Monday, August 26, 2013

Letter To My 28 Year Old Self

Today I watched this hilarious little comedy sketch* where a peppy little late 20's girl sings a song about her (love) life whilst sitting alongside her future early 30's self--a now bitter soul. The video was a perfect example of what a difference two years makes--especially when you're a single woman straddling strategic decades.

Younger version sings about feeling so happy about her life--how she's finally come into her own, feeling like a confident, beautiful, grownup with "plenty of time" left to find true love. Late 20's grins with much hope as she strums her innocent little ukulele and dreams about the bright future ahead.

Twenty seconds later, the scene shifts...

Slightly older version ditches the cute ukelele, instead opting for angry screamo. She proclaims obnoxiously, through a myriad of expletives: "THERE'S NOBODY LEFT! I'M ALL ALONE!!" Depressed and jaded, "31" resents her younger self for being so "naive" and optimistic, whilst she sadly counts each day that passes with no prospects in sight.

Art imitates life? Yes, indeed. I've been here: At the crazy crossroads of hope and bitterness, trying hard not to succumb to the sarcastic temptations of the "older version" of the beautiful girl.

The truth is, there was and is wisdom in both seasons. Over the last two years, I've forgotten some very important lessons (or decided they were somehow untrue of me now that I crossed the threshold into my 30's) I once knew, but I've also learned some valuable truths my more "innocent" 28 year old self had yet to discover.

If my former and present selves were to sit down next to the other and offer some timely life-stage wisdom to the other, it just might come out like this...

What my 28 year old self should have been told by older, wiser, present-day me:

-Don't judge those who are older than you and still single. Don't think you could never be one of them...

-Consider your guy friends--young, single guys are a dime a dozen in environments like YWAM, but the numbers decrease drastically outside "the bubble" of Christian colleges, camps and missions orgs. Years down the road, you start to question why exactly you passed by those great options in favor of something more shiny and new.

-Don't get too focused on one guy, assuming that one day he'll "come around" and realize how amazing you are. Don't compare everyone else to him and thus ignore any other prospects. Remember that if he hasn't pursued you, he's just not that into you. This is okay! You're young and you still have time (note: late 20's is not old!!). Move on and keep your eyes open!

-Go out more and get to know more people. Have fun and make the most out of being young and single. Don't be passive about your "waiting."

-It's okay to flirt. Try it... ;)

-Someday soon, people will start calling you "Ma'am." Sorry sweetie, this is inevitable. Try not to be offended, as it is not a personal reflection on you, merely that store clerks and Starbucks baristas are getting younger and younger and they've been (mistakenly) taught that this is a term of respect to anyone older than 24. But don't worry, this unfortunate occurrence is made up for by the fact that you will still often get carded and catch the eye of younger men when you go out. Because of your fun and youthful personality, revealing your real age will continue to shock people time and time again :)

-Be open to new possibilities when it comes to your "type." As much as it may shock you now, in the next few years, you'll suddenly find yourself interested in men in the military, guys with blond hair (or no hair!), dudes with beards...and (gasp!) even a few hipsters. It's okay; go with it. Enjoy the variety while you're still single...before you need to settle down with just one :)

-Don't commit too quickly. Take your time getting to know guys (especially online). Are there any red flags? Like, legitimate deal breakers that you won't even tell your family or girlfriends about because you know they will tell you to break it off. Hmmmm. Yeah. About that... Kill it now, girl. Don't even go there. Seriously. Regret sucks...

-Lastly, remember how sexy you feel right now. In two years, you will look nearly the same. Turning 30 doesn't somehow age you more drastically than normal. You will still be attractive 2 years from now. Don't let age define how you feel about yourself.

What my 30 year old self needs to learn from the younger, innocent dreamer me:

-Be hopeful and trust that God is working...especially when you feel the worst and don't see any glimpse of change. Remember that God has always been faithful to you. He's always provided...

-It's true what people say: You get better with time. Just two years ago, you loved who you were and how you looked. You were thankful to have found your own style, to be living out of your strengths and to be confident enough to enjoy your youth. You are getting better, not worse. Believe it...

-Don't be jealous of your friends getting married; be happy for them...keeping in mind that you will be that girl one day! :) Trust that God is preparing a love story for you that is equally (if not more) amazing.

-Don't settle. Don't let another birthday compel you to cross a deal-breaker off the list.

-It's okay to flirt. Seriously. Pure and sexy CAN by synonymous.

-Don't long for a 21 year old body (remember what it felt like to be 21...your view of yourself was far more paranoid than pretty. Don't let the photos deceive you...). A 30 year old body (with it's accompanying 30 year old mind) will have more grace on itself and learn to see itself as more gorgeous with each passing year.

-Look in the mirror. You have a wonderful smile, gorgeous eyes and nice...ahem..."feminine features." Believe it. You are a gift.

In short, if present and past me were to convene, the consensus would seem to be "Prepare to be surprised." As 30 would say, Be open to what the Lord will do...and as 28 would remind, trust that God is at work.

It's never too late when God is involved.

