A Christmas Message for the Time in Between

 

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When only God was listening, what did you ask for for Christmas? Perhaps it’s something more recently added to your waiting on Jesus list or maybe it seems like it’s been gathering dust for a decade. The Christmas season has a way of creating spaces to slow down and contemplate. For some of us, these reflections can threaten to cast shadows over our Christmas cheer if we dwell too long on what we don’t have in our seemingly endless holding pattern. This is where I found myself a couple days ago, and as Providence would have it, my reading plan brought me to this spot in Scripture:

“Let these words sink into your ears: the Son of Man is about to be delivered into the hands of men.”

~Luke 9:44

The passage stood out because when Jesus says “Let these words sink into your thick skull”, I feel like what He’s about to say might be important. It’s a passage that finds Jesus’ followers in their own “time in between.” They are waiting for Jesus to make His move and rescue Israel from its oppressors. They have a plan and expectations, and so this statement leaves them scratching their heads. To provide some context, the passage before describes a time when Jesus casts out a demon from a young boy. The response from those gathered at the scene is found in verse 43: “And all were astonished at the majesty of God.” The scene that unfolds after Jesus’ plan-foiling pronouncement offers a glimpse of the disciples’ pride in fighting over which among themselves was the greatest.

The manner in which Jesus’ statement is sandwiched in between two seemingly unrelated episodes offers a very realistic scale of two extremes that we teeter in our own “time in between.” I often find myself in awe of the good things God has brought about in my life. Life experience is routinely more sweet than sour if we were to make an honest list of pros and cons. I woke up this morning, that sunset over the beach is incomparable, and my mom’s advice is seriously the best…all acknowledged as gifts from God’s creative hand. And yet, at the drop of a hat, I can become extremely disgruntled when I start to think about my wonderful plans for my life that God doesn’t seem to be on board with. Yes, God, all these gifts are great, but have you even been listening to my prayers? Singleness, health issues, broken relationships, [fill in the blank] has never been on my Christmas list. Want to know the root of that attitude? Probably not, but I’ll say it anyhow. Pride. Ugly, icky, I know better than the King of the Universe pride.

We aren’t so different from the disciples that traveled the dusty roads around the Middle Eastern countryside, following the unpredictable Messiah from town to town a couple millennia ago. And Jesus’ abrupt message is the same to us in our predicament, only (glory!) past tense: “Let these words sink into your ears: the Son of man was delivered into the hands of men”….then He died, taking on your sin and then conquered evil and death by rising 3 days later. He lived, He died at the hands of His creation, then He rose to live so that we can, too. No more simply being in awe- now we get to know Him in deep communion. And as for pride, we continually take it to the cross to remind ourselves of the beautiful work of humility that set us free. Our joy, especially at this time of year, rests on our fight to actively let these truths sink in, as our Blessed Redeemer commands.

Merry Christmas,

Rachelle

5 Reasons to Embrace Awkwardness

 

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I’m sure we can all think of cringe-worthy moments in our past that we would like to somehow forever forget or reach back in time to physically erase. Memories that don’t just relay the particulars of an event, but the kind that summon the flood of feelings you felt in a moment that revealed your lack of social skills. Perhaps it’s that time you had an uncomfortably-forced conversation with a crush to fill silence that resulted in you asking questions and then interrupting or making a mess of the English language with an onslaught of uncharacteristic grammar mistakes. Or maybe it was the time when you went to pray for an assigned prayer request in a large group and COMPLETELY forgot the name of the person you were supposed to be praying for- a woman who not only had a name very similar to yours, but one whom you had known for a couple years. Ugh…and now, just like that, all the feelings are flooding back. These memories feel “icky”, and so us millennials fear and avoid awkwardness like the plague. But have we ever stopped to consider the benefits of these less-than-ideal experiences? In this article, I will make a case for embracing that which is awkward.

  1. It makes for good stories

How often do we dislike something in the moment but grow to find the humor in it later on? Like that one time I volunteered at the Special Olympics and a young Olympian (probably around the age where puberty incapacitates better judgment) pulled up my shirt instead of going for my high-five. Extremely blush-worthy at the time, but it is now probably a top 3 funniest memory with my bestie, who witnessed the whole event. The wonderful medicine of laughter is often brought to us by awkward moments.

