adventure time.

The last 2 months since my last entry had me feeling like I was on an emotional road trip. I’ve made quite a few pit stops so far – loneliness, depression, family drama, discontent with my job, getting my hopes up, keeping my hopes down, losing faith, clinging to God, steeping myself in my vices, begging forgiveness, choosing my friends, letting go of relationships, learning to stand up for myself…needless to say it’s been a crazy couple of months. Today though there is some clarity. I feel like I am still driving to “destination unknown”…but the fog is lifting.

In a couple of weeks I will be flying to Canada to take up a counseling certification. I had toyed with the idea of pursuing this last January but was resigned to giving up on it because of a lack of finances. Well, 3 weeks ago I woke up to several Skype messages and a missed call from my counselor. She excitedly shared that she had contacted some of her former counselees and a couple had decided to sponsor my tuition and residential fees. Then another week later I got a partial travel grant from the counseling alumni association. I applied for my Canadian visa immediately and despite not having every document they asked for, was granted a visa in a week and a half. A girl I had gone to high school with (she was a year above me) saw my “I’m coming to Canada” post on fb and offered me a place to stay. Some of my Stateside friends also began offering places to stay if I came to visit. Two of my best friends from the States offered to drive/fly to wherever I was for a weekend so we could all hang out. On top of that, my boss agreed to give me one month off to complete the course as well as have some time off to take a vacation.

God has really been aligning and arranging things so that I get to do this. I am beyond grateful and beyond blown away. Everytime I try to express how I feel I just choke. There are no words.

I have realized though that if you are doing something that is in service to others and in accordance with His will, He will really throw open doors and windows and move on your behalf. Because moving on your behalf also means moving on His behalf. Very often I ask for selfish things. Things that I don’t really need and that don’t benefit anyone but myself. And like a good parent, sometimes He gives me those things for the pure joy and pleasure of putting a smile on my face. But also very often, He withholds what He thinks does not serve a better purpose. That verse on God “granting the desires of your heart”? I get it. He will grant me my heart’s desires if my heart is aligned with His.

I’ll be leaving in a couple of weeks and I’m starting to freak out a little bit. This is primarily a learning trip. I will be learning things that will enable me to help others. That will enforce a call on me to serve. All of a sudden I’m feeling stifled. I will have the responsibility of using what I learned to help other people and not just keep it for myself as a “useful skill to have”. Now, I will be obligated to do something with this knowledge. I find it funny how I can talk about serving others all day long but when it comes to actually recognizing a responsibility to do so…I balk. I want to say “this isn’t my responsibility…this is just a choice I make because I’m a good Christian.” I wanted to be able to serve God – now that I am handed the opportunity on a silver platter I suddenly feel like buckling under the weight of it. Perhaps it is because I have been so used to living for myself or for my family or for my friends. But never for God. Never for the world at large as a person embodying Christ’s love. But how exciting and overwhelming to know that in a couple of weeks God will be shaking me, breaking me, and renewing me. I will be a person more capable of helping others. I pray that He would not only give me the skills to do so, but the heart to do so as well.

I have a lot of fears…but it helps to see how God has orchestrated things so absolutely perfectly. In some ways, it gives me faith that I’m meant to go on this trip and explore what God wants me to do. Perhaps God has some clarity waiting for me when I get there. Or perhaps He’ll lead me to more questions. All I know for sure is He will “take me deeper than my feet could ever wander.”

Scared. Overwhelmed. Excited. Ready.

take me deeper

ps

If you pray…then please pray for me. Some things I am still praying for:

  1. Funding – I still need a lot of $$$ for my plane ticket
  2. Apartment – I need to find someone who can rent my apartment for April
  3. Lodging – I need to find someone who can host me in DC for April 1-7.

of milestones and men.

2014 was a year of EPIC realizations. As I recall everything that happened over that year it feels like a veil has been lifted. In hindsight I see the fingerprints of God over all the good and bad experiences I went through. I see how God has been hemming me in to a place of surrender, to a place of brokenness, and a place of submission. So today I wanted to take some time to write down exactly how my life has changed and list the milestones I had in 2014.

