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.