  1. It reminds us of our lack of control

It’s good to be reminded every once in a while that we don’t have it all together. When speech comes out in moron or a conversation dies with no hope of resurrection in the wake of awkward silence, the façade of autonomous control is shattered. It reminds us that we are so much more limited than we give ourselves credit for. In fact, I’m convinced that no one lets me down more than I do. And once we recognize our inability to truly control, we are primed to see God’s ultimate authority over the happenings in our daily lives.

  1. We become more approachable.

There’s a kind of camaraderie that is struck when we are vulnerable about our humanity. Perfectly confident people are intimidating. Us millennials value authenticity, and awkward moments have a way of forcing us to be truly authentic. When our actions admit our deficiencies, people tend to let their guard down because you’ve already broken the awkward ice, thus building community.

  1. Any kind of inner struggle offers a way to draw near to Christ.

In moments of anxiety over things we should or shouldn’t have said in an awkward moment, we have a couple of options. We could wallow and relive the uncomfortable seconds that sealed our social fate. Or we could give it to Jesus, several times if need be. And then we get to see the healer and redeemer that He truly is, even in the seemingly insignificant stuff that matters to us, working “all things” together for good. (Rom 8:28)

  1. It produces Humility

We all love to see the arrogant antagonist in a movie humbled by embarrassment. A chocolate shake spilled over their head, an embarrassing secret coming to light, or a climax where they don’t get the girl or the guy all make for entertaining, even satisfying endings to a film. But have you ever thought about how sometimes, maybe God allows awkward or embarrassing moments in our lives to point out our own pride? We don’t like to admit to admit arrogance, but sometimes falls are justified by our preceding pride. The difference, of course, is that God isn’t a laughing spectator, but is instead a loving Father who knows what we need to become who He has designed us to be. Sometimes, awkward moments are exactly what we need to refine our character.

So. The next time you start to kick yourself or dig an escape route, fight to see the bigger picture. Ask for Jesus’ help in the all-too familiar battle of truth over feelings, remembering that he lived our worst nightmare as a crowd mocked Him. All for love. All for redemption, so that all things could be redeemed. Yes, even our awkward moments.

Love,

Rachelle

p.s. Thanks for reading!

 

 

To the Man who Takes my Place

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I knew from the moment my question went unanswered. Up until that point, what I had to say always claimed her audience above anybody else (you know, besides Jesus).  For the past nine years, we’ve been inseparable.  Nothing earthly knows her better than I do, but I’m starting to realize that won’t always be the case. And so, my words hung in the air as she caught your gaze from across the room and everything, including myself, faded into the background. I won’t lie- it stung in the moment, but can I blame her? You’ve been the perfect combination of Cary Grant and Walt Disney. I mean, your chivalry will be the cause of her forgetting how to open a car door, and your creative date-planning skills would turn the heart of the worst man-hater to mush!

….Accepting Change….

When a best friend dates and begins to date seriously, it’s natural for things to shift. Change is part of life, and this particular change has been prayed for by her and myself for most of our friendship. Now that those prayers have been answered, my moment of possessiveness sounds ironic. For the time being, that emotion was fleeting. But in all honesty, it will likely return. You know what a catch she is, and can at least somewhat understand how difficult it might be to surrender some parts of our sisterhood to make room for an outsider.

Even though I can’t compete with hammocks under the Mt. Charleston stars and fancy dinner date nights, I think I’m still MVP, at least for now. It’s a role I don’t take lightly. It’s a role that you shouldn’t take lightly, either. Here’s why: we are sisters. If I saw any red flags, she would consider them. If I had any reservations, I would have her full attention. It’s only fair to mention that so far, no concerns have surfaced. In fact, I’m convinced that besides the work of Jesus in her heart, you might be the best thing to ever happen to her. You seem to have figured out her quirks and broken down walls in record timing. The giggles and laughter that ensue whenever you call echo through our apartment. Sometimes, after coming home from a great date the night before, she’ll actually wake up cheerful, and she’s by no means a morning person. There’s a new level of exuberance in her countenance, and I can’t help but notice that the transformation began right around the time that the two of you started talking. Most important among your merits however, is that you claim to know Jesus. And the fruit of that claim seems to be evident in how you love and serve others, even complete strangers. But a bestie needs more assurance than that. A bestie needs to know that her sister will be well-taken care of, should you one day ask a question that will dress her in white. I’ve narrowed it down to the three things that I want you to have in order before you get down on one knee.

