August 24, 2010

Christian Singleness - Is it a curse or a blessing from God? (Part 3) ©

Link to Part 1
Link to Part 2

Unpopular Statement No 2

You have chosen to be a single person. Now before you start throwing things at your computer screen, I'll explain further.

A number of years ago I read a book on being a single Christian, and in the book I read the statement “You have chosen to be a single person.” When I read that statement, I almost blew a gasket. How dare that author suggest that! Little tendrils of steam began to stream out of my ears as I thought about her absurd suggestion and I  got crankier and crankier.

Throwing down the book in disgust I said, “I have not chosen to be single. It’s not my fault that God hasn’t provided me with a Christian partner.”

When I eventually calmed down, I went back and read some more of the book.  It said something along the lines of “If you are a single person, it’s because you have chosen to be a single person. It's true that you’ve had opportunities to date people, but they are people who are not worthy of you. I’m sure if you go out right now, you could find some loser with real problems who would date you. But you have set a standard that you are abiding by, and that is good. Therefore you have chosen to be single rather than date the kind of person that is not worthy of you. It is not as if you have not had opportunities to date, but rather that you have been selective in your choices which has limited your options.”

When I looked at my own life I realised that I had set a standard which I thought was acceptable for a partner. I wasn’t willing to lower those standards, and therefore I had reduced my options and opportunities for a spouse. Sure, I could have settled for somebody who didn’t understand me, had emotional problems or who was a control freak, but I had chosen a standard I believed of which God would approve, and one which would make for a healthy marriage.

It was around about that time, being the logical person that I am, that I decided to work out the statistical odds of me marrying. On average I worked out the number of available Christian men there were in the world, then reduced that by the number that were living in my area.

Then I reduced it by the number who were in my age-group, then further by those who held similar beliefs to my own and were about on the same part of their walk in Christ.

Reducing that further to someone who I thought I could get along with, and with similar interests, I then reduced it further to someone who would like me in return. Eventually I deduced that there was a 0.005% chance of finding my Christian partner!

That statistic horrified some of my single Christian girlfriends, but I found it kind of freeing.  If the chances of me meeting someone was that small, then I was free to stop looking. I was free to be available to God.

A single Christian woman, with whom I shared a dorm at Bible college, was amazed at how calm I was at the prospect that I might be a single person for life. Jay (we’ll call her), was unwilling to accept that state of singleness. “I don’t care who I marry, as long as it isn’t a missionary,” she used to declare. She was willing to settle for almost anyone, and she had set only one standard upon which she was unwilling to compromise.

I heard later that Jay had married someone about 18 months after I’d left Bible College. Jay eventually married a very nice man, who just happened to also be a missionary. Don't you just love God's sense of humour?!

I sometimes wonder though if she hadn’t set herself up for disaster. Being so willing to settle, Jay had set only one single standard for a partner, and in fact, allowed herself to be compromised on that one standard. Wasn’t that setting the stage for resentment? At some time in their marriage, isn’t she going to find herself resenting the life she is living as a missionary? Would she be tempted to demand her husband give up his calling? I could see some real foundational problems in that marriage right from the start.

With time I came to understand that the gift of singleness offers fewer distractions from serving God.

In 1 Corinthians 7:32, Paul wrote, “I would like you to be free from concern. An unmarried man is concerned about the Lord's affairs—how he can please the Lord. But a married man is concerned about the affairs of this world—how he can please his wife—and his interests are divided.”

Paul wrote further that if you are trying to remain single but find that you can’t bear the burden, it is not a sin to marry. Better to switch to the other way of life God honours than to be aflame with lust.

Simply put, Paul is saying here that a Christian is more likely to have time to devote to growing God’s kingdom, and growing as a Christian if they remain a single person, but it is perfectly acceptable for people to marry.

Giving more time and energy to God is obviously going to be more difficult for single parents, but as a general rule, Christian singles have more time to devote to God than married people do.

If you are a single person, and you decide to accept the gift of singleness that God if offering you, and  seek God’s assistance in living the single Christian life, then I truly believe that He will not only give you the strength you need to live a single life, but He will provide you with the gifts, the guidance and the guts to do His work.

God will grant you joy and enthusiasm in your work and your walk, and He will ease any pain or loneliness that you feel, if you ask Him.

My maternal instinct has been very strong since I was about 18, and I had an ache in my heart for children. At times, the emotional pain and emptiness was almost overwhelming, so I began to ask God to either take away the desire for children or to dull the ache I felt.

A short time later, a group of us were approached by the Pastor’s wife in Church one day. She asked if we would be interested in teaching Sunday School.  I realised that she was looking intently at me. I glanced up, and there was my hand stuck up in the air. “Whoa! How did that get there?” I thought. I remember being a little confused as to how that happened, as I’d had no intention whatsoever of volunteering!  How come nobody had warned me that God could take physical control of your body?

But I figured, “What the heck! If God wants me to do it that badly, then I’ll do it.”

Over the next ten years or so, I taught Sunday School and became a leader of the Kid’s Club. It was one of the happiest and most fulfilling periods of my life. Not only did it begin to ease the pain of my childlessness, it gave me an avenue to expend my love on the children.

My maternal instinct was no longer overpowering, but became more like a background hum in my life. I also gained an extra blessing in that I learned an enormous amount through preparing Sunday School!

In addition, God began to show me the gifts he had given me. Before that, I never would have considered that I had any gifts of consequence, but God began to develop dormant gifts in me that enabled me to undertake the tasks for which I was called.

No matter how inadequate or how untalented we believe we are, God has already provided us with the gifts we need. These gifts will grow as we grow.

It's astonishing to imagine that before we were even conceived, God had a plan for our life! Through our experiences and our mistakes, God will grow our character for His glory. We have to understand that God’s overall plan and perspective, is far more important than our own.

But have I answered the question, “How do you know if you have been given the gift singleness”? The answer is - if you are a single person, you are called to singleness, but only you can make the choice to accept God's gift and embrace His call. ©

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