Someone told a story about a hiker who became tired along a steep and rugged path and decided that he would go no further. The other hikers urged him to go on, but he was certain it was not worth the bother. He would stay put till they returned. The hikers took pictures, had a bite to eat and began their descent. After a short wait, the lone hiker thought he heard voices. They sounded like some sort of celebration. Slowly, he crept toward the summit. Soon, he met the others happily making their descent. “So you all made it to the top?” he asked. “Yes we did” they told him. “You just had to walk about 10 more minutes”.
This reminds me of the account written in Luke 5:3-7. Jesus told Simon to let his net down. Simon, an experienced fisherman, protested that he had toiled all night an caught nothing. He let the net down anyway at God’s command. His decision to persevere resulted in a catch so great that he had to call other fishermen to relieve him of a portion of his blessing, then their nets began to break too! I’m also reminded that God wants us to persevere in prayer. You might have prayed for 20 years and not received your blessing. What if God is saying cast your net one more time?
“Perseverance in prayer has been made a condition of receiving. We must pray always if we would grow in faith and experience. We are to be “instant in prayer,” to “continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving.” Romans 12:12; Colossians 4:2. Peter exhorts believers to be “sober, and watch unto prayer.” 1 Peter 4:7. Paul directs, “In everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.” Philippians 4:6. “But ye, beloved,” says Jude, “praying in the Holy Ghost, keep yourselves in the love of God.” Jude 20, 21. Unceasing prayer is the unbroken union of the soul with God, so that life from God flows into our life; and from our life, purity and holiness flow back to God” (Steps to Christ 97.2).
Maybe you’ve been praying for your wife or husband, or even JUST A DATE!
“I saw a woman who was desperate to marry me back in college” he said. “Boy was I glad I didn’t choose her! She is so faaaat! I saw her at a conference. She is in a wheel chair because she’s so big!”
“She never married.”
People say some things and you forget, even when you want to remember. Other things just stay with you, even though you’d rather forget.
I heard somebody say that years ago, but I still think about the woman. I wonder what she was like when she was young. Was she beautiful yet overlooked, or was she plain with a beautiful character that nobody took the time to view? What I wonder most about her, is whether she became obese because she tried to eat her disappointment.
It seems that single life can come in stages according to how it’s managed and if singles are not equipped with the necessary information.
At first, you don’t know you’re single, because you’re too young to care. You then realize that there is something (everybody) aspires to – marriage and love? Next, you feel societal pressure, from every angle it seems, to achieve that ultra important normal-human goal. You want it too. You were created that way.
You get to twenty-nine. You’re still single. You become desperate – desperate enough to marry almost anyone, as long as they profess Christianity, or if their grandmother used to attend a Christian church every Easter. You say, ‘Yeah! That’s Christian enough. Isn’t it?’ Nail-biting-desperation. You feel that if you go to one more family life seminar, you’ll have to leave or stand up and scream at the pastor. This little secret is just between you and Jesus, as you wouldn’t dare really tell anyone else. Prayer time goes like this: God! Please! When? Amen.
Mercy, it seems, rescues those who simply won’t survive being single any longer and gets them married – for better or for worse. Only time can tell.
The remnant, however, might go on in this state of quiet insanity, while appearing to be quite balanced, successful – just great! Some seem to find, eventually, that they are granted the Apostle Paul’s gift of celibacy, and make peace with their status. Yet others take the path apparently more often traveled and plunge into the next stage: UTTER. ABYSS-LIKE. DISAPPOINTMENT.
Every occasion that calls for a display of the slightest romantic inclination, is overcome with the help of a friend that shows up everywhere. This friend’s presence makes everything sweeter, or more palatable somehow. If a singleton experiencing this stage of his/her journey wants to watch a soppy movie and host a pity party, one friend will be there. FOOD.
At this stage, a concerned person might suggest Christian counseling, but our single friend tells no one what is going on. Instead, he/she continues eating disappointment, unconsciously hoping it will go away and only the sweet taste of lemon meringue pie would remain. The western world calls it ‘comfort eating‘. Does it really comfort?
Disappointment doesn’t always manifest as gluttony. This is just one way. How do you cope and ultimately escape from disappointment? Here are some suggestion:
Pray and fast – “This kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting.” This quote, from the Gospel of Matthew 17:21. This is not to say you’ve got a food demon – who knows?! LOL. It’s just that you don’t win certain battles until you agonize with God; wrestling like Jacob did.
Talk to someone. A Parent. A trusted friend. Pastor.
Get busy – idleness is the perfect opportunity to feel sorry for yourself and to comfort eat.