The year started with me being fed a different view of Christianity. I read a book by Mike Erre titled “The Jesus of Suburbia”. It rocked me to my core. I realized that I had missed the whole point of Christ – of his movement. It wasn’t about me. It wasn’t about being a better person, or the 5 steps to being happy as a single, or how to be a better employee. I was ministering to the healthy and completely ignoring the sick. I was treating my fellow image-bearers as “less than”. It was mortifying to be faced with the ugliness in my heart. And it was also humbling and freeing to accept it and allow God to change me.

I started to explore this “radical” view of Christianity more. I was started reading books about Christians who had given up everything for the sake of the gospel. For the sake of being able to serve God and His kingdom by loving the “least of these”. I grew dissatisfied with the church I was attending. I looked around and saw the focus on small groups and ministering to other Christians override the mandate to reach a poor and broken world. I grew angry when I heard fellow Christians talk about isolating and separating themselves from less than desirable people – y’know, those people who curse, smoke, drink, have sex, lie, cheat, and steal. I grew frustrated when I heard my guy friends talk about women’s bodies and whether or not they “looked good” standing next to each other. I hurt for women when I heard men say that because they were “damaged” in some way, they would not be considered as prospective life partners. I grew confused when I realized that no one wanted to rock the boat. People didn’t want to confront or convict. Rebuke was nonexistent. It was all mildness and meekness and no change. I looked around me and thought…is this Christ? Is this Christianity?

I grew angry with myself. Because I am that person. Who will choose to ignore the less than desirable human in favor of the one that readily receives my love. I am that person who will judge another based on appearance or past circumstances. I am that person who will not speak up in favor of keeping the peace. I am that person who will try to sugarcoat a friend’s sin so I don’t run the risk of losing them. Plank, meet splinter.

I moved to a new church. I heard a lot of things that made me uncomfortable. I learned about being passionate but being compassionate. I learned that I was not too much because I felt strongly about certain things. I learned I could be mad at God. I learned I could have different convictions and not worry about being condemned or secretly judged. I am learning to do all those things for others.

I started to become dissatisfied with my job. Prestige, power, travel opportunities, a huge paycheck…I had it all. And it left me hollow and empty. It did not satisfy. It did not ease the ache of emptiness in my heart. I started to take personality tests. I learned that I was an ESFJ – a caregiver. As an ESFJ I am a people person. I derive great joy and satisfaction from being able to help and serve others. I am also extremely organized and love to create order. This was a shock to me – I knew that my job did not fit my design as a person.  I started contemplating other options. Perhaps I could go back to school and start a new degree. Perhaps I could study to become a counselor or psychologist. I applied to several schools in other countries. I received acceptance letters from most of them but have yet to hear back regarding financial aid.

I felt compelled to get my 2nd tattoo. I realized I was in the throes of major life realignment and needed something to remind me to be brave. I thought about it for a month and got a line from an encouraging worship song tattooed on my back. I felt God was clearly speaking to me that He was going to be taking me “deeper than my feet could ever wander”.

I began to feel overwhelmed with everything God was revealing to me. I felt like my life and everything I had known was spinning out of control. I fell into a deep depression (which I am still struggling with today). For the first time in 5 years, since my last bout with depression, I contemplated suicide. I trusted only a few close friends with this knowledge. My oldest friend was a rock of support for me. I saw Jesus over and over again in her. I also trusted other close friends. Some really came through for me. Others let me down. They seemed to give up on me and stopped investing their time in me, all the while promising to pray for me. I opened myself up to new people. Unexpectedly they were there for me. I learned a thing or two about making new relationships, deepening friendships, pruning relationships, letting go of friendships, and forgiving people. 

I opened up to my parents about my depression. I told them of my fear of losing control over my life. Of the idols I had put in my life to replace God. How my identity was so rooted in my career, my position, my apartment, my paycheck. I was so tired of feeling fearful and striving for control all the time. I wanted to give everything up so I wouldn’t be afraid of losing everything anymore. I worried I would not make sense to them. My parents gave me their full support. My mom told me that if I had to spend everything to find myself and be happy, then I should do it. I knew it was a miracle.

An opportunity to become certified as a counselor came up. I felt a strong pull on my heart to pursue it. I didn’t have the money. My counselor committed to praying with me for financial aid. She also is trying her best to help me obtain a work/study agreement with the program director. While I was thinking about this opportunity I also started to wrestle with the idea of leaving my job permanently, taking a hiatus to take the counseling program and then work and serve at churches and charities/nonprofit organizations for a couple of months. Again, the issue of finances reared its ugly head. God began opening doors. My friend and her husband offered to pay for a pair of tickets. They offered me a place to stay. Another friend offered me another place to stay for a time.

