For Moments I Feel Faint

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:1-2

 

There are seasons in my walk with Christ where singleness feels less like a gift and more like a weight. And when it gets too heavy, I’m left with no choice but to come to the cross with it. There Jesus shines light on the murky waters I’ve been swimming in. Together, we do some soul-searching and unearth the same lies that continue to creep in time and time again. I painstakingly trade again that which is earthly for what rust and moth can’t touch, sometimes with a heart that cries “I believe, help my unbelief!” I sit at His feet as long as it takes for the fog to clear so that Jesus is my focus once again. Consider this post a personal pep talk for times such as these- a sieve to cleanse the cloudy water.

 

On Marriage:

“He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the Lord.” Proverbs 18:22

I think that in view of the present distress it is good for a person to remain as he is. Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek to be free. Are you free from a wife? Do not seek a wife. But if you do marry, you have not sinned, and if a betrothed woman marries, she has not sinned. Yet those who marry will have worldly troubles, and I would spare you that.” 1 Corinthians 7:26-28

“Therefore, a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.” Ephesians 5:31-32 

Marriage as a status is not an upgrade in God’s Kingdom, it’s a lateral move from one gifting into another. It’s a season granted when God sees it as more fitting, more pertinent to your growth and the furthering of His kingdom. That being said, why is its prospect generally so much more appealing than flying solo? What draws us into romantic storylines and forever promises?

Biology aside, I believe it’s because the Gospel is compelling, and marriage reflects that. God designed us with the ability to be in awe of intimacy and sacrificial love. We may spend and squander that awe on lesser things, but that doesn’t subtract from the value of the original purpose of marriage, nor the real reasons we are captivated by it in the first place. As believers, we have the ability to orient our hearts to the tune of the Gospel. We can remain fascinated by earthly marriage and even desirous of it. But in the fascination, we are in a posture to reflect and revel in the deeper, purer devotion of our Savior to His bride. It needs to be more about what is already ours for eternity than what could temporarily be granted for an earth-life.

 

On the Sovereignty of God:

“What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” Luke 11:11-13

God only ever withholds what isn’t best for us. He who orders the universe doesn’t just care about your story but how that story fits into the bigger picture. His primary targets are His glory on display and working things together for your good. In His perceptive abilities, He sees when the things we ask for are scorpions and serpents in disguise. In this truth, we find trust and surrender to the faithfulness of our good Father.

 

On Emotions:

“Whatever is TRUE….Think about such things.” Philippians 4:8

Emotions won’t always lead you to what’s best. It’s often quite the opposite. When emotions meet God’s will, it can be really powerful, but don’t feed emotions not yet based in truth.

 

On my Death Date:

“Behold, you have made my days a few handbreadths, and my lifetime is as nothing before you. Surely all mankind stands as a mere breath!” Psalm 39:5

Life is SO short. And emotions aside, the only reason to give up singleness is if it will help build God’s Kingdom better. At the end of my life, I don’t want to look back and see a nice earthly kingdom crumbling in the wake of my death, no matter how much romance and adventure it afforded. As a woman called to ministry, I become more convinced that the only solid reason to give up what I’m able to do as a single lady is if it’s traded for supporting and toiling alongside a brother in Christ entrusted very specifically with his Father’s Kingdom work.

 

On Tomorrow:

“Therefore, do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” Matthew 6:34

Can I handle being single for the rest of my life? Heavens, no! Can I handle the possibility of being Miss Windham for another decade? Probably not. How about a year? I’d rather not. But what does God require us to steward? Just today. Can I be single up until my head hits the pillow tonight? Certainly. God owns tomorrow and portions me today. I choose not to dwell too much on the “what ifs” and instead focus on today’s allotment of “what nows”.

 

I’ll leave you with a final thought. The road we chose is narrow. The path we walk requires daily taking up a cross. The Savior who leads us asks us to deny ourselves as we follow. We counted the cost and went all in. And what do we get in return? We get life. We get Jesus. It’s well worth it.