Exercise – Endorphins will rush through your body, helping you to feel great. You’ll look great too.
Socialize with other singles, or with your church family in general
Find a hobby – use your downtime to do something you truly enjoy.
Help someone else – You’ll focus less on what you don’t have. For example, if you long for children, offer to babysit someone’s children
Read your bible. It’s God’s love letter to you. It will remind you of how much He loves you and how important you are. You’ll also be reminded that he never gives you more than you can bear – His grace is sufficient. He’ll do what’s best for you. You see today. He sees all the way into many tomorrows and into eternity.
There is another stage. Resignation.With faith, this too can be overcome and replaced with the joy of the Lord, which is your strength.
Everyone dreams of marrying the very best! Are you a match for that person?
A couple of well-meaning friends say they have the perfect match for you. Your potential match is of sound character, deeply spiritual, gorgeous, very well presented (fit too) CEO of a fortune five hundred company and single. You’re all excited! When can we meet? “Here’s my number” you say. “In fact, here’s my WhatsApp, Facebook, Instagram, email….my blood type and resume”.
Pause. What in the world are you going to wear? That’s the least of your concerns, or should be anyway. Are YOU a match for that person? What are you bringing to the table? Have you ever wondered whether anybody should marry you? Singles often refer to desirable prospects as ‘ticking all the boxes’. Try this introspective approach: In one column, make a list of qualities that you should possess in order to be an excellent choice for marriage. In a second column, list your shortcomings, including flaws that only you and God know about.
Two flaws that may pop up on your list include indiscipline and its cousin, slothfulness. Charles Stanley states that “Discipline determines your destiny” (Stanley, 2017). If you were to honestly answer the question, how is (my) character on a scale of one to ten – ten being the best? What would be your answer?
A slothful person or a sluggard is lazy. Such an individual has cultivated the habit of indiscipline. This person has dreams, and desires many things, but his/her own weakness of character prevents them from receiving the blessings they desire. What does the bible say about slothfulness? The soul of such a person craves and gets nothing, while the soul of the diligent is richly supplied – Proverbs 13:4. Some slothful persons may seem temporarily rehabilitated, but will soon quit when things get tough. They get scared. They run away. They make excuses. They disappoint and are unreliable.
Let’s strike a balance here. Everybody gets scared sometimes and nobody is quite perfect. The concern arises based on the fact that making one excuse for not keeping your word, or allowing circumstances (no matter how difficult) to deter you from following through, is one more step to being what displeases God – a sluggard – slothful. Undisciplined. Once trust is broken, no one wants to hear your rationale; or about your struggles, which I don’t deny may be quite real! Your character; your witness for Christ may be indefinitely stained.
A sluggard is an unstable person who is unstable in every way. More often than not, there emotions are messed up. They are unable to manage their finances, and/or unable to find ways of enhancing their current earnings, because they’re too slothful to see anything through. The sluggard is usually late and apologetic – full of excuses. This is the date who is always late, or who repeatedly cancels at the last moment, because of an obviously avoidable obstacle. This is one who has not disciplined his/her own mind, so that the body follows permissive thoughts into sin – sexual sin and gluttony! The sluggard might also lack confidence, because nothing they started in the past ever worked out (notice they never finished anything). An undisciplined person – a sluggard, wastes the gifts given by God.
“And such were some of you…” 1 Corinthians 6:11.
Sluggards want to get married too. They want to have two or three children who are just like them. Would you like to have sluggard’s phone number? Sluggard, if you’re reading, should anybody marry you? Would you not be a heavy load to carry, rather than an enhancement to the life of another?
This might sound tough, especially if you’re used to running away, or taking what seems to be the preferable if not easy way out. You may have had reasons to start running during your childhood. Those reasons may have catapulted you, unprepared into adulthood, with all the aims and desires that adults normally have, but with a child’s fragile heart. You may have found yourself running and running for years, but no matter how quickly you run, you find that you take your character with you.
STOP! Indiscipline and slothfulness displease God, yet there is hope. “…but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God” 1 Corinthians 6:11. “If We confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” 1 John 1:9. Every rule or commandment that God has given to us was given because He loved us. They’re less like lists of do’s and don’ts and more like “Please don’t(s) because this is going to cause you pain”.
You sigh, “I’ve spent so many undisciplined years. I feel it’s impossible to change now”. Is there anything too hard for God?
“Go to the ant, o sluggard, consider his ways and be wise” Proverbs 6:6.
