Monday, January 30, 2012

How we talk about Singleness, by M

It's M again... I've instituted a new "stay home one night every week" policy to try to maintain my sanity (and my cooking/cleaning/laundry haha) and I think it may result in me updating this more consistently. Hopefully if I do, then W will also. We'll see!

Today's thought is actually one that I've been mulling over for a while. W is responsible for bringing it to my attention months ago, and to be quite honest, I had thought that I already wrote about it on here. Maybe I did? Ah well, if so I suppose it couldn't hurt to be revisted.

As I've mentioned more than once, my church has a fabulous and thriving "Singles" Ministry. It is absolutely something that drew me to the church and one of the biggest and best reasons that I have a solid friend group here in Atlanta. There are seriously thousands of "singles" at any given "gathering"... which I think is pretty cool. Where else can you go, as an out-of-college adult, and meet so many people who are like-minded and in the same stage of life as you? It has seriously been the biggest of blessings for me, and I would guess, many of those thousands of others.

That said, I've been thinking lately about the messaging that the Church (yes, big C... contemporary Christianity in general) sends to single adults. I know that this doesn't apply to every church, but it certainly applies to my experience at my church, and many of the books, articles, blogs, videos, etc about dating that I've ingested in the past couple of years. Here's what I've been thinking: in the church's efforts to not exclude or marginalize single adults, they are not doing enough to champion marriage.

In my experience, the Christian rhetoric about singleness has been a lot of this:

-"Singles ministry is NOT a dating service!"
-"Use your singleness for Christ!"
-"Don't get married unless you are mature, educated, out-of-debt, zero baggage, finished-with-your-mission-trip-traveling, have-a-401k, ready to be a 'real grown up'"
-"You do better work for Christ if you're not distracted by dating"
-"Trust God; don't waste your energy looking for a partner... He will bring you one."
-"God will give you the desires of your heart, so don't settle for less!"

Etc. etc. And truly, these are not bad bits of wisdom. They really aren't. However, I feel like all of this combined has created a culture of single Christian adults who no longer hold marriage in view of its Biblical truth and purpose. We have Christian singles who are scared of marriage, who feel that God is withholding marriage from them until they "get it together," who believe that singleness is the higher calling, and who are picky to the point that they believe that God will serve them in marriage (giving them exactly what they want) instead of the other way around.

Is it so wrong to nudge single adults towards marriage? Why don't we talk about marriage (to single adults) like the gift and the blessing that it is?

Honestly, there are some people who are called to singleness, and they are given the gift of celibacy. That is absolutely true. However, if more than 90% of people will find themselves married at some point, why are we fearful to champion marriage to single adults? I wish more churches, pastors, authors, etc would say:

-"This singles ministry is not meant to be a dating service, however, if you're interested in dating... we wish with all our hearts that you will meet someone who is in the church and loves Christ. You're in luck here!"
-"Marriage is two broken people serving Christ together. You will have baggage. It will be messy. You have a Christ-centered marriage in order to let God fill in the gaps where you will inevitably fail each other."
-"Marriage is about you serving God and not God serving you. He will give you whoever He pleases to make you more like Him, and it may look like your "list" or it may not."
-"Singleness is not a higher or holier calling. Marriage refines your godly character like a crucible in the fire. Singles and married people alike do God's work and become more like him over time."

Etc. Honestly, I think that us "singles" can handle it. I don't think we need to tiptoe around the fact that some of our peers are enjoying marriage and some of us are not yet. We already know that. I think that we are old enough and mature enough for someone to look us in the eye and say "marriage is a gift from God and unless you feel strongly that you have the gift of life-long singleness, you should go pursue it." Is that really so bad?

Thursday, January 26, 2012


It's W. I've been busy, busy with my (still awesome and not so new anymore) new job and M's been hounding me about posting.

What's currently going on in my life is the struggle to be patient as T tries to get a new job lined up for July after his two-year commitment is up with his investing banking firm. He's looking in a few different places for jobs that are mostly at private equity shops, and it's really scary thinking that in just six months we could be uprooting our lives...but as of yet, we have no details about if that will actually happen or what it could look like.

