Tag Archives: Single-Again

“What’s Next?!” Might Not Be the Best Question to Ask…

I recently read an article called “26, Unmarried, and Childless.” I’m 32 and married, but I can still relate. My favorite part of this article is the following quote: “…instead of asking me what’s next, ask me what’s now. Ask me what God is teaching me, ask me what I’m struggling with, or what brings me joy. I am learning, I am growing, and I am happy. I would love to tell you all about it.”

The above article was written with a female’s perspective, but since then, another article has been posted to their site. It’s called “29, A Guy, and Single.” Yes, guys struggle with singleness too, but the point made in this article that resonates the loudest with me is to not isolate others when they’re not in the same stage of life as you.

I got married just before I turned 25. We’ve been married almost 8 years now and  still don’t have children. And we’re okay with that. It’s what God has for us right now (obviously). For the first three or four years, we got lots of questions about kids–even accusations and hurtful comments from some. Fortunately, we’re past that “stage” (if you will). Do we want kids? Sure, if that’s how we can best be conformed to Christ and glorify God. Will we have kids? I don’t know (and please don’t ask me–if you really want us to, tell God and let Him decide if and when). Do we love the next generation? Absolutely! If we didn’t, we wouldn’t serve in the Children’s Ministry at our church and hang out with the teens at church suppers and ski trips and help the junior high-ers bake cupcakes for a church wide shindig. Will we have biological kids? Foster? Adopt? I don’t know. (Is that question even relevant?)

Not everyone is meant to follow the same path. Not everyone fits in a fixed pattern or norm. It’s okay to not be in the same stage as your peers. God’s plan for each of us is unique…just like the gifts He’s given us. (Not to mention that certain personal questions just ought not be asked by casual acquaintances in the first place.)

Bryan and I have plenty of friends who are married with kids…one, two, three, four…or even nine or more! Some are new parents, others are parents of teens, and then there’s the empty nesters–not to mention every stage in between. We also have lots of “DINK” friends (Dual Income No Kids–yes, it’s a real thing), some by choice and others because of infertility or miscarriage. And we have lots of single friends–guys and girls, men and women, anywhere from high school into their retirement years–some who desperately want a romantic relationship and others who are fine with their current status. Some who are dating, others who are widowed, and some who have experienced the pain of divorce. But regardless of the status, gender, age, ethnicity, career path, or number of kids, one thing is constant: we all need God! And we need each other to point each other to Him.

Did you catch that?! We need each other, folks. The church wasn’t built of any one particular  demographic–or it would’ve been rendered extinct a long time ago. We need to stop letting our gender or stage in life define us and starting letting the name “Christian” define us. As Christians, we are all called to be followers of Christ and members united in Him. There is beauty in diversity, and there’s no reason we can’t share diverse backgrounds and still delight in unity.

Sometimes I wish we would go back to the days of calling other believers “brother” and “sister.” Many cultures still do, but it’s fallen out of common use in our American culture. It’s sad, really. Maybe if we started seeing each other as brothers and sisters in Christ again, we wouldn’t care so much about status and we’d focus more on loving one another and caring for one another and sacrificing for one another–like we do for our blood relatives. After all, it’s the blood of Christ our Savior that bonds us–isn’t that a greater connection than even familial bloodlines? If we would love our biological siblings despite their flaws and faults and “let love cover it” and even defend them “to the death” when others speak ill of them, should we not treat our heavenly siblings in a similar manner?

One of the saddest things to me is when a friend tells me that they had a “best friend” but that best friend got married and now they don’t hang out because the other friend is “still single” and “that’s just life” or “it’s only natural.” Or when one friend has kids earlier than another friend and they no longer interact because of nap schedules and early bed times. There are ways around this. We just have to be flexible–on both sides. I understand that there are certain things that can’t flex–babies have to be fed and cared for, and parents get tired, especially new parents, and we do need to rest. I just want to encourage you not to give up on a relationship because part of your situation changed. Relationships take work, and they’re worth the effort.