I took a trip out of the country to get my head straight. I was able to remove myself from worry and anxiety for a couple of days and just enjoy myself. On this trip I even managed to develop a deeper relationship with my brother and see my sister in another, more positive light. I met with a dear friend who encouraged me saying “I know this is going to hurt, but I’ve never seen you so close to where you should be before.”

Slowly but surely God was opening doors. And I grew more terrified. I wrestled with God in the mornings while I would sip milk tea, eat a chocolate bar, and do my devotions. He kept bringing me verse after verse on the importance of losing my life for the things that mattered, how important it was to be humble and vulnerable before Him, to give Him control, to not worry about the obstacles in my path. I kept insisting for a grander and bigger sign. One day I felt a peace and a confirmation that I had to do it. I had to leave my job, trim down my life, and seek Him. I had to pursue a different dream – one that is in no way fleshed out but requires inordinate levels of faith and trust in Him.

For now, this is where my story ends. Me standing on the edge of something bigger and greater and unimaginable. Petrified that I am doing something incredibly foolish and irresponsible. Terrified of being homeless, hungry, and most of all…useless. Trying to push back the doubts and trust God.

January 2015.

Honeycomb

everything beautiful and terrifying.

I read an article today called “10 things that will happen when you start pursuing your dreams”. The aforementioned 10 things are:

  1. You are going to be scared sh*tless, more than once.
  2. There are times you’re going to be uncertain.
  3. You’re going to get way out of your comfort zone.
  4. Doubt will inevitably creep in.
  5. You’re going to piss some people off.
  6. You’re going to learn what you’re made of.
  7. You will get comfortable asking others for help.
  8. There will come a day when you’ll want to stop taking risks and settle for something with more security.
  9. You will feel vulnerable.
  10. There will be a day when you’re as happy as a kid who just discovered their first jump house, all smiles and laughter.

I’ve only begun taking steps to chasing my dreams and I’m there already. In the throes of being scared shitless, feeling uncertain, out of my comfort zone, doubtful, and wanting security. I know I’m going to piss people off along the way when I give up everything they value and pursue something I value. To sum it up, I am terrified.

Some days the fear buries itself so deep in my body I can’t sleep. I lay awake watching hours of TV so I am distracted from the fact that my life is not where I want it to be. I am not what I wanted to be. So I stay up till 2 am until I doze off, wake up the next morning, go to work, and chip away at my soul by going through the rat race that has become my routine. Pushing the fear back with activity and a constant buzz of company. I can’t stand to be alone and it’s more than my natural ESFJ tendencies. I am terrified that in the silence my emotions will overwhelm me. I have forgotten what it means to grieve well. To cry out my hurts and pains to God and then let them go. I have forgotten to be disappointed but not depressed. Everything I feel is too huge, too monstrous for my body to contain. It is like a force is building inside me, an anger and helplessness that is trying to claw it’s way out, no match for the poor prison that is my thin skin.

All this because I am afraid. Other people are afraid and don’t have to deal with feeling like they want to crawl out of their skin. But I’m not most people. I have tried to control my life for decades. I can remember being an impulsive, passionate child. A bit of a force of nature. But as the product of my parents’ wild emotions and ever-changing circumstances I developed a desperate carefulness. The need to always be good, to do what was expected of me, because it meant that despite everything going wrong in my world, there was one thing that was solid, and consistent, and stable. I was a rock. Immovable. Only I wasn’t. If I was a rock, I was slowly being chipped at by the force of a waterfall. I was never meant to be this carefully controlled person.

The cracks and chips are starting to show. I have an itch under my skin to change my world, change my life. Do something impulsive and passionate and so very unlike me. To chase a dream and feel every beautifully terrifying emotion along the way. To survive being broken and put back together in pursuit of something more. To let go of everything I’m holding onto and reach for everything I have ever wanted. To feel fulfilled to my core because of all the out-of-control mess I had to wade through to get to a place of clean, pure, peace. The peace that is found in the midst of powerlessness. Peace that surpasses all understanding. And covers a multitude of fears.

fear control change

depression is a black hole that will eat you alive.