We could be moving to another apartment in the city, if T's new job doesn't pay as well, because we're paying WAY too much for our 800 sq. foot apartment right now, even though we love the location. This would probably mean that I could no longer walk to work, which is lame because it's awesome living so close. Commute in Chicago=lame. We could also potentially be moving to another state, which is both exciting and terrifying. Exciting because it would be great to be further south and closer to M and T's siblings, warmer weather, and closer to our network of friends from college. Terrifying because even though I hate the cold and still don't really like Chicago, it has become home over the last year and a half. And I LOVE my job, and church, and living close to T's parents. Hmm.

I'm not going to lie, I have a VERY strong desire to micromanage this process. I'm pretty much keeping a detailed mental calendar of all of T's appointments (application deadlines, phone interview slots, in-person interview dates) and am fighting the urge daily to turn it into a hard-copy. I want to interrogate T and make sure he knows what he's doing. I want to edit his cover letters and emails. I spend lots of my free time looking up potential opportunities for him even though I do not have a clear idea of what his qualifications really are, much less the type of thing he really wants to do. I look at apartments in other cities on craigslist. I ask anyone who seems remotely relevant if they know of anyone who's hiring in the world of finance.

And I know that it doesn't help-- this desire to micromanage. What it does is illuminate my own control issues and the lack of faith that I have in my husband to find a new job and my God to provide the right situation for us. I'm trying so hard to hand over control, and to earnestly say, "Whatever you have in store for us is fine," but right now it's so difficult. I pray the words and hope that one day they become sincere and that I begin to believe them.

It's just scary, knowing that I go where T goes and he goes where the job is and we don't know yet where that will be. Please feel free to pray for us as we navigate this journey-- both that he'll get a job that aligns with his gifts and desires, and that I will be patient during the process and content with the outcome no matter what happens.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Hunger, by M

I have a weird relationship with food. Like a strange, antagonistic food issue. And what's even more weird is that this food issue is 100% NOT related to body image... which is difficult to explain and probably even more difficult to believe.

See, here's the thing.... for as long as I can remember, food just hasn't really tasted good to me. I've always been a picky eater, and as I've become an adult I've started to realize that everyone else just seems to enjoy food in a way that I mostly don't. For probably 9 meals out of 10 I find the whole experience to just be... a chore. It annoys me. It takes up my time. This is also why I don't particularly enjoy cooking.

I've spent a great deal of time thinking about this, talking about this (thank you, mom, for your endless encouragement!), and even praying about this. Then, as I was talking to the BF about it a few weeks ago (yes, I'm pretty sure he was perplexed and concerned by this development haha) he said something that has truly been a breakthrough for me:

"M, have you ever thought that maybe you don't enjoy food because you never really let yourself get hungry?"

It was like the clouds opened and the Hallelujah chorus rang out! I don't know why no one (including myself) had ever thought about this before! Those of you who know me know that I am a chronic snacker. I have this irrational fear of being hungry, and so I literally end up eating every 2-3 hours. The problem is that my small-portion snacks end up tasting pretty good (probably because they are deliciously terrible for you like Doritos and string cheese) and full meals end up being awful because it's just too much for a stomach that's not all that empty. Seriously, it has been a serious breakthrough!

Why am I telling you all of this? Because as I've been newly discovering the feeling of being hungry and being satisfied, I've also been thinking about how this relationship of hunger and satisfication plays out in my spiritual life.

I would venture to say that I don't experience a lot of spiritual hunger. I pray, I spend time in the Word, I attend and serve at church, etc... but I'm not sure that I do it all out of a hunger for God or relationship with God. I guess I could say that I mostly do it because I realize the necessity of it (just like how I've kept on eating all these years even when I wasn't all that hungry). But I want to be truly satisfied by God... so I think that means that I have to be truly hungry for Him first.