There’s no reason to not ask someone in a different stage of life than you to come over for dinner…or meet up for coffee…or host a game night. If they have kids, you might have to plan further in advance so they can schedule a babysitter, or better yet…just get together at the house with the youngest children, so the kids can still go to bed and the adults can stay up and talk. It works. Trust me. The perfect example of this is our Shepherding Group–we have 16 people when we’re all together, and we range from infant to senior saint. The backgrounds of where we grew up, where we went to school, whether or not we have kids, etc., are SO diverse, yet God has done something really cool by bringing such a random group of individuals together into a tightly knit group.

Maybe it is “natural” to fall into easy conversation with people in your same stage of life, but we are called to live “supernaturally” by the power of the Almighty God! So, fight what’s “natural” and choose to branch out of your comfort zone. Make friends with someone in a different age group than you. Or rekindle a friendship that’s fallen by the wayside because of different career paths or life choices. Mentor a younger brother or sister in Christ. Seek out a more mature brother or sister to mentor you. Share with them what God is teaching you…and ask them, “What’s God teaching you right now?” instead of “What’s Next?” And rejoice together in our Amazing, Unifying God!

Love, Respect, and “The Meaning of Marriage”

Every marriage has its ups and downs, it’s bumps and lulls. I know ours has. Now, the good memories far outweigh the rough ones, but even the rough ones teach us so much, if we’ll just stick with it. Praise the Lord I have a husband that is willing to do just that.

About four and a half years into our marriage, we hit one of those tough places. There were long hours at work coupled with lack of job satisfaction, followed by a period of four months of being down to one income. This put a strain on our finances, as you can imagine, which strained us emotionally as well. At the same time, we had some very close friends move away–some across town and some across the country. And we couldn’t afford to go out to eat with those that were left, so we stayed in, feeling disconnected and discouraged.

But God’s grace shone through. Sooner or later, you choose to stop hashing out the same frustrations and bringing up the same hurtful topics of conversation…hopefully. You see that hardships are to refine us, like purifying gold in the furnace and pressurized coals becoming diamonds. Randy Alcorn, in his book If God is Good writes, “God’s purpose for our suffering is Christlikeness. That is our highest calling. If God answered all our prayers to be delivered from evil and suffering, then he would be delivering us from Christlikeness. But Christlikeness is something to long for, not to be delivered from.” And when it’s just the two of you, you learn to talk about other things, about life, including hopes and dreams and wanting to be more like Christ.

During this down turn, a slightly-older-than-us couple in our church started getting to know us better, asking questions that were deeper than, “So, how are you?” We also joined a church volleyball league, and they “happened” to be two of the other players. They’re maybe 15 years older than us, but we clicked. As much as many may think I’m an extrovert, the truth is actually quite the opposite. She shared some of their struggles in the early years, and even later on in their marriage, and I found myself opening up to this dear Christian lady, and my husband was able to connect with her husband as well.

She would pray with me, and cry with me, and encourage me, and point me towards respecting my husband, no matter if I agreed with all of his choices or not. She showed me that the wife loves her husband BY respecting him. Some of it is earned, but some of it is given by choice, with or without merit. I’d get random “just checking in” emails or texts from her, saying she prayed for me and hoped I had a blessed day.

Over a year after this downturn, she still checks in. We’re all pretty busy, but she stopped me in the hall at church on Sunday and told me that if I ever needed her, she’d drop everything and come running. What a mentor! Just to know that someone’s watching out for you is a huge blessing and ray of sunshine!

Finally, we had the chance to sit down as couples and do dinner about a month ago. We breezed through the normal small talk and life updates, and then there was this dramatic conversation shift. They looked at us and said, “Bryan, how are you loving your wife? Melissa, how are you respecting your husband?” It was not as easy an exercise as you might think. We looked at each other, and answered. Both of our answers were “I try to love/respect my spouse by [fill in the blank].” It was a really good exercise, and it was nice to hear him say how he thought he was loving me and to tell him that I do respect him and that I’m trying to show him that. If you’re married and you’ve never done an exercise like that before, go for it; everyone’s answers will look somewhat different, but it’s a blessing to share and it actually grew our love and respect for one another even a bit more.

