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?)

Am I Too Picky? (Part I)

 

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

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

Proverbs 31:10-31

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

1 Timothy 3

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

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

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

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

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

Love,

Rachelle

Has your ship sailed?

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

~C.S. Lewis

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

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

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

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

Marriage as a Reward

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

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

Marriage as a Right

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

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

Part of That World

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

Present Tense 

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

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

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

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

Stay tuned!

Love,

Rachelle

The David to Your Jonathan

“Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.” ~Proverbs 27:17

            The sun is setting over a Pacific ocean levy, signaling the end of a near-perfect day that included bicycling along the Huntington boardwalk, walking and talking along the seaweed splashed sand, and side-splitting laughter over a cup of coffee in a beach side café. Memories and adventures ingrained for years to come, though part of a treasury of many similar recollections with the same God-given companion. Put yourself there. Feel the soft sand against your feet and the gentle breeze sweep by your face as you catch the scent of the salty ocean air. Feel your core muscles ache from the belly laughter and sigh at the thought of a beautifully painted sky, relishing the Creator’s handiwork-together. Now look at the person pedaling next to you as you maneuver through the crowds and then race competitively through each clearing. Who do you see? What kind of person does your mind automatically insert into these hypothetical memories?

As it turns out, these memories are not so hypothetical for me. They are very real, but the person next to me for each of them might not look how you pictured. My reminiscing is not of a romantic date or a summer fling. My companion is not a tall dark and handsome gentleman that some of you may have fancied in your recreation of each scene (hey, I would’ve done the same!). As it turns out, SHE has blond curly hair, a slightly shorter stature than me due only to her tinier femurs (yes, we are weird enough to spend time on comparing skeletal differences), blue eyes, and a fondness for stopping to smell the roses. She is my best friend. She is my soul-sister. She has taught me by example how to pray without a rehearsed formula, how to be vulnerably open about the sins I battle, and how to make Christ my closest friend. She literally slammed her bedroom door in my face one time when I tried to share important news with her before talking to God about it in prayer. “Talk to Jesus!…SLAM!” Just like that. And in the long run, I was thankful for it. She should be given a lot of credit for the ideas in this blog because most of it was born out of conversations we’ve had first as we process life together as single women who want husbands but desire to live for Jesus more. We’ve learned how to resolve conflict (and how not to), how to confront each other on sin and how to humbly receive loving criticism. We’ve encouraged each other in many trials and battled jealousy against one another (probably me more than her because she’s gorgeous and Christ has done an amazing work in her life). We’ve learned how to balance the deeper, spiritual parts of our friendship with the simpler lighthearted sides of adventure and silliness. We’ve been in ministry together and have watched God use our friendship to bless others. We have dreams to marry best friends and we pray to that end ALL. THE. TIME. Her friendship has been used by God to shape me into the woman I am today, and I am positive that if marriage is on my horizon, God is using this friendship to prepare me for it.

In this post, I want to talk about the importance of same-gender friendships. I will argue how valuable they are on the road to marriage, if the Lord wills, or whatever else He might have. Keep in mind that I only have the female perspective on things, so that will influence how I write. Nevertheless, I am a firm believer that guys need close friendships just as much as the ladies. To frame this conversation, I decided to do a little research on one of the most iconic “bro-mances” in Scripture- that of David and Jonathan.

Unlikely Friends

Jonathan was the son of King Saul, and therefore a prince of Israel with an eventual claim to the throne to be the second king of the fledgling kingdom. Even outside of bloodlines, he was a worthy candidate. In a story out of 1 Samuel 13-14, Jonathan proves to be a man who is deeply respected by those he leads and a great man of faith. After leading his father’s troops to beat a small garrison of the Philistine army, the enemy is agitated and gathers up a group of “thirty thousand chariots and six thousand horsemen and troops like the sand on the seashore in multitude.” We are told that the men with Saul “trembled,” and they had good reasons to. Not only were they a mere 600 in number, but they didn’t have any blacksmiths to make real weapons. The only two swords on hand were [naturally] given to the king and his son, but the rest of the weapons amounted to a bunch of farm equipment: sickles, axes, and mattocks (not sure what those are, but they don’t sound very menacing!). The scene is basically that of a single pee-wee football team going up against all NFL teams-combined! In the midst of these impossible odds, Jonathan decides to simply waltz over to the Philistine camp with his assistant. You hear a lot about David’s bravery in fighting Goliath, but we see the same kind of courage in Jonathan as he says to his armor-bearer, “Come, let us go over to the garrison of these uncircumcised. It may be that the Lord will work for us, for nothing can hinder the Lord from saving by many or by few.” Then his armor-bearer replies, “Do all that is in your heart. Do as you wish. Behold, I am with you heart and soul.” Long story short, the Lord responds to the prince’s faith by throwing the enemy’s army into confusion and the Philistines are defeated!

We learn two important things about Jonathan from this passage. One, the dude’s got guts and an amazing faith in God to match! Two, his armor-bearer, the one who watches his life probably more closely than anyone else, trusts his leader enough to follow him to almost-certain death. So when God comes on the scene after Saul has acted foolishly and tells the king in 1 Sam 13:14 that his kingdom would “not continue,” it had nothing to do with a lack of a qualified candidate in Saul’s bloodline. God goes on to say (via Samuel the prophet): “The Lord has sought out a man after his own heart, and the Lord has commanded him to be prince over his people, because you have not kept what the Lord commanded you.”