Celibacy and the Decision to Marry or Not, for Single Christians
A girlfriend of mine sent me what I consider to be a very honest breakdown of why she is hesitant to marry. Growing up, she was an only daughter and the eldest of three children; the two younger siblings being brothers. She recalls her mother saying “You’re the oldest. You have to help mummy”, and “Where are your brothers’ socks?” All of her life she has taken care of others. She is now an independent, professional woman who enjoys taking care of herself and loving herself. It is not that this long-time Christian woman is opposed to marriage. No. Au contraire mon ami. She has never known a man, or been known by one, because she wishes to obey God. She adheres to the biblical principle espoused in 1 Corinthians 6:18-20: “Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.”
“It is just” she says, “that marriage has to be so much more than that. I’ve taken care of other people so much and for so long, that I can’t honestly promise a Christian brother that I will dutifully return home after work, clean and cook for him, and possibly for children as well. I’m at a point in my life when I would be rather pleased to pay someone to look after me: clean, cook, serve my meals, etc.”
I understood that my dear girlfriend would enjoy companionship in more ways than one, since she does admit that at least once every few weeks, her healthy body issues a cry to which she has no satisfactory answer. It appears that she desires a companion who can appreciate her point of view, and love her enough to divert from tradition and accept the brand of love that she can offer – one that doesn’t answer the question ‘what’s for dinner?’
Another single female, who is not short of suitors, tells me that she has no interest in being married at all. She has long since accepted that her sexual desires come and go. She really isn’t bothered. After I pried a little more, she shared that there was a period in her life when she really wanted to marry, but had no suitable options – suitable meaning no eligible brother of her faith with whom she shared a certain mutual interest. Now, she adamantly turns down every single one.
Churchgoers often hear that “It is not good for a man to be alone”. Yet, some single Christians feel they have no choice. Singles within this ‘category’ wish to marry. Such singles may be repeatedly rejected by the objects of their oft rebuffed affections. They too habitually dismiss brothers/sisters who do not match their tastes. After all, how far can one digress from true desire, with the aim of acquiring a spouse or a new name before becoming a bonafide hypocrite? And ultimately, a breaker of hearts? – Theirs and other hopefuls.
There was a gentleman of (unmentioned) descent whose proclamation of his ideal was a woman of black and white heritage. To my knowledge, he attempted to court at least two ladies of the said description. His peculiar rationale being that he would gain the supposed strength of a black women and the fabled finesse of her white counterpart. This, I thought to be an insult to both groups. He was firmly turned down both times. On the heels of the second rejection, he selected a very willing sister in Christ, who was almost at breaking point. She satisfied 50% of his criteria. She was black. They were married as soon as the pastor was available. One can only hope that they are now living ‘happily ever after‘. What do you do if you just don’t see what/who you want, or if the ones you want don’t want you?
Is celibacy really an option? There are myths, – some say ‘old wives’ tales’ – that a lack of sexual intercourse shortens the lifespan and results in questionable lumps behind the neck. is there any merit to this? Would you be surprised to hear that you would likely live longer if you have little or no sex? (Barraclough, 2017). Hey! We singles are going to outlive all those married folks! If we behave. LOL.
What does the Bible say about celibacy? The apostle Paul (a guy reputed for having greatspiritual fortitude) says 1 Corinthians 7:8, 9 – “For I would that all men were even as I myself. But every man hath his proper gift of God, one after this manner, and another after that. I say therefore to the unmarried and widows, it is good for them if they abide even as I. But if they cannot contain, let them marry: for it is better to marry than to burn”. It is noteworthy that “Jesus never married or had sex…yet he embodied what it meant to be truly and fully human more than any other person who has ever lived” (Hardin, 2018).
While you’re ‘waiting‘, or simply going along life’s journey as someone who happens to be unmarried, or has chosen to remain thus, do you think that celibacy is realistic? Some contemporary spiritual advisors advocate relief that stops short of sex with another person, for example, masturbation. Can a Christian masturbate and remain pure, with a mind set on Christ? Some say it’s possible while others beg to differ. How much weight does Jesus’s example carry?
Not At All
What about choosing to live like Paul or Jesus Christ – never getting married? It may be argued that Jesus only spent 33 years on earth. Some singles have already lived longer than that and are still hopeful of marrying and starting families. What if you make the decision to remain single for life? What if you were married before, and you’re now divorced or have been separated long-term? It was earlier highlighted that being celibate is an honourable state, according to Paul. But how would you cope on a day-to-day basis? What would you do to ensure that you live a full, productive and unselfish life? Stay logged in for my next post.