….The Requirements….

First of all, I need you to be fearful of loving her too much. That sentiment might fly in the face of everything our culture tells us about love, but let me explain. She might make a great girlfriend. She is, without a doubt, wifey material. If God blesses her with children, she’ll be a fantastic mother. The one role she’d be terrible at is taking the place of God in your life. She’s a wonderful human being, but her flawed humanity is unable to carry the weight of your cosmic expectations. So don’t ask her to. Fight hard to love Jesus more, and tremble at the thought of anything less so that my dear friend can be appropriately treasured, not idolized.

Secondly, cultivate godly male friendships. Allow older men in the church to speak into your life. Trials will come. Temptation will knock. And if you don’t have flesh and blood safeguards who can offer counsel or a straight up kick in the shin when needed, you risk steering your family off the narrow path and my friend into heartache.

Last but certainly not least, you need to understand that one day, you will find yourself in a similar position to the one I’m in- you will find your role partially diminished and taken over by a more capable man. I don’t mean to be morbid, but should you change my friend’s last name, death will eventually do you part. On that day, you will cease to be her husband and she will cease to be your wife. She will take on a more permanent state along with the rest of us who are eventually called to our eternal home with Jesus. You need to realize this now because she is only ever on loan to any of us.  How will this point make a difference? This mindset will aid you in points one and two. If you understand that she isn’t your forever, Jesus will keep his rightful place in both of your lives. If you understand that you will be surrendering her fully to Christ one day, you’ll step up your game in caring for her spiritually while she is yours. You’ll include those safeguards to make sure you don’t fail your Savior.

….Passing the Baton….

I honestly couldn’t care less about how big a house she sleeps in or how financially stable your budget is. Life gets tough, marriage is no piece of cake, and there’s too much kingdom work to bother with building too many earthly accomplishments. So before you pledge your earthly life to serving my friend and take my place as her closest companion, I need to know that her beautiful soul will be well-cared for in the days to come. I will accept nothing less because I love her that much.

Sincerely,

MVP

Stop Building Your Own Kingdom!

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I recently passed the 10th anniversary of graduating high school. In other words, I have officially been “adulting” for over a decade. It has been over ten years since I turned 18. More than ten years since I was able to make adult decisions like whether or not to vote, smoke, or ride a bicycle without a helmet. Ten years since I finished my senior year of high school and jumped into the fuzzy unknown of the “real world.” Ten years of figuring out life apart from the innocence of childhood or the confusion of teenage crisis. A lot can happen in a decade. I think back to the dreams and goals I had when I grabbed a diploma and moved a tassel.

My 18 year-old self would probably have been disappointed and confused with how my life has turned out. Despite her excitement over the game-changing product that is dry shampoo, she would have wondered why it took me an extra year to finish college. She would have scratched her head as to why I’m not a medical doctor, finishing out my training in some prestigious residency program. She would have sighed disapprovingly at having ended up in the desert, of all places. She would look at my insecurities and wonder why I don’t seem to “have it together” yet. And she would definitely call out my singleness, wondering how I messed up on my golden opportunity at a Christian college campus, where you’re supposed to get your MRS degree along with your Bachelor’s!

Alas! She has so much to learn! If she was sitting next to me in all her judgment, I would have so much to offer her in explaining how flawed her plan is and how much more glorious God’s plan is! At 18, I was basically off to achieve a Christian version of the American Dream. I wanted to have a successful career that not only paid well, but helped people so that I could have money AND meaning in my life. I wanted to be married right after college so that I could be a young mom and live in a suburban area where I could own a ranch with barnyard animals- all wrapped up in a white picket fence with the merits of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Little did I know, God was paving a much different path, one that would eventually reveal a fundamental flaw in my plot. My main issue? I was building my own kingdom. Sure, I wanted God to play a part in my screenplay- an important one, even. But I didn’t want Him to draw outside my lines. 1 Thessalonians 2:12 says that God “calls us into HIS own kingdom.” A lot of heartache comes when we reverse that and call God into OUR kingdom, acting like He owes us things He hasn’t promised.

