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

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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!

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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

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“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

The Litmus Test of a Healthy Relationship

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My doors were opened, and dinner was paid for. Anecdote-prompted laughter, a dive into the Colorado River, and an accepted challenge to run the last bit of a hike back to the car are the other details that stand out. That night, I walked through my door on cloud nine, grateful for the full day and God’s gifts. The funny part is, it really sounds like I’m describing a date. Not exactly. The door-opener happens to be my best friend’s boyfriend, and before you think I’m a horrible person, I need to mention that she was there as well.

Me and my bestie have always wondered what it would look like for one of us to start dating someone. In a long season of singleness and God’s gentle and loving “No’s” for a status change, our friendship has been the one area of our lives where God hasn’t withheld ANYTHING. If I had the time, I could tell you about countless adventures where God clearly showed up, just showering us with good gifts. It’s this beautiful mixture of deep, Jesus-loving conversations as we sit on kitchen counters and spontaneous bouts of silliness that leave us with stomach aches from laughing so hard and people around us wondering if any illegal substances are involved. Nope, all natural. My parents adopted her into our family as their third daughter, and we get to work and live together. Free time, adventure, weekends, and humorous meme texts have been spent on each other for almost a decade, and so it seemed like a step towards marriage for either one of us might throw off the sisterhood we’ve been blessed to build.

About 6 months ago, she met someone, and I find myself in the midst of figuring out what it looks like to share her. As it turns out, It’s not as difficult as I thought it would be.  They actually invite me to hang out with them on dates and she’s really gracious to check up on me every once in a while, to ask if anything about their interaction makes me uncomfortable. More than just surviving this new era, I find myself actually enjoying it.  And it’s got me asking a question: What is the difference between the friendships that disappear with a new relationship and those that are actually enhanced?

I think of a friend from college whose spouse was quick to give me the title of friend. Since I mattered to her, I was going to matter to him, too.  Alternatively, I think of other scenarios where hanging out with an old friend and their boyfriend or spouse was just plain uncomfortable.  I’m sure we can all think of a time when an excess of “coupling” left you looking for an exit or conversation suffered a slow death because the counterpart you don’t know as well wasn’t as keen on getting to know you. Or maybe after a new relationship, a friend decides that they don’t have much in common with you anymore, and it’s time for them to start hanging out with other couples at the expense of your friendship. Here’s my next question: As Believer’s, should we allow the natural drift that tends to happen when people pair off? My opinion is no, but since I’m biased, I will explain, in detail, why you should pay attention to the third wheels in your life.  I intend to convince you that they are one of the best indicators of a healthy relationship.

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1. Relationships should help you serve better together than apart

I’m sure we’ve all heard this sentiment, but as a single person, this truth is something that I’ve had to hang onto for dear life at times. If God’s goal in rescuing us into His family is to build His kingdom, then the reason for my season of singleness must be that He knows I can serve Him better this way. Should He choose to throw an eligible bachelor into the equation, it can only mean that our union enhances how we serve others, helping them know and love Jesus more. Alternatively, if a couple behaves in a way that cuts them off from some of the people in their lives, they are potentially less fruitful than when they were single. A Kingdom-call-answering relationship should enhance the gifts of those involved in a way that blesses those around them.

2. Diverse Community Reinforces a Relationship

We typically think about the necessity of community in a new relationship because of the pitfalls that dating life bring about. But every season of life offers its own challenges that require community, and not the kind of community that segregates the church into teens, singles, young marrieds, married with kids, etc. I love the passage in 1 Corinthians 12 that compares the church to a body. Verse 18 says that “God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as He chose.” Verse 21 goes on to say “The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you,’ nor again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.’” The natural separation that happens sometimes between single and married people can often sound like that. But this passage flies in the face of what is natural. Verse 13 says that “in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, Jews or Greeks, slaves or free.” We need each other. We have all been given unique gifts and insight due to our unique callings by the same Spirit, and much like a limb being cut off from blood-flow, when we cut ourselves off from each other, we miss out and fall asleep.

3. The Gospel needs to be on display.

From Ephesians 5 and elsewhere, we understand that the main purpose of marriage, as God designed from the beginning, is to put the Gospel on display. In this image, the husband loves sacrificially like Christ loves the church and the bride responds in respect and service. They prefer and serve each other in a beautiful dance that puts Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers to shame. We are all given lights that serve as a testimony of God’s love and work in our lives, but the combining of two lights in marriage should provide a much brighter light to their spheres of influence. An isolated couple might as well cover the light they’ve been entrusted with because no one can see it anyways.  I’m reminded of a song from my childhood. “Hide it under a bushel, no! I’m gonna let it shine.” (And now it’s in your head, isn’t it?) If you are a Christian and you are in a relationship, you have been entrusted with beautiful truths that are meant to shine bright for ALL to see, not just those who have lots in common with you.

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            You may recall from high school chemistry that a litmus test is performed to tell you how acidic or basic a solution is. In a similar way, a couple’s interaction with the plus nones in their lives will indicate the health of their relationship. The kind of dating or marriage relationship that encourages the single people in its sphere speaks to an understanding of its purpose, God-given community, and gospel-reflecting interaction.

For married and dating couples reading this, let me ask one more question. Have you checked in on your single friends lately? They might have some valuable insight to share on how inclusive and caring your relationship is towards outsiders. Ask them if they can see the Gospel up-close in the image you reflect. Don’t have any single friends, anymore? Well maybe you have some work to do. Much like the pins and needles sensation of a limb regaining feeling, it might not be easy. But it will be worth it. I so treasure the friendships of couples who allow me to live life with them and treat me like family.

 

All my heart,

Rachelle

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