Now, I don't think (in physical or spiritual life) the answer to creating hunger is starving oneself. I don't recommend closing the Bible and skipping church as a way to foster spiritual hunger. However, what I have learned is this:

You can't experience hunger if you fill yourself up with shallow excuses for real sustenance.

I think I tend to "fill myself up" on spiritual experiences that end up leaving me full but not satisfied. I go to church, or I read endless Christian blogs, or I lead the small group, and I decide that all that "counts" as my time with the Lord that day. And don't get me wrong, these things are not necessarily bad... but they are also poor substitutes for the real thing. It reminds me of the story of Mary and Martha (haven't we all heard that one 15 million times?). Mary was still before the Lord and experienced the fullness of His presence... and that was "what is better" (Luke 10: 38-42). I need to do that more. I need to not necessarily stop all my "spiritual snacking," but make sure that it doesn't take the place of true, sustaining relationship with God.

So anyway, I encourage you to think about whether you may also be experiencing my "full, but not satisfied" syndrome in your spiritual life. What are you doing or not doing that keeps you from being hungry?

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Tenderness, by M

Over a very long and wonderfully relaxing Christmas break, I had the pleasure of listening through a sermon series on Song of Solomon. I’ll include the link below… if my calculations are correct, I believe the recording took place around 1990, from pastor Tommy Nelson of Denton Bible Church in Texas.

I don’t know about you, but I’ll tell you that my (previous) knowledge of Song of Solomon was very limited. I knew that it was written by King Solomon, who is often regarded as the wisest man in all of history. I also knew that the story functions on two levels: one, to tell a beautiful love story between a God-fearing man and woman, and two, to serve as a metaphor for God’s love and Christ’s sacrifice for us – the church. That said, I could only get so far with it before the poetic language threw me for a loop. “[Your] teeth are like a flock of sheep just shorn”? (4:2) Ummmmmm okay?

So, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how much I’ve enjoyed this series. It is 6 consecutive messages that break down the 8 chapters of Song of Solomon into 6 stages of relationships/marriage. If you click on the link, you’ll find that the messages are titled according to the stage (attraction, dating, intimacy, conflict, deepening, and faithfulness). It really is a nice combination of Bible study (he gives a lot of background and context for the poetic language and metaphors that Solomon uses) and practical takeaways. I think it’s seriously worthwhile for anyone who is single, dating, or currently married. Ie: If you are over the age of 16, this may be for you! Haha

I don’t want to regurgitate too much of what he says, because, let’s face it… he does a better job in the original than I could hope to do in my summary. That said, I’ll share my biggest takeaway, which is this:

We should expect tenderness from our men.

Tommy Nelson is ALL about tenderness. Seriously. He MEANS BUSINESS about men being tender. Here’s why:

1) In 1 Peter 3:7, it talks about women being the “weaker vessel.” Some people interpret this phrase to mean that women are inferior to men… I’m not so sure about this. If you read the whole verse, it says “Husbands, in the same way, be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers.” (NIV). What I’ve heard pastors and authors argue is not that weaker means inferior (as though life is one big bench press contest) but that weaker means delicate. Like comparing a thermometer to a crowbar or porcelain to plywood. How do you treat porcelain? Tenderly… because it’s breakable, it’s valuable, and it’s something to be cherished.

2) In all of the language that Solomon uses to describe his love, he consistently compares her to things that must be approached gently and tenderly. A brief list of the metaphors he uses include sheep, fawns, goats, ribbon, flowers, etc. Here’s the thing… anyone with any sense knows that you don’t run up to any baby animal with your arms flailing and voice ringing out. You don’t walk carelessly over a bed of flowers. Why not? Because the very nature of these things demands that don’t treat them coarsely, or they will either cease to exist, or cease to be near you. Lol

3) Jesus was a tender and emotional man. He is defined by love, compassion, and mercy. Author Brennan Manning writes “scripture says that the essence of the divine nature is compassion and that the heart of God is defined by tenderness.” Author Richard Foster says “God’s heart is the most sensitive and tender of all.” (Both quotes from a wonderful book by Manning called Abba’s Child – go read it!) Here’s one more: “Jesus is a man in a way that we have forgotten men can be… the gospel portrait of the beloved Child of Abba is that of a man exquisitely attuned to his emotions and uninhabited in his expressing them” (Manning).