So what’s the problem with building our own kingdom over God’s? Isn’t it a good thing to want freedom, financial success, and a family? Well, for one, our kingdom dies with us. If it’s earthly, it goes. Marriage, career, dwelling… all the things and statuses dissolve or transform in eternity. Marriage turns to siblinghood, corporate ladders crumble, and earthly homes are traded for lodging prepared by Jesus that won’t have water heaters that break and leak into the apartment below you. Additionally, earthly kingdom-building makes us near-sighted. We ignore the eternal things that God has promised us because we are so enthralled with what we want to create and experience this side of heaven. In short, it’s idolatry, and in my 20’s, I had to come to terms with that to see the bigger picture.

After a fainting spell in a hospital internship (long story), a dateless existence in college, and a couple years spent in cubicle world, I had a couple of options. I could pout and be eaten away by discontentment or I could relinquish the script over to God. Honestly, I chose a mixture of both, but I don’t think He erased the original draft completely. There may be things He chooses to still weave in, in His timing.

Want to know the most beautiful part? In allowing God to trail blaze the best route into eternity, I’m constantly amazed at His goodness and supreme ability to screen write. And if my 18-year-old self were sitting next to me, I would try to convince her of that. But I don’t think I would tell her about the details. I wouldn’t tell her how much she would eventually enjoy teaching science to rowdy high school students. I wouldn’t divulge how incomparable California sunsets and thunderstorms are to Nevada ones. I wouldn’t tell her about all the adventure, passion, and growth that singleness has afforded. I wouldn’t tell her about a best friend whom God will use to change her life. I wouldn’t tell her about earlier this week, when I hung out with an amazing group of students and cried ugly tears all the way home because one is leaving for college. I would leave those beautiful things to be discovered because it was a slow but necessary path in giving up my kingdom for God’s.

So what about you? Did my story bring anything to light about whose kingdom you’re toiling for? Have you seen the futility in laying earthly bricks? I’m convinced we often don’t dream big enough. In plotting out of our own abilities, we don’t have access to much. But Jesus has all the resources and power we lack. Will you surrender to Him and join His kingdom work?

Love,

Rachelle

Am I Too Picky? (Part 2)

 

***If you missed Part I of this segment, you can find it here–> Am I Too Picky? (Part I)

In the previous post, we  began an attempt to answer the question of pickiness in dating. If you’re like me,  searching your soul for honest answers feels something like swimming in a murky lake. You were pushed in and now you’re fearful of bumping into something you’d rather be ignorant of. When asked, “Are you too picky?”, there are several creatures in that body of water that might bite at your ankles. We could be talking about expectations of character, theological understanding, personality, hygiene habits, financial prowess or external appearance. The most common monster is the last one on the list, so in this post, we’ll tackle it in Crocodile Hunter fashion by starting with an introduction.

Introducing… Bob. You and Bob met at church/Bible Study/school and you get along great. Bob is a faithful, godly, even funny guy. He treats his family really well and he is active in ministry, leading younger guys and growing in his relationship with God. If you were to be honest with yourself, he fits a LOT of the qualities you would want in a spouse. Despite all of these nice things, there’s that oooone thing. I’ll just come out and say it: the dude isn’t nice to look at. And perhaps to avoid plunging into the ugly depths of your superficial scale, you might have even tried to pick out things that you do like about his appearance. He’s got nice eyes, a smiley disposition, or most of his hair, but no matter how you slice it, you just aren’t attracted to him. I’ve known a few Bobs in my experience, and I kick myself for being so ingrained with cultural ideals about the nature of appearance. You almost want to play a recording of God’s words in 1 Samuel 16 while you sleep: “man looks on the outward appearance, but God looks at the heart….man looks on the outward appearance, but God looks at the HEART…man…”. Ugh! As much as we hate to admit, physical attraction is high on our list-and perhaps higher than it should be.

I’m not going to go so far as to say that physical attraction isn’t important. Let’s not forget that God designed it. When God introduces Eve to Adam in Genesis 2, Adam sings a song of praise about what God designed (even before words are spoken!). In Song of Solomon, there are descriptions of a healthy physical attraction between a husband and wife leading up to and after marriage. But in looking at God’s design for attraction, we need to understand the wholeness of a person in God’s design for humanity itself.