*I have to give credit where credit is due. The video I'm referring to is called "29/31" and is by a band called Garfunkel and Oates. You can look it up if you'd want, although I couldn't bring myself to put a link here (handful of F bombs and the C-word. Yikes!). Funny and idea inspiring, nonetheless! So,'ve been given proper citation...and warning! Do as you will.

Monday, August 19, 2013

The Singleness Strain: An International Phenomenon

Did you know that in the past few years, the Chinese actually created a specific word to describe highly educated, professional single woman over the ages of 27?

It's called Sheng Nu...literally translated "leftover women."

But WHY? Why in a country where men significantly outnumber women?

It breaks my heart that this pattern of unwanted singleness for women is not just an American "epidemic"....

From what I've read, these women (enough in China to warrant an entire new word to describe their existence!) are NOT uber-controlling feminists. In fact, quite the opposite...they are very traditional. They are NOT shunning marriage. They desire marriage and even traditional gender roles (the man being the primary provider) but are not finding quality men who are making it happen.

I have some theories...most having to do with the passive nature of men and the fear/intimidation of said males to pursue educated and successful women (much longer post needed to digress on this particular point). But my other theory is that these girls are still (like many of us) are "in the waiting," patiently hoping for their princes and not taking matters into their own hands. Thus they watch the years pass by and the single season lengthen...

Again, it just breaks my heart. Especially since these girls live in a shame-based culture that puts the blame on THEM for not being married already. How awful to be made to feel guilty for not already "achieving" a deep heart's desire that you so desperately hope for? As I've said before here on VV, it's not like women have 100% control in this area. There is only so much we can do to "make it happen."

In putting the blame and guilt back on these single women, articles have surfaced with titles like "Don't Pity China's 'Leftover Women'" and "How China's 'Leftover Women' Are to Blame" in order to pressure "sheng nu" into lowering their standards and just "getting married already."

And statements like this (quoted in a BBC article) feel like a punch in the gut...

"'These girls hope to further their education in order to increase their competitiveness. The tragedy is, they don't realise that as women age, they are worth less and less. So by the time they get their MA or PhD, they are already old - like yellowed pearls.'"

(p.s. I am shocked that that was even put in print!)

This whole thing hearkens back to the timeless dilemma of whether or not a smart woman should "dumb herself down" in order to catch a guy's eye.

Ugh. Are we STILL doing that? Really?

It is not feminism to say that a woman should be herself and express her "girl power" (infamous 90's references again...). In fact, this is BIBLICAL. From a Christian perspective, women need to have their identities founded in Christ (not what men or society think of them) and also be good stewards of the gifts, talents and brains God gave them. To not do so is to "bury our talents" and miss out on the "Well done!" from our Master. Single women...we must make the most of what we've been given!

So, allow me to say, Rock on Chinese single girls! You are NOT leftovers. Don't give in to the pressure. Jesus will provide what you need (even when society tells you to settle)!

After all, wasn't the Proverbs 31 gal a classy, generous, hard-working business woman? She is the very picture of Biblical womanhood.

Here's to all the single girls living that out around the world. Without shame...

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Food, Sex and Stuff (What I've Learned about Lust)

*Note: This is an article I had published earlier this year. I changed the title for you VV readers to what I originally hoped it would be, but alas, wasn't gonna fly in the original publication (oh, censorship!). Hope you enjoy it!

“And I'll sit back and say to myself, ‘My friend, you have enough stored away for years to come. Now take it easy! Eat, drink, and be merry!’"' (Luke12:19, NLT).

The Bible is the great revealer of human nature—it pegs me every time. Although I’d never proclaim that as my life verse, I can’t deny that this is the way I think. I justify my lack of self-control with cliché’s: “Life is short. Don’t deny yourself anything you want. Go ahead, do what makes you happy. Have another [fill in the blank]. You deserve it...”

After all, life’s about being happy, right?

Here’s the thing—I’m not happy. When I’m pouring my time, money and thoughts into fueling my cravings at all costs, I’m completely miserable. Depressed. Yet, I keep believing that lie—thinking that this time it might actually be true. That lie that tells me that THIS is the thing that will satisfy me. This piece of chocolate. This little “innocent” fantasy of what it might be like if I was married to that guy who sits across the aisle from me at church. This new pair of shoes.

Material things, food and men—I crave for them all in interchangeable measures, hoping they are the solution to the happiness that seems to elude me.

When I was 18 years old, I admitted to a room full of near strangers that I struggled with sexual lust. That moment of confession was the first step towards healing, in a process that would take years to work through. Yet while the sexual nature of that struggle has been tamed to a very large degree (and I can claim freedom from old habits), I must honestly admit that my battle with lust is far from over.

For several years, I had the wonderful, humbling privilege of leading intensive discipleship programs for young adults. Mentoring young women through an intentional process of finding healing from their struggles, I noticed an interesting pattern in those I was discipling (one eerily similar to myself just a few years prior). Just when one would seem to be experiencing real victory from sexual struggles, suddenly, a new struggle reared its ugly head. Men were no longer the primary thought on their minds—now it was food.

It’s no coincidence that a sexual struggle can quickly turn into a food struggle. They’re both about lust. Wanting, desiring, craving something so intensely. Once we realize that one thing doesn’t have the ability to satisfy us like we hoped it would, we turn to something else. The object of our affection might have changed, but the hunger is still there—a hunger that drives us to overindulge, throw away self-control completely (“I’ll work on that later…”) and ultimately, seek to find a savior for our pain in something other than Jesus.

