"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)
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?