Love,

Rachelle

“I think I can’t
But I think You can
I think You can
Gather my insufficienies and
place them in your hands”

-Relient K

Advertisements

A Question Worth Wrestling With

When God created marriage, He knew that singleness as a status would eventually result. You can’t have one without the other. With this design, He invaded the human heart. He instilled longings that radiate with stomach flip-flops, quickened pulses, ear to ear smiles, and feet-dragging, gut-wrenching heartbreak. Powerful human emotions behind the God-breathed words of “male and female He created them.” He knew what He was doing. He knew the countless individuals who would both rejoice and suffer in one category or the other, for those that have and have not.  He knew the longing and loss that would produce some of the darkest days for His beloved creatures. And yet He calls it “very good.”

Yes, this bold statement predates the fall, where man and woman would usher in a long, dark road of separation from God. But does that take away from what God established as good? If the highest good is God’s glory on display, even the darkness makes way for the brilliance of the Light of the World. And God’s definition of good is so different than ours. Our natural bent sounds almost Neanderthal: Hard bad. Easy good. But God flips that logic on its head, knowing intimately the human spirit. We need tough. We waste away in easy. And the Life-Giver says that His ultimate purposes are good, for those who love Him.

When it comes to singleness, I want to suggest that there is a question worth asking for every Believer. It’s a hard word, but a good one that can wage war with our primitive tendencies. It’s also revealing. In the midst of the potent emotions God weaved into the human soul, it will reveal how well you subscribe to the goodness of God’s designs. It will potentially challenge you beyond any other earth-journey storms. It’s a simple question, but it might take a lifetime to answer. The worthy inquiry into the human soul is this: What if God ordained that I should be single for the rest of my life?

Take a moment to let that question hang in the air. Breathe in God’s assurance and exhale any apprehension welling up inside of you. For those of us who want marriage or already have it, believing that it is indeed very good, this question can feel like disturbing a wasp nest. Perhaps it’s best to back away slowly. But what if under the nest lies a key to closer intimacy with Christ? Ah, now you must stand still and contemplate.

 

For myself, grappling with this question all the way through my 20’s has been a prominent supplier of growth. It has revealed idols. Idols of marriage, picket-fences, self, security…the list is long. The list is painful. Those wasps won’t let you destroy their intricately-woven domain without a fight.

It has taught me how to serve God irrespective of status. Elisabeth Elliot said, “The secret is Christ in me, not a different set of circumstances.” God’s Kingdom is not made with holding tanks or pause buttons that allow us to relax and wait to serve Him until our situations change. He wants to use us as we are, where we are.

It has taught me to trust that God really does know best. The gift of Singleness isn’t often received with glee, but after a decade of trying to figure out the return policy, I find the state of my heart and soul made healthier and my armor stronger against stinging-winged lies and attacks.

Grappling with the question of permanent singleness has taught me to loosen my grip on my will. “When the will of God crosses the will of man, somebody has to die.” (Also Elliot) And to live is Christ, to die is gain! I believe that more than I did at 20, and it brightens the spotlight on the forever promises that result from taking up our cross to follow Him.

But most importantly, it has produced an intimacy with Christ that I would not sacrifice on the altar of an alternate life, if given the chance. In the quiet moments of hoping and asking, Christ was my most constant companion. In the chaotic seasons of heartbreak and calamity, Jesus offered something better than answers and a thorough life-map. He offered more of Himself.

We don’t often day-dream about our nightmares. If you are married, it’s not appealing to think about the possibility of premature widowhood. If you are single and long for the very good one-ness portrayed in Genesis 1 and 2, it’s not pleasant to consider spouseless decades. But in that hypothetical, God might have some severe mercies to offer. I will finish with one more Elliot quote as you contemplate tough, emotive questions. Keep in mind that she experienced an initial single season in addition to 2 more seasoned with widowhood.

“Single life may be only a stage of a life’s journey, but even a stage is a gift. God may replace it with another gift, but the receiver accepts His gifts with thanksgiving. This gift for this day. The life of faith is lived one day at a time, and it has to be lived—not always looked forward to as though the “real” living were around the next corner. It is today for which we are responsible. God still owns tomorrow.”