I’m certainly not proud of this, but I choose to so openly share it because I believe vulnerability begets vulnerability. If I confess my struggle to you, it may just give you greater courage to bring your struggle into the light. Scripture tells us that “If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth” (1 John 1:8, NLT). When we are honest with ourselves (stop living in denial of our issues) and others, however, God blesses us with a unique grace that can’t quite be articulated—you have to experience it for yourself to know just how much this vulnerability thing will change your life. In a moment of repentant confession, the hold that shame had on us is suddenly and dramatically broken. Although it certainly doesn’t sound pleasant (ripping our proverbial skeletons from the closet and exposing them is not exactly a prospect most of us get excited about), I can assure you that the end result is. It is the very thing the enemy fears. He knows we gain a stronger relationship with both God and others when we step into the light (1 John 1:6-7).

So, in my attempts to distance myself from darkness, I have already admitted to you that the darkness is not always far from me. In fact, sometimes I choose it. I know the Sunday School answer, yet, I am led away by the lust of my eyes—stuff, guys and sweets. I believe the lie that the glorious taste of that glazed cruller will ease my anxiety of the day. I succumb to the deception that that ultra-cute purse will magically pep up my mood. I am convinced that finding Mr. Right will silence the deeper longing in my heart for unconditional love. Yet all of these are lies. Total deception.

Just this last one, lust whispers coolly, THIS will fix it. The truth is that lust never satisfies. It never makes good on its claims—it always wants more.

I write this because I –former missionary and full-time church staff member—need to be reminded of it daily. I need to constantly set the Truth before my eyes; the Truth that sets me free. And THAT—the boundless freedom of being ruled by nothing other than Christ—is truly what I crave. 

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Twitter Thursdays: Wisdom on Waiting

Sometimes I've just gotta share something I've found...with absolutely no commentary of my own. Normally such things would be reserved for a Facebook or Twitter post, but I've decided to share them with my faithful VV readers since I don't have a specialized FB or Twitter account for the blog (hmmmm...future?). Thursdays, I've decided, will be reserved for such a purpose :)

Here's my "re-tweet" article called "5 Reasons God Calls Us to Wait." Title is self-explanatory... :)


Monday, July 29, 2013

He's Just Not That Into You (and Why That's Okay)

A friend and I were chatting recently about what the deal is with the guys online...why the really amazing guys have yet to make a move, but how the ones we're not so wild about are shockingly bold. Oh, cruel irony!

Instead of feeling hurt and rejected by this lack of attention (at least the attention we want), it's good to get some perspective. Mr. Gorgeous Profile Dream Man may not be into me, but that's not the end of the world...

The truth is this (debt to amazing Christian single speaker, Carolyn McCulley for reminding us)...

"It is good to remember that no one single woman is going to be attractive to (nor attracted to) all the single men she meets. My single friends, I know it's tempting to survey the men you know and ask why no one pursues you. Sometimes you might glean a helpful insight, but most of the time you are going to hear a lot of personal preferences that only underscore why these men have or will marry other women. And this is a good thing. You really only want to attract the man you are supposed to marry, not a bunch of other women's husbands. Yes, you are likely to attract several runners-up in the quest to find your husband. But please don't diminish the skills, passions, and capacities the Lord has given you in order to make yourself fit some arbitrary standard that 'all men' find appealing. You are not going to marry 'all men.'"

What a great reminder! In the wise words of little Amy March (Little Women), "You only need one...if he's the right one."

McCulley's wisdom also helps me remember that I don't need to change my profile incessantly, scheming the very best words to impress prospects. And I don't need to dumb myself down or downplay my relationship with the Lord for fear that I might "intimidate" a potential mate.

A valuable lesson I am learning through this whole online dating experience is the art of opening myself to new possibilities and "putting myself out there" at the risk of rejection (ideally for a trade-off that makes it all worth it!). In the meantime, I won't be shaken when life differs from my expectations.

And I won't forget to be 100% the woman I have been made to be. Nothing more, nothing less. No matter what my matches may do or not do, I am still me...and I've been called "very good" by the One who matters most.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Best Of: Apocalyptic Hookups

Heya faithful VV readers! So, I know that a lot of you are new to my site and probably haven't read all the classics (lol...circa 2011). Instead of aimlessly wading through looking for the funniest-sounding titles, I thought I'd help you out by offering a "Best Of" post every week. And even if you've been a VV fan for awhile and read the original, this will just be a reminder and a fresh revelation for the new season you're in :)

Hope you enjoy one of my personal favs...

Apocalyptic Hook-Ups

"Grab somebody sexy, tell 'em hey, give me everything tonight...for all we know we might not get tomorrow"
 -Pitbull, "Give Me Everything"

It’s the reoccurring nightmare of every Christian kid reared in a fundamentalist home: Sleepy eyed and disheveled, your little self awakens in the morning and walks in the kitchen only to discover that everyone is gone. After briefly contemplating the possibility that you could be re-creating Macaulay Culkin’s serendipity a la Home Alone, your happiness quickly turns to horror. The unthinkable has just occurred: The rapture has happened...and you’ve been left behind.

