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

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

Redeeming Feelings

Hello! Thanks for stopping by- been a while since I posted anything, but here’s something that’s been on my heart for some time now, and I’ve finally found the time to get it all down in a new post.

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Today, I would like to talk about something that is so shrouded in secrecy and locked up so tight within the scary self-reflections of the average girl, that this discussion typically requires passcodes, fingerprints, and a Level A clearance to access. There are towers and dragons and blood oaths, background checks, pinky-promises, and hushed tones. I’m talking about the stuff that girls only share with their closest, most trustworthy companions. However, for this post, I gathered up the passwords, stole the fingerprints (you don’t even want to know), and I climbed past my fear of heights to scale those towers and slay the dragon so that we could dive in for an insider’s look at the age-old subject of FEELINGS.

In our world today, girls are told to be confident and strong, rolling with the punches of life, taking on the world, flexing our Rosie the Riveter biceps to face adversity.  While not necessarily a bad message- especially when rooted in the confidence and strength we can have as daughters of the King of the universe- this is often taken to an extreme that tries to squelch emotion. Girly feelings are seen as naïve and juvenile, and so they are often hidden in shame, especially as you age. This is a topic that I’ve often grappled with in my 20’s and I don’t see any signs of relief. The truth is, that even with maturity, “stupid girly feelings” seem to stick around. For those of us who are single, these battles tend to intensify when you befriend an available guy who seems to have the rare trifecta: godliness (loves Jesus more than his mom), good-looks (in the eye of the beholder), and guts (because, let’s be honest, without this last one, there will be no dates!).  If any readers come across a magic potion that can remedy this problem, by all means, please share it! It would sure save a lot of time, energy, and palm-to-forehead moments. It would also rid of that achy feeling of potential rejection, and prevent a lot of speech from coming out in something that barely resembles English.  But until that day comes, we are left to sort through the storms and elation of emotions. This often feels like a losing battle since emotion is known to throw a  colorful, smoky rave in our frontal cortex and cloud better judgment.

So, what’s a girl to do? Let’s start by talking about the ways we typically [wrongly] deal with feelings, and then we will discuss some alternate options. My main point for this post will be to prove that any situational trial (yes, even annoying girly feelings) can be redeemed and used for maturity, sanctification, and a closer walk with Jesus. This post can apply to emotional trials in general, but I will be focusing on a fairly universal variety that manifests itself in longing for male companionship leading to a future marriage.

…The Spiral…

While each of God’s daughters has been uniquely created and placed in their time and sphere, I can bet that most of us are all too familiar with the emotional rollercoaster that comes with noticing a brother in Christ who meets a lot of the criteria on the “list” we keep in the top drawer of our nightstand (no, I haven’t been snooping around your house).  Spiritual leader? Check! Shares my sense of humor? Check! Taller than me, adventurous, active in ministry? Check, check, check! Too often, however, our feelings don’t wait for the green light of revealed mutual interest before spinning into overdrive.  All it takes is one encounter, one conversation, or even just one discussion with someone else about said gentleman for our inner calendar to start putting dates down for the next, well, earth-life. We are RIDICULOUS, are we not? There, I said it. We ALL have crazy potential- just give us the right set of circumstances. Oh, if only the crazy train stopped there and took a fast pass back to the land of sensibility.

Say, perhaps, that this young man does not show interest immediately. Or maybe you cannot figure out if you are in the “friend zone” (whatever that means). Every detail of every conversation is sorted out with a microscope internally or with close friends, and your feelings are there, cheering you on to assume the absolute extreme about everything. “He said your friendship means a LOT to him? Do I hear wedding bells?” or  “He was, without a doubt, looking at you from across the room just now. He’s probably contemplating what your children will look like.” Ok, so maybe they aren’t always that outlandish, but feelings rarely play the devil’s advocate to steady a sinking ship.

In my experience, there is typically a stretch of time where, despite no concrete reveal of any kind of pursuit by said gentleman, your feelings continue and even increase as you get to know him. This is where a lot of mistakes get made. When left with unrelenting, unmet desires for long enough, we begin to doubt God’s goodness. We complain and grumble and BEG our Father to take the feelings away. When that doesn’t happen, we employ some “Christian” mind tricks. We attempt to distract ourselves with life and ministry, hoping that with enough exhaustion and occupation, we won’t have time to even think about how nice our first name sounds with his last.  Or we try really hard to convince ourselves that he is “just” a brother in Christ, nothing more. Then, after a time of realizing that asserting a truthful title does not take away his great qualities that attracted us to him in the first place, we become frustrated and go into attack mode. The spiral downward continues as we begin to demonize our feelings and the guy. We despise his good traits and actions, and look for a mistake or fault that could help us overcome our admiration. Or, worse, we attack ourselves and wonder what is making us unworthy of his attention. Lots and lots of ugly!