To the girl who feels overlooked

 

Chinese take-out and a blanket cocoon. Friends out and about on a Friday night and I opted for a leisurely evening of Mu Shu chicken, reading, and an early bedtime, all wrapped up in a cozy, fleece-lined blanket. It was wonderful…wholly embracing the perks of singleness.

Moments like these make the single life easy to tolerate. No one else’s expectations, no one caring how messy the hair tower is placed at the top of your head, and no one to compromise with over what to order for dinner or who gets the comfy overstuffed chair.

But sooner or later, waiting around the corner after instances of relishing unattached freedom are reminders of the beauty of marriage. You see how wonderful giving and sharing can be- you see how sacrificing singleness might just be worth it. For me, my recent reminder found its grip while holding a bouquet and straightening a lacy train for my best friend as I gave her away to a worthy groom. His pledge to love and prefer her until death do them part was accompanied by the most piercing gaze and serious of tones I’ve ever witnessed. And the beauty was there- the beauty that God designed for mankind to enjoy, the beauty of two becoming one. The seriousness and the sacrifice, yes. But also the sanctity and the uninhibited embrace- the pure joy.

I wouldn’t call it jealousy. God knows my heart. But I would call it longing. Aching for something good that is, for the moment, out of reach. A wise pillar of the faith spoke right to my soul after I had delivered my maid of honor speech. Accompanying his warm greeting were the words: “You’re next.” I jokingly asked him if he was prophetic, but that was only an attempt to brush aside the small stirring of hope in my heart.

If you’ve been in that place several times like I have, longing for what you don’t have, then you can begin to get disheartened. You start to really wonder what God is up to, or if He’s even heard your prayers. Or maybe He’s acted on your prayers, but the stubborn young man (whoever he is) isn’t listening! Ha! Or perhaps you begin taking inventory of things that transpired in the past- missed opportunities where you didn’t give someone a chance or guys who were only interested in friendship as they turned their heads towards the prettier or less-awkward girl. You self-evaluate, trying to pinpoint the reasons why you have thus far been overlooked. And if that’s you, I want to encourage you for a moment. You see, God is so patient and gentle, and He really wants to enter the moments in which we ache. It’s not too insignificant for Him.

Having taken full advantage of His audience this past week, I’m here to report that when voids appear, He is there to fill them with more of Himself. But it does require time and space. Clearing your schedule for Jesus is ALWAYS worth it. In those quiet moments, tell Him how you feel. Summon the courage of David that we see in the Psalms as he pours out his heart to God, asking his Creator to intervene in what seems to be taking too long. Then willfully submit to His plan, several times if need be.

The truth is, there probably are things you’ve done to sabotage your love life. There likely are opportunities you botched or things you missed. You aren’t perfect after all. But since when has human deficiency stopped Creator God from working? Spend enough time in his presence, and something amazing happens. He doesn’t tell you exactly what He’s up to or what steps to follow to get what you want, but He does offer reminders of His faithfulness. He’ll point you to the cross where ultimate soul-longing was forever satisfied. He’ll have you reminisce about the moments since you grasped salvation where He has carried you and lifted you up. And then, because He’s thoughtful, He’ll take you to the tops of mountains to gaze at the beauty of His creation. He’ll move you through canyons that He carved out into colorful ridges to show his power. He’ll give you blessed conversations with His other children that leave you full. And since He knows you so well, He’ll add a thunderstorm, because they are your favorite.

There in the remembering and the experiencing, He’ll gently compel submission to whatever the future holds. And when you open yourself up to His will, you will find adventure and fullness. Perhaps it won’t be the kind you had hoped for and it won’t take away the occasional pang of unmet desires, but it will build you up. It will steady you and offer you permanent assurance that even if a worthy man never looks your way, the King of the Universe smiles upon His daughter with a gaze and an intention that rivals and outlasts the sincerest “I do.”

Love,

Rachelle

Dear Church: How to Truly Encourage Singles

NOTE: This is an adaptation of an earlier post that was from my wordier days 🙂 Still just as relevant, but more bite-sized.