Fast forward to your teen years: That dream has since evolved into a scenario far more frightening. This time you KNOW the rapture has happened, because hey, there you are, caught up in the clouds with Jesus!  Instead of rejoicing, however, you’re secretly a little pissed. “Really, God? Now?” You are now on your way to heaven without ever having had sex.

"It's like THE most tragic thing to die a virgin," so would have said my 13 year-old self. Even at that young age, the possibility of living a sex-free existence here on earth was very, very scary. And ironically, I have my church to thank for that... 

Every single sermon from my youth group days (at least the ones interesting enough to be remembered years later) can be lumped in one of two general categories: A “Don’t Do It” sex talk and a “Get Your Life Right; Jesus is Coming Back” scare tactic spiel on the end times. I’m not sure who developed this particular sermon series, but may I say that it isn't the wisest strategy to pair these two topics together. The first admonition will (in many cases) only lead to curiosity or determination to break said rule, while the second offers the prime opportunity for action. The ever brilliant teenage mind quickly concludes: If I’m ever gonna see what this whole sex thing is about, I’d better do it quick. After all, true love waits, but the rapture might not. 

Tim Keller, a Manhattan pastor, eluded to the concept of the “Apocalyptic Hook-Up” in one of his recent sermons. Apparently, the New York Times did an article in which they explored this “recent trend” where people make it their goal to hook up with someone far more attractive than they are. This experience, Keller noted, served as a self-esteem booster for many in order to prove that they could, in fact, get some from someone gorgeous.

When I first heard this new term, however, the possible definition that came to mind was not a one-night stand of epic proportions, but a hasty hook-up spurred on by a fear of the Apocalypse. In this case, it didn’t matter if your partner was super hot, just willing to share an experience that, if it didn’t happen now, might never happen at all. Although the New York Times-defined version might be new, I'm thinkin' that the "Last days = last chance for romance" idea probably first took flight 40 or so years ago...

From what I've gathered, the Jesus Movement didn’t seem too interested in discipleship. Back in the 70’s, with wars, rumours of wars, and the production of terrifying Christian movies about the Great Tribulation, the focus was on the present, not future. Therefore, Christians pushed evangelism; getting people saved was the ultimate priority. All that lifestyle stuff the Bible talks about (um,discipleship??) quickly took a back seat. There simply wasn’t enough time for that now…

Seeing as I didn’t even exist in the 70’s, I don’t claim to be the expert on this. I only know what my mother told me. My mom got saved in the Jesus Movement when she was 15. That same year, she got pregnant. As thankful as my mom is for her salvation experience, she desperately wishes they stressed different subjects in church back then.

“They really made you think that Jesus was coming back tomorrow!” she says of her own youth group sermons (Twenty years later in the 90’s, things hadn’t changed much. My experience was the same).

So, what else is a poor kid to do? “Eat, drink and be merry,” the Bible says, “for tomorrow we die” (discipleship 101 in a last days world). Live it up was the motto for all the youth who never even considered that the Lord might tarry long enough for them to actually get married (to have sex). And at 15, my mom certainly never pictured that one day she would be a grandmother of eight…

While I’m the first to chuckle at the fact that sex is a big enough deal in the mind of a teenager that it absolutely has to happen at all costs before Armageddon, I do find it disturbing that young people are so adamantly convinced in the ultimate satisfaction of it. Why is death as a virgin the worst thing in the world? I guess because, according to the world, it’s the best you can get. Love, closeness, and pleasure (in the most ideal scenario) can all be found in the embrace of another human being. As glorious as it may be (not the expert on this, but I'd venture it's a fair assumption...), I'm convinced there is infinitely more to life than this. Going back to that teenage dream for a minute: The dilemma is heaven vs. sex. And the sad reality is, most choose the sex.

This proves that we know absolutely nothing about heaven. In our finite brains, we can’t grasp the concept that something could provide FAR greater amounts of love, closeness and pleasure than doin' the dirty. But it's true! Only in recent years of studying the Bible as an adult have I discovered the book of Revelation is, in large part, NOT about the end times. (That truly came as a shock to me, I’m embarrassed to admit…). This book (often titled some form of the wordApocalypse in many Latin-based languages) is actually about the incredible beauty and greatness of God. Not to mention the perfect and perfectly satisfying home that He has waiting for us.

Just a few days ago, I was describing the California-based preacher/author Francis Chan to one of my friends. “Basically,” I said, “No matter what the subject of his sermon is, he always ends up talking about heaven.” In fact, Chan is perhaps the only person I’ve heard preach on Revelation without 75% of it (or more) being about pre, mid or post-trib theories and the implications of being “left behind” after the rapture (be-headings, anyone?). Nope, none of that: Chan just talks about the beauty of Jesus. In fact, I’ve never heard anyone talk more passionately about the anticipation of God’s glory revealed in heaven as Francis Chan (I take that back…Chan, and John Piper. See below). He is absolutely convinced that nothing on this earth could ever come close to knowing the Lord in His fullness. (I highly recommend his sermon “The Holiness of God” from Cornerstone Simi Valley Church. When I first heard it, I was speechless…).