…A Better Way…

Have I struck a chord or two? In the spirit of vulnerability, I am guilty of all the above multiple times over.  Oh the poor souls that have been unknowingly the subject of battles within the walls of my mind and heart, not realizing the true effect of their presence in my life or the dissection of each word out of their mouth! I think we can all agree that this mode of operation is not getting us anywhere. It only leaves us broken and quite frankly, unloving.  Something needs to change, and it has nothing to do with giving the right signals or how picky the dwindling crowd of single, godly men may have become. It has everything to do with our perspective.

God created feelings. Emotions go way back to Genesis and eternity past. Adam and Eve were created with the capacity to have more than a sense of duty in their communion with one another. Creator God, as a reflection of the loving relationship within the Trinity, gave mankind the capacity to feel and appreciate. In the book of John, we see the use of the Greek word, Phileo, which according to biblestudytools.com, means: “to approve of, to like, sanction, to treat affectionately or kindly, to welcome or befriend; to show signs of love (in fact, it sometimes refers to kissing).” In John 16:27, Jesus says, “For the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God,” and in John 5:20, He says “For the Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing.” The word phileo is used in these verses to indicate the type of affection God the Father has for His Son, Jesus, and the love that God has for us in addition to the love that we have for the Son.  Another Greek word for love, Agape, is defined as “brotherly love, affection, good will, love, benevolence” and is used more often in the New Testament to refer not just to love within the Trinity (John 15:10;17:26, and many other places), God’s love for us in salvation (seen in Romans 5:8), and love between people (seen in the famous 1 Corinthians 13 passage).  In Ephesians 5:25, husbands are told to “agape” their wives as Christ loved the church.  So feelings of affection are not a bad thing in and of themselves, and are in fact encouraged in many different types of God-ordained relationships within a Believer’s life.

Given that the capacity to feel affection is not inherently sinful, then we need to figure out where the disconnect is in acting it out. I am going to offer a solution that has tremendously helped me as a single lady sorting through the minefield of my emotions. In talking with other sisters struggling with the same issues, I arrived at the conclusion that we need to stop treating girly feelings any differently than other types of trials. Like the thorn in the flesh that God did not take from Paul, but used it to humble him (2 Corinthians 12:7), like the span of time Jesus waited before bringing Lazarus to life in John 11, or like the trials faced by Ruth on her way to the bloodline of Christ. God allows trials, however trivial they may sound, and has a purpose for them. So our primary question when dealing with girly feelings shouldn’t be how can I survive this, but how can I play a part in redeeming this? How can I allow God to work in and through me to come out on the other side a little more sanctified, no matter how long the wave of emotion lasts? How can I fight against making a good thing a sin thing when it threatens to make me less effective for the Kingdom? I made a list recently on how I want to purpose to deal with emotions associated with wanting more than friendship with a brother in Christ. I hope it’s helpful, should you be fighting the same fight.

From now on, I choose to…

  1. Allow the Spirit to work in me to redeem the feelings
  2. Use the ache as a way to draw near to Christ
  3. Thank God for creating feelings, and cling to Him in fighting against their misuse in my heart
  4. Long for my heavenly home, where ultimate longing is forever satisfied
  5. Repent of ill-feelings toward a brother in Christ (since that kind is definitely as a result of sin and not God-given)
  6. Encourage brothers in Christ for their good qualities
  7. Use circumstances (yes, even unmet desires) to enliven my life and ministry
  8. Understand that Sanctification is a PROCESS and God-given battles will only serve to HELP, not HURT on this tough, yet glorious road
  9. Tell a sister or 2 about them for accountability in navigating the emotions, but not too many others. (As a side note, I have found that sharing about an interest in a guy with too many friends gives way too much power to my feelings. Too much“Girl talk” can be unconstructive.)
  10. Pray with an older sister in Christ (that always makes me feel better, no matter what the situation!)
  11. Understand that Pride in your heart will be revealed and it will be difficult, but take heart, because Christ has overcome the world!
  12. Don’t be ASHAMED of the feelings and encourage other sisters to not be ashamed either.

As always, thanks for stopping in! I pray that you single ladies out there will join me in fighting for truth as we allow God to unfold His plan for us in His perfect timing!

All my heart,

Rachelle