It’s Sunday morning. The trendy pallet wall backdrop is all set on a stage that is littered by strategically placed instruments and a podium as church-goers chatter and move about. Observe the scene long enough, and a particular subset might begin to capture your attention. It’s a group that doesn’t seem to fit any other category.  They aren’t found among the “keenagers” who gracefully make their way to the back rows of the church. They aren’t among the youngsters being ushered to Sunday school or youth group. They aren’t found among the parents of said youngsters or the starry-eyed young marrieds without kids. They are the 20 plus somethings that meander through the rest, interacting, serving, and existing.

Not sure where you fit in that list, but you can count me as a seasoned member of the ragtags. In my experience, I have been fortunate to find friendship and belonging within the church among all the other groups, but it hasn’t been without its challenges. In this piece, I hope to answer the following question: How can churches allow singles to flourish as God has called them? It is a question that is not easily answered, as singles range on the marriage scale from “Woe is me!” all the way to “Dodging that bullet!” Additionally, most singles will probably at one point get married, so how do we balance our discussions with that possibility? I will offer 3 do’s and don’ts of interacting with single believers, emphasizing how to best encourage them in their walk with Christ without assuming God’s plan regarding matrimony.

Being Burdened for Their Singleness

In the classic movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding, the main character’s father mourns her singleness in her early 30’s. In a memorable line, he says pathetically, “Get married, make babies, you’re starting to look so OLD!” Traces of this woeful mindset might be found in certain attitudes or even prayer requests among church-goers in regards to their single friends.

Let me say something that needs to be said. Single people do not need other people to be burdened by their singleness! While it’s true that Galatians 6:2 speaks of “bearing one another’s burdens”, the bearing typically occurring in this kind of scenario hurts rather than actually helps the situation. They are in essence, reaching for the wrong luggage at the baggage claim. While the intention may be out of a desire to help, this will only make matters worse. I will offer a better way to bear this particular burden.

The issue in this scenario is a misunderstanding of singleness itself. Singleness is not the enemy. If we treat singleness like the villain in someone’s story, then we paint the inaccurate picture that marriage is the answer to all his or her problems. Unfortunately, whether your single friend ends up married or remains single for a while longer, you have done nothing to help fix their problem and quite possibly have been part of what is holding them back from living as God intends them to.

A better method to counsel is by offering the Gospel itself. Us singles need to be reminded of who we are and what we have in Christ. We need to be served a gracious dose of truth in love, that even if marriage came our way, it would not satisfy our deepest longings. If any burdens are carried on behalf of a single believer, it should be these deeper encumbrances and the need to learn to value Christ above anything this world has to offer. Do not make the mistake of picking up the wrong luggage!

The Sunday Fish Market

It is said that to tell a quality sushi restaurant from a subpar one, you need to find out if they are open on Sundays. Apparently, fish markets are typically closed on that particular day of the week, so in order for a sushi restaurant to serve their delicacies on Sundays, they must have a willingness to serve day-old products, thereby revealing a lack of culinary integrity. I am not sure how much truth is in this bit of hearsay and it has not really changed my sushi-eating habits, but I think the concept offers a valuable tip to church members.

A quality church that allows singles to flourish should not sell fish on Sunday. I think this goes without saying, but the focus during church gatherings should not be pairing off, no matter how many fish are on hand. Ideally, the church atmosphere is the place one hopes to find a future spouse if there is one to be found, but when that becomes the goal of singles or those they interact with, there is potential for unintended implications. First of all, when singles are seen as projects to “fix”, the subtle message underlying the matchmaking attempts is that they are somehow incomplete or missing out.

Christian matchmaking is not wrong in and of itself, and can be a welcome gesture for many singles, but there is a need to tread these waters more lightly. It is important to invest time into getting to know singles on a deeper level. Invite them into your life. Then, humbly breach the topic and find out if that is even something they desire. Additionally, if you plan on mentioning any kind of potential set up, make sure you intend on carrying it out. Statements about perfect matches with your husband’s friend’s cousin’s coach are not helpful to share if you do not really intend on seeing it through.