Marriage isn’t just about loving someone physically and emotionally, but spiritually as well. Why do we feel pressure to focus primarily on the physical and emotional in defining beauty? Because that’s ALL our post-Christian culture has! It rejects the soul and the spiritual and in doing so, is left with the physical and a slice of the emotional. The mindset that says we are “just a bunch of chemicals” will only be able to ask “Is she hot?” or “But how does he make you feel?” Without acknowledging our wholeness as image-bearers, you can only scratch the surface of what constitutes real, God-intended attraction.

Then what is a “spirit” and how does it change our perception of attraction? In Romans 8:5, it talks about the two parts of a human: the material and immaterial. “For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit.” Matthew 26:4 echoes the same sentiment as Jesus pleads with the disciples to stay awake in his final hours with them before Calvary. “The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.” Lastly, in John 3:6, Jesus tells Nicodemus “that which is born of the flesh is flesh and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” Salvation awakens our true selves as God always intended. In being “made alive in Christ”, the immaterial side, the side that interacts with our emotions and flesh, becomes an undeniable force that enables us to understand that which is spiritual. It is the part of us that also interacts with the power of the Holy Spirit, meaning that nothing fleshly is permanent. The earthly part of us is now moldable!

How does this understanding affect our attraction to the opposite sex? To quote a blog post I recently read by Jeremy Pierre on the TGC blog,

Our opinion of what constitutes good looks must not be an idol carved in stone. We need to be willing to challenge our own preferences regarding physical attraction in light of the greater principle that attraction stems from valuing a person. 1

I am a firm believer that initial feelings about physical un-attraction can in some cases be persuaded by whole-person attraction. But I will admit, along with Jeremy later on in his post, that there is mystery to this concept. It’s hard to say how it exactly happens, but it can. And we’ve all heard stories about the girl or guy who wasn’t initially attracted to someone but how time and friendship changed their mind. Rare? yes. Difficult for me to write about? Uh-huh. Even more difficult to carry out? Yes. But with our understanding of God’s design, shouldn’t Christians be the least superficial humans on our planet?

The Falseness of Perfection

To wrap this up, I’ll leave you with this thought. In the end, I don’t think any of us truly want perfection in a future spouse. Deep down, I think we understand that perfection is false. In the places you crave perfection, you are really seeking that which is beyond the capability of anyone you could date. Your spirit is likely searching for that which is only offered by Jesus. We ultimately want eternity with our perfect Savior. But in the meantime, don’t seek out perfection in others. Seek honesty. Seek the mixture of courage and humility that won’t lead you to believe they’re something that they are not. Seek someone with the desire and perseverance to be who God has called them to be. And if you find yourself stumbling over what is external, press into the Spirit and settle on friendship…for now. See what God will do.

As always, thanks for reading! Questions or comments? Let’s talk!

Love,

Rachelle

1 (You can find the rest of Jeremy’s post here Do Looks Matter?)

Am I Too Picky? (Part I)

 

Chances are, if you’ve been single for an extended amount of time, this thought has crossed your mind. If you’ve been single for an extension of an extended amount of time, you’ve probably had someone else take a stab at your love life with a similar quizzical sentiment. In all honesty, I’ve avoided writing about this topic because I’m afraid that the answer might be “yes” and yes in a variety of ways. And unless you fall into extremes like my sister (who is the least superficial person I know) or Henry XIII, there is no easy answer. So if you read the title and followed a link hoping for a tidy list of do’s and don’ts, read no further. You won’t find such an impossibility. You will, however, get a discussion, some thoughts to ponder, and hopefully, a whole lot of Gospel. This will be broken into two parts: one that will focus on character and one that will camp on physical attraction. Let’s get started!

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     When Christian singles ask for a passage of Scripture to tell them what to look for in a future spouse, they are often pointed to Proverbs 31 if the inquisitor is a dude and 1 Timothy 3 if the question is coming from someone with two X chromosomes. Here are some highlights from each:

Proverbs 31:10-31

If you’ve ever intently read this passage, then you know that the woman described here is accomplished indeed. The passage is advice given to a king by his mother on what he should look for in a wife, and it is used more broadly today as a passage that either offers a standard for women to strive for or a set of characteristics Christian men should look for in a future wife.  She is practical, hard-working, loved by all, charitable, fearless, generous, handy, wise, and apparently never actually sleeps because of all the activity in her schedule.