I knew going home for 2 weeks would be a bad idea.  After the 4 day vacation I had with my sister last month and the volumes of hurt that I received in those 4 days I knew going home and spending 2 weeks with her would only make things worse.  I thought long and hard about whether to spend Christmas away from my family for the first time in my life.  On Dec 19 I packed my bag and flew home.

By the second day she had accused me of taking advantage of my father’s generosity.  By the 3rd day we had a 3 hour conversation (moderated by my mother) where I had to sit and listen to how awful a person I was.  How selfish, how self-serving, how abusive I was.  How she didn’t have one good memory of me.  It felt like my heart was a big raw gaping wound and she was rubbing salt everywhere.

By that 3rd day I saw myself as UNLOVED. UNWANTED. UNAPPRECIATED. I felt overwhelmed. It was the last straw on a year that was sending me steadily into depression.  I texted a good friend telling her I wanted to die to end the pain.  She texted me back that “things will get better”.  I had called her the day before – she had never called back.  She was going through something as well she said, but that was dealt with and now she could text me.  There were no calls from her.  Just a few texts meant to offer comfort.  I have no doubt she meant what she said.  I have no doubt she’s praying for me.  But by the end of that day I also felt INCONVENIENT. A HASSLE. TOO MUCH.

This is a person who I love and I believe, loves me back.  Who has called me crying and I dropped everything to talk to her, to be with her. She’s been there for me multiple times as well.  She’s held me through tears and walked with me through difficult situations. She’s taken care of me while I was sick and alone. But I have never needed her more than last night. And all I had were her texts.  I texted another friend. She also loves me. She’s also been there for me multiple times. I got a text about how we shouldn’t focus on how people fail us because otherwise we will be on the losing end.  I never felt more alone. I struggle to remember that these are friends that love me. I struggle to remind myself that just because they aren’t giving me what I need does not lessen their love for me. Even if I understand that it doesn’t erase the hurt.

Depression is like a black hole. I have been here before and I’ve tried to kill myself before. And just like those times, when I attempted to reach out to people, instead of getting their comfort or sympathy or presence…I got “it will get better, you’ll see”.  “You need to focus on the blessings you have”.  “Have you prayed lately? Maybe you need more time with God”.  “I also feel that way sometimes”.  I understand this is meant to be comforting. But to a depressed person this is not comforting. Unless you mean you also have tried to kill yourself, no, you haven’t felt that way. Unless you can see the future and see this getting better for me then no, you don’t know that things will get better.

My best friend lives across the world from me. She has 2 kids, a husband who was trying to fly back home for Christmas in the middle of bad weather, and her parents were over at her house. She shut herself in her room and talked to me for half an hour.She said she didn’t know what to say but that she loved me. She said she was hurting for me.  She let me talk and vent.  She didn’t tell me what to do or what not to do.  She wanted my number so she could call and check in on me. I know she’s praying for me but what she did meant more to me than any prayer she could offer up.  She sat with me – disgusting, angry, blasphemous, hurtful me, and listened to me and loved me anyway.

Sometimes I feel like Christians suck at dealing with depression. A non-Christian would not feel the need to say “you need to spend more time with God” or “you can overcome this through Christ”.  Remove for a moment the God factor. How then would you talk to a person with depression? When did Christianity or having a relationship with God become a cure-all? I may never be free of depression. Just because I love Jesus and He loves me does not mean that I will be free of depression.  This may be a burden I carry through my whole life.  I don’t know.  I dare anyone to tell me that they know, without a shadow of a doubt, that my genuine love for God will set me free from everything that plagues me.  I knew a pastor whose good, loving, godly wife died of cancer.  I don’t know anyone who knew Christ more.  So is mental illness different from cancer? Christians seem to think so.  It’s like if I TRY and DO more then I will “beat” depression.

I read an article on what not to say to a Christian struggling with depression.  I’m pasting it here because it was that good. The author talks about what Christians say to people with depression.  Some of the below I pulled from her article, some are my own examples of what Christians say (that they really shouldn’t say) to people with depression:

  • “Don’t curse” while you’re depressed.  I like to equate this to Christians saying “don’t be angry”.  Don’t express your rage, your frustration, your hurt over the situations and people that have contributed to your circumstances.  When you are depressed you are in a deep, dark, and angry place.  You lash out. You want to use the right words to express your rage.  And it can be ugly to people.  But this is how I feel – would it make people feel better to ask how I’m doing and then have me lie?  Sometimes I think so. They don’t really want to know how I’m doing or how I feel. They would be too horrified.
  • “Trust God” or “God is in control” is something they say as well.  I do trust Him – and here I am in the midst of this all-consuming depression.  Where the only way out I see is to end my life to ease my pain.  Now what?  I trusted Him but here I am dealing with this sickness.  Now what?  If He’s in control why do I want to literally go to sleep and never wake up? Did He plan for this to happen? Now what?
  • “You need to focus on how blessed you are”.  My mind is telling me I am UNLOVED, UNWANTED, and BETTER OFF DEAD. And all it will take to shut these feelings down is to shift my focus onto my blessings? Is there a switch I can flip to do that? Because I would love to be able to focus on my blessings. If there was a simple solution to depression don’t you think I would have tried it? I don’t like being depressed. It is not the least bit enjoyable and it is not a ploy for attention or sympathy. It is like living in a personal hell filled with pain and despair and hopelessness.
  • “You need to spend more time with Christians and with God and read your Bible”.  This is assuming that every depressed person has somehow stopped communicating with God.  I have found that I never pray as hard as when I am in pain.  And believe it or not, my reaching out and sharing what I’m going through is me spending more time with Christians.  But more often than not they don’t really want to spend more time with me. They ask how I’m doing but act uncomfortable when I open up to them. They give me cheap comfort in the form of platitudes as if somehow, that means, that they have “done their part”. If by opening myself up to them I will continually face rejection then I’d rather hide and struggle on my own…which never works because clearly I am not in my right mind.
  • “I just can’t be there for you the way you want me to.” Or “You’re just too draining. I can’t help you if you don’t help yourself”.  This I genuinely feel guilt for. I wish I wasn’t going through depression so I wouldn’t inconvenience my friends. I wish I had planned my depression better so that it wouldn’t be over the holidays and would instead be when they have their lives together or when they have free time.  But a part of me screams that life happens. Shit happens. And we can’t plan for it to happen at a better time so friends can be…friends.  Depressed people already feel abandoned. And then you throw in friends that leave. To people with depression it’s like proving what we feel about ourselves is true. That we are unworthy of love. That we are OK to have around during good times but not during bad.  During my first bout with depression I would go to my mother for help. She would often tell me that she had “enough problems of my own. I don’t need to deal with yours”.  I then tried to turn to my small group.  My friend actually yelled at me that I was being “blasphemous” by expressing my anger at God. Another friend told me to try to love my parents more and when I got upset yelled at me that she didn’t know what else she could do to help me.  I tried to kill myself 3 times in a year.  I felt rejected by my family and rejected by the Church.  The Church that was supposed to be Christ’s hands and feet. Is it any wonder that I felt God would reject me as well?

So this is my story. If you are asking how am I – I am currently in the throes of my second bout with depression.  I struggle with the daily choice to get out of bed and continue on. Some days I numb myself to everything but basic actions – wake up, shower, eat, sleep. And some days I manage to laugh at a few funny jokes and enjoy a minute, an hour, a day.  Most of the days I keep the pain at bay but it is a throbbing in my head that lets me know it is there. Some days I so badly want to reach out to friends but I am terrified of hearing that this is my fault, that I should spend more time with God, that I am doing something wrong that is causing this depression to worsen. And this is how I feel. I don’t want to make any friends or people responsible for my actions, choices, or decisions.  But I can’t do it alone. And I need help. For everyone struggling with depression, I wish for them a community of believers that would love unconditionally, listen without judgment, and offer of themselves their time, presence, and resources.

This post is my clumsy attempt to put something out there that will speak to people. If you are depressed then take comfort that you are not alone – there are people that actually understand how you might feel or what you are going through. If you are a friend of someone who is depressed, please take the time to learn how to deal with them. The link to the article I cited is a good start. Don’t try to fix them or offer solutions based on your own opinions. Get feedback from professionals, talk to other people going through depression and get their opinion. Above all, please love them through the good, the bad, and the ugly.

the bermuda triangle of singleness.

In exactly 50 days I will be 30.  Another birthday I get to spend as a single.  UGH.

Don’t get me wrong – I’ve had lots of great birthdays.  And I generally love and enjoy my life.  But every year, like clockwork, there comes a point where I feel a little down.  It seems like my fabulous solo life…is a little less fabulous and a lot more…well, pathetic and depressing.  I call this time period the Bermuda triangle of singleness.  It consists of 3 months where singles feel like crap on a stick…namely December, January, and February.