It was Valentine’s Day
2018 and as her custom was, she marched
into the supermarket for to purchase high quality chocolate in shiny packaging,
along with non-alcoholic bubbly, and marched right back out again.
This is Valentine’s Day
for many Christian singles, but it doesn’t have to be this way year after year.
I suggest this Valentine’s Day 2019 we start a red revolution! A self-love revolution. Here are a few ways to rewrite your narrative.
YOUR OWN VALENTINE
The stereotype has it that singles who have no date on Valentine’s evening, tend to spend it cuddled up with high calorie companions, soppy movies and significant doses of self-pity. The more vigorous among us might pound out their frustration at the gym, or on the basketball court – not that this is such a bad idea, but what if you want to be part of the celebration? Why should you wait for someone else to appreciate you and buy you your favourite sweet treats? It’s ok to treat yourself.
HAVE YOUR FAVOURITE FLOWERS DELIVERED TO YOURSELF
You deserve flowers too. It’s the 13th February and the prospect of a Valentine’s date doesn’t look…uh…promising. Pick up that phone or pop over to the nearest florist or supermarket and order a bouquet. There’s no rule that says you have to tell your colleagues where the flowers on your desk came from.
WHAT YOU WANT TO DO ON VALENTINE’S DAY
If Valentines’ Day means
a lot to you, be prepared. It helps to
have a full calendar, rather than submitting to the passive annual ritual of
watching other people get dressed up and go out. You might consider going to a
hotel spa and having dinner delivered to your room. On a budget, you might prepare
a lovely candle light dinner and do a home spa treatment. YouTube is littered
A FRIENDLY VALENTINE PRESENT TO SOMEONE ELSE
There is more to love than Eros. So you don’t have a spouse or romantic partner. There are likely other people who love you and about whom you feel the same. When I lived in the same country as one of my nieces, she was my little valentine every year, even when I was dating. I would get her a present, usually including a heart-shaped present and sweets. The reward of that smile, especially when she lost her front teeth, still warms my heart.
If you have no presents to give, just give of your time. Is there a senior at your church who would appreciate flowers, a present or a card? Love is bigger than couples and immediate family circles. Love embraces friends, neighbours, your church family, brothers and sisters, parents and cute nieces and nephews.
A VALENTINE’S DAY PROGRAM AT YOUR CHURCH
It may not be practical to buy a present for everyone who might happily receive it, but a church potluck is a chance to share love with everyone and make sure nobody’s lonely on Valentine’s night. It doesn’t have to be expensive. Everyone who is able can bring a dish to share. A well planned program utilizing the talents within the local congregation would likely make everyone smile. You’ll have the blessing about forgetting your own loneliness, while focusing on service to others. You’ll be repaid with many smiles, hugs and holy kisses.
ASK SOMEONE OUT
This one takes some kinda courage, especially if you haven’t dated for some time. Remember “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” Phil 4:13. If you’re rejected, remember “The Lord is my refuge and strength, a very present help in time of trouble” Psalm 46:1. Also remember that your value is based on the fact that you were created by your loving God who loves you and always will. He loves you so much that he chose to die on the cross, just for you – John 3:16. If the answer is yes, shout out “Bless the Lord, oh my soul: and all that is within me, bless His holy name!” Psalm 103:1.
Above all, have faith.
Next year your narrative might read: It’s
now Valentine’s Day 2020. There’s a new covenant in place. You march all the
way down the aisle; not the bridesmaid or best man this time…You march right
back out again arm in arm…. or not. Either
way it will be ok, because God’s gotcha!
It’s 2019, and I’m caught up in 2018 Déjà vu. I all but swore then, that I would have a boyfriend – soon to be hubby…by Valentine’s Day. January has slipped into eternity. By all appearances, I might just have to withhold my amorous intentions until Valentine’s Day 2020, when I hope I won’t – once again – buy myself chocolate and non-alcoholic bubbly.
To be fair, I think that I’m the kind of woman who ticks quite a few proverbial boxes. I’m educated to graduate level, independent, employed, attractive, talented, good with children….I cook. Hello! I used to say ‘forever the bridesmaid’, but I can’t even say that now, as most of my peers have done the wedding day thing and are almost through with the child rearing thing. Inevitably, I find that my New Year’s Eve companion looks like Häagen-Dazs and a movie. Otherwise, at a recital, I might find myself at the end of a row of empty seats, or seated behind a loved-up couple who appear to find the music rather stimulating.