Wasted on Singleness

If I had a quarter for every time I have heard the words “You are too good to stay single,” I would be rich. Well okay, I might have enough to buy a vanilla latte at Starbucks. Make it a tall. Anyways, I understand that these comments are well-intentioned, but I bring it up because I think there is a tendency for married folks to jump into flattery mode when a single person opens up about their desire for marriage and the seeming lack of willing candidates. While it is nice to want to dissolve potential insecurities, the underlying assumption of the flattery is false. It basically says that singleness is only for some kind of less optimal person, but marriage is a higher calling that selects from the cream of the crop.

The reality is that marriage and singleness are two paths that God uses for His purposes, and in 1 Corinthians 7, Paul implies that singleness is potentially better for the Kingdom because of its “undivided” nature. The nicest, most sincere complement I have ever received in regards to my singleness came from an older friend. She said that she had been observing me in conversation, and her initial thoughts were of what man I could end up with in our circle of acquaintances. “But then,” she exclaimed, “I decided that I really like you as a single person!” We work in ministry together, and I think she realized all the ministry opportunities I am able to pursue because I do not have the responsibilities associated with being someone’s wife.

So instead of jumping into flattery mode the next time a single brother or sister openly bemoans their empty ring finger, look to what God has for them right where they are to encourage them. Are they in ministry? Point out the freedom they have to spontaneously take a younger Believer to coffee or the blessings they have in being able to wholeheartedly serve the Lord. What does their social life look like? There is adventure to be had outside of dating that is not as much of an option for married folks! What are they gifted in or passionate about? Chances are, God wants them to use those gifts and passions in ways that might be stretching but joyful. Truth might not be what they want to hear, but don’t let that stop you from trading what is nice but fleeting for that which is more meaningful and lasting.

 

In conclusion, singles are in need of all kinds of encouragement from their fellow brothers and sisters. Unfortunately, I am afraid many of them are not provided with the correct kind of encouragement. Pointing them towards a local singles group or telling them that God’s best will come if they are patient does not get to the root of the issue or even represent the truths of Scripture accurately. You want to be an encouragement to the single person in your Church? Begin by rewiring how you view earthly marriage, if need be, aligning your stance with God’s timeless truths. I fear that many of today’s Christian marriages have bought into the lies of our culture, so they are unable to be an encouragement to singles because their actions speak louder than words. If your happiness and fulfillment is rooted in your marriages and families instead of Christ, the singles in your sphere will pick up on that message. Seek God’s help in adjusting your spiritual priorities and then invite single brothers and sisters into your life. Be family to them. Show them how singleness does not have to be equated with loneliness, bitterness, monotony, or a spot on the sidelines of real life.

Love,

Rachelle

A Different Kind of Infertility

IMG_4411Blame it on the year that will make me turn 30. Blame it on the wave of adorable tiny humans clogging my social media feed. Or maybe it has something to do with the dream I had the other night about carrying my baby girl around and snuggling her sweetness. It was a surreal experience to wake up and actually feel the loss of something that wasn’t real. My seasons of struggle with singleness have so far been linked to a desire for companionship, but this new phase has taken an unexpected twist. In this novel chapter, I find my heart longing for motherhood.

I don’t think I’m alone. We tend to associate the pangs of unfulfilled desires for parenthood to childless couples, but singleness can offer its own version of infertility. For those of us with convictions about waiting for the ideal situation of child-rearing in the context of a marriage, the options of passing on our noses or tempers on to the next generation or participating in the beauty of adoption are at least for now, off the table. And lately, I’ve had several conversations with 20 somethings of both genders who have a longing to be parents, sometimes more unrelenting than their desires for marriage.

In our millennial age of authenticity, we hear more and more stories about couples who find themselves in the midst of figuring out how to become parents when the natural methods fail.   Go Fund Me pages request funds for adoption, surrogacy themes make for moving narratives, and articles debate the ethics of in-vitro fertilization. This variety of trial is starting to get much-needed attention due to people willing to be vulnerable about their stories, but what about those of us who feel option-less? As with all yet-unfulfilled desires, we get an opportunity to lean on Jesus through the ache. Time with Him is NEVER wasted. But are there other ways to at least temporarily calm our instinctive needs to parent?  I offer a list of 4 suggestions and mindsets that I have found extremely helpful for my own soul on this road of living, for the time being, childless.

