A Different Kind of Infertility

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

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

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

#1 Hold all the babies

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

#2 Sponser a child

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

#3 Read parenting books

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

#4 Be a spiritual parent.

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

……………………………………….

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

Love,

Rachelle

The Point in Disappointment

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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

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?)

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

All the Single Ladies…

According to a US Congregational Life Survey from 2008-2009, the gender gap of churchgoing evangelical Protestants is the highest compared to other church denominations. Out of 18-29 year old never-marrieds, 59% are female and 41% are male. In the 30-39 category, the difference jumps to 73% female with 27% male![1] Note that the survey does not touch the topic of true salvation or spiritual maturity, but it still offers us a glimpse of a very sad reality. If every single woman in evangelical churches made a hard and fast vow against being unequally yoked, our generation is a time where God has chosen to give the gift of singleness to a much higher percentage of women than men. To the single church-going female reading that, I probably just said something you would rather remain ignorant of. Yet, I am guessing these statistics serve to confirm something you already suspicioned. The gloomy truth, not just for females, but for the Church in general, is that more and more men are choosing not to attend church.

This scenario can have several outcomes. Christian women who desire marriage may feel the need to settle for nominal Christians or worse, settle for spouses outside the church. Also, much like several dramas that unfolded at my 2 to 3 ratio Christian college, disunity can easily erupt among young women who compete to land the limited single godly men in their sphere. Additionally, many solid, Christ-following females feel they are overlooked, since the quality men seem too distracted to see the quiet old-fashioned pearls that refuse to assume the role of the pursuer. Okay, so that last point was a personal feeling that may have spontaneously jumped onto the page, but I think it is nevertheless a sentiment shared by many.

So, what is a single gal to do? How do we prepare ourselves for the earthly future that most of us want, while also not setting ourselves up for discontentment should perpetual singleness and virginity be our God-ordained lot? I think acceptance of the answer to this question is going to first require an understanding of our calling in the Kingdom, a reality check on what earthly marriage is, as well as some benefits of singleness.

The Kingdom Call

I think a lot of us live and do ministry in such a way that even though we are single, we pretend to be divided. The decisions we make, the careers we take on, and the spiritual growth we pursue can all be more influenced by the possibility of Mr. Right coming along than the possibilities of what we can do for God’s Kingdom. Have you ever been tempted to not gain too much spiritual knowledge because you are worried your spiritual growth could be intimidating to a potential suitor? Have you found yourself thinking in terms of plan A and plan B: marriage being plan A and plan B being the lesser, unappealing alternative? Have you ever thought about death and subconsciously pleaded with God to let you experience marriage before He calls you home? In order to be effective for the Kingdom, we need to understand that whether or not God provides a male partner-in-crime, our highest joy will be working for God, not alongside a spouse or as a soccer mom. We are so conditioned to the deceitful concept that earthly marriage is the only highlight in life, and it is holding a lot of us singles back from what we could be doing for the Kingdom. Sisters, we must fight against this fallacy!

Now, I realize that I just said that the highest joy will not be found in getting married or having kids, but I am going to completely contradict myself and say that it absolutely is! God’s kingdom is all about marriage and expanding your family. Before you think I have completely lost my mind, let me explain. Earthly marriage is not the point, but eternal marriage between Christ and His Church is. In the same way, earthly child-bearing is not the main point, but growing God’s eternal family with spiritual re-birth is. Our attraction toward these earthly kinds of relationships is supposed to point us to the heavenly kind, and any participation or exposure to the earthly kind should help us to relish and pursue the timeless kind more. In the second chapter of this book, you might remember the defense I made for saying that we are all technically married as Believers, but I will address the part about having spiritual kids now.