For me personally, it’s more like a Bermuda square.  It starts in November – my birth month.  Do you know what being born in November means?  It means you were conceived in February – most likely around Valentine’s day.  How romantic is that?  Not so romantic if you’re a single.  Here I am, celebrating being conceived on the most romantic day of the year…and I’m spending my birthday alone. UGH.

here's a helpful visual for you...

here’s a helpful visual for you…

For most singles however, the Bermuda triangle of singleness starts in December, or as I like to refer to it: “that month where couples stare lovingly into each other’s eyes while sipping hot chocolate and snuggling in front of the fireplace”.  December is particularly painful for a single.  There is talk of kissing under the mistletoe, eggnog, hot chocolate, snuggling, fireplaces, s’mores, carriage rides through the snow, etc.  Something about the holiday makes it ideal for romance.  None of which you get as a single.  Okay that’s not totally accurate, we do get eggnog, hot chocolate, and s’mores…in abundance.  But let’s face it.  Life does not mirror While you were sleeping or Love Actually.

Then, just when you think you’ve made it through the holidays in one piece…January comes along.  Or rather, New Year’s Eve to be exact.  Now it’s all about having a special someone to ring in the New Year with, to kiss when the clock strikes midnight.  Or at least to have a friend confess his undying love for you in true When Harry met Sally style.  The reality is more likely to involve New Year’s Eve parties where people get wasted on cheap booze and you end up wondering why you bothered to go out and if it’s too soon to leave so you can crawl into bed and eat ice cream while watching reruns of America’s Next Top Model.  I’m just keeping it real…

Finally, there’s February – hello Valentine’s Day.  The day made to make every single in the world feel inadequate and lacking.  Also the day the price of flowers goes through the roof.  I don’t need to explain this further right?  Suffice it to say my involuntary gag reflex kicks in at the sight of paper hearts.  Which basically means I’m barfing through the first half of February.  It’s not a pretty sight.

But don’t despair – once a single makes it through this patch of rough water…there’s land ahoy.  March is in sight.  And nothing lifts a single’s spirits like sunny skies and summer fun…

…right?

on lists and being image-bearers.

I was having dinner with a married girlfriend and a single guy friend one night and the topic inevitably turned to dating & marriage.  We’re all in (or nearing) our 30s and it just makes sense that this topic comes up more and more in conversation.  Somehow we got to talking about our preferences in a life partner.  My guy friend started talking about his dealbreakers.  He discussed how he had been getting to know a woman and how he had witnessed her lose her temper.  That was an immediate turn-off for him and he began to distance himself from her.  I tried to tactfully let him know that everyone at some point loses their temper.  She could have been having a really bad day, etc.  Granted, it’s not an excuse for losing one’s temper but I thought it was premature to become disinterested in a person because they turned out to be…well…imperfect.

My girlfriend offered one of her own dealbreakers – she could not date a man who didn’t speak good English.  I was surprised.  I understand how people have preferences but I didn’t consider these things dealbreakers at all.  But then I realized I had voiced similar opinions in the past.  So here I was, contemplating what I wanted to say to add to this conversation when my guy friend hit me with a doozy of a dealbreaker.  He didn’t want a girl that came from a broken family.  I was floored and stupefied.  This man is a loving godly person.  Couldn’t he see what he was saying was demeaning and unloving and unkind?  Did he really think that women from broken homes were somehow “less than”?  That he was entitled to a woman that came from a perfect family background and never lost her temper?  I tried to be kind as I carefully added my 2 cents.  Inside, my heart was breaking.  Is this how we choose whom to pursue or who we allow to pursue us?  How discouraging to live in such a world.

The bible declares we are made in the image of God.  I like the term “image-bearer”…we are image-bearers of God.  What does this mean?  Mike Erre, pastor at EvFree Church describes the duality of being an image-bearer of God and being a fallen sinful human in this way:

you are a person who has intrinsic dignity, honor, and worth. You, like the rest of us, are also broken and bent toward what is worst for us. But the good news is that Jesus has come to make things right. He invites you into that redemption.

To recap: we ALL, no matter our backgrounds, no matter what we’ve been through have the same intrinsic dignity, honor, and worth.  We are ALL also broken.  We must never believe that we are somehow “less broken” or “more worthy” than someone else.