#1 Hold all the babies

I realize this is a temporary fix, but I’ve found it to be incredibly therapeutic. About a year ago, I became a bit burnt out on ministry commitments. When I spoke with my church’s leaders about pulling back to serve in different ways, I requested to just hold babies on Sundays for a while. Not only did it offer a way to serve parents who need that break to focus on the sermon, but baby therapy is real. Want to at least temporarily soothe your need to hear contagious laughter of littles? Volunteer in your church’s nursery or babysit for a couple struggling to fit in a date night. The best part? After you are done snuggling roly-poly sweetness or improv-ing crazy bedtime stories, you get to give them back and enjoy the liberty of singleness a little longer.

#2 Sponser a child

Think it’s hard for us single millennials to pay the bills sometimes? Well, keeping littles happy, healthy, and educated is no financial walk in the park either. What if we gave up a few macchiatos and In-N-Out runs each month to practice the fiscal aspect of parenting? See if there are any needs in your local community. Save up and fund Christmas for a needy family in your area. See what kinds of financial needs there are for children in the foster care system.  Contact title 1 schools in your area to see how you can support before or after school programs. Additionally, you could consider different ways to support children overseas. Programs like Compassion International allow children around the globe to be nourished, pursue an education, and know God’s love.

#3 Read parenting books

On the topic of marriage, singles are advised to start preparing for marriage long before vows are exchanged. We are told to “attend marriage conferences, hang out with married couples who seem to have ‘till death do us part’ figured out, and read Biblically-sound books about Solomon’s blush-inducing song!” In the same way, parenting should be trained for long before the sleepless nights of newborn cries or the upgrade to a tricked-out minivan. I’m a firm believer that singleness is a crucial training ground for whatever future seasons hold. You want to be good at parenting one day? Gold medal parenting won’t happen overnight. Pick up a book on childrearing.  Ask parents at all stages what advice they would give to potential moms and dads. Whether you are blessed with biological or spiritual children one day, your quest for knowledge won’t be wasted…which brings me to point 4.

#4 Be a spiritual parent.

In the same way that marriage points to the greater reality of the Gospel, earthly parenthood points to the more permanent ties that we have as part of God’s family. In the New Covenant, we are not guaranteed that our biological kids will follow Christ. Since regeneration through faith is the new mode of kingdom-growing, let’s be disciple-makers! Let’s pour into the younger generation while our time isn’t allocated to a spouse and kids. In the grand scheme of things, we could end up with more spiritual kids than any of our married friends with a full quiver. If you dream even bigger, you could be a grandparent by the time you’re 30!

……………………………………….

Do you feel like you were meant to be a mom or a dad? It’s quite possible that parenthood will be in your future. But how should we frame our thoughts and actions around our waiting? A close friend of mine and her husband battled through a 10 year journey of infertility and their story relays an abundance of literal pain and heartache. But they see now how God’s timing and pruning served His purposes to bring about a closer walk with Jesus and each other plus a plethora of other seen and yet unseen fruit from that dark time. If you are a child of God, each kind of waiting will serve its purpose. And until we see God’s plan unfold, let’s redeem the time by holding some babies, financially supporting little image-bearers, wising up in the ways of child-rearing, and seeking to live out the way parenthood fits into God’s bigger plan!

Love,

Rachelle

The Point in Disappointment

FullSizeRender.jpg

“Hope deferred makes the heart sick” ~Proverbs 13:12a

            It sure does, doesn’t it? Proverbs speak to the human condition, and this one is no exception. We’re all familiar with disappointment. You don’t get invited, you don’t get the promotion, or the heartbreak of a break-up is hard to shake. Can I be real with you? Lately, it’s been tempting to view singleness itself as one long string of disappointments. In my 20’s, the single life has been an overall positive experience. The Lord has used my status in greater ways than I could imagine. Yet every once in a while, an event will unearth emotions that force me to put into practice everything I write about. Do I really believe that God is good? Does He truly have my best in mind?  Unreturned interest [again], loneliness when life is tough and I honestly just want to be held, and heart-shaped candy overrunning the grocery store can all serve as triggers for a sick heart.  So what will it look like to climb out of this rut? I believe the answer is found in the second part of the verse.