John Piper, another preacher whom I deeply respect, is also known for touting God’s glory in each book he publishes and every sermon he preaches. His analogy pertaining to the heaven vs. sex argument is profound. In a sermon on singleness (continuing our “lack of sex” theme), Piper admonishes singles that the season they are in (whether permanent or temporary) offers them an opportunity for a unique covenant with God that married people don’t have. Its true: God makes the promise in Isaiah 56 (read the commentary on it). The problem is, Piper says, singles don’t actually believe experiencing the fullness of God to be a great reward (and certainly not a good trade for no marriage). Instead of cherishing the treasure of their singleness, they ask God for both: “Can’t I have the Biblical benefits of singleness (see 1 Corinthians 7) AND the whole marriage/sex thing?“ The two are absolutely incomparable, Piper says. Opting for human marriage over a rare closeness with the Almighty, is like God giving you the entire ocean, and you tugging on his shirt sleeve and asking, “Um, can I have a thimble too?”

(When it’s put in that light, we suddenly realize how foolish it is to desperately desire something so silly compared to something so beautiful).

Heaven or sex? Well, hopefully it's both :) But if it comes down to reveling in the lusts of the flesh (sex outside of marriage) or soaking up the beauty of Jesus, it should be a no-brainer. 

I pray that both myself and my students will have a relationship with God where we truly trust His ability to satisfy us more than anything else in this world. 

Oh, that we would look at that question and boldly choose the right answer...

Monday, July 8, 2013

Dating Profile Dealbreakers

So....I'm getting such a kick out of online dating! Profile content of potentials is particularly amusing...terrific fodder for road trip conversations, chats with girlfriends, and now, for The Virgin Verdict.

Yes, friends, the following content is REAL. In my few short weeks of recent online dating experience, I've seen all of these things.

Meanwhile, I'm wondering what exactly these "Christian" boys are smoking because who says this stuff in a dating profile???!!!

Note to all men who might be reading this: Here are things NOT to say in your profile. They are all grounds for automatic closure and blocking of you, as you pigeonhole yourself into the creeper/cocky/not-really-a-Christian box.

Here goes: I have absolutely no qualms with closing a profile if a guy says in his online dating profile...

The one thing I'm most passionate about:

"Meeting beautiful new women"

"Elks Lodge"


"Finding my soul mate"

"Church" (with no other mention of God or Jesus at all in the profile. Bleh...I'm not into churchy culture with no actual relationship with the Lord. Incidentally, most of these men are from Texas. Shocker...).

A rant on Second Amendment rights (also likely from Texas)

Three things I can't live without (like, they're up there with air and water):

"Video games"


"My Mom"


"Some lovin"

Last book I read and enjoyed:

"I can't remember the last book I read"

"Calvin and Hobbes"

A long list of Nicolas Sparks novels

"I really like books by Joel Osteen"

What I'm looking for in a woman:

"Extremely beautiful and incredibly intelligent" (ugh...cocky?)

"A Gamer girl"

"I'm not attracted to girly girls in the slightest"

"I'm not looking for the perfect woman, but one who's perfect for me" (gag! I see this cliche all the time!)

If his profile pictures consist of...

Self-portraits taken in front of a mirror

Pictures of landscapes (not him)

Pictures of his dog (not him)

A dessert (not him)

Him with full Goth makeup

Photos of him with no shirt (vain, much?)

No photos (really?)

Not a single picture is of him smiling (Creeper! "He's climbin in yo window, snatchin' yo people up...")

Him wearing sunglasses in every single picture (um, it would very much reassure me to know you have eyes)

A picture showing only his biceps

Other miscellaneous info:

A guy who not-so-subtly encrypts their Facebok or email into the profile (like "Look me up. Smith on FB or at the Google place" I interpret this as: "I'm too cheap to pay for an account, so I'm gonna make you do all the work of pursuing me even though I'm the dude...")

Someone with terrible English ("God is my row model")

The man who says "Maybe" when it comes to having children one day (I learned the hard way from past experience that Maybe usually means No, but he knows that if he says No, girls won't even consider him. I don't even consider the Maybe's...).



"I'll tell you later"

An animal "whisperer"

Fast food restaurant "sign shaker"

Refers to himself as (instead of using a real first name):

Mr. Snuggles

Big Thunder

The name of a board game

A letter (i.e. "X" or "M")

Soul Mate

I hope you got a good laugh out of all that. I've laughed a lot lately...all before I hit the delete button.

And to set the record straight, there are a lot of profiles I DO keep open. Particularly the ones that talk a lot about Jesus, missions and Mark Driscoll sermons ;)

The ironic thing is, last night when I went scanning through profiles I'd closed to come up with this list, these guys saw that I had viewed their profile...and started trying to communicate with me! Crap!

Oh well, I guess this is my "kissing frogs" phase. Someday my prince will come. (Hopefully not taking pictures of his muscles in the mirror).

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The [unexpected] Perks and [misinterpreted] Perils of Online Dating

Online dating and I have had a rocky relationship. I have been fickle and unfaithful from the start, flirting with the prospect, but never committing.