When choosing or praying for a life partner many of us like to make a list.  This list may contain “dealbreakers” – characteristics or traits you absolutely cannot have in a life partner.  The list may also contain “must-haves”.  A list of items you wish your partner to be.  Many a person has spent countless hours pondering their list and praying over it convinced that if God really loved them He would give them what’s on their list.  Convinced that this person they have made up in their minds is exactly who God has handpicked for them.  I have several problems with many of these lists (note I did not say ALL of these lists).  I don’t believe God has handpicked a person for everyone.  I believe God let’s you choose – although He knows who you will choose.  I truly believe in my heart that we were made FOR God and not for another person.

The List.

I also don’t believe that God actually values most of the items people place on their lists.  There are 2 things that I find on most lists…

1. Appearance.  People put things like “blond” “blue-eyed” “dark-hair” “fair” “not dark” “not (insert race here)”.  People place these items in their lists and say well God knows what my attraction gift is…it’s not that I’m racist, I’m just not attracted to certain people.  Is an “attraction gift” even in the bible?  I’ve never read a passage with regards to that so I have to think this is something people have made up to make themselves feel better about making these choices.  And I can understand having a preference for people who look a certain way…but there is a difference between stating a preference and saying “I absolutely cannot see myself marrying an African/Indian/Chinese/Caucasian person.”  Why? Do you think God cares about race?  Do you think He cares about whether a person is short or tall or dark or fair?  Can you see God showing up and saying “my daughter/son you cannot marry this person because well…they’re kinda chubby.”  Let’s be honest – we are being superficial.

2. Background.  I will reference my friend’s dealbreaker of not pursuing someone who comes from a broken home.  Going beyond that this isn’t even the person’s fault – you really can’t blame a person for their parents’ decisions…Do you honestly believe God judges people based on where they came from?  Didn’t Jesus open his arms and his heart to the worst of the worst?  The shunned?  The outcasts?  The sinners?  That list includes you and me by the way – did you think we were any different?  That we were somehow cleaner or better?  Debra Katherine Fileta, author of True Love Dates has this to say in her article “I settled in marriage…and here’s what happened”:

BACKGROUND is just that: the backdrop.  No matter what “background trait” we’re talking about, how often do we move the background qualities to the forefront- defining people by their history, their past, or their origins…instead of defining them by who they are today? As Christians, we should be the FIRST to have eyes of grace and clarity, looking for the truth of a person’s here and now, instead of defining them by the background story.

I was so encouraged by my girlfriend’s eventual response to our conversation.  She texted me a day after saying that she had thought about what we talked about and realized that preferences were a good thing as far as reminding yourself not to repeat certain mistakes in choosing who to be in relationship with but ultimately she realized that we all need to be flexible enough to respond corrrerctly when God reveals what He thinks would be best for us.  She also realized that having these kinds of dealbreakers were indeed degrading to others.  In fact, she shared that she never expected to be so happy in a marriage to a man that was more sensitive than herself and she realized that had she stuck with her own dealbreakers she would not have the wonderful marriage she has today.

I’ll be honest.  I have made my own fair share of lists with superficial and degrading dealbreakers.  I have judged people on appearance and background and a host of other things that I know God does not value.  Friends, we continue to demean and degrade each other as image bearers with these kinds of lists.  How would a woman who came from a broken home feel had she heard my guy friend’s comments?  What about a man who was foreign and struggling with his English…how would he have felt if he had heard of my girlfriend’s dealbreaker?  Do we truly treat others as fellow image-bearers of the Most High?  Please, let’s treat each other with the dignity, respect, and kindness we all deserve.  Perhaps it’s time to reevaluate those lists.

 

If you want to check out Debra Katherine Fileta’s article please click here.

it’s always the same, it’s just [a] shame.