Something that really helped me think through the Kingdom call for singles was a sermon by John Piper titled “Singleness in Christ: A Name Better Than Sons and Daughters.” His sermon was based on a book by Barry Dunylak, called Redeeming Singleness. I highly recommend either, but I will do my best to summarize them in this paragraph. The premise of these two resources is that singleness is a more valuable status in the New Covenant. If you look at the Old Testament, you see marriage and child-bearing as a must for building God’s Kingdom within His chosen people group, Israel. However, you also see glimpses of a future method in places like Isaiah 54:1, where it says “the children of the desolate one will be more than the children of her who is married”. This prophecy would not have made any sense to the Israelites at the time, but makes perfect sense in light of the new covenant, in which God’s kingdom grows by regeneration through faith. Married Christian women nowadays are not guaranteed that their children will join the Kingdom, but all Believers can make disciples and have spiritual children. Since a single woman’s time is not divided by a husband and biological kids, she is freer to make more disciples and have more children than a married woman with a full house![2]

Does that truth bring joy to your heart? There are thousands of unsaved kids of all ages in your city and around the world waiting to be adopted into God’s family. They need a spiritual mother to tell them the Gospel and then disciple them. If you do not have any spiritual children yet, start in your church with a younger age-group. There is an abundance of opportunities in youth ministry, with today’s confusing culture and overwhelming abundance of broken homes. Or perhaps you have been called to missions. Plenty of missionaries like David Brainerd or Gladys Alyward or Apostle Paul himself were able to answer God’s call to make disciples effectively, in part due to the fact that they were single. Disciple-making parenthood does not need to start with a marriage license, and I hope this is something we can become passionate about, whether we are single for a season or an epoch.

Reality Check

Sanctification is no easy task, as it involves a lot of pruning. In God’s toolshed, marriage is arguably the sharpest tool available, since it involves not just your issues, but your spouse’s as well, owing to the unique vulnerability of sharing life with a sin-tainted human. Poll anyone who has exited the honeymoon phase of their marriage, and they will tell you that marriage can be pretty difficult at times. There are a lot of blessings in being able to share life with someone, and Proverbs even says that “He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the Lord.” However, later on, in Proverbs 21:9 and Proverbs 25:24, it basically says that it is better to live in a corner of the roof than inside a house with a quarrelsome wife.

What is needed, especially for single women, is a balanced view of marriage. I said it before in the chapter on fear, but singles do not have the monopoly on loneliness and misery. Tony Evans, in his book Living Single, says “The only thing more painful than being single and miserable is being married and miserable.[3]” A couple pages later, he makes a striking analogy: “Let me ask you a question by first making a statement. Statistics tell us that roughly 50 percent of all marriages end in divorce in America. A large part of that other 50 percent stay together for convenience, finances, or the children. Here is my question: If 50 percent of all airplanes crashed, wouldn’t you be extra careful about flying? If you knew that one out of every two airplanes was going to go down in flames, don’t you think that you would do a real careful investigation before getting in a plane, simply because you wouldn’t want to be one of those casualties? The same answer should hold true for how you approach the potential of marriage.[4]” As outrageous as this parallel may be, it does put things in perspective. If marriage is such a minefield, then why do we line up like it’s Black Friday, and sulk if we can’t get in?

We are in desperate need of a reality check. Marriage is not the only club with bouncers. Believe it or not, married people have moments where they wish they were single again. Married women with kids do not get as many lazy days as we do. Think about those Saturdays where we can sleep in, stay in our pajamas, and curl up with a book, undisturbed as long as we want. No early-riser children to tend to, no husband to serve by stepping up your hygiene practices a bit, and no other schedules to worry about. We have freedoms in this phase that we may or may not always have, and I think it’s important to contemplate them in times of longing for something else.

Consider, also, the spiritual ramifications of marriage. Friends of mine who married young have a bigger uphill battle, and will talk about how much more difficult it is to find time and the will to make Christ their priority. One of the most amazing gifts that singleness has offered me is a chance to get to know Christ and make Him my foundation without the temptation of idolizing a husband and trying to find my satisfaction and ultimate comfort in him. There is something so sweet about confronting each new trial or decision with an attitude that can say, “Ok God, just you and me…let’s do this!” If you are single, relish those moments where it’s just you and God enjoying a sunset, watching ocean waves, or even wrestling with a decision or trial in the middle of a sleepless night. A day may come when these luxuries come at a higher cost.