1 Timothy 3

This passage describes qualifications for a church elder or deacon. He is a good manager of his household, a seasoned Believer with proven faithfulness in many areas of his life, and he has a good public reputation. He “must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money.” That is quite a tall order, is it not?

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     I admire the qualities presented in these passages because they all reflect attributes that honor Christ, and these standards are, in fact, impossible to meet without a heart that has been shaped over time by the gospel.

So how does this relate to pickiness? In reviewing these qualifications, the take-away can often be that this list is an immovable bar that must be reached by anyone a single Christian should find themselves interested in. But here’s the trouble with that outlook: the woman described in Proverbs 31 and the type of man described in 1 Timothy 3 are finished products. We can assume this based not only on their polished attributes, but also in the mentioning of spouses and children and extensive reputations. They have experienced a lot of life and trials that have lent to what has taken shape. Unless you are dating in or above your 50’s, chances are you won’t find this type of spouse. If the Lord wills, you will only ever be dating and marrying an unfinished product. Single gentlemen will (hopefully) survey the available ladies in their life for Proverbs 31 potential, but there’s still a bit of the journey to go before any of us will be Wonder Woman with a Bible. Bachelorettes will do well to look for a budding 1 Timothy 3 man because Captain Wentworth is a fictional character.

And is that not the point of marriage, anyhow? God’s eternal goal in marriage is to reflect Christ and the church. But isn’t a second, yet still important goal to find someone to be a mutual sharpener on their respective journeys with Jesus? For those that marry, isn’t marriage the tool that causes a Believer to be pushed from potential to spiritual success? I was recently listening to a sermon by Tim Keller titled “Sexuality and the Christian Hope” (highly recommend!), and he makes an important point in regards to selecting a mate. I’m paraphrasing, but he basically says that you should be in love with who your significant other is becoming, because if Christ is working in them, that will be the aspect of their life that will allow you to fall more and more in love with them every day. I am by no means suggesting that this concept be used as an excuse to date unbelievers. “I’m just really excited about who they could become” holds no significance if Christ isn’t part of their life to begin with. But perhaps I have come through a season of judging potentials too harshly for not being as sanctified as someone older, more seasoned, or Jesus Christ himself. Us humans are works in progress. Why should we expect to date someone who has it all figured out?

Stay tuned for Part II, where we will talk about pickiness in regards to physical attraction!

Love,

Rachelle

Has your ship sailed?

 “I am sure that God keeps no one waiting unless he sees that it is good for him to wait.”

~C.S. Lewis

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His Name is Plan Z. He goes by many other pseudonyms, but every single girl knows him. He’s the Jim, Mike, Tim, Jake, or Matt that you go to church with or the Chad, John, Ryan, or Ben who’s a friend of a friend that you occasionally interact with. Despite all of these Aliases, he’s pretty much the same person. He’s the one that fits all your criteria for what you want in a future spouse. He’s godly, well-respected, confident, passionate, attractive, but most importantly, single. It’s highly probable that many other bachelorettes agree, and so his unattached continuation is an improbable encouragement. If he asked you out, you’d say yes in a heartbeat, but his existence serves a much greater purpose than a potential date. You see, Plan Z offers hope on days where singleness is difficult. Plan Z shows that even if he’s not part of God’s plan for your life, it’s really nice to know that at least one someone like him is still out there without a tied-up ring finger. And because Plan Z is that beacon of un-wed manliness, we secretly hope for his continued singleness- someone who is always just around, awesome, and spouse-less.

If you’ve been single for a good amount of time, you know how this ends. You see the  Facebook post or hear from a friend that he’s off the market. And a little part of you dies…not only because you secretly hoped he would see the light and show up on your doorstep with a bouquet of hydrangeas (your personal fav), but also because your shelf of fine single specimens is now depressingly empty, leaving you to join Daya in searching for where “the good boys go to hide away.” The world becomes a little dimmer, and you kick yourself for feeling the loss as deeply as you do. You wonder, “How could I feel the loss of something that was never even mine to begin with?”

