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...) :)