My goal with this “reality check” is not to taint your view of marriage and join the modern cynics movement but to simply show that the grass isn’t always greener. Marriage is a good thing to desire and is one of God’s most beautiful creations, especially when lived out in a real Gospel-centered way. But the benefits it offers come at a cost to some underrated freedoms that we possess as singles. In her book, Passion and Purity, Elisabeth Elliot said, “If you are married, then accept that. Accept the husband that God has given you. If you are single, accept your singleness and take it as if today was the last day of your life. Don’t be looking constantly to the future. I remember what Jim [her husband, missionary, and eventual martyr] wrote to me in one of his letters: ‘Let not our longing slay the appetite of our living.’ And I think there are a lot of single women who are allowing their longing to slay the appetite of their living. They are not throwing their heart and soul into the will of God for today, because they are simply dying inside for something that God has not given them.[5]” May we seek to live faithfully and joyfully in the status God has us in now!

Two Birds, One Stone

Ladies, I feel the need to just have a little heart to heart for a bit. I have had many conversations with single women who are so burdened by their singleness that it casts shadows over everything else in their life. And I have been there; from time to time, I still dip into that mindset. We have been told sentiments all their lives like “If God put that desire in your heart, then He will make it happen!” or “Just find contentment where you are and when you least expect it, God will bring you your missing man.” And I think that at least on some level, we understand that these are extra-biblical sentiments constructed to make us feel better, but are not grounded in reality. Yet, we hold on to them, hoping they will be the case for us. We think that even if our view of singleness is a little flawed, it will be okay as long as we eventually get married.

The problem with that line of thinking is, well, everything. If your view of singleness is flawed, then your view of marriage will be equally as flawed and absolutely will effect married life. If you idolize marriage now, believing that it will fulfill your deepest longings, you will idolize marriage when you are married. The discontentment that followed you around while you were single will follow you down the aisle into matrimony. It may take on different forms, perhaps morphing into a desire for children, a desire for an altered husband, or eventually perhaps wishing for singleness again. So what do we do? How do we fix our view of singleness in such a way that we still leave ourselves open for the possibility of marriage?

The solution might sound counter-intuitive, but pay attention: the key to prepare for whatever the future holds is to not think about the future. Jesus told us to “not be anxious about tomorrow,” but to instead “seek first the Kingdom of God.” All we know is what God is doing here and now, and here and now, you are single. What does God want you to do while you are still single? Well, He’s certainly not waiting for you to get married before He gives you more valuable tasks!

Nevermind the future. If we are meant to be perpetually single, then all we produce by being anxious about marriage is perpetual anxiety this side of heaven! I don’t want that, and I’m sure you don’t! But here’s the beautiful part: whether or not God has it in His plan for you to get married, faithfully following Him will get you there. Two birds, one stone. Using your gifts in the here and now, seeking Christ and living in light of His gospel will prepare you for a life of singleness or a life of partnering with a brother in Christ, if it be willed by the Father.

I must at this point warn you of a catch. It would be easy to take what I just said and verbally acknowledge the truth in it, but keep your motivations for godliness the same. In other words, you could say, “Sure Rachelle, I understand that this road I’m on (or at least trying to stay on) will get me to whatever future God has, whether I (‘gulp!’) stay singly apart of God’s Kingdom or (‘sigh’ longingly) meet the man of my dreams.” And yet, secretly, underneath the surface, your motivations for pursuing God’s kingdom are stuck in the ditch of mate attraction. We like that we get to serve God, but if you are prideful like me, it’s especially nice to think of how godliness and service can look to an available godly male. We hope they’ll see how good we are with kids, how well we hostess church gatherings, and how brightly our halos glow.