If we’re honest…If I’m honest, our dissatisfaction with this kind of situation isn’t really about Plan Z at all. Plan Z is just the trigger of a gun that happens to be pointed at our glass-encased “dreams and plans” bank. In this cerebral storage unit, you will find lots of time, effort, and ideas that are all useless if certain things don’t take place. For instance, if you don’t meet Mr. Right, you will have no personal use for all the relationship advice you’ve accumulated, those mental notes like “no eating spaghetti on a first date!”, or any of those lovely Pinterest wedding pins you’ve felt so clever to have hidden on your secret boards. When triggers pointing at this fragile metropolis have been pulled enough times, it’s easy to wonder if your ship has sailed. As the glass ceiling begins to collapse all around the “dreams and plans” bank, you question: Is there any chance of me meeting someone at this point?

If you’ve followed this blog for any amount of time, you know that my suggested solutions to these big kinds of questions always conclude with the underlying motives and recesses of our hearts and perhaps altering perspectives in light of the Gospel. So, here we go again… From birth, we are programmed to plan and control. Admitting to being a control freak is like admitting to having the DNA of a Homo sapien- it’s universal! This clever software design often takes good desires and turns them into something in between a teacher’s well-deserved break at the end of a school year OR the Christmas list of a spoiled 2 year old. I don’t pretend to know your heart, but I see the ugly that resides in mine. I’ve treated my desires for marriage and the absent man who can make it happen like the gift at the end of a well-done bout of singleness. I’ve also behaved in a manner that says, “Give me what I want or I’ll throw a temper tantrum and doubt your parenting skills!” Or there’s the failed logic I used in response to my parent’s strict rules on appropriate movies for their teenage daughter: “But everyone else’s parents lets them watch PG-13 films!” I still hear their response echoing in my memory (“We’re not everyone else’s parents!”) I’ll take each of these responses and break them down, for all our sakes.

Marriage as a Reward

Oh if only marital status could be reached like a degree after college or a level on a videogame. Just take these classes or collect this many coins (old-school Super Mario-style!) and you’re in! But puzzlingly, there seems to be no apparent rhyme or reason to who gets hitched and who has to plow the fields of life solo. And that’s because we live in God’s economy, which is so drastically different than anything we would set up. Look at the Gospel itself. Did Jesus earn the constraint of a human form or the penalty of a cross? Do we earn salvation by being awesome enough? As if! God doesn’t often play “fair” on human terms, and yet He does have amazing plans that include things like gifts (hello salvation!) and callings to occupations and statuses within His Kingdom. Marriage is no different. He doesn’t give marriage to those who deserve it the most and singleness to those who are still needing to get their act together.

God asks for our faithfulness, but it’s not meant to be part of some kind of merit system. The sacrifices He asks for are only ever in response to what He has already done! Romans 12:1-2 is clear that we offer our bodies as living sacrifices “in view of His mercy” and this becomes “our spiritual act of worship.” Serving God isn’t about getting what we want, it’s about responding to His love and His worthiness, and subscribing to His plan for our lives, whatever it may entail, whether it aligns with our “plans and dreams” bank or not. It’s about trust in His ability to make good decisions as a loving Father, not making a list and checking it twice like some divine Santa Claus.

Marriage as a Right

I’ll try not to spend too much time on this response, because it’s a little painful to rehearse. This attitude usually kicks in after a few shots have been taken at our “dreams and plans” bank. When we repeatedly don’t get what we want, instead of simply being disappointed, we doubt God’s goodness. We begin to wonder if He really does have our best interests in mind. I mean, you had a plan! You were going to get married young, go on a few adventures before having 4 kids, then get a golden retriever and have a few more adventures after purchasing a bigger-sized vehicle. And you weren’t going to expect the world. No! You were going to walk into marriage with realistic notions about life and love. You’ve watched enough of your friends’ marriages to know that it’s not always blissful. Sometimes, it’s tears and confusion, letting down and being let down. You’re both human, after all. But you’re more than willing to take the bad in with the good because you truly believe it will be worth it- in the beauty and in the mess. These dreams become so incredibly tangible and dear to us, that any far-off plan we can conceive God to be capable of seems dull and unappealing. So when God doesn’t follow our plan, we become a little resentful and slowly bound by our growing discontentment. You might even start to freeze God out in small ways, skipping your quiet time or avoiding prayers that pour out your heart to Him. The longer this goes on, the more embittered you can become in your pride. And obviously we would never verbalize these feelings because they don’t sound very “Christian”, but they nevertheless reflect our adult temper tantrum.