Thus, the Bible gives clear direction on the importance of tenderness in all three major sections: Old Testament, Gospels, and the epistles. However, we don’t tend to have much of an expectation for men on this front, do we? I know I didn’t.

We tend to think “boys will be boys” and “men will be men” and “I keep him around because he opens pickle jars and is great at fixing the dryer when it breaks.” And don’t get me wrong, God made men to be masculine… and they should be. But it’s also clear that they should be tender… and that we, as women, have a right to be treated like something precious, and valuable, and praise-worthy (again with dear Solomon – Proverbs 31:30).

So, I encourage you to think about this. I encourage you to pray over God’s design for the kind of treatment you deserve from men and make sure you’re getting it… or getting out. And when you have 6 hours to spare, check out the whole sermon series (for free!) on iTunes:

Monday, January 2, 2012

Obligatory New Year's Post

It's W! I'm alive! I don't know why I can't seem to post lately. I certainly have enough time (re: 2 hours of The Bachelor tonight + 1 hour of Scouted= 3 hours of TV today alone), but it seems I never have enough to say.

Today's post is about my pseudo New Year's resolution. I'm trying to work on re-framing my thoughts this year...the whole, "I think therefore I am," metacognition/thinking about thinking idea that my thoughts control my feelings and my feelings control my actions...and therefore, I've got to get a better handle on my thoughts.

I've been reading a lot lately, and a good piece of advice that I came across was, "If you can't get out of it, get into it."

This idea kind of threw me for a loop. How do I "get into" something that I wish I weren't a part of at all? I think it comes down to the idea of accepting our realities as they are at the moment and being able to see our blessings even within the areas of our lives that we wish we could change-- but can't, at least for the moment.

For example, these are some things that I simply CAN'T get out of at this moment:
-Tyler working many, many hours a day
-The brutal winter that is approaching steadily
-Living in Chicago
-Daily traffic
-Not having a dog
-Spending more than I wish we were on our apartment
-Living so, so far away from some of my best friends

Instead of my normal mental monologue about these topics, which falls somewhere between "Dang it" and "I kind of hate my life" depending on the day, I'm going to try to "get into" these things.

For example, here is what I should think about the aforementioned examples:
-Tyler's job: "Wow, it is such a blessing that I have so much time to devote to cultivating my interests and learning new skills."
-Winter: "Some people go their whole lives without ever seeing snow. I should be grateful that the Lord has allowed me to see the beauty in his creation of snow."
-Chicago: "This is one of the most vibrant cities in the country. I am so blessed that we get to experience city life while we're young, and that we have enough extra money to take advantage of the awesome restaurants and shows that you could only get here."
-Traffic: "I am so blessed that I have a car and do not need to be waiting outside in the cold for the bus. this extra time gives me space to clear my thoughts, call my family, or at least sing some old songs without an audience."
-No dog: "I am so thankful that I do not have to get up early and walk outside in the 10 degree weather to take out a puppy."
-Apartment cost: "I am so blessed to be living in a place where I do not have to go anywhere else to do laundry, where the kitchen is free from ants, and where Tyler and I have room for a king size bed!"
-Far from friends: "I am grateful that by living far away from friends I have been able to cultivate a much closer relationship with my family and my in-laws than many other people."

So, that's the it working? Too soon to tell. It is HARD, though. It's HARD to give up my feeling of being entitled to whine about not getting what I want (where did this feeling even come from!?!?!). It's HARD to not compare my situation to others (I'm looking at you, Sean and Lia!) and then be jealous and feel bad about some of my unchangeable circumstances.  It's HARD to try to like something that you don't like.

But it's a worthwhile pursuit, because it's my life, and I need to take ownership of it, accept it, and be thankful for it, because in all reality-- I have a GREAT, blessed, privileged, EASY life.

So that's what I'm working on. Y'all have any good resolutions?