Part B of the proverb says that “a desire fulfilled is a tree of life.” At first glance, this line doesn’t seem like it could be a comfort to those of us with sick hearts. We understand that our fulfilled desire would be awesome. That’s what makes deferment so tough! But I find it interesting how the picture chosen is a “tree of life.” That same symbol is used in the Garden of Eden as the promise of provision, in Jeremiah 17 to illustrate a man whose trust is in the Lord, and in Revelation 22, which describes another tree of life that bears fruit in the New Earth.  Yes, getting the good things we want this side of heaven would be great, but even those things can’t truly fulfill us.  The shrubs that sprout with a new relationship or a new job can indeed bring temporary satisfaction, but they pale in comparison to the ultimate gifts that the Sower has in store.

Ecclesiastes 3:11 tells us that God has written eternity on our hearts. So what does disappointment point to? God fashioned us with a mechanism for hope. The temporary gifts He graciously gives us may use this design plan from time to time, but when it fails us in the short run, we need to understand that it won’t in the long run. Our hopes will ultimately find their restful bliss in Christ and His redemptive plan. He alone has the power to forever wipe away tears. He alone has the ability to satisfy the deepest longings of our souls. Only Jesus can heal our sick hearts. The beautiful part is that the deferment only adds to the bliss of fulfillment. It’s worth the wait.

So what do we do in the meantime? Should we hope for earthly things at all, or should we just build walls around our hearts and hope that Jesus returns soon? I see the temptation to start putting some bricks together. Even though I have this desire for marriage, the fear of rejection sometimes prevents me from putting myself out there. Nevertheless, I think God has more in store for our hurts and hopes than eventual eternity.

A symbol that comes to mind when I think of unfulfilled hopes is a wishing well. But, if you really think about it, the picture it paints isn’t all that hopeful. Just throw in your spare change and watch it fall to the bottom. It will join other dreams in a watery grave. No redemptive value or investment, just algae-collecting. Then, you go on with your life, longing for something that may or may not happen.

God’s kingdom operates very differently than a wishing well. In His detailed plan, deferred hopes do so much more than collect pond scum. Each rejection, every heartache, all the missed opportunities are invested. They are sown like seeds that will have their time to bring forth fruit. The fruit may be as simple as time spent with Jesus while you walked through a healing process. Perhaps it will look like a tender heart that is a comfort to others, having experienced loss. Or maybe it will be a thicker skin that’s ready to take on what life has in store. No ache will be wasted. It all has a purpose. If you feel like you’ve been hit with one disappointment after another, know this: God is going to cash all that in one day.

That being said, do we continue to hope for earthly events to take place? With some hesitation, my answer is yes. I hesitate because I know it will mean more heartache for a lot of us. I hesitate because I realize the struggle of finding ultimate hope in Jesus with other competing hopes in our hearts. But is heartache really the end of the world? Ache means growth if you are following Christ. Longing reminds Believers that ultimate satisfaction is waiting in what’s to come. So maybe we should continue to prayerfully, yet prudently hope for good desires, offering it up to God and trusting that He has a purpose for it, either in heartache or fulfillment.

 

Love,

Rachelle

Why Dating an Unbeliever is Bad for Them

img_4173

It’s the familiar “I met someone” starry-eyed glow. “He’s so good to me. He gets along so well with my family, and he respects me. I’m really happy, and it’s getting pretty serious.” It’s a conversation I’ve had a few times.  Different young women, same scenario. Being the listener and question-asker that I am, my probing eventually lands on the catch: “He’s not a Believer but…”    There’s always a ‘but’, isn’t there? He said he’ll go to church with me, he was burned by a church once, or he’s really open to spiritual things, so it’s only a matter of time, right? Our hearts so long for connection and intimacy with others that justification has to be employed at the expense of our better judgement.

I’m not here to dive into the meaning of “unequally yoked” or the greater risk of future heathen children. Us millennials like to roll our eyes at familiar speeches, anyways. I want to approach this topic from a different angle- one that I believe to be equally as Biblical. You see, these kinds of discussions can easily turn into an “us vs. them” refrain that neglects the spiritual well-being of everyone involved.  In other words, instead of painting the unbelieving partner as the evil scoffer that bids enlightened but weak spirits to sit and join in their wickedness, have we ever stopped to consider that they, like us, are souls in need of God’s grace? Is it likely that an unbelieving boyfriend or girlfriend will spiritually benefit from an unequally yoked relationship? I don’t think so, and here are three reasons why.