If you find yourself anywhere along this unintended rabbit trail, you must admit it’s not very fun. All the freezing and inner wallowing isn’t making things better, but may in fact be making them worse. There’s definitely no freedom. And “it is for freedom Christ set us free, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” (Galatians 5:1) Child, don’t you long to live a life unbound by our limited expectations? A life where we put our plans and dreams on the table, offering them up for God to take and use if He wishes, but understanding that His wisdom and creative powers far outweigh anything we have access to. Repentance and a loose grip on your will can pave that road back to unhindered worship, and away from the enslavement of our insistent expectancies.

Part of That World

As I approach 30, these mindsets are all too familiar. Every now and then, I act as if God owes me. Sometimes, I do wonder what God could possibly have up His sleeve to compare with my ideas for my life. And maybe some of you reading have the added anxiety of finding yourself in a niche in your church and work life where, frankly, there are slim pickins! Scrolling Facebook lately and noticing another wave of engagements and babies makes us want to plop up on a rock next to Ariel and wish we could be “part of that world.” It can be difficult to see women almost a decade younger planning weddings and friends having their second child. And in our culture, that seems to be the go-to topic when people want to check up on you. “So…you dating anyone yet?” And they mean well, they really do. One day, I may be able to excitedly answer the question in the affirmative, and so maybe we don’t want that question taken entirely off the table. But it’s really easy to start feeling like Adam while naming the animals in the very beginning. He noticed every beast of the field, bird of the air, and fish of the sea coming in twos. Where’s my ______? (He didn’t know her name yet, much like we don’t have a name yet.)

Present Tense 

Enough with my rambling! What’s really going on here? I mean, deep, deep down? When we take a look around at the majority of people our age and notice the fullness of their lot in the way of relationship status or progeny, and then see our seemingly empty basket, we can be persuaded that there is a norm that somehow skipped us. “The norm” being the ship that carries all of what is expected of us by our culture at certain ages and seasons. If that is our mindset, then, my ship has probably already sailed, leaving me on the docks to gaze over an empty ocean. Isn’t that a depressing sight! But here lies the issue. We are playing the comparison game. We are using the culture as a gauge for an appropriate timeline and experience. And if you’ve been bought by the blood of Jesus, your ship is outfitted with so much more than a marriage and kids. In fact, you are already aboard, having climbed on the second God captured your heart. Your ship is sailing…present tense! This vessel is equipped with everything you’ll need to carry out your days, this side of heaven. If a husband and kids factor into that, then you can bet it’s there somewhere, under a floorboard or perhaps waiting at a harbor, packaged and ready to be picked up when the timing is right. Regardless of the scheduling or the unrevealed parts of the plan, we can be positive that “No good thing does [God] withhold from those who walk uprightly.” (Psalm 84:11)

So, in answering the question, “has my ship sailed?”, perhaps we need to climb up out of the belly of the boat and onto the deck. Maybe we’ll smell the salty air and hear the seagulls chatter. It’s quite possible that if you walk towards the bow, you’ll notice the waves steadily passing as you realize that you’re aboard the ship and it is indeed sailing! Plus, you’re definitely not alone. You’ve already sensed this, but your Savior is there. The one who built the ship with everything you’ll need, the one who crafted the waters you move through, and the very hinge on all the doors that open and close. Relinquish control. He’s got you. Dream big, yes. And pray hard-don’t stop the talking and the asking! But we can’t become so enthralled with our own plans that they distract us from God’s goodness! Open those clenched fists, and allow everything earthly that you hold dear to sit upon open palms. He might weave some of that into the storyline, but if He doesn’t, we have to believe He’s got something better. Besides, we at least know how the journey ends. After a little while, our boat will reach its ultimate destination, leaving all the earthly things in its wake and our open palms lifted in forever praise.

As always, thanks for stopping by. I hope it was encouraging! If this is your first time on my site, you can start at the beginning of the journey here–> https://notsingledout.com/2015/01/04/door-number-three/ 

For those of you who have visited before, I realize it’s been almost exactly a year since my last post! I’m making it a goal to post every two weeks while I’m on break from teaching this summer. I asked some gal pals the topics they wanted me to cover, and the survey is in. For this summer,  it looks like we’ll be discussing things like: baby fever as a single person, when youth are seemingly more “experienced” than you, and rethinking the American Dream. (Also, feel free to contact me with any other ideas)

Stay tuned!

Love,

Rachelle