In the article, “Where Are All the Men? Exploring the Gender Gap in Church” the author quotes Cathy Grossman of USA Today as saying “Women outnumber men in attendance in every major Christian denomination, and they are 20% to 25% more likely to attend worship at least weekly” (DeCelles-Zwerneman, 2016). Being a member of a fairly conservative religious community means that this shortage becomes a dearth. I wonder what single men have to say about this? Perhaps there are so many women that they don’t know who/how to choose. A friend of mine recently told me of a preacher who says we should all be polygamous. I am not that generous. “According to recent Pew data, the number of married Americans is at its lowest point since at least 1920. In 2015, only half of Americans ages 18 and over were married, compared with 72 percent in 1960. Put another way: Singles are on the rise and beginning to outnumber marrieds. The church, however, doesn’t reflect those numbers.” (Dalfonzo, 2017).
I was invited to lunch after singing at a church one day. I sat at the well laid table with the man of the house at the head, while his dutiful wife placed even more goodies before us before joining us some time later. The conversation quickly took what I now call ‘the usual turn’. “Are you married?” asked my host. I mind-prayed, ‘Have mercy Lord. Here it comes’. I put my fork down. Sighed. I turned to my host with as polite a face as I could manage and gave the answer that uncovered the lurking question. “Why aren’t you married?” he asked. How does one answer such a question? I mean, how can one answer that question and maintain good relations with the brethren and possibly get invited back? The best response is anyone’s guess.
Another contributor supports Dalfonzo’s unearthing of the Christian single’s conundrum. “According to a recent Barna study, while more than half of Americans (54%) between the ages of 18 and 49 are single, only 23 percent of active churchgoers are single” (Dalfonzo, 2017). Do these stats echo throughout Christendom? If per chance they do, wouldn’t that make the ‘why aren’t you married’ question that bit more unreasonable? That experience which would have cancelled my appetite if it were possible, is anything but unique. If I had a pound for every time a single friend or acquaintance said that he or she had been asked the same question, and was stumped as I was, well you know….
The hopefully well-meaning brother then went on to conclude out loud, that something had to be wrong. It would be fair to assume he meant with me. He asked whether I was single because I was too picky, because surely there is a great multiplicity of deeply spiritual, eligible, bachelors in my local congregation and environs, who are all poised on one knee awaiting my leisure. I had to be the problem. Is it any wonder that some unmarried church members want to escape the label and stigma? “Many single people don’t label themselves – or want to be labelled – as ‘single. It’s often seen as the modern version of ‘spinster’ – deprecating and inviting pity. This is one reason why groups lobbying on behalf of singles tend not to survive long – people don’t want to be connected with the label. The single state is generally the opposite of people’s aspirations and attempts to meet a partner – it’s a situation from which they wish to escape” (Pullinger, 2017).
I admit, I might have been inclined to repent of my sin of distressing the (supposedly existent) highly esteemed gentlemen awaiting my consent, but for the comments of a number of other single Christians, indicating that the above after-church-lunch-time-drilling seems to be a recurring narrative. Another aspect of the single Christian narrative is that of exclusion and isolation. Have you ever heard single Christians comment that married brethren often form cliques to which single, and especially single/no children persons need not apply? Some singles feel slighted and excluded from events, although any distinction is rarely voiced. It is even said that the structure of the church is geared toward families. Some singles view church as being for married people (Pullinger, 2017). When your age is closer to thirty in either direction, you still seem to fit in because there is ‘hope’ for you, but after that, it appears that you are more likely to face sympathy rather than encouragement when it comes to marriage.
From time to time, as a mature-ish single woman, I find myself looking for my place in society, or at least in certain pockets of it. Apart from your job, or the certificates you’ve accumulated, it feels like at the very core, something more is needed – validation in being more…someone’s significant other – spouse? It feels like you’ve got more to give. It also feels like one is demoted once the line of most likely to marry is crossed. Does this apply to Christian men, or do they just change into their sons’ clothes and carry on?
Let’s face it. Being single has its good points. I have uninterrupted prayer and bible study time. I’m jealous of that time and grateful for it. I also have time to be creative. I always get to decide what’s for supper. Yet, it can be a really lonely existence at times. Some feel compelled to make that extra effort to remain relevant or to belong.
The issues mentioned are only the tip of the iceberg. The purpose of this blog is to stir dialogue among female and male Christian singles and friends, to consider our challenges, needs and common experiences, from the angle of a Christocentric world view.
Since you’ve read this blog post all the way to the end, you’re probably a single/unmarried Christian (depending on the term you prefer). I would like to know whether you identify with any of the above, and whether there is more you’d like to share. I’d like to hear from single Christian men. Is the single life any different for men? Feel free to contribute anonymously if you would prefer.