Sunday, March 16, 2008

Twisted Singleness


You gotta love personal ads. Have you ever really analyzed a personal ad? Here are folks who are seeking companionship because of what it will offer them. Think about it. The average personal ad adheres to the following format: "SWF, possesses characteristics that are highly exaggerated because I think more highly of myself than reality would dictate. Seeking SWM, 30-40, for stuff that I think is fun and pleases me, and meets my needs. Must have the following qualities that I find attractive: superficial quality #1, superficial quality #2, superficial quality #3. If you fit this description, contact me." The hilarity of this is that every single person reading the ad thinks this describes them perfectly! Oh, we are just too full of ourselves, aren't we?

Singleness is a season of life that is so often twisted between two extremes: we either want to hurry along singleness because we want a spouse for our own personal happiness, or we want to preserve the season of singleness far beyond what God has ordained for our own personal happiness. In both scenarios, the attitude toward singleness is not one that glorifies God. Do either of these seasons of "twisted singleness" apply to you?

Before I understood what the purpose of marriage was, I used to read John 15:13 only in the physical sense. That verse reads, "Greater love has no man than this: that he lay down his life for his friends." I really used to think that the greatest expression of love was to die a physical death for another person. But I have since learned that even greater love is the act of laying down one's daily life: it is dying to self on a daily basis, and sacrificing my needs and desires to put the other person first. That is what marriage is about. It is an opportunity to mimic what Christ did in His life here on earth. It's pretty obvious that wanting a marriage partner to make ME happy is antithetical to the idea behind this passage. But so is remaining single so you can continue laying down your life for yourself.

I am happy the way I am right now. Sure, I am serving the Lord. But is that truly my motivation for remaining single? Or is my motivation for remaining single avoiding the sanctification that comes with laying down my life for another? This is no different than the single person who desires to get married for selfish reasons: "I'm lonely. I want someone to love me." In either scenario, you cannot become more like Christ when all you are thinking about is yourself.

Earlier this week, while on the phone with a friend, I caught myself teetering dangerously close to the edge of twisted singleness. I am deliberately looking for reasons why I am content in my singleness that indicate I am single for my sake, and not for the glory of God. This is a vicious cycle in my life and it goes something like this:

I discover I'm content in my singleness for selfish reasons.
I repent and tell God I am willing to be open to a marriage partner.
The fruit of my repentance is I become truly content in my singleness for the glory of God.
That contentedness radiates in my countenance -- and a man notices me because of it.
That man expresses an interest in me, and I yield to his leadership in the relationship.
It doesn't work out for whatever reason and I wind up crushed.
I discover I'm content in my singleness for selfish reasons.

So I heard myself saying things that lead me to believe I am rationalizing that it is far better to be single because I can live the Christian life on my terms, without having to take into consideration the precious man that God has ordained as my future husband. I am the only one I need to consider when making my decisions. Sure, when a potential relationship doesn't work out, it stinks, but there's this nasty little gremlin inside me that says, "YESSSSSSSSSSSSSSS!!!"

It's not the kind of yes that says, "Yes Lord, as Thou wilt Lord, have Thy way with me Lord, Thy will be done!" No, it's more the kind of yes that says, "Awesome! Now I can continue living my cushy little life without having to be bothered with some man and his pain-in-the-neck needs. Oh thank you Lord that I can serve You on my terms, the way that fits my schedule and makes me experience no pain or suffering whatsoever! Woo-hoo!"

When the Apostle Paul said that it was good for the unmarried to stay as they are (1 Corinthians 7) he did not mean that singleness was actually better than marriage. He simply meant that we are not to seek release from God's current plan for our lives. This passage is not necessarily talking about lifetime celibacy, either. (Hasn't God held you in one place for awhile, only to change the direction of your life in the proper time?) It is talking about trying to hurry along the season of singleness that God has for us. If we are single, it is because God has ordained for us to be single in that season. Likewise, there are those who try to get out of their marriages because they are equally unhappy as the poor, lonely, discontent singles. Both of these situations are rebellious toward God. The point is, we are to stay true to our calling until He calls us otherwise. Singleness is a season of life that is so often twisted between two extremes: we either want to hurry along singleness because we want a spouse for our own personal happiness, or we want to preserve the season of singleness far beyond what God has ordained for our own personal happiness. In both scenarios, the attitude toward singleness is not one that glorifies God. Do either of these seasons of "twisted singleness" apply to you?

Regardless of what your current situation is, the fact remains that 1 Corinthians 7 applies to all of us, because left to our own vices, none of us would be content with where God has us. If you are single, don't seek a spouse. If you are married, don't seek to be loosed from a spouse. God has you where He has you and thinking the grass is greener on the other side is a lack of gratitude for His perfect plan for your life. Once God has called you to a different season, that is the time to start seeking a change. But it must come from a deep recognition that He is changing your circumstances for His glory, and not for your personal happiness. We seek to be joined to a spouse because we are selfish. We seek to be loosed from a spouse because we are selfish. Left to our own wisdom, it's all about the glory of ME, isn't it?

Today I rewrote the traditional personal ad according to how it really should read, and had it published it in all the newspapers of heaven. It says:

SWF with very little to offer, seeks man I surely don't deserve, for a lifetime of complete devotion to you and your needs. I have depraved quality #1, depraved quality #2, and depraved quality #3. I can be difficult to love at times, but I promise I will do my best to forsake my selfishness and serve you. If interested, please pray before contacting me.

Who knows? Maybe I'll get a response. (*gulp!*)

5 comments:

Rita Martinez said...

Great article Jen!
I was in the other extreme, I wanted soooo badly to get married...and then during youth group the youth pastor said that being single was actually a gift from God that we should use for His glory and that instead of trying to rush out of it we should enjoy our singleness until the time comes when we are to be joined in a relationship with a Godly man or woman.
Although I had not thought about that other extreme.

Bryan said...

Wow! An honest personal ad will NEVER get results. You must be seeker sensitive.

Take my ad for example:
"SWM, 29. Do you need love? I offer that! Do you need security? I offer that! Do you need to laugh? I offer that! So give me a call!"

Or maybe my post-modern ad:
"Not really sure how old I am. I appear to be a SWM but really, who can know for sure? I may have things to offer but since nothing can actually be known I don't know what they are. So contact me in some way and we'll discuss nothing in definite terms and leave everything up in the air!"

Another very good blog but none of that applies to me. Nope. I'm selfish for Christ..er...single for Christ. That's what I meant. Because my selfishness glorfies...um..see by me not...oops gotta go!

Jennifer said...

Well, Bryan -- when we look closely, most personal ads appear to be Calvinist: "Here is my info, if you are interested, choose me!" But most of them are really Arminian in spirit: "Seeking this quality, that quality, etc. Send me your picture." LOL.

Rita -- Thanks for stopping by!

Bryan said...

Those wacky Arminians! Or if you are Arminian, You wacky Arminians! :)

I enjoy surfing through personal ads. Not to find a wife because I'd rather do that in person, but because psychology fascinates me and these are glimpses into peoples minds. It's often quite frightening but it does help me see how much people need salvation.

They seek after all the worldly pleasures and we know it's all for nought, but they are so lost.

Then you see the ones who seem to have gone through that "phase", suffered the sometimes ghastly consequences and are now so broken and baggage-laden that very very few men would even consider having anything to do with them except to use and abuse them further.

The cycle is so clear and painful and the lost have no idea. It's very sad.

Diana said...

Dear Jen,
I am glad to read your recent post. I was holding my breath the other day and glad to see your openness to Jesus as he prepares the way for your future. I am excited for you. I hope all is well.