Ladies, what if we were so concerned with Kingdom affairs that revealed interest by an eligible godly bachelor caused us not to dive in heart first, but to instead question if God’s hand was behind it? What if we sought a niche in the Church where we got to experience true joy by serving God’s people in a way that we wouldn’t be able to if we were married? What if our motives for service and growth were truly rooted in a desire to know Christ better and see His Kingdom come? How my heart longs for you all to become passionate about using your singleness for the Kingdom! Stop treating your life like marital purgatory, waiting to be good enough or ready enough to get in! Want to know a secret? No one is ever perfectly ready for anything, including marriage! I don’t feel qualified for any of the things God has allowed me to participate in, but He loves it when we are dependent because He can get the glory from success bred out of broken people answering His call on their lives. Does singleness seem like a task too tough to bear? Good. You, my friend, have an amazing training course ahead of you in dependence.

To paraphrase John Piper at the end of his singleness sermon, demanding marriage on top of the spiritual blessings we have been given is like God telling us, “I am giving you the OCEAN”, and us replying, “Can I have a thimble, too?” It is all about perspective. In the moments where you find yourself embittered towards the Father over your singleness, rehearse the Gospel. When you find it hard to be happy for another engaged or pregnant friend, remind yourself of what you have in Christ as an heiress in His Kingdom. When you get badgered for the billionth time about not being married yet, remember that Christ Himself walked in your single shoes, in a culture that emphasized marriage even more so than ours.

To close this letter to my single sisters, I will leave you with a poem. As you read it, consider the following: What roots of bitterness do I need to confess? What fears are holding me back from living as I have been called? Lastly, how amazing is it that despite our shortcomings, we get to have a relationship with the Ruler of the Universe?

Throne Room

My motives are muddied, some words insincere,

My heart often riddled with all kinds of fear.

And nothing is hidden from the King of all time,

My thoughts all laid bare before what’s Divine.

So why is this child approaching the throne?

Her dirty footprints are treason alone!

Whispers of scandal should course through the room,

As the trespasser stands awaiting her doom.

But not a word is uttered, no guards called to arms,

The child’s face shows no sign of alarm.

What could excuse? What could explain?

But a Savior who on her behalf has been slain!

To the right of the Father sits the Heir of all things,

The one through whom salvation sings!

See Him descend in His powerful grace

To speak to the child face-to-face.

She knows His voice, she’s heard it before,

And the words He begins to say once more:

“My beloved I bought you at the price of my grave.

But even death could not hold me a slave.

My victory is permanent. My Gospel is true!

And with it my plan is to shape you anew.

Continue to follow, continue to trust.

My Word will protect you from doubt, pride, and lust.

Your future is sure, do not lose sight.

All darkness will soon be brought to light.

And until the day I call you home, strive to rally at this throne.”

Onlookers revel in the awe of the scene,

As the child repents and walks away clean.

Thanks for tagging along on this 6 week journey! I may post more from time to time, but you have heard everything I’ve got so far on the topic of singleness. Since starting my personal journey of seeking out a more Gospel-centered view of singleness almost exactly a year ago, I have gained a higher view of marriage along with a more contented outlook on where God has me. I hope that for the singles who have been reading along, the same is true for you. For everyone else, I hope you are better enabled to interact with and encourage the single Believers in your life. And for everyone as a whole, I hope the Gospel looks just a little more glorious than it did 6 weeks ago.

Love,

Rachelle

[1] “Gender Gap in Church Persists; Worse among Evangelicals.” Austin Institute for the Study of Family and Culture. Web. 2 January 2015.

[2] Piper, John. “Singleness in Christ: A Name Better than Sons and Daughters.” Marriage, Christ, and Covenant: One Flesh for the Glory of God. Bethlehem Baptist Church. 29 April 2007, Minneapolis, MN. Podcast.

[3] Evans, Tony. Living Single. Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2013. Print. p. 25.

[4] Evans, p. 27.

[5] Elliot, Elisabeth. Passion and Purity. Ada: Revell, 2002. Print. p. ???