If I were more gutsy, I'd change my relationship status on Facebook to: "It's Complicated with eHarmony."

I've never been able to make up my mind about the whole thing. Avril Lavigne would surely question my need to make everything so freakin' complex (more 90's references, forgive me. I'm just in that kind of mood), but over the years, I've played my own devil's advocate to think through all the possible perils and perks that could stem from the internet road to intimacy. Until very recently, the perils always won out...

Two weeks ago, I was shocked by my own insight. The words just tumbled out of my mouth to my counselor: "I feel ashamed to be looking at dating sites." 

Never had I been so honest about my thoughts on the subject before. Mostly because I tried to keep the whole thing hush-hush to begin with. My secrecy stemmed from the shame factor. Feeling embarrassed and guilty, I've had on-again, off-again seasons throughout my twenties where I looked at profiles, sent flirty "smiles" and even started seeing someone I met online. Even those things were a HUGE step for me. When I first signed up for eHarmony five years ago, I actually felt so ashamed that, although I paid for a four-month subscription, I only used it for three days.  

Armed with the revelation that shame was the real emotion I was feeling (more than embarrassment at the stigma, but the sense that I had somehow done something wrong), I began to poke and prod at the idea: praying, journaling, reading and seeking counsel about the whole thing. My big question was why do I feel this way about online dating? And should I be feeling this way? Here's what I came up with...

Why I've always felt ashamed/embarrassed/guilty for online dating: I grew up in the I Kissed Dating Goodbye generation where I thrived on love stories that revolved around young adults meeting their spouses "the old fashioned way" (more on that later) at church circa the age of 23. My expectation for how my future husband and I would get together was that he would (as the story goes): "See me from across the room, hear a voice from heaven that I was "the One," intensely pursue me, sweep me off my feet in a wonderfully romantic courtship, propose and put a ring on my finger all within six months of meeting me." And why not? I actually know people who have these stories (not just the Joshua Harris re-tellings I've clung to as though they were Scripture since I was 15)! I will patiently wait for the fairy tale to unfold, I told myself. This is clearly God's way of doing things...

Feel free to chuckle at my lofty expectations, but pause to think how closely they might resemble your own, single gal. Food for thought :)

Truth is, I've always equated online dating with bitterness and "settling" (like people who tell God "If you don't give me what I want, I'm just gonna go get it myself!").  If I dared to venture onto eHarmony or ChristianMingle, I immediately likened it to a Sarah (and Abraham) move; taking matters into her own hands to make her heart's desire (and God's promise) come true. Thus the immediate pangs of guilt: Ugh! Look at me. Failing to trust God...

But wait! Is that true? Is online dating "failing to trust"? Am I no longer "patiently waiting" for God to come through if I subscribe to a website that introduces me to single men who love Jesus (and want to be missionaries!)? 

A single friend recently had an older, Christian lady admonish her: "Don't you dare go looking for a husband!" I think this attitude, while perhaps well-meaning, is harmful to single women. And very misunderstood. Suddenly keeping our eyes open and actively waiting has become sinful. It's as if going online to meet a potential husband is somehow as evil as going online to look at porn. 

In shaming people away from online dating (or even venturing to local singles groups), we've done ourselves and others in the Christian community a disservice. We truly have put God in a box by saying that His way is that people meet their spouses for the first time in person and ONLY when they are "not looking" to meet someone. We must be 100% content and we must not be looking at all until that person arrives at our doorstep/church/work/social gathering. (I hope you read the sarcasm in that last line). This is what my friend calls "Meeting someone the 'old fashioned' way."

Pause. How 'old fashioned' are we talking here? Do you remember how people in Biblical times got together? Allow me to remind you...

Rebecca was found, NOT by her husband, Isaac, but by a man Isaac's father hired to find Isaac a wife! 

Ruth followed her mother-in-law's advice and used her "feminine wiles" to entice Boaz (he had already noticed her, but this "taking matters into her own hands" as some might interpret a modern parallel, was what caused him to step up and commit. And Scripture didn't seem to frown upon it!). 

Mary was betrothed to Joseph most likely through a traditional match made by their parents years prior to her being "of marrying age" (as in the case in many cultures throughout the world), not necessarily because they saw each other, "fell in love" and decided to get married. 

It seems that the "old fashioned" way of doing things (meet in person, fall in love, make the decision between the two of you to get married) isn't necessarily as "old" as we think it is. Perhaps the more traditional way is actually match-making. Maybe eHarmony is on to something after all...(Note: For those unfamiliar, eHarmony actually matches you with potentials, as opposed to simply searching through profiles like most other sites. They pick em for you. I like that. There's something "old fashioned" about it) ;)

Which leads me to my other original question: What should I feel about online dating?

First of all, online dating is NOT sin. It should NOT be a cause for guilt or shame. Nor do I think it's choosing merely the "good" instead of "the best" (as some people would over-spiritualize). Such thoughts assume that God's will is that everyone would meet and fall in love through an "old-fashioned" method that's really only existed in Western culture for the last 100 years. How limiting of our creative God to say that other ways of meeting people absolutely would not be part of His plan for us. 