Did Jonathan struggle with this pronouncement? He would not be allowed to lead the nation he had fought to protect. Instead, the honor would be bestowed on an unlikely shepherd boy. We are not told if he experienced any sadness over God’s choice, but we do see his whole-hearted acceptance of it when he befriends the very same “man after God’s own heart.”

Soul Brothers

In 1 Samuel 18:1, immediately after David fought Goliath and had an audience with King Saul, God’s Word says, “As soon as he [David] had finished speaking to Saul, the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul.” The Hebrew word for “knit” here means “to tie, physically or mentally, in love or in league,” and the word “loved” is the same word used in Proverbs 17:17 when it says “A friend loves at all times” or in Proverbs 18:24, which says “There is a friend that sticks closer than a brother.” These guys became closer than their biological family members, and Jonathan loved his new bud David in a way that put his friend’s needs before his own, even when it meant giving up the throne. CS Lewis once said that “Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another, ‘What! You too? I thought I was the only one,” and I think it is a perfect description of the relationship between David and Jonathan. They had the same kind of faith in God that caused them to confidently put their lives at risk. They saw in each other a kindred spirit, and so they were inseparable, even as their new friendship underwent terrible trials.

The Enduring Friendship

Scripture only gives a few more scenes from this faithful duo. Soon after beginning their friendship, they ended up becoming relatives when David married Jonathan’s sister, but they weren’t one big happy family for long, as Saul’s jealousy of David began to cause tension. In 1 Samuel 19, Jonathan was among those told by Saul to kill David, but Jonathan spoke well of David to Saul, risking his life in doing so since Saul was so consumed with rage. Saul reminded Jonathan in 1 Samuel 20:31 that “as long as the son of Jesse lives on the earth, neither you nor your kingdom shall be established.” But this did not hinder Jonathan’s resolve to be faithful to his friend. Things got so bad that it was decided for David to flee to save his life. We get a glimpse of their last exchange on earth in 1 Samuel 20:41-42. “David rose from beside the stone heap and fell on his face to the ground and bowed three times. And they kissed one another and wept with one another, David weeping the most. Then Jonathan said to David, ‘Go in peace, because we have sworn both of us in the name of the Lord, saying, “The Lord shall be between me and you, and between my offspring and your offspring, forever.” And he rose and departed, and Jonathan went into the city.” Eleven chapters later, Jonathan was killed in battle and David mourned. A last trace of their friendship can be seen in David’s kindness to Jonathan’s son. It would have been common to kill all the bloodline of the previous royal family so that no contenders could ever threaten the throne, but David remembered his friend and showed favor to his offspring as he promised.

The Legacy of a Friendship

David and Jonathan exist in history as a timeless example of a friendship that God used mightily to affect not just the two men themselves, but the entire nation of Israel for good. Imagine if David did not have Jonathan. Saul might have been successful in harming David, and, well, there goes a key player in the ancestry of Christ! God placed Jonathan and David in the same era, at the same palace, and with similar hearts for a much greater purpose than either of them might have realized.

Hopefully you are still with me and didn’t doze off during my history lesson. Frankly, I rather enjoyed the quest involved in writing it! I’m writing this post because I think that, for a lot of singles, close, same-gender friendships are extremely undervalued. Blame it on a subjective culture that prevents people from centering friendships on objective truth. Blame it on a preoccupation with finding “the one.” Blame it on a slightly homophobic element of church culture. Blame it on the wimpiness of our generation when it comes to resolving conflict. I’m really not sure EXACTLY what has caused a drift towards shallower friendships, but it’s a sad loss for those missing out. I have a theory that a percentage of divorces could be prevented if the causal issues would have been sorted out in pre-marital same-gender friendships. Think about it. If I can’t work out a relationship with the gender that I can generally empathize with, how can I expect to be successful when it comes to the opposite sex? As a high school teacher, I hear girls say all the time how they only have guy friends because girls are just too “dramatic.” While girls can be a bit theatrical in their approach to friendship, avoiding them altogether means giving up on a huge training ground for future relationships, and possibly even marriage.

The Solution

As God’s image-bearers, we need to be in community. How in the heck are we going to practice the “one-anothers” otherwise? Do we really want the test-run of deep friendship to be in the context of marriage? If you desire marriage and pray to that end all the time, then seek after the relational skills you’ll need to serve your spouse well! If you don’t have a Jonathan (or a Jacquelyn?), then pray about it. Ask that God would provide a pal. Keep your eyes open as you serve in ministry and hang out with fellow believers. Look for someone who’s got a similar mind and heart for God just like Jonathan and David found in each other. Then purpose to get to know them and be in prayer for them. Follow up on those prayer requests, and be a faithful friend to them. See what God does with it. I was talking just today with my mentor about her friend of 20 years. They met at a bookstore when one’s child spit on the other’s. Little did they know then that they would be partnering in ministry two decades later as close friends to effect change in other parts of the world.

Singleness can be a lonely road, but it doesn’t have to be. We need to be open to friendships that God might want to use to challenge and grow us before He brings anyone else along. Let’s purpose today to not become dull in our singleness, but to instead, find a mutual sharpener. Besides, adventure and good memories are out there, and they don’t require a spouse!

Cheers to FRIENDSHIP!!!

~Rachelle

PS. If you are just now joining the conversation, be sure to read up on the basis for this site in the 6 week Singleness Series, starting here–>

https://notsingledout.com/2015/01/04/door-number-three/#more-5