-climactic answer, but that one (key!) thing is COMMITMENT. Rather, the pseudo-boyfriend exhibiting a complete lack there-of (forgive the stereotype, but 9 times out of 10, this falls on the guy. Read on...).

Many a pseudo-boyfriend has made lame excuses for this lack of commitment, including the infamous lines of "I'm just not ready for a relationship" or "I just think of you like a sister."

Ha! That's kind of hilarious, boys...Not ready for a relationship, but willing to be so vulnerable with your heart and allow a girl to freely share hers with you (via deep conversation)? Denying attraction, but willing to invest hours to keep her companionship--typically accompanying that friendship with blatant (intentional?) romantic/sexual undertones? (Who's the tease now?)

Um, yeah. About that...

Lest I digress and turn this into a male-bashing fest (I'm not that girl...), allow me to turn the tables on the ladies and share a lil truth in love (to myself included). While the pseudo-boyfriend status is typically generated by the guy in the "friendlationship" (as the man, he is, after all, the one with "the say" as to whether or not he wants to truly pursue and commit), us girls are in the wrong when we stoop to going along with it.

We might not consider ourselves insecure or lacking self-respect, yet that's exactly what we are when we allow ourselves to settle for such relationships. Instead of picking up our Superfox-selves and moving on to someone worthy, we come up with a myriad of excuses for pseudo-boyfriend's lack of pursuit and commitment. 

Step back for a minute, however, and it suddenly all becomes clear: When we are willing to invest, but he isn't willing to commit, we are being used for the emotional and/or physical benefits we are so freely giving away to these men.

And by staying in these friendlationships, we're giving the okay to be sucked dry emotionally or taken advantage of physically. (Although we say that we're the ones in control and that it's not hurting us emotionally to stay in the friendship, just try telling that to the alcohol and ice cream in the aftermath of the "break up"...).

I always prided myself on not settling when it comes to men and relationships. But what the heck else is the pseudo-boyfriend if not settling for a romantic-looking/seeming relationship without making it necessary for him to commit to me?

Ladies, listen to me: WE ARE SETTLING when we give so much of our time, caring and the deepest parts of our heart to men who won't work to woo us. The sad reality is, in these situations of subtle settling, these men don't even need to exert any effort to win us. We have already exposed ourselves--speaking too quickly and allowing them access to our hearts without question. They really did have us at "Hello." At the first spark of interest, we held little to nothing back...

But here is an even greater truth: You and I don't have to live in guilt about our mistakes in this area. We don't have to keep on settling for pseudo-boyfriends and fake relationships. We need to be confident of what the Lord has destined and designed godly relationships to be. We need to know what we are worth...

As daughters of the Almighty King, we are worth being treated with love and respect. We deserve to have bold, godly men who have the emotional strength and Spirit-led confidence to pursue us. We deserve men who are willing to commit to exclusive relationships, forsaking all other possibilities and choosing to trust God's ability to transform them into strong leaders, even when they don't feel "ready." We deserve men who consistently express care for us, showing us that they genuinely can love us like Christ--with actions faithfully marked by servanthood and sacrifice.

And I know, without a doubt, that these men exist. The Lord has been so faithful to show me them EVERYWHERE (yes, even in Sacramento!). Yet, my problem comes when I rush ahead--when I don't wait to be pursued, but instead, seek to turn a friendship into something more by my own effort.

I've come to realize that I am settling even if the man I'm interested in is amazing, but I'm the one in control. Because is that really what I want? To have to convince the man of my dreams--my "list" in flesh and blood form--why he should be with me? Of course not! There is no greater form of "settling," in my opinion, than feeling like I was the one who made the relationship happen....

Call me old-fashioned, but I'm a romantic. I want the man to know it's me. I want him to pursue me and commit to me, not because I pressured him into it, but because he knows in his heart that I am the only one he wants.

So, farewell, pseudo-boyfriends. The "man drama" that has jokingly (albeit truthfully) marked my life over the last year is a thing of the past: I know what I am worth. I know what I want.

And what I truly want is what God wants for me: The best. All in His timing and by His leading.

I won't settle for anything less...