You can’t offer the future they want

Someone who has been bought by the blood of Jesus should have different goals than someone who hasn’t. As believers, our lives should be marked by our ultimate purpose of building God’s kingdom. This affects the way we treat our finances, the way we pursue purity, and the way we spend our time. Unbelievers don’t have the same definitive objective, and so their choices are affected by their earth-bound ties. On this topic, the negative pull on the believing boyfriend or girlfriend down slippery slopes is typically what gets highlighted in the argument against dating outside the faith. But have you ever thought about the unfairness of shackling an unbeliever to heavenly goals, when they may not be able to one day reap the heavenly rewards? In other words, if you are holding steadfast to boundaries that protect your purity and pastimes that honor the Lord, the unbeliever is being forced under the law when grace to follow God has not yet been granted to them. We have accepted God’s free gifts of love and mercy to end that kind of slavery, so why would we wish that kind of life on someone we care for? Simply put, it is unkind, and realistically, it will create hurtful tension.

They see the compromise

This next one might hurt a bit, but please, oh please, take it with a heaping spoonful of sisterly love. If your ultimate goal is to win your sweetheart over while dating them, you are unintentionally sending a subtle message. This memo communicates that you aren’t very serious about your relationship with God, at least not when it comes to relationships, because you are compromising on His will for you. And if your commitment to Jesus is lacking, you don’t give much incentive for anyone close to you to follow Him, too. At best, you set an example of Christianity that picks and chooses from godly prescriptions. We want the people we care about to find in us a model of godly courage that leads them to the same kind of zeal for living that Jesus has.  Sometimes that means skipping out on momentary happiness and potentially hurting feelings, understanding that God’s recommendations do not lead to disaster in the long run.

They need Jesus

Relationships tend to throw a smoky rave in your frontal cortex in a manner that clouds better judgment. Additionally, spiritual warfare is real, and if someone is truly a spiritual-seeker, a new relationship could be just the thing that the enemy uses to preoccupy their spirit. In C.S. Lewis’ Screwtape Letters, an elder demon makes the following statement in coaching a newbie.

“It is funny how mortals always picture us as putting things into their minds: in reality our best work is done by keeping things out.”

Although it is a fictional story, Lewis provides insight into the spiritual realm. The movement of a human soul towards the eternal freedom found in Christ is a fragile process. It is difficult enough for Believers to keep their commitment to Christ central in a dating relationship, so imagine how much more arduous it can become for an unbeliever to prioritize spiritual progress in the same circumstances. If you truly hope for someone’s journey with Jesus to begin, the most loving thing you can do is allow and pray for them to have space to encounter God, free from the distraction of a dating relationship.

True Love       

Perhaps in reading this, you find yourself lost in the exceptions. It’s nice to talk about better/best scenarios in theory, but what about the real-life dating relationships that do result in the unbeliever giving their life to Christ? To that I would say: give credit where credit is due. We serve a gracious and powerful God who is all about redeeming our mistakes for His glory. The genuine conversion that occurs in “missionary dating” is more likely in spite of the relationship, not because of it. Truly loving someone means caring about their soul more than anything else. Jesus didn’t promise us an easy life. But His yoke becomes easy and His burden becomes light when we look to Him for wisdom and guidance, when we lean on Him for strength to sort through the difficult choices in life, and when we see people how He sees them- with loving, eternal lenses.

So how should we tread the waters that lead us through the tension of having romantic feelings for someone who isn’t committed to Christ? Show them the right kind of compassion. Introduce them to your community. Intentionally seek out people who are more fitted to pour into them without the risk of an emotional attachment. And absolutely pray. When we align ourselves to God in prayer, our desires can begin match His. We will start to recognize our inability to support the future unbelievers want, our need to provide a courageous example of faith, and our commitment to see others first and foremost as souls in need of a Savior.