Another bit of advice they gave us was to always be reading books on marriage (obviously, not to the neglect of Scripture), and to never stop learning and loving (spiritually, mentally, emotionally, physically, sexually). About this same time, a friend of mine, who is preparing for marriage, let me borrow a book he just read by Timothy and Kathy Keller called The Meaning of Marriage (244 pages plus notes; Dutton: NY, 2011). So I thought I’d right up some of my favorite quotes from the book and give a mini review.

Timothy Keller is the pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan, NYC. This book is an excellent reference guide, a refreshing reminder, and I highly recommend it to those who are married, single, and “single-again” alike. It was thought provoking and biblically based.

Quoting C.S. Lewis, “Are not all lifelong friendships born at the moment when at last you meet another human being who has some inkling…of that something which you were born desiring…?” (p.10).

“God says, ‘I didn’t put a parent and a child in the Garden, I put a husband and a wife. When you marry your spouse, that must supersede all other relationships, even the parental relationship. Your spouse and your marriage must be the number one priority in your life.’ …No other human being should get more of your love, energy, industry, and commitment than your spouse” (p.127).

“Marriage is so much like salvation and our relationship with Christ that Paul says you can’t understand marriage without looking at the gospel” (p.130; see also Colossians 1:15ff and Ephesians 5:28).

“Ultimately, to know that the Lord of the universe loves you is the strongest foundation that any human being can have. A growing awareness of God’s love in Christ is the greatest reward. And yet we must not forget Adam in the garden. Though he had a perfect relationship with God, his humanity’s relational nature was designed also for human love. Your spouse’s love for you and Christ’s love work together in your life with powerful interaction” (pp.148-9).

“One of the most basic skills in marriage is the ability to tell the straight, unvarnished truth about what your spouse has done–and then, completely, unself-righteously, and joyously express forgiveness without a shred of superiority, without making the other person feel small. …What does it take to know the power of grace? First it takes humility” (p.165).

“Even the best marriage cannot by itself fill the void in our souls left by God. Without a deeply fulfilling love relationship with Christ now, and hope in a perfect love relationship with him in the future, married Christians will put too much pressure on their marriage to fulfill them, and that will always create pathology in the lives” (p.198).

“The kind of love that lasts a lifetime is not only a matter of the emotions. It has to be a commitment strong enough to move us to glad, non-begrudging, sacrificial service of another person even during the inevitable seasons when the emotions are dry or cold. That kind of love grows out of this comprehensive attraction to the person’s character, future, and mission in life” (p.213).

And finally, “seventeenth-century Christian poet George Herbert” is quoted in the epilogue on pages 237-8). I studied this poem in my British Literature courses in college and it was a fast favorite. In this poem, Love is Christ and the poet (or the reader) is the sinner that receives Love’s affection.

Love (III)

“Love bade me welcome, yet my soul drew back,
Guilty of dust and sin.
But quick-ey’d Love, observing me grow slack
From my first entrance in,
Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning
If I lack’d anything.
‘A guest,’ I answer’d, ‘worthy to be here’;
Love said, ‘You shall be he.’
‘I, the unkind, the ungrateful? ah my dear,
I cannot look on thee.’
Love took my hand and smiling did reply,
‘Who made the eyes but I?’
‘Truth, Lord, but I have marr’d them; let my shame
Go where it doth deserve.’
‘And know you not,’ says Love, ‘who bore the blame?’
‘My dear, then I will serve.’
‘You must sit down,’ says Love, ‘ and taste my meat.’
So I did sit and eat.”
 

For some additional resources on Marriage, our Pastor Dan Brooks of Heritage Bible Church, in Greer, SC, recently went through a series on Marriage that you may find helpful. They can be found at SermonAudio.com.