And really, how arrogant of me to think that it's all up to me anyways? As though online dating automatically secures me a relationship ("Ha! Look what I got! I did it MY way!") and as though God has nothing to do with it. God is still sovereign and orchestrating the circumstances of my life! If it is His will that I meet someone on eHarmony, you'd better believe that He will be overseeing that process and making sure it happens! 

But I don't want to be the stubborn one to tell God how exactly I will meet my spouse and what the whole process has to look like. Do we ever stop and think that maybe we haven't met "Mr. Husband" (as one lady I met would call her FH before she was married) yet because we're not open to God introducing anything or anyone outside of our expectations?

So, as a godly Christian gal, I keep my options open. I smile and talk to single guys, at the store or at church (despite whether or not they appear to be "my type"). I shun the "creeper-fest" and "meat market" labels of singles groups and give 'em a try with my fellow single girl allies. I'll see who eHarmony matches me with (many a mission-minded man, amazingly enough!). But most importantly, I will trust God to guide the process. I'll humble myself to let Him work in His way.

 And maybe, just maybe, that's outside my "old-fashioned" box...

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Amalgamation of a Future Husband

I've spent much of my life immersed in or on the outskirts of charismatic circles. As is fitting for inclusion in such groups, you'd better believe that I have been prayed for and prophecied over many a time. Specifically regarding my mysteriously wonderful and amazing future husband.

Who is he? Apparently, everyone else seems to know...

While I fully believe in biblical prophecy and always appreciate a word of exhortation, I have to laugh when I piece together all the little tidbits of "foretelling" I've received over the years. Granted, not all of them came with a "prophecy" label attached, but these are the comments that people make with a sly smile or ironic laugh as they proceed to tell me what kind of man they think I'll end up with.

Keep an eye out for him, will ya?

My future husband's ethnicity/nationality will be...

American (from California or the mid-west)

My future husband's career will be...

Business guy
Public speaker
Taxi driver
A non-YWAMer
Something that makes him rich

He will be both...

Taller than me
Shorter than me

And I will be...

Very surprised
Very blessed to have him (and he to have me)
Engaged really quickly

And he is...


Yes, you deduced those blanks correctly: There have been specific men named as my future mate! Granted, one (maybe two) of them came from my own sense years ago when I was still learning to recognize God (but I was soooo sure--freakish circumstances confirmed it! lol!). Yet, the other ones came from outside sources (multiple people confirming two of them). Good news is, four of them are still single. Keep hope alive!!

Really, I can only laugh. It is actually very amusing... :)

But boy did this ever made for a bi-polar path when it comes to thinking about guys in my younger years. At some stages, after a particularly compelling word (i.e. something I really wanted to hear), I had been closed off to hundreds of potential men simply because they did not fit that very specific description. Short guys, American guys and men who were not fill-in-the-blank #3 were all been "brutally rebuffed" as it were.

Yet, here I am. Ring finger still bare. Hmmmm. Someone might have been wrong.

It was probably me...

Now I've resolved to start from scratch. I don't know that I can ever truly be "expectation-less," but I can pray for an open mind and for God to help me put all the "words" behind me.

There is one word (that I've gotten over and over lately) that I feel there might actually be some truth to, though:"You'll know him when you meet him."

Amen to that. I like clarity.

Until then, here's to mystery...

Semi-un-related endnote: This idea of "What will he be like?" reminds me of this beautiful song (except it's the girl version): "What'll She Look Like?" Will I be what he is waiting for?

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Missionary Dating: Flirt to Convert the Masses

So, I'm gonna quit hiding it: I'm looking for a man.

Life just seems to go in circles when you're single: It's all about seasons. Over the years, there have been long stretches where I've sat back and busied myself with non-male related ventures, living up the single life and learning to be content in the wait. And then there are other seasons where it's just twitterpation to the max and boy-crazy restlessness sets in. It's like when a new crop of students would roll into the YWAM base, all us single girl staff would have "periscopes up," subtly (or shamelessly) scoping out the new prospects. At times like these, I seriously consider patenting a "Find a Man" App. Surely there would be a market for such a brilliant invention...

Scratch that...what I need is NOT a "Find a Man" App. What I need is a very specific offshoot of that concept, but FAR more necessary: I need a "Find a Missionary" app.

After all, we've got eHarmony and ChristianMingle to scout out potential mates and dates (if any of you  have tried both, which I have, you realize that the former really is a "marriage site" as it claims, and the latter is for Christian boys who can't make up their minds. Or, in the words of a co-worker, "The guys only go on [ChristianMingle] because they want [to hook-up with] a virgin."). But even fishing from a pond stocked with men who love Jesus isn't quite narrow enough for some of us mission-minded gals. They tell us there are a lot of "fish in the sea," but I, personally, have to keep throwing back a lot of
em because they're not so much swimming in the direction of the nations. (This America pond is a bit stagnant...).

My friends and family are praying for a good catch and I'm praying for a missionary. I don't think those two things are mutually exclusive, of course, but I do want to be very specific in my requests. And, just being real, those requests are coming on a daily basis now. By seriously upping my prayer level over the last six months. I've gone "persistent widow" on Jesus, unrelenting in my request for a mate and ministry partner.

After all, wasn't it God who put both callings in my heart to desire?