Yesterday night I had the privilege of hearing a couple speak about their love story.  It was truly beautiful to hear how God had redeemed two broken people and brought them together to glorify Him.  They talked about staying pure and their boundaries.  I didn’t agree with everything they said as a general rule but I realized that these boundaries were right for them (perhaps even right for me…only time will tell).  Towards the end of the night the woman asked the single women in the room who wanted to be in a relationship to stand so she could pray for them.  I remained seated.  She looked at me and asked what was wrong and prompted me to stand.  I tried to shrug it off and motioned for her to begin praying.  She again prompted me to stand.  I did not want to offend anyone.  I wasn’t trying to call attention to myself.  But in that moment I knew I had to stand firm.  Half-jokingly I said “well, what if you’re perfectly happy to not be in a relationship?”.  For a couple of seconds there was total silence.  My pastor noticed the tension in the room and tried to smooth over the awkwardness by quickly saying “that desire is a gift!” and they then moved on to prayer.  I felt my whole body go hot.  My first thought was “I hope she knows I didn’t mean to offend her”.  And in the next breath I realized that I should also feel offended – I had unintentionally been single shamed.

Simply put, single shaming is an occurrence (common in churches) where a single person is made to feel like there is something missing from their lives because they are not in a relationship.  It implies that there is something wrong with singleness, or that it is merely a season that will soon pass.  Always, marriage is heralded as the gold star or first place.  Singleness is somehow reduced to a consolation prize.

singleness is NOT this.

singleness is NOT this.

I am not going to discuss my own personal opinions on this – it would no doubt lead to misunderstandings.  Instead let’s look at what the bible says about singleness (and marriage).

1.  Your life is really not about being single or being married.  I say this with all the love in the world…Jesus did not come to this earth so you could get married.  Dying for our sins, he came to restore our relationship with (and reconcile us to) God.  He empowers us through his Holy Spirit to love others as he loved us.  To proclaim the good news.  To reach the brokenhearted.  To be salt and light in a broken world.  Never have I heard it said that Jesus came so we could find “the one” (not a biblical concept by the way).

2.  Being married doesn’t matter in the eternal perspective.  Please don’t get me wrong.  I don’t hate marriage at all!  I think it is a wonderfully beautiful representation of God’s love for us while we are on this earth.  But the bible says that at the resurrection “people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven” (Matt 22:30).  On judgment day God will not ask us whether we were single or married.  Instead He will ask “did you feed Me?” “did you clothe Me?” (Matt 25:31-46).

3.  Marriage is not for everyone.   In 1 Corinthians 7:7 Paul says that some will have the gift of singleness and some will have the gift of marriage.  In fact, that whole chapter in 1 Corinthians talks about both marriage and singleness and how in some cases singleness can be very beneficial in serving God (allowing for undivided devotion to God).  Jesus himself discusses this as well.  In Matthew 19:10-12 it says “The disciples said to him, ‘If this is the situation between a husband and wife, it is better not to marry.’ Jesus replied, ‘Not everyone can accept this word, but only those to whom it has been given. For there are eunuchs who were born that way, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by others—and there are those who choose to live like eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. The one who can accept this should accept it.'”

4.  Just because you desire something doesn’t mean that’s your gift.  I’ve heard it said that if you truly truly desire marriage then you’re not meant to be a single.  Where in the bible is that?  And please don’t misquote the verse on God giving you the desires of your heart.  Because otherwise half the female American population would be married to Brad Pitt.  Psalm 37: 4 actually says “Take delight in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.”  This means that you actually have to spend time with God, getting to know His heart and having your heart turn towards His.  This means His desires become your desires.  So take inventory.  Is it really God speaking?  Or is it your own heart?  Ultimately it is impossible to really know if you have the gift of singleness until you die (as a single).  It may be that your gift of marriage was reserved for much later in life.

5.  Many of the figures in the Bible were single.  Jesus himself was single.  So was Paul.  Elijah, Elisha, Jeremiah, John the Baptist, Mary Magdalene, and Lydia were all single.  What makes marriage better than singleness (or vice-versa for that matter)?  I have heard of churches that do not allow unmarried men to be pastors, elders, or deacons.  So Jesus couldn’t be a pastor.  Neither could Paul.  Interesting.

Again, I feel it is important for me to say I don’t hate marriage.  If God were to bless me with a husband I would be extremely happy.  But He may choose not to.  I don’t think it’s wrong at all to pray for a partner.  Or to spend time talking about singleness and marriage.  These are both good things that should be talked about.  There is much to learn from both camps.  I maintain that I was truly blessed to listen to that couple’s testimony.  I recognized how God was so present in their love story and how He has plans to use their testimony to glorify Him.  My point in writing this entry is not to belittle marriage at all.  Marriage is beautiful and a blessing and gift from God.  My point is – let’s not forget that singleness is all of that too.