This morning, my pastor said that the mark of spiritual maturity is when we come to fully desire what God desires. For the last 3 years, it has been my constant prayer that God would "set my heart where He wants it to go." So, here I am. I keep returning to the three core desires of my being: To know God, to be a missionary, and to get married. Surely, after all those prayers and intense seeking of God's will for my life, there must be a reason why I always end up back here. It must mean one thing: Those desires are GOOD!

Someone had to say it! Single gals in particular suffer the stigma of being labeled "desperate" if we voice our desire for a husband and children. When we ARE brave enough to vocalize this [godly!] longing, we are shushed with a little pity pat on the shoulder and cliche admonitions like "Be content in your singleness" and "Make Jesus your husband." These are probably the same  people who take a purely "spiritual allegory" position on the Song of Solomon. Not gonna lie, I don't draw much from SoS as a single, aside from frustration. [And ironically, in this twitterpated state, Paul tells me it's actually better for me to marry than to "burn with passion."]. Hmmmm. The Bible is a strong advocate for marriage, it seems...

Now, before you go all 90's "Well, duh!" on me, let me just say that we really do NEED to be reminded of that! How often have you (assuming your the target audience single gal reader of my blog) felt "desperate" any time you've expressed your desire to be married? Most likely, you weren't actually desperate (my theory is that if you were truly desperate, you would have been married by the first breathing option that showed interest), but you felt that pressure to be content and stop desiring marriage so strongly.

Forgive me for the repetitive thought, but just allow it to sink in: Singles, it is OKAY to desire marriage! We were made for companionship. We were made to have babies. We were made for sex. We were made to walk through life with just one person for the rest of our lives. We were made to experience the amazing allegory of the relationship between Christ and the Church this side of heaven (okay, so there is some allegory in SoS, I'll admit. I think that's more clear in Ephesians 5, actually. I still think Solomon was talking more about sexual positions than allegorical positions. But I digress..).

Before you protest about what we were made for with the myriad of examples out there of brokenness (divorce, infertility, singles never marrying...), let me point out that marriage, sex and babies were God's ideal designs for us. Yes, there is sin in the world and a very real enemy that breaks, taints and takes away God's created blessings, yet these blessings are all still available to hope for, to pray for, and Lord-willing, to attain. Don't fall into the world's trap of cynicism and lose hope just because you've been (or you've seen the ones you love) hurt.

I'll close with this thought...

I just finished reading a book called "Shattered Dreams" by a brutally honest Christian psychologist named Larry Crabb. In the book, he made a fascinating comment about the state of modern Christianity that made me think WE need missionaries (or at least prophets) to bring us back to the Truth. We have, as Crabb says, become "practical Buddhists."

At the core of the Buddhist religion is the belief that the way to achieve peace and perfection (Nirvana) is to eliminate all desire. Stop wanting so much.

Sound familiar? We hear some derivative of that all the time in Christian circles. Crabb turns the thought on its head and exposes our misunderstanding of the Truth:

"''Don't let your hearts be troubled. Find some way to feel less pain, to reduce your desire for what you do not have. If you succeed, call it contentment. Call it deep trust.' We think that's what Jesus taught. But it's really advice from Buddha."

Jesus never asked us to kill our longings. Desire is another God-ordained creation we can add to our list: We were indeed "made to crave." Don't silence the longing. Embrace it. Be honest about it. And pray the Lord brings it to pass.

As my roommate and I were driving home tonight, I told her how dumb I think it is when Christians skirt around the actual asking for a spouse for themselves or a single friend. They pray the ever-so-holy: "God, if it be your will that my sister gets married..." or the spiritual anti-ask, "God, help them to realize they need you more than a husband." What's up with that? Adam had perfect communion with God and God very directly pointed out that it was "not good" for him to be alone. GOD said that, not man! Clearly God wants His children to have spouses. MARRIAGE, not singleness, is the good we were created for!

So I've started boldly praying, in Jesus name, for spouses for my single friends. None of this disclaimer non-sense. God already knows what I'm gonna ask, so I might as well be real about it. It's like praying for someone to get healed. Do I know whether or not God will heal that person? Of course not. I just need to pray and trust Jesus to do His healing thing. The same is true with marriage. Maybe not all those people I pray for will get married, but I will pray it! I want to stand in faith and not doubt. God's not into double-minded waves: He's into kids with mustard-seed faith and boldness not to beat around the bush. Just ask already!

(And just to encourage you, if you're a subscriber, you're most likely already in my "Single File" prayer list. Even if you haven't got the guts to pray regularly for a spouse for yourself, at least you've got somebody else advocating for you. You're welcome...) :)

Go ahead: Be honest about what's in your heart, persistent single. Ask God for a spouse. He who finds a wife finds a GOOD thing. Single gals, that's YOU! You are the good thing--an answer to a godly man's prayer! And single guys, don't be ashamed or too scared to settle down. Your wife will be a blessing and you were created to long for her until she's in your life. Go find her (and send your single buddies out to find the rest of us!) ;)

So, friends, allow me to be the first to proudly proclaim (as Nia Vardalos' just said in the movie that's playing in the background), I am officially "open for wooing."

Tell those missionary men they know where they can find me :)